Desolation 2019 week two

Je suis désolé

Previously…

When last we blogged we were tied up in the Copelands starting to get into the cruising groove. We have been binge-watching a lot of Episodes lately which was Matt Le Blanc’s Showtime series about a fictional Matt LeBlanc. It stars Tamsin Greg and Stephen Mangen who I just adored on the British series Green Wing. If you are at all into absurd British humour you really need to watch Green Wing. Episodes always starts with a Previously… so… This week: Desolation Sound!

8 May

Another beautiful day. The morning was again work for L and after lunch we took off to explore. I see a pattern emerging. We motored up to the cove in the central island that seems to be the popular anchorage of the Copelands. It is however open to all the wakes from boats transiting Thulin Passage so it doesn’t really appeal — but the approach is much less nerve-wracking than our little hidey hole.

Speaking of nerve-wracking, we are still having some low, low tides left over from the new moon. and when we putted out the entrance of our cove at low tide we could see a large metal spar actually poking above the surface of the water by a few inches; it emanated from the charted wreck that lies along the east shore. I never realize just how close to the surface it was. The wreck is directly below a large conifer up on the ridge and lies about 20 feet off the shore at low tide; closer to 30 at high tide. Be aware. That still gives you 30–40 feet before you have to worry about the rocks on the west side of the narrow passage. While I still recommend entering this anchorage at low tide so you can see said rocks, maybe it might be better to do it a couple of hours earlier or later.

There was one boat anchored in the centre of the cove we headed for, eschewing any of the new fancy stern-tie chains that have been recently installed — seemingly all over Desolation Sound and the Sunshine coast; there must of been a government grant or something. We did a slow reconnaissance to check out the chains for future reference and then used one to tie up the dinghy and head ashore. There a bunch of easy paths to follow that wind around the south portion of the island but couldn’t find anything that led to the north portion.

On the way back we check out the southern-most island and it looks like it has a bunch more trails so we will have to head over one day. Next trip though, as our batteries look to be around 55% tomorrow and it is time to think about a recharge.

Out in the Passage we had got enough signal for me to discover that SV Violet Passage has tied up in Campbell River. A quick Instagram message confirmed they are ready to head north so it looks like we definitely missed them this year.

9 May

I awoke to a very loud, very bossy eagle. And a couple of equally noisy Canada geese. What a racket! I thought these hideaways were supposed to be peaceful.

With batteries almost dead we now had basically two choices. We could find a marina and plug in or go for a long motor and try and pack as much juice back into them as possible. With topped up batteries we have 3 or 4 nights power but ft we just rely on the engine to recharge we can’t usually get them past 90% (which will take 5 or 6 hours of motoring) and that leaves us with only 2– 3 nights on anchor.

Batteries

For those that are interested we use about 15% of our total batteries capacity in one 24hr cycle. Our lead acid battery bank holds 450 amp hours at 12v, only 50% of which is available to be used (lead acid batteries don’t like to be drained less than 50%). That means we use around 67 amps a day—the majority of which goes to powering our fridge and freezer and running the stereo.

I would love to pick up an alternate power source, but solar panels aren’t really appropriate for a charter boat and I waffle over the cost effectiveness of a small generator. They are worth around $1200 — the equivalent of around 20 visits to a marina. Since we usually see only 2 or 3 marinas a trip, that’s a lot of years of amortization.

After some back and forth we had a plan. We decided to head to a marina, which meant Lund, Gorge Harbour (which we were visiting next week anyway) or across to Quadra Island and Taku Resort. A bit more consulting of the charts and calendar and we decided to head to Lund for a night. Then we could spend a week in a couple of anchorages (tentatively Tenedos Bay and Von Donop Inlet) and make our way around the back of Cortes to Taku where we could reprovision, do laundry and top up on power and water. That would leave us in a good position to meet up with the flotilla either in Comox or Gorge by the 16th.

As we puttered around getting ready to cast off I noticed our two loud goose friends on the cliff behind us. Then I noticed the six goslings also scattered across the cliffside. Let me tell you watching tiny little yellow fluff balls scale cliffs is another pretty nerve-wracking activity. And mom and dad didn’t seem to even notice…someone should call social services…

Speaking of wildlife I had forgotten to mention the 6-inch squid who spent quite a bit of time checking out the yellow paint on our chain rode way back in Smuggler Cove. I have never seen one before; according to the guide book he (she?) was likely a Loligo opalescens also know as an Opal Squid, or a Market Squid, or even more commonly known in a restaurant near you as calamari. Mmmmmm…calamari…

We left on a rising tide and both the wreck and the rocks were invisible. All this was made a bit more sketchy by the fact the chart plotter is still pretty dim, almost unviewable in dim light. But no objects were hit. I spent a few minutes once we were clear of the cove looking at my macerator. I don’t think it is operating properly, but luckily enough I have two. We switched over to the back-up and were “rewarded” with a blast of…well…crap. Now we can empty the holding tank later on.

