One of the things on this season’s boating agenda is to acquire the certificate for, or at least learn the curriculum of, the Coastal Skipper (Advanced) level. This includes doing overnight sailing, passage preparation, watchkeeping and hopefully some cruising chute experience. Another thing I want to do is try some open water sailing away from the protected coastal waters of the inside passage to see if I “have the right stuff.” All this with an eye to do some sailing in places with bigger trips involved like the Med or Island hopping in the Caribbean.
I had looked at going back to Nanaimo Yacht Charters and doing a cruise and learn up to Desolation with one of their group classes last fall. They are offering it again this spring. And I had been toying with the idea of joining our old instructor Tim Melville on his boat and going around Vancouver Island. He had done it last year along with a Blue Pacific boat but we decided on our Broughton trip instead. This year he is teaming up with Nanaimo Yacht Charters’ Yachtmaster course and will follow along for most of the trip. When I mentioned my desire to join Tim, to Leslie she surprised me by saying she might want to go too.
So after much humming and hawing, we have let Tim know we will be joining him aboard the Northwest Passage for a 14 day trip circumnavigating Vancouver Island in late May. His boat is a 42 ft Baltic sloop with all the necessary equipment for some offshore adventuring, so maybe we will be able to do some actual bluewater sailing. Who knows? It will be less of a holiday and more of an adventure, as it will include some overnight passages, being away from a marina for multiple days in a row and of course exposure to the rigours of the Pacific Ocean. Tim is still looking for two more participants to make a total of six, so that will also be new to us. Any takers?
You may recall that L and I are off to circumnavigate Vancouver Island a Tim Melville’s Baltic 42. It will be around a two week trip and the itinerary for the first 6-8 days has been tentatively laid out. Here is Tim’s schedule:
On Monday we meet everyone on Gabriola Island. The plan is to have everyone connect at Tim and Donna’s house for dinner on Monday. We’ll do a BBQ on the deck overlooking the marina at around 6:00pm.
We will try to get away from the dock Tuesday before the high slack at Gabriola Passage at 11:30 at which time the current unfortunately turns against us through the Pass and for the rest of the afternoon out in Georgia Strait. We’ll head across the Strait and up to the Sunshine Coast for an overnight around Pender Harbour…..if we are making good time and are feeling ambitious we could try to make Hardy Island or even Westview (Powell River).
As I look at the currents at Seymour Narrows or all the other narrows we will need to transit…(Yuculta/ Dent/Greene Pt) it looks like the high slack at these narrows occurs mid-afternoons and we will more likely be looking at a transit on May 14th in which case we could overnight at Campbell River or if we stay inside we could look at Cortes/ Redonda/ Stuart Islands.
Pick a narrow pass or three to get us into Johnstone Strait for some exciting sailing…
More Johnstone Strait and a night at dock at Port McNeill or Alert Bay or even Port Hardy…showers/ shopping/water/fuel…dining out/ice cream…
Hope Island…Bull Harbour. The last good anchorage before the Nahwitti Bar crossing and Cape Scott and big ocean.
This is as far as I want to predict….we may need 6 days to get to Bull Harbour and after that I envision a night passage ‘offshore’ to get us to Winter Harbour and following that we will consider the conditions for rounding Brooks Peninsula….
My wish is for us to try to make good time to reach the top of Vancouver Island quickly….this way we will allow more time on the West Coast and have some leeway if we have to wait for any bad weather.
Exciting stuff. I don’t anticipate being able to post much past Port McNeill so all y’all will have to be patient and I will post it all after we reach civilization again.
We woke up on board the Rainbow Hunter. We’d driven up from Edmonton and stopped in to see the boat and spend the night before catching the morning ferry to Nanaimo.
The boat creaked and smelled faintly of diesel and sleep was sporadic, but it was a successful first night. A quick shower, some tea and it was time to hit the road.
Last night we had picked up a lovely BC Riesling and had a first glass or three on board then followed up with a lovely dinner at the Sandman: wokked squid, some oysters and a bit of sushi. Nice place but I think the waiter thought we cheaped out 🙂
Downtown Vancouver traffic to Horseshoe and then we wait for the ferry. I like Vancouver, but I could never live here if I had to drive these roads everyday. At least heading north we were going against traffic. The ferry was $80. I’m starting to think flying would be cheaper.
