Burwood Group to Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina – 7/11/2014 – Dramatic Events

Last night sounds from outside the boat disturb my sleep twice. The first time, I hear a light drizzle tapping on the cabin roof around 3am and go outside to grab the loose seat cushions and stow them below. The noise at 4am is much more disturbing. A rather loud clunk abruptly awakens me. There is nothing good about a loud clunk when a boat is at anchor. I scramble up the ladder in the early morning light, and immediately determine the cause of the noise. The tide has gone out, way out. We’re at a near zero tide. Although the boat is tethered with a stern line, we’ve been gently pressed in toward the island by a slight breeze. On the island side of the boat, a seaweed covered rock shelf is above water, perhaps 15 feet from the starboard side of the boat. The rock shelf slants gradually downward, into the water and, directly beneath our starboard stern corner, is a foot or less beneath the hull. When the boat gets pushed even slightly by the light wind, hull is bumping rock. I quickly let out slack on the stern tie line, and then hurry to the bow and draw in as much anchor rode as I can. I pull until the boat is held taut between the two lines. We now have two feet under us, but I have pulled in all but 30 feet of anchor rode. I had set it well yesterday, the wind is light, the tide is at its lowest ebb, and the stern line prevents any swing. I go back to bed.

When I rise at 6am on the 13th day of our cruise, the boat is peacefully floating in several feet of water. I adjust the stern line, put the coffee water on, and gather my fishing gear for a try with the rock fish. After downing a cup of coffee, I clamber into the dinghy with my fishing gear and putt slowly over to a channel between two islets. I immediately hook a nice rock fish, which I slip onto my stringer. In less than 30 minutes I catch 5 rock fish, a sculpin, a flounder, and a greenling. Catching fish for dinner and crab trap bait won’t be a problem in these waters. I save the 3 largest rock fish, return to the boat so Sandy can pass me the filet knife and a zip loc bag, and then go ashore to filet the fish. They will provide us dinner after we leave Echo Bay.

We’re only 3 miles from Echo Bay, and a nice breeze is ruffling the water out in the channel. I entertain visions of tacking my way across to the marina. Around 9am I uncleat the end of my stern line and slowly wind it back up on its reel. I hoist the main sail, raise the anchor, slowly motor out between a pair of small islands, and turn far enough to port so that the main can fill. I run out the jib and coast along at a stately 2 1/2 knots. I’d be content to maintain this speed until reaching the marina. However, as with many plans on this eventful day, this one is not to be. After two tacks our speed drops to less than a knot. I’m seeing boats from all directions heading for Echo Bay. Even though I called yesterday to reserve a slip, I decide we need to motor up and get in. As we near the entrance to the marina I see around 8 boats, large power boats and sailboats, milling about, waiting their turn to move in and get tied up. The radio chatters with talk between arriving boats and the dock attendant. The instructions are simple: get in line and wait your turn. Soon it’s our turn, and we head for our assigned slip. Since we won’t need power (good old solar panels), we are directed all the way inside, to dock 4. The busy dock attendant helps us with our lines, and we are moored at Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina. The sun is shining brightly. It is good to be here.

We immediately begin spotting familiar boats and friends we’ve met along our way: Spindrift, Second Wind, Diamond Wave and others. As with most remote marinas we have visited, this place feels cheerful and friendly. I walk up to the office to register and sign us up for a two night sstay, showers, garbage disposal, tonight’s fish and chip dinner, and tomorrow night’s prime rib dinner. I return to the boat to find Sandy busy straightening up and cleaning the cabin. We expect the couple from Diamond Wave to stop by for a look at our boat. It seems they may be interested in downsizing to a MacGregor some day. Sandy wants things to be presentable before they come on board. I help out and tend to a few boat chores. Before we know it, my watch reads 3pm. We decided to postpone showers until tomorrow. Since it was getting late in the day and close to happy hour (5pm), I felt we should put off walking over to Billy Proctor’s museum. I didn’t want to feel rushed while looking at his collection of stuff. I also wanted to allow plenty of time to just hang out and talk with this venerable source of local lore. Instead, I suggested we walk around the marina grounds for a while.

We stroll up the ramp and follow a small path which wanders around through the trees and past several buildings. Out in a clearing we find a multi colored patch of wildflowers. Someone must have scattered seed to get them started. I compose photographs from several angles.

We still have time to burn. We walk a little further and spot the ricketty footbridge which marks the start of the trail to Billy Proctor’s museum. Sandy suggests that we just walk a ways down the trail. We can return tomorrow and actually visit the museum. We seem drawn in by the crude dirt path which winds unevenly around rocks and trees, over roots, up and down slippery dirt steps which have been roughly cut into the slope. We often walk rough trails like this, so it’s no big deal. I’m in the lead. I step slowly and deliberately at a potentially slippery place, so Sandy can see where to put her foot. She slips anyway, but quickly gets up, and we continue a short distance to the most difficult terrain on the trail. Dirt steps have been cut into the steep slope for a distance of 10 or 12 feet; a thick length of rope hangs down, enabling us to grab on and steady ourselves as we scramble to the top of the rise. On the other side, more steps and another rope assist the descent. I’m beginning to wonder just how much further we should go before turning back. I glance behind me, and see Sandy shuffling along, curiously slower than usual. I pause at the top of a small rise and wait for her to catch up. I get a disturbing, uneasy feeling as she stops alongside me. Her jaw is set and she gazes intently off to the side, refusing to look me in the eyes. I know that look. She’s upset with me. I try to figure out what I’ve done, recalling her stumble and my failure to reach back and help her up. That’s it. The silent pause extends into several awkward minutes. She’s still not speaking to me. Finally, I risk a few words to her but her silence continues, and she still won’t look at me. I suggest we sit down and take a little break. She sits on a small log on one side of the trail. I sit across the trail from her. Several groups of hikers pass between us, on their way back for happy hour. I’m not feeling very happy, wondering what she’s upset about. I ask her if I’ve done something wrong. Is she feeling okay? I suggest we start back for the boat. She’s still not responding to me. We take a few steps. She seems unsteady. I notice that her tightly set jaw sags a bit on the right side, and some drool has escaped the corner of her mouth. A dreadful realization begins to displace my naivety and unwillingness to believe what I’m seeing. This looks like a stroke!

