Note: I am currently maintaining two blogs and have decided to keep day-to-day trip report stuff here on my personal blog. I’ll reserve things on Neverforever.ca for more specific “boating topics”
After sitting in Nanaimo for half a week, we felt it was time to move on. R Shack Island was unfortunately delayed and had agreed to meet up with us later. So we set our sights on Secret Cove across the Strait and cast off. The winds were up (15-20 knots) and I wanted to try actually sailing our new boat.
Now here is the thing about us, learning to sail, and new boats. Every single time we have raised the sails in a new boat, it has been stressful, terrifying and generally a total laugh-a-minute circus. And this time was no different. Even though there was good wind, I decided to motor out past Snake Island; that way we would have plenty of sea room for any (inevitable) shenanigans. The seas were quite rough with spray coming over the bow as we were banging straight into them, but the boat handled them fine. So far so good.
Eventually we were far enough out we could attempt to raise the sails without fear of having to head toward anything solid while we figured it all out. Given the winds were peaking at 21 knots, I wanted to start with a reef in. But I’d never actually reefed a furling main, so it was all theory at this point. Our Selden rig has a continuous furling line and on the mast there’s a switch that allows you to switch it from free-running to ratchet. The theory being that when in ratchet mode you can loosen the outhaul and furl in the mainsail without the wind grabbing it coming unfurled again. That’s the theory.
What I failed to think through was this means you have to let the sail out all the way and then ratchet it back in. Starting with the furling line in ratchet mode just means you can’t pull the sail out; a fact that occurred to me after 5 minutes of tugging on the outhaul, looking up jammed mainsail in the manual and scratching my head. You see, my theory had been to pull the sail out only half way from the safety of the cockpit, so I had gone out on deck and engaged the ratchet first.
Eventually I figured it out and switched from head scratching to head smacking. So we let out all the main, engaged the ratchet and then furled it back in about a meter. I had no idea how much reef that was, but in a traditional mainsail I figure we would have at least one reef in and be contemplating a second. This looked roughly like one reef. I hoped. Then we headed off the wind and started sailing north close hauled, but left the motor running just in case. As soon as we started to turn, I unfurled the jib and away we went.
Of course the winds being so strong, we immediately started to heel. Leslie had the helm and was doing a good job, but as things started crashing down below — we never do manage to secure stuff well the first time — and the boat started hitting 20° and we were still looking for the damn tell-tales to try to trim the sails and the various wind instruments were not in agreement and the spray was crashing over the bow and… well, suffice to say the stress levels went up and the confidence levels went down as per usual on our first big sail.
Afterwards there was some discussion about the merits of having your first big sail in 20 knot winds. I mean, after all, it wasn’t likely to get worse and we worked out all the flaws in the system pretty quickly, if only because of sheer panic. That meant the rest of the trip should be relatively benign. Others might say a gradually rising curve of difficulty might be a better scenario, but we’d done that in the Shearwater the first time we sailed in the 20-knot range and all it had done was fill us with false confidence until we were literally doused with cold water. As it turned out, the boat handled the winds just fine as we spent the next 15 minutes trimming and tweaking and getting used to the heel. It’s always a bit terrifying the first time you heel the boat over so far you are literally climbing to get to the high side of the cockpit, but after a few (10 or 15?) minutes you get used to it and gain your confidence that the boat isn’t about to roll over like a breaching whale.
So, poise regained, we sailed in steady winds for an hour or so until they gradually started to drop. Eventually they settled down to around 10 or 12 knots and we were feeling very salty and sailorly cruising along. That’s why we then decided to heave to, shake the reef and let out the rest of the main before heading on our merry way. For the rest of the afternoon the winds continued to drop until they were bouncing around 6 knots on our beam just off the Merry Island lighthouse. I have no idea how fast our boat will actually go in the heavy winds because, frankly, we never did get them trimmed right. We had been doing a steady 5.5 to 6 knots most of the trip, but in the light winds we managed a respectable 3.7 to 4 knots on a broad reach. Eventually, as we got inside Thormanby Island, the winds shifted direction and I hauled in the jib and fired up the engine. We motor sailed through Welcome Passage, cruising along at 6.5 knots while only running at 1800 rpm.
The tide was about 3 hours short of high, and after discussing it, we decided to try Smuggler Cove. Smuggler Cove is a marine park just a bit SE of Secret Cove. We had been in there for a look-see once before at low tide but had never stopped. The entrance to Smuggler Cove is a narrow, rock-filled channel with all the rocks showing at low tide and very few of them visible at high. They are all well charted and between your paper charts, your chart plotter and a Mark I eyeball, it’s a pretty safe and easy passage. The challenge comes when, once you are inside, the dozens of boats that are all stern-tied at various angles seem to combine with all the rocks on the charts to make a giant slalom course. We were perfectly prepared to abandon our plan if it was too crowded or seemed too risky.
Luckily, the cove was only moderately populated and a big cliff face with lots of depth and several red-painted metal rings for stern ties was readily available with lots of room on either side to give us a margin for error. Which, it turned out we needed. Learning seems to be like that.
Once again, the “first time in a new boat” syndrome bit us on the ass. We got the anchor down easily enough and our stern pointed at the ring, so I grabbed the 200’ stern line and jumped in the dinghy. I didn’t neatly uncoil the line (unless you’ve rock climbed for years, you can’t imagine how unforgivable a sin this is), I didn’t discuss a plan with Leslie, and I didn’t, in any way, even bother to check for currents. There was one. Right on our beam. That swung the boat 90°. Sigh.
Eventually I got the dinghy ashore and the rope untangled and took a wrap around the metal ring to try to haul the stern back. That was pretty much a lost cause. This left me (with my limited imagination) with little recourse but to begin shouting instructions to Leslie to try to get her to maneuver the boat back to where it had started from. A thus we have set our scene for a very Shakespearean comedy of errors.
There were miscommunications, slapstick hijinks, well-intentioned — but ill-informed — do-gooding, misdirected wrath, intentional malfeasance (on the part of the dastardly current), heroes, heroines and villain (again the current) and even a bear. Well, there was no actual bear, but our hero did growl a bit, especially after falling in the water while exiting the dinghy onto the rocks for the third time.
But, as in all good comedies, it all turned out and eventually we were secure and steady and ready for a bear… I mean a beer. The opening night review read that there was a strong cast and great story, but the actual plot was a bit lacking and it could have used a song or two. In retrospect (don’t you love retrospect?) my big mistake was not discussing the various possible outcomes with Leslie before I exited the boat and then just leaving her in charge of execution. The reviewer noted that attempting to captain a boat from shore is at best an exercise in futility and more generally an act of egoistic stupidity. Our heroine was perfectly capable of dealing with the issue on her own, but it was never made clear it was her issue to deal with, so she just kept trying to interpret the hapless hero’s less-than-coherent shore-based instruction. But at least we amused, amazed and terrified our neighbours, so at least that was something. They definitely got their money’s worth. Thank god there’s still time for some rewrites.
The Three Rs
As the tide rose, a few more boats showed up, and although none of them got caught out as badly as we did, a few did have their share of troubles, and we learned a quite a bit by watching how they chose to resolve their issues. Soon the tie-up rings on shore disappeared beneath the water. The full moon and time of year combined to give us some of the highest tides of the year, rising to 16′ from a low of 2.5′. A few of the later boats had to run their lines through rings a foot or more below the surface.
When we toured the cove by dinghy at low tide the next day, I noted that there were an awful lot of traps for the unwary at Smuggler Cove if one came barreling in here at high tide. It was good to see the lay of the land before we ever attempt to penetrate deeper into the cove. The back cove especially has a treacherous curved entry with a shoal that runs out from the red marker that would be most dangerous with the tide at its mid point.
Despite the long weekend, Smuggler Cove emptied out during the morning and soon there were only four boats left to enjoy the whole front cove, with three or four more tucked away in the back section. It is a beautiful spot to stay and relax, but I imagine most people just treat it as a stop-off spot on their way to and from Desolation Sound. That’s kind of a pity. Next time we intend to stay more than overnight we will brave the much quieter back cove and avoid all the morning and evening traffic.
The other thing of note — and I have no idea why this is — is that it seems this is a cove that inspires outboard use. And by that I mean of the 15 or 20 tenders and dinghies we saw exploring the cove, only one other boat besides us rowed. Everyone else explored the tiny cove using their outboards. Very odd for such a small quiet place. And even though there were quite a few kayaks, I saw more than one kayaker exit back onto the mother ship and then hop aboard the tender, fire up the 15-horse outboard and putt away to explore some more. Very odd indeed.
Oh, and I finally got the graphics on the bow of the dinghy. Laughing Baby has officially been christened.
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.
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.
Man, I love the Broughtons.
I am playing catch-up here since I haven’t had time or energy to write much. This might read more like an itinerary than a blog entry but c’est la vie. When last I put finger to keyboard we were in Big Bay on Stuart Island. And so I start again from there.
Big Bay Redux
We woke up and cast off. Just outside of the Bay is the doubleheader of Gillard & Dent Rapids. We were off early, so we milled a bit and watched the braver, more powerful powerboats go through. Then we were off. As per usual, transiting the rapids at slack was a non-event and we were soon motoring away.
We had decided not to push it, so we went as far as the Greene Point Rapids, just outside of Blind Channel, and decided to anchor out in “Cordero Cove.” This area marks the crossover point from the Dreamspeaker’s “Desolation Sound” book and their “Broughtons” book, so we were officially on our way.
We dropped anchor amidst the bull kelp in the SE bay behind the Cordero Island. This was our first real wilderness anchorage and it was lovely. Later in the evening two more boats joined us there. I believe the sun even came out a bit and we enjoyed a serene evening.
