July 31, 2019–Across the Finish Line, Oak Harbor

Departure Port:  Fisherman Bay; Departure Time:  6:30am; Destination:  Oak Harbor; Arrival Time:  11:50am; Distance Cruised Today:  38 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  1,082 nautical miles; Conditions:  overcast in morning; strong ebb current; sunny afternoon; wind light; air temp:  80 degrees; water temp:  64 degrees

DSCF2846Our final day is all about timing the current.  We depart Fisherman Bay at 6:30am, and are aiming to arrive at Deception Pass in time for the 9:37am slack, with turn to flood.  Arriving early is not to our advantage; being a little late will be ok, and give us a good shove to inside waters.  Unlike our low tide arrival in Fisherman Bay, we’re at mid-tide on our way out, with plenty of water to work with.  It doesn’t even look like the same place.  Our route takes us right past Duane and Lorrie’s home, perched atop the cliff at Upright Head.  As we draw near I give them a cell call.  As they did 7 weeks ago at the start of the cruise, they step out to the railing, wave to us, and then ring their bell.  It’s the sound of friendship and goodwill.  I replyDSCF2847 with two quick blasts on the air horn, and then we motor on, toward Thatcher Pass, which will be our exit from the San Juans.  The current is running strong on the ebb, giving us a solid 3 knot push on the way out.  Once out in Rosario Strait, the strong ebb continues to affect our progress, albeit in a most favorable way.  The current is setting strongly to the south.  Our course toward Deception Pass is southeast, so our speed benefits significantly from the current.  However, I regularly must adjust course to counter the effect of the southerly current, which seems determined to set us onto Belle Rock.  This nasty rock pokes most inconveniently out, square in the way of boats traveling between Deception Pass and the San Juans.  We’re averaging more than 3 knots faster than our throttle setting would justify, and when we pass by Belle Rock, our speed accelerates sharply, up to a brief top speed of 11 knots.  All this extra speed is tending to bring us to Deception quite early, however, in the last 2 miles we enter a counter current which slows us to 4 knots.  We end up passing beneath the Deception Pass bridge one minute past the published slack time.  Boat traffic is quite heavy, in both directions.  Once inside, I empty the ballast tank and give her full throttle for the first time on the trip.  Our speed picks up, although not as much as the reputation of the planing MacGregor might lead people to expect.  Our heavily laden boat, still burdened with cruising gear and supplies, peaks out at 10 knots.  While not fast enough to water ski behind, it still nearly doubles our speed from the rate at which we cruised for most of the trip.  Both noise and rate of fuel consumption are dramatically higher than we’re accustomed to, but today, it’s an acceptable trade-off, because we’re headed home.

In quick succession we pass Hope Island, Strawberry Point, Polnell Point, and the red buoy which marks the turning point for entering Oak Harbor.  We’re coming in at dead low tide, and the tide today is a minus 2 foot tide.  Great amounts of Oak Harbor are exposed as mud flats, however, the waters immediately next to the Oak Harbor Marina are sufficiently dredged to permit our entry.  At 11:50 am we ease into slip number 36 on F dock, bow in starboard tie, and we’re home.  We’ve been out 45 days, have cruised a total of 1,082 nautical miles, ranging from 48 degrees north almost to 51 degrees north, and extending 6 degrees of longitude out, and back again.  Weather impeded our progress only once, when high winds delayed our crossing of the Strait of Georgia for a day and a half.  The occasional cold fronts, with associated rain and wind, hit us at convenient times when we were either on a dock or in sheltered waters.  We were blessed with settled weather and favorable conditions as we approached each of the challenging places in the circumnavigation:  Johnstone Strait, Cape Scott, Brooks Penninsula, Estevan Point, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We had but one serious day of fog, on our run into Victoria.  The fishing was good, wildlife viewing was wonderful, the scenery was spectacular, and the people we met along the way were fascinating and memorable.  We consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to experience this great cruising area, and to have had such a successful trip.


July 30, 2019–Dinner With Friends on Lopez Island

Departure Port:  Roche Harbor Marina; Departure Time:  8:30am; Destination:  Lopez Island Resort; Arrival Time:  11:30am; Distance Cruised Today:  14 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  1,044 miles; Conditions:  mostly clear, wind S 15-20 in morning, seas 1-2 foot chop; air temp:  68 degrees; water temp:  57 degrees

