Northbound on Lake Roosevelt

Friday, July 10, 2020

Porcupine Bay to Six Mile Creek

14 miles cruised today; 99 miles for the trip

It’s a busy scene at the Porcupine Bay boat launch, with fishing boats arriving as early as 6am. By 8 o’clock, the parking lot is more than half full. We watch them launch while eating breakfast in the cockpit. My favorite is the young guy, who is walking along the dock, pulling the boat with a 3 year old sitting in the front seat, asking the tot if they should wait for daddy. Finally dad shows up and off they go. We get underway around 9am, taking some time along the way to troll for walleye along the shore of Crystal Cove. With Sandy driving the boat and shifting between neutral and idle speed forward, we’re able to maintain a speed of around 1 mph, and I think that is where I need to be with my “bottom walker” walleye rig. The walleye remain elusive, however, I finally break through and catch a little small mouth. It’s way to little to keep, so I let him go and we go as well. After an hour’s run we near the Spokane Arm highway bridge, and I prepare to lower the mast. The process goes better on the second try, and we ease our way past the bridge with a good 5 feet of clearance.

The Two Rivers Marina is located just beyond the bridge, on the Spokane Reservation side. We head for the fuel dock, with plans of picking a few items up in the little marina store. It’s a busy scene at the fuel dock, with a huge houseboat just pulling in, so I tie up at an empty finger pier. It’s marked with a “reserved” sign. So considerate of them to reserve a slip for our short term tie up needs. I put my Covid mask on before entering the store and then cruise around the merchandise, looking for propane canisters. I don’t see any and ask one of the girls working there if they have any that I missed seeing. She gives me a big smile and says they have 2. I tell her she just made my day, because I have need for exactly 2. I purchase them, along with a bag of ice and 2 ice cream bars. We’re running the Engel frig as a freezer, so I toss them in, stow the ice, and we exit the marina. Once out on the main lake, Sandy brings lunch up on deck. I have the jib set on a reach in light air. Bimini is up for shade. Auto pilot keeps us on course, and lunch is great. After lunch I get the main up and shut the engine down. We only have 4 miles to go to our day’s destination, so I can afford to play with the light and fickle breeze, which regularly switches from SW to SE. Around 2:30 we enter the Six Mile Creek cove. It’s a peaceful place, well off the main lake, and an attractive looking anchorage. We’ll spend the night here.

Good shelter at Sixmile Creek

The remainder of the afternoon consists of a bit of reading, a nap, and then a shore excursion for a little exercise. We’re quite close to a gravel road, which makes for a good walking route. We come across a little band of wild turkeys while near the lake, and later on, 3 deer run across the road ahead of us. Back on the boat, dinner consists of pork chops grilled on the barbque, flavored rice, apple sauce, garden tomatoes, and a dessert of pudding cups. Pretty good living on this boat. After dinner I go out for some evening fishing. No fish caught, but I did get a terrific strike. The fish exploded from the water, and then threw the hook. Maybe tomorrow I’ll come up with the fixins of a fish dinner.

To the head of navigation on Spokane Arm

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Blue Creek to Little Falls, Return to Porcupine Bay Campground

36 miles cruised today; 85 mile total for the trip

Houseboat with speedboat in tow, on fire damaged Spokane Arm
Bank swallow nest cavities, Spokane Arm

Bright sun greets us first thing. We watch 3 deer cross the hillside while we take breakfast. Anchor is up at 9am, and we’re off for a sightseeing excursion to the head of navigation on the Spokane Arm, 17 miles uplake to the Little Falls dam and power station. The expansive waters of Porcupine Bay soon constrict into a fairly narrow, straight channel. A steeply sloping sand bluff forms the south shore, in contrast with the steep, rocky hills on the north side. The scattered pines show evidence of having experienced fire within the past 15 or 20 years, and as we travel further up the arm, fire impact of varying intensity on both sides of the water becomes apparent. A colorful bunch of wild turkeys climbs the hillside, and large colonies of bank swallows pockhole the sheer sand banks, whenever they’re suitable for next excavation. The water widens

Nearing the head of Spokane Arm

out and narrows a couple of times before pinching down into a narrow canyon for the last 5 or 6 miles. As we near the head of navigation we start encountering a bit of current. Rounding a bend, the powerhouse finally comes into view. We ease over into a shallow bay just off the main channel and I lower the anchor, in 10 feet of water. The bottom is bouldery, so I gently set the anchor onto the bottom and let out all of my chain. I make no attempt to set the anchor, relying instead on just the weight of anchor and chain, along with vigilance while we relax and eat our lunch.