We are having lunch with L’s parents at the White Spot then need to grab some booze and a towel for Leslie. One more ferry will take us to Gabriola and then it’s a 20 minute drive or so to Degnen Bay.
Of course we miss the 3:45 ferry by 5 minutes so we have to wait until 5 to get across to Gabriola. Right about now the lack of sleep last night has caught up to me and I am a bit punchy. So maybe I can zone out in the truck and recuperate. I took the opportunity to ditch my jeans. I definitely think I overpacked. And under-boozed. We went with a 6-pack and three bottles of red. There will be a chance to restock in Port McNeil but that will be it.
We arrived at Tim and Donna’s place and unloaded the truck. Eventually everything was hauled down to the boat and we were oriented to the boat.
Afterwards we had burgers and wine on their deck and watched the sun go down. Soon we retired to the boat to catch some sleep.
A long day since yesterday.
Speaking of which we pulled out of Degnen Bay on the slack tide and transited Gabriola Pass and headed across the strait. We were greeted with 15 to 17 knot winds and had a hell of a sail for a few minutes. Then things calmed down and we slowly headed across the strait. Eventually we dropped the sails and motored on to Pender Harbour and dropped anchor in Garden Bay. Donna cooked up a delicious meal of 9-bean soup and cod which we ate up on deck.
Not to long afterwards we all headed to bed and that was the end of Day 1.
This morning the rain woke us around 5 but we drifted back off to sleep. Around 7:30 everyone was on deck and ready for breakfast: strawberries, yogurt, granola and French toast. We are not losing any weight on this trip.
There are 6 of us aboard. Leslie and I have the aft cabin, Tim and Donna occupy the main salon and Bob and Terry are sharing the v-berth. Bob is from Winnipeg and slowly retiring to Pender Island. Terry is also retired although damned if I can remember where he’s from.
After breakfast we up-anchored and swung around to Hospital Bay for fuel and water. Then it was out to Malaspina Strait and another long day.
As soon as we cleared the harbour we raised the sails and put in a few hours on a beam reach. As the winds died and shifted we decided to try out the spinnaker. A big, beautiful sail emblazoned with a rampant bull, the spinnaker is a bull of a sail to control and we all learned a lot getting the damned thing flying. As the winds shifted we managed to pull the spinnaker to the side and flew it almost like a big gennaker. This allowed us to point a bit higher and we kept it out as we headed up the strait.
Eventually however, the wind died and we fired up the motor again. It stayed sunny and calm for the rest of the day. Past Powell River and Lund, through the Copeman Islands and into Desolation Sound. Tonight’s destination is Squirrel Cove.
Some where along the way we diverted to Refuge Cove. But after tying up we realized there was nothing open and the showers were still closed for the season. So we cast off and went back to Squirrel Cove. All tied up, Leslie and I investigated the closed store and showers. Back at the boat an otter was greeting the crew but took off a few minutes after we got back. Dinner was almond chicken and red wine but it was already late and soon we decided bed was in the cards.
Cell is crappy here so pics tomorrow. Maybe. It might be a few days.
So that was an interesting day. The internet is flaky so these entries are a bit of a mess. I’ll clean them up when I can or when I get back to civilization. I’m pretty sure my damn phone spent the entire day searching for cell towers and that’s why the battery was gone before noon. So the track from yesterday is split in two and missing the middle bit.
I’m sitting in the dock in Blind Channel Resort listening to the geese and being swarmed by tiny bugs. The geese here are seriously loud and the bugs are seriously annoying.
Yesterday we cast off from Squirrel Cove fairly early and motored in the glass calm water. As a result we arrived at Yucalta Rapids an hour or so early so we tacked back and forth to kill time.
The Rapids were a non-issue. We did see a ton of sea lions on a rocky beach, so we turned around and engaged in mutual gawking. They were louder than we were.
The day progressed until we hit Green Point rapids which we took at max ebb so it was a fun little ride with 6 knots of current helping us along. After the Rapids we raised the jib and motor-sailed back and forth up the channel for an hour or so until suddenly the motor died.
