June 14, 2019–From Dream to Reality

The idea for this cruise first grabbed me in the summer of 2011.  Sandy and I were taking our (then) 11 year old grandson on a 3 week cruise through the Canadian Gulf Islands.  We’d taken a slip in Wharf Street Marina, in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  While there I noticed a rather tired looking MacGregor 26X slowly maneuvering into a nearby slip.  I never can pass up a chance to chat with a fellow Mac owner, so I wandered over to say hello.  I learned that this couple had just completed a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in their boat.  I was duly impressed, and began right then to dream of cruising our boat along the same route.

In 2014 my interest in doing this trip got a boost, when Sandy and I met a young man named Sam, who was working at the time for Waggoners, the iconic Northwest cruising guide.  We met Sam in the Broken Islands, and we learned that he’d spent more than a month cruising around Vancouver Island in his 21 foot C Dory, gathering information for an update in Waggoners, covering the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  After talking with Sam, I knew that going around Vancouver Island would be in my future.

Sandy, my wife and long time cruising partner, didn’t share my level of interest, and so decided to pass this trip up.  I asked my close friend Greg if he’d be interested in going along.  We’ve been hiking, hunting, canoeing and camping buddies for more than 40 years.  He was newly retired, and he jumped at the chance.  We tried to schedule the trip for last year, however that didn’t work out and so we rescheduled for this summer.  Last winter we poured over charts and cruising guides, gradually working up an itinerary.  We circled June 15 as our departure date, and spent the past several months planning and preparing.

DSCF2130Now, at long last, we’re on the eve of departure.  At 7am tomorrow morning we’ll pull out and tow the boat to Oak Harbor.  We’ll attend my grandson’s high school graduation on Saturday, then put the boat into the water on Sunday, spend one night in the marina, and early on Monday morning, we’ll shove off.  Our timing is keyed to reaching Deception Pass in time for the morning slack.  We’re more than eager to finally get underway.

The boat is heavily loaded with provisions and gear, and the truck bed is likewise filled with gear and accessories.  I’m pretty worn out right now.  It’s amazing how, despite the best efforts at preparing well in advance, those inevitable last minute tasks and chores seem to pile on.  It will feel great to start the truck tomorrow morning and head for the water.

June 17, 2019–First Day’s run, out to the San Juans

Departure Port:  Oak Harbor; Departure time:  6:30am; Miles cruised today:  49; Total miles cruised:  49; Winds:  light to moderate; Seas: all kinds of conditions; Water temperature:  51

Greg and I are both awake before the alarm sounds at 5:15.  A quick breakfast of instant oatmeal, juice and coffee lets us get off the dock and underway by our target time of 6:30am.  The breeze is chilly, out of the west.  I unfurl the jib on our way out of Oak Harbor, but the wind fades by the time we turn toward Polnell Point.  We’ve timed our departure so we’d reach Deception Pass in the last half hour before slack and turn to flood, and our passage to Deception DSCF2133worked out perfectly.  In all my previous transits of Deception Pass I’d always stayed in the wider main channel, but today we decide to shoot through the much narrower northern channel, called Canoe Pass.  It has a tricky turn to the left halfway through, and we were quite close to rocks on either side of the boat.  It was a fun stretch of water, and we got a nice bouncy ride in the outflow, once we emerged onto the main Puget Sound. 

Wind is steady, out of the west, so I raise the main for some motor sailing.  Our progress is slow, since we’re bucking the current of Rosario Strait.  Swell coming down the Strait of Juan de Fuca creates confused seas which test us with a corkscrew motion for about half of the crossing.  As we near Jack Island on the San Juan side the motion eases, and we can enjoy the ride.  We enter Thatcher Pass and head toward the north end of Lopez Island.  I give our friends Duane and Lori a call when we near the north end of Lopez, and they are standing on the edge of their clifftop deck, 600 feet above sea level, to wave at us and greet us by ringing their bell.  I reply with a couple of blasts from the air horn.  We feel duly welcomed to the San Juans. 

We choose a route past the north end of Shaw Island, transiting narrow Pole Pass and heading out toward the south end of Jones Island.  A nice steady southwest wind greets us when we reach open water, so I fly both sails and shut theDSCF2134 engine down.  We average around 3.5 to 4 knots most of the way across to Speiden Island.  We get bounced nastily by chop and rip current on our way to Johns Island, and we drop the sails for our final run into Prevost Harbor.  On our way in, we encounter a small fleet of whale watching boats, which have apparently located a pod of Orcas out on Boundary Pass, on the Canadian side. 