Little Falls powerhouse, head of navigation on Spokane Arm

After lunch I try a few casts, with no luck. Time to pull in the anchor and return the way we came. I’m surprised to see the effect of current last for several miles, as evidenced in the speed we make at the same rpm used going up. Around 4pm we reach Porcupine Bay campground, which is nicely served with a boat ramp and tie up docks. The finger piers are only 20 feet in length, so we stick out a bit, but nonetheless, I’m able to get the boat securely tied up. Just enough time for a rum and coke and a quick dip at the swimming beach before we fix dinner. After cleanup, we go for an hour long walk, out on the main road. Our turn around point is the site of a major landslide. The reconstructed retaining wall and highway affords a nice view.

Overview of Spokane Arm near Porcupine Bay

We plan to stay the night at the dock. Boaters here don’t seem to understand reducing wakes near docks, so we get rocked by the few boats returning to the ramp or passing by. Fortunately, boating traffic is way down, and I expect that things will completely die down as dusk settles in.

Limboing under the Spokane Arm Bridge

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hawk Creek to Blue Creek, Spokane Arm

21 miles cruised today; 45 miles for the trip

Approaching the head of Hawk Creek Arm

Wind blew in the middle of the night. Overcast sky first thing. After breakfast I take off in the dinghy for a little fishing. I try trolling a plug for small mouth, and get a few hits but no hookups. Around 10am it’s time to raise anchor and head out. Before leaving Hawk Creek we run a couple miles further up the arm, to its head. We enter a narrow, twisting channel with a thousand foot high cliff defining its southerly boundary. Coming out of the final turn we enter a lovely little lake. A boat ramp and nice looking campground are situated on the northern shore.

Final corner to head of Hawk Creek Arm

On our way out I examine the route up to the Spokane Arm. I notice a bridge which crosses the Arm a short distance above the Two Rivers Casino, which is a development of the Spokane Indian Tribe. Their reservation lies on the north shore of this Arm. A notation which I hadn’t previously caught strikes my attention. Vertical clearance of the bridge is 29 feet. The distance from my mast tip to water line is 35 feet. If we are to stay with plans to explore this arm of Lake Roosevelt, we’ll need to lower the mast. I’ve done this before, while out on the water, and so decide to do it again. I install the mast raising pole and the baby stays, which keep the mast straight when being raised and lowered. The jib halyard gets tied to the mast raising pole, and I tension it with the winch. I think I can leave the boom attached, if I disconnect the starboard side of the dodger. I unpin the forestay, and while Sandy steers us in a lazy circle, I gently lower the mast. It’s difficult to judge how much angle is needed to reduce our clearance by 6 or 7 feet, and I try for a margin of safety. We slowly approach the bridge and, until the last possible moment, our clearance looks questionable. But at dead slow, it finally becomes apparent that we’ll clear the bridge with a good 5 or 6 feet to spare. Once on the upriver side of the bridge, everything goes back together and we’re on our way, most likely the largest sailboat in the Spokane Arm; maybe the only sailboat here.

