Layover at Thetis Island Marina – Ferry Excursion to Chemainus

Since we will be laying over here at Thetis Island Marina, we were in no hurry to rise this morning. Last night’s threat of a thundershower passed unfulfilled, so installation of the cockpit surround yesterday evening proved unnecessary, and the bright sun beaming onto the boat this morning quickly heated the enclosed space. I had to unzip several panels in order to enjoy my morning’s coffee without being uncomfortably warm.

P1190009After breakfast I walked down the dock for a closer look at Dave’s boat. (Dave was the fellow who gave me the oysters last evening). I had enjoyed chatting with him yesterday, and I was curious to know if he had caught any fish last evening. I was concerned to note that his dinghy was not tied up next to his boat. Since we had been up rather late last evening and hadn’t heard him come in, I worried that something had happened to him. I asked Bob, the dockmaster, if this was unusual. Bob also expressed concern, and rounded up someone to make a run out to another boat where Dave may have stayed the night, and to also check out some of the places where Dave usually fishes. Bob said if that effort came up empty, he would contact the Canadian Coast Guard and request a search. We would be leaving for Chemainus without knowing the resolution to this apparent mystery.

We were too slow in getting organized for the 9:05 am ferry, and so embarked on the short 10 minute walk to the ferryP1190010 landing with ample time to catch the 10:30 am ferry to Chemainus. This ferry is quite open, with a single level car deck, and an enclosed passenger space along one side of the boat. A long stream of cars completely filled the car deck, and a large gang of little kids coming home from a week of summer camp made for a lot of passengers, but all were adequately accomodated.

It took about 15 minutes to cross over to Chemainus. We walked up the steeply sloping street into town, enjoying the first of many murals on the sides of buildings for which this tourist oriented town is renowned. We were in “old town”, and had to ask for directions with a local to the main business district. We were told that Chemainus was holding its annual Bluegrass Festival this weekend, and we just happened to be here on the right day. We walked up a narrow street, toward Water Wheel Park. Along the way we encountered a couple of local kids who had set up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. They were too cute to pass up, and besides, Cameron was getting thirsty. Soon the twangy tones of bluegrass music greeted our ears. A talented quartet was performing on the bandshell stage, and we sat down for a listen. We stayed through the end of their set, and part way through the next group’s performance. By then we felt ready for lunch, so we walked over to the Visitor Center, where a very helpful young lady loaded us up with brochures and recommendations. We lunched at the Willow Street Cafe, an excellent establishment offering a fine assortment of sandwiches, wraps, and soups, with a strong emphasis on homemade and fine P1190014presentation. The staff there were very friendly, and we totally enjoyed our lunch. P1190024



After lunch we wandered the main street, and took in the local museum. This led us back to the Bluegrass Festival, where we heard two more groups play. By this time Cameron seemed to be maxing out on the ballads and instrumentals of bluegrass, so we snuck out and went over to the grocery store, to stock up on fresh produce, juice, and a few other items we were running short on. With backpacks loaded down, we trudged back past the bandshell and down to the ferry dock to wait for the 5pm return boat to Thetis Island.

P1190029As we walked down the ramp at the marina, I was pleased to see Dave moving about on his boat. I dropped my pack atP1190028 our boat and walked over to hear the story. His explanation was simple. He had stayed out late, fishing, and then had gone back out fishing at 5:30am this morning. I apologized for any embarassment I may have caused him, but he quickly set me at ease by thanking me for having been concerned over his well being. It turns out that fishing for him had been slow, but he had caught a nice ling cod. His enthusiasm for fishing inspired me, and I made plans for going out with Cameron right after dinner. I fired up the barbque to grill our hamburgers, while Sandy boiled water for the corn on the cob we had brought back from Chemainus. Dinner was great, but Cameron and I were eager to go out fishing. Before leaving, we had to add some air to the dinghy, which had gradually become a bit underinflated. Cameron was a great help manning the foot pump. We headed out in the dinghy around 7:30pm, and Cameron was soon over a likely spot, jigging a lure which Dave had given us. He fished steadily for 2 hours, but without success. As the sun was setting, we motored back to the marina. As we neared the dock I spotted Dave, leaning over on the dock in the unmistakable pose of a successful fisherman, busy filleting out his catch. He and Peter, from the boat right across from us, had gone out and nailed a ling cod which easily weighed 8 or 9 pounds. It was an impressive fish, and he later gave us a large bag of fillets from this fish. In addition, Dave invited Cameron and I to go out fishing with him tomorrow morning. We were eager to go out with such an expert fisherman, and so we enthusiastically accepted his offer. We agreed to meet at his dinghy tomorrow morning at 6am.