Prevost Harbor is sparsely populated with only 10 or 11 boats, some at anchor, some on mooring balls, and 2 on the state park dock.  We had intended on anchoring, but at the last minute opt for tying up to the dock.  It will be convenient for going for a shore walk, and it’s been a long day.  One of the boats at the dock is a MacGregor, so we immediately strike up a conversation.  Owners are Larry and Laura, nice folks who have owned their 26M for just over a year.  They recognize our boat’s name from previous blog posts, and we enjoy the conversation. 

Barbqued hamburgers, eaten at the picnic table on the dock, cap a full day, and a great start to the trip.  We’re sitting just 2 miles from the Canadian line, and a mere hour’s run in the morning will bring us to the Canadian Customs Dock. 

June 18, 2019–Customs Cleared, Dodging Ferries in the Gulf Islands

Departure Location:  Prevost Harbor; Destination:  Herring Bay; Departure time:  6:30am; Arrival time:  2:50pm; Miles cruised today:  35; Total miles cruised:  84; Weather:  warm, mostly sunny, winds light; Water temp:  61

DSCF2136We’re up by 5:15, and getting more efficient with breakfast and departure preparation.  Away from the dock right at our target time of 6:30am.  Beautiful morning as we cross Boundary Pass into Canada, yellow quarantine flag flying (it’s protocol but most Northwest boaters ignore it),  and tie up at the Customs Dock in Bedwell Harbour just before 8am.  It only takes 15 minutes to clear custome over the phone, no hassles, no problems.  I raise our Canadian courtesy flag and we’re legally welcome to cruise Canadian waters for the next 60 days. 

We motor north, along the west shore of North Pender Island, and then cross the busy Swanson Channel, which carries a lot of BC Ferry traffic.  We have to alter course twice to avoid getting too close to ferries.  We eat lunch on the fly, and take a short detour at Wallace Island to view lovely Princess Cove.  Then we continue north, toward Ruxton Island and our anchorage destination, Herring Bay.  Sandy and I stayed here in 2014, on our way to the Broughtons, and loved the place, so I look forward to showing it to Greg.  The little bay is empty, except for a few small local boats which are on mooring balls near the shore.  We anchor in a nice spot, and then go out in the dinghy to explore.  The shoreline here consists of a unique type of sandstone, which erodes into the most incredible formations.  It appears to dissolve, forming holes and cavities of various sizes.  We return to the boat in time for chip and dip, washed down with rum and coke, with the CD player pumping out soothing music.  We relax in surprisingly warm sunshine, both of us in shorts by now and shaded by the bimini, and I consider my phone conversation earlier in the day with a friend in Seattle.  He told me it was raining there.  What a shame.  Dinner consists of steak grilled on the barbque, accompanied by a nice red wine, with Jack Johnson providing the music.  This day may be hard to beat.


June 19, 2019–Wind Calls the Shots

Departure Port:  Herring Bay; Departure time:  4am; Destination:  Departure Bay; Arrival time:  8am; Conditions:  winds to 25 knots, seas 3 to 4 feet; 22.3 gallons of gas; Fuel mileage:  4 miles/gallon

IMG_4235We spent the final hour before last evening’s sunset sitting in the cockpit, sipping sherry and snapping sunset photos.  We slipped into a totally relaxed state, which was, quite simply, the sea DSCF2143lulling us into ill founded complacency.  We didn’t get around to listening to the weather forecast on the VHF until it was quite dark outside.  The brief mention of wind beginning later that night, out of the northwest, and continuing on through the next morning, pretty well slid right by us.  After spending the afternoon in shorts, enjoying the warm sunshine and still air, with the boat comfortably anchored in a nice, sheltered bay, we went to bed feeling all was well, but utterly failing to take into account that our little bay was open to the north.  About an hour and a half after retiring, and shortly after we had both dropped off to sleep, the wind hit.  Beginning abruptly, and right out of the northwest, it quickly sent uncomfortable swell and chop into our anchorage.  I dressed and stepped outside, to confirm that the anchor was holding, but we both knew that sleep would be nigh unto impossible under these conditions.  I briefly considered raising the anchor and motoring across Ruxton Channel to a small bay at the south end of De Courcy Island, which was sheltered from wind and swell.  After considering the risks associated with such a maneuver, in the dark, we opted stay put and take our lumps.  I grabbed a pillow and lap blanket and reclined in the cockpit, on anchor watch, just to make sure we didn’t drag.  After a couple hours of that I was stiff and chilled, and went below to my sleeping bag for the last hour and a half before our alarm would go off. 