Nearing Spokane Arm bridge with mast partially lowered

We eat lunch while underway, and shortly after 1pm we turn into the little cove at Blue Creek, on the northerly reservation side. There’s a little campground at the mouth of the cove, but the area at the head of the cove is very private, quiet, and with no development in sight. I give the fishing another try in the late afternoon, trolling a walleye rig. One bite but no hookup. By the time I return to the boat it’s time to fix dinner. Barbqued steak is on the menu, along with mashed potatoes and gravy. We dine in the cockpit, enjoying the use of our new teak cockpit table, which I built and installed shortly before this trip. While relaxing after dinner and cleanup, we’re startled by a loud smack on the water, a short distance away. A beaver has taken offense to our presence. We see him cruising across the cove, gazing over his shoulder at us with a distinctly unhappy look.

Bighorns and birds

Hells Gate to Hawk Creek Harbor

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

19 miles cruised today; 24 miles cruised for trip

Whitestone Rock

In the middle of the night I find myself thinking about that bogus voltmeter reading issue. It occurs to me that a setting button might have gotten accidentally bumped. First thing this morning I try pushing some buttons, and to my amazement, the house battery shows up on the amp meter display. It takes a while for me to recall that, after installing a second device, it’s actually working the way I originally installed it. I just forgot what I’d done last year.

We take our time with breakfast, and get underway around 8:30am. The centerboard is once again reluctant to drop, but once we’re going, it slowly falls into position. I’ll just have to be careful to not raise it up too hard.

Colville Reservation bighorns

Scenery is impressive on both sides of the lake for several miles to the east of Hells Gate Creek. Rugged, steep rocky slopes descend dramatically into the water. On the south shore we admire Whitestone Rock, a massive whitish monolith, which stands in stark contrast with the dark basalt rocks behind it. We put in at Sterling Point, which offers a small dock and 2 camping sites. It’s a nice spot, and we eat our lunch there. After lunch we walk up a dirt road to the top of a hill. Isolated homes are scattered throughout this area on the south side of the lake. When we return to the dock we find a pontoon boat tied up across from us. A guy from the pontoon says he thinks he can see a bunch of big horn sheep across the lake, on the Colville Tribal Reservation side. I put the binocs on them and, sure enough, about 30 bighorns are out in the open, grazing in a large, open meadow. We hop in the boat and motor across the lake for a closer look, with the pontoon doing the same. We both ease in, keeping a respectful distance from the shore. The sheep don’t seem to mind us being there, and we get great looks at them. They’re mostly lambs and ewes, but we do see one young ram, about ¾ curl, in the bunch.

Peaceful cove on Hawk Creek arm

The sky is clouding up as we continue uplake, with a blustery wind kicking up small white caps. I try sailing with the jib but it’s difficult, since the wind keeps shifting. I’m looking for a place to stay the night. I’ve spotted a likely candidate, called Welsh Creek Cove, and we poke in there. However, it’s fairly small, with steep shorelines and deep water until right near the bank. Half a dozen houses surround the bay. Bottom looks sketchy too. We pass on Welsh Creek and continue on our way. The next possibility is near the mouth of Hawk Creek, a little cove at Moonshine Canyon. No development there, but it’s also steep, with deep water until right on shore. Not a good option. We continue up Hawk Creek. I see an interesting little inlet on the map. The water appears quite shallow, but I love poking into shallow places. When we reach the cove we find a power boat pulled up on the beach at its mouth. A couple of young families are enjoying the small beach. However, I see no camping gear and figure they’ll soon be leaving. We ease our way over a shallow bar at the mouth of the cove, reading 1.9 feet of water under the transducer at one point. Once inside, though, it deepens to about 15 feet, a perfect little hole for our anchor. I drop as close to the center as I can, and let out 50 feet of rode. We have just enough room to swing in all directions. As soon as we get settled, we realize that this place is simply alive with birds. We see goldfinches, orioles, buntings, waxwings, sparrows, swallows, robins, kingbirds, phoebes, and quail, all clustered around this little cove. I can’t think of another place I’ve visited which has such an amazing variety of birds.