Thetis Island Marina to Pirates Cove

I awoke in the wee predawn hours to the sound of our Canadian courtesy flag slapping against the starboard shroud. The jib sailcover was vibrating. A wind had come up during the night. When the alarm rang at 5am, I wondered if it would be too windy for fishing. I got up anyway and started the stove, to heat coffee water. I woke Cameron, and we breakfasted on the apple fritters we had picked up at the Chemainus bakery yesterday. I kept glancing back toward Dave’s boat, and finally saw him moving about inside his cabin. When he stepped onto the dock I walked over to see if he thought it would be too windy outside the harbor. He said “Nope. The fish bite better when it’s cloudy and a little breezy.” That was good enough for us. We gathered up our gear and boarded his 9 foot inflatable dinghy. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed. He started his 4hp outboard after a few pulls and we motored out of the harbor. The breeze was around 10 knots out of the north, setting up a tight chop in the channel. I was skeptical that we’d be able to fish in that wind, since inflatables get blown around quite easily. Sure enough, it was difficult to get our jigs down to the bottom. We’d run up, shut the motor down and then drift, jigging all the way. The fish weren’t biting, so we crossed the channel to a small island. It was rough on the way across, and Cameron and I got quite wet as we bounced into the building chop. We struggled to fish along the shore of the island, but the wind showed no sign of easing, and we had no luck. Finally, Dave decided to move to another spot, out in the open near the mouth of the harbor.

While fishing, Dave engaged Cameron in a bit of conversation. Says Dave “Hey Cameron, what grade are you in at school?” Cameron replies “I’m going into 6th grade.” Dave comments, ” 6th grade, huh. I bet you’re really starting to get after those girls.” Cameron comments “Nah. I figure I’ll hold off on that stuff until 9th or 10th grade.” Dave: “Wow, you’ve got it all planned out. Watch out, though. You never know when one of those girls will cast an eye on you.” No comment from Cameron.


The wind began to lessen, and we started getting Cameron hooked a couple of rock fish, and managed to bring one up to the boat. He was very disappointed to learn that we had to let it go, since rockfish in this area cannot be kept. But release it we did. Dave was very pleased that we hadn’t been skunked, and that Cameron had succeeded in catching a fish.

Back at the dock we prepared to get underway. I moved the boat over to the fuel dock, to fill the tank we’d been running on since leaving Victoria. We took on less than 10 gallons, which translated into fuel consumption of more than 6 miles per gallon. I also filled the water tank. We said goodbye to our good friend Dave. Before shoving off, he gave Cameron a gift of two plastic bait fish and a fancy jigging lure. He is a very sensitive, considerate fellow, and we were glad to get to know him a bit.

We had a good sailing breeze, around 10 knots, however it was out of the north, and north we needed to go. The channel we were in was quite wide, so IP1190130 decided to try some upwind sailing. The MacGregor can’t point very close to the wind, but we made the best angle possible, and crossed in the direction of Ladysmith, averaging between 3.5 and 4 knots. As we neared shore, however, the wind began to fail, so we tacked. Our headway on the second tack was very disappointing, so I dropped sails and motored up, in the direction of Pirates Cove. Following a short 5 mile run, we rounded the point and carefully entered the narrow channel into the cove. Lots of boats were moored in the private marina, but about half of the stern tie rings along both shores were open. We selected a nice looking spot near a dinghy dock. I dropped anchor out a ways from the ring and had Sandy back down on the anchor. Then, while she kept pressure on the anchor with the motor in idle reverse, I rowed ashore with the free end of our stern tie line. I slipped it through the ring and brought the line back to the boat. It was then a simple matter to pull the slack out of the line and cleat it off. We were snugly moored in Pirates Cove.

P1190038 I clamped the kicker motor onto the dinghy and we piled in for an explore. The eastern shoreline of the cove consists of sandstone rock, with lots of ledges and strangely shaped hollows and alcoves. I dropped Cameron off at the dinghy dock so he could try climbing his way along the sandstone ledges. He was remarkably adept, and got past several tight looking spots. We followed in the dinghy, snapping pictures as he went.


P1190093When he could go no further, he reboarded the dinghy and we went up to the head of the cove. P1190079 We encountered a young racoon, who was feeding along the water’s edge. After tying up the dinghy, we walked across a narrow neck of land to a driftwood covered beach. We also hiked a trail near our moorage, discovering a pirate’s chest placed there by the parks department. Cruisers had placed various trinkets in the chest, there for the taking by little kids. We followed a trail through the woods to the south end of the island, and took a break there while Cameron built another driftwood fort, complete with access bridge. Sandy and I were both sure he would fall in, but he managed his balance nicely, and was able to walk back to the boat in dry clothes. For dinner, we barbqued the ling cod fillets which Dave had given us. They made for an outstanding dinner.





Pirates Cove to Silva Bay

We had a short distance to go today, and so slept in until around 7:30am. I heated water for coffee and Sandy and I enjoyed the tranquility of Pirates Cove while sipping our coffee. The tide was quite low, and I decided that we would get underway before breakfast, since we would have to pass through Gabriola Narrows, and it would be good to transit at or near slack. As we neared the narrows, we encountered numerous boats going in both directions, a good indicator that we’d arrived at slack, which was indeed the case. Our speed hardly changed as we motored through the scenic passage and into the island studded waters beyond. We were on the edge of the open waters of Georgia Strait, which were nearly calm on this sunny, settled day. The approach to SilvaP1190153 Bay was only a few miles past the narrows, and soon we entered the bay itself. The bay was crowded with boats, some in the marina and some at anchor or tethered to mooring balls. I noticed a small side channel on the north side, just shy of the main bay. It looked like an anchoring possibility, so I idled in to check depth and bottom condition. It was at or near low tide, and we were in 10 feet of water. I liked what I saw, and dropped the hook. We basked in bright sunshine and enjoyed our slightly delayed breakfast.