The next morning, in the mist and coolness, we transited the Blind Channel Rapids, which are nothing to speak of, and stopped at the Blind Channel Resort to fuel up. A quick splash-and-dash and we waited off in the channel for R Shack Island to do the same. Then it was back through the Blind Channel Rapids and north through the Greene Point Rapids at right about slack.
This was the first time we had spotted Comme Je Trouve, an American-flagged, 50- or 60-foot Ocean Alexander (BIG, luxurious powerboat). But it wasn’t the last. They were tied up at the docks with a lot of other big yachts and I noticed them mostly because French is an odd language for a U.S. boat.
A bit later that day, after we had made our way halfway down Chancellor Channel, we decided to turn north and transit the Whirlpool Rapids even though it was quite a few hours before slack. It was an ebb tide so the current was going with us and we hit 10 knots of SOG (speed over ground) at one point. Given we were doing around 5.5 through the water, that’s quite a boost. We were followed through by another sailboat, a Catalina 40 or 41 called Oceanus III, who passed us a bit later and beat us to Port Harvey.
We had gone north through Whirlpool to minimize our Johnstone Strait time and to see some new territory. But in the end, Johnstone was foggy but benign. We even raised our sails and did some wing on wing in the fairly calm SE winds.
I couldn’t, however, get my radar to work, which was a bit of a pain in the fog. But I stuck close to R Shack and there was no issue. Eventually we dropped our sails and motored up Port Harvey on East Cracroft toward the Port Harvey Marina
We had been hoping to top up water and batteries here, but the generator was out, water was low, and they were no longer taking garbage. This, except for the power, became a theme. Tied up on our finger was the Comme Je Trouve and Sue and John from Oceanus III. Sue and John are great and friendly people, and we talked boating for a while. They said not to worry about Whirlpool (they had heard our discussion on the radio) because as long as you have the current on your side it’s rarely an issue.
The docks were full, but Dave had made reservations so we were good, although R Shack Island did get stuck out on the end with the big powerboats. We decided to indulge in pizza at the Red Shoe restaurant. We had missed it last year, so wanted to give it a try. The menu rotates so we were lucky to hit pizza night. You have to pre-order so they know what to make. The pizza was yummy!
The next morning we were up and off. Our destination was only a kilometer or so away as the crow flies, but 12 nm by boat. Still, a short day. To get to Lagoon Cove you need to transit Chatham Channel and the Blowhole. Chatham Channel is a long, narrow channel with a deep centre and shallow banks. To successfully navigate it you use the range markers at either end. Range markers consist of two offset markers. As long as the two markers line up, you are on course. As you deviate from your course, the markers no longer line up and you know you need to correct. It’s pretty simple but fairly nerve-wracking nonetheless.
The Blowhole, despite its ominous name, is simply a narrow channel. Not too many rocks and lots of depth.
Once again, tied up at Lagoon Cove was Comme Je Trouve. I had an opportunity to ask about their boat name and it turns out it is the family motto. I’ve forgotten their last name but it was distinctly English. I might just look it up when I get reliable internet.
Lagoon Cove usually hosts a prawn happy hour, but someone had donated some salmon so they were planning on a full-fledged potluck. We weren’t up to it so bowed out and enjoyed a quiet evening. Dave and Margaret, on the other hand, were “auditioned” for the role of buddy-boat by another couple but they had to demure because they were stuck with us (just kidding).
When we set off the next morning, Dave suggested a spot just down Clio Channel called Potts Lagoon. It has two bays and lots of anchoring room. As we headed away from Lagoon I glanced over my shoulder and saw the spout of a whale in the entrance to Blowhole. Maybe that’s why it carried that particular moniker. I saw it two or three times more, but we were too far away to see anything else. But it was definitely a whale. Then it was a short day of motoring and soon enough we were swinging in the larger of the two coves.
While we were anchored there, Dave unfortunately found out that his main water tank was empty, or so he thought. After searching for the the problem he could find no obvious cause and then discovered his other tank was dry too. This was a bit too much coincidence. Further investigation revealed that the tanks were still, in fact, full, but his water pump had given out, leading to a lack of water flow. A few emails and phone messages later and he found one in Port McNeill. He also found that Pierre of Pierre’s at Echo Bay was actually in Port McNeill and was more than willing to pick it up and transport it to Echo Bay. Problem solved, and our next destination determined.
Leslie went out for a long row and immediately went out of sight. Forty-five minutes later I still couldn’t see her and was thinking of calling in the marines. But soon enough I spotted her rowing down the small channel to the south of us and she arrived safe and sound back at the boat.
The second day, we unshipped the outboards and went for a bit of a tour of the coves and islets. Turns out Comme Je Trouve had joined us but had decided to anchor in the smaller of the two coves. We jokingly decided we should ask them where we were all going next. We stopped off on a small barnacle and shell beach and picked shells and watched the waves lap up before we headed back to the boats. The water was super calm in Clio Channel so Leslie and I opened up the throttle on the 8HP on Laughing Baby‘s transom and zoomed around for a few minutes. It was the first time we had been able to really open her up. Fun.
THe quickest way to Pierre’s is through Beware Passage. It features tons of rocks and shoals and the prescribed route is a zigzag through some small islets and narrow channels. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the narrow bits were a breeze compared to the fairly wide channel out in the middle of the passage that took you between two hidden rocks. You have to put a lot of faith into your chart plotter and chart-reading skills. But we all survived the transit accident free.
A little later we stopped in the small bay on Village Island. This is the site of one of the last big potlaches in the 1920s after they were banned by the government. Most of the regalia and ceremonial accoutrements were confiscated and only recently (in the 80s) returned to the natives. They are now housed in a museum — the U’Mista Cultural Center — in Alert Bay where we hope to visit them later in the trip. Margaret also had a relative who taught in the village so she — and so do we — wants to come back. But the water pump calls…
As we left Village Island we crossed Knight Inlet heading for Spring Passage and just off to starboard I spotted an orca sticking his massive head straight up out of the water. We turned towards him and idled the engine. There were two, a large one and a small one. After we got a bit closer I turned off the motor and we sat on the bow and watched them spyhop and swim for 10 or 15 minutes before they moved off down the Inlet.
It was amazing and our first orca sighting in the wild. All because Dave’s waterpump gave out. What an awesome opportunity.
Pierre’s at Echo Bay
We pulled into Pierre’s and tied up. Moorage is pretty cheap up here but power and things like showers and laundry are outrageous. Justifiably so since it all needs to be generated. So we decided to forgo power to save some cash since we had motored quite a bit and had hot water and full batteries. The water here is iffy; it is actually brown from the cedar tannins in the lake, so we didn’t top off the tanks. Garbage was limited to pop cans and wine bottles, so we couldn’t get rid of any trash either.
Dave picked up his pump and got it installed. We decided to stay just the one night and come back next week for Pierre’s famous pig roast. It was on the tick list as a ‘must do’ so we had to pick a Saturday. This way we could head out for a week and then swing back as we slowly headed to McNeill. Turns out that weekend is also Dave and Margaret’s 45th anniversary.
Lady Boot Cove
Lady Boot Cove (so named because it is shaped like a lady’s boot) was also on a few people’s wish list so, since we were looking for a few days’ anchorage in the Broughton Archipelago proper, we decided to make it our first choice. There was also Joe Cove and Waddington Bay as backups if it proved to be full.
Heading down Fife Sound in the mist, Dave decided the wind was good enough to sail and Leslie followed suit. But unfortunately when we went to pull out the mainsail, we tugged on the out furling line instead of the outhaul and jammed the sail. We then proceeded to make it worse. So for the next 20 minutes while Dave tacked back and forth we wrestled with the jam in the main, slowly moving it up the mast until it was almost unjammed except for the last 12 inches. Unfortunately that meant we couldn’t bring the sail back in at all. For a brief moment, I thought we were going to have to sail to McNeill, because we wouldn’t be able to anchor with the full main still up.
Eventually I decided to just drop the sail. This is something you don’t do with a furling main unless you intend to take the sail right off. And I’d never done it, or even seen it done, but what the hell, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. It came down ok, although my flaking job was not up to anyone’s minimum standard. Once the jam was within reach, a pair of pliers fixed that problem. Then all we had to do was haul it back up again, which also proved to be a learning lesson. All in all we got it done successfully, but I would rather not have learned in the middle of a foggy channel. Next time we will plan our screw-ups better.
We got it all fixed just as R Shack dropped her sails and few miles of motoring further on we reached the cove. There was only one boat there and we figured we could squeeze two in more pretty easily. The big issue was the commercial crab traps that limited our swinging room.
We dropped first and after some fussing were comfortable with our spot. *R Shack didn’t like their first location so up-anchored and moved further out before trying again. A little later that evening another boat actually squeezed in between us, so I guess there was room for four.
For reasons that I will likely talk about later, this was a very sad day for us. That little anchorage at Eden Island will be one of those touchstones we all collect But I am so glad we decided to stay an extra day.
The next day we once again broke out the outboards and decided to explore. One thought was to head to Joe Cove and see what it was like. It was under a mile as the crow flies, but turned out to be a bit too far for comfort by dinghy. About a quarter of the way there, we spotted two white midden beaches on the far shore of Insect Island and altered course.
As we approached we spotted a few kayaks and a sign welcoming us and asking us to respect the First Nations land we were about to enter. Midden beaches are, in case you don’t know, a site where the natives over hundreds of years gathered to harvest and eat clams and oysters and whatnot. The white beaches are made up of millions of pieces of broken shell and bone. It’s really quite incredible.
We tied up the dinghies alongside the kayaks and canoe and scrambled up a small trail in the dense shoreline growth that opened up to reveal a gorgeous cedar and fir forest. It had been logged some time in the past, but it still retained a few giants and all of the mysterious beauty of the west coast. We strolled along hugging trees and marveling at the lush growth and generally soaked in one of the world’s greatest marvels: a healthy and lush ecosystem thriving. It was tremendously peaceful and calming.