Apparently we had been cruising in the smaller tank at above average rpms and run the tank dry. Unfortunately the Perkins doesn’t like that and restarting it proved impossible because we couldn’t bleed the lines. Tim and I fussed with it for about 20 minutes while the rest of the crew sailed back towards the rapids where we had come from. We were 8 nm or so from two lodges (Cordero Bay and Blind Channel) so we got on the radio and called for assistance. Blind Channel sent out an aluminum cruiser and 30 minutes later hooked up a tow to our bow line.
It was an hour back to the marina and a docking without power worthy of R Shack Island, but soon we were tied up and ready for dinner.
An exciting day…
forgive the typos. It’s 6 am and my eyes are still blurry
Morning. Breakfast. Work on the engine. After an hour or so encouraging noises emitted from the bilges and soon the old Perkins was humming along. All it took was a few phone calls and the only two wrenches Tim hadn’t packed.
In the meantime I had a shower and ate my third apple of the trip; that’s a bad habit I’m going to have to break. Somewhere around 10ish we’d fueled up, topped up the water and cast off heading for Johnstone Strait with predictions of 15-20 and no idea what the current was doing.
Well when we hit Helmcken Island we figured it out: it was against us and so we were motoring at 6 knots with a SOG (speed over ground) of somewhere around 2. Eventually we called it and anchored up for lunch in a small bay on the south side of the island.
Terry zoomed around in the dinghy like a kid with a shiny new bike and the rest of us chilled. We’d seen a few sea lions fishing in the currents as we approached but no one had followed us in. Damn sea mammals.
Then we were off again. The winds were a steady 20 knots on the nose so we decided to raise sails and make the best of it. I can’t say we made much progress but it was a good exercise and as the waves grew it was likely a smoother ride. Eventually we had two reefs in the main and the foresail furled in to about 90% and it was a smooth ride for the next few hours. At some point int he Strait we met a Holland America cruise ship that had Tim’m mother on it. He tried to contact the boat but was ignored.
By now we knew we wouldn’t make Alert Bay or Port McNeil before dark but we were determined to try. Tim’s actually pretty gung-ho on the whole night passage thing. There was one likely looking anchorage at Growler Cove on the north side of West Cracroft that we had as a plan B, and as we approached it at sunset our growling stomachs made the decision for us. We set anchor, shed layers and convened in the salon for wine and hot food.
It was veggie soup and samosas and Leslie was in heaven making smacking noises and stealing food off my plate. I think she enjoyed it.
By this time it was 11-ish so we went up on deck to the blackest night I’ve ever experienced. No moon, no stars, no city glow, just one faint nav light beyond the entrance to the cove. Eerie.
And then to bed.
This morning Tim and Terry fired up the engine at 6 and I laid abed writing for a while. Eventually all and sundry crawled up on deck and we drank coffee (tea) and munched on toast, scrambled eggs and sausages. Donna is really spoiling us.
A bit later we did a drive-by of Telegraph Cove with a few morning dolphins. Leslie and Bob were still in their bunks or at least down below, so they missed them. We also checked out Alert Bay but we won’t stop until Port Hardy. Then we will top up all the tanks and head to Bull Harbour on Hope Island. And then tomorrow is Cape Scott and the Pacific Ocean.
I did my first docking of the trip in the tight marina at Port Hardy, but managed to bring the boat into the fuel dock successfully. Since this is the last civilization we fuelled up and had showers. Then it was back out and motoring the last 20nm to Bull Harbour. I sent off a last few messages before reliable cell coverage disappears.
I am having no luck with my tracks. Today’s died moments out of Port Hardy. In any event we arrived at Bull Harbour early evening and dropped anchor in 12′ of water. It’s a new moon so the tide was expected to rise up to 11′ more.
We ate dinner, sorted through our offshore gear and then hit the sack.
Tim and Terry were getting up at midnight to weigh anchor and cross the Nahwitti bar. Les, Bob and I were set for the 4am shift.
B Timothy Keith
–a la iphone!
