Not So Offshore: the Vancouver to LA Summary

(originally posted on neverforever.ca)

In my last post I mentioned I was heading down the coast in a friend’s Baltic 42. The goal was to take it from Vancouver to San Diego so they could join the Baja Haha at the end of October. We allotted approximately 3 weeks for the journey and I imagined that it would primarily  be an offshore trip with two or three legs.

img_8471 Well it turned out that they —and their buddy boat Sea Esta X — decided to loosely follow the “Express Route” as set out in Exploring the Pacific Coast: San Diego to Seattle by Don Douglass and Réanne Hemingway-Douglass. This meant the voyage would mostly be day trips—albeit some fairly long ones— with only a few overnighters.

We got some good downwind sailing and a remarkable amount of motoring. That is, in my lowly opinion, the big downside to harbour-hopping down the coast. The nature of the bars at most of the ports is such that entering and exiting them is often tide and weather dependent: so trying to hit a schedule becomes a bit more important and it’s hard to justify much sailing in light winds.

When we hit Marina del Rey in Los Angeles, it really was time to start taking it easy, so rather than rush the last couple of days to San Diego, I decided to take advantage of the proximity to LAX and fly home from there. Northwest Passage continued on without me and, as of today, I think they still haven’t completed the “two day” trip to San Diego. Good on ’em.

img_8328Bars

Most of the ports on the pacific side of North America are in the mouths of rivers. This generally means you are negotiating breakwaters, dredged channels and bars. Bars are really what can make entering and exiting these ports uncomfortable or even impossible. Bars are formed by the sediments deposited by the rivers outflow and when the incoming swell hits this suddenly shallow area, steep and dangerous waves can occur. Quite often these bars will be closed to small boat traffic and occasionally they will be closed altogether. That means if you arrive at a bar at the wrong time you can’t come in to the harbour and will have to head offshore again to either wait, or move on to the next port in hopes their bar will remain open. The coast guard is constantly going out in these super tough little aluminum boats (47-foot MLBs) to physically check on the conditions and then report them on channel 16.

We were pretty lucky and got into all our ports without incident, although sometimes in the middle of the night, the middle of dense fog, or in one memorable entry, both. There were numerable small boat closures though.

Details?

I blogged about the whole trip in near real time and you can read about it over on macblaze.ca although it intended was more for family and friends and rife with errors and typos. I learned a lot about downwind sailing, saw hundreds of whales, dolphins and sea lions and thoroughly enjoyed myself, with the most memorable moment being alone on deck going around Cape Mendocino at 3 am in 30 knot winds. I’ve also posted a bunch of images at the end of this post.

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map-va-laThe Stats

  • Trip length: 29 days
  • Travel days: 20 days
  • Legs: 16
  • Travel hours: 232:25
  • Total km: 2392.4
  • Total nm: 1291.9
  • Hours motoring: 200 hrs
  • Fuel used 520 L
  • Overnight sails: 3
  • Longest leg: 54 hrs
  • Ports (marinas): 12
  • Anchorages: 4
  • Mooring Balls: 1

The Trip

Day Kilometers Nautical Miles Hours
1 Granville Island, Vancouver to Shallow Bay, Sucia Island (via Point Roberts) 84.4 45.576 5:00
2 Sucia Island to Anacortes, Washington (via Vendovi Island) 45.7 24.678 5:20
3 Anacortes to Neah Bay 165 89.1 15:40
4 Neah Bay to La Push (around Cape Flattery) 76.1 41.094 7:25
5 La Push to Westport Marina, Gray’s Harbor 130 70.2 12:25
6 Gray’s Harbor to Newport, Oregon (overnight) 271 146.34 25.75
7 0 0 0:00
8 0 0 0:00
9 0 0 0:00
10 Newport to Charleston Marina, Coos Bay 151 81.54 13:45
11 0 0 0:00
12 0 0 0:00
13 Coos Bay to Noyo River Basin Marina, Fort Bragg, California (around Cape Mendocino; via Crescent City) 498 268.92 54.00
14 0 0 0:00
15 0 0 0:00
16 Fort Bragg to Bodego Bay 166 89.64 16:25
17 Bogego Bay to Pillar Point Harbour, Half Moon Bay 120 64.8 11:45
18 Pillar Point Harbor to Moss Landing 114 61.56 10:50
19 0 0:00
20 Moss Landing to Morro Bay 212 114.48 20:50
21 0 0:00
22 0 0:00
23 0 0:00
24 Morro Bay to Cojo Bay (around Point Conception) 141 76.14 11:45
25 Cojo Bay to Santa Barbara 71.6 38.664 7:10
26 Santa Barbara to Ventura 43.6 23.544 4:00
27 Ventura to Pacific Mariners Yacht Club, Marina del Rey 103 55.62 10:20
28 0 0:00
29 0 0:00

Google My Maps version

Google My Maps seems to need a Google account to access it, although I can’t prove that. But zoom in if you can and check out some of the harbour entrances and remember most of them were done in the fog or the dark or both.

Some Images

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Humpbacks and grey whales abounded.

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The first part of the trip was often cold and foggy.

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Newport Oregon emerges from the fog

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Entering Coos Bay in the fog

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The old spinnaker cut down to a gennaker. It made for some great (and easy) downwind sailing.

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Morro rock in Morro Bay.

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Cojo Bay anchorage

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And then suddenly, immediately after rounding Point Conception, it was warm

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At anchor in Santa Barbara

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Our last sail of the trip

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Santa Monica Pier from the ocean side

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Malibu from the air

 
—Captain Why #Posts

2016 Route Roundup

I am once again amalgamating all my tracks (see the 2015 version) from our cruise using Google’s My Maps feature. I still had to email all the tracks to myself from the Navionics app on my iPad and then download each KMZ file to my desktop. Next I uploaded each file to a separate folder in Google Earth and combined and edited the layers into a few folders to get around My Maps’ 10-layer limitation. This will allow me to import the finished KMZs straight into My Maps.  As I wasn’t as conscientious as usual about starting and stopping the tracks, I had to go in and edit a lot of them in Google Earth. As always I am still looking for a better way…

spring 2016The Trip

We left Victoria on May 5th and tied up for the last time in Nanaimo on June 19th. We only got as far north as Von Donop Inlet but did manage to make it to Princess Louisa finally. As you will see below other than finally spotting the elusive BC Turkey vulture there was a total dearth of large wildlife.

Click here for a link to an online version.

Here are a few stats

46 days in total
24 travel days
227.6 km (421.6 nm)

Longest day: 74.5 km (40.3 nm)
Highest winds: 21 knots

Nights at a marina: 8
Nights at a public dock: 9 (no power or water)
Nights at anchor: 26

Orca spottings: 0
Humpback spottings: 0
Dolphin/porpoise spottings: 0
Bear spottings: 0

Total Stats for the Year

June 2015–June 2016
335 days living aboard
118 days cruising
1747 km (943.5 nm)

Pictures taken: 2329… anyone want to come over for a slideshow?

 
—Captain Why #Liveaboard, #Posts

Boat Cleaning, Gear Moving & Goodbyes

We decided to spend our last few days at anchor in Nanaimo Harbour, which has become one of our favourite places. It has good holding, nearby hiking, washrooms with showers on Newcastle Island, access to groceries, booze and boat parts wishing easy walking distance and is a great place to simply sit and people watch. The weather turned out to be glorious and we enjoyed the warm sun and ran errands without thinking too much about the next week.