We chatted with a pair of canoe-ers (women) whom I had seen a couple of days earlier at Pierre’s They had a great canvas cover for the canoe that kept everything dry and reduced windage while they were traveling. Almost like the bibs that kayakers used. We also chatted to the kayakers who were camped there. They had come all the way from Telegraph Cove and had seen all sort sorts of wildlife like whales and bears.
We stayed until we had drunk our fill and then clambered back down to our tenders and pushed them off the beach. These are the places that make a visit to the Broughtons so special.
We followed the shore of Eden Island for a bit more, marveling at the trees and huge pieces or weather-worn granite, before we headed back to the cove and our boats.
Water was becoming an issue so we decided to head for Sullivan Bay. Last year when we had stopped they had super clear water and since the sun had been gone, we wanted some power for the water heater.
It was another foggy day as we headed down the last part of Clio Channel out into the Queen Charlotte Sound. We had opted to go that route despite the fog for the off chance we would get some wind.
We were disappointed. At one point I saw some ripples and the wind gauge was registering 6 knots and climbing, but it proved futile and we had to furl everything in again. Still our patience paid off as we decided to stay outside the Polkinghorne Islands and eventually we were treated to 10-12 knots, even if it was on the nose. Out came the sails, off went the motors, and we had a really nice sail for a little under an hour.
While sailing, I thought I spotted a big splash way ahead in the distance. A little while later I was positive I saw a spout of water. I even had Leslie staring ahead, but we saw no other signs.
But a couple of tacks later, right after we started the engines and furled the jib, I spotted out of the corner of my eye the black mass of a humpback breaching dead ahead. At the same time the radio went off with Dave yelling “Whales!” There were indeed two humpbacks feeding off the rocky islets at the entrance to Wells Passage. A huge flock of seabirds indicated where they, and presumably their dinner, were and it was easy to track them. We shut down our motors and tried to use the main sail to keep us on station.
We were treated to the sight of two huge creatures bobbing and spouting, oblivious to anything but their dinner. Leslie was beside herself as she knelt on the bow. It was another one of those gifts. We watched for over a half an hour as they followed whatever they were eating until they slowly moved away. We fired up the engines and prepared to motor up Wells, but as we looked back, the show continued with bigger breaches and lots of incredible displays of their massive and distinctive tails. Leslie was absolutely flabbergasted that we would be heading the other way rather than spending the day just watching.
An hour and a bit later and we rounded the small island that protects the Sullivan Bay Marina. Cody was there to grab our lines and welcome us there. We also found our old friends Comme Je Trouve and Oceanus III tied up there. Unfortunately when we had been in Sullivan Bay in June last year the water came from the spring. This year the spring dried up in early June and they were on lake water. But we had to fill, so now we are drinking bottled water until at least Port McNeill. (But at least we can wash dishes and shower.)
We missed the prime rib at the restaurant on Friday, but they were promising ribs on Sunday, so we took a vote and decided to hang for three days. It would be a nice break, and Sullivan Bay is a great place with really friendly people. Chris and Deb, the managers, are ex-pat Albertans (Debbie is from Radway, AB, and has some distant connection with the magnificent C.) and run a great place with lots of fun and friendly thrown in. Deb even offered me a job next year: free power and moorage and $1800 a month. It’s really tempting. The whole place runs on just five staff and they keep hopping from May to September.
We didn’t do much for the next few days. I went to a couple of happy hours and chatted. They have a nightly golf tournament where each boat gets two balls and you tee off a platform to a floating hole. Get it in the hole and you win free moorage. Closest shot of the night gets a free turnover. I won a turnover two nights out of three. It pays to be a bad golfer: the weirdness of the situation doesn’t throw you.
We met a lot of friendly people, Americans mostly. The Broughtons are full of both Americans and powerboats. Canadians and sailors are a distinct pair of minorities. And there are some truly magnificent yachts with 50 to 70 feet being pretty common and a few into the 80s and 90s.
We chatted a lot with Sue and John from Oceanus III, and Sue promised us some salmon since we weren’t fisherman; it seems they had a freezer full. But lucky us, John caught a big spring salmon on Sunday morning and we got some fresh that we will save for Monday. Very generous.
Fishing is huge here. The kids spend the day on the docks catching small halibut, hake and something else. It’s all catch and release, but the one kid we watched must have caught 15 or 20 fish the day we chatted with him. As for the adults, well, the tenders on these motor yachts are generally full-fledged fishing boats and they go out everyday.
Sunday night was Rib Night and we joined Dave and Margaret for a nice sit-down meal. It was delicious. There was a bit of excitement that evening as an older woman fell and ripped open her lip. Margaret, a retired nurse, cleaned it up, but Chris decided to take her into Port McNeill just to be safe. It’s pretty close with the souped-up powerboat they use. Turns out it was the best decision as the woman’s injury would likely have scarred pretty badly if left to heal on its own.
The next morning (the 17th) we fueled up and cast off. Time for a few days swinging on the hook. We will either head to Turnbull Cove or go a bit further and brave Kenneth Passage into Mackenzie Inlet. Then it will be time to head back towards Pierre’s, probably stopping at Shawl Bay.
And that is that. All I need now is some internet.
We pulled out of Sullivan Bay and headed across Sutlej Channel heading for a charming anchorage somewhere. It was once again calm so there was very little hope for sailing. A short motor brought us to the faster water off Watson Point. My app betrayed me for the first time as it said slack was at 12:50. Well it was just after 12:50 and it sure as hell wasn’t slack. We slipped and slided along the narrow channel in about 1 or 2 knots of current that seemed worse because of the eddies.
As we emerged Dave suggested we forgo Kenneth Passage and it’s even faster water and settle in at Turnbull Cove. I agreed but wanted to have a look at Kenneth. To see what it’s frequency was… We motored over and went through the first bit with 3 or 4 knots pushing us. As I entered the middle part of the passage I decided to turn back. Then I had to motor against the current, running at close to 7 knots but barely going 3.5 over ground.
Then we headed across to Turnbull. R Shack was just setting their anchor and we tucked in between them and shore. For the first time since we left Smuggler Cove the sailboats outnumbered the powerboats. But I’m not sure it will last. As I sit here at 8 pm the count is currently powerboats: 5, sailboats: 6. But that’s as close as it’s been for weeks. A lot of powerboats up here.
We are thinking at least two days here. There is a trail up to a lake and we might give it a try tomorrow. And there are places we can reach by dinghy as well. Time to save some cash!
The bill at Sullivan came in at over $400. In that there was moorage, power, two meals, fuel, some supplies, a few delicious turnovers and an expensive but nice long-sleeved T-shirt. Moorage itself worked out to only $36/night but the extras killed. Can’t afford to do that too many times.
Anyway, we dropped anchor and sat for a while in the afternoon sun. I spent a couple of hours writing a 4000 word post to catch up the last week or so (I guess it was longer than that!). No internet at all here, so we will have to wait and see when I can post it. While I wrote, Leslie headed out for a row and explored the east end of the Cove.
Then I started supper: we had that fresh salmon Oceanus III had donated and we were excited to give it a taste. I scaled it on the transom and then rubbed tons of salt into the skin with a touch of pepper. Then I seasoned the other side with a bit of sage (I didn’t bring any thyme!) and inserted some slices of garlic into the meat. Yes, it was that thick. After I crisped the skin on high heat on the BBQ, I doused the meaty side in lemon juice and then flipped it over to cook on low. Down in the galley I sautéed onions and celery while I boiled some carrots. I dumped in a bunch more slices of garlic, and then I added the cooked carrots and some green onions with a bit of soy and lemon juice. Miracle of miracles, it was all done pretty much at the same time. And I didn’t over-do the salmon: delish.
After dinner I cleaned the BBQ, Les started dishes. Well, she started them after she finished her book. I had made her stop for dinner with four pages left in Michael Crummey’s Sweetwater. I’m a pretty mean guy.
The iffy water in the tank means we are adding bleach to the rinse water now. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary but I don’t want any intestinal trouble whilst stuck on a small boat. Yech! They said about half the people drink it as-is but they are obligated to post ’boil for 2 minutes’ notices because they really have no way of testing the water to the provincial standards.
Leslie made me some hot chocolate and we are sitting out in the cooling night air enjoying a slowly setting sun and listening to various heaters, generators and engines. People do like their creature comforts 🙂
We saw the stars for the first time this trip. Sigh.
Tax Dollars at Work
Yesterday the Coast Guard paid a visit. They sent in a RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) with 3 Fisheries officers. In what I consider an ironic turn, the Coast Guard in Canada is a civilian organization and not armed whilst the Fisheries officers were all packing a sidearm. Because of them unruly mackerel.
Apparently the Fisheries guys are now standard issue on the two big Coast Guard patrol boats. It used to be they would just catch an occasional ride, but now they are full time. I guess the RCMP also tag along sometimes to ensure that if they catch anyone doing anything, there is always someone with jurisdiction. Nice enough guys. Turns out my brand new extinguishers aren’t legal though… Still need to be inspected. Who knew?
Up and at ’em. As per usual, first one up (me this time) boils water for coffee and tea. I also headed on deck and took down our LED anchor light. Then I got out the raisin bread for toast. Morning rituals!
We spent the AM doing pretty much nothing. It was great. Leslie and I then took a low tide recon of the trailhead up to the lake. We had arranged to do the hike in the PM with Dave and Margaret.
There were a couple off a familiar deep blue double-ender called something Parrot walking their two labs. We’d last seen them at Sullivan. In fact at least 3 of the boats here, excluding us, had been at Sullivan or Pierre’s. It’s a small community.
We walked for a few minutes in the mud and rocks of low tide and checked out the steep hill, then headed back for lunch. A big bowl of Chef Boyardee’s best and a toasted roll and we were good. So we lazed a bit more.
