Monday, November 17, 2008

Publish Something Already

We made our second stop in Prince Rupert to clear in with Canadian Customs upon returning from Alaska. This time, realizing we could stay at the town dock for free, we met more friendly and interesting characters than we had at the yacht club on our previous visit. Jean-Marc, sailing aboard a large and excellently outfitted aluminum sloop he had built himself 9 years earlier on Vancouver Island, and his father Vincent. Jean-Marc has a sailor’s dream job of sailing his own boat around, collecting shellfish samples throughout the northwest to be tested for red tide, and other parasites. His father who was out visiting for a couple of weeks is a model Canadian citizen. Concerned, interested, informed, I envied his contentment as an early riser who would be up at the crack of dawn reading the morning’s news at Cowpaccinos (a perfectly unique, relaxed Tim Hortons alternative that has rekindled my desire to one day own my own little coffee shop).

In the weeks leading up to meeting Jean-Marc, Brian had told me about, on numerous occasions, an excellent documentary at this years Banff Mountain Film Festival called In Search of the Coast Wolves. Brian thought Jean-Marc’s boat bore a striking resemblance to the one in the film. Vincent said it should because it was indeed the same boat. Jean Marc was hired by the producers as the knowledgeable captain to lead the search throughout the remote islands of BC, and the resulting film is fantastic. Check it out if you can.

I almost bypassed a fascinating story of coincidence, if it wasn't for Brian drawing my attention to a small, nondescript fiberglass motorboat in a seaside park. In 1986, a lone fisherman set out from Owase, Japan for day of fishing to provide for his family. He never returned. One year and over 4000 nautical miles later, his boat was found drifting off the BC coast near Prince Rupert, Owase’s sister city. The boat is now the heart of a Mariner’s Memorial in downtown Prince Rupert.

With the perfect resource at hand, we asked Jean-Marc where we should go if we wanted to see wolves. Without hesitation, his answer was Banks Island, about 50 miles southwest of Prince Rupert. Knowing we were also bound for the Queen Charlotte Islands, he gave us all the charts we would need to either go down the east or west coast of the southern islands, providing we return them when finished.

It was necessary to make one stop on our way to Banks Island, and we found ourselves in Totem Inlet. Just wide enough to get in, and barely deep enough, I stood on the bow pulpit hoping to get the best vantage point. I hate these entries. Though we went very slow, there’s something infinitely unnerving about seeing the bottom the whole way along. After a nightmarish grounding aboard my own boat in Mexico last March, it’s something I’m not sure I will ever fully get over. It was worth it though. Once inside the full protection of the tiny bay shortly before sunset, a family of otters scurried onto the rocks beside us and up into the woods, and the atypical (for this time of year) towering cumulus clouds caused by daytime heating of the land hinted at the presence of the Queen Charlotte Islands just over the horizon. Just another 15 miles to sail the following day would leave us plenty of daylight to explore one shore of Banks Island and hopefully see one of these elusive wolves, or at least hear a howl.