We’re up at 3:30am, with the wind still blowing, but not quite as hard as earlier last night.  We want to be off the anchor by 4am, so we can time the slack for passage through Dodd Narrows, 5 miles to our north.   We are alone in making this passage, apparently the only boaters crazy enough to be going through Dodd Narrows at 5am in high winds.  On the north side of the Narrows, the wind is strongly funneling southward, raising a rough chop which periodically breaks over the bow, sending spray back into our faces.  We’ve already concluded that the chances of our being able stick to the original plan of cruising halfway across the Strait of Georgia, to Jedediah Island, are virtually nil.  I’ve also concluded that I need to visit a fuel dock earlier than planned.  Adverse currents and rough seas have resulted in uncomfortably low gas levels in the tanks.  We head for the Nanaimo Port Authority fuel dock, tying up there at 6:35am.  Surprisingly, the manager is already there, preparing for his scheduled 7am opening.  We straighten things out while he completes his tasks, and he then turns the pumps on and fills us with gas.  We also buy a block of ice, and are under way shortly after 7am.

IMG_4251Under normal conditions, we’d be in great shape to make big miles, however, today’s blustery winds have other ideas in mind.  We prudently decide it would be a bad idea to tryDSCF2146 getingt outside Nanaimo Harbour and heading up the coast to the next available shelter, at Schooner Cove, which is about 12 miles away.  Instead, we select a spot in Departure Bay, near the shore, and drop anchor in about 10 feet of water.  The tide is going out, but I figure we have plenty of water beneath us.  Well, with today’s falling tide, we end up having enough water under us, but just barely.  At dead low tide, our anchor ends up in water less than a foot deep.  I have about 100 feet of rode out, and this keeps the boat floating in about 6 feet of water.  No worries, all that water will come back in a few hours.

We still have hopes that the wind will moderate by noon, enabling us to go at least as far as Schooner Cove.  However, after a phone call to Schooner Cove Fairwinds Marina, those hopes are dashed.  The well informed fellow at the marina opens his computer to detailed weather information, and informs us that all this wind is due to air being generated by a low off the Queen Charolotte’s, and it’s not expected to moderate until this evening.  This picture is reinforced by the VHF weather information we tune in to.

With time to spare, I decide to remove the pedestal cover and try to figure out why our auto pilot isn’t working.  Greg and I had installed a new drive motor about a month prior to the trip, and it worked fine in the driveway, but on our first day out, the motor refused to run.  To my surprise and joy, I see the trouble right away.  The power cable to the drive motor has slipped off.  When I reinstall the cable the auto pilot works fine once again.

We settle into an unplanned layover day, catching up on journals, naps, and minor repairs.  We plan to get another 4am start tomorrow, in hopes of making up for some of our lost time.  More favorable conditions are in the forecast, for a crossing of Georgia Strait.

June 16, 2019–Splashing the Boat

The process of getting a trailerable sailboat into the water and ready for cruising is routinely a time consuming and tiring process, however, for this trip I think I set a new record for complications and time taken.  The rigging and launching processes themselves went about as smoothly as I can ever remember, however family events and the timing of the tide resulted in us needing two full days to complete the process.  We arrived at Oak Harbor Marina on Saturday morning, around 11am.  We only had time to check in with the marina, back the boat into a storage parking space, unhitch the truck, and then drive over to our son’s house, where the family was gathering prior to my grandson’s DSCF2131high school graduation ceremony.  Following the conclusion of graduation, we drove over to the marina.  Greg and I went to work raising the mast and rigging the boat, taking a well needed break for pizza with the family.  We left the fully rigged boat in her parking spot for the night, and returned early this morning to slip her into the water.  We had to complete the process before 8am, because after that hour, we knew the tide level would be too low for the ramp to be usable.  After launching, we motored over to our guest dock slip.  This left time for church in the morning and a great barbque picnic at Deception Pass State Park, celebrating our grandson’s graduation. 

