May 23, 2006

Up Jervis Inlet to Egmont, the Skookumchuck Rapids and Princess Louisa

See the pictures for this part of our voyage at http://raptordance.com/PrincessLouisa/index.html

Hello Everyone!

We're back from from Princess Louisa and it was well worth visiting. It's a beautiful Fjord with peaks rising to over 8000 feet and with spectacular waterfalls all around. At the head of the bay is the largest of them all, Chatterbox Falls. It was good to be there early in the season while the falls were at their fullest.

We left Pender Harbour on May 18th and had a quiet motor up Agamemnon Channel to Egmont. We docked at the Egmont Marina Resort which is located partway up the Jervis Inlet near the Skookumchuck Rapids.

The Backeddy Marine Pub at the marina is famous for it's Skookumchuck burger. It's huge! We split one. It's very tasty and we recommend it highly. It's probably the best burger we've had in Canada.

We then hiked about 4 miles (each way) from the marina to Skookumchuck Rapids. The path through the park was lovely, winding through the cedar and pine trees, lush ferns and mushrooms.

The rapids join the Sechelt Inlet to the Jervis Inlet and the sea. A whole lot of water passes through them on every tide. These are claimed to be the wildest navigable rapids in the world. On a peak day, the currents in the rapids exceed 16 knots, With 8 foot overfalls.

At peak current, the rapids are used by white water kayakers even surfers! see http://www.paddleguides.com/rivers/bc/skook/skook.html

At slack, you might see a tug with barges or log booms going through. Some pretty large vessels also traverse at slack.

The decommissioned 323 foot, Canadian Navel Destroyer, HMCS Chaudiere, was sunk for wreck diving in the Sechelt inlet, so it traversed the rapids to meet its fate. We don't know if that was the largest vessel to traverse the rapids, but we wonder how they got her through!

The rapids are also a popular site for expert SCUBA divers to do a "drift" dive. Too cold for us!

In the language of the local First Nation's tribe, Skookum means "big" or "strong" and chuck means "body of water" - it lives up to it's name. I guess that applies to the burger too, only with a different kind of chuck - ground chuck that is.

We visited on a day when the ebb through the rapids was a wimpy 12.5 knots at peak with 4 foot overfalls. We took lots of pictures and put the best on the website.

It was most interesting and we were glad that we didn't have to pass through those rapids. The pictures do not express how powerful the rapids looked in person. We could see how much deeper the whirlpools were from the surrounding water. We know how they are able to nudge the boat one way or the other when the flow is almost slack. So these would not have given a nudge but a mighty shove.

On the 19th we were joined in Egmont by Jim and Marilyn Ming on their Valiant 40, Coyote Moon. We buddy boated with them the next few days.

Both boats left the Saturday May 20th for the 31 nautical mile trip up Jervis Inlet to Malibu Rapids, the gateway to Princess Louisa Inlet. We planned our trip to traverse Malibu Rapids during the period with the smallest tidal differences to avoid any problems. We were rewarded with a delightfully boring passage through. We were in awe though as we watched a large motor yacht, we think it was between 120 and 150 feet follow us through the rapids.

We were looking forward to our trip up Jarvis Inlet, hoping for that warm clear weather that we had the previous week. The weather turned on the 20th however and our passage up Jervis was marked by fog and rain showers. It wasn't entirely disappointing. The fog, mist and low clouds around the cliffs looked like something out of a movie. We could picture a crew on their boat venturing into this scene on some important quest. We entered Princess Louisa with clouds unfortunately blocking the view.

We continued inside Princess Louisa for the 4 nautical miles up to the head of the Inlet to the park docks at the base of Chatterbox Falls. We were fortunate as the only space left that we'd fit into was right up front, facing the falls. Many of the other boaters were on the dock helping tie up the newly arriving boats. There was not an obvious space for Coyote Moon but some of the other boats retied closer together making room. Very nice of them.

In clearing weather, we hiked up the short trail to the base of the falls. It encouraged us to climb further but there was no route to do that.

Sunday dawned much brighter and only partly cloudy unveiling the magnificence of the valley. Picture Yosemite Valley, but much narrower and just as tall, with dozens of waterfalls cascading down the sides, uncrowded with only a few visitors in boats in the sea covering the valley floor, and you may get a sense for the majesty of Princess Louisa Inlet.

All in all it was a beautiful place. There's not a lot of places to hike though as the only other trail is a rock scramble up a slippery path to an abandoned trappers cabin up the side of the fjord.

So 24 hours in Princess Louisa was sufficient for us. John Mills, the owner of the Egmont Marina Resort commented before we left that "Princess Louisa is the kind of place where two hours is too long and two weeks isn't long enough". We agree.

We left on the high slack on Sunday the 21st with Coyote Moon and made our way back to the Garden Bay Hotel and Resort in Pender Harbour. Underway the weather first turned great! We were back to shorts and T-shirts - then it started to turn cold and rainy.

Just as we were pulling into Pender, it got really gusty and rainy. Jim and Marilyn saw 30+ knot winds on the nose right before they pulled in. We were a mile and 10 minutes ahead and didn't see anything nearly that bad.

We've been here in Pender since, waiting for the rain and winds to abate. 30 knots from the South East was forecast for the last two days - and that would be no fun as that's on our nose as we head to False Creek in Vancouver, our next stop.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th, the winds are forecast to ease. We're planning to leave early tomorrow morning to make the 46 nautical mile passage to False Creek.

That's the news as we snuggle on board Raptor Dance, keeping warm on a rainy and cold day.

Bill and Mary
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