Cameron and I then hopped into the dinghy for an explore. We putted over to a small island across the channel from our anchored boat. The island itself is privately owned, but I’d been told that the tidelands are open to public access. I tied the dinghy up and we hopped out. We hadn’t wandered far before a long bearded fellow strode out of the woods and said hello. He turned out to be the owner of the island. We had a pleasant conversation, and he confirmed that we could walk P1190144 around below the high tide line. He told us about another smaller island he owns, just north of this island, which he said we were free to wander on. Cameron and I leapfrogged around the island. Cameron walked along, while I followed in the dinghy. We found lots of interesting tidepools, filled with starfish and other interesting creatures. Cameron, of course, built another driftwood fort. As lunchtime approached, Cameron ran the dinghy back to the boat. While I worked on my journal, Cameron stepped up and fixed lunch, with great artistic flair.


After lunch, we all piled into the dinghy to continue our exploration of this area. We ran out toward the small island we’d been told about by its owner. It featured more of the strange rock formations which seem to be characteristic of these islands. Cameron immediately went to work on his latest driftwood fort project, while Sandy wandered around the island. I watched Cameron’s labors for a while, and then pitched in to help. Together, we constructed a substantial shelter, however, with the placement of the last piece of driftwood, the whole thing partially collapsed like a house of cards.


I dropped Sandy and Cameron off at the boat, to begin dinner preparations while I dinghied over to the marina to buy a bag of ice. By the time I got back, dinner was nearly ready. Sandy had whipped up crab alfredo, with the left over crab meat from our feast a couple days ago. It was an excellent meal. After dinner, Cameron and I went out for a little fishing, just outside the kelp bed beyond our little island. We fished diligently but without luck.

P1190155A few comments are in order regarding Cameron’s progression as a cruising mate. At first tentative, he’s picked upP1190118 numerous skills, and now knows all the key parts of the boat. He’s become a steady hand on the tiller of the dinghy kicker, and has learned how to steer the Mac. He’s quick to volunteer to help with meal prep and other chores. He’s been diligent in keeping up on daily entries to his journal. Last evening I was struggling with a cough, and he took it upon himself to square the deck away before bedtime. We couldn’t hope for a better cruising companion. We’re very proud of the boy he is, and the young man he’s becoming. Cameron’s parents can be rightfully pleased and proud of the parenting job they’re doing.

Silva Bay to Wallace Island – Princess Cove

We got up around 7am this morning, had coffee, and then got underway around 8am. It was a calm morning, so I opted to run down the outside of Valdes Island. I wanted to reach Porlier Pass before the current started running too strongly. We ate breakfast while underway. Cameron seemed unusually drowsy, and so we suggested that he go below and take a nap. He followed that suggestion and was soon sound asleep.

P1190163Early in the run a breeze came up, so I raised sails. The wind was light, and out of the southeast, and both conditions were unfavorable. Nonetheless, I was able to motor sailed down to Porlier Pass. As we entered the narrows, the current had already begun to run, but it was not too strong, and we made the passage without difficulty. We then picked our way through scenic narrow islands.

We reached our destination of Princess Cove on Wallace Island shortly before noon. Princess Cove is a narrow inlet, with aP1190168 steep, knife-like spine of rocky islands separating the inlet from the open waters of Houston Passage. We found 8 or 10 boats moored in the cove, using the characteristic method of stern ties. Chains and rings have been installed at regular intervals along the rocky shore. They’re marked by red arrows painted on the rock. Several were still available, so I selected one and maneuvered the boat for moorage. When I lowered the anchor I was surprised at how deep it was, and in the back of my mind I wondered about the lack of scope. However, it was a dead calm day, and the stern tie would help hold us, so I decided it was good enough. While Sandy and Cameron worked on preparing lunch, a parade of boats began arriving. Within a 20 minute period, at least 8 boats pulled in. Some stern tied, some anchored conventionally near the mouth of the cove, and some rafted up with friends.


P1190184After lunch Sandy and Cameron dinghied ashore to go for a hike. I stayed on board to catch up on posting pictures to myP1190187 journal. They hiked over to Conover Cove, near the south end of the island, encountering such interesting features as a derelect Willys Jeep pickup, a handpump well, and a small building which has bewen completely covered with signs, made by cruisers, posting their boat names and dates of visit. There were hundreds of these signs, some quite artistic and elaborate. We’d seen these “signing places” in the Bahamas and on the Sea of Cortez, so it was fun for them to find this one here.