We’re back at the marina now.  Goodbyes have been said, and we’re poking around the boat, trying to remember where all the gear we have stowed over the past few weeks is located.  It’s hard to believe that the planning and preparation phase of this trip is now at an end.  Tomorrow morning we’ll cast off, completing the transition from a land based existance to life on the water.  We can’t wait to start.

June 20, 2019–Best Laid Plans, Recalculating

Departure Port:  Departure Bay; Departure time:  4am and again, 2:20pm; Destination:  Schooner Bay Marina; Arrival time:  4:50pm; Conditions:  20-25 knot winds/5 to 6 foot seas in am, 10 knot wind, 2-3 foot seas in pm; 72 degree temp; Water temp:  63 degrees

What we heard in last evening’s forecast suggested that crossing the Strait of Georgia would be possible today.  What we experienced was something totally different.  Alarm sounds at 3:45am, and before 4am the anchor is up and we are underway.  It’s clear out, still quite dark with just a hint of light low on the eastern horizon.  A breeze, disturbingly fresh, ruffles the waters of Departure Bay as we head for the entrance.  I glance back to see that the dinghy is closer DSCF2147to the boat than usual.  A glance down over the stern reveals the problem.  Tow rope has wrapped around the engine’s lower unit.  Greg passes the boat hook to me and I raise the engine out of the water, still running.  I figure I can quickly loop the line back into place, failing, however, to take her out of gear.  Just as Greg is reaching for the shift handle, a prop blade snags the tow rope, wrapping line around prop, and the engine abruptly dies.  Grrrr.  It’s fairly easy to unwrap the line, no harm-no foul, and before long we’re underway once again.  As we near the entrance to Nanaimo Harbour, however, we encountere increasingly rough seas.  Out here the wind is quite stiff, and ahead we find whitecaps everywhere.  We push on, confident in the forecast of settling conditions as the morning wears on.  However, we haven’t gone more than a mile and a half and we’re seriously pounding.  Heavy spray regularly breaks over the bow.  Greg closes the dodger windshield so we don’t get soaked.  We nervously discuss the situation and decide that, with 5 to 6 feet seas already punishing us,  retreat is the only sane option.  I swing the wheel around after passing a particularly high sea surges past us, we reverse course and head back for the shelter of the now inappropriately named Departure Bay.  Running with the wind and swell immediately eases our ride, and we return to last night’s anchoring spot without difficulty. 

Today’s intended run would have kept us on our itinerary, so carefully calculated in the past several months.  I used to use a driving map program which featured a helpful woman’s voice.  She would guide me to my every next turn, and when I missed a turn, she would speak to me in an almost scolding monotone:  “Recalculating”.  Well, we spent the next hour or so recalculating, since it was obvious we wouldn’t be getting across the Strait of Georgia today.  This would put us at least a full day behind our planned pace, and would negate my calculations for passing the tidal rapids we will encounter in the next several days.  This is not a serious problem this early in the trip, since we have ample cushions built into the plans, however, it is frustrating.  Also, we’re both very eager to reach new destinations. 

After lunch I take my customary snooze, and when I wake up, I grab the binoculars to scan the horizon.  Before noon, you could clearly see the humped silhouettes and spitting spray of high swells and whitecaps on the horizon.  20190620_175238They’re called “elephants”, and we could clearly see very large elephants.  However, around 2pm the horizon looked much friendlier.  A phone call to Schooner Cove, a marina about 11 miles up the coast of Vancouver Island, confirmed what we were seeing.  We decided to head out again and move up to Schooner Cove.  This would give us a nice jump on a crossing tomorrow, plus the chance for showers and a restaurant dinner.  We head out and, this time, the seas are half or less than what we hit in the morning.  The ride is still bouncy, with some spray over the bow, but nothing like our earlier pounding.  Also, we’re able to maintain a decent speed of 5.5 knots.  We reach Schooner Cove just before 5pm, tie up on “F” dock, get registered, and call for a shuttle ride over to the Fairwinds Bar and Grill.  The restaurant is on a golf course, beautiful grounds, excellent food and good beer.  After our shuttle back to the boat, we shower and now feel great. 

Earlier today I’d figured out how to access internet with the cell phone, enabling me to publish my earlier written blog posts.  We also were able to view several weather sites.  Tomorrow indeed looks like an excellent travel day, and several more appear to follow.  We hope to make it all the way to Refuge Cove tomorrow.

