Everything has gone well since puttering into Winter Harbor on the evening of June 29. It almost feels as if Celeste has been telling us we made the right choice. I’m not the first to think that boats have personalities – it’s not an accident that mariners have long called a boat a ‘she’. It takes time to discover a boat’s personality but I’m coming to the conclusion that Celeste is quiet and patient and yet determined to have her own way. She was built in the Pacific Northwest, near Victoria, and has always voyaged in this vast, varied ocean. She’s been down to Mexico, French Polynesia, and Hawaii, and her primary haunts have been north on the Inside Passage. She’s seen glaciers and icebergs, mountains and forests, waterfalls and hot springs, bears and whales. I think she liked it all and wasn’t going to let her new owners miss it.
Winter Harbor was an ideal introduction, maybe even better than our cruise last summer up to Desolation Sound and back. Quiet and unvisited, it didn’t have a road until recently and people still get around on the seaside boardwalks. Seth and I tied up to the government dock, went ashore with a decades’ old 1-800 number we’d gleaned from a cruising guide to Desolation Sound and called it from a convenient pay phone. It turned out it was American Customs, but it still was American Customs! They gave us the 1-800 number for the Canadian Customs, who were incredibly kind and understanding about our somewhat unorthodox stop.
After buying a steak from the little general store we motored out to an uninhabited cove nearby and swung to our anchor in the calm and sun, listening to the birds, watching the otters, and grilling our dinner. This cove—and all of Winter Harbor—fairly well spoiled us with wildlife. The next day was equally calm and warm, so we rowed up the inlet at low tide, ogling the enormous starfish and watching the kingfishers, hoping to see wading birds and maybe a deer in the marsh at the inlet’s head.
At first we saw nothing but brilliant green grass and fir trees, but as we floated in with the tide, we spotted a black shape. Out came the binoculars, and it was a black bear! Looking at a closer bank, we noticed two more! The marsh was filled with bears, and one of them was a mother with the cutest cubs. We sat as quiet as we could in the dinghy in the middle of the lagoon watching them as they grazed on the marsh grass and sometimes looked up at us.
In the heat of midday, they wandered into the woods and our attention was only then caught by the many eagles and ospreys hunting over the shallow waters. Evening brought the bears back, and also the ebb tide with which we floated back to Celeste, our drained bodies and minds replenished by one of the best days we’d had in months.