I packed a fleece, raincoat, water, insect repellent, chocolate, socks and my Mocc’s (shoes) in preparation for the hike. In actuality it’s pretty short and the weather was gorgeous so all that was pretty much a waste. Still…
We swung by the Shack and joined D & M rowing towards the trailhead. The tide had come up and was still rising so there were some options on how best to tie up the dinghies so they’d still be there when we got back. Dave opted for a high-water log and I settled on tree overhanging a rock ledge on the edge of the small bay.
This trail is an old logging chute and there was an old rusting steam donkey in the trees still in (relatively) good shape. These were used to haul logs down the slopes to the water. Lots of old rusting steel cables everywhere as well.
The start of the trail is up. And steep. But we took it slow and it wasn’t too bad. Pretty short all things considering, so the out-of-shape among us were merely out-of-breath at the summit rather than falling-over exhausted. This group, incidentally, did not include Margaret nor Leslie. Huh.
The trail then headed down hill to the lake on a gentler and shorter slope, which made the return trip a breeze. At the lake there is a short dock out to a floating platform for swimming off of, or just hanging out on. So we hung out. The sky was clear and the water like glass. It was a pretty sweet way to enjoy the afternoon. At one point both Dave and I were privileged enough to see the high speed tumble of an osprey as it fell from the sky and disappeared beneath the surface who’re popping back up with something glittering in its talons. The Broughtons keep giving us these moments that make the trip so worth while.
The trip back to the boat was easy and retrieving the dinghies was reasonably easy although each of our methods of tie-up had its flaws. I had to scramble through the bush to get my dinghy but Dave had some difficulty getting his close to shore. I called it a draw.
The previous night we had been sympathetizing with a very hoarse bird that kept calling. Just before I retired, I spotted it and it turned out to be a small seal that was continuously circling the Cove croaking. We were careful not to say it out loud, but the lack of other seals and the plaintiff nature of the call indicated something sad had happened. This continued through the next day with the small seal visiting all the boats and every nook and cranny of the cove, diving and surfacing to croak every couple of hundred yards.
But when we were returning from the hike, Dave and Margaret spotted an adult seal in the water behind them. And later as we were enjoying a beer on R Shack we spotted the big seal head bobbing off the port side with the little head a few feet away. And no more croaking. That was nice.
Dinner was sausage in lemon pasta and I had popcorn for dessert. Then we watched some tv on the laptop (only two episodes left of Gilmore Girls), I put out the anchor light and we crashed for the night. Tomorrow we head out… Maybe a marina (Shawl Bay) or maybe Moore Bay for an anchorage. We need to be at Pierre’s on Saturday.
We are in McNeill now so I added a ton of pictures to this post. Go back and look!
Unless something happens, Margaret needs to be back in Vancouver by September 4th. That means we are likely winding up our trip to the Broughtons. And we still haven’t touched even the tiniest bit of what it has to offer. But we are trying. Man, are we trying.
We left Turnbull Cove close to slack this time. Real slack. I finally figured out my app was giving me data from close to Alert Bay, two and a bit hours away as the tide goes. Live and learn.
The big yellow trimaran that had pulled in late yesterday was already gone but we passed it just at the end of the narrows. Other than that the trip was a Powerboat Extravaganza. We saw more powerboats, usually in pods of two or three on this short trip than we’d seen in weeks. We all kept thinking there wasn’t going to be a berth available anywhere.
And apparently powerboats don’t practice rock avoidance. There is a big one at the end of Sutlej Channel that, according to my radar, 3 consecutive boats went right over. To my way of thinking, even if the chart datum says its safely below your keel, you still go around. But I guess I think like a sailor.
Speaking of radar, once we passed Sullivan Bay it was mostly foggy. Not foggy according to the weather because as they often say “Fog implies visibility of less than one (nautical) mile.” But visibility was not too much more than that and the clouds were really low. And what the means is the danger of low flying planes is quite real. Apparently the float planes fly between the islands and below the clouds on days like this. And if you have this big, 50-foot pole sticking up from your boat, you start to have some competition for air space. Well it sure felt that way.
Shawl Bay is an older marina that hasn’t been kept up to the standards of the others. The store is gone and everything is a bit rougher and a bit in need of a little tlc. But it’s got a lot of friendly inhabitants, some quite long-term, and at $.90/foot it’s affordable. And the more worn feel means the high-end monster boats are no where to be seen. I liked it.
And we hit Deep-fried Turkey Night. I baked up a couple of batches of biscuits as our contribution and had my first deep fried turkey. It wasn’t half bad, but doesn’t hold a candle to a traditional one. or t least the one’s I’m used to being served. Man, am I ever spoilt.
Afterwards we settled in and watched the Gilmore Girls finale. It wrapped it all up, but wasn’t the best ending of a series ever. Not sure what we will move on to next. I ripped the entire West Wing series and have 3 seasons of Jeff Daniels in Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom, so we have choices.
Morning here at Shawl Bay begins with free coffee and pancakes. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to visit here. And they were good. Lorne and his (I think) daughter Tracey are the proprietors and they treat everyone well. I also discovered they bake fresh bread and pies so I picked up a loaf and some buns for later. It’s all on the honour system and you just settle up at the end of your stay.
We decided to stay another night rather than anchoring out one night before we had to head to our reservations at Pierre’s. That way we could get some chores done. I decided on BBQ maintenance. The amount of grease that kept dripping all over my transom was out of proportion to whatever I had been cooking so I figured there was some serious grunge buildup that needed attention.
So I disassembled what I could do easily and started scrubbing. Remarkably it came clean(-ish) rather quickly. Which just makes you want to scrub more to get it right back to pristine—something that I gave up after the second round of scrubbing. And then I started disassembling even more. Dave pointed out a grease trap I had missed and I unbolted the bottom plate to get at the subfloor. All-in-all it took a couple of hours and a bunch of elbow grease but hopefully it will be better now.
One of the downsides was that scrubbing all that metal resulted in about 6 or 7 ‘paper cuts’ on my fingers. Lots of sharp edges and the scrubbing motion made the slices inevitable. This just makes doing anything with my finger tips, or worse, cooking with any acids, pure hell. Thank god fingers heal fast!
After lunch we mounted the outboard and went for a dinghy exploration of Shawl Bay and the adjoining Moore Bay. I thought I saw a dolphin — there’s been a real dearth of them this trip — and we did see at least 3 seals involved in death matches with salmon. Good fishing here obviously.
At the far end of Moore Bay there is a forestry dinghy dock and a small recreation area with fire pits and picnic tables. And they had the most awesome cedar outhouse you’ve ever seen. And the old stumps here are huge. It would be so cool to see these giants before they were cut down.
On the way back we toured by the float homes that dot the coast of Shawl Bay. We’d met a few inhabitants last night at the turkey dinner and chatted as we putted by.
Back on the dock, Dave convinced me to join Happy Hour. I chatted with the couple off Grasal (Gregg and Jean) who were from from Calgary/Point Roberts. They’d been all over from Alaska to New Zealand and were quite friendly and shared a lot of stories. He climbed too, so we swapped a few tales.
Les visited the traditional book ’exchange’ and did her version of ’exchanging’ which bears a striking resemblance to hoarding if you ask me.
I made pork chops for dinner and then, as we had opted out of power for the first day, we enjoyed a warm solar shower and closed it down for the night. I hadn’t realized how lucky we were to have an opening overhead hatch in our shower stall. We simply leave the solar showers outside on the cabin top and run the hose down. Apparently the Shack has no such facility and Dave is forced to use his transom.
Once again it was pancakes for breakfast and we chatted some more with Grasal. Margaret has decided (quite sensibly) that free pancakes aren’t worth both the 8pm start and shivering in the now cooler mornings, but I managed to chivvy and prod Leslie into joining us.
We putzed around for a few more hours and then, around noon, we cast off bound for Pierre’s at Echo Bay for two nights and their famous pig roast. I had booked Nikki from Echo Bay EcoVentures for a tour of Village Island and some learning in native and natural history.
As we exited the bay we pulled out the sails and, to the great joy of all involved, sailed the whole way! From Shawl Bay to Pierre’s at Echo Bay is 8.3 nm on the most most direct route which is what we would have taken had we motored. with the sails up we covered 10.7 nm in total, eating all the way. It was completely sail powered except for but .7 hrs out of the almost 3 hour trip. Awesome stuff.
And to cap it all off as our last tack was bringing us almost directly into Echo Bay, a Humpback whale surfaced off our starboard side and the winds climbed to 14 knots. It was quite the exciting finale to a grand day. I managed to catch a little tail fluke on video.
Then we tied up and signed in. We picked up some tortilla chips and had baked nachos for dinner. Much more successful than last time.
Today is D & M’s 25th Anniversary. We did up a hand-drawn card, quietly wished them our best. That way M’s anonymity could remain reasonably intact.
We started the day as per usual and packed some gear for our trip. Rumour has it Nikki only has a small powerboat and it might get chilly. Nikki van Schyndel is a young-(ish?) lady who lives here at Echo Bay. When she was in her “lost years” she and a companion lived primitive in the Broughtons for a year. They gathered all their own food, built shelter and basically survived “in the wild.” The skill and knowledge she gained during that period she now uses to educate and tour people around. She spent 6 of those months on Village Ialand so we figured she’d be a great tour guide.
She has a 15 or so foot boat with a 50 horse in the back. It did 16-18 knots most of the trip. A way different way of seeing the waters around here.
In the way out she was listening to Channel 7 (the whale watching channel) and a friend of hers had spotted Orcasshe asked if we were interested. Duh. So we zoomed out into the strait and towards Malcolm Island. Along the way we spotted an immature eagle, a couple of porpoises and off in the distance, two separate humpbacks. It was an extravaganza.