Not knowing what else to do, I grab hold of her and tell her we must walk back to the marina. I walk closely behind her, maintaining a strong grip under her arms and around her chest, steadying and guiding her forward. I dread the steep pitch, and have no idea how we’ll be able to cross it. She grabs hold of the rope and, with me pushing from behind, she somehow slowly ascends the series of dirt notches to the top. I circle around her and scramble partway down, ahead of her. I turn her into the face of the slope so she can back down. I grab her ankles from below, alternately squeeze first one, then the other, to signal which foot to step with as I guide her feet into successive footholds. We’re almost down when I lose my footing and fall to my knees. I’ve torn a 6 inch rip in the left knee of my jeans. I get up quickly, before Sandy has a chance to slip, and we pause at the base of the slope. We appear to be the last hikers on this lonely stretch of trail as we slowly, tentatively shuffle back toward the marina. We carefully step down the ramp toward the floating docks and begin encountering other boaters, chatting casually in clusters on the sterns of boats or making their way toward the dining hall for happy hour. We are in a different world and I somehow feel embarrassed over our situation. I don’t want to intrude on theirs. Instead of reaching out for help or assistance, I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. I am focused on getting Sandy back to the security of our boat.

Sandy still can’t look me in the face; she’s still silent. I see that she’s dragging her right foot. Somehow I get her back on the boat, down the ladder and into the cabin. I persuade her to lay down, and I tell her I’m going to try and find a doctor. I’ll be right back. I hurry up the dock, toward the marina office. It’s just past 4:30pm and closed for the day. There are only a few folks at the dining hall. I ask if anyone knows where Pierre is. They think he’s back toward the Lodge. I walk at forced pace back to the boat to check on Sandy. She’s just like before. I tell her I’m going out again to find a doctor. I return to the dining hall and find 20 or so people there. I ask if anyone is a doctor or knows if there is one on a boat. No one knows of any doctors at hand. I encounter a marina employee, I ask her to help me find Pierre and I tell her I think my wife is having a stroke. I can hardly choke the words out. She locates Pierre near the lodge, but he isn’t aware of any doctors among the boaters in the marina. In the midst of this scene I hear the welcome words “There’s a doctor up here.” I look up to the upper deck at the lodge and see a young guy looking down at me. “I’m a doctor. I’ll be right down.” He quickly introduces me as Will, and as we walk to our boat, he asks me to describe the symptoms and he asks me when they first started. I’m amazed at how difficult it is to think back and establish an estimated timeframe. I don’t want to overstate or understate the time. 4:15pm is my best guess. It is now about 5:15. Will enters the cabin, introduces himself to Sandy and does a quick but purposeful examination. He tells me she’s had a stroke, and it’s imperative for her to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Pierre is on the scene and calls for the medevac helicopter. The chopper will arrive in about 40 minutes, flying out of Port McNeil, I think.

My mind feels scrambled as I try to stay calm and think clearly. Pierre tells me not to worry about the boat. They’ll take good care of it in our absence. Will asks me about Sandy’s medical history and what prescriptions she is taking. I show him her two pill bottles. I ask him what I should bring with me on the helicopter. He tells me to grab toiletries and personal items. I grab an empty West Marine tote and begin tossing Sandy’s overnight things, my toothbrush, and a few other things into it. I remember to pull out our passports. I stuff them into a zipper pocket in the laptop computer case. I slip the cellphone into my pocket and then check to see if we happen to have 110 volt charging cords for the computer and cell phone with us. I’m in luck. Sandy had the foresight to put both of them into the computer case, even though we normally only use the 12 volt charging cords on boat trips. My eyes scan the boat, but I can’t think of anything else to grab. Someone says that the helicopter is on its way, and will be here in 15 minutes.

Will, Pierre and a few others discuss how to best get Sandy to the heliport. It’s across a short stretch of water, at the head of the bay. I suggest that I motor the boat over to the dock just below the heliport. That sounds like a good idea, so I start the engine, back out of the slip with a dock attendant on board, and motor across. Helping hands secure the boat and we wait for the helicopter to arrive. Dr. Will is there to assist, and to transfer information to the paramedics when they arrive. Someone says “I hear the chopper” and soon, the dark blue medevac helicopter circles overhead and quickly settles into a small clearing just beyond a thin screen of trees near the head of the dock. Two EMT’s walk purposefully down to the boat. One carries a large valise filled with medical gear. Following well established procedures, they check Sandy’s vital signs. They talk with Dr. Will and unfold the clamshell stretcher on the dock, alongside our boat. I stand by helplessly as the EMT’s assist Sandy up, out of the cabin, into the cockpit, and onto the stretcher.

