Day tripping by Boating to Ivitak Cove

Another glorious weather day entices us to load the boat for a day trip and motor seaward, 10 km east to Ivitak Cove, on the south shore of Nachvak fiord. Ivitak is the gateway to the McCormick River Valley and the start of an overland route to Ramah Bay. In 1997, I hiked this very route and wanted to have another look. We launch at low tide, the ‘Aven’ elegantly sliding into the blue green salt waters. Sunshine and coolish temperatures with an ambient water temperature of 5C make for chilly boating. We are bundled in gortex jackets, winter hats, gloves and wear padded life jackets for extra warmth. Within 45 minutes, the motor lifted, we thread the Aven through a ridge of low tide rocks, before securely beaching her.

We are not alone: a father and son from Montreal, have been fishing here for 2 weeks. It’s the first people we have seen since Clyde dropped me off, weeks ago. They warn us about the black bears which have been harassing their camp. We don’t ask much more but given the stink of fish, its not surprising. Without further adieu, we move on. First, we inspect the old campsite where Alfred spent previous summers with Andy. There, we locate a bit of melted wax, stuck on a rock. Purple sea urchins mix along the shore with yellow sea weed. Sand pipers gather and flock, coming to rest just off shore. Fresh black bear paw prints wind amongst the rocks, mixing with our tracks. Following the McCormick river upstream, dark moving shapes in the water give evidence of the abundant fish life. We splash across the shallows, delighting in the clear sparkling water.

Its time to fish! After casting our line into various pools, we settle back for some serious fishing. It’s not long before I have 2 strikes but can’t land the fish, not having ‘set’ the hook. Adding insult to injury, my line becomes horribly tangled, as I overcast and catch the pink saxifrage flowers on the other side of the river. But success does come, a bright orange lunker with green belly spots, decides to give himself to me. A quick knife to the spine, into the plastic shopping bag for transport to the beach. Wrapped in a blanket of foil, the willow fire quickly produces some hot but not long lasting coals. Ravenous, we impatiently tend and turn the foil package a scant 8 minutes before deeming it done. 

While we were fishing, a damp easterly wind blowing in from the cold ocean has brought a thick sea fog, chilling me and my wet feet. I’m glad for the warmth of the fish fire but  need to move and generate a bit of heat. With ample choice, we simply start climbing up, following a creek that promises the reward of a waterfall. Away from the water, its more pleasant: the winds’ severity has declined and the air temperature is moderated from the warmth of the land.

But the day is passing and despite having overnight camping gear along, I feel an urgency to return to base camp. Today, the weather was good, despite the afternoon winds. I want to take advantage of the favourable conditions - who knows what tomorrow might bring? With the daylight fading, the sea fog has retreated and we decide to make a run for it. The east wind has subsided enough so that earlier white caps are now just swells.

Of course, conditions look favourable when standing on the shore – launching the Aven, the wind is broadside until the first point. There, our direction changes slightly so that the Aven quarters the waves from the rear instead of taking them broadside. Every so often, a larger wave washes over the rear transom, Alfred, one hand on the motor, quickly bails with the other hand.

Zigzagging across Nachvak, I think about how easy this little boat could be swamped by a rogue wave and we, disappear without a trace. The life jackets would support our bodies as we would try to swim for shore but the numbing cold of icy Nachvak (temperature about 5C) would quickly lead to hypothermia. Rubber boots, layers of clothing, filled with water, would then drag our bodies down. Melodramatic indeed!

I keep my eyes on the Tall Bride, watching her get taller and taller as we get closer. Our progress is painstakingly slow. The undersized motor chugs along, the repaired sparkplugs, occasionally firing. After a very long 60 minutes, we have crossed the largest open expanse of Nachvak where the wind blows in from the ocean, funneled between mountain slopes.

At long last, the Aven reaches the sheltered north shore. We hug the coast for the next 4 km, eventually rounding the last rocky knoll which marks the end of our adventure. The sun has set behind the hills but a brilliant ray illuminates puffy clouds. Hauling the boat into Alfred’s Harbour, home never looked so sweet.