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Monday , August 23. 
Bill and Sharon get up before sunrise and serve coffee and tea by 7 AM. Our paddlers get up slowly, one or two at a time. Don sits on the back deck with his cup of coffee and writes in a note book. Mariana has a hot cup of tea and walks from place to place taking in the scenery. Jennifer sits with her coffee in a trance staring at the horizon. Others gather in the main lounge and exchange small bits of conversation. The atmosphere is quiet and serene. Sounds of cooking come from the kitchen. There is fog this morning. Parts of the harbor and neighboring islands are obscured from view. The fog lifts slowly, revealing the hillsides around the harbor and the neighboring channels and islands. According to a First Nation legend, a mystical crane lifts the cover of a large wooden box letting varying degrees of fog out each morning.

After breakfast, we go into town to visit the Umista Cultural Center. This center was built by the First Nation people in 1980 to house one of the finest collections of elaborately carved masks depicting the Potlatch Ceremony of the Kwakwakawakw people. These masks were confiscated by the Canadian government in the early part of this century when the Potlatch Ceremony was illegal. The masks were put in display cases in a museum in Ottawa. The First Nation people negotiated with the Canadian government to have these masks returned to them. They had to build this center to care for and display the masks. The term Umista refers to people that have returned to their home after servÍng time as captives with another tribe. The masks are displayed in a ceremonial long house room, each one set upon a pole, lined up in the order of their appearance during the Potlatch Ceremony. The masks are set out in the open rather than in plastic display cases or cages. 

The First Nation people want the spirits of the masks to have freedom. The Center provides a videotape telling the story of the masks, the Potlatch Ceremony and the legal problems that it caused the First Nation. The Center sells craft items and carvings made by living members of the tribe. Mariana and Lorna each want a miniature mask. Lorna buys it first, and Mariana commissions one to be made and sent to her. Others buy T–shirts, scarfs, wooden boxes, and cards. In the harbor area, we observe some First Nation people beginning to carve a dugout canoe from a large cedar log. The visit to this center provides us with an effective educational experience and prepares us for upcoming visits to other First Nation sites on this trip. 

After touring Alert Bay, we board the Columbia and head out of the harbor. We cross Cormorant Channel to Blackfish Sound (Orcas are known as blackfish) and anchor in a bay off Hanson Island. This area is very near the Johnstone Strait of the Inside Passage. On our way, we see dolphins (Doll Dolphins) which run along side of our ship for a short while. Later we see the heads of harbor seals as they watch us from a distance. After a warm lunch of soup, cheese and crackers, we have our first kayak lesion. Sharon (below) leads the kayak instruction. 


We pair off and are assigned to tandem kayaks. The initial fitting of spray skirts, foot braces, and paddle gear takes awhile. The tandem kayaks (Necky Amaruk) are 18 feet long and quite stable. Some of us feel a bit confined in the cockpit, but the addition of inflatable back pads markedly increases the comfort level. We practice our paddling skills. The tandem pairs today are Nathan and Jane, Mariana and Frank, Peter and Don, Shanna and Kris, Nancy and Jennifer, the first name of each pair being the bowperson. Some have prior kayaking experience and rapidly adapt to this new situation. Others get foot or leg cramps, or jam the rudder systems by using a heavy foot on the steering pedals. We explore the shore of the bays and islands around us for a couple of hours. The water is flat and clear. In the shallows, we can see the sea creatures along the bottom in shallow areas. The water is a fantastic reflective surface for the trees and rocks of the shoreline. We have a discourse upon the reflective properties of salt water versus fresh water, the attributes of being a bow versus a stern paddler, and the amazing beauty of the land and sea around us. The weather is partly cloudy and warm. It is a delightful time to be on the water.

The evening meal is pasta with a basil pesto sauce and lots of garlic bread. Captain Bill provides the red wine from his own cellar. He and some friends make their own wine and Bill brings a sampling of these to share with his guests. These include some very fine, fruity reds wines. After dinner, we board the skiff and go to a rocky beach on one of the islands. Here we make a driftwood fire, and have Lorna’s favorite dessert – SMores. The Canadian style of this treat uses more chocolate than the USA version. Lorna places the chocolate covered graham cracker near the fire to pre–melt the chocolate before placing the marshmallow upon it. The group takes sides, some favor the flaming and blackened marshmallows, others favor the toasted brown ones. We are not bothered by flying or biting insects. The temperature is cool, but not cold. The sunset is obscured by the ever present clouds which pass through this area. We return to the boat and sleep peacefully.
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