Leaving Port McNeil on April 10th we made our way over to nearby Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. Here we were generously hosted by Dave and (fellow Kiwi) Maureen Towers of Seasmoke Whale Watching.

Based on Dave and Maureen's suggestions we took a detour from heading north to kayak the Broughton Archipelago and visit the old native settlement of Meem Quam Leese on Village Island and Billy's Museum at Echo Bay.

Before leaving Echo bay we took a day to visit the Umista Cultural Centre and view it's incredible collection of face masks as well as explore the township and Cormorant Island.

It felt strange to leave Alert Bay and be paddling south! Passing through the Gordon and Weynton Passages and the Pearse and Plumber Groups we encountered tidal rips and even a small whirlpool in the Plumpers.

Passing Hanson Island we could see Orcalab where another fellow Kiwi, Paul Spong, conducts whale research. Paul is famous for his studies at Sea World in Vancouver that showed Orcas to be highly intelligent and sociable creatures. He has since dedicated his life to studying Orcas in the wild and actively campaigning for the end of keeping cetaceans in captivity.

At Village Island we were surprised to find people present. Tom Sewid, grandson of a hereditary chief, was hosting a Winnipeg TV crew filming a show on Sasquatch. Tom showed us around Meem Quam Leese and told us stories of his Sasquatch sightings.

A squally afternoons paddling took us to within an hour of Echo bay before darkness fell. The next day we took a leisuredly paddle into Echo bay and set up camp at the Marine Park bordering the school. As we were well ahead of the summer crowds it was a quiet and peaceful bay that we paddled into. (Apart from the heron's and Billy's donkey!)

 
                   
     
Sea wolf totem at Meem Quam Leese
 
   
     
   
Evening light at Echo Bay
 
     
 

Here we got to meet Billy Proctor, truly a wise old man of the coast. A fisherman and a logger since he was seven, Billy has seen many changes on the coast. He maintains a museum of historical artifacts and dedicates a lot of time to rebuilding local salmon populations.

While talking to Billy two of the schoolkids came running over to talk to him, Russell and Marieke, the Kwatsi bay kids. Soon we were dragged off to play with the eight other schoolkids on the school's great adventure playground. We got to meet Anca, Russel and Marieke's Mum who invited us to visit their marina in Kwatsi bay, a full days paddle up Tribune channel.

Russell and Marieke joined us for a visit to Billy's museum before they headed off home with our promise to visit them. We stayed to visit with Billy before he radioed Alex Morton, a whale researcher we knew of from her column in a local paddling magazine to tell her we would visit in the morning. Getting off the radio after a rather short exchange he gleefully tells us "she hates visitors"!

Alex is a whale researcher who moved to Echo bay to study orcas. Lately she has become actively involved in the campaign to stop fish farming in the Broughton Archipelago. It was her dedicated research that showed that the collapse of the Pink Salmon run in the area was due to lice from the fish farms infesting and killing the pink smolts as they passed by the farms on their way to the open ocean. Alex has established the Raincoast Research Society, dedicated to researching the impact of aquaculture on the marine environment.

Alex and Billy make a great team and have a genuine admiration and respect for each other as evident in Alex's book about Billy - Heart of the Raincoast. A great read!

Our side trip to Kwatsi Bay proved well worth while. A pod of Pacific white sided dolphins entertained us with an acrobatic display as we approached Kwatsi bay. A great time was had with Anca, Max, Russell and Marieke, a true wilderness family. Russell and Marieke took us on the waterfall tour and we spent an enjoyable afternoon fishing out of their dory and exploring a little islet. Leaving Kwatsi bay we tried in vain to gain ground on a pod of orcas heading into the sunset.

The evening of April 19th found us bouncing off rocks through Canoe Passage, leaving the Broughton Archipelago and heading out into Queen Charlotte Strait. Progress slowed considerably due to constant northwesterly winds. Blown off water three times and were forced to take a day off at Blunden harbour.

 

After the winds lessened we made our way north to Allison Harbour and then Burnett Bay, our first real sandy beach. A beautiful sunny day coaxed us into taking another day off here to beachcomb.

April 27th found us rounding the infamous Cape Caution in light winds and a gentle swell. After crossing Smith Sound and Rivers Inlet we made our way up to Fitz Hugh Sound, arriving at the coastal ghost town of Namu on the 29th. Leaving Namu in the fog we a big day of paddling took us past pacific white sided dolphins, harbour porpoises and our first humpback before arriving in Bella Bella where we treated ourselves to a big feed of fish and chips.

Next day after stocking up on supplies we made our way to the nearby town of Shearwater where we camped on a nearby islet.

     
     
Burnett Bay
       
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