June 21, 2019–Epic Solstice Cruise

DSCF2151We get another extra early start again this morning, our third in a row.  However, this time our early start really pays off.  We leave the Schooner Cove dock at 4am and head once again out ontoIMG_4271 the waters of the Strait of Georgia.  This time, however, we venture forth with confidence instead of trepidation.  The wind has fallen to a light breeze, and whitecaps are nowhere to be seen.  Seas are just 2 feet to begin with.  They increase to 3 or 4 by the time we reach the Ballenas Islands.  The wind gives us just enough of an angle to unfurl the jib, which gives us some welcome stability.  A few miles past Ballenas the wind begins to ease and clock.  This ends our motor sailing, but with the drop in wind speed, we enjoy a welcome lessening of wave height.  As we near Lasqueti Island, conditions are becoming outright pleasant.  We’re making good speed, and can begin to use the autopilot for the first time on the trip.  We reach the south end of Texada Island after a couple of hours of cruising, and we begin our 20 mile run up Malespina Strait.  It’s clear and sunny, the air brisk but warming.  At Northeast Point, about 2/3’s of the way up Texada’s eastern shore we alter course, heading  on a long diagonal for  the mainland side of Malespina Strait.  We pass Powell River, and then set a waypoint for Thulin Passage, which separates the Copeland Islands from mainland.  The north end of Thulin Passage leaves us just a few miles to go before reaching Sarah Point, which represents the gateway to the renown Desolation Sound.  The wind has by now clocked from northwest first thing in the morning, all the way around to southeast, just as forecast.  We fly the jib and motor sail past the entrance to Desolation.  The scenery is stunning, and Greg enjoys the view while standing on the bow. 

On the far side of Desolation entrance we set course for Refuge Cove.  We tie up at the fuel dock and fill our tanks with gas, and then motor over to the guest moorage dock.  We tie up on the inside, which isn’t quite so bouncy.  AfterDSCF2154 checking in, we treat ourselves to ice cream cones, grab a few grocery items, and then return to the boat for a dinner of grilled sausages on buns, accompanied by potato salad, and washed down with cold beer.  Just the thing for today, tasty yet quick and easy to fix.  We have a couple of Washington State sailboats tied up nearby, and I expect we’ll get together this evening to swap stories while sipping an appropriate beverage.  I grab my ship’s log book to enter data on the day’s run.  We were underway for 13 hours, and averaged an amazing 6 knots for the day, covering 80 miles in total.  At first I find that hard to believe.  It’s the second longest run I’ve ever made in the boat (we made 82 miles across the Great Bahama Banks in 2011).  Fuel consumption was just under 6 miles per gallon, which I regard as excellent performance, especially considering we were running at 6 knots or better, at 3000 rpm, most of the time.  Fuel consumption for the previous day, when we pounded heavy seas before retreating, we got only 3.2 miles per gallon. 

It’s been a long day, both figuratively and in reality.  June 21 is summer solstice, longest day of daylight in the year, and we will have seen all of it.  We are finally across the Strait of Georgia, and poised to work our way up through the tidal rapids zone, on our way to Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Islands.  The scenery will only get better from here.


June 22, 2019–Passing Dent Rapids

DSCF2155In planning for this day’s run we had a choice, which is dictated by getting past the potentially hazardous Yuculta-Gillard-Dent Rapids, all three of which occur within a one mile stretch,GOPR0294 and all three of which can causes significant problems if encountered at any time other than slack, or at least near slack.  One option  was to get up at 3:30am, be off the dock by 4am, which would put us at Yuculta by 8am and in time to clear all 3 rapids under favorable conditions, and in so doing, arrive at today’s destination, Blind Channel Resort, by 11am.  Second option was to sleep in, get off the dock by a more civilized 9:30am, which would allow us to make the next slack and reach our destination by 5:30pm.  Of course, we opted for the early morning departure.