Lund had a slip for us on the north side of A dock. (Slips can be at a premium at Lund and it is a strictly regulated first-come first-served. They won’t even give you slip assignment until they see you approach the breakwater.) We tied up, plugged in and walked up to the harbourmasters office to check in. $34 later (which is a real deal) we were all registered and decided to go pick up a few provisions at the store. And since we were spending money anyway we indulged in lunch at Nancy’s Bakery — I had a most delicious grilled Monte Cristo — and later again in dinner at the Boardwalk Restaurant.

Back on the docks, I noticed we were tied up alongside a 50-ish foot Ocean Alexander and right behind them, a huge 64-foot Northern Something-or-other. 10 feet in boat length makes a huge difference in overall boat size. We felt positively puny. Cruising never fails to remind me about the relative scales of wealth.

10 May

We grabbed a last shower with our newly heated water (such luxuries at dock), before topping up the tank and unplugging from the dock with fully charged batteries. There was no wind to speak of as we motored north through thulium Passage. We had definitely decided on Tenedos Bay as our next destination. It’s another of those “popular” anchorages in Desolation that we had yet to visit, so we decided to give it a try since it was more likely to be empty at the time of year. As we rounded Sarah Point we finally “officially” entered Desolation Sound and the view, as always, was stunning. I took etc same pictures and video I take every time although you would thin by this time I would have realized it was nothing new. And the water was empty of boats other than one smaller powerboat fishing off the point. The wind did come up a bit but we’ve already fallen into the trap of laziness and didn’t bother to raise the sails for the short trip. I think we are going to regret that when we finally join the flotilla which I predict will be stuffed with landlocked sailors desperate for a breath of wind. I predict we will get our asses kicked in the inevitable racing.

Tenedos had a large expedition type yacht on the hook in the main anchorage off the mouth of the stream. It had to be 60–70 feet and had the look of something more likely to be found in the Arctic than cruising around here. Unfortunately it was gone the next day when we took out the dinghy so I never did catch a name other than the OP emblazoned on the side of the forward superstructure. Other than that we had the place to ourselves. We anchored in the west arm on the north side of the bay just off the tombolo that joined the small island to the mainland. We dropped in about 40 feet of water and just swung in the middle of the small cove rather than fussing with stern lines.

Later I finally got to row the dinghy — stealing control from the oaring fanatic I travel with by the simple expedient of jumping in the boat first before she noticed. We toured around the anchorage spotting hundreds of the small red starfish (leather stars?) and lots of the purple and pink ones as well. Two small deer were wading in the shallows off the point and back at the boat we discovered that the rocks on the north side of us were apparently a favoured haulout for about 15 harbour seals. They remained around us for the entire stay, coming and going with the tide and occasionally, when basking in the sun like a loud pile of cats, all came crashing back into the water when some loud noise startled them.

We did discover a few more items on my “Oops I forgot pack that” list. Earlier the amount of mosquito bites on my ankle pointed out our complete lack of bug repellant (I usually pack it though we’ve never used it before but…), and my rapidly reddening forearms pointed out that leaving the sunscreen at home on the counter was a dumber mistake than leaving my good kitchen knife behind.

Late that night we were joined (although off in the centre between the two arms) by a 50-ish foot Meridien named Bad Habit. They were pretty good neighbours except for the generator. They only ran it in the late mornings though, so that was all right.

11 May

What a warm sunny day. [Insert sigh of contentment here] We spent the day mostly relaxing and watching the seals noisily fight over the best sunning spot on the rocks. Later on a nature watching boat came scooting over the submerged tombolo with a load of eager junior naturalists and paused briefly by the pile of pinnipeds… they didn’t even budge. I guess they are used to being an attraction, because every time we even sneeze they all go crashing into the water as if we had set off a bomb.

Later in the day we were joined in our cove by a small trawler-type with 4 men and their toys. They were ok neighbours if you had to have neighbours. L suggests to me that my article in Pacific Yachting encouraging people to take in Desolation Sound during the early season worked…which is a bit of a bummer, albeit an ironic one.

