Logbook: Hot Springs Island

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We caught a ride with MV Last Mango along with the rest of the crew to Hot Springs Island where we soaked in three hot springs and enjoyed a long hot springs water shower in the bathhouse.

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Most excellent. And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, one of the caretakers gave our group a halibut to split. Holy cow was that fish tasty. We ate one group dinner and then each boat took home what was for us 3 more dinners.

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There was also a jaws sighting in one of the pools. Video forthcoming.

Logbook: Skedans

We visited two former Haida village sites while we were at the park: Skedans and SGaang Gwaay. Skedans is the Northernmost and thus our first stop. The anchorage is for fair weather only and has a kelp forest in parts.

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We were guided through the site by the Haida Watchmen along with a tour group that had come in an inflatable. It was very cool at the time, but now, as I am writing, I have seen SGaang Gwaay and Skedans is a shadow in comparison.

The Haida numbered about 3000 until the small pox epidemic killed 90% of them. The remaining 300 or so Haida left their ancient village sites and banded together in a few areas near what is now Queen Charlotte City.

Skedans gives a sense of that emptiness – of a village, once packed with people, abandoned and now slowly rotting into the earth.

Some images: A longhouse, a potlatch pole, and a totem pole:

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Modern Haida Art: Skidegate

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The Haida museum in Skidegate has some gorgeous modern and historic Haida art.

Below, I’ve picked a few photos of modern Haida pieces to share. The Raven and the Eagle are the primary Haida clan affiliations and, of course, this shows in the art. You also see many frogs, bears, orcas, and dogfish (look like wee sharks) among other animals.

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Bill Reid Dogfish Pole


IMG_5727-IMG_5729_blended_fusedThis pole in Skidegate, just East of Queen Charlotte CIty, is special because it was the first pole carved and raised by the Haida people in more than a century. Imagine that – no one alive had raised a pole before and the traditional method, which they employed, is to raise it from the ground to standing with ropes and human muscles. It was carved by Bill Reid and raised in 1978 and is 25 meters tall.

The raising of this pole was a resurrection of what had been a tremendously important part of the Haida culture. To date, a number of other poles have been raised.

Most of the poles that we saw in the park were either partially or fully decomposed which was a conscious decision on the part of the Haida people – letting the old poles return to earth rather than attempting to preserve them. They do remove the moss from the standing poles at SGaang Gwaii (more on that World Heritage Site later).

I love this pole because the unpainted cedar is more striking to me. The natural wood allows the eyes to focus on the skill of the carver and the grain of the wood rather than the vivid colors often used as paints.

The dogfish looks like a wee shark by the way. We caught (and released) one.

Thanks to Behan of SV Totem for suggesting the program HugIn with which I stitched together this panorama from 3 separate pictures. It is freeware if anyone wants their own copy.

Book: The Golden Spruce

Who should read The Golden Spruce?
  • Anyone traveling to the Haida Gwaii
  • People who like investigative journalist style novels (e.g., Krakauer)
  • People who like non-fiction books
  • People with an interest in British Columbia or First Nations history
  • Loggers
  • Environmentalists
  • People who like good books
I like to read books about the areas that I am traveling to and I used some birthday gift money (thank you Marcelle!) to buy an electronic copy of this book for my Nook. Last year, when we decided not to travel to the Haida Gwaii that year because of winds, I set the book aside.

This year while we were in Desolation Sound en route to the Haida Gwaii, I inhaled it.

Logbook: Queen Charlotte City – The Town


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((Real time update: We just arrived on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in Kyuquot after a two day sail from the Southern tip of the Haida Gwaii. I’m posting a series of blog posts from the trip starting with Queen Charlotte City…after we got get a burger and some ice cream.))

This stop was the Northernmost apex of our trip. We are officially Southbound from here.

Queen Charlotte City is between the two main islands that make up the Haida Gwaii. It is where the ferry lands from Prince Rupert and about 4 miles from where the Gwaii Haanas park orientation center (informative) and museum (cool) are located.