It’s quite dark when we quietly slip away from the sleeping boats tied up at Refuge Cove dock and head for Lewis Channel, which takes us north to Stuart Island and the famous rapids.  It’s breezy and quite chilly out.  We take turns going down into the cabin to eat our breakfast of English muffins and peanut butter.  The auto pilot is working well, so hands can stay warm in pockets.  We’re the only boat out this early. The only problem encountered involves dinghy.  Several times on the trip we’ve had oars come loose from their locking tab.  I have to slow the boat, climb out into dinghy, and resecure the oars.  This time I tie them in with sail tie bungies, so we shouldn’t have that problem again.   We near the start of Yuculta Rapids a half hour early.  Greg notices some turbulance along the west bank of the channel, and at first we’re stumped as to the cause.  Boat wake, current effect, or something else?  Greg finally realizes that some sort of animals are causing the splashing.  We’re seeing a gang of white sided dolphins, charging against the current, right along the shore, and moving very fast.  We think they are in feeding mode.   I swing over toward them, in hope that they’ll come out and ride our bow wave, however, they are intent on hunting, and they soon leave us far behind.

We decide to go through Yuculta early, and are able to easily manage the current, which is against us.  We pass the large luxury resort on our port side.  It’s very quiet over there, with virtually no activity.  Gillard Passage comes next.  The current here is constricted between two small islands, and once again, we have no trouble challenging the dying flood.  By the time we reach Dent Rapids, we’re very near slack, and the waters are nearly calm.  We begin encountering other cruising boats headed south, and before long, we start getting passed by northbound boats who are running a few knots faster than we are.  We enjoy a pleasant run the rest of the way up Cordero Channel, to its junction with Mayne Passage, where Blind Channel Resort is located.  Our radio call to the marina is promptly answered, and we receive clear instructions on how to navigate to our dock space.  A dock hand is standing by to take our lines and assist us in getting tied up.  This is a very attractive place, well maintained and run.  DSCF2160

DSCF2158The sky begins to clear about the time we arrive, so our lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and soup is consumed in the cockpit, in bright sun, under the welcome shade of the bimini.  Conditions here change so very fast.  After lunch we gather up our accumulated laundry, and head for the wash room.  We’re lucky to find washers and dryers open, as well as showers.  We clean up while our clothes get washed.  With these chores done, we still have time in the afternoon to go for a walk in the woods, up a nice trail which leads to an enormous cedar tree.   This giant is approximately 20 feet in width at its base.  Really spectacular.  Our afternoon finishes up with a drink in the cockpit, some reading, and a short nap.  We have dinner reservations for 6pm, and enjoy a nice meal at a window table  in their dining room.

We’ve been talking with other boaters regarding strategy for tomorrow.  We plan on starting at 7:30am, with 2 more rapids ahead of us, Greene Point and Whirlpool.  We should be able to get through them fine with our 7:30 start.  The big question will be whether the winds are too high for us to go out onto Johnstone Strait.  If we can’t, we’ll probably lay up early at Forward Bay.  It would be nice, though, to make it past Johnstone and up into the start of the Broughton Islands.  Only time will tell. 

June 23, 2019–Whale of a passage, and back on schedule–“bearly”

Departure port:  Blind Channel Resort; Departure time:  7:15am; Destination:  Bond Sound; Arrival time:  6:30pm;  Distance cruised:  64 nm; Total for trip:  298 nm; Conditions:  67 degrees, wind on the nose, 15 kts on Sunderland and start of Johnstone Strait, water temp:  56 degrees, partly cloudy, rain showers in eveningGOPR0333

DSCF2161We untie and get underway at 7:15am, not completely certain where we’ll end up when we drop anchor.  We hope to get all the way to Bond Sound, however standing in the way is Johnstone Strait, with its nasty reputation for dashing hopes.  The forecast for Johnstone is marginal, with wind strong in the early morning, dropping a bit by midday, and then increasing in the afternoon.  Wind of any appreciable strength on Johnstone Strait interacts in very bad ways with waves.  We encounter brisk winds in Chancellor Channel, after passing through Greene Point Rapids, where we  buck the last hour of ebb.  We get a welcome break from the wind and chop when we turn into Wellbore Channel.  Our final tidal rapid, Whirlpool Rapids, awaits us at the northwest end of Wellbore.  By the time we near Whirlpool, the tide has turned and we’re riding the current, which boosts our speed by 3 knots or more.  Whirlpool is running strong, but without the deep eddies which can set up on an extreme ebb tide.  As we near the end of Wellbore Channel, we also near a decision point.  Should we stop at Forward Harbour and anchor for the night there, going with the sure thing of forecasted gentle conditions tomorrow on Johnstone?  If we do that, we’ll still be a day behind our scheduled pace.  Should we push on, down Sunderland Channel and out onto Johnstone Strait, shooting to go all the way to Bond Sound, but risking a thrashing if Johnstone is kicking up his heels?  I see a trawler about a mile ahead of us, halfway up Wellbore.  I radio him, and ask him if he’s going out onto Johnstone.  He’s on the “Anna B”, and he says he is.  I tell him I’d like to call him back when we get to the entrance to Forward Harbour, for a report on sea conditions out on the big water.  He says that would be fine, so when we reach the decision point, I radio him back.  He says Sunderland has 1 foot chop, but that Johnstone will likely be rougher.  Greg and I talk it over and decide to keep on going. 