We mounted the outboard and scooted over to the trail head for a hike to the lake. It was more of a walk and all of 7 minutes long. Disappointing. We did back track and take the more “rigorous” south trail which consumed another 15 minutes and was a bit more interesting as it terminated on some sunny rocks with a nice view and a rocky “beach” one could wade or bath in —something one of our trawler buddies was currently doing. When the sun got too hot he meandered back and spent a half an hour of so sitting on the rough bridge over the stream enjoying the miniature rapids and noisy babble of the lake water slowly emptying into the sea. “Everyone should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” This is a quote from Ruth Krause that was illustrated by Maurice Sendak and I use it as one of my desktop pictures. Every one really should…

Back at the trailhead there is a campsite and we chatted with a nice couple from Colorado who had just kayaked in. He helped me drag our dinghy back into the water as it had receded a good 30 feet and heavy and awkward when the 8hp outboard is on it. They were out for week and then heading north by car to Alaska. Watching them unload was fascinating. Two adults and a dog is cargo enough but the amount of stuff they unpacked from the two person kayak was kind of astounding.

Heading back to the boat we were flagged down by a couple on a trimaran wanting to know about the “hike.” It turns out they had driven out from Montreal to buy their boat in Comox and were taking a few days to explore Desolation before they trucked it back to Quebec to cruise the east coast. Apparently the current exchange rate made a west coast purchase and subsequent trucking way more affordable than buying something from the eastern States.

12 May

Wake up. Drink coffee in the morning sun. Bake muffins for lunch. Go for an afternoon motor to tour the bay. Relax in the sun. Drink some more coffee. Sigh.

The only highlight of the day was the departure of trawler boys and the early evening appearance of Swell. She’s a 60-something foot converted ocean-going tug that we had been docked near in our last few weeks in Victoria. They do excursion tours from Victoria all the way to Haida Gwaii. While it was nice to see her, the fact that she didn’t turn her engine off at all was a bit annoying and our peaceful anchorage was no more. I know, I know, first world problems…

13 May

Cooler and less sunny, yet somehow one of the warmer mornings so far with the temperature being 15° in the cabin when I crawled out of bed. I bet if we hadn’t gone back for the heater repair it would have been a solid 11° all week.

Swell was gone when I emerged from the cabin, but a commercial prawn boat was anchored across the bay and they leave the engine running all the time to keep their catch cool so you could still hear a rumble echoing across the anchorage and drowning out that early morning serenity. Still, it was a bit quieter than Swell had been and we had the seals anyway.

Coffee and leftover muffins ensued.

The batteries were down to 57% (which was a bit lower than I expected — I suspect we are playing the stereo a bit more than usual) so we got ready to raise anchor and depart. We were off by 9. The chart plotter is almost completely useless now, but I have gotten a confirmation that the new one has cleared customs so it should be there by the time we get back. There are a series of shallow spots and drying rocks at the entrance to Tendedos that I normally would have woven my way through, but this time I opted to just go around — better safe than sorry, eh…

An hour and half later we tied up at the public wharf at Squirrel Cove (in a spot that was vacated mere moments before we arrived). We wandered up to the store in search of skim milk for someone’s morning tea —supplies were getting critically low and bit suspect. We had checked at Lund and now at Squirrel Cove and there has been absolutely no sign of skim milk. 2%, homo, half-and-half there was plenty of but absolutely no skim or even 1%. We have concluded that Central BCers either hate skim milk with an all consuming passion and thus the stores don’t dare carry it or they absolutely love the stuff and the stores can’t keep it in stock. The truth remains a mystery.

Then we headed north. We fired up the inverter to charge the laptops and as soon as the water was hot I had a nice shower and shave and broke out some clean clothes. Life is good. The weather had been nice enough that we have managed a couple of solar showers over the previous week, but the forecast has the wind turning southerly which usually brings cooler temperatures and rain so the likelihood of another water-warming day is pretty low. Take the showers when you can get them.

No whales in The channel this trip. We’ve been lucky there several times before. As we passed the cove midway down Von Donop we noticed it was a) empty and b) very calm. We turned hard a-port and wandered in to check it out. The depths were 11-12 feet (below our 5-foot keel) with the tide predicted to drop another 6 feet. After some maundering and negotiating (I was voting for our usual anchor at the end of the inlet) it was decided to give it a try. And wouldn’t you know it, the anchor was being fussy, and for one of a few very rare instances kept dragging rather than setting right away. That’ll teach us to try something new. But after a few tries we got it stuck in and both of us satisfied that we wouldn’t move. So here we are, for a few nights at least.

There is zero cell signal and the batteries only managed to get up to 82%, so I think two nights will be our max and we will head off to Herriot Bay or Taku a day early for laundry and the opportunity to visit a fully-stocked grocery store. At this point I doubt we will make the long sail south to Comox to meet up with my brother, so it will be only a short hop across to Gorge on Friday.

In Summary

It been a good week. We’ve had plenty of good weather (although that is predicted to end tomorrow) and some beautiful scenery to enjoy. We’ve also added a few creatures to our ever growing list of west coast wildlife which is always good.

We’ve got a few days until the flotilla to kick back and then it will be go, go, go for a week.
—Bruce #Cruising