Go North Young Man… Even If You’re Old

When last we left our intrepid heroes they were languishing without fresh water and power in an isolated cove surrounded by purported smugglers and brigands.

We awaited the imminent arrival of friends Dave and Margaret of R Shack Island fame with anticipation. But just across Welcome Passage lay the white sand beaches of Thoramby island and Bucaneer Bay. And they beckoned us. So we loaded up Laughing Baby and head out into the choppy water of the Passage to see what we could see.

 It was a rough and bumpy road but worth it. You drag the dinghy up on this long sandy beach and can walk across the spit to stare out at the Strait of Georgia. Kids and dogs frolic and adults stroll along the sea shore and it’s actually pretty idyllic. We hadn’t brought anything to anchor the dinghy with and the tide was rising, so I didn’t want to wander far. But it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or sound the sand was warm enough in aces to burn your feet. One fellow had even beached his big powerboat on purpose so he could clean the bottom. Fun stuff.

Back in the Baby we cruised the bay sightseeing and slowly made our way back to the boat. R Shack was due in and we needed to show them all the best moorages we had scoped out. When they arrived, I met them at the entrance and pointed out a few choice places to stern tie. Dave did a much better job of dealing with the current than I had a few days earlier. Since I was already afloat, I grabbed their stern line and ran it through the ring on shore for them.

Once they were settled we invited them over for a beer and to show Margaret the Never for Ever. A pleasant visit ensued. They delivered me a new solar shower as we had lost the other one overboard in the shenanigans sailing out of Nanaimo.

Unbeknownst to me, I had scraped the stern of the port pontoon on a barnacle and put a small tear in it when leaving the rocks after threading R Shack’s stern line. So later that evening, when I glanced back at the Laughing Baby she was sagging quite a bit. I decided to pump her up again and pull the motor off just in case. I’d wait to try and find the leak until our next port.

Up and at ’em

The next morning we cast off to head for Texada or Powell River, we just hadn’t decided yet because we were practicing breezy. We fired up the iron genny’s (i.e. the diesel engines), raised anchor and cast off, heading out of the cove and in a generally northern direction. R Shack set the pace at a practical 2200 rpm and we motored merrily alongside snapping pictures of each other.

Eventually the wind came up and Dave radioed over he was switching to sail. I agreed and we were off in what soon turned out to be 20 knot winds. Check out my earlier post on neverforever.ca for the details.

Soon enough it was time to decide on a destination. R Shack had laundry and we wanted a few more provisions so we decided on Westview Harbour (Powell River). It’s a crowded place, they don’t take reservations and you generally have to raft, so we were a bit trepidatious. We were hoping to at least get one spot on dock and be able to raft to each other. But when Dave called ahead it didn’t look likely.

As it turns out, we lucked in to a great spot. When I called in on 66a from outside the breakwater a spot had just opened up so Never For Ever, being the bigger boat, went in first and tied up to the dock. The Shack followed us in and then tied up to our starboard side.

I didn’t t want to cook that night so I bullied L into eating out and Dave talked Margaret into it as well. On his recommendation, we walked up past the ferry terminal and ate Thai on a patio. It was delish.


The next morning we were up early to catch the free shuttle up to the mall. We had walked last year when we were here, but the hill, not so affectionately known as “Cardiac Hill” makes it a daunting prospect. We picked up a spare solar shower “just in case” at Canadian Tire and bought some more groceries (mostly stuff to freeze) and then added a couple bottles of wine to the cellar.

Eventually the shuttle arrived again. We met another couple heading north to Desolation in their C & C (a sailboat) and chatted. They had lived in Sherwood Park for 15 years at one point and she had taught nursing at MacEwan. The shuttle dropped us back at the marina and I headed back to the chandlery to find glue for my dinghy patch while Les unpacked. Back at the boat I hoisted the dinghy up on the foredeck and applied the patch. Then I tried to jury rig some straps to keep pressure on it while we sailed. It looked like it would work but I wanted to give it 24 hours or so to cure.

Then we set off on one of the most boring (in my humble option) stretches of the coast. Up past Savary Island and Lund and around the Copemans, we motored seemingly not really getting anywhere for hours. It’s not actually that bad but I’ve done it 5 times now and in my opinion its just not that interesting. While Dave skirted the Copemans, I decided to follow the various shorelines for some sightseeing. There wasn’t much besides seagulls and seals and the occasional kayaker, but it was pretty, and a bit more interesting than motoring straight down a channel.

The day’s goal was to get as close to the Yuculta’s as possible so we could catch the 9:30 slack. The Yuculta’s are the first of three successive rapids tha are possible to transit in a row as long as you time it right. Unfortunately we really couldn’t find anywhere close enough that wouldn’t mean either a super long day today or a 6 am start tomorrow. So we decided on Squirrel Cove. It was still 3 to 4 hours away but… c’est l’amour…

Anchors A Weigh

Squirrel Cove is this huge protected pair of coves on the east side of Cortes Island. All the books say it could accommodate over a hundred boats so it looked like a good bet. Neither R Shack Island nor us had ever been in it though, so we approached slowly, NFE in the lead.

I hate picking out an anchoring spot; it remains my biggest point of anxiety and L is no more confident at it than I am. We circled around a few times fretting until The Shack came in but then she just dropped anchor like it was easy. Shamed, we finally picked a spot and dropped. And then fretted for another half hour about big powerboat we were swinging too close to.

In the end it all worked out fine. We dropped the kellet as well and spent a pleasant night on the hook.