DSCF2826Our day begins with a hearty breakfast at the Lime Kiln Cafe.  We delay departure until 8:30am, because of the anticipated current pattern on San Juan Channel.  By the time we pull out, Roche Harbor is already coming to life, with float planes both arriving and leaving, and cruising boats doing much the same.  We turn into Speiden Channel and find ourselves bucking a strong ebb current.  I steer near to shore and catch a few eddies, however, when we round the pointand nose into San Juan Channel, we’re forced to bounce our way through a moderate DSCF2828rip.  The choppy water bounces all over the place, as if it can’t decide what to do.  We finally push through the confused seas and cruise southward, down San Juan Channel.  A stiff 15 to 20 knot wind is directly on our nose, and as the current begins to flow toward the south, very bouncy seas give us a rough ride, with occasional spray reaching back to the cockpit.  These conditions are brief, though, and by the time we pass the approach to Friday Harbor, things are settling out.  I raise the jib once we’re past the west end of Shaw Island, and we’re able to motor sail toward Lopez Island.  A check of the tide reveals that we’ll be entering Fisherman Bay channel at very near dead low tide, and it’s a minus 2 foot tide.  The entrance channel to Fisherman Bay is notoriously shallow, and many boats have grounded on their way in or out.  At low tide the channel can be as shallow as 3 or 4 feet.  I know I can motor in 2.5 feet, so I decide to head on in.  The approach looks worse than it actually is, for our boat, that is.  The shallowest reading I get on the depth finder is 4 feet, and most of the time I’m in considerably deeper water.  The approach to the marina is made difficult by shallow water on the inside, as well as a stiff cross wind.  A bit of confusion with the dock hands delays our approach to the slip, but it finally gets straightened out and we tie up without incident.  It’s great to be in and secure.

After lunch we walk over to the pool and hot tub for a good swim and soak.  The pool is quite warm, and enclosed by wind breaking glass panels.  After we return to the boat I give our friend Lorrie a call and we set the time for her to drive over to pick us up.  We are to be dinner guests at Duane and Lorrie’s remarkable home, which sits dramatically atop Upright Head, 275 feet above the water.  Lorrie picks us up at 6:30pm and drives us up to the house.  Duane is still finishing up on his day’s work.  He’s in the midst of replacing the roof on the house, in addition to building a major addition and remodel of the existing structure.  He’s doing the work on his own, and it’s a really major project.  For him to stop work amidst this project and welcome us for dinner is a remarkable gift of hospitality. 

We are simply captivated by the view from their deck and living room window.  The house looks right out onto the major crossroads of the San Juans, between Lopez, San Juan and Shaw Islands.  At times you can see 3 ferries traveling on their runs at the same time.  In the distance, Vancouver Island is visible.  Duane says that, if you were to step off the deck you’d fall 90 feet before your first bounce, and on your second bounce you’d hit water.  I believe him, but don’t intend to try.  He explains that divers have found a great number of giant Pacific octopus in the waters right below their house, and some of them can weigh up to 2000 lbs.  They serve us a delicious salmon dinner, and the evening passes quickly, with stories about our trip, their project, and what life’s like in this remarkable place.  As we sit and chat, we hear the occasional rumble of the ferry boats as they make their way up, down, and across the channels.  All too soon it’s time to return to the boat, marking the end of yet another memorable day.


July 29, 2019–”Would You Eat a Couple of Crabs if I Boiled Them Up For You?”

Departure Port:  Victoria; Departure Time:  8am; Destination:  Roche Harbor; Arrival Time:  1pm; Distance Cruised Today:  23 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  1030 miles; Conditions:  Clear sky, smooth seas, favorable current most of the way, 82 degree air; 55 degree water

We’re ready to go by 7:30am but we delay until 8, since  my current almanac shows that we’ll have more favorable currents if we go a bit later.  We take an inside route through the little rocks and islands just east of Victoria harbour.  We see a long fog bank out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but our route is completely clear of fog.  Once we’re clear of islands and kelp beds we set a course for the San Juan Island side of Haro Strait.  About 2/3’s of the way across we reeDSCF2815nter US waters.  I take down the Canadian courtesy flag and raise our yellow “Q” flag in its place.  We’ll fly it until we clear customs in Roche Harbor.  We’re on the lookout for orcas, and we do hear some radio chatter from boats which are reporting sightings, however, they’re where near us and we fail to sight any.  We enter Mosquito Pass and take a slightDSCF2817 detour into Garrison Bay, for a “drive by” look at English Camp, which was occuppied by British troops from 1858 until 1872, when the disputed ownership of San Juan Island was decided in favor of the US.  At least 20 boats are anchored in Garrison Bay.

We pop back out and head up the channel toward Roche Harbor.  As we draw near, the boat traffic steadily increases and once we round a point and can see into the harbor, we find boats everywhere.  This is a very busy place in summer, and we simply add to the total.  I weave my way in to the Customs dock and manage to tie up right in front of the Customs office.  I grab our 2 passports and my boat registration and walk over to the office.  I’m surprised to hear that I’m next in line, so the wait is very brief.  The Customs officer is very pleasant and efficient, and we have only one gliche clearing in.   Our last 2 mandarin oranges, which we’d planned on eating with lunch, are confiscated.  Darn, should have eaten them sooner.  Once we’re clear of the customs dock we head into the harbor, bound for the fuel dock.  It’s very crowded and we have to wait our turn.  Once in it takes very little time to fill our port side gas tank.  We head back out, into the boat traffic.  I radio and get instructions for our reserved slip, and get tied up with help from the staff.  It’s great to be here. 

