Saturday, September 01, 2012

nootka part two...

a motley crew

there's a sea lion in there somewhere


in the mists

group nap

this is a continuation from yesterday's post.


I awoke in the twilight before dawn to the shriek of eagles high in the trees. A moment later I heard the telltale blows of a whale in the bay and pulled myself from the last remnants of sleep to go investigate. But the whale disappeared around the point as I stepped out on the rocks, leaving me to admire the pink glow lighting the peaks of Nootka Island in the distance. I sat on the ragged shore and watched the tide creep slowly in, listening to then constant patter of mackerel jumping, then went back to the tent in time to hear AK's 7:30 alarm sound. After a simple breakfast we packed up and got on the water.

Almost immediately we spotted a blow ahead; this humpback slipped quietly between us and the shore. Around another point and the wind was picking up from the west, coming straight at us. We wound through the channels, reassessing our plans but continuing forward for now. Another whale popped up ahead, in a narrow channel between two islands. We clung close to the larger one, hoping not to get in his way. He emerged for a few breaths, tucked up against the opposite islet, then came up in a froth to feed. Our paddles were still in our hands, eyes spellbound.

We paddled out around the isthmus of Bligh Island, mostly protected but feeling a bit of the quickening wind. Our goal for the day had been Burdwood Bay, a wide stretch of sand across from Friendly Cove, requiring a larger crossing exposed to the open ocean. Nootka Sound is a winding labyrinth of islands offering sheltered spots to explore, but the rugged coastline is also regular host to wild storms, where waves explode off rocks to touch the treetops high above. We moved along our channel until we could get a view between two islands. At the same time we listened to the marine forecast on the VHF. Gale warning, said the monotone voice over the airwaves. Hmmm...

After a bit of exploring, slipping through the shallows between islets where sea stars and oysters carpeted the seafloor, we headed back to the isthmus to set up camp. A sea otter popped up to spend a few moments with us, calmly floating away on its back. We set up camp on a flat spot at the edge of the forest, including a communal tarp for cooking and sitting under as the rain set in.

Throughout the afternoon brief squalls moved through, pounding rain and stirring up the sea, only to leave it flat calm moments later. We continued to spot whale spouts on both sides of the isthmus, but the real show set up in our little bay. Just like the humpbacks, California sea lions were busy in the sound, gorging on mackerel. Our bay was teaming with them, and a motley crew of sea lions was corralling dinner (and snacks, and more dessert, and...). While much of the action took place below, the beasts would chase the schools of mackerel until the fish would swell at the surface, even jumping clear of the water in their efforts to avoid those grizzly-like jaws (see video above). Over and over this was repeated as the night crept on, the shhhhhhhhh of the disturbed sea surface lulling our ears as we watched. Even as we crawled into our sleeping bags the feast continued, and the raucous chorus of sea lion barks crept into our dreams.


there are new mushrooms and a coyote in the shop.

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