Van Isle Summary

I’ve cleaned up the blog entries a bit, fixed the sort order and uploaded the kml files so the track now show. On the ferry ride back to Vancouver we finally saw some orcas, so I guess Tim is off the hook. And the piéce de resistance was a lanky lone wolf crossing the highway right in front of us as we were exiting Jasper. We slowed down and he looked right at us before dismissing us and ducking down into the bushes along the road. So cool!

The numbers

  • About 800 nm (1400 km)
  • 16 days aboard
  • 6 crew
  • 2 night dockings
  • 5 iphones, 2 ipads, 1 imac and a lone android
  • a bazillion bald eagles
  • hundreds of sea lions
  • dozens of sea otters
  • 3 Orca
  • 2 Grey whales
  • 1 wolf

Last Day

Up at 7:30. Coffee on deck and then Jim and Gwen came by. Gwen is an old friend of Donna’s and they are off a 42′ Catalina that had been anchored in Montague overnight. We ate breakfast and visited until it was time to cast off. Sea Esta X will travel alongside us at least until the north end of Thetis Island.

Today is another no chart plotter day with Terry in the hot seat. We wound our way northward and swung by Wallace Island for a peek. This is something we have done a few times but we’ve never stopped. This time we decided, at the last minute, to actually do it. There was a spot open at the end of the pier and Terry made for it leaving the rest of us to scramble to get lines and fenders out. We got it all done except for the stern line so I wrapped the bow line around the base of a stanchion and used it as a midship line to get us on the dock.

We spent about 10 minutes on the island and did a quick poke around before casting off again. Terry and Bob both wanted to make the 3 o’clock ferry so we needed to hustle. A bit later the Catalina pealed off into Clam Bay and we continued on. Eventually we slid by the beautiful sandstone cliffs of Valdez Island, all worn and pitted by the action of the water and rounded the point towards Degnen Bay.

A quick docking and unloading was followed by a group picture and hauling gear. Terry and Bob drove their separate cars down to the dock (a Mazda Miata and a Mazda 3) and we said our goodbyes. An interesting group we made, but it goes to show that all it takes is a little will for people to get along. Still it might make a good story if you pushed the personality types a bit and added some conflict or a giant poisonous anaconda or something.

The highlight of the day was the lack of a highlight. Nothing broke, fell overboard or failed to function in its proper way. Pretty boring actually.

Leslie and I helped haul stuff up to the house and then relaxed aboard for a bit. Then we wandered up to the house for a beer and some showers. Sated and refreshed we got out of Tim and Donna’s way with a plan to come back 6:42-ish to meet up and walk to the Silva Bay pub for something to eat that isn’t good for me. My digestive system has a rude surprise in store for it as I transition back to my typical diet.

We packed up a bit and Leslie tried for a nap while I lounged in the cockpit enjoying the sun.

IMG_6225

This pretty much wraps our Vancouver Island circumnavigation. It was a tremendous experience and I learned a lot about boating and about myself. I could wish we had some bad weather so I could’ve experienced it in ‘controlled’ conditions but that seems kind of petty.

I’m working on a summary for neverforever.ca and will cross-post it here when it’s done. Tomorrow we head for Victoria to check out the moorage possibilities and then it’s on to home, loved ones and the cat.

Way Home

Leslie and I got up and the boat was empty. So we packed up and headed into town. We walked past Munros (closed, thank goodness) and stopped in Murchie’s for coffee and strudel. Then we checked out MEC for a new pair of sunglasses, but it was still closed so we headed back to the inner harbour.

We checked out the causeway now stuffed with race boats and wandered along the waterfront and soaked it all in. Then it was back to the boat and time to get ready to cast off.

But when Tim came back, he and I tried to tighten the alternator belt. It didn’t work and so we went back to the old size belt — he had picked up new spares in Tofino. That done we fired up the engine and pondered how to get out of our raft with the wind blowing us on the dock. We decided to spring back off our companion boat and then drive forward. It worked.

