Desolation 2019 week three

Gearing down

All in all it was a slow week. We finally settled into the groove and got in some relaxation time. So that means this will likely be a pretty short entry. I think. Lucky you.

14 May

Rain in Von Donop Inlet. We knew it was coming so it wasn’t much of a surprise to wake up to the sound of rain on the deck. It wasn’t raining too hard so I still got my morning coffee in the cockpit and the inevitable and annoying drip from our overhead traveller didn’t start until I was almost done. And then I pretty much stuck it out there for the rest of the day, shuffling around to avoid the various drips. L, on the other hand, didn’t emerge at all; I think she popped her head up maybe twice all day. She at least spent the day productively, working away on her project.

I spent the morning finishing last week’s blog and enjoying the sights and sounds of a rainy PNW day at a beautiful anchorage. At the risk of encouraging even more people to visit at this time of year, rain really can be a positive rather than a negative if you just adjust your mindset.

It was still a pretty warm morning (15°-ish in the cabin). The cove was pretty sheltered and there was absolutely no signal so I have no idea what the weather was actually like elsewhere — but we were treated to glassy, still water and lots and lots of precipitation. It rained pretty much non-stop all day.

Last night as we explored the anchorage by dinghy, L picked up some cell signal and we got a text from my brother. Apparently he is already aboard Teka and heading north to Comox, expecting to arrive in a few days. Since he was supposed to board in Comox, I have no idea where he actually started from. We tried to get a note off letting him know we would likely meet him in Gorge; if we were lucky he got it.

At one point, when the rain slacked off to a mere dribble, I did grab my rain pants and jacket and rowed out into the main inlet to try and get a cell signal. I picked up one bar and a wet ass. Seems the waterproofing on my rain pants has held out pretty well in every area except the ass — something I hadn’t expected. So, pants and underwear…not so dry.

And that was the day.

15 May

Two nights was all the batteries had so we decided to head to Quadra Island. It was a beautiful day for a sail, so we motored the whole way to try and get as much charge into the batteries as possible. We even motored slowly to maximize charging time. Although the initial plan was one night on the hook and one night at Taku Resort, we were thinking if we could jam enough amps into the batteries to stick out two nights on the hook then we could skip the fees at Taku since we were subsequently booked into two nights at Gorge Harbour.

As we passed the entrance to Hoskyn Channel, L spotted a whale watching boat headed our way and then, a few minutes later, the telltale long black dorsal of an orca. They were about 200 meters off and headed straight for us. We killed the engine just as they dived and they must have passed below us because we didn’t spot them again for several minutes before the reappeared off the port side, again a few hundred meters away. With another whale watching boat coming, a small powerboat circling back, and the Whaletown ferry barrelling straight for them, we decided to just float there and watch them swim away rather than altering course to keep them sight. Sometime I feel mighty sorry for them—it’s a wonder if they get a moment’s rest. Anyway, we estimated 4–6 in the pod although its always hard to get a good count and they were diving for longer periods than usual between breaths.

As we rounded the spit, there was one other boat at the north end just dropping anchor so went a bit east and dropped in 40’ of water and backed on to the shore to settle in about 17’ with our bow facing south. There were supposed to be little to no wind and pretty protected from the north, so we figured we were good.

We ate and went for a walk around the spit and enjoyed a lovely evening soaking in the relative calm and the gorgeous views.

16 May

The calm before the storm.

We enjoyed that lovely evening until around midnight. Then L and I were woken by winds howling, gear banging and the anchor chain creaking like a medieval torture device. The forecast had called for calm winds out of the north west, but what we got was strong winds out of the southeast — the direction we had absolutely no protection from. Thankfully we had anchored bow to the south so not only was your anchor set that way, but all the chain was already out that direction and there was no question of us swinging further toward the rapidly shallowing shore.

What we did have was an awful racket. I had not secured anything since we weren’t expecting wind. I made several trips up on deck to tie back slapping halyards and lines, snap down flapping canvas and finally to readjust the snubber so the loud creaking sound of the chain banging on the seafloor stopped being transmitted right into the cabin. But by that time we were wide awake. And also kinda freaked out by the violence of the swing and the plethora of creaks, groans and bangs. So we slept in the salon for most of the rest of the night, keeping an ear out and eventually moving back to our cabin in the early morning.