P1190194I had just finished my picture entries as they started back for the boat in the dinghy, with Cameron at the oars. I climbed out of the cabin, and immediately noticed that things weren’t right. The boat was lying much closer to the rock face than I remembered. I then glanced toward the mouth of the cove, and saw that the boat was not more than 10 yards away from the powerboat moored on our port side. It struck me that, while I was down in the cabin working on the computer, a side wind had piped up, causing the anchor to drag. It had reset, but our moorage would definitely have to be redone. I motioned Sandy and Cameron to get back on board to help me with the maneuver. I quickly tied the dinghy up and had Sandy start the engine. I went forward to begin hauling in the anchor. Sandy released the stern tie line and pulled it aboard while I started raising the anchor. I asked Sandy to run us forward, so we wouldn’t drift back toward the powerboat now astern of us. About this time I heard a series of chirping sounds, and the motor was not running. Sandy said I’d better come back, since the motor wouldn’t start. Things were starting to get dicey, since we were starting to drift back toward the powerboat. I immediately let the anchor loose and the faithful Bruce grabbed right away. I cleated off the rode on a short scope and went back to see about the motor. When I keyed the starter it briefly tried to crank and then chirped. I immediately suspected a fouled prop, and when I tilted up the motor that’s exactly what I found. The dinghy tow line, which I had hurriedly tied off, had fouled the prop when we started drifting back. I was able to climb into the dinghy and unwrap the line, and the engine started right up. We then redid the mooring, this time setting the anchor with substantially more scope and at a different angle, and with a strong reverse pull from the engine.

For dinner Sandy prepared a pizza, which we baked on our backpack oven. We’ve fixed these several times before, and with good results. However, on this occasion the results were less than satisfactory. The temperature indicator doesn’t seem to be working properly, and so the crust ended up somewhat blackened. We ate it anyway, discarding the most heavily toasted portions of crust.


After dinner Cameron and I rowed ashore to fix up a boat name sign of our own. He guided me up the trail to the signing house, where he picked out a special place to leave our sign. He told me that he hopes that, one day, he can return here with his own kids and find the sign which we had left. As we hiked back to the boat we could see that a spectacular sunset was shaping up. We hurried our pace so that we could see it from the dinghy. We finished off our evening with carmel corn and a laptop slide show of our 2005 cruise to Alaska.


Montague Harbor to Ganges Marina

TRINCOMOLI CHANNEL-QUILBACK ROCKFISH 1We had a short run today, across Trincomali Channel to Ganges Marina. I raised anchor on a dead calm bay at 8am and we glided out into the channel which leads past Montague Harbor and out into Trincomali Channel. As we started across, a light breeze out of the south prompted me to raise sails. We would be on a reach, and I hoped to achieve a modest speed even in light air. At first it worked, and we clipped along at the rousing speed of 2.5 knots. For something to do I grabbed the fishing pole and decided to drag a lure. As we neared the western edge of the channel the breeze began to fail. Right then the spinning reel began to buzz. Fish on! I handed the rod to Cameron, and be commenced to reel the fish up. By the way it pulled, I feared we had another dogfish on the line, however, when the fish emerged from the depths, we were pleased to see that it was a nice sized quillback rockfish, about one pound in weight. Cameron was thrilled to have hooked a fish which we could keep and eat. I landed it with my folding net, and dispatched the fish with some squirts of denatured alcohol in the gills. I filleted the fish right on the spot, and in a few minutes, the fillets were in the frig, and the remains were drifting back down to feed the crabs. The fish was a nice and unexpected bonus, and was the first fish Cameron had caught which he could keep and eat.


We got into Ganges around 10:30am, with lots of day to look around. After securing the boat and registering with the Marina, we walked up into town. The first order of business was lunch. We had pizza at a nice outdoor table, overlooking the harbor. We spend the afternoon poking into shops and stores. Cameron picked out a couple of Hardy Boys mystery books to read during the flight home. Following an obligatory ice cream stop, we popped into the local grocery for a few items on Sandy’s list, and followed that with a visit to the fresh seafood shop, where we picked up some prawns to augment our rockfish fillets. Then it was back to the boat and some relaxation. Cameron spent his time out on the bow of the boat whittling on his bow and arrows.

P1190298 P1190297P1190313

After dinner, Cameron decided to give dinghy rowing another try. The air was calm in the marina, and we had a nice open fairway out from our dock. Cameron took to rowing across and back. He was really getting the hang of rowing. He really struggled with rowing the first time he tried, but he’s learned quickly, and has good control of the oars now. He’s really been opening up with us of late. Last evening, while talking with Sandy, he told her that he really missed his mom and sister, but that he also was feeling sat that our sailing trip was nearing its end. He asked Sandy if it was ok to feel that way. It’s such a treat to see how big a heart he has, and to see him share his personal feelings with us.

Ganges to Poets Cove Marina, South Pender Island

I awoke at 2am to the sound of raindrops hitting the cabin roof. About that same time, I heard Cameron get up to use the head. Since he was up, I decided to have him pull out the cockpit surround panels, which are stored right along side his sleeping bag. I pulled my jeans on, got up, and zipped the panels in place. I crawled back in, secure in the knowledge that when morning finally came, we could climb out onto dry cockpit cushions.

