Chainsaws, gas cans, fishing tackle, clothes, food, and all manner of camping gear pile up on the MK Bay wharf. I begin to appreciate the logistical complexity of getting sixteen people and their stuff from Kitimat to the Kitlope.
Bruce’s daughter, Julia, is the general for this campaign, one that aims to get her, her partner Mike Sorochan, their four year old son, Will, her mom, Anne, environmental activist and avid outdoorsman, Lindsay Eberts, Skeena Wild’s CEO, Greg Knox, his partner Monica Strimbold, and their blended family of boys, Nolan, Leo, and Damien, her dad’s friend, environmental campaigner and lawyer, Karen Campbell, her husband, Monty, their sons, Seamus and Galen, dear family friends, Joe Kotai and Morgen Baldwin, her brother, Aaron, his partner, Amanda, and their daughter Sosha, Karen and me, and an assortment of dogs, into the Kitlope River Valley.
There we will be met by Spencer Beebe of the US American NGO, Ecotrust who is bringing fellow environmentalist and journalist, Ian Gill and is scheduled to pick up bring her dad’s best friend, champion and friend of the environment, Gerald Amos, with his floatplane so that he may join us.
To do this, Julia has chartered a crew boat skippered by Rick that will take the Campbells, Karen, and me. Joe will take his cabin cruiser, the Naughty Three, named for the last owner’s kids (in case you were wondering).
Aaron, who made this run into the Kitlope numerous times while working on his masters’ degree in biology, will be taking his family in his father’s jet boat. Greg, who has logged plenty of miles in a jet sled when working in ecotourism, will be taking his family in his boat, while Julia and Morgen are to put their newly acquired boating skills to the test in Joe’s jet boat.
We leave in the charter boat. The sea is lumpy. Rick’s reasoning is the faster jet boats will catch and pass us. He also mentions that he has been doing a lot of work on his lodge, and intimates that it is in need of a lot more. I get the distinct feeling that he is in a hurry to drop us off at the Kitlope anchorage and return to his renovations.
Ocean boats are optically illusional, an effect created by the fact that a significant part of them is under the surface, making them small from the wharf but capacious from inside. The Campbells have only just returned from Europe. Jet-lagged, they sprawl out below decks and are asleep in minutes, unperturbed by the pitch and yaw of the boat.
I’ll pull in behind Coste Rocks and wait until the others catch up, Rick says.
It seems a reasonable plan. By the time we do that, the Campbells have awakened from their nap. Behind the rocks, the sea is relatively calm. Rick tries contacting the rest of the rag tag armada on his radio to no avail. We and the diving ducks bob around in the lee-side of the rocks for the better part of an hour before our captain makes the decision to head off. This strikes me an odd call since the rest of the boats have to pass by our anchorage to get to their ultimate destination, but when you’re on a boat it doesn’t pay to argue with its skipper.
As we move into the inside passages, past Hawkesberry Island, the seas are calmer. I keep thinking about the jet boats in our armada. Jet boats are river craft, built to run riffles and shallow water. They really have no business being out in anything approaching heavy seas. Rick calls a few times. No answer. Then, half-way to our destination, we pick up Julia’s voice. It is frail and broken, a poor connexion. Something about big trouble. The word “trouble” elicits an immediate response from the impressive DFO coast guard boat that has recently cruised by us. This provides comfort, but only a little.
Another impressive craft roars by. Rick tells us it belongs to a fellow who’s bought the old cannery at Butedale and has been talking to Elon Musk about the possibilities of power generation. Soon after that boat has passed I look over the stern and see a boat gaining on us rapidly.
In minutes, Greg pulls alongside. Monica and the boys are huddled under the bow to escape the elements.
Are you OK?
I tell him we’re fine, wondering why he’s asking. He looks stressed then heads back in the direction in which he came, presumably to check on the others.
We move through the grandeur of the Gardner Canal.
There’s a lodge at Kowesas, Rick says. I can drop you off there until the others arrive. I’m startled by this suggestion, since we would have no radio, and since doing so was not part of the plan and, since the others would not know we were there, might lead to some serious chaos.
At this point, our skipper tells me he had engine problems the day before we were due to embark and had to do some improvisatory repairs because only Prince Rupert had the part he needed and he couldn’t get it in time.
To be continued….