Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Anchorages: Crease Island Cove

Recently on a late afternoon I was walking my dogs in the woods above my house, I heard a great horned owl hooting in the distance.  Immediately my mind flashed to a memory when I was anchored at Crease Island Cove up in BC's Queen Charlotte Strait area.  The owl's hoots made me shiver with the haunting memory of that night.

Quiet before the storm.  Looking SW.
We very much enjoy the Crease Island Cove anchorage.  It was late August and thunderstorms were predicted for the Queen Charlotte Strait area.  There was an eerie stillness in the air, and conditions were very warm and humid which is unusual.  The normal late afternoon winds were absent.  You could tell a thunderstorm was brewing as the weather radio had warned.  Gale to Storm force gusty winds were expected as well as lightning and heavy rain.  As a result the anchorage was unusually crowded with boats.  The depths of this anchorage are shallow, only about 15-20' over a mud and kelp bottom.  The anchorage will comfortably hold about 10 boats, but there were more than that this evening.  The thunderstorms were forecast to come from the west, and the cove provides good shelter from the southwest all the way through to the northeast.  Only from the south is the anchorage open.  The island's trees and low hills provide protection.  So I felt safe.

Click on image to enlarge
Crease Island is only one island in a huge archipelago of islands that block the west entrance to Knight Inlet.  The collection of islands are known as the "Indian Group."  You've got Swanson Island to the far west on Blackfish Sound to Village Island at the eastern end.  To the north is Knight Inlet and to the south is Johnstone Strait.  There are over 50 islands of varying size in the area, which makes the Indian Group very scenic.  The abandoned Kwakiutl Indian village of Mamalilaculla, on Village Island is a great stop to learn more about the rich native history of these islands.  Often there is a watchman at Mamalilaculla who will tell you about the village and it's history.

I double checked my anchor setting and made careful mental note of objects on shore that would tell me if I had dragged anchor.  I also made note of the boats around me and how they were anchored.  There were two fish boats (trollers) anchored west of me, a 40' Chris Craft southwest of me, and a couple of small sailboats anchored north of me.  To the east of of me there were many other cruising boats but they didn't worry me.  The Chris Craft worried me, because I noticed he just dropped his anchor without setting it; he used a Danforth anchor; and he had no chain rode, just rope.

Initially this evening the mosquitoes were numerous and nasty and all of a sudden they just disappeared.  I knew I hadn't killed them all, but it was strange that they all disappeared.  Did they know something I didn't?  As we went to bed around 2130, the waters were glassy calm and the air was very still.  At about 2330 I noticed the boat quickly swing about at anchor and a light rain hitting the cabin roof.  Suddenly a gust hit the boat, I heard the anchor line strain, and now a torrent of rain hit the boat.  What was calm was now very noisy.  This had all come so suddenly, the forecast thunder storm was now upon us.  The wind roared through the trees, the rain pounded the water and the boat, and lightning lit up the anchorage.  Incredibly there were one foot waves in this sheltered anchorage.  I looked out the windows to see the Chris Craft moving east as if he was under power but he wasn't, he was dragging anchor.  Fortunately he dragged just behind me.  Folks in the small sailboats had their motors going and were checking their anchors.  I was still holding fine.  Lightning lit up the anchorage repeatedly to give you a quick look at the chaos about.  The Chris Craft now had his motor going and you could hear yelling in the distance over the roar of the wind and thunder between him and a couple of boats.  I was safe.  The wind and rain continued for about 45 minutes and then started to calm down and I returned to my bunk.

Morning after the storm at Crease Is. Cove. Looking NE.
About 0200 I got up because once again, not because of any storm or noise, rather it was just too quiet.  So quiet you could hear the water dripping off of the trees on shore.  I checked my anchor - all good.  I shone my spotlight about and I was still where I was supposed to be and there were no boats near me.  Except for the anchor lights of neighboring boats it was pitch black.  You could hear the the thunderstorm far off to the east and see purple, white, and magenta colors when the lightning lit up the clouds in the distance.  All was perfectly calm.  That's when I heard the hoot of a great horned owl on shore.  It was a melancholy huffing type of hoot.  The hairs on my neck immediately stood on end.  My imagination ran wild with native spirits running about in the woods.   I thought of the Thunder Bird, the suni qua (sp?), and more.  I quickly returned to the safety of my bunk and fell asleep listening to the dripping water and the hooting owl, only to wake later in the morning to again all quiet.  When I asked my family about the storm last night and they commented, "What storm?  What owl?"  I asked myself, "Was I dreaming?"  I looked for the Chris Craft and he was gone, in fact over half the boats anchored last night were gone.  Oh well, maybe I was dreaming.  If so what a dream.

We've returned to Crease Island Cove many times since that night.  It remains one of our most favorite anchorages on the BC Coast.  We very much enjoy cruising about and exploring the many small islands in our dinghy.  They're great for a nap, reading a book, or a picnic.  But, be careful there's black bears about.  I've got a great picture of my brother sitting on shore reading a book not knowing there was a black bear not more than 30' away from him.  He never knew until I told him later and showed him the picture.  Often times we have seen bears swimming from island to island, along with other animals - otters and raccoons.  We've seen orca and white-sided dolphins in Blackfish Sound and Knight Inlet.  There's great scuba diving too along these islands. (To learn more visit or Sunfun Divers on Facebook)  There's great salmon fishing nearby in Blackfish Sound.  Excellent prawning and crabbing nearby too.  Port McNeill is about 19 nautical miles away where you can stock up on provisions.  Or, you can easily wind your way through the islands to Echo Bay (~8 nm), just be careful of the currents and many shoals.  Being right at the southern tip of Queen Charlotte Strait and just by Johnstone Strait, Crease Island Cove is a great "jumping off" point for the trip home or for points further north.

Happy New Year!  May 2012 be a year filled with many safe and happy adventures.

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