In the morning, I picked up some complimentary muffins at the marina office. They made for a quick breakfast as we motored out of the marina. It had rained off and on during the early morning hours, and was still drizzling as we headed for Pender Island. We had an 7 or 8 knot breeze on the nose, and with the P1190316 cockpit fully enclosed, on account of the rain, I didn’t bother trying to sail. While motoring, I taught Cameron how to play solitaire. About 3 miles out the rain quit, and the channel widened. It looked like I might be able to make Bedwell Harbour on two tacks if the breeze held, so I opened up the surround and set sails. Thee were a few whitecaps ahead, so I put a reef in the main. Almost immediately thereafter, the wind slackened, so I shook the reef out. The wind continued to fall, along with our speed and headway. I fired up the engine and motorsailed on our tack, then came about and set course for the south tip of Pender Island.

We arrived at Poets Cove Marina around noon. Because of our narrow beam, the dockmaster assigned us a slip on theP1190347 inside. The fairway to these slips runs right along the base of a cliff, and the entrance is extremely narrow (thus the question about our beam). I was uneasy about entering, but finally spotted a dock attendant at the end of the slip, so proceeded. We managed to tie up without difficulty. This place is very attractive, with nice amenities including pool, hot tub, spa, and nice restaurants. Sandy heated up left over smoked salmon alfredo for a hot lunch, and then we walked around to explore the resort. The pool looked inviting, so we grabbed our suits and went for a swim. The water was heated to around 85 degrees, and felt great on this overcast and rather cool day. I quickly gravitated toward the hot tub, and found some fellow boaters to chat with.


P1190319Following our swim we changed into dry clothes and headed up to the cafe for dinner. It was the perfect place to eat.P1190344 We ordered chicken wings for an appetizer, followed by gourmet burgers. After dinner we went for a walk to work our dinner off. I found a nice trail which led to a nice lake. We saw spotted a small group of deer out in a meadow. They seemed very tame and unconcerned with our presence. As we were walking back to the boat, Cameron asked if he could go swimming again. I saw no reason why not, although I assured him that I had no interest in going swimming again. He said that was fine. I told him it might not be much fun if no one else was there. He said that was ok too. I walked him up to the pool and he got into the water. He was the only one in the pool. Soon, too other kids about his age showed up. Before long, a wild series of water fights broke out. The kids figured out that they could create a regular fire hose flow by jamming one of those hollow noodles up against the hot tub jets. Wild periods of play alternated with conversation. They figured out their ages were nearly the same. They asked about the kind of boats each were on. The other two kids were quite impressed that Cameron lived in Hawaii, and that he’d flown all the way to Washington by himself. I’m sure Cameron will sleep soundly after all this activity today.


Princess Cove, Wallace Island to Montague Harbor, Galiano Island

The signs were all there yesterday for a change in weather: drop in barometer, halo around the afternoon sun, stiffening afternoon breeze, and a thickening haze in the sky as the sun was setting. When I rose this morning, the change was here. Solid overcast, and a chill in the air. The breeze remained out of the P1190231 south, and held prospects for an interesting upwind sail. We took time to eat breakfast before getting underway, and still were able to release our tie and raise anchor by 7:30am. I motored out of Princess cove and headed out into the open waters of Houston Passage. I engaged autopilot and prepared the boat for sailing. Drop and lock the rudders, lower the centerboard, head into the wind, raise the mainsail, fall off, pay out the genoa, tighten both the main and jib sheets for sailing close hauled, and bring her on course, as close to the wind as she would allow. I estimated wind speed at a little over 10 knots, and the seas were beginning to whitecap, so I set a single reef in the main. She sailed nicely, making good progress on the tack with less than 20 degrees of heel. We were able to maintain speed close to 4 knots, and we gained enough on the first tack to clear the south end of Wallace Island on the next tack. This gave us the entire width of Trincomali Channel to work with, and we continued making good headway toward our destination of Montague Harbour, about 6 miles to the south. Our third tack allowed us to clear a buoyed reef out in the middle of the channel, and it became obvious that, as we neared time for our fourth tack, we stood a good chance of being able to hold that tack all the way into the north side of Montague Harbour, which is where I wanted to anchor. Before coming about, I shook out the reef, since the wind had shown no signs of strengthening, and had actually abated a little. We’d made enough headway to sail toward our anchorage’s entrance on a close reach. The better angle, coupled with a full main and genoa, allowed us to hit speeds of 4.5 to 5 knots on this tack. We glided through the gap between Wise Island and Sphinx Island, which guard the entrance to the north anchorage. It looked like we would be able to sail all the way to our anchoring spot.

The anchorage held about 6 two masted schooners, and the largest was under full sail and working her way out of the anchorage. She was a lovely sight, andP1190233 we got great views of her from various angles as we sailed in. I held course for a nice patch of water, fairly close to shore and well apart from other anchored boats. Our speed fell off as we neared shore. Just before reaching a depth of 20 feet I furled the genoa and went forward to lower the anchor. Sandy turned the boat slightly, to luff the main and I lowered away. The only work our engine did this day, other than getting us out of the Princess Cove moorage, was to set our anchor at Montague Harbour. This was one of the best, and most productive, upwind sails I’ve ever experienced.

