We’d had an enjoyable one-day stopover in the sizeable town of Prince Rupert since our train ride; no rain fell, and the fog was gone by noon.
On this day of sailing the Inside Passage the clouds were above us, and flew higher and higher as the ferry took us south to Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island. The day was filled with glorious sunshine from start to finish. At times the sea was so calm that mountains, hills, trees and rock formations along the shoreline were almost reflected.
This was good after our early start: although the ferry didn’t leave until 7:30 a.m., and we were walk-on passengers, two taxis had picked these five obedient passengers (three sisters and two husbands) up at our hostel at 5:15 a.m.
Our gleaming vessel, Northern Expedition is either new or recently refurbished, but we did have a complaint. The outside decks do not allow for walking a complete circuit and there are no outside seats, or even places to stand, where you can comfortably view the landscape from the front of the boat.
“What about inside?” I hear you ask. Well, we’d paid handsomely for our passage, and much more for the two cabins we’d sensibly added – but we were not about to pay an additional $35 each for the privilege of sitting in the (locked) Aurora Lounge at the bow. Since the room was practically empty, others obviously felt the same way.
Even on a bad day, our group would have been walking the deck with camera and binoculars in hand, but on this trip with the water sparkling under an endless blue sky, we came in only to eat.
Which did happen quite often. Seats at the stern didn’t cut it, except for eating our BBQ lunch in the lovely out-of-doors.
“It must be unusual to see so much blue here on the ‘Wet Coast’”, I remarked to one of the crew.
“It’s been like this ‘forever’,” she said, referring to the dry weather of this unusual season. “But four or five days ago, the smell of smoke was over-powering.”
Through Grenville Channel, the mountains towered above, sloping steeply to great depths leaving a narrow passage.
“The ship barely fitted through,” stated my husband John, who has been known to exaggerate.
“The narrowest portion is a mere 1,400 feet wide,” says our map showing points of interest throughout the journey.
Detailed announcements described the deserted cannery, a tall brick chimney and pilings marking the location of one of the first sulphite mills on B.C.’s coast, and three manned lighthouses with their patriotic red and white buildings.
We learned more about different First Nations communities including Hartley Bay (heroes of the Queen of the North disaster – which was not mentioned), Klemtu (where the ferry stopped) and the larger settlement of Bella Bella.
Not on any map or loud speakers were the wildlife sightings. Two deer wandering along the railway track near Prince Rupert Station had started got things off. Later, at sea, fish jumped in one section and seals played.
Then: “We saw spouts, swerving backs, and tails slowly disappearing into the briny deep!” my sister Vera and I boasted to her hubby, Merv.
“I saw a whole one!” he one-upped us, describing the graceful arc of a leaping humpback whale.
But best of all, for me, was seeing an otter floating on its back. It would have had a stone on its chest to hit, say a clam, against, thus breaking it open to provide it with a deliciously slimy meal.
We chatted with other folks, of course, but nothing beats showing off B.C.’s beauty to close relatives from far-off Australia.