We cross over to the north side of Sunderland in a moderate chop.  We start taking spray over the bow, so we lower the dodger windshield, and I don my foul weather gear.   We stay close to the northern shore, and find the water less rough there. While about 75 yards from shore, Greg spots a black bear, shuffling along on the exposed low tide rocks.  Our first bear sighting of the trip.  We’re past him before we can grab cameras for a photo, but it’s still a fun sighting. 

We get a radio call from “Anna B”, who reports that Johnstone Strait is really settling down.  That’s great news.  Shortly after lunch, I spot something dark ahead, in the periphery of my vision.  I look more closely and call out “Whale!”  Greg looks in time to see the great whale arch its back above the water surface and then dive, fully exposing its tail flukes before disappearing from view.  It most likely is a humpback whale.  From past experience I figure that this whale has sounded, deep, and we’ll not see it again.  IMG_4341

GOPR0344After many hours of cruising we finally reach our turning point, into Havannah Channel, which marks the entrance to the Broughton Islands.  We cruise on, up Havannah and into Chatham Channel, past the Blow Hole, across Knight Inlet and finally, into Tribune Channel.  Our final turn is into Bond Sound.  About halfway up Bond, I turn on the stove and get things out for dinner.  We’ll begin our dinner preparations while underway, to save a bit of time.  It’s been a long day, and we’re both very hungry.  We fix a garlic pasta shell dish, and fry up a ham steak.  A fresh green salad and pineapple cups finish off the fixings.  After dinner I drag the crab pot out from the kingberth dungeon, and row out in the dinghy to drop the pot.  When I was here with Sandy in 2014 I had good luck crabbing here.  Hope to repeat that act.  As evening settles in, the air outside gets very still, providing perfect conditions for a mosquito invasion.  We take defensive actions, but still find ourselves swatting at those which penertrate our defenses.  Greg asks me what time to set the alarm for.  I tell him no alarm tonight.  Tomorrow will be our first leisurely paced day of the trip.

June 25, 2019–A day richly lived

DSCF2170Departure Port:  Viner Sound; Departure time:  8am; Destination:  Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina; Arrival time:  11am; Miles cruised today:  10; Total miles for the trip:  327; Conditions:  beautiful until 5pm thunderstorm; water temperature 55 degrees

Before proceeding with today’s account, I should add a post script to yesterday.  I had been troubled, at the time that we anchored, by how close to the rocky cliff we were sitting.  In order to line up with theDSCF2172 stern tie rope we’d found ourselves in over 100 feet of depth, and we had very little scope.  The boat itself was only about 25 or 30 feet out from the rocks.  This was ok so long as it remained calm, however around the time we were turning in, a light breeze had snuck around our protective island, and was pressing against our starboard beam.  This was pressing us closer to the rocks, and we suspected that the anchor was dragging.  Not a good situation.  We made the call to raise anchor, haul in the stern tie line, and head elsewhere.  We took the advice of Max, owner of Kwatsi Bay Marina, and crossed over to Viner Sound.  In the fading twilight we motored to the head of the Sound, where we found the two public mooring balls he had told us about.  Both were unoccupied.  We tied off on one, and then settled into a comfortable, worry free night of sleep.

This morning we awake to a placid scene of lovliness.  Glassy smooth water, cloud free sky, and a beaming sun which quickly rids the air of its chill.  After breakfast Greg tries a bit of fishing from the bow.  Having no luck, we untie from the mooring and slowly motor out into the Sound.  We make our way out to its mouth, and pause at the little islet there for more fishing.  While drifting behind the islet we here a whooshing sound and glance to our left.  A minke whale has surfaced and spouted not more than 100 yards from our location.  The whale comes up one more time before disappearing behind the little island.  Greg dashes for the cameras and I try sneaking behind the island to a position ahead of the whale’s direction of travel, hoping that we’ll get another close look.  By the time we clear the island, however, the whale has moved out toward the center of the channel.  We get one more look, see that in fact there are 2 whales, they go down, not to be seen by us again.