P1190236While I put the sail covers on, Sandy and Cameron prepared lunch. After lunch, I got the dinghy ready for going ashore. I also installed the cockpit surround, since it looked like it might rain. What appeared to be rain ended up being just a lowering fog. We went ashore and split up. Sandy went on a hike on the trail which follows the shoreline, around Gray Penninsula. Meanwhile, Cameron and I went on a beachcombing walk. The tide was out, so we explored tidepools, watched clams squirt, and examined shells, feathers, seaweed, and other fascinating things which abound here. I persuaded Cameron to hold a little crab. He survived the experience, but when he reached into a pool to pick up another, he got a little pinch for his trouble. Oysters were plentiful, and I wished I could get confirmation that shellfish were safe to consume here. Lacking official word, I was forced to pass up a vertible feast of clams and oysters. P1190237

We met up with Sandy back at the dinghy, and went on a dinghy tour of Montague Harbour. The main harbour is filled with mooring buoys, since this is a BC Marine Park. About half of the buoys were in use. We are happy to be anchored on the north side, however, since it’s much less crowded here. After returning to the boat, we took it easy. Cameron sat up on the bow, whittling on a piece of driftwood. I napped and Sandy read. This has been a very relaxing day.

After a tasty dinner of alfredo noodles and smoked salmon, we dinghied in to shore for a stroll down the Grey Penninsula loop trail. The sun was settling toward the western horizon, and in the lower angle light, everything seemed to glow. Cameron was determined to craft a bow and arrow, so he was on the hunt for sticks which could by made into arrows. I selected a stick which might serve as a bow. Thus armed, we proceeded through the woods. We found a bunch of black feathers, which we collected. They might do for fletching arrows. Our hike eventually brought us back to the beach, and we decided to sit on a log to whittle. I lent Cameron my folding pocket knife, and gave him some safety and technique tips. We noticed other people, up and down the beach, sitting back and watching the sunset develop. It proved to be worth waiting for. We lingered on the beach until the sun dipped behind a distant mountain. It was time to return to the boat for hot chocolate and herbal tea.






Poets Cove to Roche Harbor

We breakfasted quickly on muffins purchased in the Moorings Cafe at Poets Cove, and left our slip around 9am. Our destination was Roche Harbor, a short 7 miles away, so we were in no particular hurry. I messed around with the sails, grabbing what little the wind offered, and motor sailing most of the time. We crossed the international boundary around 11am, and Cameron raised our yellow “Q” flag once again. We continued motor sailing around the Turn Point P1190355Lighthouse, at the western tip of Stuart Island, and set our course across Haro Strait for Roche Harbor. About half a mile past the south western shore of Stuart Island, Sandy suddenly exclaimed “I see a fin!” She clarified that she’d seen an Orca’s dorsal fin, between us and Stuart Island. I dropped the throttle into idle and we all stared toward the area where she’d sighted the orca. A few moments later, we all spotted a pair of orcas as they rose to breathe. We couldn’t believe our luck. Soon we were seeing orcas all around us, mostly 300 to 400 yards out. I shut the engine off and unfurled a partial jib for control (we already had the main raised). We couldn’t believe our luck. Only a few days left on the cruise,P1190359 and we’d finally sighted orcas. And we were all by ourselves in their midst. No other boats around. We saw a couple large males, with their remarkable dorsal fins, easily 4 or 5 feet tall. Further out, toward the middle of Haro Strait, we saw tail slapping behaviour. I turned the camera on and tried for some pictures. I zoomed out to 12 power and watched for a chance. Then I saw a pair of females, not more than 200 yards away and headed right toward us. They next surfaced within 15 yards of our stern. I had just enough time to snap a picture. All I could see in the view finder were fins. About this time we started seeing whale watching boats, zooming into the area from several directions. The whales worked their way away from us, P1190353 with whale watchers in pursuit. We were thrilled with our experience, and didn’t attempt to follow. We once again reset our course for Roche Harbor. Sandy dug out our orca flag, and Cameron attached it to our flag halyard. We only fly it after sighting orcas.

Shortly after 1pm we tied up at the US Customs Dock, which is situated on the outer float of Roche Harbor Marina. IP1190364 grabbed our documents and walked into the little office. The Customs agent there was friendly and business like. Everything was in order, and he issued us a clearance number. Before leaving, however, an agricultural inspector boarded the boat for a look around. She emerged with our little tub of cherry tomatoes, which were on the prohibited list. We surrendered our contraband. Before leaving the dock a Customs agent politely obliged us by posing for a picture with Cameron, who was holding the US Customs patch which the agent had given him.