After lunch we walk over to the pool for a refreshing dip, amongst the dozens and dozens of little kids.  An ice cream cone just about finishes off the afternoon.  Back on the boat we get acquainted with the couple on the 28 foot Bayliner which is moored in the neighboring slip.  Walt is a warm, congenial guy from Texas, recently retired, and we enjoy swapping boating and hunting stories.  It turns out he’s been DSCF2819very successful with his crabbing efforts.  We mention our hard luck with the trap out on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, thanks in large part to the thriving sea otter population.  Around 4:30pm he starts setting up his propane burner.  He hauls a 5 gallon bucket up out of the water.  It has holes in the bottom, and it’s just chuck full of live dungeness crab.  I hear them scratching around in the bucket.  He dumps a bunch out onto the dock, flips them onto their backs, and then skewers them with a big carving knife.  They go instantly limp.  HeDSCF2818 cracks the leg/claw/body meat sections from the top shell and starts tossing them into the boiling pot.  He leans over toward us and says “Would you eat a couple of crabs if I boiled them up for you?”  I reply “Does the sun shine in July?”  Of course we would.  Serendipidy has just struck again.  I make a quick trip up the dock to the store, return with a tub of potato salad and a pack of beer, and the dinner menu is complete.  Melt some butter on the stove, grab the cocktail sauce, paper plates, forks and crab crackers and we’re set.  Greg keeps on chuckling in disbelief and saying “Um, is this good.” 

Moored a couple of slips over I notice another MacGregor 26X just like ours.  It’s from BC and just before dinner I chat briefly with the couple on her.  It turns out they’re friends of our boat dealer, and were at the last Blue Water Yachts rendezvous a few years back.  I’d done a slide show and they remember me from that.  They’re very active in the BC MacGregor club.  I’m hoping to visit more with them before we leave tomorrow.  This evening we plan on walking up to the flag pole area to watch the retiring of the colors.  This ceremony is done each evening here at Roche Harbor and is a lot of fun to watch.


July 27-28, 2019–Taking in the Sights of Victoria

DSCF2796For the past 2 1/2 days we’ve seeing the sights of Victoria, and the experience has been in stark contrast with the wilderness surroundings we’ve been in for most of the past 6 weeks.  MuchDSCF2792 of Saturday is devoted to a visit to the Royal BC Museum, located just across the street from the Parliament Building.  This is a first class museum, currently featuring a temporary exhibit on the Mayan Civilization, and it’s outstanding.  The permanent exhibits present the natural and human history of Vancouver Island, and they are exceptionally well done.  The First Nations cultural artifacts, artwork, and interpretive displays provide really highlight the lifestyle, artistic achievements, challenges, and hardships of these people.  The natural history section is beautifully done, and the diaramas are so realistic that you really feel like you’re in the various environments.  We also viewed the Imax movie on the Great Spirit Bear Rainforest, which has some incredible wildlife footage.  In the evening we walked over to Chinatown for dinner.  Guess what, we had Chinese food. 

Today we met up with a friend and watched the Water Taxi Ballet, which is held in the inner harbour, in front of the ferry dock.  To the tune of ballet music, piped out over the loud speaker system, 5 of those cute little water taxis paraded in tight formation, performing intricate drill team type maneuvers.  It was a very colorful show, much appreciated by the crowd gathered around the surrounding railings.  We then walked over to Fisherman’s Wharf, a colorful collection of floating homes, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and gift shops.  We had lunch there, and afterwards, caught a ride on a water taxi, back to the Red Fish/Blue Fish dock.  Greg and I paid a visit to the Victoria Bug Zoo, an interesting little place which houses  a fascinating collection of live insects, spiders and other creepy/crawly things.  Adults are permitted to handle one of their vary large, yet very docile, tarantulas.  For the sake of his grandkids, Greg volunteered to hold the big spider.  It’s a fun place to visit, and worth it just to see the reactions of the little kids and their moms, to all the creatures in there. 

Right now, we’re just hanging out in the cockpit, relaxing and enjoying the scene as the sun lowers in the sky.  Victoria is starting to settle in after a most pleasant summer day.  The big passenger ferry has just left on the final run of the day, the whale watching boats are all tied up for the night, the rental kayaks are locked up on their dock, the float planes have finished their noisy flights, the harbour patrol boat seems to have given up the scene, but the hard core fish and chips fans are still lined up well past the 30 minute wait line at the Red Fish/Blue Fish serving window.  The line won’t go away until their 9pm closing hour.  Our Victoria visit is nearly at an end.  In the morning we’ll depart and head across Haro Strait toward the US/Canadian border.  The finish line is within reach.