It is a friendly community. We hitchhiked to and from the orientation center because there are no buses and we thought it would be more fun than paying $15 each way for a taxi. Both ways we were picked up within a few minutes by chatty, friendly people with cool stories.

Everywhere we went people were welcoming and spent time to help us find what we needed whether it was propane, a place to view the Stanley Cup games or suggestions of interesting places to go in the park.

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P1020095 (2) (1280x960)The public docks are bustling and we ended up rafting to a large powercruiser after we were (nicely) asked to vacate our original choice which was the regular (but unmarked) spot for a fishing vessel.

We ended up meeting and hanging out with several cruising boats (SV Steel Eagle, SV Canick, MV Last Mango and MV Ibus).

We were there for 4 nights and had sunny weather so we spent time walking the streets and topped up on every available substance a cruising sailboat needs (grocery, diesel, water, propane).

We didn’t expect to enjoy the town so much. In our minds it was just a stop for provisions and for the orientation we needed to go into the park.  Good place.

Snapshot at 12 months

We answered these same 9 questions after being off of the dock for 2 months and we thought our one year anniversary of cruising would be a good opportunity to answer them again.

We added another set of questions this time ? the standard set from the Newly Salted site minus one question which overlapped ? and we answered both sets of questions independently.

Leave a comment and ask your own question!

Snapshot questions:

What do you love about cruising?

Carol:  The sense of adventure.

Livia: I love that I spend most of my days in nature. I used to camp or hike to be near nature but, at least in the regions we have been traveling in, I am in nature rather than towns most of the time. There is something calming and centering about being in the wild.

What do you dislike about cruising?

Carol: Having no control over mother nature and not being fast enough to divert somewhere else to avoid incoming weather.

Livia:  When the weather is crappy, our options for fun are limited compared to the options we had when living in a city. I no longer feel cramped in the space we have except when it is very cold and/or rainy. It's like camping in the rain except of course we have DVDs and popcorn.

Being alone in an anchorage too often. We dreamed of that kind of solitude, and we still look forward to it, but after so many days of solitude we start craving people. A boat finally comes in and we have the binoculars out trying to see if they might be new friend material. I call it the ?misanthrope wannabe syndrome?.

What do you worry about?

Carol: The boat or gear breaking. Anything necessary breaking at a bad time ? something like the heat exchanger in the engine, the head, our heater ? things that if they break we need to alter our plans to fix so our life isn't miserable.

Livia: I worry some about money in the future. I worry about hitting debris in the ocean like containers from ships. I worry that the demands of this lifestyle will overwhelm the fun factor. I worry about what we'll do if we don't love the tropical portions of our travels.

What are you looking forward to?

Carol: Warm places, sandy beaches, morning swim.

Livia: Jumping off of the boat into warm water after coffee and before breakfast. Snorkeling.

Favorite place recently was

Carol: Hecate Strait ? the wildlife surrounding us that we could see and the sense of adventure of a multi-day passage.

Livia: We just spent a few hours soaking in the pools at Hot Springs Island in Gwaii Haanas Marine Park in the Haida Gwaii. That was fantastic.

Least favorite place recently was

Carol: Kostan Inlet ? nothing to look at, full of bugs, prisoner because of a bar at the entrance.

Livia: We haven't visited anywhere that I actively didn't like lately. A few places fell short of our expectations (Blind Channel Resort, Octopus Islands Marine Park) but they weren't bad.

A lesson learned is that

Carol: The sound of the wind in the rigging is scarier than it actually is.

Livia:  If we are in light air and there is a swell running, we quickly learned to use our preventer on our boom on almost every point of sail, not just when reaching and running. It minimizes the popping of the sail.

Best gear award goes to...

Carol: Wallas. For keeping us warm and dry.

Livia: I have to say our solar panels. It is so amazing to have power silently charging our batteries all day. Our new clutch for the main halyard is also a big improvement.

Worst gear award goes to...

Carol: Wallas. For being a high maintenance heater.

Livia: Our Wallas diesel heater. Any unit that requires regular maintenance by a factory rep in order to run properly is bull in my opinion.