Disaster at Roche Harbor Marina

The sun shone brightly, and the air was nearly still. I got my slip assignment from the dockmaster after registering. The marina was very full, it being a Saturday and, as it turned out, a big wedding was being hosted that day. All the slips in the guest dock where we’ve stayed before, just below the restaurant, were filled. We were given a slip on “I” dock, in amongst the mega yachts. I idled my way down to “I” dock and swung into the fairway. Our assigned slip turned out to P1190390be very near the end, and I swung in too wide to make the slip. I figured to make a “u” turn by alternately reversing forward/reverse while at the same time reversing steering. My rudders and centerboard were all down, and it should have worked fine. I failed to take adequate account, however, of the slight current in the marina, which just happened to coincide with with the slight breeze. When I tried to make my turn, I continued to drift sideways toward the boats moored across the fairway when I tried to reverse. I noticed that my floating dinghy tow line had drifted close to the engine, so i didn’t dare give it stronger reverse throttle. I’d shortened the line, but hadn’t firmly snubbed the dinghy amidships, and there was just enough tow line to cause a potential problem. I was quickly running out of options. The slips I was drifting toward were mostly occuppied by very large motor yachts. I thought I could complete the turn in forward. The prow of a 40 foot motor yacht, whose pulpit was too high up to fend off, was my immediate threat. Our bow cleared, then our shrouds cleared and i briefly figured I was ok. At the last moment, however, the stock of the motor yacht’s crome plated danforth anchor snagged our backstay. I heard a twangP1190366 and a loud crack, glanced up, and to my horror saw the top half of the mast twist and break about half way up, right where the lower shrouds pin to the mast. It seemed to be in slow motion as the broken mast swung down. It dangled there, upper end in the water, still connected by a thin piece of aluminum. Shrouds, backstay, furled jib all lay about the cabin roof, cockpit and in the water. What a mess, and it felt like everyone in the marina was watching. Once I saw that Sandy and Cameron were ok and the prop was clear, I motored the rest of the way into the slip. The young marina attendant who was there to take our line had a shocked look on his face. He asked me “Do you think it can be fixed?” Another guy from the marina soon came over to find out what had happened. He asked me if I needed any help. I told him I thought I could clean up the mess, but did ask if I could borrow a hacksaw to finish dismembering my mast. He called for one, and then checked out the other boat, verifying that no damage had been done to the other boat.

I sent Cameron and Sandy off for a swim at the marina pool while I got to work straightening out the mess. First task was to stabilize the lower half of the mast which was still upright. Then I secured the broken top half, so that it wouldn’t drop further into the water if it broke completely free. Once I got control of the mast pieces I began disconnecting and removing spreaders, stays, shrouds, radio antenna, and the wires and cable which run up the interior of the mast. I figure that restoring the mast will be a major project. After all the miles we’ve cruised, and all the dockings I’ve made, it seemed almost unreal that this thing had really happened. I should have been able to make that turn. That slight breeze and unseen current had been my undoing. Aside from the frustration and embarassment, however, I was able to consider the bright side of the whole incident. No one had been hurt. No other boatr had been damaged. No additional damage besides the broken mast had been sustained by our boat. The accident had occured near the end of our trip, rather than at the start. I have insurance, and the damage can readily be repaired. Lastly, I’ll have much less work to do at the Oak Harbor boat ramp when I pull the boat out, since the mast is already down.

I was exhausted when I finished straightening things out. Sandy and Cameron returned from their swim and suggested we all go for ice cream. That sounded great to me. I also wanted to go for a swim, since I’d worked up quite a sweat taking thjings apart. I got into my swim suit and we walked over to the ice cream stand, which was doing great business. After finishing the ice cream, Cameron and I walked over to the pool. I was surprised by the few number of people in the water. As I took my watch and glasses off, in preparation for my swim, I heard the lifeguard say that they were having a pool break. That explained why no one was in the water. I walked over to ask how long it would be before people would be allowed back in. I was told the pool would likely be closed for the remainder of the day. A problem of contamination. Apparently, some mom had failed to appreciate the importance of swim diapers for her little one. That’s how my day was going.

P1190372I did manage to rinse off in the pool showers, and we all went on a walk before dinner. We took the opportunity to go on board a mega yacht, which was inP1190385 the marina and for sale. The list price was $5,999,995. She was 100 feet in length, and truly a floating palace. I calculated that it would cost close to $15,000 to fill her fuel tank. Cameron was duly impressed. We then walked out past the airstrip to the mausoleum, which was built by Mr. McMillan, the fellow who founded the Roche Harbor Cement and Lime Company.

We had dinner reservations at the McMillan House Restaurant. We got a table by the windows, and were able to take in the retiring of the colors ceremony, which has taken place at Roche Harbor since 1950. After all the day’s doings, with both high points and low points, we were tired following dinner, and returned to the boat. She looked only half there, without her mast.



Roche Harbor to Reid Harbor, Stuart Island

Today was a rather low key, lay back sort of day, and considering the ups and downs of yesterday, that felt just fine. We made the short passage from Roche Harbor to the Reid Harbor anchorage on Stuart Island in around an hour. I anchored the boat inside all the floating docks and mooring balls, in around 8 feet of P1190404 water. We had a snug spot, well clear of the other boats. We packed a lunch and went ashore at the State Park dock. We ate our lunch at a campsite table on the Prevost Harbor side of the island, and then set out on a hike over to the school house and treasure chest. Stuart Island is known for its one room school house, which is still in operation. This past school year saw only 2 students in attendance, but it was still operating. The Treasure Chest is something of an institution among cruisers. A local couple have produced printed tee shirts, vests, hats, sweatshirts and note cards, all featuring scenes and designs specific to Stuart Island. The unique thing about this souvenier shopping opportunity is that no payment immediately takes place. You select the item you wish to purchase, and you simply take it with you. Inside the plastic bag which holds the item is an addressed envelope, with the price of the item. When you get home, you mail the Treasure Chest operators a check. It’s all based on the honor system, and it’s apparently been working well for many years. It’s reassuring to know that such a system still has a place in our world today.


