Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Benjamin Islands to Spanish

My first order of business for the day was to go for a paddle board ride, but I didn’t get far into it before the damn paddle snapped in half. Chinese junk! I really thought it would have survived longer than a year, but at least the board itself is still in good condition. I used the half paddle for the rest of the ride, then returned to the boat and cooked up a big sausage and egg breakfast for my gang. Once we were all ready, the next mission was to scale the massive rock hill to the west of the anchorage, so we jumped into the dinghies and motored the short distance over. Many of the boats that were anchored here had already left or were preparing to leave as the weather today was windy and overcast. Plus, it was Sunday so I imagine some poor suckers had to go back to work.

We climbed the hill and were rewarded with a magnificent view over the entire anchorage - the boats, the hard rock surfaces, the water lapping up against the shoreline, the thick forest. There may be some better freshwater anchorages in the world, but I certainly can’t think of any. Meandering through the forest with no particular destination was fun and we found dozens of patches of blueberry bushes full of berries, so Magnus offered up his bandana and we fashioned a satchel out of it large enough to collect a sufficient amount of blueberries for a future breakfast, maybe blueberry pancakes or blueberry oatmeal? Angela and Stella found some designer moss and fancy ferns so uprooted the whole lot in the hopes of setting up a botanical garden on HQ2.

After our walk we got both boats ready to go and left the anchorage through an impossibly narrow passageway to the west, then started making our way northward the 11 miles to the town of Spanish. Cruising around these parts is strangely scary as you have to navigate through channels that you normally wouldn’t sail anywhere close to with the expectation of hitting rocks, reefs or bottom. But here, many of the shorelines drop cliff-like into the water creating plenty of depth even though you may only be passing a couple of metres from the shoreline.

The passage takes us northwards, snaking around rocks and islands, passing shorelines thick with trees, deadfall, and wildlife, moving at a steady pace. At one point we spot something that seemed impossible - a small sailboat towing behind it a Sea Doo, then behind that was another Sea Doo, then behind that was a dinghy. Now this would be completely normal if it was a powerboat towing this flotilla of planet killing carbon spewing machines, but a sailboat? I can only imagine it must have been a sail boater with even more powerboat tendencies than us.

The channel approach to the Spanish marina (or perhaps I should say “marina in Spanish” to avoid confusion) was narrow, and my attempt to shortcut it nearly ended in disaster as I watched the depth sounder go from 15 feet to 10 feet to 5 feet, then I cranked the wheel just before we plowed the keel into muck and managed to pull it into deeper waters. There were no less than four dockhands that helped us get docked in the strong wind and current, and they knew exactly what they were doing.

Ana and I walked over to the marina office to get checked in and buy some ice. The super friendly staff gave us the rundown - showers, washrooms and laundry were closed due to COVID, the town centre of Spanish was a 25 minute walk but there might not be much open today, and they did indeed have ice, and sold me two bags then gave me a free tote bag to carry it in. We picked up Angela and Tony and walked into town to see if we could find a grocery store, The town of Spanish is built alongside the Trans-Canada highway and is not the prettiest village, but man are the people friendly here. The grocery store was closed, but we stopped into a surprisingly well stocked outdoors store for a few minutes right before closing time, then the only other places open were a convenience store and the Lucky Snack Bar, whose sign claimed it was “Known Worldwide”. Well, there were about 15 people standing around the place waiting for food and drinks so there must be some truth in that boast. We each got a single scoop cone, which turned out to be about four scoops impossibly balanced on the small cone, and enough for a meal. Ana wasn’t even able to finish hers but I just hate wasting food so consumed all 4000 calories worth of my walnut maple masterpiece.

Back to the marina we went, thinking not too much nor too little about the village of Spanish, and enjoying the long walk. The kids had barely noticed we’d left as they were drawn deeply into their devices, and there really wasn’t much to do there anyway. Tony and I settled into dock chairs and struck up a conversation with a fellow named Rick who owned a hulking, wooden hull 1968 Pacemaker, and he invited us aboard for a tour and a beer. The vessel was enormous inside, and had all the classy oak, brass, and finishings you would expect of that vintage boat. While we were doing that, Stella and Angela set up a little gardening operation on the dock and transplanted the moss and ferns they found the day before into lovely little planters, and displayed them proudly on the stern of HQ2.

Shepherd’s pie was on the menu and we all dined aboard Bella Blue. There were plans made for movie night, but everybody was too exhausted so it was off to bed.

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