I had been two years without time off from work and was desperate to return to the coast. Dave wasn’t going to be able to go and Greg was a “maybe” but then became a “99% for sure” so I started planning a 2- 3 week trip for the two of us.
I had unfinished business on the outside of Aristazabal and Greg wanted to fish Camaano Sound and the outer coast of Athlone Island. He preferred to be gone just two weeks while I felt that I needed more time than that to get my head right. We agreed that the route would allow him to break off for the Bella Bella ferry at any point after Athlone Island while I continued south to Port Hardy. It was a really, ambitious route with a tight timeline, had quite a few moving parts, some unknowns and would require a precisely-timed window of perfect weather. It would force me to average 16+ nm each day rather than the 13 nm that I seem better suited for. No real rest days were included. It would be a continuous grind.
A couple weeks prior to departure Greg was forced to withdraw to attend to some critical family needs so I revised the route and the timeline by cutting out the time built in for fishing. That increased the daily mileage requirement by a couple of miles each day. I wasn’t sure that I was up to it. After all, I was on vacation.
The ferry ride from Port Hardy to Klemtu was an interesting exercise in international relations. As one of the very first walk-ons I made my way up to my favorite seating area on the starboard side just outside of the Aurora Lounge. Being first in gave me my pick of seats so I chose a highbacked seat front and center to a set of tall windows. Soon others filed in and a tall European man asked me if the seats were taken. “Only this one that I’m sitting in,” I responded with a smile.
Soon he returned with an older, entourage who I believe were speaking German. They quickly snapped up all of the seats except for the one beside me. Several walked up to the seat and looked down at me as if to say “If you move somewhere else we can sit here”. I was wearing my best welcoming face because I was really looking forward to the company but had no plans of moving. The group in the adjacent trio of seats had an animated conversation that was interrupted only by glances at me and the seat next me. It was as if they were trying to figure out whether to ask me to move and failing that which among them would be so unfortunate as to sit next to me. Finally, a fair-haired woman sat in the seat sideways with her back to me.
I still had hopes for some friendly conversation over the next 8 hours so I extended my hand and said, “Good morning. My name is Jon Dawkins. What is your name?”.
She hesitantly looked at me and took my hand with the same expression and enthusiasm you would expect if she were being forced to pick up a turd. She said that her name was something that started with a “D” had three syllables and sounded like she was clearing her throat. I asked her to say it again so that I could get it right, which she did, but that didn’t help me in the least. I made my best attempt at saying her name and told her that I had never heard the name before and to please be patient with me as I might have trouble getting it right but assured her that I would be able to say it correctly before we arrived in Klemtu. I was certain that my attempt to say her name and establish a relationship had fallen far short of expectations when she stood up sneering and vacated the seat.
More heated internal discussions ensued within the group accompanied by glances in my direction. I had no more idea what they were saying than what my attempt at pronouncing the woman’s name had translated to in German. Finally, a large woman from the group sat down and did her best to ignore me. I’m still not sure if she had drawn the short straw or was hoping that I would do something that would give her justification to beat the shit out of me. She was large enough to do it. Clearly my wishes for conversation were at risk.
Our awkward silence continued and when Humpbacks were seen breaching outside of our windows she and everyone else in the seating area stoodand camera mayhem reigned. With every splash she pointed and shouted “Da! Da! Da!” Whenever she pointed and said “Da” the group aimed their cameras and fired off a succession of photos in that general direction. The breaching whales were followed by a pod of Orcas and lots more “Da! Da! Da’s!”. Too soon, however, actual mammal sightings were replaced by splashes from waves breaking on reefs and rocks and still she shouted “Da! Da! Da!” ordering cameras to click and whir. I left to go walk the deck.
When I returned she glanced at me and said, “Mein Gott!”. I don’t know who she was saying it to but it was clear who she was saying it about. I went into the restroom and checked myself over to be sure that I didn’t stink (I didn’t) or that my fly wasn’t down (it wasn’t). I was wearing my favorite Icebreaker wool top which I would be wearing for the next week and a half and it had small holes in the shoulder and one arm. Could this have been my transgression?
I paused in the aisle behind the three rows of window seats steeling myself for a return to the breach. The European folk were deep into an animated conversation and my new best friend was gesticulating wildly. I walked up to my seat and all conversation abruptly ceased. I glanced across the group and all eyes were quickly averted. Not a sound. No eye contact. WTF?
Our last actual wildlife sighting (a leaping Salmon) occurred in Lama Passage. After that distant rocks, reefs and shoals produced splashes and an occasional boomer.
Groups of animals and sea life have peculiar names. Consider a pod of Orcas, a school of fish, a galaxy of starfish, a parade of elephants, a gaggle of geese, an army of frogs, a murder of crows. A group of rocks, reefs and shoals is something else, though, and Frau Blucher insured that her group of friends went home with pictures and pictures of “Shit-loads of Rocks”.