We reached the school house and treasure chest after walking up a long grade on the island’s gravel surfaced county road. I was wearing the shirt I’d bought,P1190399 just in honor of our visit. I particularly like the design, which features a small group of orcas swimming past the Turn Point Lighthouse in front, and a map of Stuart Island in the back. We were delighted to see that this design is still available, and Cameron quickly came to the decision that he wanted one just like mine. There was one left in his size, so he grabbed it and immediately put it on. Sandy took a picture of us both in our matching shirts. This shirt has particular meaning for him, since he saw orcas yesterday less than a mile from the Turn Point Lighthouse. He can show his friends the location using the map on the back of the shirt.

Shortly after we got back to the boat it started to sprinkle, so I put up the surround. Sandy has been encouraging me during the whole trip to teach Cameron how to play cribbage, and this seemed the perfect time to try. I got the cards and P1190411 folding cribbage board out, and began briefing him on the basics of the game. We started out by playing a practise game, with all cards dealt upright, so he could see how to play the hands. He quickly caught on, and I was pleased to see that he enjoyed the game. I let him play his own hands during the second game, reviewing how he played each hand following the play.

For dinner Sandy fixed one of Cameron’s favorite dishes, macaroni and cheese with sausage. He quickly cleaned his plate. P1190417 Afterwards, we tackled the project of making arrows for the bow he had whittled. I got my epoxy glue out, and Cameron fetched the plastic bag of crow feathers which he’d collected and saved during one of our hikes. We took a scissors and trimmed up several feathers for arrow fletching. I cut three grooves toward the back of each arrow, and epoxied the trimmed feathers to the shafts. The glue quickly set, and we soon had three arrows ready for testing. We’ll find a chance to see how they work in the next couple of days. The sun made a brief appearance at the head of our inlet, brightly illuminating the boats in the anchorage, before setting behind a low bank of clouds. Thus ended our day on Stuart Island.


Stuart Island to Fisherman’s Bay, Lopez Island

This morning the air was chilly, and a sharp breeze was ruffling the waters in our anchorage. It promised to be rough on the outside. We took our time getting underway, and didn’t raise anchor until 9:45am. Outside the entrance to Reid Harbor, the waters were indeed rough, with current ebbing strongly, and the southwest breeze working up confused seas. I headed across to the lee of Speiden Island, which promised to be sheltered from the wind. We were not,P1190445 however, protected from the strong ebb current, which cut our speed at 3000 rpm down to 2 knots or less all along the island’s north shore. Part way down the island, Sandy spotted a dozen or more Mouflan sheep, right at the tideline, hopping on the rocks and grazing on the seaweed. This makes the second time we’ve seen exotic Speiden Island animals on this trip.

We were again exposed to the wind once we cleared the island, however the seas were noticeably smoother as we crossed into San Juan Channel. The current was in our favor for a time, also, and our speed picked up to more than 7 knots for a while. We motored along, heading for the entrance to Fisherman’s Bay. Since the entrance is tight, and we were arriving near low tide, we took the cockpit surround down to improve visibility. We immediately discovered just how much protection it had been giving us from the wind. The bay was ruffled with small wind chop, and the flags were flying straight out. I picked out an anchoring spot just past the second of two marinas on the bay, and dropped our hook. The surround then went back up, so that the cockpit afford a pleasant place to sit. We had our lunch, and then I dinghied ashore, seeking an internet connection so I could open the e’mail from our new friends Lori and Duane. I got a connection at the restaurant at the head of the dock and gave them a call. They will pick us up for dinner at 5pm this evening. We are looking forward to seeing them again, and hearing whether they liked the used Macgregor they looked at this past weekend.

P1190451We had a delightful time with our new friends, Duane and Lori, at their home on Lopez. Lori picked us up at 5pm, and gave us a little tour of northern Lopez Island on the way to their place. Their Panabode cedar home is spectacularly sited on the brink of a steep cliff, just west of the Lopez ferry landing. Duane says that if you jump from their deck, the first bounce would be 80 feet below, and I believe him. He also says that he can toss a rock and hit the water, which must be at least 600 feet below. I believe that too. Of course, with such a dramatic clifftop location, the view of Lopez Sound and Upright Channel is incredible. Lori showed us around their fenced, raised bed garden, and Sandy and Cameron entertained their standard poodle, Dafney (or was it the other way around?). Duane served up a delightful meal, and our time with them slipped by in a blur, filled with stories about sailing and rock climbing. Almost before we realized it, we could see boats far below cruising by with their running lights glowing. It was getting late, and past time to head back to the boat. We said goodbyes, filled with appreciation for their generous hospitality and hopes for another get together in the not too distant future. Lori drove us back to Fisherman’s Bay, where we boarded the dinghy and putted back to the boat, with the night rapidly settling in. Back aboard, I grabbed my headlamp and flashlight, and I hauled the dinghy onto the foredeck for deflation and stowage. Tomorrow will hopefully be a high speed run back to Oak Harbor, followed by the drive back to Ken and Timi’s home.