We were up at 5:00 am and checked out of our Port Hardy cabin at 5:25. At 5:30 we were at the ferry terminal. You must arrive two hours before sailing so they can check your reservation and have time to get every vehicle boarded. This is a LONG ferry. The trip is scheduled to last 15 hours and every vehicle has the wheels chocked because it is not unsual to have some rough seas.
The entire nose of the ferry opens for the vechicles to drive in. It is not a small boat at all. There are lots of cabins if you wish to rent one, seating all over the place and a quiet lounge with paid seating at the bow; which is where we sat. It took over an hour to load the ferry and we were a little bit later than our 7:30 am sailing time. When all was ready to set sail the hydraulics put the nose down.
And off we go. It was still raining from the night before when we got up and it rained all day long without let up. This dampened (pun intended) the anticipation of the journey somewhat as the Inside Passage route along the BC coast is beautiful. Not quite so much through rain drops and low clouds. Still we had good water and calm sailing the whole trip so we can’t complain. We could have been rock and rolling big time on rough seas.
There were a few points of interest along the way and whenever we approached one of them an announcement came over the public address system to tell us what to look for.
There is a lighthouse on tiny Addenbroke Island. Namu the famous orca was captured in Namu bay; an area not recommended during the autumn months because winds known as ‘willy-waws’ (whirlwinds) blow strongly over nearby mountains,The only stop between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert is the small coastal fishing and logging community of Bella Bella. Bella Bella is not accessible by road, you must come by boat or by plane. You can drive to Bella Coola which is at the end of a long inlet and take a short ferry ride to Bella Bella if you don’t want to take the long ferry from Port Hardy. BC Ferries has provided year-round service to Bella Bella since 1977.The two bald eagles sat in this tall tree the entire hour we were offloading and onloading passengers at Bella Bella. Dryad Point Lighthouse was established in 1899. Its red and white light can be seen for 29 km (18 miles). The lighthouse is on the eastern side of Campbell Island and marks the narrow northern entrance into Lama Passage. The narrowest point of the passage at 800′ occurs just south of Dryad Point. We were told that the keeper at Boat Bluff will often be out and about and give a wave to the passing ferry. He was smart enough to be inside on such a rainy day. This light was established in 1907 and is perhaps the most scenic of lighthouses along the Inside Passage.We saw many waterfalls tumbling down the mountainsides through the trees. Many of them were just sections of white between the greenery, but a few of them made quite an entrance into the ocean water.
The ferry slowed down as it passed Butedale so that the ferry’s wash does not do further damage to the old cannery and fish reduction plant that was operated here until the 1960s. Butedale was established on Royal Island in 1918 as a fishing, mining and logging area. At its peak the community had a summer population of 400 people. It is one of the few remaining cannery villages on the coast. I liked this waterfall. Well, not just the waterfall but the huge dip in the mountain that provides a clear view of the distant mountains behind it We were scheduled to arrive in Prince Rupert at 10:30 pm, but we were almost an hour late. Thankfully the terminal is only 10 minutes away from our hotel. We got into our room at midnight, set the alarm for 7 am and crawled into bed.
Once again we had to be at the ferry terminal two hours prior to the 10:30 sailing time to get to Haida Gwaii. We were there by 8 and fell into line behind all the other vehicles. They began boarding at 9:30 and took two hours to get all the vehicles on. This is a much smaller ferry than the one we sailed in from Port Hardy and we learned when it was finally our time to board that all the vehicles had to BACK onto the ferry and into their lane spot. It took so long to board because a lot of the truck and trailer units and big motorhomes had difficulty backing down the ramp and into the narrow lanes inside the ferry. The reason they had to back in was because the ferry only has one door, not the usual door at each end so you drive on through one door and and drive off through the oppposite end. The ‘back’ door on the Northern Adventure has been sealed. There had been a horrible accident quite a few years ago when the ferry to Haida Gwaii got caught in a very bad storm and the back bay doors opened which caused the ferry to sink and 150 people died. In order to prevent something like that from happening again the ferries that make the crossing to the Haida Gwaii islands only have one opening door.
Leaving Prince Rupert you pass the huge container port that was built up here a few years ago. It was lightly raining when we boarded but it stopped and started several times during the day; finally quitting altogether a couple of hours out of Skidegate. The sky lightened more and more as the day progressed and it was quite nice by the time we arrived. The captain more than made up the lost hour from the boarding and we arrived ahead of schedule at 5 pm.Our hotel for the next few days is located on the eastern edge of Queen Charlotte City and we have a very nice view of the harbour. Tomorrow we begin to explore. But not too early. I need to rest up from the short sleeps and long hours sitting on a chair in a ferry. I am happy to be here again, 50 years since my two elders sisters who lived here at the time paid my flight to come visit them for the summer as my high school graduation gift. I spent July with one sister and her husband and August with the other one and her husband. John has never been here at all so we are both eager to see check things out.