And then we saw the orcas. Pod A5 to be exact (we figured that out a bit later with the help of some other watchers). There were 5 or 6. One in the lead, probably the matriarch, and the rest, including one big male with a monster dorsal fin, following behind. We killed the motor and watched them swim by. Sigh.
Then Nikki borrowed a jerry can of fuel from the Fonz (a whale watcher out of Nimmo) and we zoomed off to the humpback. He was magnificent. Apparently the auklets stir up the fish while diving for them and the fish create a ball as a defensive mechanism. Then the eagles and seagulls come along and pick off the surfacing fish and the whales come in from below. Nice system.
After our full of whales we caught up to the orcas for one last show. We stopped ahead and to the side of their path but a big schooner-sized sailboat full of eco-touriats with monster lens drove the whales almost directly at us. So we were treated to a bit of a beautiful parade as they streamed by at less than a 100 feet.
And then we were off. We stopped to float by a pictograph near the Chief’s Bathtub with its pictograph and Nikki pointed out an old burial site with a bentwood box still extant on the Star Islets. (There’s a government sign so it’s not a secret.)
Then we arrived at Village island. Nikki is pretty cavalier about the rocks and barnacles and we just off loaded right onto them. Then she anchored her boat a bit off and we headed into the bush. The village site has been empty since the 60s and not maintained at all in the last bunch of years. So what was fields when Nikki was here is now overgrown with blackberries and other head-high shrubs. So there wasn’t a lot to see, at least in terms of getting a sense of the lay of the village.
At one time there were up to approximately 12 or 13 long houses. The main supports for one remains. The story goes that there was a fire and they built this one hastily to house people. As a result it didn’t get all the fancy carvings and decorations and thus was never “collected.” There are also a few modern homes slowly decaying in the shrubs. The Chief’s house and the old school/infirmary loom out of the field of greenery as eerie as any haunted house you could find.
We picked berries (blackberries and thimble berries) and foraged for greens as we left the trail and strolled along the midden beach. You could see in the eroded banks, the metres and metres of old shells. It’s estimated that every foot is a hundred years so this village site is old. Really old.
Among other plants, Nikki gathered some Western dock, arrow grass (which tastes like salty cilantro), sedum, sea asparagus and more. Even some tasty mushrooms. Turns out her ’bible’ when she was learning was Plants of Coastal BC. Huh.
At the end of the beach we walked back up to the site and saw the last totem slowly fading away on the edge of the path. The wolf was still clear and you could make out the bear and face of the chief if you had someone to point it out. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time that these artifacts are slowly fading back into nature.
We loaded up and then headed back towards the Ridge Islets, which is where we’d seen the orcas a few days ago. We pulled up to a small islet with some flat rocks and Nikki proceeded to make us lunch. She gathered some firewood while we stripped the inner layer of cedar bark to fine threads. Then she made fire. It was so cool. She did the whole bow and spindle thing with a birds nest made from the cedar bark we’d stripped and everything.
Then she made lunch. A stirfry made from the mushrooms and greens she foraged, dried bull kelp and some dried salmon. The only addition was some precooked rice for filler. Then we ate it in clam shells with smaller shells for spoons. It was surprisingly delicious.
Nikki is a lovely soul. She talked to the whales as we watched them, spoke of her “arrangements” with the bears she had lived near and rescued a small blue butterfly from the salt water, dried it out in her boat and then left it on the small islet. And it was all pretty much unconscious. I’d like to be as connected as she was …
Soon enough it was 18 knots of zooming back to Pierre’s. We thanked Nikki profusely and and headed back to our boats to find something to make for the potluck portion of the pig roast. We settled on Leslie’s Famous Corn Meal Muffins as appropriately suitable for Pierre’s Famous Pig Roast. I did up the batter and then left it to her to wrestle with the oven. That way I was innocent of any burnage or rawness that might occur. Sneaky huh!
The pig roast was fun. We were unfortunately table 9 of 9 so the potluck pickings were slim and seconds on the pig was also slim to nonexistent. But it was good. Roast pig is a lot like pulled pork. It’s a more “beefy” texture than ham or pork chops. Or maybe it was like turkey dark meat? Different anyway. We drank our last bottle of wine and enjoyed the evening.
Then it was bed time. The thought was to visit Billy Proctor’s museum before we cast off so it might be an early-ish day.
We got up and checked the weather. It looked like there was wind out in the Strait today but it would calm after the next few. The plan had been to visit Billy Proctor and his museum today and then go a short distance to some anchorage, then head across the strait tomorrow. But with the prospect of wind we decided to go to McNeill today and give up on Billy.
Today is Zak Day… I walked up to the cell-phone booster by the store and sent him a birthday text. Supposedly he is coming out to visit in a week so I’ll give him a hug then. We just have to figure out where we will be and how to get him from Vancouver to wherever that is.
After we cast off we headed down Fife Channel. i decided to veer off and take the narrow but scenic Indian Passage so we could swing by Eden Island.
It was a beautiful passage and the monks and crannies certainly warrant another visit. As we emerged from around Eden Island we caught sight of R Shack Island with her main up and slightly behind us.
At the entrance to the Strait you could see the fog flowing in and gently creeping up the sides of the islands. But since R Shack was having intermittent rev issues again we decided, what the hell, let’s sail in the fog. So we did. Since the forecast was for 15-20 we decided to start with a reed in.
We sailed for 40 minutes or so tacking back and forth between the rocks and islets at the mouth of the channel. The visibility was the worst we had ever experienced at less than a 1/4 mile. The radar was working fine and the only other boat “in sight” was R Shack although we couldn’t actually see them after the first tack.
Unfortunately, despite the forecasts, the winds slowly died. we shook out the reef but eventually we had to fire up the motor. We left the main up though, just in case. And then it got really foggy. It was eerie and tough to maintain a course without a lot of concentration but we managed. At one point as we were coming up on Penfold Islets I actually steered towards them to try and get a sense of the visibility. The sky overhead was starting to show some blue but ahead was only gloom. When I finally spotted the big gray-green mass of the rocks and trees they were well within the 1/4 mile range ring.
As we approached the sw corner of Malcolm Island the fog continued to dissipate and eventually R Shack slowly appeared out of the most 1/3 of a mile off our port bow. and the sun peeked out creating a great rainbow around it.
Passing the point of Malcom island we entered the Cormorant Passage and the winds came back. So we killed the motor and rolled out the jib. And then the winds started to climb. When they hit gusts of 20 knots there were rumblings of mutiny so I veered off the wind and coasted for a bit. After some negotiations we tried again. Too tacks and the rumblings started again so we finally hove to and put in a big reef.
Then we sailed in 12-15 knots with gusts up to 22 knots. Gusts are killer since you get used to the angle of the boat and suddenly it tilts over like a drunken teenager and you have to reorient (read that as get over being terrified) and then it settles again. Then the whole thing happens again and again at random intervals. Kinda nerve-wracking. But we sailed all if Cormorant Channel and finally dropped the sails outside Port McNeill.
It was late-ish (after 5:30) when we rounded the breakwater headed for North Island Marina. My slip assignment was the end of B-dock, stern in, starboard tie. And for the first time this trip, there was no one to meet me in the dock. It was a bad bad bad docking; my first in this boat. And it was bad. Bad bad. Let’s put it this way, it took 6 people to get the boat in backwards. Bad.
One of the best things about civilization was clean water for the tanks and honest to god garbage bins. No more garbage! First jobs after we finally got tied up.
Then we signed in and decided we needed a beer and greasy burger so we headed ashore to Gus’ Pub (note the proper use of the possessive…Leslie certainly did). I had Gus’s Famous Double Burger (my apostrophe not his) and was stuffed to the gills afterwards. The it was back to the boat and time to sack out. Long, long day.
We got up and started sorting. Then we hauled 3 bags up to the laundromat and Leslie dug in for the duration. I went in search of parts and odds and ends. I ended up buying my missing Chart 3515, another LED puck light (which I later returned as it didn’t have a built in switch–oops) and some 15w-40 and an oil filter. Much to my astonishment the oil and filter came to just over $50. That’s the cheapest thing I have ever bought for the boat. The LED with a switch would have set me back $90.
I hooked up with Dave and we arranged to change the oil in the Shack first then ours second. Then I went back with a dock cart and picked up Leslie and the laundry — I helped fold. I was informed later that a fellow sailor told Leslie that a really “manly” sailor would have done the laundry, which I am ok with, as long as I can do it my way. It’s just that my way doesn’t generally meet the Leslie Standard of Excellence. (The commenting sailor used the neologism “manlihood”, which perhaps says all that needs saying, says L.)
Apparently an oil change is pretty straightforward. The reason it costs so much for a mechanic to do it (upwards of $400+) is they charge from the moment they leave the shop. And the shops are never near the docks. It’s like getting a house call.
Anyway, the process is fairly simple and you just have to be extra careful not to make a mess. You run the engine to thin the oil and then suck it out using a special hand pump through the dipstick tube. A ziploc baggie over the oil filter helps prevent drips and spills and then you fill it back up. Pretty simple.
The only issue I had was supposedly my engine takes 5 liters of engine oil and after 4.5 it was already overfilled. We figure that we just didn’t get all of it out, but I am not sure what else we could have done. A question for the mechanics, I guess.
Dave opted not to change his Racor (fuel filter) since he had bled the air out of the system and wanted to eliminate that as a cause for his intermittent engine issue. Logic dictated that it had to be something other than the fuel or the filter, but no one seemed to be able to pinpoint the problem.
After all that, I collect the good doctor and we headed up for much-needed groceries. Selection was poor and prices were high, but we needed a bunch of stuff so it was grin-and-bear-it time.
And of course we stocked up on booze. My resolution to give up wine in favour of cheap bar rye has not had much traction, but at least we are drinking some of our wine from a box. And the beer habit needs some modification as well. It’s hard being frugal … sigh.
