(June 25 – written by Dave)
Greetings from Prince Rupert. We’ve had a couple nice rest days here in PR – lots of chores done, some good coffee, some nice local beer, some great local seafood and today we even managed to cook egg and bacon rolls for brekkie. So I think we are ready for the ferry ride down the inside passage. We did some shopping as well – with Nancy picking up some ginger tablets to augment her no-seasick wrist bands on the sail.
Prince Rupert is an interesting small town. We’d probably never get here without this bike trip so it’s really nice to slow down and get a few days off to have a look around. While a nice place to visit, we’d probably not pick this as a place to live – if nothing else for the weather. The month of June is the PR dry month and it gets an average 4.25 inches (109mm) of rain. The wettest month is October with 14.7 inches (373mm) of average rainfall. Averages for the year are a staggering 100 inches (2,530mm) of rain and just in case that’s not enough moisture, they also get an average of 3 feet of snowfall per year. Yep, it’s moist here. Our skin looks great after only a few days hanging out.
In the summer here, there’s a nice vibe that sort of ebbs and flows with the coming and going of ferries and cruise ships. We got here on Friday night when a cruise ship was in the harbour and later that night the Vancouver Ferry arrived. So Friday and Saturday it felt bustling. It helped that Saturday was also Cow Bay Days. Our hostel, Pioneer Guesthouse, is right in Cow Bay, the old town area down on the waterfront. Everything is cow themed and for Cow Bay days, there’s sort of a cow overdose.
PR is a pretty “new town” with it only being incorporated in 1910. A guy named Charles Hays had the bright idea that PR would make a great short-cut for sailing cargo to Asia. It is in fact 500 miles shorter sail from here to Shanghai than it is from Seattle to Shanghai. But it’s a longer rail passage so I’m not sure it makes a huge difference in cost. And back in 1910, there was no rail from the US factories to Prince Rupert, so it didn’t really matter how long it took to sail. Good old Charlie didn’t let this deter his grand plans however and he set about getting funding for the rail link to PR. Progress was slowed when Charlie died coming back from a European fundraising trip, on the Titanic no less. Two years after Charlie died, the Grand Trunk Railway reached PR. There is a fair amount of cargo that goes through here now, but still less than 25% of that which goes through Seattle, Tacoma and the Washington ports. Time will tell if Charlies dreams come to fruition.
There is a relatively large fishing fleet here still in PR. We walked the harbour today and there were lots of boats heading out – both commercial and private. Most of the boats are pretty small and most stay out for a week or so. The docks were a hub of activity with folks provisioning their boats for the next sail. I’m not sure if the fishing goes year round but I’m pretty sure that winter storms would put a damper on at least a good number of the private guys. Too many PR harbour photos follow…
There are a couple fish restaurants here in town with Dolly’s being the most famous and recommended. We went there last night and were surprised to find it pretty blue collar in décor but absolutely blue ribbon food. All of their food is caught and landed here in PR so it’s really fresh and they serve what’s being caught. We had a seafood stir-fry and crab cakes – both of them were fantastic, though Nancy said her small cup of clam chowder couldn’t hold a candle to the clam chowder on the Oregon coast. We also made a visit to the local brewery – Wheelhouse Brewery. They make really nice ale.
Back out behind the hostel is the Sunken Garden – a really nice local garden built in the 1980s – in a former bomb shelter no less. It’s a very peaceful place, and very well looked after as well. We know that they don’t have to worry about water – more likely they have to work hard on controlling the weeds, which there were very few.
We’ve enjoyed our time here but can hardly imagine being here in the winter. With no ships coming into the port (they only sail in the summer), it would be pretty quiet. Throw in 15 inches of rain and some really long winter nights, well, you’d have to have some pretty serious inside hobbies or you’d probably go a little crazy.
We have really early mark in the morning with departure by bike from the hostel at 5AM. It’s a short ride to the ferry but we have to be there at 5:30 for a 7:30 sail. I’m pretty sure that this is a bit of overkill but my senior editor hates cutting these sorts of travel deadlines to close. We’ll be there by 5:30, with ginger tablets at the ready and seasick bands in place.
We don’t arrive in Port Hardy, Vancouver Island until 11PM at night – the same day. Not sure what to expect from the sail but we hope that we see some marine life. I’m sure we’ll see eagles at least – though we have seen lots here in PR already so they are not quite as “wow” as they were first time we saw them up in Alaska. Maybe we’ll see a black bear on the shore and actually get a photo this time.
Next post will be in a couple days from Port Hardy – check back for the animal updates…