Marine Link Tours In the Media
BY KERRY MCPHEDRAN
"Scenic thrills, no haute frills" Page 2
At 21:00 on August 22, the crew slips the lines and Aurora Explorer works hey way out of Menzies Bay, swinging up Discovery Passage through Seymour Narrows doing 10 knots. Abeam of the infamous Ripple Rock, skipper Dave Matthews reminds us of its treacherous twin peaks that sank 120 boats and ships with 100 lives lost before 1,375 tonnes of dynamite were used to blow some 11 metres off the navigational hazard in 1958 -- the world's largest non-atomic blast.
On a wall chart in the main passenger lounge, Matthews traces our route along the protected coastline between B.C.'s mainland and Vancouver Island. Towboat historian Ken Drushka has described the area as "an intricate maze of islands, channels, inlets, sounds, straits and gulfs -- just about every imaginable geographic feature associated with the meeting of ocean and land." We'll go north up Johnstone Strait, through Chatham Channel, past Minstrel Island, through the Broughton Island archipelago, up Kingcome Inlet and Kingcome River.
Aurora Explorer has 15 scheduled freight stops on this trip, some as brief as 15 minutes, four between midnight and dawn. An unexpected freight delivery to Paragon heli-logging camp means we'll also travel to the head of 113-kilometre Knight Inlet, a rare opportunity. Steep and deep, it's the longest inlet on B.C.'s south coast and one of the most dramatic. Our trade-off? Given the added distance, we'll have less time for the usual stops, shore barbecues, and crab trapping. We'll still manage four sightseeing shore junkets, though, and find time to gunk hole along cliffs to angle for lingcod and salmon, to photograph waterfalls, and to search for pictographs.
Saturday morning we're fighting a full flood tide through Chatham Channel, pressing at a slow but steady three knots. Early risers Martin and Rosalyn Chodos have settled into the popular "bleachers," a raised day bunk behind the wheel and navigation table. Hot scones and fruit surface on the galley shelf at 7 a.m. while cook/steward Donna Sawatzky prepares our "real" breakfast.
We're just smacking our lips over sage-and-apple sausages, eggs, hash browns, toast, and coffee when laconic engineer Bruce Stockand nods in passing, "Bear on the port side." Sausages fly and we're all cameras, craning from the wheelhouse deck.
Life's a beach for this crab-happy bear, flipping over rocks as if they were M&Ms. "Yep," says Matthews, turning in for a closer look, "First trip of the season, when we have no passengers, Bruce brings out all the mechanized bears, deer, and killer whales."