We then cross over to the Burwood Group to fish a place where I’ve caught rockfish in the past.  Greg lands one small quillback rockfish and we put it on a stringer.  That turns out to be our only fish, and it’s time to pull the line in and head over to Echo Bay.  It’s good to be back here once again, to the place where Sandy and I received such outstanding care in 2014 when Sandy had her stroke while hiking over to Billy Proctor’s Museum.  We stop at the fuel dock to DSCF2175gas up and register, and then motor over to a dock in front of the colorful gabled house and tie up.  We have lunch on the boat, and then I dump water out of the ice chest in preparation for stocking it with fresh ice.  To my dismay I find our unopened package of flour tortillas floating in the icewater.  The sealed plastic bag proves to have been less than perfectly sealed, for a DSCF2181substantial quantity of water is found inside.  I open the bag and pour it out.  I decide to try and salvage my soggy tortillas.  With utmost care I slowly peel each tortilla from the stack, and then drape it over the lifeline, pinning them in place with clothes pins.  They look like some really wierd laundry.  I get the ice, and after placing the refrigeratables back into the cooler, I happen to notice my fish stringer, which still holds Greg’s rockfish, or rather, what’s left of Greg’s rockfish.  When I lift it out of the water, I discover that a great chunk of the belly has been bitten away.  We conclude that a seal is the most likely culprit.  Our potential fish dinner has now been relegated to crab bait.

When chores are done, it’s time to hike over to Billy Proctor’s Museum.  Billy Proctor has become a treasured icon in this region.  He’s in his 80’s now, and has lived in this area all his life.  In his younger years, he  had the chance to meet all the old timers, and he eagerly learned their stories.  In his own right, he made a living logging and fishing, and over the course of his years, he’s become deeply appreciative of the environment.  He’s spent much time collecting artifacts from both First Nations and white cultures, and these are exhibited in his museum.  He’s written several books about the area and his life experiences, which we find to be excellent reading.  We arrive at his museum and find him sitting on the bench on the museum porch, chatting with a group of visitors.  We in turn introduce ourselves and get acquainted.  While DSCF2177this is going on, Billy sees a large sailing vessel approaching his dock.  “Oh, that’s Bill, on board Joshua, coming by to say hello.”  I go down to the dock to give Bill a hand getting tied up.  He’s an interesting guy, full beard, and gets around with one prosthetic leg.  He may be slightly younger than Billy, but they’re both kindred spirits.

Bill’s boat looks vaguely familiar.  I learn that Bill built her by himself, in 1978, and modeled her after Joshua Slocum’s Spray.  Joshua Slocum is a name familiar with most boaters.  In 1897 he commissioned the construction of a sailboat, to exacting specifications, which he then took on a famous voyage of circumnavigation.  He chronicled his adventures in the widely read book, Sailing Single Handed Around the World.  Bill named his boat after Joshua, and he cruises it in Northwest waters.  Bill walks up to Billy’s museum and plops himself down on the bench,DSCF2179 next to Billy.  Greg and I then experience a special treat as Bill and Billy exchange good natured barbs and swap one colorful story after another.  With one ear to the conversation taking place out on the porch, Greg and I gaze at Billy’s eclectic collections of fishing lures, old bottles, incredible Indian artifacts, and fascinating items too numerous to describe.  A visit to Billy Proctor’s Museum is truly a highlight to any cruise in the Broughtons. 

We hike back to the marina and hit the showers.  Around 5pm it’s happy hour on the dock, where boaters gather to meet and swap stories.  It’s a great opportunity to meet people and gather information.  We bring a stack of my nicely dried flour tortillas, along with  a tub of artichoke parmesan dip.  The party gets cut short by a sudden and hard hitting thunder storm, which sends us all scattering for shelter.  We put up the cockpit surround, and about the time we get it up, the rain quits.  I fix up a dinner of beef fajitas, using those flour tortillas, which have reconstituted perfectly.  Solar dried tortillas, just the thing. 

By the time the sun is getting low, the skies have cleared and the colors of the marina, flowers in tubs, reflective water, tastefully painted buildings, interesting boats, are on full display.  It’s hard to believe that all this happened in just a single day.