While preparing her to be moved up to the helicopter, one of the EMT’s tells me I won’t be able to come along in the helicopter. There isn’t enough room. This news shocks me, and I immediately begin to protest. My urgency apparently hits home and the EMT says they’ll see if there’s a way to fit me in. By the time they’ve carried Sandy up to the helicopter the pilot and EMT’s have figured out how to slide Sandy’s stretcher far enough forward to allow one of the EMT’s to squeeze in behind her. It’s a relief to know that I won’t be left behind.

The pilot goes through her preflight procedures and finally lifts off. There is a swirling crosswind, and the trees seem to crowd in uncomfortably. The helicopter must rise vertically until it’s high enough to clear the tops of the trees. It then swings out over Echo Bay. I look down, trying to see our little boat among all the larger yachts, but I can’t spot it. Soon we’re rushing south, being helped along by a 30 to 40 knot tailwind. When we reach Johnstone Strait the helicopter shakes violently, due to the strength of the wind there. Down below, the waters of Johnstone Strait have been whipped to a froth. Even from our flight altitude, I can clearly see how enormous the waves must be. Few boats could avoid capsizing in such conditions. As we fly over Vancouver Island the pilot is talking with the Campbell River Airport. I learn that we won’t be able to land directly at the hospital; something about the heliport there being closed due to construction. We’ll land at the airport and then transfer to a waiting ambulance for the 10 minute drive to the hospital. More time lost. The pilot lies about our estimated time of arrival, saying we’ll be there sooner by 10 minutes. This way, she says, there’ll be no chance that we have to wait for the ambulance to arrive after we’re on the ground. That’s great by me; let the ambulance wait for us.

We land after a flight of about 40 minutes and are quickly transferred to the ambulance. I ride in the front passenger seat for the ride to the hospital. Hospital personnel begin checking on Sandy’s condition while I took care of hospital admissions procedures. Sandy went in for x-rays and CAT scan, and then we were taken to a patient room to wait for the doctor. By this time, she was regaining her speech, and could maintain a conversation, slower than usual, and she tripped up on every 10th word or so, but she was talking, and noticably improving. Then the doctor came in, looking very serious. He said he was sorry, but he had some very heavy information to share. He said that he’d reviewed her CAT scans with a neurologist, and they agree that she has a clot in the brain which has done some damage, and that she has a completely clogged left carotid artery. Despite her improvement, she could experience another stroke at any time and, therefore she needed to receive complete bed rest, with her head lying down, for at least the next 48 hours. Then he said he’d leave us alone so we could absorb this news.

We talked, but the whole scene seemed too unreal. Too much, too fast. After a while, Sandy was moved up to a room on 3rd floor. There were 5 other patients in the room, on beds separated by curtains on overhead tracks. I spent the night in a chair, next to her bed. A nurse brought me a sandwich around midnight, my first meal since noon. First light at 4am took forever to arrive.

Campbell River Hospital to home – 7/9/2014 to 7/15/2014

The next several days were a rollercoaster ride in slow motion. Medical tests, evaluations, and analyses. Visits by caring, engaged doctors, and explanations of what had happened, along with their search for the question on our minds: “Why”. Sandy lacks virtually all high risk factors for stroke: non smoker, low blood pressure, healthy diet, lots of exercise, no family history of stroke. Two more days were added to her period of bed rest. I began the process of contacting family and friends, sharing with them the news and giving updates. Her condition continued to improve. By Friday the doctor said that, barring any surprises, she could be released from the hospital on Monday. I arranged for our son Ken, who lives in Snohomish, to drive up on Sunday. The checkout process went smoothly on Monday, following a final visit by Sandy’s attending physician. With IMG 1814 (1) great joy we rolled her out the front door of the hospital on Mondy morning, and drove down to the Nanaimo, where we caught the ferry to Twassen. Crossing the border posed no problems or delay, and at 8pm we pulled into Ken’s driveway for a joyful reunion with our daughter in law and granddaughter. Our other son, Dave, arrived next morning, and he drove us home to Leavenworth.

It had been an amazing oddessy. Sandy had been fortunate in so many ways, and we had been aided and supported by a great number of wonderful folks. Pierre, Tove and the crew at Echo Bay have been great, providing critical assistance during the emergency, reassuring us that our boat is in good care with them, and expressing their joy at Sandy’s progress. The emergency responders, and the doctors, nurses, and staff at Campbell River Hospital were remarkable, both in their professional skill but also in terms of their genuine caring for Sandy and I. Extra effort, attention to detail, cheerfulness, gentleness and warmth characterized their activities. We will ever be appreciative of their care.

The cruise is now on temporary hold. I’ve begun making plans to fly back up to Echo Bay with a friend, this next week if all goes well, so I can get back on board Chinook, and begin retracing the way back to Oak Harbor. Sandy will stay with Ken while I’m gone. I’ll resume posting as we cruise southward, so I can provide closure to this story.