Back at the boat I made the worst hamburgers ever. Ever. We had been eating some store-bought frozen patties for the sake of convenience and they’d been ok, but after my BBQ cleaning session I was reluctant to mess up my grease-free grill. So I used this aluminum tray with ribs and some air vents to ’grill’ the burgers. Unfortunately what I basically did was fry them. Blech. At least the grilling added some crispy taste; frying them just brought out the cardboard. Next time, it’s to hell with the mess. And to add insult to injury I hadn’t stopped for lunch so I was starving.
Thus ended my day.
The next started with a hot shower and a trip back to the store. It was raining a bit but nothing too threatening. Leslie needed envelopes, I needed some vaseline for my head rebuild kit, and we wanted to try and find a new shower squeegee since we’d broken the handle on the old one. I also swung back through the ShopRite to grab a small bulb for our chart table light. Mission accomplished on all fronts.
Back at the boat we grabbed some gear and met up with Dave and Margaret. It was time to hit the ferry for our trip to Cormorant Island. This island is home to the Namgis Nation and the community of Alert Bay. It is also home to the U’mista Cultural Centre, which houses a ton of repatriated regalia. The ferry ride is pretty short and we disembarked and walked along the waterfront to the visitor’s center. The lady there was super-helpful and super-nice.
We chatted for a bit and then wandered off while Margaret stayed behind to talk. It seems she had a relative who had taught on the island and she wanted to talk about the residential school. Nonine, the lady at the info booth, was fairly active in band politics and very open to discussing the school and the emotions surrounding it. Afterwards M told us it seemed likely that her relative taught at one of the days schools rather than the residential schools and that they had agreed to do some research and email her the results. Like I said, super-helpful and super-nice.
While Margaret was continuing her enquiries, Dave, Leslie and I walked down to the old graveyard and admired the totems. There were old ones and new ones and some fallen to the ground. Local custom is that it was the family’s choice on how best to maintain them. Old tradition was to leave them on the ground and allow them to return to nature, but some families opt to repair and repaint them instead. There were some interesting juxtapositions of crosses, gravestones, and totem poles new and old. The graveyard was off limits to visitors so all our viewing was done from the road, which is too bad because I would have loved the privilege of getting up close to some of the carvings.
On the way back we met up with M and headed to U’mista. The story goes that in 1921 a huge potlatch (at the time prohibited by law) occurred on Village Island. This was the last straw for the authorities, and they threatened, bullied and outright confiscated all the regalia they could find and dispersed it to private collectors. In the later part of the century it all started to be returned and the local band built U’mista to house it. Unfortunately, the Centre is one of those “no pictures” galleries so I have only a postcard of all the wonderful masks and costumes. I really must ask Emma the logic behind prohibitions like that as some museums (the MOMA or the Met) allow photographs and some (the Frick or the Klimt Gallery) are simply death on the act. It usually doesn’t stop me from grabbing one or two illicit images, but for some reason I didn’t want to here. Maybe it was white-man guilt?
Did you know there were over 150 language groups on the West Coast? Their ‘divisions’ are so different and so varied compared to the Cree or the Blackfoot of the prairies. We grew up referring to them as Haida but not only is that a misnomer but actually fighting words. Literally in some cases. The first gallery in the Centre was about the residential school St Michael’s (or locally St Mike’s). It consisted of images and quotes from students. It seems the Haida were not well liked when they landed in the southern schools and fighting was sometimes an issue.
It was an interesting exhibit. Balanced, yet still capable of horrific moments. Many students looked upon their time at school as a gift. They learned to read and write, were fed and clothed, and emerged better off than they might have otherwise. Others chafed in varying degrees under the strict and often abusive tutelage of a system designed to eradicate the native culture. It was very eyeopening but still leaves many questions unanswered. And I guess there can’t really be any answers, just a sad history that is all that remains of collective memories and experiences. The most enlightening thing for me was that the whole residential school system was a solution to what was termed the Indian Problem. I’d never heard it phrased that way. It certainly does set the tone for what happened over the following three-quarters of a century.
The main exhibit is the collection of regalia. I unfortunately went round the wrong way so was more disappointed with the interpretive signage that I might have been otherwise, but I will say that it still was a bit less than it could have been. There was so much left unexplained and a bit too much repetition, and it left my knowledge fragmented and incomplete. Still, it has spurred me to more reading on my own time so I guess in a way that’s a good thing. It does remind me though of how much of an art designing human interfaces– whether computer or interpretive signage–needs to be.
We left U’mista in a happy but melancholy mood and wandered back towards town, taking pictures and enjoying the views. Eventually we hit Pass’n Thyme cafe and decided on a bite to eat. D & M had chicken wings and fries, while L had the oatmeal cookie and I opted for a Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake. I also asked for the hot chocolate with whipped cream, but was disappointed to find out there was no cream left.
Now here’s the thing about a trip to the Broughtons. People are nice. Really nice. Leslie enquired about the size of the cookie and the server (the owner) indicated a 3-4″ circle. When the cookie plate arrived there were two cookies since she had determined they were only 3″ and felt bad about over-estimating the size. And my hot chocolate showed up sans whipped cream because they were out, but she had sent her daughter down to the store to get more. So the second one (which I believe was free) was all whipped up. This sort of thing keeps happening. Nice, nice people.
I also received my second job offer on the trip. The first was to work at Sullivan Bay next season. This one was as cook starting immediately–as in in about ten minutes. Dave talked up my skills and I received an offer on the spot. As we were leaving she was still jokingly (I think) expecting me back in an hour with my apron on.
We wandered back to the ferry and were soon home on board. Our snack choices had been ill timed and left us full and hungry at the same time. We opted for toast for dinner. And a glass of wine for Les; I was more circumspect and stuck to ginger ale. Then we crashed on the settee and watched some West Wing. Tomorrow we are off again…
We are back in civilization again. I know that because the moorage rates went up ($1.25/ft) and the power went down ($7 for 30 amps). North Island Marina is a great place and we will likely be back in a week or so if our plan to collect Zak comes to fruition.
Today the plan is to cast off 11-ish and cross the Queen Charlotte Strait back to Wells Passage heading for Tracey Harbour. The last few boaters we had met who anchored at Tracey had been treated to a parade of bears, so we wanted our chance. We dumped recycling and bottles, refilled the water tanks, and were off the docks at 11:02.
Well about 10 minutes later, Dave radioed back that he was having fuel issues. Again. Right now Dave is one frustrated sailor. He said he was heading back to McNeill to change filters since they had a disposal facility. I said we’d putz about a bit and join him soon. Then Leslie suggested we cross over to Sointula which was only 6 km away. Great idea! The crossing was less than an hour and when I phoned ahead the wharfinger said that was tons of room on the shore side of K dock. It’s a municipal marina so it’s all first come, first served. I was expecting a more commercial dock with lots of rafting and poor facilities, but as we rounded the breakwater we were pleasantly surprised. The docks are nice, with power and fresh water, and the facilities (shower, laundry) were clean and cheap. It’s a great place, more reminicest of Stuart Island than the public docks we are used to. I asked at the office, and the lovely lady said that local pleasure boats rarely have to raft and visiting pleasure boats almost never have to. Costs are low ($.95/ft and $8 for 30 amp service) and the place is great.
Anyway, since the lady had said that K dock was mostly empty, I asked Leslie if she wanted to dock. I think her response was something like “If I have to. I guess.” Anyway, she piloted the boat into the marina and around the fingers and brought her up pretty as you please at dead slow so I could step off. Then she gave it a bit of reverse and completed a textbook-perfect docking. First time on the new boat! I guess I can start kicking back more often now.
We checked in at the harbour office and immediately decided to stay the night. No point in going back to McNeill when it is just as comfortable here and a better atmosphere (long-time readers will recognize that Malcolm Island and Sointula is a socialist paradise and Leslie is madly in love with the lifestyle here). So I let Dave know we were staying and would hook up again the next day.
Then we headed into town. The main part of town and the ferry docks where we had visited last year were about 3 km down the road. There are free bikes you can borrow, but we opted to walk. It really is beautiful and friendly here, and everyone waves as they drive by. We picked up some fresh-cut rosemary at the garden exchange, which, by the way, had moved from across from the museum to beside the info centre. We mulled about the fresh snap peas but decided to pass. Then we walked over to the Co-op and picked up some orzo, chocolate chips, and a couple of pork loins. Next we skipped across the street to the bakery and had a coffee (me), a C-Plus (Leslie) and some peanut butter cookies while staring across the strait.
Back at the boat we settled in for some writing and reading time in the warm sunshine. Then it’s nachos for supper. Life is good.
Last night we had confirmed with Zak that he was coming for a visit arriving on Sunday. We had though we would be further south by now but some rearranging of appointments means we have a week’s grace. So Zak will do a 26-hour bus ride from Edmonton to McNeill and we will pick him up at the Greyhound so he can make the trip back to Vancouver with us. It should be a great trip for him.
Thursday morning is fuel day at the Sointula marina. So at 7 am sharp our next door neighbor fired up his big diesels and moved his boat down the dock. Apparently the Co-op fuel truck drives down to the pier and then fuels anyone who needs it. Also it is apparently cheaper and of a slightly better quality than going to McNeill. Huh.
So I got up. Mornings are chilly and when we opt to do without power like we did last night, there’s little I can do about that. Anyway, coffee and toast and we (I) was up and running. Someone else was a bit slower to rise and/or shine, but I’m not naming names.
I walked the dock, received an unnecessary but appreciated apology from our big loud neighbor and checked out the facilities. Then I headed up to the office to pay my $39 bucks. Back on board I started prepping as we were meeting R Shack out in the channel at 10:30 so I wanted to be off the dock by 10.
