Another brilliant rainbow filled the sky as we departed on our way to Skedans. Today’s journey takes us out of protected waters and back into Hecate Strait as we round Sandpoint, Cumshewa Head and Skedans point on the way to Skedan’s Bay.
This is a wild place. There are cozy protected beaches of sand, sharp columns of sandstone jutting up out of the water, black cliffs of volcanic bedrock, sea carved caves surrounded by forests of massive old growth cedar, spruce and hemlock forests so crowded that they literally fall into the water’s edge where the seas break the shore. Skedans Bay offers little protection as it opens directly to Hecate Strait. This posed the problem of where to safely anchor the boats as we went ashore. We rounded a point just south of the bay and took the dingies into the Bay. We were met by Paul and his partner Aretha who live here and volunteer as watchmen during the summer months.
Paul explained that he grew up and spent many summers here. He remembers when many of the poles were still standing. Although the islands of Haida Gwaii are isolated from the mainland and the small villages are isolated from each other, the shores are washed by nutrient rich waters teeming with intertidal life upon which Haida built self-sustaining societies rich with oral history, creative art and extremely well-built long houses. As Paul led us along the shell marked paths through the old village now covered in thick moss, he brought the scene to life as he explained the meanings of different types of totems, engineering of long houses, role of chief and the people that once lived there and the importance and connection to the land.
At each pole he showed us pictures from a book and pointed out features that were still visible under the thick matts of moss. He explained the importance of potlatches and how the different clans of Ravens and Eagles worked together to help build the supporting structure of a long house in one day and how they would care for each other during times of death and mourning. His tour took over an hour and was absolutely riveting, But alas, we needed to return to our boats around the point.
After getting back to the boats, we lifted the anchors and continued inland around three more points past rock caves and small islands covered in resting cormorants to a comfortable anchorage in Rockfish Bay. After stern ties and building a raft, we all relaxed and shared our experience of Skedans. We settled into the anchorage and enjoyed the quiet calmness surrounding us, feeling very lucky to be here.