Lake Washington to Echo Bay (via Kenmore Air Floatplane) – 7/24/2014

The day has finally arrived to begin the process of retrieving the boat. Ever since Sandy’s stroke on July 9, Chinook has been moored at Echo Bay Marina, in the able and generous care of Pierre, Tove, Dale and the crew at Echo Bay. I am eager to get back up there and finish the voyage which Sandy and I started a month ago. Accompanying me will be my long time friend Peter. We will travel by float plane with Kenmore Air, departing at the north end of Lake Washington at 9am.

Son Ken drops Peter and I off at Kenmore Air Harbor in time for our 8:15am checkin. We’re each allowed 25lbs of carry on luggage, and we pack every pound allowed to us. I have brought a couple framed pictures of Sandy from earlier, happy times on this cruise, as well as some special balsamic vinegar and flavored olive oil from Leavenworth as gifts to express our thanks for the help which Pierre, Tove and the crew have extended to us. Peter has brought along a bottle of Snowdrift hard cider, which he produces at his excellent cidery. P1220184 We’re flying in a Beaver floatplane, along with 4 other passengers. One lady is flying up to Port McNeill where she’ll rejoin her husband on their power boat. Three others are going to Sullivan Bay Marina, and then there are Peter and I, bound for Echo Bay.

The floatplane lifts off Lake Washington just a few minutes after our scheduled departure. It’s generally overcast, and the pilot flies just below the cloud layer, at an elevation of around 1200 feet. We fly up Admiralty Inlet past Port Townsend and then out over the San Juans. By the time we approach the Canadian border the ceiling has lifted, and the sun is starting to break out. We climb to about 4000 feet. The view looking down at the Gulf Islands is captivating. I find myself looking down at places where Sandy and I cruised on our way north, at the start of July. The pilot begins descending as we approach Nanaimo.P1220193 We land at the float plane dock which serves as Canadian Customs checkin station. We have our passports and declaration forms ready when we step off the plane. The customs officials are formal and businesslike. They ask a few obligatory questions before welcoming us to Canada. After a short break to visit restrooms and to fuel the plane, we take off again for the next leg of the flight. We fly out over the Strait of Georgia, passing very near Campbell River. I look out at the town where Sandy received such excellent hospital care, and I’m able to spot the airport where the medevac helicopter landed, and the hospital where she stayed. I snap pictures of both places. P1220195 Soon after, we are over Johnstone Strait and making our approach to Port McNeill. We land at the marina, drop the lady off, and again fuel the plane. We take off again, headed east toward the Broughtons. We land at Sullivan Bay to drop our other 3 passengers off, and to pick up several folks who are headed back to Seattle. Then it’s one more take off and landing. P1220206 At around 1pm we touch down at Echo Bay, and taxi up to the floatplane dock. I see Pierre up by the dining hall, looking down at us. I wave at him. It feels great to be back at Echo Bay.

Peter and I walk up the ramp to the office to check in. Tove greets me with a big hug. We sign up for the prime rib dinner that evening. Pierre walks in and warmly greets us. They ask about Sandy, and I give them both the latest good news. Peter and I walk down the dock to the boat. It’s just like I left it, and in great shape. While I was gone they pulled the dinghy out of the water and opened the drain so rain water could escape. They also turned all the panel breakers off, except the refrigerator, and they periodically checked the frig and threw out food which had gone bad. I felt so appreciative of all their consideration and attention. Peter and I fixed a quick lunch, stowed some gear, and then walked the trail over to Billy Proctor’s Museum. Sandy had her emergency on this very same trail, nearly 2 weeks before. For me, it was an emotional walk as I noted the place where she slipped and fell, and the stretch where I first noted that she was having trouble. And of course, I marveled at the steep pitch with the hand hold rope. How she got up and over that stretch, and then back again with the full effect of a stroke, is beyond understanding.

DSCF6475DSCF6472When we got to the museum we learned that Billy was not there. He had gone to town in the morning, and wouldn’t be back until late. However, a young guy was tending the museum, and so we were able to walk in and look over Billy’s amazing collection of stuff. We walked back to the marina with just enough time to pick up a few groceries at the store, before dinner time. The prime rib dinner was excellent, with heaps of food. Tove asked beforehand if she could mention my name and briefly describe the drama we had gone through. I assented, and she gave a brief explanation of Sandy’s emergency, while emphasizing the miraculous nature of her recovery. The gathered diners responded with applause. After dinner Peter and I returned to the boat, and made ready for our departure tomorrow, and the start of our voyage back to Oak Harbor.

Echo Bay to Village Island – 7/25/2014

We didn’t feel the need to start particularly early this morning. We enjoyed our coffee, juice and cereal breakfast, finally backing out of the slip which had been Chinook’s home for the past 2 weeks, at around 8am. We motored out toward the Burwood Group, so Peter could have a chance to view the culturally modified cedar tree and the small cedars where cedar bark had been harvested. DSCF6479 While there I caught some flounder to use as crab bait later in the day. During the morning run I had some brief troubles with the depth sounder, GPS, and autopilot. I was able to resolve each problem, but I’m wondering if this is a sign of things to come. We ate lunch while underway, and arrived at Village Island, our planned destination, a little after 1pm. I picked out an attractive little cove, protected from the main channel by a series of small rocky islets. One other boat was anchored in the cove, but there was plenty of room for us to move in, beyond the other boat. Peter circled and surveyed the depth while I rigged the trip line and prepared to lower the anchor. We set anchor in about 25 feet of water. We should still be in about 12 feet of water at tomorrow’s 8am low tide.