July 26, 2019–Flying Through Pea Soup to Victoria

Departure Port:  Port Renfrew; Departure Time:  5am; Destination:  Victoria; Arrival Time:  1pm; Distance Cruised for the Day:  54 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  1007 miles; Conditions:  Medium to dense fog for all but the last hour; light wind in morning, wind building to NW 15  after noon and strong in evening; air temp:  80 degrees; water temp:  64 degrees

DSCF2771Light swell entering our anchorage through the night, but not enough to be uncomfortable.  We rise at 4:30am, eager to start our last long leg of the trip, our run down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria.  A fading half moon greets us when we emerge from the cabin to prepare for departure.  Whisps of fog hang out over the bay, but they offer no clue as to what awaits us on the outside.  I set careful waypoints on the GPS, so as to avoid Cervantes Rocks, which guard the southeast entrance to our inlet.  As we near the mouth of the inlet the fog thickens.  I have my running lights on, but I see a fishing boat heading out with no lights showing, and we watch for others.  Once we clear Cervantes Rocks we swing out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca andDSCF2770 turn eastward, on a course which parallels the shore.  The day begins to brighten, however, the sun remains obscured by the thick fog.  I must steer with the GPS, and I try using my cross track error for reference.  However, the delay factor makes this difficult, and I actually manage to swing 180 degrees off course at one point.  Once I get headed in the right direction, I give up on looking at the water at all.  I simply stare at the GPS, steering with the tilt of the course line while Greg keeps scanning the water around us for debris and other boats.  Eventually I give the auto pilot a try and, with the light wind and swell, the auto pilot ends up steering much better than I can.

I can see boats which transmit position via AIS, but not all boats send this signal.  Our visibility ranges from 50 to 100 yards for hours at a time.  Occasionally the fog thins and we can see the brightness of sunlight overhead, however down at water level, our view remains obscured.  When the sky brightens, a moonbow of refracted light appears as a ghostly arch, low, above the water.  We take turns at the helm and, with practise, improve our ability to steer.  We’re running at 3200 rpm, and with the smooth water surface and gentle swell, we’re able to make 6 knots at first.  By 7am, however, our speed begins to pick up, and soon we’re averaging 7 knots or better.  We’re enjoying the benefits of a flood current, and it continues to build over the course of the morning.  Occasionally we’re passed by other boats heading our direction.  It’s startling when they loom up on our beam from behind. 

We’re amazed by the speed we’re able to sustain.  A slight tail wind begins to push us, even without sails up, and as we near Race Rocks Passage the flood gains strength.  Our speed increases to 7.5 knots, and once we enter the Race Rocks Passage it peaks at just over 8 knots.  The sea surface begins to get choppy, and then seriously disturbed by the speed and volume of water flowing eastward through Race Rock DSCF2781Passage.  As our speed reaches its maximum, the veil of fog abruptly lifts.  It’s almost as though we somehow manage to pierce through from another dimension.  We’ve been cruising in fog for more than 40 miles and, suddenly, in the space of a few minutes, we transition into cloudless sky and bright sunshine.  To add to the effect, we’re running at close to the speed of the wind, so the air feels quite still.  We begin peeling off layers of clothing. 

Our next waypoint is the entrance to Victoria Habour.  After nearly 1000 miles of cruising in remote and even wild places, we’re about to enter a completely different environment, anDSCF2782 urban waterfront.  Boat traffic begins to increase, and float planes are taking off and landing in close proximity to boats.  I radio the Wharf Street Marina and get instructions on how to find our spot.  It feels great to tie up, with the last major leg of our trip behind us.  We plan to stay here 3 nights, before moving over to Roche Harbor for our return to the US.  The weather is supposed to be rough tomorrow, so it’s good to be here, with the boat secure while it blows outside.  Our run today has covered 54 nautical miles, and we’ve averaged 7 knots for the entire passage, and almost the entire distance in fog. 

After a lunch of grilled sausage at the boat, we head out on foot to sightsee.  Our wanderings take us to the Provincial Parliament Building, where we go on a tour.  Afterwards, we grab dinner at a pub.  We talk about the trip, and the remarkable experiences we’ve had.  It’s hard to believe that it’s nearing an end.


July 25, 2019–Delayed Departure For Our Dash to Juan de Fuca

Departure Port:  Bamfield; Departure Time:  Noon; Destination:  Port Renfrew (Woods Nose); Arrival Time:  6:30pm; Distance Cruised Today:  42 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  953 miles; Conditions:  overcast in morning, clear and sunny in afternoon and evening; wind NW 10 knots; seas 6 to 7 feet, following; air temp:  70 degrees; water temp:  55 degrees