We’d had a new neighbor arrive off our bow so getting out was mildly tight. But a friendly fellow boat gave us a good shove so we cleared the Island Packet behind us with tons of room. The fellow who owned the 40-foot Packet was a retired Ontario teacher and very distraught to hear we don’t fish. After chatting a bit he was determined we would stay a few days while he taught me everything I need to know about downrigging and then he was prepared to let us have the old manual downriggers he just replaced that were built especially for sailboats. I think my demural was a bit of a disappointment.
We rounded the breakwater and basically idled while we waited for Dave to clear the McNeill shoal. Imagine my surprise when he came out in company with another boat. And soon it was clear that not only had he found a new friend but it was another Tartan! My last hope was crushed as they rounded the buoy, barely 50′ feet apart, two elegant swans heading for their pity date with the ugly duckling.
But when I finally fell into place in the little formation Dave gently let me know that the other Tartan (Raven) was off on a circumnavigation of Vancouver iisland and would be leaving us shortly. So there’s still
a chance…maybe…if I try real hard…I’ll be a swan too…
We motored for a couple of hours in the calm water and sunshine until the wind started to creep up. We gave sailing a try for 15 or 20 minutes, but the fickle breeze died and we had to fire up the engine.
A few minutes after we starte the engine Leslie spotted what she thought might be a whale. And then another. But it was awfully small. We spotted a few more as they surfaced to breathe. They had an odd hump behind their dorsal fins but were too small to be whales. A little research with my app and we figured they were Dall’s porpoises.
After we entered Wells Passage I spotted something while dodging a log, and lo and behold a whale surfaced alongside us, heading back out. We watched him come up for breaths four or five times as he slowly moved away. He looked different somehow from the humpbacks we’d seen, but I have no idea if he was or not.
A few minutes later we pulled into Tracey Harbour, our destination for the night. We had heard it was nice here and that bears in the meadows were a common sight in the mornings. We anchored at the end of this medium-sized inlet in Napier Bay along with R Shack and two other boats. I set our stern towards the creek and its grassy banks and we crossed our fingers.
Dave invited me over for a beer but Lealie opted for a nap. We caught up on the trials and tribulations of fuel filters and engine issues, and I sang the praises of Sointula’s marina. We are here for at least two nights and then we will head back to McNeill to pick up Zak. Dave might go into Sointula instead of McNeill.
I made some rice and a stir fry and the predicted rain started to fall intermittently. A few hours of West Wing and we wrapped up the day.
Although it was a warmer morning than we’d had lately, I fired up the heater since it had been raining most of the night and the air was damp. Then I boiled the water and made oatmeal muffins for breakfast. L emerged just as the muffins were coming out of the oven and had some warm breakfast.
I noticed we had left the inverter on all night and the batteries were flashing 12.2-12.3 volts, which is pretty much dead for the purposes of good battery life. After I killed the heater and turned off the inverter, it recovered to 12.5. That should do us until tomorrow. If not we have to borrow Dave’s generator and top up.
Then we cleaned up and did a few chores. I moved one of the LED bulbs to the forward cabin for Zak to use and we raised the salon table since we had invited D & M over for dinner tonight. Not sure exactly what’s on the menu: pork loin if it’s raining and BBQ chicken thighs if it’s not. Everything else will follow from that. Then we kicked back and listened to the rain. If it clears we will go explore this afternoon. If not, it will be a down day.
The sky cleared and we broke out the engines and explored. Beautiful country here although a lot of forestry remnants scar the countryside. Things like rusting steel cables and donkeys are left to their fates when the loggers move on. You’d think there would be some profit in scrapping it but I guess not. We explored for a few hours at idle, checked out a curious seal and then Leslie took over and zoomed up and down the shoreline. Kids.
Back on board we started dinner. I decided it was cool enough that I would cook inside, so it was pork loin on the menu. I added roast potatoes and a tomato salad to the list and called it enough. The loin was still raw when I took it out the first time and a tad overdone when I took it out the second. C’est la vie. The potatoes were great but also a bit crispy. But the salad, made with lemon as its acid — which usually doesn’t work for me — was terrif! Best I’ve made in a long time. So I didn’t totally fail C.
While I was working I popped my head up and saw Dave pointing his big lens at the shore. I grabbed the binoculars and sure enough two black bears were turning over rocks looking for a tasty crab dinner. Leslie and I watched them for over a half an hour before they wandered out of our sight. This might account for the slight dryness of the pork.
Actually during dinner, a fellow I had talked to in one of the other boats came by in his kayak to tell me about the bears — they were back. I had mentioned we’d hoped to see them and he wanted to make sure we did. Boaters are seriously friendly.
D & M arrived and we ate, chatted until dark and then it was time to call it a night. Good day. And we’ve decided to stay yet another so hopefully tomorrow will be just as good.
The morning started lazily with us still in bed close to 8. Then I heard a voice calling us. I popped my head up and there was Dave in his dinghy floating off our stern. Apparently the latest forecast had the winds changing sooner than previously thought and the prediction for tomorrow (when we were thinking of crossing the strait) was for 40 knots. So if we are gonna go, we go now.
So we went.
An hour from bed to up-anchor is nowhere close to Leslie’s and my record but it’s pretty respectable. The weather was gloomy and wet so we put the side panels up to cut the wind. Then we headed out Wells Passage for the strait. R Shack Island started out with two reefs in but we were going to wait. We pulled out the main loosely and engaged the racket so we could reef later. It was a bit foggy and the batteries were down on account of our having left the inverter on, so I wanted to charge them up in case we needed to use the radar.
Soon enough the winds climbed to 10-15 knots on the beam and we had been motoring for over an hour so we let out the jib and killed the engine. The winds continued to climb as I tried to figure out the right trim for a close reach. I wanted to point up a bit more to avoid Numas Island’s lee shore. Unfortunately for me the winds kept climbing and right off Numas we had to put in the reef. It went moderately badly and we pulled in too much, but we figured we weren’t going out on deck in 17-20 to let the ratchet loose and try again. So we sailed with a much reduced main. But in the end it was probably right. The winds began to climb to 20-22 knots and we were screaming along at 6-6.5 knots, occasionally climbing into the 7’s. A real sailorly type would have laughed at our trim but it was working for us.
A beam reach is more comfortable than the close-hauled sailing we had been doing with way less heel, but in a way it’s worse because when a gust hits you the boat wants to swing to windward despite your best efforts and gusts will tilt you over suddenly. You don’t heel nearly as far as you would if you were close hauled but the suddenness of bit adds a bit of adrenaline to the mix.
We kept this up for and hour and a bit and then the winds began to die back to 10+ knots. I whinged and whined, and eventually sent Les out to loosen the ratchet and free the reef. Then we tried to reef it again with so-so success. My sail trim wasn’t getting any better but our speed picked up. The rain at this point was driving sideways and I was soaked. But I’d started with rain pants on so was fairly well insulated. Was getting a bit on the chilly side though. And L wasn’t feeling the wind today so didn’t really want to take the helm.
As we ht the north end of Malcom Island the winds picked up again and we turned away to keep from getting overpowered again. But one big gust came up and banged the rail over into the water and then threw us into the wind. It hit about 26 or 28 knots. Since we were upwind anyway, we decided to pull in the jib. If we were going to get to Port MvNeill it meant beating against these increasing winds and I wasn’t up for close hauled in 28 knots.
Luckily right about then R Shack called and said they were going to motor. That suited me just fine. We started up the diesel and furled all the sails and started banging up wind against steep waves and 20-25 knots of wind. Luckily this didn’t last much beyond Pulteney Point, and then the wind and waves dropped down to where sailing made sense again. But we were too beat to beat and happily motored the one hour to port.
We cut across Neill shoal and beat R Shack in. There was a tense few moments when the dock girls couldn’t find our reservation (Dave had called as soon as he had bars) but they figured it out. With the predicted weather, everyone was either coming in to dock or staying put, and space was at a premium.
This time the wind was almost nil and I had three girls to help me dock, so of course it was a breeze. Nothing like last time. Dave had the more difficult job as he had to dock 90° at the end of a finger, but he pulled it off beautifully. And then we had a beer or two.
I think I now know what the exact definition of exhilarating is. It wasn’t “fun” while we’re doing it, but as soon as we stopped it suddenly seemed like maybe it was. Exhilarating.
After beer we decided pub food was on menu so we cleaned up and headed to Gus of the Appropriate Apostrophe for more beer and burgers. M ordered a fajita and made great inroads into it, but I think she was a bit surprised at the amount of everything that showed up. It even came with a salad.
Great food, great company, great sail: can a day get any greater?
This morning was another supposed ’sleep-in’ day that was not to be. Zak had boarded a bus yesterday and was due to arrive in Vancouver at 6:15-ish. He did. His baggage didn’t. I got a text at 6:10 telling me so. And if he got his transfer at 7:15 the luggage wouldn’t come until Tuesday, which was way too late for us. And there really was no place to pick it up short of Courtenay. Sigh.
After many questions and texts we decided he would wait for the next bus, which should have his luggage and we would try and fly him up instead. But of course Pacific Coast’s site wouldn’t take same-day reservations and the call centre hadn’t opened yet. But eventually, a little after 7 I booked him a 4:45 flight that would arrive in Port Hardy at 5:30. The marina has a courtesy van we can use to drive out to the airport, so that was all good.
Then the luggage didn’t show upon the next bus. The next chance was 12:30, which was starting to make Zak nervous as he doesn’t know Vancouver at all and would have to catch a train to YVR and then a shuttle to south terminal. But he stuck it out and even waited a bit while the bus was delayed. But just as he was pulling away in a cab, he got the call and turned around to get it.
So luggage in hand he arrived at south terminal with another couple of hours to sit around before we could pick him up and end his very, very long day.
Meanwhile we had gone into town and scoped out the Fields and the bargain store looking for potential resupply. We found 3 t-shirts for $10 and some $9 loafers for the boat. We would go back after for underwear and pants if he didn’t get his luggage. We also checked out the Super Value, which is another grocery store. It had a different product line and a lot of it was better suited to us boater types. We headed back to the boat to take stock.