As we were gathering up things to take with us on our dinghy explore, we noticed a sailboat headed in, toward our anchorage. He motored past the first boat and then headed right toward us. He slowed down not more than 50 feet from where we were sitting, and well within our circle of swing. It was obvious that they were preparing to drop their anchor. I called over to them and pointed out our anchor buoy, telling them it was a trip line marking right where our anchor was set. They ignored my comments, acting like they didn’t understand and saying there would be plenty of room. Clearly, they don’t know how a MacGregor wanders while at anchor.

Things were ok for the time, so I set up the crab trap and set it out. We then motored around the corner, toward the abandoned First Nations village which is on this island. DSCF6486The beach where we went ashore was littered with shards of broken glass. We could see a couple of cedar poles sticking up above the dense thimble berry and blackberry vine brush which covered the site. A narrow trail led up, into the brush. Before going more than 100 feet we encountered the first pile of very fresh looking bear crap. This was some ofDSCF6485 the biggest bear crap I’ve ever seen, and I have no doubt that it was grizzly sign. I was glad I was carrying my bear spray and air horn, however, considering the density of the brush. I’m not sure if I could have used either in time, if we’d encountered a bear.

DSCF6480We met some other folks who were also visiting the site. We walked up into several house structures, which were in an advance stage of deterioration. It’s hard to say when this place was last inhabited, but from the looks of the midden along the beach, this site has been home to aboriginal people for thousands of years. We were told where to look for the DSCF6481DSCF6484DSCF6482remains of a fallen carved totem pole. We finally spotted it, lying just above the beach. We identified a creature which looked like it might be a salamander, and another which perhaps was a bear. This totem is rapidly rotting away, but even in its present state, it possessed a remarkable beauty.DSCF6487

By this time the off/and/on rain showers, which were with us the entire day, had returned, so we steered the dinghy back toward our boat. We fixed some rum and coke and listened to music, snug in our heated cabin. While so occupied Peter glanced out the window and raised an eyebrow. The sailboat which had dropped anchor so close to ours was now sitting not more than 10 feet off our beam. I climbed into the dinghy and simply reached across to their deck. I rapped on their hull and when the captain came out I said that he had a problem. Amazingly, at first he seemed inclined to leave things as is. I told him this was not an acceptable situation, and he finally roused his crew. They pulled anchor and reset at a respectable distance. Later in the evening, they dinghied over and the captain apologized, acknowledging his error. I thanked him for coming over, and I think they parted with all of us feeling better about the incident.

We fixed up a great spaghetti dinner, complete with fresh salad and red wine. Sandy’s menu is still scoring points, even if she isn’t on hand to enjoy it. After dinner I rowed ashore to burn trash while Peter cleaned up the dishes. We sat in the cockpit for about an hour as evening settled in, enjoying the soft shades of gray and green, and the slight hint of color where thinning clouds brightened with filtered light from the setting sun.

Village Island to Matilpi – 7/26/2014

This will be our last day in the Broughton’s, and we start slowly. We take the time to fix french toast, and don’t get off the anchor until 8:30am. Fog has settled in overnight, and this morning all is gray. The fog layer is close to the DSCF6491 surface and not too thick, suggesting that we’ll have sunshine later in the day. After all the rain yesterday, we will welcome the change. As a sign of our optimism, we take down the cockpit enclosure and lower the bimini. We’re rewarded by clearing skies and glassy smooth water.

DSCF6496A friend has told me that the waters in this area offer good salmon fishing, so I deploy the downrigger and drag a lure for several miles. The fish fail to cooperate, but it’s nice nonetheless to put along at 2 knot trolling speed. The same friend who tipped me off on his favorite salmon hotspots also showed me where, along the shore of Mound Island, DSCF6499 we could spot some old aboriginal tree burials. He says he’s found old cedar boxes, covered with moss, and placed up in the trees in this area. We cruise by slowly and respectfully, but have no more luck spotting burial boxes than we did catching salmon. But the beauty of this place is reward enough.

DSCF6501We pause at a shallow bay where the cruising guide says we can find the Monks Wall. The directions are good, and we find this wall. It’s a very curious structure, built by early pioneers. The wall is about 3 feet high, and runs about 1/4 mile. It’s made of stacked boulders. The amount of work required to build it had to be incredible, and we can’t figure out its purpose. It’s too low for an animal enclosure, and it simply runs in a straight line. Very strange.

We pick up the pace for the run to Lagoon Cove, where we take on gas. The wharfinger remembers me visiting a few weeks earlier and asks how my trip has been. I give her a strange look and start to tell her the story. Before I get two lines out her face changes and she says “Oh, you’re the ones that had to be medevaced out. How’s Sandy doing?” Somehow, I’m not that surprised that they’ve heard the story of our drama here.

We catch the last of the flood, and enjoy a 2 knot push DSCF6506DSCF6505down Chatham Channel. A short distance we anchor in a pretty spot called Matilpi. The shell beach markes this DSCF6504 place as an old village site. We’re tucked in behind a pair of islands, and it’s very sheltered. We share the anchorage with two other boats. We barbque shishkabobs for dinner, and they turn out great. I spend time after dinner trying to calculate a strategy for passing the tidal rapids tomorrow. It will be a large tide, so we won’t be able to run both Greene Point and Dent rapids in the same day. We’ll likely break up the run with a stay at Blind Channel Resort. It will be an early start tomorrow, so will turn in early.