Over the next couple of days we had a visit with Leslie’s parents, enjoyed a beer/cider with an old high school chum (Hi Katie!), filled the propane tanks and hike some new trails on Newcastle Island. But all too soon it was Sunday morning and time to move onto the next phase.

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Get Trucking

In the meantime however, we did need to make plans to move off the boat. We had no vehicle in British Columbia and I had sold my truck in January. Flying home to get Leslie’s car and driving it back would have cost too much and the and the little Pontiac likely wouldn’t hold all our stuff anyway. The next option we looked at was flying home and shipping the rest of our stuff. This was my referred solution. But I looked at the cost of flights out of Vancouver (we try to fly by seaplane to YVR and then home on Westjet or Air Canada, as it usually saves time and costs roughly the same as a taxi ride to Nanaimo’s airport and a direct flight) and then started to add in the extras. Shipping our stuff by truck wasn’t too much but it would mean I had to find a pallet and boxes and packing material and then get the all stuff to a depot. Total cost of around $1200. Another option I looked at was to leave a lot more stuff in storage and just ship 3 big boxes via Loomis — they would pick up and deliver. But the cost was pretty much the same and we would have ended up leaving behind way too much stuff that I wanted to take home.

Then we looked at booking a van one-way. The rental from a traditional rental agency was going to be at least  $1100. A U-Haul was more like $500 but then I had to drive a big, half-empty cube van across the Coquihalla and pay for all that fuel. Not my referred option. In the end, we settled on renting a full size car which would likely fit most of our stuff if we crammed, and only cost around $800 all-in. With ferry, meals and a hotel half-way that worked out to around $1200. Roughly the same cost as all the other options and Leslie’s preferred solution. As I was booking the car though, I discovered my license had expired back in April (Alberta decided to stop mailing out notices while we were away) so it looked like Leslie was going to have to drive — another good reason not to go with the U-Haul.

Up Anchor for the Last Time

On Sunday morning we hauled up the anchor and headed into the pumpout to give the holding tank a good flush. For once it worked—we’ve had a lot of bad luck with the Port of Nanaimo’s pumpout. We pumped it out, flushed and pumped it out again. Then we cast of and headed to the Gas and Go right by Stones Marina to fuel up. Once we had topped off all the tanks, Ian from Nanaimo Yacht Charters and Sailing School met us on the fuel dock and directed us into one of their slips at Stones and that was that. It was time to start getting ready to go.

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On the bow the last time for a least a year.

As soon as we hit the dock we started by dividing the boat into three zones. The v-berth became the place for things returning Edmonton. The salon housed things going into storage and lockers were strictly for things remaining aboard.

IMG_7568In less than an hour the boat was a disaster area and remained that way until the very last minute. After nearly a year of an orderly and tidy boat it didn’t take long for us to start losing, misplacing and more importantly, miscommunicating, about everything we owned. Living in such a small place for so long relies on consistency and cooperation and once we started disassembling our little world, it didn’t take long for the clutter and the differences in our methodologies to create havoc.

But we had many, many reviews and reconsultations and the occasional moderate dispute and we kept moving forward. Step by step we made slow progress using what I like to call the box-step method. Two steps forward, one step sideways, one step back. Repeat. We tried to make lists of everything we packed and to  make sure things were labeled so that we weren’t going to be sitting in Edmonton wondering where things had got to or if we needed to  bring it out with us on our next trip. And while we didn’t expect to actually clean the boat to “charter” status, I wanted to get it unloaded, cleaned up a bit and then get at a few things I hadn’t been able to do in the spring. This included scrubbing the outside lockers, cleaning some hard-to-get-at spaces and rewaterproofing the canvas

Keeping it Clean

Keeping a boat clean while living on it is a test of skill, ingenuity and good systems. And I have to admit, we seemed to have failed. Most of the things I had scrubbed in the spring, inside and out, were even dirtier than after the winter and the things I hadn’t scrubbed were downright disgusting. The aft locker especially was a mess. I hadn’t done it because it was hard to get at on our old dock and frankly it was crammed full of so much stuff that I kept putting it off. But since we were tied stern to at Stones I had no more excuses. Out came everything and then down I went. The locker is a bout 2 and a half feet deep with and opening wide enough for more torso but not wide enough for my shoulders to easily pass through. By slipping one arm and then the other in I could hand from the waist and almost reach every corner of the dirty, mildewy locker. But getting out again was an exercise in controlling my mild claustrophobia as the leverage was just not there. But I got it cleaned out and all the junk was sorted and then the stuff that was staying aboard was restowed. Ian agreed to take my old plough anchor on consignment so was one issue I didn’t have to deal with.

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The non-skid was another thing that seemed to collect dirt and grime at an excessive rate. I had scrubbed it all back in March April but it seems to get much dirtier, much faster when we are cruising. I tried a number of products from regular deck soap to special “corrosive” noon-skid cleaner but my best results were by using liberal amounts of FSR (fibreglass stain remover) and letting it soak in. Amazing stuff, that FSR. I also smeared it all over the small rust bits on the stainless plate mounted under our arch and it cleaned up all the rust in all the crevices and corners.

Over the course of the next few days we scrubbed the canvas again, although the rain later in the week prevented us from waterproofing more than than the dodger and connector. We cleaned out the fridge again (another thing really hard to keep clean when living aboard) and dug as much accumulated grunge out of the seemingly infinite crack and crevices that exist in a boats interior.

Although we had tried to keep up with the mildew over the winter and spring, as soon as we started unloading our stuff it became apparent that there were a lot of places (mostly the aforementioned cracks and crevices) where mildew had taken hold. I am not sure how one would deal with this long term other than to constantly shuffle ones belongings from space to space and cleaning as you went. But that would mean always having an empty space available to shuffle things to and that’s not really feasible.

Nanaimo Yacht Charters and Sailing School

IMG_7546I’ll do a separate post later on the wrap up of turning the boat over to NYCSS but Ian, Lorraine and Shari were their usual friendly and helpful selves, offering us use of their car and access to all the services. We discussed the repairs the boat needed (the d@mned Webasto heater stopped working sometime in the last 2 months among other things) and cleared up some details. On Tuesday we did the haul-out, pressure washed the bottom and replaced the zincs. The zincs were mostly gone and I really should have replaced them much earlier. But other than that everything looked good.

IMG_7566I had a chance to chat with the owner of Stargazer who was just returning from his cruise. He has had his boat at NYCSS for a couple of years now and was happy with the arrangement, which just reinforced our decision to give it a try. He said one of his deciding factors when choosing Nanaimo was their integration of a boatyard, service people and haul-out. Since everything gets billed back to the owners I can see how not having to pay the extra costs involved in moving the boat to a separate location for any work would be desirable.

We also met Selma, who is one of the local liveaboards’ cat and a bold and bossy little girl. But it was nice to get a little cat love again.

