Our path today meandered through the Broughton Islands, past tiny communities clinging to hillsides above the water, past logging camps and fish farms, past the booming grounds where tiny tugboats marshal huge jumbles of floating logs into position in advance of their long slow trips to the mills for to the south.
At midday we emerged into breezy Johnstone Strait, where we motored southeast against the breeze under a partially cloudy sky. Suddenly, we were joined by a great number of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, who sped towards us and merged into our wakes, leaping and spinning all around us. For more that half an hour they moved from boat to boat, effortlessly shooting along under our bows. It is an incredible experience to look down from the bow pulpit into the eye of a dolphin who is clearly looking back at you with a similar inquisitive intelligence to your own. By the time we reached passed Port Neville the dolphins had sped off on some urgent errand of their own and we were left to our own devices, turning in north of Hardwicke Island and turning slowly into Forward Harbor as tendrils of fog follow us into the entrance.
Forward Harbor is a long, deep bay girded on the south by immensely steep slopes, more gentle to the north, with anchorage in deep water near the mouth. With the boats nailed down, we set off in the dinghy for the north shore, where a short trail leads up and over a low saddle and down to the beautiful stony beach in Jackson cove on the other side. The trail wound through a spacious emerald second growth Hemlock forest on a thick, springy bed of fallen needs that rebounds under each footfall. Woodpeckers and small forest birds flitted through the undergrowth. Mushrooms emerged from rotting logs and the last of the summer’s huckleberries hung glistening from slender branches. On the beach, driftwood has been polished by the rocks to a burnished finish, and immense root balls washed clean by the tide sit on display like sculpture in a gallery.
The moon is almost new, and the night is utterly dark and quiet. The stars shine brightly in the clear air, and in the still water below, phosphorescent algae explodes into blossoms of blue-green luminescence at the slightest disturbance.