Matlipi to Blind Cbannel Marina – 7/27/2014

I’m up at 4:20am, so we can cruise Johnstone Strait during the early morning calm and pass Whirlpool and Greene Point rapids near their slack times. According to the current tables, by the time we reach Greene Point rapids it will be too late to safely challenge Dent Rapids, so we’ll save that for tomorrow.

It’s still quite dark when I rise. I dress warmly, turn the coffee water on, flip the switches for the running lights, start the engine and prepare to depart. I raise the anchor by 4:45am and slowly ease our way past the other two boats in the anchorage. It’s just beginning to brighten in the east, but still quite dark out. I’ll have to watch carefully for debris in the water. Relying on GPS I find the center of the DSCF6507 channel and work my way out toward Johnstone Strait. Around 5:15am Peter slides the hatch back and hands me a cup of coffee, which I sip as we head down a glassy smooth Johnstone.

Peter and I take turns manning the helm as we motor along. I let out my fishing line for much of the way, but with no luck. As we near Whirlpool Rapids we begin seeing other boats, both coming and going. We will arrive around 30 minutes before slack, and will arrive at Greene Point Rapids about 40 minutes after slack. It’s the best compromise I can come up with. Current at both places is slight, and we pass them with ease. We near Blind Channel Resort around noon. We will fuel up and take a slip here. We will fill the water tank, pick up a few groceries, buy some beer, and sign up for dinner at the restaurant.

DSCF6514DSCF6516We get assigned an inside position on slip 6A. A large sailboat is outside us, and after we dock, a pair of large trawlers tie up across from us. Once again we are the smallest boat in the marina, by a long shot. And, since we’re completely boxed in, we won’t be leaving until the sailboat in front of us takes off. We’re told that they will be leaving early.

After tying up we go for a walk up their forest trail, to see the big cedar. I’ve done this hike before, when Sandy and I stayed here while on our way up to Alaska. The tree seems bigger than I remember. It seems rather lonely among all the second growth. I can just imagine what this place must have been like when the forest was filled with giants like this one.

Blind Channel Resort to Village Bay on Quadra Island – 7-28,2014

There’s no point in getting up early, since we’re hemmed in by other boats and we can’t check out until the marina office opens at 8am. Also, a later start works in our favor, since we need to time the slack at Dent, which occurs near noon, and we’re only 2 hours away. We get up at 6:30 anyway, and enjoy our coffee in the cockpit in brilliant sunshine. Boats start pulling out around 8am, and we join the exodus. DSCF6519 A guy we talked to yesterday says the silver salmon fishing can be good in the bay just this side of Dent, so we head out against the ebb, intending on doing some downrigger trolling while waiting for Dent to go slack. We reach Denham Bay about an hour and a half before Dent is safe to pass, and I hopefully set out my gear. Several other boats are also fishing in the vicinity. I use every trick I know, but we don’t get a single strike. The day is too beautiful for lack of fishing luck to spoil.

Around 11:45 it’s “lines up” and time to head through Dent and the two other rapids which follow in quick succession. As we near the narrows we start encountering northbound boats, and we join with the southbound flotilla. There don’t seem to be as many boats passing through as Sandy and I saw on our northbound passage. The water is mostly smooth as we clear Dent. The flood has started by the time we reach Gillard Pass, DSCF6528and it’s beginning to noticably run at Yaculta. Our engine is running at around 2500 rpm, which usually generates around 5.5knots on still water. We accelerate to over 8 knots, and see some small whitewater current lines. It’s fun, but no problem.

Once clear of the rapids, I fix lunch and we kick back in the shade of the bimini, eat our grilled chicken sandwiches, and watch the scenery pass by. We continue on down the main channel, and gaze over toDSCF6527 Hole in the Wall, which opens to starboard. We take the next cut off, which is named White Rock Passage. It will lead us over to Quadra Island, at the head of the Strait of Georgia. This passage is extremely narrow, with boulder fields on either side. It’s only 5.5 feet deep at a zero tide in one place. Two sets of range markers help you keep to the center of the channel. We carefully line up with the range markers, and motor through without difficulty. It’s a scenic and fun passage.

After exiting White Rock Passage, we enter a broad channel which leads down to the Strait of Georgia. We pick up a light breeze and decide to raise the main, pay out the jib, and do some sailing. It’s upwind sailing, in mostly light air. We’re playing more than traveling, but we do make some headway and I get to dry out the DSCF6531main. After a couple hours of tacking, our wind finally fails, so we fire up the engine and begin searching for an anchorage. We had thought of staying at Rebecca Spit, but I pick up some radio traffic which makes it sound crowded there, so we study the chart, looking for a likely little cove. Village Bay, on the northwest side of the channel looks promising, so we head there. On approach we see one other sailboat at anchor, but there appears to be plenty of room. We go inside the other boat and find a comfortable patch of water with 25 feet of depth. Just perfect. The anchor sets hard on the first try. Soon we’re sipping rum and cokes, enjoying the warm late afternoon.