Launched and underway

First day’s destination

Monday, July 6, 2020

Departure day, at anchor near Hell Gate Canyon

5 miles cruised

Not quite 7am and we’re in the truck, easing down the driveway, boat in tow. Beautiful sunny day, and the extended 10 day forecast for Lake Roosevelt is my favorite: sunny and pleasant. Hope that forecast holds. It’s a 2 + hour drive, down the Wenatchee River Valley, then up the Columbia’s east side to Orondo, next pulling up the long, curvy, uphill Pine Canyon grade to Waterville on US Highway 2. We then travel eastward, across the rolling wheatfield country of the Waterville Plateau, crossing Moses Coulee, passing Banks Lake, which is a key part of the great Columbia Basin Irrigation project, it being filled with Columbia River water, pumped up by the great turbines of the Grand Coulee Dam. About 18 miles beyond Banks Lake we reach the town of Wilbur, where we turn north, toward Keller Ferry, at Lake Roosevelt. The final 3 miles of this drive is extremely steep and twisted, with several switchback turns posted at 15 mph. The blue expanse of Lake Roosevelt is in clear view during this descent.

We reach the boat ramp parking by 9:30 and begin the work of rigging the boat. Despite the fact that I’ve rigged the boat a hundred or more times, I’ve never yet done it perfectly. I come really close today, and get the mast raised, boom installed, and all gear set up, even launch and tie to the dock. It’s only when I start the engine and turn the GPS on that I realize I’ve forgotten to lower the transducer. It’s really long, so I stow it in the upright position, but it doesn’t work a darn in measuring depth when pointed parallel to the water’s surface. This oversight is easily corrected, and shortly after noon we’re underway. Sandy has prepared lunch in advance, so we enjoy our first meal aboard while lazily motoring up Lake Roosevelt.

All is not perfectly well, however. Before leaving the dock I tried to lower the centerboard and, to my consternation, it refused to drop. Stuck tight. Ironically, this problem has been a topic of the MacGregor internet forum just last week, and I’d even offered a post of how this had happened to me once before, while cruising on a large lake in the British Columbia interior. That time I got under the boat with my shorty wet suit, face mask, and weight belt and, using a chunk of moose antler I found on the beach, managed to pry it free. It seems that good old Chinook was eavesdropping on this exchange, and decided to replay that trick.

We pick out an inviting cove about 5 miles uplake from the ramp and drop anchor. I tie a long line to the stern of the boat and dinghy ashore. While Sandy pays out anchor rode, I pull on the stern line, and secure the boat in 3 feet of water, just off the shore. No moose antlers around here, so I grab a piece of steel rebar which I keep on board for knocking the bottom out of wine bottles when we’re out in deep salt water. Bottle sinks to the bottom and provides habitat for crabs and such. Right now, my rebar is ideal for popping the centerboard free, and after going under a couple of times, I find the hole in the end of the board and pop it free. It took very little persuasion, but I’ll be careful to not slam it up hard, just in case some debris has found its way up into the trunk.

Ready to pry centerboard loose

Since I’m already in the water, Sandy decides to come ashore and we go on a walk/wade along the shoreline. Lots of interesting driftwood, curious items such as oyster shells, and way too much plastic. Even here.

The evening brings an challenge to my attention. Stove lights right up and is cooking away, but abruptly quits. I don’t know what to think about the stove. I’ll give it a try in the morning and see what happens. And to think, just 2 weeks ago we went out on a 4 day shakedown cruise and everything worked perfectly.

After dinner we watch 4 deer browse their way across the little island which gives our anchorage its protection. After munching away for a while, they wade out into the water and swim to the mainland. This place feels very different from our usual Salish Sea cruising grounds. No tide, no currents, very different birds, very different boats. Instead of cruising sailboats and large motor yachts, here we have aluminum fishing boats, pontoon party boats, speed boats and jet skis. The traffic is fairly light. Most are intent on playing highly amplified music on their sound systems. Music of amazing clarity and volume travels across the water. Fortunately they tend to stay well out in the lake, and don’t linger for long. The long twilight has finally given way to darkness. It’s very quiet and peaceful here.

Swimming back to the mainland

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

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

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

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


July 30, 2019–Dinner With Friends on Lopez Island

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


July 26, 2019–Flying Through Pea Soup to Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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