When we started to clean out the garage (aka the v-berth) I noticed some moisture at the front. There is a leak somewhere, maybe in the anchor locker. It’s not wet but it’s really damp. We hauled everything out and I also noticed our luggage was a bit musty since that forward locker was now wet. (It’s ok, it is supposed to be; it’s part of the bilge system. But it had been so dry I thought maybe it would stay that way.) So we bleached the bags and hung them to dry.
Then I cleaned up the berth and put the heater in there to dry everything out. Something else to monitor.
Around 12:30 we headed back up the dock hoping to hear that Zak had his luggage. Since he had it, we bought some fresh food and a few treats before taking some time to relax. Leslie napped/read and I fueled the boat and wrote.
At 4:30 I picked up the keys to the van and L and I drove through the rain about 50 km to the Port Hardy airport. We were a bit early so hung out in the van (to avoid paying for parking) and waited.
At a few minutes after 5:30 Z’s 26- hour journey was almost over. We drove back through the rain and hauled his gear to the boat and introduced him. Then everyone settled in, rearranging everything to accommodate another body. I BBQed some dogs in the rain and Zak weaved an aquamarine charm/pendant for the boat to please the sea gods and bring us good luck. Tomorrow is a 10 am start to get to Port Harvey as we begin our trek home.
Once again I have been derelict in my record keeping. We are back from the Broughtons and I will likely cease the daily play-by-play with this set (3) of entries. I will try to (restart) regular entries but it will be more motivated by major happenings than by a calendar.
To remind you, this is the morning after Zak joined in Port McNeill us aboard Never for Ever. We woke up and cast off while Zak was still asleep. He eventually woke up as we approached Alert Bay and got a glimpse of the totem poles through the binoculars but that was it for his cultural introduction to west coast natives. We did try to sail off Cormorant Island but gave up as the winds were going to make an already long day into an impossibly long day.
So we motored along enjoying the scenery. We listened to the whale watching frequency and they were reporting orcas over in Blackfish Sound but we couldn’t spot anything through the gaps in the islands. Then, at the foot of the sound, we spotted a big male exiting Blackney passage. Then we saw 4 more smaller ones following about 100 metres behind. We let R Shack and then shut down the engines and enjoyed as they passed us by. We were between R Shack and the orcas so they didn’t get a very good view.
Just as we were ready to start up again I spotted two more off R Shack‘s bow. I radioed over to look forward and they were treated to two orcas playing and nudging each other literally tens of feet away. Paint me jealous. We think we spotted two more off our port a few minutes later but that might have been two we already had spotted. It didn’t matter; we enjoyed them anyway.
We moved on and were treated to a long motor of fog and rain. We did get the sails out for a bit but the winds died again. The crew insisted they spotted something,maybe a whale but it was never confirmed. We did add a sea lion to the tally in Johnstone Straight just after Growler Cove. He swam along with us for a hundred yards or so before disappearing.
Eventually the sun came out and we turned up into Port Harvey and tied up on the dock. Pau Hana II an old Defever out of LA, greeted us. It seems that had been hearing R Shack Island and Never for Ever chattering on the radio for the last couple of weeks. It’s an interesting way to meet people. You form opinions and paint pictures based on the radio chatter and then try and match them up when you finally spot the boat or meet the people.
I made chicken while Dave and Margaret opted for the Red Shoe restaurant’s pizza night. Then Zak and I battled for cribbage supremacy while Leslie just tried not to get double-skunked. Zak won.
While we had opted out of pizza night, I did put in an order for cinnamon buns. I wandered up to collect them and chatted with Dave and a couple of other early risers in the restaurant.It seems we had missed an early morning Grizzly (6 a.m.) and then 2 black bears about an hour later. That’ll teach us. I delivered the cinnamon buns and wandered back for free coffee and a bit more chat while L started her day.
Back on the docks I watched Pau Hana II pull their crab trap from the end of the dock. He had caught 5 or so but only two were male and of the proper size. Then i watched him clean and prepare them. His method was a lot like how C does a chicken. He had a cleaver and a hammer and cut them in half length-wise. Then he ripped off the back, scooped out the centre, and ripped the “thigh” and legs from the main torso to cook up later. Still not sure I am ready for the experience yet though.
Eventually we cast off on another cloudy and cool day and motored down Johnstone Strait. This is the most tedious part of the journey and we always seem to be heading into the wind no matter which direction we go.
Fortunately, some god or goddess of the seas took pity on us and sent us a pair of dolphins. These dolphins took a keen interest in us and scooted along side and started playing in our bow wake. They stayed with us for almost 2 hours! They would wander off for 5 or 10 minutes and then we would spot them again zooming along side and heading for the bow. They were so close you could just about touch them. I tried. One particularly curious fellow was as interested in us as we were in him. He would match speeds on the port side of the pulpit and then roll over on his side so he could gaze up at us. He did this again and again much to everyone’s delight. Trust me, there was a lot of giddy giggling going on.
We hit Helkemen Island at pretty much the wrong time and then I made the choice to try the western Current Passage rather than Race Passage. First we had to bang our way through the turbulence where the currents converged, then I had to fight the back eddies and finally, on the other side of the island, we banged into 5–8 foot waves for 5 minutes or so until we were clear of the area. Next time I will read all the advice first rather than trying to interpret the charts myself. At least I didn’t have my main up like R Shack. They had a much bigger fight with both wind and currents making life difficult.
It was a long day. Eventually we turned up Mayne Passage and motored to Blind Channel where we had a reservation. Two powerboats we had left on the dock in Port Harvey were already tied up. Stupid powerboats. We turned down dinner at the restaurant and I made pork chops and orzo. Tomorrow’s agenda is subject to weather and currents; we’d like to go back to Johnstone and come through Upper Rapids to Octopus Islands but the safer bet is back the way we had come up through Dent and Gillard.
Our 7 am plan turned into a 8 am plan becasue we both needed fuel and they didn’t open until 8. We also had to settle our tab. But at 8 am sharp we paid up and hit the fuel dock and were both on our way not much before 8:30. The weather wasn’t too bad and we felt we had enough time in our pockets to try and make Upper Rapids so we headed back out into Johnstone.
It was slow going. We were bucking the current and not making much more than 3 or 4 knots over ground. It was long, boring and frustrating. And a bit nerve wracking as we had to make slack at Upper Rapids or we would be hooped. The day got a bit better with 2 humpbacks making an appearance off Chatham Point. They were going the other way but we watched the for 4 or 5 minutes before the disappeared up Johnstone Strait.
About this time the currents had finally relented and we started to make good time. We turned into Okisollo Channel with almost an hour in the bag and sighed a sigh of relief.
And then about 3 miles up the channel I spotted a whale watching boat that had come to a stop up ahead of us. Sure enough a pod of orcas was coming straight towards us. I shut down the engine, radioed R Shack and we watched. Unfortunately the 7 or 8 orcas dove about a hundred feet off our bow and didn’t resurface until 100 feet off our stern so we missed the close view. Lucky for D & M, they were behind us and were treated to a way better viewing experience. Having Zak aboard was proving to be mighty lucky. He claims it was the charm he made us, but no kid=no charm so…
After the orcas passed us by we hung around Lower Rapids for a bit. These were easily transited but to hit Upper Rapids at slack we still had to wait around a half an hour so we dawdled. The rapids, in the end, we once again a bit of a non-event, other than the boat ahead of me going too slow for my comfort zone and I felt more comfortable passing him in the narrow channel than I did putzing along at slow speed in the current.
Rapids safely transited, we slowly motored our way down the extremely narrow channel that was the entrance to Octopus Islands and turned into the small cove where we had stern tied last year. It was mostly empty so we picked a tree and dropped anchor, stern pointed towards the shore. Since wrassling the stern tie is a bit of a rite of passage, I sent Zak off in the dinghy with the line and instructions. My last advice was to not forget to hold on to the dinghy’s painter lest it float away as he disembarked. He forgot to hold on to the dinghy’s painter as he disembarked and it floated away as he disembarked. Luckily the rock shelf he had landed on was relatively shallow and he splashed out to retrieve the wayward tender. As I said, a rite of passage. We’ve all done it. At least he didn’t hole the dinghy like I did.
Eventually we got the stern wrestled into place and the line tied off. We were too far away to loop the line back to the boat, so that meant someone would have to retrieve the line via dinghy tomorrow. C’est la vie. It was damn cold and not exactly beautiful out, but Dave joined us for a beer nonetheless and Zak spotted a pair of raccoons scavenging for food along the shore line. Hamburgers were on the menu so I fired up the BBQ and we tried to stay out of the intermittent rain. It was a cold, damp night.
The next morning was clear but the weather still sucked and everything was damp so Zak and I pulled out the tarp and tried to redirect some of the water when the rain inevitably started up again.
I head over to the Shack to help Dave with his foot pump rebuild. This took most of the day and on the fourth or fifth reassemble we finally got it right. But after the second “successful” rebuild I left Dave to do the actual installation and took Zak out in the dinghy to check him out on the outboard. We zoomed around a bit and practiced landing on the beach. On the way out the entrance to the islands he spotted 4 animals along the water line. Turns out it was a family of river otters (4) who eventually dived in to the water and then — since that didn’t make us leave — scurried up the shore into the trees.
Apparently the weather gods were playing games, because now that the tarp was up the sun was now staying out. So I spent some time reading in sunshine before heading back to the Shack to help with rebuilds 4 and 5. Eventually we got it installed and “working.” Or at least not leaking. Or so we thought.
Then the family loaded up and we went off for a dinghy ride to explore Wyatt Bay. It’s huge and all of it is shallow enough for good anchoring. Definitely a place to try if you don’t want close neighbours. Back at the boat we had BBQ chicken and then played cards. Good day. Good trip so far.