Village Bay to Tribune Bay – 7/29/2014

Long day ahead, so I’m up at 4am and off the anchor by 4:25. A light breeze is drifting out of our bay. To the east, just a hint of lightness in the otherwise dark, star filled sky. The morning star is brightest by far. I love this time of day, everything so calm, quiet and peaceful. We’re the only boat moving. Running lights are on; there is no chatter on the VHF. At the mouth of the bay I raise the main, in hopes that the breeze will strengthen and give us a push. It remains fickle and light, but I leave it up anyway. One can always hope. Peter passes a welcome cup of coffee out to me, and joins me in the cockpit.

We motor out toward Cape Mudge, which is a recognized salmon fishing hotspot. We find a half dozen boats out trolling, and we join them. I fish for just over an hour, however, in the end, salmon will not be on the menu this evening. I do manage to hook a pair of “shakers”, very juvenile salmon which are too small to keep and must be “shaken” off the hook. A small dogfish shark also gets the shake. Around 8:15 it’s “lines in” and we head south, down a very tame Strait of Georgia. I set a waypoint just off the northeast corner of Hornby Island, about 29nm down the Strait. We plan to anchor in Tribune Bay, on the south side of Hornby.

The breeze remains light as we motor south. We hear the Canadian military scolding boaters who attempt to cross “Whiskey/Golf” a military exercise area just east of Nanaimo. When it’s operating, boaters must stay out of the area. Obviously, DSCF6533 several boats haven’t gotten the message, at least until Winchelsea Control hails them with their powerful VHF radio transmitter. We will pass through the area tomorrow, however, I see a route close to shore which should be ok. Just past noon the sea turns to glass, and as I gaze astern, I can see our wake rippling out for miles behind us.

Around 3pm we arrive at Tribune Bay, a large south facing bay with a broad sand beach at its head. This is clearly an extremely popular place. I count at least 70 boats here when we arrive, and more come in after us. However, there is plenty of room for everyone, us included. We pick out a spot close to the sandstone bluffs on the eastern shore of the bay. We suffer a small mishap while setting the anchor, catching the DSCF6535 dinghy bridle in the prop. The engine and prop are fine, however, the bridly gets cut in two. Truth be told, that old bridle has been worrying me for a while. It’s pretty badly frayed, and past time for a new one. I just happen to have a nice length of half inch poly line on board, so the afternoon project becomes splicing up a new bridle. Once it’s complete, I go for a quick swim in 70 degree water. It feels great. Then, we dinghy ashore and go for a walk along the beach. Peter comes across a faint pictograph depicting a stick man, etched into the sandstone at the base of the bluff. I’ve left the camera on the boat, so no picture is taken. We are sipping on some nice red wine, munching crackers and cheese, which serve admirably as the evening appetizer. Our dinner will be a taco salad, which represents the last of the prepared meals which Sandy made and packed for this trip. Not sure what we’ll do for dinner tomorrow, but we have lots of good food on board, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something.

Clam Bay to Oak Harbor – July 31, 2014 – We just keep on going

DSCF6553Our plan is to rise early and cruise southward, through the Gulf Islands, cross back into the US, clear Customs at Roche Harbor, and then stop for the night somewhere close to Deception Pass, so we can time tomorrow’s 7:30am slack. I check the house battery before getting underway, and it’s still sitting strong at 12.5 volts, even after we watched a couple of movies on the laptop the night before. I haul the anchor in and we idle our way out of the anchorage around 4:45am. The sky is once again clear, the waters calm as we commence our cruise down Trincomali Channel in the emerging daylight. We encounter several ferries as we near Navy Channel. They can easily surprise the unsuspecting boater at this crossroads of channels, popping suddenly out from behind Prevost or North Pender Island. We also encounter a group of 7 or so canoes, each with 8 or more paddlers. They’re flying various flags, apparently First Nations paddlers out on some sore of excursion. They move surprisingly quickly across our bow. It’s good to see them out on these waters.DSCF6566

I make an unsettling discovery while going below for breakfast, when I happen to glance at the digital voltmeter. It should be reading over 13 volts while we’re under power, however, the readings for both the ignition and house batteries are down in the 12.3 volt range. Here we are, on almost the final day, and something has gone wrong with the charging system. It’s amazing how a discovery such as this can instantly destroy one’s feeling of wellbeing. I now have something to worry about. I reassure myself by thinking that we’re nearly home, and that the solar panels should help keep the batteries up, but it’s still unsettling.

DSCF6556As we enter Swanson Channel I give the downrigger and salmon fishing gear one last try. It sure would be nice to hook into a nice coho before we cross the international boundary (I’m only licensed to fish in Canada). However, this is not to be, and when the GPS shows us crossing the line, I reel in for the final time, and stow the fishing gear. I also lower the Canadian courtesy flag and raise my golden yellow “Q” or quarantine flag. I’ll fly it until we clear Customs at Roche Harbor.

We keep a sharp eye out for orcas as we near Stuart Island and the Turn Point Light. On my last trip through these waters we were rewarded with a nice sighting of orcas just south of Turn Point. Not this time, however. Apparantly both orcas and salmon are hanging out elsewhere this time.