IMG_4845I get up around 6:30am and John is already working in the office.  I step in and ask him about the Suzuki mechanic in East Bamfield, which we learned about last evening from another boater.  I ask John if he knows when the repair place opens, and am disappointed to learn that they don’t open till 9am.  We’ll just have to knock around and wait.  I glance around the office, which includes a small fishing tackle store and see that they have a good price on downrigger cannonballs.  We use some of our spare time rerigging the downrigger with new cable, snap release and that 10 lb cannonball.  We won’t be doing any more fishing on this trip, but it will be ready to go next time.  Shortly after 8 we uncleat the boat and putt across the inlet to the public dock in East Bamfield.  We walk up to Breaker Marine and they indeed are closed till 9am.  I walk around to the side and see the service bay door open, with a pickup pulled DSCF2751halfway in.  A pair of feet are sticking out from under the truck.  I lean down under the truck and ask “Would you happen to be the Suzuki mechanic?”  Gordie, for that happens to be his name, replies in the affirmative.  I explain our situation and ask if he would be able to take a look at the motor.  He says “Sure”, but explains that he first has to finish changing the oil on this truck and get a couple of other things done.  He’ll be down in about an hour and a half.  He’ll come down to the boat as soon as he can.  Ninety minutes later, Gordie briskly walks down the ramp and onto the floating public dock where the boat is tied.  He goes through a carefully sequenced series of checks, and quickly determines that the thermostat is stuck open and number 2 cylinder isn’t working properly.  The plug is fouled.  He proceeds to replace all 3 spark plugs, installs a new thermostat, and cleans the injector for #2.  He rules out a problem with the coil and concludes that, most likely, I have a valve problem with #2, maybe a stuck exhaust valve.  He’s able to get a little response from the #2 cylinder, but it’s still not carrying its full load.  That’s about all he can do under the circumstances, but he feels that we should be able to get home with the engine in its current condition.  I’m grateful for his expertise and efforts.  I settle up at the store, and we’re finally clear to go.

We have a long 42 mile run ahead of us, and our projected arrival time at Port Renfrew, the only place along this stretch of coast where we can get off the big water, will be at least 6:30pm, and very possibly later.  With some anxiousness I advance the throttle and bring her up to speed.  We’ve decided to run the ballast out of the tank and rely on engine alone.  The lack of ballast, plus having the dinghy stowed on the foredeck, will ease the load on the engine, and should allow us to move a bit more quickly.  I run the throttle up to 3200 rpm and we initially make over 7 knots.  Out on the open DSCF2752ocean our speed varies widely, depending on whether we’re climbing or surfing down the big following swells, which average 4 to 6 feet, with some higher than that.  A 10 knot n0rthwest following wind helps push us along.  We set our course for point to point, which gives us the shortest distance.  This is an interesting coast, very rugged and remote, with sea caves, rugged cliffs, and waterfalls which cascade right onto the beach.  A popular hiking route runs all the way from Bamfield to Port Renfrew, and we see a few hikers walking along on the beach.DSCF2757  This trail was originally built to aid shipwreck survivors to be able to walk to settlements.  Distinctive lighthouses are sited on the major promontories, adding points of interest.  We see a few sea otters and dolphins, and but one gray whale.  Only a handful of other boats are out traveling on this afternoon.  We would have preferred starting this run early in the morning, when conditions are typically more settled, however, we’re grateful to be moving at all, and especially grateful that the engine is steadily grinding away.

The wind is beginning to pick up by the time we near Owen Point, at the west entrance to Port San Juan inlet, where Port Renfrew is located.  Our arms are sore from the hours of manual steering, and we’re looking forward to our delayed supper.  The wind and swell follows us in to Port San Juan inlet, and we wonder if my old anchorage behind Woods Nose will be usable.  I’ve read reports that it may be filled with crab floats, which would force us to go further up the inlet to a marina, whose office is surely closed by now.  We’re in stong winds right up the entrance to the small cove behind Woods Nose.  No one is anchored there, and I see no crab floats.   Almost by magic, once we turn in behind the tall trees on Woods Nose and adjacent shore, the wind drops, and it’s nearly calm in the little cove.  I drop the anchor near the center of the cove.  It fails to grab on first try, but I get it to hold on the second.  It’s time for dinner and a bit of decompression.  We have much to be thankful for on this day.


July 24, 2019–Broken Island Sojourne

Departure Port:  Jaques-Jarvis Cove; Departure Time:  8:30am; Destination:  Bamfield; Arrival Time:  4:30pm; Stops Along the Way:  Effingham Bay explore, Clarke Island, lunch; Distance Cruised Today:  23 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  911 miles; Conditions:  mostly sunny, light wind, seas calm to light chop, air temp:  72 degrees; water temp:  62 degrees

