Clearing Seymour Narrows, we enter Johnstone Strait. The hills are awash in the deep greens of early summer, their upper flanks frosted by the misty clouds that cling to the moss-heavy branches. Life begets life in this temperate rainforest, which extends down exactly to the high-tide line. I take the helm and receive my first high-speed driving lesson. Ralph mans his iPad, loaded with a Navionics chart-suite app, while Vermeulen studies paper charts and the chart plotter, looking for “entertaining” skinny-water haunts.
I throttle back before we arrive at Matilpi, a former Indian village. We drift within feet of shore, taking in the stark-white beach that sharply contrasts with the surrounding landscape. This is actually a midden, or garbage heap, where native people once discarded spent shells, bones and kitchen debris — a bit more welcoming than their modern-day equivalents.
Vermeulen takes the helm and we race off to explore new areas, the most engaging being Baronet Passage. Ralph and I study the charts, and everyone scans for logs as we approach at pace.
We arrive in Telegraph Cove around 1530 and savor the atmosphere of this former logging and cannery town. A rough-hewn boardwalk wraps past a smattering of shops, whale- and bear-watching operations, restaurants and our hotel. The most interesting attraction is the Johnstone Strait Killer Whale Interpretive Centre, which features a complete fin-whale skeleton.
After a salmon dinner at the Killer Whale Café, we motor over to Swanson Island, where we’ve been advised that bears regularly frequent the desolate beaches in the evening. While Ursus arctos horribilis proves elusive, we savor the quiet beauty of conifer-cloaked hillsides, bald eagles and these seldom-seen rivers. “After so many years of sailing, to be able to get here so quickly makes you realize just how great our backyard is,” Vermeulen says.
We wake up the next day to bluebird skies and cruise leisurely to Desolation Sound. I take the helm before we enter Sunderland Channel. The wheel is steady as we approach the first whirlpools, but it jerks slightly when we hit a serious swirl. I correct, but the bow immediately finds another depression. Still, the Protector feels rock-solid.