Newly Salted questions:

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

Livia: At least in the areas that we've traveled, most of the horror stories we've heard about various Capes and various Straits seem to be from people who don't pay attention to the direction of the wind and the direction of the tide. If you align those two in your favor, and pick a wind strength you are comfortable with, the Capes and Straits in BC are lovely sailing, no sweat.

Carol:  That there is no perfect boat. Who you are (do you *really* like to sail?) makes a difference in what boat is right for you. But even knowing yourself, nothing is clear. The same make/model of boat can be good or crap depending on the specifics (wiring, gear, etc) and there is no hard and fast rules about any of the specifics (how thick of fiberglass does a ?solid? boat have?).

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

Livia: Once we were completely in charge of our own schedule, we had to find a balance between comfort and stability (staying in one anchorage for a bit) and novelty (moving frequently). We still often err on the side of novelty. A problem with erring on the side of novelty is that there are always times when we intended to stay a few days but were chased out by winds etc. If we are already exhausted and were counting on a few days of down time, a surprise move is exhaustion on top of exhaustion. We need to keep some emotional and physical reserves so the unexpected can still be fun rather than a slog.

Carol:  Losing my identity, but I got over it pretty quickly. Not having a hamburger when I want one.

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

Livia: I felt tied to the boat. Last winter we should have moored the boat somewhere cheap and flown somewhere sunny and cheap. It would have cost the same as mooring in a city in BC and been a lot more pleasant. I try to think of us as vagabonds now, not cruisers, because I feel it leaves a lot more options open.

Carol:  Rushing when it was not needed.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?

Livia: Most of what I have read that I didn't find to be true were things that were specific to one region or one style of cruising or things that were outdated. Once you figure out which type of cruiser the advice giver is, or which region they have traveled in, their suggestions are often good information. It's usually the case that bad advice comes when the person giving it fails to realize that we aren't the same as them and/or aren't in the same place as them.

We've heard some odd things from individual boaters lately. I've been told that if we don't have netting on our lifelines we'll be swept overboard (um, jacklines much?). We've also had a number of people who seem to think we are too relaxed and that we need to be more afraid so they tell us all kinds of things we should be afraid of.

Carol:  I didn't read much.

A lot of places are described as ?wow, yay, beautiful? but when you get there they aren't for you. If you are a certain kind of person you would love it, like if you like hiking the Gulf Islands are fantastic or the Haida Gwaii might be fantastic but if you don't like the grey you could end up feeling pretty lukewarm about the area because a rainy, grey anchorage is a rainy, grey anchorage.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

Livia: A number of long distance cruisers we met have emphasized the importance of people (cruisers and local residents) in their enjoyment of cruising. Although we are very social, we love the outdoors and solitude so much that I didn't take that advice to heart but I'm finding it very true. Also, being blown away by the generosity of people you meet ? that's something I glazed over but is striking to me now.

Carol:  A lot of things I read were true but I expected them to be true ? like boats break and this isn't a problem free adventure. I had heard that cruising was hard on your body and I am surprised to find how true that is.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

Livia: No. Many people start cruising by immediately heading to remote locations. We didn't and for that reason we saved half of our purchases and installs for our first year in order to get some experience before we made decisions. So, there isn't anything we wish we already have because we can still get anything we want. We are going to California next, not a remote island atoll, so we can still buy anything our heart desires.

Carol:  No, it's the opposite in a way. The problem is that we cruised but we didn't go for Mexico and the S Pacific right away so it was easier to start with nothing and install as we go.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

Livia: Carol's guitar? JUST JOKING. I probably wouldn't have purchased a navigation program and would use OpenCPN if I could do it all over. I don't have enough experience with OpenCPN (because we have a fancy program) to make a firm call on that though.

Carol:  Nothing. Usually I make a list of what I need and install it right away, but with boats I did the opposite, worked with what we had and then figured out if we needed more or less based on experience rather than loading up with crap that we may not need. We use everything we have on the boat.

What are your plans now?