DSCF2716Our protected anchorage is completely calm when we rise.  The two rafted power boats are gone by the time we peek outside.  We get underway a little after 8am, and take a wandering course through the Broken Islands, opting to steer through the narrowest of passes, just for fun.  The scenery is captivating, with overhanging vegetation cropped flat by the high tide saltwater where trees lean out over the water.  Sea caves pock the rugged rocky shores, evidence of the erosive power of surging seas.  We head for Effingham Bay and anchor deep in theDSCF2718 inlet, close to where the trail across the island begins.  After dinghying ashore, we seek out the marginally defined trail through old growth rainforest.  The way is creatively marked by strands of string, pieces of rope, the occasional shoe, plastic bottles, and fishing buoys which have been periodically tied to branches.  After walking close to a mile, we emerge from the forest and descend to a bouldery shoreline, lined at highwater by enormous driftwood logs.  We scramble over rocks and logs to reach a sand beach.  In the forest above the beach are a series of small grassy flats, where Indian cedar houses once stood.  We proceed further up the shore, hopping across boulders exposed by the low tide.  After about a half mile we reach a large sea cave, which extends deep into the cliff.  It’s entrance is probably 30 feet in height, and the walls are gracefully adorned by hanging clumps of ferns.  Out in front of the cave we find fascinating tide pools which provide homes for seastars, anemones, barnacles and tiny fish.

Upon returning to the boat, I pull the anchor and steer a course toward Clarke Island.  We anchor just off a beach which is covered with kayaks.  Probably 8 or 10 tents are pitched just above the beach.  This is obviously a very popular place for kayakers to camp.  The scenery easily justifies its popularity.  We eat lunch and then go ashore for a beach walk.  The only thing which spoils our enjoyment of this place is the stumble which the engine developed shortly before reaching the anchorage.  It’s our same old problem, drop in rpm, quickly resolved by DSCF2720squeezing the primer bulb.  We really thought we’d resolved that problem with the gas line simplification we’d done the other day.  Having run 25 miles yesterday without a hint of trouble, it’s very discouraging to find that the engine is still struggling for fuel, on a very erratic basis. 

We begin our run across Imperial Eagle Channel toward Bamfield in mid afternoon.  I’ve called ahead for a tie up at the Harbourside Resort.  We have to give the bulb a squeeze several times across the channel.  We can’t figure out what’s causing this behaviour.  It happens at both 2800 rpm as well as at 2300 rpm.  We’ll simply go with what we’ve got and make the 2 day run toVictoria with periodic squeezes of the bulb. 

At Harbourside, we top off the gas tank and tie up for the night.  We’re moored on the side of a barge, tied to enormous cleats.  This is mostly a fishing resort, and the fish cleaning stations are really busy, with large salmon being carved up.  The owner checks weather for us.  Tomorrow looks like an excellent travel day going down the coast to Port Renfrew, and Friday looks good DSCF2730as well, with light winds until around 3pm.  Saturday, however, is forecast to be nasty all day long, including early in the morning.  Our strategy of going just as far as Sooke on Friday, and then running into Victoria early Saturday morning doesn’t look like a good idea.  Instead, we’ll try for a very early start on Friday morning, hoping to make it all the way into Victoria by around 4pm.  We’ll likely be seeing wind kick up around 3pm, but it shouldn’t be as bad as Saturday morning. 

In preparation for the long runs of the next 2 days, we haul dinghy up onto the dock, deflate her, roll her up and tie her down on the foredeck.  This will help considerably for our long runs, reducing drag and easing the load on the engine.  Also, if seas get rough, we won’t have to worry about dinghy taking on water.  The trip is definitely working toward its conclusion.  Our days of dinghy explores and trips to remote beaches are at an end.  We’ll be either going from dock to dock or anchoring with no means of going ashore from here on in.


July 23, 2019–Suzuki Happy Again, And So Are We

Departure Port:  Ucuelet; Departure Time:  9:30; Destination Jaques-Jarvis Cove, Broken Islands; Arrival Time:  4:30pm; Distance Cruised Today:  25 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  888 miles; Stop Along the Way:  Joe’s Bay Anchorage, for lunch; Conditions:  mostly overcast, some sun in afternoon; wind building to 20 knots in afternoon; air temp:  67 degrees; water temp:  65 degrees

IMG_4839It hits me in the middle of the night.  I don’t need to buy any new fuel line to make a direct connection between the engine and tank.  One of the lines I already have will be plenty long enough.  All I need to do is disconnect it from the switchover valve, and connect it to the primer bulb, which puts it in direct line with the engine.  This will eliminate several potential sources of trouble, including that switchover valve.  To switch tanks I’ll simply undo the quick coupler from one tank, bring it across, and plug into the other tank.  We have highIMG_4837 hopes that this will solve yesterday’s problem, and we implement it first thing this morning.  All that’s left to do is give it a good test, and today’s run will serve that purpose.

We pull out around 9:30am, and ease our way out of Ucuelet Inlet, dodging sport fishing charter boats and whale watching tour boats along the way.  It’s breezy out on Barkley Sound, but we run down wind, with the jib out.  The engine sounds good, and we motor sail until around 11:30, with a destination of Joe’s Bay Anchorage in view.  It’s quite choppy out in open water, but once we turn into the anchorage we’re in calm, well protected waters.  We pick out a nice spot in the lee of a tall stand of evergreens and drop the anchor.  Perfect timing for a nice hot lunch of cream of potato soup and grilled English muffins.  And, what makes the situation even more perfect:  the engine has performed flawlessly for nearly 3 straight hours, in stark contrast with yesterday’s struggles.  We are gaining confidence that the modifications to the fuel line, done this morning, have solved our problem. 

