When Dangers Become Delights

Rugged, rocky islet shoreline with reefs extending from it and more islands in the distance.

Shoreline in the Kittyhawk Group (click on any of the photos to enlarge)

Two days after we left Philip Inlet last June, we reached our second “new-to-us” anchorage – a secluded little hurricane hole in the Kittyhawk Group of islands in the Hakai Recreation Area.

The spot we’d chosen was guarded by an even narrower entrance than at Philip. Luckily it was low tide when we entered, so the rocks and reefs were at least partially visible. This was helpful, since the maze of islets and narrow passages leading in and out of the anchorage was confusing for first-timers who’d yet to get their bearings.

We dropped the hook – carefully – in a small pool, surrounded by rugged little islets, rocks and reefs.

A rocky reef sticks up from the water ast low tide, with a forested island shore in the background.

When we’re underway or anchoring for the night, we keep a keen and constant eye on our chart, always trying to keep well away from boat-eating rocks like this – the kind that often lurk just below the surface at higher tides.

But once we’re safely moored and it’s time to launch the kayaks, those same rocks and reefs turn into compelling destinations.

A man paddling a kayak beside a small tree-topped islet and rocky reefs exposed at low tide.

Interesting how our perspective changes, once we’re down at water level in our little paddle-powered vessels: the rocks and reefs seem even bigger close-up, but they’re no longer worrisome – instead they are utterly fascinating, and exactly where we want to be.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Forested shoreline through a blurry, rain-spattered window

Rain made it tricky to see the narrow entrance to Philip Inlet

Northward on our ten-week Great Bear Sea trip last summer, the first “new-to-us” stopover was Philip Inlet, a small notch on the east shore of Fitz Hugh Sound just south of Addenbroke Island. As you can see from the photo above, it was raining steadily when we arrived, making it challenging to spot the narrow entry and any drift logs that might be blocking it.

Our plan that morning had been to head up Rivers Inlet and fill our water tanks at Dawson’s Landing, a floating supply point we’d visited years before. But with calm sea conditions it made more sense to push on past Rivers and make tracks up Fitz Hugh. I worried a bit about our water supply, but as it turned out there was no cause for concern.

Philip Inlet is a beautiful, remote and quiet anchorage – although entering is a bit of a nail-biter thanks to a couple of narrow spots and a mid-channel submerged rock (thankfully all well charted).

Once we had anchored at the head of the inlet and shut down the engine, we heard the rush of multiple streams. The first two weeks of our trip had been rainy, so plenty of freshwater was on offer all around us. We loaded empty plastic jugs into a kayak and soon we had enough for a week’s worth of daily showering and dish washing – lessening the demand on our potable water supply in our main tanks.

Totem-like symmetric reflection  of the forest and rocks along a shoreline.

By late afternoon the rain had stopped and the sky had brightened a bit. With utter calm inside the inlet, totemic shoreline reflections were all around us. (Click to enlarge and see details on this or other photos.)

Golden hour light on forested shoreline

And by golden hour that evening, the forest seemed to come alive.

Entry channel of inlet with bright, sunny sky

By the time we left the next morning the weather had changed. Funny how that narrow entry looked less intimidating under a sunny sky!

Cozy in the Cold: Sea Otters

Sea otter floating on its back with its back feet sticking up.

Warm and cozy, I bet. (Click on images to enlarge.)

With another Arctic front heading our way, I find myself thinking about sea otters – specifically, how well suited (literally) they are for winter.

Their incredibly thick, waterproof coats must be cozy even on unseasonably chilly days. Sea otters have the densest fur of any animal on earth, which is why they were hunted almost to extinction by the early 20th century.

Their smaller cousins, river otters, are common throughout our region and I see them often, both on land and in the sea. But it’s only been in the last few years, and further north, that I’ve had the privilege of seeing sea otters – thankfully returning from the brink to repopulate some of the inside waters along the BC coast.

These impossibly cute members of the weasel family live their whole lives in the sea, almost never venturing onto land. We’ve encountered small families and groups far from shore when we’ve been cruising up Queen Charlotte Strait, in water over 1000 feet deep.

Sea otter popping up to look at the viewer, with kelp bed behindOnce a sea otter (left) delighted us by popping up repeatedly to have a close look when we were kayaking close to shore. Luckily it was one of those rare days that I had my dSLR with its zoom lens along with me in the kayak.

Last summer another one popped up unexpectedly when we were in just 16 feet of water – hardly a usual haunt for these deep divemasters! He/she stuck around for a few minutes, chowing down on lunch. Having only my phone that day, I wasn’t able to get a photo worth sharing. No matter: the memory of the experience still brings me a warm smile, even on a cold winter’s day.

A Question for Our Times

QT’s question: it’s the right one to be asking ourselves (click to enlarge image)

This week has brought a major dump of snow and bitter, unusually frigid temperatures to our region – a place normally balmy enough to be the winter envy of the rest of Canada.

Our senior resident buck, QT, was not favourably impressed. As I aimed my lens at him through our window this morning, I could hear his complaint, and his related question: “I’m OK with a bit of snow, but this is WAY too much, Mr. and Mrs. Man! Why on earth did you allow this to happen?”

It’s a very good question, indeed, for all of us humans to be asking ourselves about now.

I haven’t been blogging much recently, but I have been posting photos and short comments several times each week to Mastodon (which I’m using instead of Twitter these days). If you’d like to join me there, you’ll find me at: @lmacb@mstdn.ca