NYCSS also provided us with locker space on site (at a cost of course — tanstaafl), which was a great bonus for us during the week. We slowly hauled out everything that made the boat our comfortable home up and stored it in big, labeled rubbermaid containers. That way, when we come back we can just move what is appropriate for the length of our cruise. The charters are called bare boat and they mean bare boat. We were provided with a list of gear that needed to be aboard and they really didn’t want  any extra things like the percolator or dutch oven unless we were willing to bear the risk of loss or damage. So we packed it all up and moved it ashore so we would have it for our own use later.

We stored things like our nav equipment, charts, and pfds as wells as sheets, comforters and pillows—Leslie even left a bunch of clothes. There was also lots of extra galley gear, some reference books and cleaning stuff. All in all, there was a lot more than I thought there would be.

Saying Goodbye

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Our last view of Never for Ever for 2016.

We didn’t get it all done. It was too much, having to sort, move and clean at once and when we finally stepped off the boat on Thursday morning it was still a mess. But they have over a week to work on it and were going to go over it bow to stern anyway. All the cushions were going to be steam cleaned, bilges scrubbed and all the surfaces and lockers cleaned out by their experienced and well-equipped crew so I didn’t feel too bad about leaving it half done. We’d worked hard all week and it was time to go.

Thursday morning we packed up our last bits, stuffed the sheets in a laundry bag, hauled the pillows up to the storage locker and walked through the boat looking for forgotten items. Then we walked the keys over to the office, said goodbye and jumped in the car.

And like that our adventure was over.

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Back to the old way of getting around.

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Horsehoe Bay from the ferry. The last view of salt water for a while.

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We were greeted with a lovely double rainbow just outside Valemount


—Captain Why #Posts

The Last Few Days

We spent two nights stern tied at Deep Bay on Jedediah Island but by the second morning our stern seemed to be distinctly closer to the shore than when we had originally dropped anchor. The wind blew fairly strongly from the NW all afternoon the day after we arrived and our stern spent most of the time lined up with the chains that Chinook had been tied to. And we knew the bottom was rocky rather than mud. How? Well Chinook had had a bit of trouble with dragging when they arrived, and when they left, he’d pulled up that basketball-sized rock. So we figured we had dragged — mostly sideways — enough to move us about 6 to 10 feet closer to the shore. We were still fine for depth but the dragging had made us nervous.

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Since time was running short and we were already thinking of resetting the anchor we decided to just go. South through Bull Passage brought us to the Strait and some 15 knot winds. We pulled out the main with our version of one reef and headed east in the SE wind until we cleared the south end of Lasqueti. Then we turned almost due south and sailed for a few hours in a variable wind. Another of the things we have yet to master is finding the balance in the 10 to 15 knot winds. IN 16 knots it is way more comfortable to have a small reef in and when the winds were gusting to 16 we would make 5.5 to 6 knots of speed with 15-20° of heel and hardly any weather helm. But when the winds settled to 12 or 13 knots the boat speed would drop to 4.5 to 4.8 knots and we found ourselves wishing we could shake the reef. Since we spent more time at 13 knots than 16, logic would dictate we sail without the reef and just weather the gusts. But comfort (and my anxiety levels) are better served by reefing for the gusts.

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Try as I might I just couldn’t pick enough to clear Ballenas Islands so we went deep and then tacked. And as per usual the starboard tack is just a bit slower, so I was keen to tack back as soon as possible. But all my impatience meant was that we ended up having to tack two more times to clear the various islets that lie offshore of Schooner Cove.

IMG_7504I had phoned ahead and they had a spot for us at the marina so I had also texted my friend Darryl and enquired if he had some free time. He invited us to his house for dinner and some wine and we gratefully accepted. Once we hit the dock we cleaned up and relaxed while we awaited out ride. Darryl and his wife Loretta had just moved from the Edmonton area the year before and had been fixing up a lovely A-frame on the hill overlooking the Strait. Lovely place. We ate, drank and visited until it was time to head back to the boat. It’s a nice area and one well worth considering if you want to move to the coast.

The views from Bravo dock are pretty nice. All in all Schooner Cove is a nice place but it is starting to feel its age. The showers etc are great because they are mainly used by the Yacht Club. No cheapo paper towels or toilet paper there. And the shower are free which is a great bonus. They have gutted the main building and have plans to rebuild it as a sort of Granville-Island-esque market. We will have to see how that turns out.

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The next morning we cast off and motored south straight into a 20 knot wind. The waves started out pretty small but built as the morning progressed and we were bashing into 6 or 7 footers by the time we approached Departure Bay. We thought about raising the sails but decided to just get it over with and spend the afternoon cleaning and organizing instead (of course that turned into putzing and relaxing instead). We motored into Nanaimo harbour and dropped anchor in lovely open spot amongst the crowd of boats. Thursday’s Child was still here (or back) and it turns out we dropped anchor right beside My Second Wind fresh from her refit on Gabriola. I haven’t seen any of Curtis’ videos since we pulled out of Victoria, but I would have thought he was half way to Alaska by now. I guess I will have to catch up watching to find out the story.

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Then we spent a few days doing chores and kicking back. We got a ride from Leslie’s parents to top up the propane tank (Nanaimo is a horrible place to try and find propane). We bought some rubbermaid containers, cleaning supplies and scammed some boxes from the liquor store. And then generally enjoyed our last few days on the water. The rain made for some lazy days but that was all right.

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Today we head to Stones Marina and 3 or 4 days of cleaning and packing. Then it’s home to Edmonton and the end of 11 months living aboard. But at least we can start having showers every day again 🙂
—Captain Why #Posts

Size is Relative: A Cruising Update

We spent 4 nights at Grace Harbour. At one point, for the briefest moment, we were the only people there and then suddenly there were 13 boats swinging on their anchors. The numbers varied the rest of the trip, but at no point did anyone resort to stern tying. I figure with boats stern tying, the harbour could easily accommodate another 20 boats.

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It does highlight one of those cruising things that I have yet to get used to, that everything is relative. When we pulled into Grace there were only 4 boat there and, of course, the marked rock in the centre. It felt crowded. We slowly motored amongst the current occupants in search for some clear space. The next day two other boats joined us at the far end in a space we had originally estimated as only holding room for one. And so the next four days went. These sorts of distances, for me, are proving very hard to estimate and I am constantly astounded by how much in my perception size changes as the perspective does. When we left Grace Harbour there were only 10 boats but most (including the previously encountered Emerald Steel) were all crowded down at our end where I had previously sworn there was no room for more than 3 or 4.

After a pleasant night in Lund to top up tanks and batteries, where we met Alan and Charlene from Rugosa — a midnight blue Tartan 3400, stocked up on some groceries, visited the wonderful art gallery at the old hotel and had delicious cinnamon buns for breakfast, we cast off heading south down the Malaspina Strait. And for those of you paying attention, yes, we were heading into the wind. Again.

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We had decided against making the six to seven hour run to Lasqueti Island and decided to break it up with a visit to Blind Bay which lies between Jervis Inlet and Agamemnon Channel. We, as usual, timed it wrong and fought the current for the first 4/5ths of the trip barely making 5.2 knots until the very last bit when it finally turned and were making 6.2 for the last few miles. There are two main anchorages in Blind Bay: Ballet Bay which had previously been recommended to us by R Shack and Hardy Island Marine Park. We decided to check out Hardy Island first since it more likely afforded someplace to go ashore and explore.