We quickly eat our final apple as we near the Customs dock at Roche Harbor. As we make our approach we find the Customs dock completely filled with boats, except for one small space right behind a US Customs patrol boat. This ominous craft is dark gray in color, and it sports 4, if you can believe it, yes 4 300 hp outboards on her stern. I’ve seen triple 300’s before, even triple 350’s, but never a quad. I wonder how often they need all that horsepower. As we idle in, the patrol boat fires up and backs away from the dock, leaving us a nice spot to tie up. I grab our passports and boat registration papers, and walk up to the Customs office, where I wait my turn. Before long, I’m face to face with a very stern looking Cusoms Official. After providing the correct answers to the standard questions, he directs me to follow another officer back to the boat. They need to check for limes, green onions and a few other items on their black list. The officer goes on board, does a rather cursory check, and then clears us in.

Before starting the engine I give the voltmeter a check. Both battery readings have come up, presumably due to the solar panels charging. Sure enough, when I start the engine, the readings drop back down. It’s a mystery I’ll have to solve later. We dodge boats on our way out into Spieden Channel, which is strongly ebbing. As we pass between Spieden Island and San Juan Island we DSCF6567enter an extensive area of tidal rip current, with 2 to 3 foot standing waves. Our speed slows until we clear the northeast corner of San Juan Island. The adverse current is unwelcome for more than the obvious reason. I’ve opted to not take on fuel at the Roche Harbor fuel dock. I’ve carefully calculated our distance traveled, and rate of fuel consumption. Although my second 12 gallon tank is nearly empty, I still have 9 gallons in plastic jerry cans, and I figure that will be enough to get us home, with a few gallons to spare. I realize, however, that adverse currents will cut that small margin even thinner.

Boat traffic here in the heart of the San Juans can be simply crazy. After all the lonely cruising we’ve enjoyed in waters up north, it’s hard adjusting to Bayliners and the like, plowing huge wakes in every direction. It’s hard to make headway when I have to slow and turn into wakes every 5 minutes or so. Things finally seem to settle down as we cruise eastward, through the channel between Shaw and Orcas Islands. I’ve got the autopilot set, and we’re motoring comfortably at 5.5 knots when, suddenly, I hear an abrupt, increasingly loud roar astern. I am shocked as I quickly glance over my right shoulder and see a large Bayliner, plowing an enormous wake and rapidly overtaking us, not more than 15 feet to starboard. The “captain” of this vessel gives us a silly grin and a wave of the hand as he roars on by. I use one of the precious seconds I have to shake my fist at him, before disengaging the autopilot as fast as possible, cutting the throttle, and cutting a sharp turn into his turbulent 4 foot wake. We barely make the turn, but still get severly jolted. We’re outraged, but utterly helpless as he races away. This intentional, irresponsible behaviour could have seriously damaged the boat if I’d been just slightly slower in reacting, and beyond that, if I’d had passengers below, our up on deck, major injury or worse could have occurred. I’ve encountered rude boat operators many times in the past, however, this guy was simply outrageous.

DSCF6569DSCF6571As we enter Thatcher Pass, we begin reevaluating our cruising plan. It’s only around 2:30pm. We decide to press on, across Rosario Strait and toward Deception Pass. We expect to reach the vicinity of Deception Pass around 4:30pm, which just happens to coincide with the peak of flood, which is projected to run at 6 knots. I figure we can duck into Bowman Bay, perhaps fix some dinner, and then run Deception an hour or two after peak flood. As we get close, we see several boats heading into the approach to the narrow pass. I make a snap decision: let’s go ahead and run it. I raise the rudders and centerboard and in we go, under the steel arch of the Deception Pass highway bridge, which spans the shear walled gorge of Deception Pass, more than 100 feet above my masthead. I set the throttle at 3000 rpm and try to steer to the center of the current. Off to either side, nasty whirlpools spin off toward the rocky channel sides. Our speed increases to a peak DSCF6572of 9 knots, and I increase throttle to maintain control as we enter strong rip currents on the inside, where the channel begins to widen. We get jerked one way, then the other, heeling 20 degrees or more, but the power and quick steering response of my outboard enables me to retain control. Our run through the pass is exhilerating, and soon we back on smooth water.

We pick up a stiff westerly breeze in the inside, and this causes me to make a change in plans. I’d intended on anchoring out at nearby Hope Island, however, the wind is blowing right into the anchorage and I don’t favor the idea of our final night in a bounchy anchorage, so we keep on going. I see a promising nook on the chart, which could give protection from the wind. However, as we near the place, our wind shifts direction, and leaving us no other option than to motor onward. Given the lack of suitable anchorages on Skagit Bay, we resolve ourselves to going all the way in to Oak Harbor Marina. At least, we can look forward to going out for dinner, instead of making do with the last of our fresh provisions. As we get within 5 miles of the marina, I run the water ballast out and speed up. I calculate that I should have just enough gas to make it, and we do. Around 6pm we idle into a guest slip, finally ending our boat retrieval cruise. On our final day we cruise more than 15 hours, covering 77 nm, much further and longer than I intended, however we are back and glad for it.

Postscript: Next day we pull the boat out, lower the mast, and prepare the boat for towing. The drive home goes without incident, with the final few miles taking us through Tumwater Canyon on US Highway 2, which has just reopened to traffic. The highway has been closed for several weeks due to wildfire, and we see the dramatic evidence as we drive through the canyon. The fire burned down to the river for 5 miles or so, however, fire crews contained the fire to the south side of the river. Around 7pm on August 1, I finally back the boat up our driveway to its accustomed parking spot, thus ending our most dramatic cruise ever.