Livia: California this August-ish and then Mexico this Fall. After that, it could be West, or South, or East?just not North.

Carol:  Continue. Continue until it's not fun or until I'm too scared.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

Livia: Please ask us a question in the comments of our blog. We love comments.

BC Healthcare Extension for Travelers

For those with a BC Care Card, you may already have heard that you lose your health care if you are out of the country for more than six months of a year. What we have learned recently is that once in 5 years you can ask for a 48 month absence in which you can choose to either suspend or maintain your BC Healthcare while out of the country.

Together with travel insurance, if you maintain your BC Care Card, you can be fully covered for health insurance for 2 years after leaving BC OR you can suspend your BC Care Card for 48 months which means that if you needed health care you could travel back to BC without the normal six month waiting period for new residents of the province.

This waiver only applies to people traveling outside BC who "plan to return within the 48 month period". You can call 1 800 663 7100 and ask to be transferred to the office who deal with travel extensions. If you speak to someone who doesn't know what you are talking about, hang up and call back, the office exists.

Quotes of the week

Slowing down a bit...

Livia on plans: Well, we only have 3 weeks in the park.

Carol on fishing: I think I've figured it out. My fishing hook gets tangled when we sail at less than 1 knot.

Intermission: This post brought to you by our SSB from a rainy anchorage in the Haida Gwaii. The blog will be on a photo intermission over the next few weeks except for a bit of video already scheduled for this Friday. Logbooks to resume when we have wifi which will be sometime in July.



This blog will take a short intermission while we enjoy the remote beauty of the Gwaii Haanas Marine Park in the Haida Gwaii.

There is one “VIDEO FRIDAY” already uploaded, but other than that you won’t see video or picture embedded posts until we have internet access again – most likely in July. If we are moved to write something that can be conveyed text-only, we will SSB-to-blog but otherwise we’ll see you in July with a fresh load of pictures and stories from this section of the trip.

We are currently at the Northernmost apex of this trip – Southbound from here.

Down below in a gale

VIDEO Friday

I think the most interesting thing about this video is how non-dramatic it is. Carol took some video while I was hand steering in a gale (before he took his watch) and it looks pretty stable down below. The second most interesting thing to me are the sounds, the creaking and groaning.

Passage to the Haida Gwaii

IMG_5714 (1280x853)We arrived in Queen Charlotte City feeling high, a bit giddy, and drop dead exhausted. We had sailed for 2 plus days, through two nights, crossing Queen Charlotte Sound and Hecate Strait and arriving in the Haida Gwaii. It may not sound like much to some, but to us, it was huge. We made a passage and it was hard and it was fun. We had dolphins playing on the bow (video to come), whales scaring the bajeezus out of us in the pitch dark with their spouting and checking out our boat at very close quarters, we had sun, we flew our beautiful asymm spinnaker for hours. Most of all, we did it together and we knew that Team Giddyup had moved up a notch in our new passion. We felt saltier and spent the night after our landfall basking in that feeling, with perma-grins below bleary eyes.

The first thing that happened up arrival was that we docked, and then had to move the boat again 5 minutes later (did I mention exhausted?). The second thing that happened was we headed to a pub with a group of cruisers already on the docks for burgers, beers and the Canucks beating Boston in Game 2 on a big screen.

The passage:
imageWe had a light Southerly wind window for a few days with low swell predictions and we jumped at it. We knew based on the light wind prediction that there was a good chance the wind would die at some point on the trip meaning that we would motor a substantial portion of the passage. Also, because the wind might completely die early in the trip we paralleled the coast of BC for the first 24 hours so that we could stop if we wanted. During the second day, with the light winds still with us, we headed away from land for the second night at which point we were committed, wind or no wind.

The trip was approximately 220 nautical miles from Millbrooks Cove to Queen Charlotte City and took us 2 days 8 hours making an average of about 4 knots. We sailed 36 hours and motored 20 hours with most of the motoring in the second half of the trip. We sailed for 22 hours straight in light and fluky winds at the start.