We heard the anchor go up at midnight and an indeterminate amount of time later we felt the start of the ocean swells. The bar is a place where not only does the open ocean hit a narrowing channel of land, but the depths rise from hundreds of fathoms to just six in a fairly short distance. This causes fast violent water with the potential for huge waves.
So you cross the bar at slack (the time when the tide pauses as it changes direction) and preferably at the ebb slack so you ride the new current out. But that does nothing for the swells and the whole boat twists and bounces. We didn’t sleep much.
At 3:30am we dutifully layered up, donned harnesses and life jackets and grabbed our headlamps. The Northwest Passage is an ocean boat so we had red lighting in the cabin to dress in and not destroy our night vision—nifty.
We arrived on deck to find Tim and Bob. Bob hadn’t been able to sleep so had come up early. Terry had succumbed to the motion and retired early. The boat was just approaching Point Scott and with overcast and no moon the light on the point was the only thing visible.
Soon enough Tim retired to try and sleep and the three of us took quick 15 minute shifts to experience navigating in the darkness before it lightened up too much. After that we settled in to 1 hour shifts. The weather was benign but the 3 to 6 foot swells in the dark made it an adventure anyway. All in all it wasn’t too cold and my seasickness factor was mostly about a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. I even closed my eyes and braced myself on the cockpit cushions for a while.
The sun came up, Tim returned and I sailed on. Eventually, one by one, we succumbed to the call of bed and crawled back in to warm up and try and rest.
The wind never rose above 5 or 6 knots so it was motoring all the way. We made it offshore about 17nm before we turned and headed back towards Quatsino Sound and Winter Harbour and on the way back the wildlife came out to greet us. We saw a sea otter about 10nm off and a small bird hitched a ride on the life lines.
After my nap I headed up just as we reached the shallows at the entrance to the sound that was populated by fishing boats both large and small. One of the fisherman held up his huge halibut with happy yell as we motored by.
As we past the lighthouse guarding the entrance there was cell service so I took the opportunity to upload a post and a few pictures. A few minutes later the signal disappeared but hopefully I can catch it again on the way out.
Once again I screwed up the track by not starting it when we cast off at midnight and compounding the error by forgetting my phone belowdecks. So I didn’t get a chance to start it until half way through our watch.
The swell died as we entered the sound so Leslie and Bob both awoke to smooth water. 45 minutes or so we tied up to Winter Harbour’s fuel dock. We filled up, visited the store and took a long walk down a boardwalk the meanders along the shoreline. We caught sight of our 3rd sea otter of the day floating on his back in one of the small bays. Really cool town.
Leslie says this is Sunday May 17: Day 6. I guess I’ll believe her.
Back at the boat we performed some emergency sump repairs and washed down some filters that were clogged. Then we cast off once again and headed out into the ocean. Well technically we didn’t quite leave Brooks Bay but we were definitely back in the swell.
About 2 hours later we slipped past Rugged Islands into Evergreen Bay and dropped anchor. It’s a small bay that is open to the south and still gets a bit of swell but we want to get past Cape Cook early in the morning and the other anchorage possibilities would mean maneuvering through a lot of rocks and shoals. Besides it is stunning.
Best of all we are here early enough that we could unship the dinghy and go explore. Everyone is pretty tired so only Tim, Leslie and I decided to go. We grounded on the beach and spent an hour beachcombing and climbing on the rocks. We found dozens of fish floats, most of which were from Japan, some even had kanji painted on them. It’s stuff like this that makes it all worth while. I collected some rocks for Donna and a piece of wood I will arm wrestle Carmen for.
Back on the boat we waited for dinner and Tim broke out the rod and reel and wandered off in the dinghy. No luck though. Dinner was pasta and then we hunkered down for a well deserved rest.
6:30 am comes early. Right around 6:30 as far as I can tell. So ya, early.
Once up on deck we fired up the engine and headed out of our bay. Last night we had been joined by a fishing trawler but he was gone already: the early fisherdude troll the salmon or something like that… We motored for Cape Cook which is the last of the dangerous headlands but there was virtually no wind so it was another non event. In fact we were able to motor between the Cape and Solander Island which is apparently a very rare event. The sea lions complained loudly at our intrusion although that was just one overly raucous group so maybe they were the grumpy ones.