From the charts it looked like there was one notch behind Fox Island where maybe two or three boats could stern tie. As we approached there was already a lovely double-ender anchored at opening of the notch and it seemed that we’d likely only fit in one more boat. But after we dropped anchor and were settled in, we jumped in Laughing Baby to visit the oyster-laden shoals at low tide and I had a chance to reevaluate the anchorage. Now that we were tied up seemed we could easily fit another 3 or 4 boats even with that anchored sailboat taking up extra room. There were no rings or chains but the angle of the rocks made going ashore easy and there were plenty of trees to tie up to. Several other boats did come into the park, but all chose to anchor in the deeper (50ft) and more exposed water in the middle.

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We wandered around the shore, took plenty of pictures and admired yet another crop of unknown wildflowers (turns out they were Broderiaea). Leslie emitted the most girlish squeal I have ever heard her utter when a sizeable garter snake decided her shoes were a tad bit to close. This set off a chain reaction, as I was bent over peering at some wild creeping raspberries and, startled, hopped up with extreme alacrity on the nearest rock like the storied farmwife menaced by a mouse. The snake decided we were too, too much and left.

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The next morning we headed south again and, with wind (15-20 knots) and current against us, we made barely 4 knots, turning a 3 hour trip to one almost 5 hours long when all was said and done. Again after we turned around the bottom of Texada, our speed increased dramatically and we entered the small group of islands between Texada and Lasquesti that was our destination doing in excess of 6.3 knots. It would have been gterat sailing if we weren’t barely a nautical mile for our first destination. Rugosa had recommended an “unmarked” anchorage on the east end of Little Bull Channel as being especially convenient and beautiful. On the charts it looked small but as we approached it, it actually looked too open and exposed so we decided to give it a pass this time.

The Desolation Sound chart book shows some aerial photos of our next choice, which was Deep Bay on the NW side of Jedediah Island. From the air it looked like there was room for maybe 4 or 5 boats if all were stern tied on the north shore. As we rounded the corner I could see there was one boat already tied up and 2 more sets of chains on the outward side of the bay. It really didn’t look like there was much room for anymore deeper in. But, after we tied up to the outermost chains, we dinghied in and counted a total of 10 sets of chains with a couple of more on the south side. You could never convince me there is enough room for 10 boats in this tiny bay but… I guess we will have to visit in the high season to see it in action.

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A few minutes after we were settled in a lovely Westsail 32 named Chinook came in and tied up between us and the Hunter Deck Salon that had already been here. That made three boats tightly clustered at the outside end of the bay.

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We hit the shore for a short hike to stretch our legs. The whole of Jedediah Island is a park which had been bought for the province in the mid nineties. Until then it was an active homestead and still has feral sheep and goats roaming the place. There are lots of trails and a few old buildings and the forest is relatively untouched, at least compared to most of the public lands we have hiked on the BC coast. Suffice it to say there were plenty of trees with girths exceeding 3 feet. On our way back I misremembered the map and we decided to do some bushwhacking to meet up with the trail again. This brought us to the top of Mount Jenny and then down the other side until we finally found the main trail near where we had started.

Back on board a beer was definitely in order and we availed ourselves of the hot water to shower and clean up.

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The next morning both our neighbours pulled out and we had the bay to ourselves as the NW winds built. This isn’t the most recommended anchorage in a NW but since we are alone and since they are supposed to turn again this evening, we will stick it out and keep a watch. One interesting episode was when Chinook pulled up their anchor (by hand as the Westsail didn’t have an electric windlass) they also pulled up a sizeable rock (the size of a basketball) nestled in there plough anchor. This obviously made pulling the anchor that much harder and then left them with the problem of how to get it off the anchor. After 5 minutes of jiggling and poking with the boathook it finally dropped back into water with a splash and they were off to start their northward cruise. Seems they were aiming to hook up with tow of the boats we had encountered in Grace Harbour: Chatham II a powerboat that had been there when we arrived and the aforementioned Emerald Steel.

As for us, as I type this it is June 13. We have six days before we are due in Stone’s Marina to start the process of packing up. I’d still like to visit some friends in Schooner Cove on our way and also to spend some time in Nanaimo Harbour decompressing and mentally preparing for the big shift. And there just isn’t that much time left on the clock.
—Captain Why #Posts

Manual Boating: a putting-your-boat-in-charter update

As we worked our way north we had stopped in at NYC (Nanaimo Yacht Charters & Sailing School) to check in and make arrangements to turn the boat over to them before July.Previously I have discussed putting Never for Ever in charter and that time is fast approaching. In fact, after talking it over with Lorraine when we stopped in, we all decided we would bring the boat in on June 19th and be completely off her by the 23rd. That would give everyone time to clean her top to bottom and make sure any remaining things on my to do list were done before the first charterer boards on June 30. Last time I asked, Never for Ever has been booked for about 6 of the 8 weeks available in July/August. Not bad for a new boat in the fleet. That does mean we have less than 2 weeks left to explore Desolation though.

We also need to haul her and survey her as much as possible to ascertain her state of being as she enters charter and avoid any possible conflicts in the future. There are a lot of little details like that that I want to take care of to avoid having any fuss later on. I have a lot of trust in the crew at NYC and we have a good working relationship, but the more we have documented the less potential for conflict there is.

Never for Ever Yacht ManualSo as we hung on the hook in Von Donop Inlet, one of our tasks was to finalize the revisions to the official charter manual. This manual includes all the standard charter info and then details the systems on our particular boat, as well as documenting any how-to’s or processes we deem necessary for safe, fun and easy use by people who will be aboard for as little as a week. It is an amazing exercise to think through all the systems and steps and then try and record them in a coherent and orderly manner. I found it particularly fascinating to uncover all the small routines that we had internalized and reexamine some of the unconscious habits we had gained. While for most owners it would be a lot of work for little gain, I would almost want to suggest that everyone go through the exercise. Certainly if you were selling your boat it would be an massive boon to the buyer. Take a look at the end of this post to see the Table of Contents as it stands now.

Also as a result of this exercise, my next task — not specifically meant for the charterers — is going to be discovering and recording all the vestigial systems that previous owners had added or removed, things like the breaker marked “Battery Charger” that does nothing as far as I can tell. And hopefully we will remove some of the old wiring while we are at it.

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I am also trying to finish off as many of the outstanding chores as I can, working on the dinghy (fixing the oarlocks), repairing dings and gouges and cleaning some of the accumulated dirt. One of the things about charter companies is that they are so helpful and accommodating you forget that everything has a price tag and it all gets billed back to you. We do get discounted rates on labour, but I want to do as much as possible myself to avoid unnecessary charges. And frankly I want the boat to be in as good a shape as possible for the charterers. Nothing is more frustrating than the small annoyances that could have been avoided. It’s relatively easy to forgive or at least accommodate major issues like breakdowns — there are always established mechanisms to resolve those — but having to deal with piddly things like broken latches or flaky equipment is just annoying and rarely comes with any recompense. So I want to avoid that as much as I can and hopefully build up some good will.

And I really am hoping that we can make enough money to invest in a few things as well, like upgrading the canvas or adding a TV back to the boat (it used to have one and wiring is still there). But I guess we will see.

