A Brush with Henschel: Breaking the Silence

“I sketched and photographed amidst this cacophony for a couple of hours…”

Three fishermen were bustling around on the dock at Alder Bay as I throttled the POWERFUL 9.8 Mercury outboard (pushing my MASSIVE 14 foot skiff) down to “Dead Slow”. One was cleaning a large spring salmon while the other two took a passing interest in my boat. While I was tying up, one of them wandered over. Came the polite inquiry, “Have any luck?”

“Came back with a small one,” I replied.

Further inquiry, “What kind?”

I held up an 8 x 10 panel. “Watercolour!”

I had just been out to about as far as I dare to wander with my little outfit, The White Cliff Islets at the entrance to Knight Inlet. Striking out in the morning on an ocean that was a huge glass mirror, I was convinced it would be a serene day in an idyllic setting. Barrelling (as much as a 9.8 H.P. can barrel) across Johnstone strait, zipping through Weynton Passage, over Blackfish Sound and passing Bold Head on Swanson Island, I reached the little White Cliff gems to the tune of thousands of sea birds and not a few Sea Lions. I sketched and photographed amidst this cacophony for a couple of hours before a slight breeze came up, then made my way into the Broughton Archipelago to Twist Island where I pulled ashore and found a good vantage point to sketch Wedge Island with its imposing cliffs. I was now out of a wind that was becoming increasingly intrusive and making its presence known on Queen Charlotte Strait with some fairly impressive whitecaps. It was 2 p.m. and I decided to delay a return home because by early evening this familiar summer west wind usually had a habit of dying down. The problem for small craft was that if it did not die down by then, you were in for an “all-nighter” which meant spending a rather uncomfortable night gazing into the darkness with no food in your belly.

By six o’clock I decided to make a break for it, avoiding the seas in Queen Charlotte Strait breaking against Bold Head in great white explosions, by circling Swanson Island. I still had to cross Blackfish Sound but it shortened the journey just a little. Problem: the other shore on Hanson Island lay to the south and the waves in Blackfish came from Queen Charlotte to the west. This meant trying to manoeuvre through six foot waves that were hitting your boat from the starboard side.

At that point I had a déjà vu experience. This very same thing had happened to me a couple of years ago, so I knew exactly what to do: Get scared enough to go really slow, and white knuckle it all the way back!

I couldn’t believe how quiet it was at Alder Bay. The fisherman looked at the little painting and commented,“ So, you painted this out there. Don’t you fish”?

“I used to fish and leave my paints at home”, I responded, “but since I take my paints and leave my fishing rod at home, I’ve never been skunked!”

The painting shown here is from the sketches done that day.

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