This enables us to go on a sightseeing excursion for the balance of the afternoon.  I take a scenic, zig zag route through the inner Broken Islands toward an interesting place which Sandy and I cruised through in 2014, called Julia Passage.  The cruising guides describe this route as “not for the faint of heart”, because of it’s narrow entrance and rock hazards.  When the guides say that, I figure it’s perfect MacGregor country.  I want Greg to see this fascinating place, so I steer for it.  We enter via the extremely narrow north entrance.  There DSCF2710can’t be 10 feet between rocks and boat on either side, and cedar limbs arch out from the shore on both sides, creating additional potential hazards for sailboat rigging.  Depth is adequate, and there is just one submerged rock shown on the chart, which we fail to see our touch.  It’s a really fun place to poke into, but the real treat is what we encounter once inside.  For the next 4 miles we pass by a veritable floating community.  Easily 30, maybe more, floating houses are spotted along both shores of the narrow passage.  Some are quite tiny, while others are very substantial.  We see boat houses, green houses, and potted plant gardens, all arrayed on floats. 

We exit Julia Passage and cross Sechart Channel into strong wind and choppy seas.  A narrow, winding passage just west of Nettle Island leads us over to Jaques Island and theDSCF2711 delightful little anchorage known as Jaques-Jarvis Anchorage.  The entrance to this extremely well protected anchorage is narrow and quite shallow, but we’re coming in at close to high tide, and our shallow draft works to advantage getting in to such places.  We find the place deserted, so we have our pick of places to drop our anchor.  Shortly after getting anchored, Greg notices a boat coming in, and he thinks he recognizes the boat.  It’s a Nordic Tub which we’ve previously seen on numerous occasions during this cruise, ever since we’ve begun working down the West Coast.  It’s always been accompanied by a Grand Banks trawler, when they anchor, these two boats always raft up with each other.  Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, the trawler (named Kootenay Rose) arrives and, before long, they are anchored and rafted up.  After dinner Greg and I go on a dinghy explore and, while putting around, stop by to say hello.  They’ve taken note of us during their travels as well, and we exchange notes on our respective trips.  They’ve been within a day of us the whole way, usually with us pulling out just as they’re arriving. 

We’re paying close attention to the weather now, with the last big challenge of the trip, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, looming ahead.  Right now, it looks like we’ll spend the day tomorrow looking at more of the Broken Islands, and staying the night at nearby Bamfield.  Then on Thursday we’ll get up very early and make the jump down to Port Renfrew, which is at the west entrance to the Strait.  On Friday we plan to make the run down the Strait, pulling up at Sooke Bay by noon or so and spending the day there.  This will set us up for the final 18 mile run into Victoria, which will again be done in the very early morning hours, when we have the best chance for light winds.


July 22, 2019–CPR for Suzuki

Departure Port:  Ritchie Bay; Departure Time:  6:15am; Destination:  Ucluelet;  Arrival Time:  12 noon; Distance Cruised Today:  31 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  863 miles; Conditions:  foggy first thing, then clear and sunny, light SE wind, rippled to smooth seas, swell less than 2 feet; air temp:  80 degrees; water temp:  64 degrees

DSCF2698For more than 800 nautical miles our trusty Suzuki 60 hp outboard has faithfully started every time, and run reliably, getting us to our desired daily destinations.  Today, however, things go a little differently.  All starts out well, with an early 6:15am departure, and breakfast eaten on the run.  Fog covers the area around Ritchie Bay when we first arise, but is already lifting by the time we raise anchor.  Our course takes us down a series of ever widening channels, past islands named Vargas, Stubbs and Wickaninnish, toward the open ocean.  A careful eye must be kept on the Garmin and chart, since these wide channels are quite shallow, with potentially troublesome shallows out in the middle.  We’re byhpassing the bustling town of Tofino, with itsDSCF2701 heavy boat traffic, strong currents, and limited dockage.  We have plenty of fuel to get to Ucluelet, and we’ll provision there.

We clear the shallows and work our way past the collection of rocks along the Esowista Peninsula shoreline, and set a course out in the open ocean.  We have a light breeze on the nose, barely enough to ruffle the water surface, and that soon dies off, and we slide across glassy smooth water.  About 5 miles out of Tofino and a couple miles offshore, this tranquil condition abruptly changes, not due to a weather shift but to an engine issue.  We sense a drop in rpm and a slowing of speed.  The engine seems labored in its running.  I try increasing throtte, then decreasing throttle with no help.  We confirm that tank vent is open and tank switchover is in correct position.  Still laboring.  We switch back to the starboard tank and the engine regains rpm, for a time, and then struggles again.  Greg reaches over the transom to check the primer bulb.  It’s partially deflated, so he gives it a couple of quick squeezes, and the engine recovers, running normally.   After 10 minutes or so, the problem recurs, and is again remedied by squeezing the bulb.  We continue in this mode, with a drop in rpm at intervals varying from 10 to 35 minutes.  It’s a disturbing development, but we have no choice except to keep on going.  Just before noon we enter Ucluelet Inlet, stopping for fuel before continuing on to the marina.