When we finally got up, we overheard that the Truant 36 who had dropped anchor beside us (but set it 180° to us) did drag a bit but no one else seemed to have suffered any other consequences.

Around 11 am L had her conference call while I hung out with her in the cockpit. That bit of work done, we headed into shore to buy some supplies. We finally found some skim milk so that big crisis was averted and we also picked up some snacks and sundry other things.

 

The rest of the day was walking the shore and relaxing. I spotted some beautiful fritillarias and explored the massive piles of driftwood ever-present on Rebecca Spit. We did find a halibut head in the dinghy after returning from one of our strolls. I have no idea how it got there except maybe a passing eagle or seagull dropped it. Gross anyway you look at it.

We kept an eye on the battery monitor and it looked like we would be good until morning without having to run the motor.

17 May

We awoke to cool, grey weather and a state of charge of 52%. Time to “get up and go little dinosaurs!” (inside joke). An hour or so later we were negotiating Uganda Passage purely with charts at low tide. Not having a functioning chartplotter was really honing my chart reading skills. This involves a bit of a serpentine in a narrow channel threading amongst three buoys. It always seems a lot more difficult than it actually is.

It was not quite 11 a.m. when we emerged from the passage alongside Shark Spit — which is a long sandy spit south off of Marina Island that necessitates the Uganda passage transit. It’s a popular place for locals, picnics and lunch stops but we’ve never actually stopped. Since the tide was out and the entire spit was exposed we decided it was time to give it a try.

I had Leslie drop anchor when we hit 20’ but by the time I had the boat in reverse we were down to 4’ under the keel. Oops. So we pulled it back up and moved out to 40’ of water and tried again. Success. We rowed ashore and beached the dinghy in the mud flats that were exposed. A bit to the north a local had their shoal keel sailboat completely beached so they could work on the bottom while the tide was out. Handy.

The spit was a lot of fun. We collected oodles of shells and sand dollars (the first we’d seen in this area) and walked all the way out to the end of the spit. We were maybe 100’ from the green buoys we had just passed. When the water is up those buoys look like they are in the middle of a huge pass. We also found some huge spiral shells that were broken and it was hard to guess what they were. Later when back aboard we figured they were Moon Snails, which can grow up to 2 and half inches. We also spotted what I thought was plastic or rubber refuse but turned out to be Moon Snail egg collars. I wish I had known so I could have checked them out more closely. Next time.

We made lunch as the winds started to build out of the south and by the time we raised anchor they were doing pretty well. It was only 15 minutes to Gorge so we motored along spotting 3 dolphins off the starboard side for just a few minutes before they disappeared.

We headed to the fuel dock but had to wait while they got a power boat tied up in the increasing winds. After we filled up we moved out, switched our fenders to the starboard and headed into our slip. Luckily the by now strong wind was blowing us on to the dock so it wasn’t much of an issue, but that was the first time I have ever entered a finger with the boat in reverse and still making too much headway.

The rest of the day was watching boats arrive and the shenanigans associated with a strong wind on exposed docks. The Calgary Yacht Club flotilla gradual assembled. Rainbow’s End, a Dufour 36 was already at dock when we arrived. Teka, the Kelly Peterson 44 my brother was aboard snugged in behind us. Then Norfinn, a Jeanneau 49 from Desolation Sound Yacht Charters showed up to everyone’s consternation. A bit of miscommunication had listed it as a 38’ boat and they were not prepared to accommodate an extra 12 feet of boat on one of their busiest weekends of the season. They made it work by rafting up Time Warp, a Catalina 32 to Rainbow’s End. Last in was Gloman’s Magic another Jeanneau from DSYC, this time a 42’ DS (deck salon). And that was the group for the next week. I gradually met most of them over the next few days.

18 May

We were stern to the wind, and while Teka blocked some of the waves, it was a loud bangy night in the aft cabin as the waves slapped up against the transom. It’s one of the worst features of the design of our boat and if the wind had been just a little less, I would have backed into the dock to avoid that particular flaw. Still, we eventually managed to get some sleep.

Visiting aboard Teka.

The morning started with a coffee with my brother aboard Teka and a skipper’s meeting aboard Norfinn. It was weird being one of the more experienced skippers there. I would guess most of them were probably better sailors than I was, but they hadn’t been through these waters much and only Larry (Teka) and I had been through the rapids multiple times. The plan was to head north through Surge Narrows to Octopus Islands; transit Upper Rapids the next day to work our way to Blind Channel; and then come back through Dent and Gillard to Big Bay. Then the next morning we can scoot through the Yucultas and then it’s a couple of days in Desolation before we head for Lund.