Battery Update

We spent 4 nights at Von Donop and left with 11.5 volts and 53% of capacity showing on the battery monitor. According to the “amps used” meter we had used 217 amps of our usable 225 amps (out of 450 amps available). For those of you who don’t already know, the health of a lead acid battery is best maintained by not running them below 50% capacity or 12.2 volts. Unfortunately an accurate voltage can only be measured after the batteries have rested with no load for 12 hours or more — something virtually impossible to do if you are actively using them. When we installed our battery monitor last year it involved placing a shunt in the main connection from the battery which allows the monitor to measure the amount of current that flows through the system. Theoretically this gives you a more accurate way to gauge the state of the batteries. Previously we would only go three nights without at least running the diesel for an hour or two as the voltage would be reading 12.2 or 12.3v. Now, given our total 450 amp/hr capacity and more accurate measurements, we are able to go for 4 complete days without any sort of charging.

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So when we left Von Donop, we decided to head back to Gorge Harbour (approx 2 hrs) rather than make a run for Lund (approx 4 hrs) to pick up some supplies and charge the batteries. As a result we ran the diesel for around two and a half hours and our 50-amp alternator managed to put 76 amps (30.4 amps an hour) back into the batteries and bringing us back to 70%. Pretty good considering the alternator isn’t really meant to work that hard. One of the options we are considering is upgrading to a 100 amp alternator with a smart regulator. This would put more amps faster into the batteries and allow us to get a few more nights without having to go to a dock for a full charge. The other plans include adding some solar or buying a portable generator. Oddly enough all three methods of getting more juice involve roughly the same investment: around $1200.

So right now it appears one full day/night is 12% of capacity or around 55 amps which mean running the diesel for at least an hour and a half. I am not sure how much the revs need to be to maintain that but we ran at 2400 rpm most of the way to Gorge. That gives us 4 solid days which is pretty good and we can likely street that if we do some travelling in between.

The next few days

We ate the Floathouse Restaurant while we were at Gorge. It’s still early season so the food is a bit more pub that it is in high season where the menu is much more sophisticated and pricey, but that suited us just fine. The dock also had a few more visitors than when wed been in the harbour the week before. The season is stating to pick up.

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The next morning we cast off and motored (still no wind) into Desolation Sound proper and headed for Grace Harbour. As we entered the harbour there was only one big powerboat and two other sailboats — no need to stern tie as there was still plenty of room. We tucked into the far end of the bay as far from everyone as we could and settled in to enjoy a couple of days of hot weather and sunshine.

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Over the next few days a few boats came and went and they inevitably anchored as close to us as they could. This is a well-documented and (and bemoaned) phenomenon in the cruising world. People always want to cluster rather than spreading out and enjoying a little solitude. It reached its peak on the third day when 4 sailboats arrived from the Gibsons Yacht Club and immediately dropped anchor beside us. Then a fifth one came in a few hours later and hemmed us in on the other side. This last one made us a bit nervous as the wind had built up and shifted south; our anchor and rode had spun 180° so we weren’t too sure of where everyone’s anchors were and were a bit apprehensive about the possibility of dragging. That stormy night we had 13 boats for company in the harbour, but thankfully they mostly left and were only 5 the next morning to enjoy the sun that came back out.

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Desolation Sound means it is warm enough to swim. Still a bit chilly though — Brrrrrrr!

One bright note was the boat that anchored closest to us from the Gibsons flotilla turned out to be Ocean Grace (Larry and Sheila) whom we had met on the Broughtons flotilla a few years ago. We’d also run into them last August in Squirrel Cove — just another one of those ‘small world’ episodes. They came over in the afternoon for a visit and we caught up and got to show them the boat as they hadn’t seen it last year.

We plan to stick out the full four days and leave for Lund to hopefully pick up some produce, as we are down to one onion, one clove of garlic and half a root of ginger — I’m not sure what that means for dinner tonight, but I am guessing it will be something pasta-ish.

And of course we need to charge the batteries again.

Never for Ever Operation Manual

Table of Contents

  • THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
  • NAVIGATING AND SAILING IN TIDAL WATERS
  • AREA WHISKY GOLF
  • QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE
  • VESSEL SPECIFICATIONS
  • SAFETY EQUIPMENT
    • Life Jackets
    • Flares & Air Horn
    • Wooden Bungs
    • Flashlights
    • Fire Extinguishers
    • First Aid Kit
    • Emergency Tiller
    • Life Ring & Floating Line
    • Lifesling Rescue System
  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
    • Engine
    • Starting And Stopping The Engine
    • Engine Salt Water-Cooling System
    • Changing The Raw Water Pump Impellor:
    • Operating The Gearshift/Throttle Control
    • Engine Alarm Systems
    • Tool Kit /Top Up Oil Spares 14 Batteries
  • NAVIGATION AND ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT:
    • Speed And Depth Sounder
    • Speed Log
    • Autopilot
    • Garmin FishfInder
    • GPS
    • Radar
    • AC Panel And Shore Power
    • Battery Monitor & Inverter
    • Troubleshooting Low Batteries
    • VHF Radio
    • Stereo System: Sony Media Player
  • ON DECK
    • The anchor windlass
    • Spare Anchor
    • Propane
    • BBQ
    • The Water Tank
    • The Diesel Tank
    • Holding Tank
    • Tank Systems Monitor
    • The Outboard Motor
  • SAILS AND FURLING MECHANISMS
    • In Mast Furling
    • Mainsail Reefing & Furling
    • Downwind Preventer
    • Genoa Furling
  • BELOW DECK
    • The Stove
    • Smoke Detector
    • Microwave
    • Refrigeration
    • Water Pressure System
    • Cabin Heat
    • Hot Water
    • Bilge pumps
    • Shower Drain Pump
    • Toilets
    • Holding Tanks and Macerator
    • Dinette Table
  • GENERAL SAFETY ISSUES AND INFORMATION
    • Locker Lids
    • Propane
    • Barbecue
    • Outboard motor gasoline:
    • Thru-Hulls & Drains
  • CONTACT INFORMATION
  • RETURNING THE YACHT
  • DE-BRIEFING AFTER THE CRUISE
    • Photographs

—Captain Why #Charter, #Posts

Early-Season Cruising In Desolation Sound

Our cruising career, as short as it’s been, is notable for one somewhat atypical feature. Our first cruise and learn was at the end of April, we’ve spent June in the Broughtons, circumnavigated Vancouver Island in late May and are once again enjoying May — and now June — cruising Desolation Sound. Sure, we have done some chartering in July and last year spent August in the Broughtons, but all in all it seems we have spent an unusual amount of time avoiding the high season and crowded anchorages.

And you know what? I am beginning to think I like it that way.

Leaving Sturt, we decided to head up to Rebecca Spit on Quadra Island. It seemed we might still need to stay in cellphone/internet range and I also wanted to check in on Peter and his boat Kismet. Peter is a young fellow we shared the dock with in Victoria. He spends his summer guiding kayaks with an outfit out of Heriot Bay, so he had bought a small sailboat to live on while he was there. He’d left Victoria a week before us, and I wanted to check in, catch up and maybe buy him a beer. The day after we dropped anchor off Rebecca Spit, I motored over to Heriot Bay to find Kismet tied up to the government dock but no sign of Peter. I left a note saying we’d be around for a few days, but he never got back to us — likely out on a multi-day trip. Or maybe he didn’t like free beer.