As mentioned previously, this trip was for practice. You can cross Hecate Strait in a single 40 mile run from Banks Island after going up far enough North along BC's coast.

What we gained:
IMG_5712 (1280x853)A lot of experience with our Hydrovane self-steering which had been working perfectly until we removed it from the stern and reinstalled it. Then, it kept having problems on one tack, was experiencing turbulence from the stern and/or main rudder, and we were panicking because we really need it to be working for our upcoming run to San Francisco. After lowering it a few inches it worked perfectly again (whew!) and steered for all sections of sailing except a few brief (< 1 hour) bits of sailing in between motoring toward the end when we used the autopilot.

More experience with sails slatting in light wind and lumpy seas. *sigh*. Well, at least we know how to secure the boat so that it bangs less than it might and also I think there is something to be said for having some time with those sounds under our belt. They may still be horrible but they are less scary just for being expected and familiar. We also have more experience fighting to move the boat in those conditions. We were determined to not motor early on so that we could get experience working with our light air sailing techniques in lumpy seas and light air.

More experience trying to sail when the swell was either on the beam or, most of the time, against us. First of all, this sucks in all kinds of ways and if possible we would like to avoid it. But since we can't avoid it all of the time, it was good to see how the boat moved, or didn't move, at various wind speeds coming from various directions when we were fighting the swell. The second half of the trip was in almost glassy seas and so it was much more like the light air sailing we are already accustomed to.

P1020074 (1280x960) After much discussion we decided that the best watch system for us was no formal system. Each of us went on watch with the goal of doing 3-4 hours. If we felt good, we did more. If it was the wee hours of the night and we were having a hard time staying awake, we cut it short. For us, this worked very well and we plan to keep it up for now. We are both the kind of people that are more likely to take on too much rather than too little so we know that when one of us says they are tired, they are very, very tired and need to be relieved. This also meant that the person sleeping didn't have to worry about waking themselves up and that made a big difference in my ability to rest. No alarms, no pressure. I knew Carol would wake me 15-30 minutes before he wanted to give up the watch, so I could just focus on resting. Because the sailing was not too taxing I would guess that most of our watches were in the 4.5 hour range which meant the off watch person often had time during their shift when they knew they couldn't sleep and would pitch in with cooking or dishes or weather or navigation.

Confidence. 2.5 days isn't much but it makes a 8 day run to San Francisco seem less unnerving.

Logbook: Miles Inlet

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Miles Inlet is a strikingly beautiful entry. A narrow strait entrance channel with silvered trees lining either side and the ocean swell rushing in and out of hollow spaces in the rocks creating echoing popping and thumping sounds.

IMG_5703 (1280x853)The anchorage breaks off into multiple lagoons which each have rapids emptying out of them as the tide drops. We spent only one night there because we had a good weather window for rounding Cape Caution (often the names of places are a big arsed hint) the next day.

We met up with the crew aboard SV Wecantu for pizza and beers and hope to run into them again.

This would definitely be a great place to spend a few days exploring while waiting for good weather to head North and although we were excited to be able to continue our trajectory, it was a bummer to leave after only one night.

Logbook: Blind Channel Resort, Cormorant Islands Marine Park, Port McNeill, Blunden

Decision: When we left Octopus Islands we decided we were bound for the Haida Gwaii if we could sail (mostly) there. We wanted to go to Port McNeill, top up on fuel and food, buy parts to finish our watermaker install, and from there cross Queen Charlotte Strait and wait for a weather window to cross Queen Charlotte Sound and Hecate Strait – preferable in a single passage. The reason we wanted a passage (you don’t need one, Hecate can be crossed from the mainland in a single 40nm run) was to test out some our gear again and for practice.

This meant that we were on a mission to book it North. We beat in medium winds from Octopus Islands to Blind Channel Resort to spend a single night. It was a blue sky day and the scenery around the resort was quite nice. We didn’t do the hikes. Had a chance to see MV Far Out again whom we met in Barkley Sound last year.