Then it was off to the fuel dock where 2 sailboats, 6 kayaks and the pilot boat were all converging. The kayaks considerately stayed out of the way, so we grabbed the inside and the pilot boat beat the other sailboat to the outside dock. We fuelled up, topped up the water and I bought some new aviator-style shades. Then we joined the exodus of racing boats leaving the harbour and headed for the Gulf Islands.

We motored around the rocky bays and shoals between Victoria and Haro Strait. Eventually we raised some sails and headed downwind in a broad reach. At one point Tim turned off the chart plotter and we started navigating solely with charts and nav aids. I actually preferred it as it brings everything into focus rather than dealing with the distraction of the electronics.

On one particularly bad tack with light winds and a continually collapsing head sail I missed a couple of dirty white floats and ran smack into a crab trap. The line wrapped around something and the boat came to a slow halt. We managed to cleat up a bunch of line before it became too taut and after a half hour of fussing managed to grab the other end of the line on the other side of the boat. At that point we were able to determine the line was just wrapped around the rudder (not the more dangerous prop) by sawing it back and forth and so by cutting the line we freed ourselves.

Back up went the headsail and off we went. I navigated us through the islands, rocks and islets outside Sidney and then relinquished the wheel. Then it was a sunny calm sail to Montague Harbour where we grabbed a mooring buoy. Tim has this magic tool that stabs the ring on the mooring buoy and automatically loops your line through. Best tool ever!

We sipped red wine as the sun set and I took a hundred pictures as each phase of the sunset seemed more beautiful than the previous. Then it was time for dinner and bed. It looks like I am going to start getting used to these ten o’clock dinners.

B Timothy Keith
–a la iphone!

Calm Waters

Up. Up. Cause the tide’s going out!

I got up and joined about half the crew on deck. A few minutes of chatting and some coffee and then we cast off. The wharfinger made it down for his pound of flesh five minutes before we were ready so we had to pay $40 or so for the privilege of tying up to their dock for 8 hours or so.

After that it was motor, motor, motor. A few hours later the sun started to break through and a bunch of people hit the fore deck to bask for a while. Tim fired up the BBQ and made ready to steam the poor oysters we had been hauling around in a bucket.

To date I have not been a fan of the cooked oyster although I like them fine raw. But BBQ with a bit of lemon is pretty darn good. Leslie and I both had a couple and made appropriate lip smacking noises.

Slowly but surely the winds built and eventually we were sailing on a broad reach, gybing back and forth across the Strait.

A little later in the day a sail appeared. Then another. And another. And another. It seems the Swiftsure Race was on and we had the best seats in the house. There must have been a hundred boats spread out over miles. And through the middle of all that the HMCS Saskatoon came thundering into the waves heading back out on some mission or another.

Eventually the boats faded into the distance and the winds died so we motor sailed for a bit, through Race Passage and past one of the oldest lighthouses in Canada. After we turned towards Victoria the winds rose again so we unfurled the jib, killed the motor and Leslie sailed the rest of the way in.

Her entry into the Harbour was complicated by a cruise ship coming in and the other cruise ship leaving dock. And there was a third cruise ship hanging off to come in next. Exciting stuff. Eventually L swung back into the wind and we dropped our sails. Then it was a slow motor into the Victoria Inner Harbour.

The Causeway (right in front of the Empress) was completely empty but no one was answering the radio or the phone. As we approached the empty docks however we were waved over to Ships Point and informed the empty docks were reserved for racers. So we circled around and slowly made our way to Wharf Street. It was jammed but many boats had their fenders out so we surmised that rafting was de rigeur.

Leslie slowly wound her way through the complex maze of really expensive boats without a bead of sweat so much as threatening to pop out, then started a turn at the dead end. That’s when we decided to just pick a boat and raft. So Leslie slowly reversed the boat and gently brought us alongside another boat that looked like it was here for the duration. And we tied up.