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A very quiet afternoon at Rebecca Spit

We were one of only three boats at Rebecca Spit. And all three of us stayed at least three days. This, I think, is one of the things I like so much about early-season cruising. Last year on our way up to the Broughtons in late July we stopped for the night in Squirrel Cove. It was packed. We actually cruised around for almost half an hour trying to find a spot to anchor that suited our sensibilities and my poor ability to judge distances. And then, once we hit the Broughtons a week later, we were sharing anchorages with one or two other boats at the most. Much better. I may not be getting much practice making decisions on where to anchor in busy anchorages, but I think the benefits of having anchorages to ourselves outweigh the losses to my skill set.

On the way back from my visit to Kismet, I saw a parade going up the spit toward the picnic grounds. Turns out it was the local May Day celebration and the town was out in full force despite the slight rain. I collected Leslie and we wandered around and enjoyed the festivities that seemed to have a steampunk theme. We briefly considered (and then thought the better of) challenging the locals at the greased pole climbing contest. After a bit we climbed back into Laughing Baby and headed back over to Heriot Bay and had a coffee at the local shop in order to use their wifi to move some files around.

I love and miss small towns. While I waited in line, the barista ran out of whole milk, so the customer in front of me volunteered to walk over to the store and get some. “Sure,” said the barista, “tell them to put on my account.” That just doesn’t happen in the city.

After three quiet nights on the hook we wandered over to Taku Resort — again we were the only boat on the dock — and enjoyed another benefit of early-season cruising: their low-season rate of $1.15/foot with power included. Considering their regular rate was around $1.75, it was unlikely we would stay there without the discount. Actually, I also checked at the Heriot Bay Inn and Marina and their low-season rate was an amazing $0.50/foot. After we tied up we hauled our accumulated laundry up the hill, charged up the batteries and topped up the water tank. One last trip to Heriot Bay to get a few fresh provisions and the next morning we were ready to go.

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All alone at Taku Resort.

Next we made the short trip through Uganda Passage on our way to Gorge Harbour. Either our chart plotter is wrong or the green buoys have drifted south, but our track through the passage off Shark Spit had us on the wrong side of the buoys as we negotiated the s-turn. When we came back the next day I kept an eye on the depth sounder, and if I had to guess, I would say the chart plotter was correct and the buoys had moved — but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

At Gorge we motored into the far west end to drop our hook. The docks at the Gorge Harbour Resort were empty except for one boat, and it looked like we were the only transients at anchor (one sailboat did join us at anchor later that evening). Leslie had had the helm from castoff to arrival so we (I) decided to switch our usual roles for anchoring as well. Normally she “mans” the windlass and I look after the helm, but we both need practice at the other’s jobs. What made this anchoring more difficult than usual is that the bay was crowded with moored boats — some swinging and some moored fore and aft — and even more empty mooring buoys. We needed to judge the distances so that our greater swing wouldn’t send us into these static targets if the wind came up. And of course the anchor decided to drag for one of the first times ever. Eventually we got a good hold, but then wind or current or something decided to move us over our chain and we ended up on the opposite side of the anchor. But it was all good and we had a quiet night — albeit a bit closer to one moored boat than we had anticipated.

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The harbour was populated by a family of geese with goslings in that awkward teenage phase. I can’t say I have ever seen Canada geese in such a disreputable state before, with half grown-in feathers and a seemingly sun-faded colouration. We were also entertained by both a kingfisher and the local otter fishing for dinner — the otter seemed to have much better success. Speaking of dinner, the highlight of ours was when I dropped the ceramic bowl of tomato salad, laden with onions, garlic and olive oil, on the companionway steps. It, predictably, shattered and the bowl shards, salad and oil exploded, managing to land in three separate cabins, just as I need to get the chops off the BBQ and the orzo out of the water. I treated myself to an extra glass of wine for dinner. Desert was still-warm brownies that Leslie had whipped up, so with that, and the wine, in the end all turned out good.

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Before dinner we did row up to the resort, but the restaurant was closed and the store held nothing appealing except Leslie finally found a copy of The Curve of Time. Everywhere we went last year people asked if we had read it and we had seen copies for sale at every stop. But after we had decided to buy it this spring, it was out of stock every place we checked from Sidney to Desolation. The bookseller in Madeira Park had copies backordered and figured it was because Whitecap had put out an anniversary edition hardcover and it must have sold out. But we finally have our own copy.

The next morning we figured Gorge just wasn’t where the cool kids were, so we decided to move on. I had wanted to visit Von Donop Inlet, and it has a reputation as a must-do that was often crowded. It seemed perfect for an early-season visit. It was only a short two and half hour motor, so we raised anchor at around 11 am and, after fuelling up at the resort, headed back toward Uganda Passage and then turned north to follow the coast of Cortes Island. There was one sailboat boat anchored at the lagoon, two in the next small bay and we joined three others and two powerboats in the bigger bay at the far south end. Plenty of room for everyone.

I did notice that all of the sailboats here were outfitted as serious cruisers. Actually since we left Nanaimo we haven’t really seen very many Hunters or Beneteaus or other boats of that ilk other than ones from charter companies. Still, Never for Ever, Hunter that she is, is serving us just fine, even if she’s not as fancy or well outfitted. We are grateful for the “full” enclosure to keep the wind and rain out of the cockpit, and I find myself wishing we had invested in a generator or some solar to extend our visits at anchorages. Even a larger alternator would help, because after 3 or 4 nights on the hook, motoring is not enough to put charge back into the batteries for another extended stay.

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Jellyfish photography is hard!

It’s beautiful here in Von Donop and we are getting a bit of rain that transforms the hilly scenery into a misty and mystical place. The other bays are worth exploring by dinghy and there are trails here as well so we plan to do some hiking. And oddly enough, we have a better cell signal here than we did at Gorge.

The plan as it stands now is to stay here a couple of days, then head off to Grace Harbour. But who really knows what we’ll do? We don’t.

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Exploring the entrance to the lagoon in Van Donop

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Our version of a quiet evening stroll

 
—Captain Why #Posts

A Hot Time on Texada

The Texada Boat Club is one of my favourite places to visit — despite its creaky dock. We’ve been lucky enough to get the same, stern-in spot almost every time we’ve visited; it backs up onto their small covered float with two picnic tables, flower pots, a tent to keep the rain and sun off and a small book exchange. There is water and and 15 amp power available and garbage can be dropped off for $3/bag. Bob and his wife Maggie, the wharfingers, maintain a database of visiting boats so if you’ve been there before you might get greeted by name, which can come as a bit of a surprise to those not “in the know.” All this for only $.70/ft!

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The flowers at our favourite spot from our last visit to the Boat Club.

This year we shared the dock with a little 27 footer on its way to Victoria. The older fellow was going to join up with his son and daughter, both of whom had boats, and they were going for a family cruise. I think I need to get my extended family cruising, as that plan sounded just grand. The small bay (the inlet part Sturt Bay) across from the Boat Club usually has one or two boats hanging on the hook and I have always assumed that’s all it had room for. Well last night there was a trimaran really far in and 6 other sailboats as well. And there still looked like there was plenty of room for more. We will have to give it a try. I am noticing that this early-season cruising is popular with the more salty crowd and the anchorages are more popular than the docks.