The afternoon is spent purchasing a new primer bulb, in case it’s the source of trouble, and checking the fittings for possible air leakage.  A call to my boat dealer results in several possible explanations, and we do our best to check things out.  We do find one loose fuel line fitting, but we won’t know if that fixes the problem until we take the boat out for an extended run.  We plan on picking up a length of fuel line hose, so we can bypass the switchover valve, which should eliminate another potential source of trouble.  Other possibilities include a weak or failing fuel pump.  We’ll do our best tomorrow, but won’t know whether we’ve helped the situation until we get out onto the water.  We’ll head out to the Broken Islands tomorrow, which should give us a decent test run, but still leave us close to either Ucluelet or Bamfield where we can regroup if necessary.


July 21,2019–Suntan Lotion Sunday

Departure Port:  Bacchante Bay; Departure Time:  8:45am; Destination:  Ritchie Bay; Arrival Time:  6pm; Stops along the way:  West Whitepine Cove for lunch, Catface Range for fishing; Distance Cruised Today:  25 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  832 miles; Conditions:  sunny, clear and warm, air temp:  75 degrees; water temp 62 degrees; wind calm in morning, 10-12 mph in afternoon

DSCF2665The best thing to do with a perfect morning is to savor it.  We take our time getting up and when we do, sunshine illuminates our bay and is warming the air.  For the first time we enjoy breakfast outside, in the cockpit.  While sipping our coffee we are startled to hear  an eerie, course wail, which echoes against the high mountain slopes.  The second time we hear it, we get a fix on its source.  Binoculars reveal a loon, far across the water.  The bird book confirms that we’re hearing and seeing a Redthroated Loon, rather uncommon for this area, at least in DSCF2667summer. 

The air continues to warm as we slowly motor out of Bacchante Bay and out onto Shelter Inlet.  Greg rubs on sunscreen, while I put on my sun shirt.  The air is still, the water smooth, providing some captivating reflection images.  We choose to go through the narrow, twisting Sulphure Passage to get past Obstruction Island.  Cruising guides refer to this passage with extreme caution, however we find it comfortably doable, and just made for MacGregors.  The turns are obvious, and with plenty of width and depth, and we encounter negligable current.  We motor down Millar Channel and cross the mouth of Herbert Inlat, bound for a place which Sandy and I particularly enjoyed on our cruise through this area 5 years ago.  On that trip we anchored for a night in West Whitepine Cove, and were treated with a visit by a female wolf, who walked around the entire lagoon while we ate dinner.  She returned next morning while we were having breakfast.  On the way out, we caught sight of a black bear.  With these happy memories in mind, I want to show Greg the place, not expecting to see any wildlife in the middle of the day, but to just experience it.  We set a lunch hook out in the middle, fire up the barbque, and grill up some sausages.  While eating this tasty lunch, I glance over toward shore, just as a black bear steps out of the woods and begins searching for morsels on the low tide beach.  Greg just looks at me, as though I’d set this all up. 

Our next planned stop is an open bay below the Catface Range, on exposed waters.  I’m hoping it will be settled enough to anchor the boat and dinghy over through the kelp to a place where, about 20 years ago, I managed to catch DSCF2673several nice coho salmon from the canoe, jigging while tied off on the kelp.  Conditions are good when we get there, so we anchor the boat and dinghy over to my old fishing hole.  The salmon refuse to bite, however, we do watch several large schools of little salmon fry flashing in the water around our dinghy.  Greg hooks a large rockfish, however it gets off before IDSCF2690 can ready the stringer.  He also catches a small ling cod, which we release. 

It’s mid afternoon by the time we give up on fishing.  Time to head for tonight’s anchorage, which we think will be Ritchie Bay.  A nice afternoon infill breeze has come up, so we raise the main and jib and shut the engine off.  We make an easy 4 knots on a reach for the first couple of miles, before needing to alter course toward the northeast, through a channel between two small islands.  This brings the wind more behind us, so I rig wing on wing, with preventer set on the main.  Our speed drops to 3 knots, but we’re making good progress in our desired direction.  The wind sneaks behind the main, but the preventer does its job, and I east the main across in a controlled gybe, and the new sail set increases our speed.  Once past the little islands we’re able to set a direct course toward Ritchie Bay, sailing on a reach, again at 4 knots.  Ritchie Bay is rather open, and the wind and chop are coming into it, however, we’re counting on the wind settling down this evening, and we really don’t want to go any farther today.  We set the anchor around 6pm, and get to work on our steak dinner.  The wind does indeed cooperate, and we anticipate a comfortable, undisturbed night.