Surprises at Kumealon

“Foam bergs” on water

An Arctic illusion (click on images to enlarge)

Some years back, during a long run up Grenville Channel on BC’s North Coast, we pulled into Kumealon Inlet to anchor overnight. It was the first time we’d been there and we weren’t sure what to expect – certainly neither of the big surprises that came the next morning.

The more welcome of the two occurred when we were leaving, and is shown in the photo above.

At first we wondered if we could be hallucinating. In the still water ahead, dozens of icebergs seemed to be blocking the channel out of the Inlet.

But as we drew closer we realized they weren’t made of ice, of course, just whipped up air and water – beautiful and delightfully harmless.

Their source was the huge lagoon at the head of Kumealon Inlet, which connects to the inlet by a narrow, rock-strewn passage and tidal falls. At low tide, water from the lagoon cascades over the falls and is forced out though the narrows. The resulting turbulence creates large, bright white natural “foam bergs” that can, at least on large tide cycles, extend almost to the Inlet’s mouth, a mile away.

The other, less pleasant surprise had come earlier when we had awakened and looked out the wheelhouse window.

Directly ahead of us, awash in all its jagged, boat-eating glory, was the reef that we’d seen on our chart the previous evening on entering Kumealon at high tide – but whose exact location we’d been unable to pinpoint. As you can see in the photo below, we’d dodged a bullet, but only just.

Jagged reef at morning low tide

Kumealon Inlet was indeed full of surprises.

Low Tide Charms

View across long sandstone beach

Low tide at Drumbeg Park (click on images to enlarge and see detail)

With summer finally approaching many of us have our eyes on distant shores. But if truth be told, no matter how lovely those shores might be, some of the ones close to home are just as beautiful.

Over the past few months we didn’t go far in terms of recreational outings – only about 2 km, actually – all the way to Drumbeg Park, one of our favorite walking spots here on Gabriola Island.

One of those trips coincided with a significantly low tide, allowing a view of the tidepools formed by erosion along the broad stretch of sandstone shore.

View across tide pools in sandstone shore

Graceful curving lines of bladderwrack, exposed by the tide, added panache to the tableau that day.

Seaweed and sandstone at low tide

It’s a lovely place to walk, to be sure, and especially at low tide. But if you happen to be there at high tide instead, no worries – a walk through the forest at Drumbeg can be every bit as charming.

Trail alongside mixed forest and Garry oak meadow

Spring Rhythms and Routines

Red-breasted sapsucker on a tree trunk

“Sappy” on the job site (click to enlarge).

In these unpredictable and troubling times, it’s good to have a few things you can rely on. This spring, one dapper bird and a whole lot of small amphibians provided me with just that.

For a month or longer,”Sappy”, the bird in the photo above, would show up at his worksite (or perhaps her worksite – the sexes look alike). There, at the old, multi-trunked Bigleaf maple just outside our front door, he/she would put in a lengthy shift, working up and down the main trunk, tapping and poking the rough bark for sap and insects. The routine never varied, which I found comforting.

Red-breasted sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus ruber) live in our region year-round, so we often see these beautiful birds, or hear their calls, which remind me of a supercharged squeaky toy. But it was a treat to be able to watch this one at such close range, often at eye level, for so many days. Sappy has moved on since then, likely to some other nearby tree, where he/she is probably busy sharing parental duties with a mate.

Another creature that has brought me comfort this spring is the Pacific Chorus frog (AKA Pacfic Tree frog, Pseudacris regilla). I haven’t seen any – we won’t for a few months yet – but each night for the past eight weeks, a loud choir has been steadily broadcasting from our pond, as lusty males call out in search of mates.

The pulsing rhythm of their song has lulled me to sleep. And it has brought me comfort in the knowledge that these imperiled amphibians are still here, striving to bring forth the next generation.

Long may Sappy tap, and the Chorus frogs sing.

Morning Revelation

Islands half hidden by fog on a bright day

“Morning Revelation” (Grappler Sound, 0745 hours, July 2021) – click to enlarge

We left our anchorage in Mackenzie Sound at 0630, rushing to make it through Kenneth Passage on the last of the ebb. A band of fog clung part way up the mountains beside and behind us, but we could see blue sky ahead, so were hopeful the fog would lift and we’d have good visibility for most of our passage.

But the weather gods weren’t on our side. Fog dogged us through the narrow channel west of Kenneth, making it nerve-wracking to spot the multiple drift logs swirling about in the current, which was now against us as well.

Even when we reached the wider waters of Grappler Sound, clarity was elusive – as is often the case on summer mornings in the Broughton Archipelago. Fog rolls in from Queen Charlotte Strait and sticks around until early afternoon. It can be stealthy: it appears to lift, only to move around and descend again a few minutes later, thicker than ever. That’s OK when we’re at anchor, but we don’t want to get caught travelling in such deceptive conditions, especially these day when there are so many drift logs, which radar can’t detect.

The fog entirely blanketed the intricate shorelines and passages between our boat and our intended destination (hidden somewhere in the photo above) so we needed a duck-in. Luckily Carriden Bay was close by, with calm water, sunshine and plenty of room to anchor. We’d passed it many times before but this was the first time we’d stopped. It was a good place to practice patience while we watched and waited.

Two hours later we were underway again, thinking the way was clear – but soon the fog returned with a vengeance. We needed yet another duck-in, this one secure enough for overnight anchorage as we weren’t going to keep playing this game.

At 1045 we made it into Tracey Harbour, just before fog filled its opening passage. We’d never been there before, and it proved a good discovery – nice enough that we stayed for two nights. It’s unlikely we would have gone there if not for the fog, so in that sense, I guess the stealthy beast actually did us a favour that morning.

PHOTO SHOW:  “Breathing Space”, an exhibit by three members of the Gabriola Photography Club, runs until April 14, downstairs at the Gabriola Medical Clinic (weekdays). Together we’re showing about 30 prints, and “Morning Revelation”, the photo above, is one of mine on display. You can find more info here.