On my second swing around, when still fretting, I noticed that Dave had a visitor. There was a small inflatable hanging off his stern with a man in it. As we got closer I recognized him as Larry of Larry and Sheila fame off of the Ocean Grace. They were another boat from last year’s flotilla to the Broughtons. Apparently Larry had been putting about in his dinghy and spotted R Shack Island as they came in.

Dave invited everyone over for a drink later. Since my dinghy patch was still drying we needed boat to boat taxi service which was graciously provided. It was nice to visit. Ocean Grace is a 32 or 33 foot Catalina based out of Gibsons. Turns out Larry and Sheila live in Roberts Creek, same place as Leslie’s uncle Greg. Maybe someday we can pop by for a visit.

We had forgotten to leave any lights on in the boat so the ride back in the pitch black was interesting. Dave had his super-duper spotlight to point out our boat so at least we weren’t banging into random boats trying to read the names on the transoms. Back at the boat I grabbed our LED and ran it up a flag halyard for the night.

Over night it started to rain. I got up and double checked the hatches and stuck my head in the cockpit. I decided to throw the cushions on the floor to keep them semi dry. They are a closed-cell foam so supposedly won’t absorb water but it would be nice to have something dry to sit on the next day. Then I tried to get back to sleep.

It turns out I had neglected to check the cat’s food supply. Apparently she ran out in the middle of the night and that desperate situation became very stressful. Stressful enough that the scratching on the floor by her bowl went on for at least 10 minutes, waking both Leslie and I. When I got up to scold her I discovered the poor pathetic creature’s plight and immediately rectified it much to Artemis’s relief. Now she knew she could survive the night. Crisis averted. And I finally got some sleep.

Time and Tides

After we had finally dropped anchor in Squirrel Cove, Dave rowed over and we chatted a bit. I suggested the 5am start was abut silly since we weren’t in any actual rush. The tides turn roughly every 6 hours (we have a book the lists the various tidal stations and the times for the whole year) so we could skip the 9:30 slack and go for the 3 pm one instead. Then we could just do the first set of Rapids, the Yuculta’s, and stay at Big Bay in Stuart Isalnd. Then we could catch the next day’s 10:30 slack for Gillard and Dent and ride the ebb tide to whatever our destination was going to be. We both agreed that was a better plan.

A note about currents. In several place in the PNW there are constrictions where the tidal currents create rapids. These places are generally only safe to transit during slack — when the tides are pausing before changing direction. But pretty much everywhere you are going to sail there are currents. Sometimes they are negligible, but sometimes they can run to 2 or 3 knots. In a boat with a top speed of 5 or 6 knots, this can make quite a difference when going with or against the tide. So you often plan your trips to take advantage of the direction of the current and gain that knot it two.

Mixed weather

The next morning it was up anchor and away again. There was still a slight drizzle as I checked out the patch in the dinghy, filled it with air and declared it repaired. So I hooked it up to the spinnaker halyard and Leslie and I swung it over the side and back into the water. Departure time was set for 11:15 but Dave was up and running 15 minutes before us. So I sped up and proceeded to make a mess of it. The kellet got stuck in the anchor chain and I was hauling up 15′ of chain as well as the 20lb weight of the kellet. Then the whole mess got stuck in my snubber (a length of my old duo-dead climbing rope I use to put some elasticity into the anchor system) and I finally gave up and headed for the dinghy. I rowed around to the bow and untangled my mess. Then it was back aboard and we hauled up our anchor and set off in the misty morning.

Ocean Grace was already gone as we exited through the narrow passage out of Squirrel Cove and then turned northward. It rained on and off and we eventually put up the side panel on the port side to keep out the wet wind.

It’s beautiful in these waters. Narrow channels and middling mountains surround you as you work your way around all the islands. Eventually the rain cleared off and the sun started to peak through the clouds creating a beautiful, ever changing vista of highlights and shadows.

A mere 4 hours later we pulled into the junction of three waterways that marks the beginning of the Yuculta’s. There were few boats already there and there was just slightly under an hour before the turn. So everyone throttled down and and we circled and drifted for 30 minutes or so. Then the boats started to go. First the small fast boats, then the bigger powerboats and finally the sailboats.

Leslie took us through and as usually, we were left wondering what the fuss is all about. It’s one of those things that you have to take on faith because to go through when the rapids were running would be idiotic and if you go through at slack there is little to no indication there ever were rapids.

We swung by the Stuart Island Community Docks and had a look see. There are no staff or wharfingers there so it’s catch as catch can. There were a ton of massive 40-60 foot powerboats there but spaces still available on the outsides of the fingers. So in we went.

The docking was a pretty non-event. There are strong currents here and last year’s visit had entailed some excitement, but prior knowledge and being closer to slack made tying up a snap.

During the long motor up Art finally decided that the cockpit was better than the noise of being below. She started out on the floor but eventually worked her way up to the seat and started to help navigate. Then she got too brave and started to head to the bow. On the third abortive attempt she earned a swat and sulked for a while.

She earned another swat that evening when she escaped out the hatch above the stove ,managing to break two rules (no being on the counter and no being outside without supervision) at once. So she sulked some more.  But some late night scratches got me back into her good books.

After tying up we paid up at the store, had a beer (and some water) with Dave and Margaret aboard for a bit, then bid them goodnight and retired below for some yummy yummy French toast. As the sun fell we broke out the laptop and watch some videos before crashing.

Slack was at 10:30 tomorrow and Gillard was less than half a mile away. It would be a leisurely morning.