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It was our bad timing to find out that the restaurant was not yet open (no burger/beer) and that they were out of ice cream at their tiny store. Another shocker was that they wanted $5.25 for a shower. No thank you – we can shower aboard for $10.50. At least they had laundry at a normal price.

From there we had a light wind forecast in Johnstone and we agreed to motor to Port McNeill. Apparently a light and variable wind forecast means SE winds up to 20 knots and, to our delight, we sailed fast downwind instead. This meant we overnighted slightly short of Port McNeill at Cormorant Channel Marine Park which was really lovely and a bummer that we left again the next morning without paddling around. It is definitely worth exploration.

We enjoyed Port McNeill a lot more than Port Hardy last year. With the RONA hardware store we were able to buy almost everything we needed for our watermaker install and a few other items (the local marine store didn’t have much and employs at least one jerkstore unfortunately – we were wondering if it was just us but friends of ours got pushed past their limit and told the dude off). The IGA grocery now gets fresh produce only twice a week but we lucked out and it was loaded with nice looking stuff and we had ice cream and lattes a few times.

The info center was extremely helpful, letting us print a document, giving us advice on a few issues we were having and they have an internet kiosk inside as well. The public library (also with internet kiosks but I think you might need to be a library member – I am) is just around the corner.

We hung out with SV Baraka again and met the Australian flagged vessel SV Baidarka as well. Fun times.

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We did *nothing* in Blunden except boatwork, relaxing and hanging out with SV Baraka. Last year we  explored the area including the lagoon but this year the NW winds were strong (which is why we stayed a few days) so we let ourselves remain boat bound.

Logbook: Octopus Islands

P1020032 (960x1280)The actual anchorages at the Octopus Islands were a bit of let down which is probably our fault for having too high of expectations based on cruiser talk. It was pretty and in May there were only 2-3 boats there and we each had a cove to ourselves.

However, the hike to the lake was wonderful. The forest looked like post-logging second growth but was still quiet pretty and after hiking straight up hill to the elevation of the lake we came to a beautiful waterfall and river (the outflow from the lake).

The lake itself was large and crystal clear. We continued down the path until we found some flat rocks sloping into the lake which required a short easy down climb to access (looks steeper in the picture than it felt like).

We swam. We baked in the rocks in the sun. It felt like summer had finally arrived.

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We hung out with SV Bella Star again. It’s been exciting to meet up with people that we expect to see again and we were glad we left Rebecca Spit a bit early to meet up with them.

Good Show Award: CFSA

I meant to write about the CFSA-Esquimalt ages ago. We were adopted by various members, fed, assisted, morally supported and gifted and we generally feel thankful to have such a crowd of folks at our backs. In these two photos (thank you SV Baraka!) you can see the musical madness we were “volunteered” for. I got to play the angry stick after Carol – he has the wooden spoons in this picture.

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P1020018 (960x1280)P1020024 (1280x960)One gift was of some gorgeous bronze flag clips which we took the time to install on our flags and halyard while at anchor at Octopus Islands.

The CFSA burgee was flown for a few days on top of our pirate flag and martini flag. A place of honor surely!

Thank you to the people of the CFSA – I hope you follow along and let us know that you are there with a comment occasionally.

Logbook: Walsh Cove Marine Park

The anchorage at Walsh Cove Marine Park was deeper then charted by CMAP and deeper than as drawn in the Dreamspeaker book. There are some beautiful islands to kayak around but otherwise I can’t recommend the anchorage. The wind blows through it and we don’t like being stern tied in wind unless it is on the nose.
Our first night we stern tied and our second night when a larger boat left we took their space and swung freely (non-boaters: this means we dropped our anchor and swung around in a circle. The first night we were too close to land to swing around in a circle so we tied the boat to land in one direction).

But enough about anchoring, the kayaking was lovely:P1010993 (1280x960)
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And we had nice clear water to observe some sea critters. We saw our first sea urchins of the trip – hot pink and purple – and masses of starfish and sea cucumbers. There were tons of oysters and a fair number of mussels.

Does anyone know if the starfish pile together to mate or for some other reason?

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Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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