I don’t know if I have ever mention my brother is in a wheelchair. I was anxious to see how he negotiated the problems of moving around a sailboat. Larry et al. had devised a great portable ramp system and the low center cockpit of the Kelly Peterson made it relatively easy for him to haul himself off and on the wide side decks. It really wouldn’t work on our Hunter.

The Cortes Island Seafest started at 11 and everyone headed up to enjoy it. We opted to do laundry. Shellfish and I and not currently on speaking terms. That and the fact that until this point we have spent a sum total of $34 in moorage (at Lund) and had just been hit with a $150 touch for two nights — have I mentioned that Gorge Harbour is a pretty high-end resort? I was still in shock and another $50 to sample seafood that would likely be a literal pain just seemed silly.

Seating was open to the public however, so we joined in, listened to music and met a few more flotilla participants in between laundry loads. L went back aboard to finish off the last of her presentation so she could send it away while we still had some internet access. Later she came back with a bag full of cider. Lucky me.

That night the band moved down to the deck overlooking the marina and we were treated to front row seats from the comfort of our own cockpit.

19 May

I was up pretty early but the flotilla were up even earlier. We planned to get off the dock around 9:30 but as the boats strutted casting off one by one that shifted closer and closer to 8. L was not impressed when I came down and shooed her into the shower since all the other boats had already taken off and we were last at dock.

Eventually we cast off and headed out. There was more turbulence in the gorge than I had ever seen before. Nothing to fuss about but still a new phenomenon. We spotted three dolphins as we turned west to head for Uganda. Maybe the same ones we had seen coming in?

It was a long sunny motor up to Surge Narrows where we caught up to the other boats who were milling around. Eventually someone pulled the plug and we all transited through a swirly Beasley Passage like ducks in a  row.

A short while later we dropped anchor in Octopus Islands and set up a stern tie. We were first in as some of the others hung back and the rest opted to go thought the rockier (but ostensibly deeper) back passage. We had hit the narrow pass into the islands at low tide and a few were wondering if their deeper keels would be a barrier. There was never less than 13 feet of water so I really don’t think this was a real issue.

Eventually everyone showed up in the inner cove with 4 boats lined up in a row and the two others on the other side. Rainbow’s End opted to stern tie to a boulder that eventually ended up well below the surface of the water. It’s really not something I would do, but it all worked out for them. Still…

Some people headed off to hike to the lake at the far end of the bay, but we opted to hang and I rowed around the cove for a while.

20 May

I heard the others raising anchor at gawd-awful o’clock but didn’t bother to crawl out of bed to see, instead just rolling over and drifting back to sleep for a few more hours. You see, there were two possible slack at Upper Rapids that day. One, just before 6 a.m. would give you a push up Johnstone; the other, at noon, would have you bucking the flood tide. I wasn’t going to get up at 5 just for a knot or so push.

At around 7, I crawled out of bed, made some coffee and hit the cockpit for some peace and quiet. Four out of six boats were gone with only us and Norfinn opting for a more civilized beginning to the day. The sun was still out and shining brightly but it only lasted about an hour until the south winds brought in clouds and the occasional drop of rain.

L rolled into consciousness right around then and we started our morning by doing pretty much nothing except watch a family of Canada Geese  showing off their rock climbing skills. And we emptied out main propane bottle. Luckily Blind Channel can refill it for us. Eventually we started prepping and raised anchor in a light drizzle before slipping out into Okisollo Channel to poke our heads into the rapids. We transited about 20 minutes early and Norfinn tucked in about 5 minutes behind us.

It was a grey, calm day and we motored the whole way. A few points displayed some interesting currents and we varied between going 8 knots and 3 depending on what the water was doing. Eventually we tied up at Blind Channel and despite both a warning by the staff and prior experience, I almost got caught out by the ever-present current. It just sneaks up on you at the last minute.

And that was that

We opted not to enjoy opening night at the restaurant and visited a little with Teka. The flotilla had started out pretty well although the constant movement each day was something we havent done since our chartering days. Still it was fresh and interesting and maybe we would actaully sail with the fleet at one point 🙂

 
—Bruce #Cruising

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