But if you do come to the Boat Club for a visit, just grab a spot on the most westerly dock which generally has plenty of room and Bob will come by in the evening to settle up.

When he came down, Bob let us know that tragedy had struck that afternoon. The Texada Island Inn, a short walk from the docks, had burned down. I walked up today to survey the damage and the hotel looks completely gutted, although the restaurant section seemed better off. The fireman I talked to said he figured it was a write-off but it would, of course, be up to the insurance companies. Meanwhile that means the only restaurant and bar in town is closed indefinitely. He did mention that this might be a boon for the local Legion and hopefully they would extend their hours. Not much help for visiting boaters though.

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IMG_7174I cruised the town on my way back. Not much to see although they had a nice sized market and an interesting direction sign post; all in all a typical small, small town with lots of personality. I also came across a hummingbird feeder with more hummingbirds than I can count buzzing around it like bees. For a prairie boy like me this counts as a most amazing sight, and I stood there amongst the barking neighbourhood dogs for a few minutes staring. The local cat on the porch just through disdainful glance at me and then continued to ignore all the activity in fine cat fashion.

We had motored up from Pender the day before straight into the 12-15 knot winds, staring enviously at all the boats running downwind, making better time than us with just their genoas flying. Despite the number of times I have travelled up and down the Malaspina strait, I have yet to do it with the wind anywhere but on my nose. I have had some fine sails beating into the wind, but it would be nice to be able to have it at my back just once. At least the decks got a good washing.

And now we are pausing here briefly so we have a good cell reception to allow Leslie to finish some work on her book. Then we will likely head for the wilds of Desolation Sound — Grace Harbour or Roscoe Bay — to hang and drink in the rugged beauty and, hopefully, solitude.
—Captain Why #Posts

Gazing upon some (Internet) Stars

Like many would be boaters, I spent, and spend, a lot of time reading other boaters’ blogs and watching YouTube channels made by fellow cruisers. And, as we put in more and more time on the water, I am starting to actual encounter some of these “famous” people in our travels. Over the winter in Victoria, we saw My Second Wind from Living Aboard Boats at dock in Westbay although did not manage to meet Curtis — he’s heading to Alaska this summer so maybe we will encounter him on our way back south. I also saw Gudgeon — who’s blog gudgeonblog.ca I have followed since it started as nothing more than a dream of buying a boat and living aboard — tied up at Fishermans’ Wharf numerous times and did manage to exchange a few emails with Matt.

But since leaving Princess Louisa, the brushes have started to come fast and furious. Yahtzee, (threesheetsnw.com/yahtzee) whose master is Andy Cross of Three Sheets NW fame, was just entering Malibu Rapids as we exited, so we missed him by the tiniest margins. He subsequently wrote a blog post about his visit that reflects my feelings almost exactly. But now I know he’s around.

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The beautiful Harmony Islands

We spent that night stern-tied at Harmony Islands and then proceeded on to anchor in Garden Bay at Pender Harbour. We needed some fresh produce and some internet because my own little star had received the first edits back from her publisher for the book she wrote during the winter. While there I set up a new domain for her website (readingwithapencil.com) and a Facebook page so she can start the process of promoting the book — which, by the way, is a primer on how to be a book editor.

Emerald Steel at twilight

Emerald Steel at twilight

The third night we were there Emerald Steel, whose owners Jules and Suzie have a fascinating YouTube channel documenting, among other things, their travels to the Pacific and back, also anchored out in Garden Bay. Jules was on deck when I dinghied by, so I spent 15 minutes or so chatting with him, with Suzie occasionally popping up from below and interjecting. Seems Emerald Steel has never spent the night on the dock (barring haul outs and such) in the over 30 years since they built her. A fascinating couple who’s positive attitude were more than a little inspiring, even in the short time I talked to them.

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S/V Cambria the next morning as we were leaving.

Later that day Stephanie from S/V Cambria (svcambria.com) left a comment on my blog saying they were heading to Pender as well. Unfortunately I didn’t spot them until late in the evening and we had raised anchor the next morning. I did cruise by on our way out but no one seems to be up and about. Still, we are cruising the same grounds so maybe, like Yahtzee, there will be a next time.

For now, we are spending the night at the Texada Boat Club in Sturt Bay, in my favourite spot on the dock. If all goes well with the last of the edits, then next we will head for Desolation and some quiet time in Grace Harbour. If not, we might pop over to Rebecca Spit and anchor there for a spell so we still have access to internet and also access to a great anchorage. And I have great hopes to meet a whole lot more people — famous or not — in the time we have left aboard.

Some local YouTube channels I follow

Life is Like Sailing
Hundred Rabbits
Sailing Maiweh
S/V Pardon my French

Other YouTube channels I follow

White Spot Pirates
Sailing Uma 
Sailing La Vagabonde
and of course S/V Delos

A few other favourite “local” blogs

S/V Asunto 
Pacific Sailors 
S/V Violet Hour 
Stories of Aeolus 
—Captain Why #Posts

The Pilgrimage to Princess Louisa Inlet

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From the very first moment I ever considered boating in the PNW, a journey to Princess Louisa Inlet has been held up as the quintessential, must-do voyage. Every guidebook, every charter company’s trip planner, every boater we met, all talked about the beauty and majesty of that mystical destination. But frankly, after a season or two of visiting some of the “popular” destinations and then getting the chance to explore some destinations off the beaten path, I had almost decided to give Princess Louisa a pass. At the very most, my latest plan was to charter a powerboat and get in and get out so I wouldn’t have to deal with the crowds that are generally associated with the “must do’s” but still be able to say I’d seen it. And yes, I realize I was being a bit cynical.

But as we pulled out of Smuggler Cove, we talked it over and decided that the week before the Victoria Day long weekend was probably our best shot at a quiet visit and the high-water slack at Malibu Rapids was currently somewhere between 5 and 6 p.m. so we could still have a reasonable start for the five- to six-hour trip up the various reaches to Malibu Rapids at the mouth of Princess Louisa. So we decided, what the hell, let’s give Louisa a chance.

We departed Smuggler Cove in a light fog and motored up Agamemnon Channel doing a bit of radar review, and a couple of hours later arrived at Backeddy Resort and Marina outside Egmont. I had given the Bathgate General Store, Resort and Marina located right in Egmont a call as we wanted to pick up some fresh produce there instead of stopping at Madiera Park in Pender Harbour. But the lady on the phone informed me it was too shallow for sailboats although there was some space at the government dock. As we still wanted to top up the water and batteries we opted for Backeddy. Backeddy has strong currents and a lot of bouncing and rolling when the powerboats and tugs go by, but it settles down at night although the $60 tab I could have done without. Safely tied up we lowered the outboard onto the dinghy and took off for Egmont. But our trip was to no avail; the only fresh produce available was potatoes and yams, the former of which we had and the latter not in any way a part of my dietary preferences.

