|Saturday, August 28.|
The morning is cloudy. The early risers are greeted by a black bear in addition to their coffee. It is low tide, and a black bear is rummaging among the rocks on the beach for sea critters. He is ably assisted by a black bird who stands a short distance from him and jumps to grab any critters that escape the bear. We are supposed to get an early start today and have breakfast while we travel. But we delay our trip for awhile to watch the bear. A bit later, another bear appears on the opposite bank. He is not assisted by a bird, but does pretty much the same thing as the first bear. Neither bear appears to notice us. When we hoist the anchor, we come closer to one of the bears. He pauses, watches us for awhile and then ambles off into the brush.
Our day’s activity was to be divided between paddling and motoring back to Port McNeill. This plan is altered when Sharon hears reports of an Orca sightings from Johnstone Strait. We decide to forgo the paddling and try to intercept the whales as they go up the Inside Passage. The weather turns to wind and rain which reinforces the wisdom of this decision.
We travel out into Salmon Channel, a large body of water between the Broughton Archipelago and Vancouver Island. The seas are rolling and a number of our party become mildly seasick. They use wrist bands with pressure points and seem to have fewer symptoms. We approach the tip of Malcom Island and listen to reports on the short wave radio from the Whale Watching boats. One of these boats, the Naiad, is following the whales from Johnstone Strait.
We intercept the whales near Donegal Head off the easternmost point of Malcom Island. There are three male Orcas. The whale watchers have identified them as members of subpod A26 and they are whale numbers A32, A37 and A46. This subpod lost its female leader a year or so ago and is an atypical grouping. Orca pods are matriarchal and have a lead female. These three boys are heading up the Inside Passage, looking for fish. They surface three times between deeper dives. They do this together and then are gone for several minutes before their next breath. The ships try to anticipate where they will come up, guessing what direction they are going, and so forth. On one occasion they come up right along side the Columbia. Sharon is at the helm and holds her breath. Our passengers are standing out in the rain with their cameras trying to get a few great pictures. We continue this game of hide and seek for about two hours, but the time goes by swiftly. Our hunger and the need to get to port in a reasonable time make us leave the game. The Orcas are magnificent creatures out in the wild. They swim their own way without regard for the presence of the boats and exhibit a beauty of natural movement and strength.
We eat lunch while the Columbia travels toward Port McNeill. We circle around Malcom Island, go past Alert Bay, and past the village of Sointula on Malcom Island (Sharon’s home) and arrive in Port McNeill at 3:30 PM. By then we have packed our bags and are ready to depart.
We have sea legs as we walk on land and our heads still seem to float a bit. We are saddened to leave our companions. In the past 6 days we have gotten to know each other quite well and found ourselves to be kindred spirits.
We hope to keep in touch and share in each others adventures. Perhaps we will meet again on another Mothership Adventure. Don has been on Mothership adventures five times in the past 6 years. Now we all know why.
Peter and Jane Brazy