Wharf Street is our second choice for a winter berth so it was nice to have a look. The washrooms and showers are a short walk away and are housed with a couple of washing machines and dryers. We grabbed a long-awaited shower and hung out.

Dinner was chicken and veggies and red wine. Then it was time for bed.

Leaving Barclay, Baby

I no longer have sunglasses. The string on the sunglasses had conflicted one too many times with the string on my hat so I had taken them from around my neck and installed them on my hat. Then moments later I had glanced overboard at some passing kelp and “ploop” — there they went. Since they were not of the floating variety they were gone before I could even contemplate attempting a rescue. I had lost my touque in a similar situation a couple of days previously but a successful retrieval had been performed.

We all slept in. Except for those who didn’t. But I did and I wasn’t the last one up, so that’s all that counts. Coffee was ready by the time I hit the deck and I sipped the hot deliciousness in the misty morning.

Intermittent internet has been a feature of this trip. Sitting there at anchorage in the middle of nowhere we get a cell signal but not enough for data. But at the hot springs we were at 4 or 5 bars. Tofino was almost dead but offshore we were downloading like crazy. There seems to be no rhyme or reason although I suppose there must be.

Wind predictions continue to tease us but the immediate schedule calls for 6-8 foot swells and a light SW wind. And that’s what we got. We pulled out of Pipestem Inlet and motored into the Broken Group. I really wish we hadn’t lost a couple of days so we could stay a while. But we are still playing catch-up and Port Renfrew at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is today’s destination.

The swells started up as we approached Cape Beale and hung a left to follow the coast. The wind came up to 10 knots or so, so we raised the sails and started to beat to windward. On paper heading into the wind never seems so bad, but the 1nm progress we were making for 3nm of sailing sure is frustrating. We sailed along for a few hours with Bob and Leslie at the helm, but when I took over the winds dropped to less than 5 knots. So we furled the jib and motor-sailed just off the wind the rest of the way.

The fog broke a bit and visibility was 3 or 4 nm but it was pretty monotonous. We bisected a family of sea lions at one point as the swam across our bow and I spotted one dolphin. At one point the Coast Guard Cutter Gordon Reid Came up behind us about 3 miles off, but at 12 knots they passed us and we could barely make out their outline in the distance. Later when we turned into Port San Juan there they were, anchored in the mouth of the small bay, lights ablaze.

We ate dinner on the go and I gnawed on my pork chop while watching Otto (the autopilot) steer. The wind had completely disappeared by that point but the swells meant you still needed one hand to stand.

Eventually 3 or 4 hours later we arrived at the bay (Port San Juan) in the dark and slowly made our way to the head of the bay. It’s pretty unnerving heading into a strange bay and strange marina at night. There’s not much of a town so there weren’t that many lights and you are relying on your weak night vision and the chart plotter.

On the first pass we mistook the lights of the town for the marina and I narrowly missed (we had 2 feet under the keel) running us aground. The marina turned out to be the two dim lights off the starboard so I swung around and frantically divided my attention between the depth sounder (which never rose above 3 feet) and trying to make out a dock. Terry was on the bow with a flashlight but it was almost more distracting than helpful.

I missed the first attempt because of my worry about the depth (we had hit 2 ft again) but I swung hard and decided to back in. The Northern Passage has a wide beam but her stern is narrow compared to most modern boats so while I concentrated on the stern I threatened to drag a large unprotected section of the hull along the dock. But I avoided that much to Tim’s relief and soon we were stationary alongside the dock.

The swell is still pretty present so we tied a few spring lines and then tidied up for the night. Then it was down below for some delicious apple crisp and ice cream. Some few minutes after the last bite we all started to crash hard and scattered to our various berths with gusto.

The final depth under the keel was only 1.5 feet but it was low tide so we would be ok for the night. But tomorrow morning’s low tide was another 5 feet lower so we would have to be gone by 7:30 to avoid digging the keel into the mud.

And then we slept. Or tried to as the wind came up momentarily and started the halyards howling like slightly drunken banshees. But Tim was on the job and silence returned a few moments later.