The next morning we cleaned up a bit and cast off around 10 a.m.; at an average of 5.5 knots, it would get us there at around 4 p.m. for the 5:05 slack. I went to the trouble of setting up a route on the chartplotter so we could keep an eye on the ETAs between waypoints as we progressed. This turned out to be some brilliant foresight because at 2400 rpm we started off doing 6.5 knots, well above my estimated average. As the long journey progressed I kept dropping the revs until, on the last legs, we were putting along at a mere 1900 rpm and still maintaining a 5.5 knot SOG (speed over ground).

The journey up the various reaches (Prince of Wales, Princess Royal Reach and Queens Reach) is a different kind of trip than we’ve taken before. There was zero traffic the whole way except for one tug coming out of a logging camp. The legs are long and straight with great visibility and forty-five minutes to an hour between turns. And we saw very little detritus and no logs whatsoever in the water. This meant we could set up the autopilot on each leg to head to the next waypoint and then relax in the beautiful weather and scenery with a slightly less vigilant watch; the alarm (not that we relied on it) would make sure we made our turn. It was a lot like I imagine an offshore watch would be like.

Given the the good speed we were making we spent the last 4 or 5 nautical miles idling along the tiny beaches in the lower part of Queens Reach, and then let out the sails to almost drift in the 5- or 6-knot winds while we waited for the turn. I could see on the AIS that the small cruise ship Safari Queen was waiting on the other side to make the transit. She made a securité call at around 20 minutes to 5 announcing her intentions and then came through. We waited until 10 minutes to 5 before starting our run, making the actual transit about 10 minutes before full slack. We had about a knot of current pushing us, but it was uneventful in the extreme. Once on the other side the mountains seem to close in, and the 5-mile trip to the end of the inlet is breathtaking, surrounded by high cliffs and, at this time of year, dozens and dozens of waterfalls.

At the end of the inlet, four boats were already tied up to the docks, and one was anchored at the base of the falls. Two other followed us in, but that still left plenty of room on the spacious docks. The use of the docks (and five mooring balls behind Macdonald Island) is free but a suggested donation is recommended.

When we visited Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park many years ago we had taken a tourist boat trip up Western Brook Pond, the Newfoundlanders’ understated name for a massive fjord. The trip through Princess Louisa was both slightly less, and slightly more, impressive and awe-inspiring. But unlike Gros Morne, the kicker at Princess Louisa is rounding a final corner and seeing the long narrow valley that wraps around Chatterbox Falls, funnelling the water down over 1500 feet to the base where the docks are. This view disappears once you get in close, so be sure to take it slow and savour the multiple cascades from mountain top to sea level as you approach.

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Besides the large UnCruise boat that had left as we arrived, another tourboat — a high-speed zodiac out of Egmont — made several trips in with its visitors bundled up in survival suits. The guide said it was about an hour and a half trip out for them including stops. Each trip he would pause so they could take pictures at the base of the falls and then allow them 30 minutes to explore before bundling them back aboard and zooming off for home. Several other boats came and went during our visit, including a lovely old wooden powerboat built in the 1920s, with a maximum of eight boats on the docks at any given time. I imagine this is very quiet compared to July or August — they have a suggested 72 hour maximum to ensure everyone gets a chance. A few of the other boats stayed for more than two evenings, but one boat arrived on the evening slack and left the next day by noon — that seems like such a waste an experience.

IMG_7005The first thing that hit us after we had Never for Ever secured to the dock was the taste of the air. The base of the falls is much bigger than we expected, and the moist, cool air produced by the crashing water was loaded with smells and tastes that can most aptly be described as clean and fresh. This sensation occurred again and again during our stay as we would round a corner on a path or poke our heads up from below. It was as if every scent produced by the verdant growth was buoyed up by the dense air and delivered gently to our nostrils. Throughout our stay both Leslie and I would remark on it each time we strayed from our boat.

The second thing we noticed is the sound. The background roar of the falls never leaves. Your voices are a bit louder while you are here, you don’t hear the powerboat running his engines, and you fall asleep to the sound of a “fan” you just can’t shut off. For all its volume, it’s much subtler than the scent of the place. The air hits your senses in waves, coming and going, but the sound is always there, in the background until you notice it at the oddest moments.

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When we walked up to the base of the Chatterbox Falls I — having for some strange reason changed from synthetics to cottons — got appropriately drenched by the ever-present mist. Thousands of litres of water are pounding down the mountain side, throwing water in every direction. Between the shadows and the immense amount of water and spray in the air, it’s difficult to get a picture that appropriately captures the grandeur of Chatterbox Falls, but I had fun trying. Later, when the wind came up and blew the mist back against the falls, I did manage to get a few clearer images of the water cascading down the rocks that might, somehow, capture the essence of the experience.

Low tide is also a very interesting time here. The sandbars created by the many outflows of water extend quite a distance beyond the base of the falls and makes for great sand cats and interesting exploring. Swimming here is not advised because of the presence of lions mane jelly fish (and, I imagine, the glacier cold water). Along the docks there were hundreds of jellyfish swimming in the water ranging from a few inches to more than a foot across. We also found many unfortunate ones lying on the rock where they were trapped by the receding tides. We wonder if they can survive their time out of the water, but the dead ones we saw floating later as the tide came back in seems to indicate they can’t. The shore is littered with clam shells, and a myriad collection of basalt and granite stones with a full complement of sizes from the tiniest specks to bowling-ball-size rocks. The action of the outflow tends to group them according to their size so as you explore you find these collections of similar diameter sand, gravel, stones and rocks.

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At one point the wind came up in late afternoon and the boat at anchor began to swing. Normally the current from the falls is enough to keep a boat bow towards shore. Waggoners recommends a stern anchor in case of such winds but they obviously didn’t have one. After an hour or two of anchor watch they joined us on the dock, noting that after the second time their anchor dragged they had lost confidence that it was going to hold. And, in the way of such things, the wind died a few minutes after they were safely tied up. Other than that brief spell, the weather remained very calm, albeit cloudy and rainy on the secondhand third day.

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There are few trails here, and some picnic tables and fire pits, with one larger shelter and fire pit built by the Princess Louisa International Society. But other than at low tide, exploring and hiking is pretty much limited to one “arduous” trail with a 500-meter elevation gain up to an old trapper’s cabin. On our short walks we did find lovely displays of Nootka roses that added their scent to the air, Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom, plenty of red and orange salmonberries to feed your inner bear, and lots of tiny wildflowers, including some native bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa) and silverweed (Potentilla anseria).IMG_7056 Here and there in the mostly coniferous forest, broad maple trees are covered with moss and the word verdant realizes its true meaning in this moist, healthy ecosystem with lush undergrowth and soaring deciduous and coniferous trees that create a canopy coloured in myriad shades of green.

 

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A magnificent place. I can see how it might lose some of its wonder in high season, and the circumstances created by distance and geography certainly lend themselves to the tendency to make it one of those spots where you arrive, take in the splendour and move on. But, as in so much of the beautiful coast of B.C., if you come at a quiet time and take the time to just sit and appreciate, you will find much to keep mind and soul fed for days. We certainly did.

After  I wrote this post, but before I posted it, Andy Cross from Yahtzee posted a remarkably similar post. They were entering Malibu as we were leaving. Well worth a read. 
—Captain Why #Posts