After we passed the Cape we turned upwind and raised the sails. The wind remained in the 4-6 knot range so we didn’t make much headway. But once we were far enough out we jibed and were able to start to run parallel to Brooks Peninsula.
The winds slowly increased until Tim decided that a downwind MOB drill was in order. We talked it over then rescued our man overboard pole a few times. I am happy to report that despite the hijinx and three-stooge-like antics that no poles were lost.
About midway through our drills we were hailed by Bella Serena. She is the Nanaimo Yacht Charter boat we were supposed to be traveling with. But they had decided to go around the island the other direction so we had been traveling alone. But Brooks Peninsula is the nominal half-way point and this was the logical place to meet them. Luckily for pride’s sake we had made it further south than they had north so I guess we win this leg.
They were about 10nm offshore so we pulled into a close haul and raced out to meet them. We circled each other, took some pictures and waved before resuming our previous headings.
We played around sailing wing on wing and even poled out the jib. It was a great sail downwind for a few hours. Eventually we decided that Kyuquot Sound was our destination. One of the water tanks was dry so we decided to hit the fishing village of Walters Cove. We motored in, dodging rocks and reefs and tied up at the public dock.
Meanwhile Tim was worried because the tach was lagging and the temp was spiking. After we stopped, it turned out that we’d broken a belt and the engine was overheating. The issue with that was he had recently replaced his alternator and all his spares were for the old one. We asked around but no one had an appropriate spare. After a few hours Tim mcgyvered an old spare belt onto the new alternator and we were up and running.
Donna, Leslie and I walked to the store and chatted with the recently-arrived prawn fisherman, then walked a small trail to a nearby beach. Then it was hanging out until the engine work was done. As soon as repairs were complete Donna hit the galley and supper was on its way. We had intended to anchor out but it looks like we will stay at the dock tonight.
The only other thing of note was the sea otters. We saw a couple at sea then a few more in the entrances between the docks and one particularly cheeky fellow who didn’t move from our path until the last moment. They float around in their backs just like in the books with their huge hind feet flopping in the wind and their front paws crossed in their tummies. Super cute.
We awoke to fog. The most rock-filled, bouy-markered, tortuous route into any harbour in the trip and that’s the one we wake up in with fog all around.
So we chatted up one of the locals and his super-cute 3-year-old, had cinnamon buns and generally waited for the fog to lift a bit. Then we fired up the engine and the radar and wove our way out. We took a different route out heading southwest. Once again there was little-to-no wind and we headed out to sea towards a red lateral buoy that was slowly honking off in the fog.
There were however, lots more otters and we passed quite close to a few before they dived beneath the waves.
Outside the rocky shore we motored along on some big swells coming in on the starboard quarter so the ride was pretty rolly. After a couple of hours we tried the sails but that only lasted about 15 minutes. The wind was just too light and variable. So far today Leslie and I have monopolized the helm and put on a lot of sea miles. The fog lingered at the edges of the horizon, never quite lifting.
9 and a half hours of sailing brought us to Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound. Friendly Cove isn’t so friendly with a $12 head tax to visit. But we were intending to move on to Bligh Island an hour further up anyway. But once we made the Cove at around 7:15 we took a vote and decided to head out again.
The prediction is for fog again tomorrow and we would rather be stuck in Hot Springs Cove than an inlet on Bligh Island. Hot Springs in only another 25 nm further and we could easily be there by midnight. So I hauled the wheel over and head back out of the sound. Pretty soon after, Terry and Bob suited up for the colder weather and took over the wheel while Les and I took a break.
Then it got dark. Sailing in the dark is at once both mysterious and eerie, but there is certainly something glorious about it. We sailed towards the horizon until a faint light appeared through the fog and dark. And then another. The two lights marking the entrance to the cove.
Bob took us in and more sudden than you could imagine, the dock appeared out of nowhere illuminated only by our big flashlight. We tied up around 11:30 and soon retired.
There’s cell service here so I will post three days worth. As always, forgive the typos until I can get back and fix them.