Date/Time: Friday, September 27, 2014
Location: Northwest Bay, Vancouver Island
Weather: Wind 20 gusting 25, heavy rain
Most of our days have been easy, but today we tried to outguess the weather forecast and paid for it by getting beat up in heavy weather in the Strait of Georgia:
We checked the weather forecast early this morning, which included wind warnings in Georgia Strait until afternoon. But the weather inside Comox harbor was pretty nice, and we decided we could get sloshed around a little, as long as it was going to calm during our trip. Besides, we had been in Comox five days and were anxious to get moving again.
So this morning with light rain and heavy overcast we departed our calm anchorage in Comox Bay, and headed south through Baynes Sound between Denman Island and Vancouver Island. As soon as we left the anchorage we could feel the swells from Georgia Strait, but then for the first couple of hours we were in the shelter of Denman and felt only a light chop. So far so good. Then we passed Deepwater Bay, the last shelter before entering the Straits of Georgia, and the swell and chop became heavier. It was a narrow entrance with the wind against the tide…things would probably get better.
But after leaving the shelter of Denman Island the seas continued to build. By mid-afternoon we were taking some spray and occasionally it sloshed up over the windshield and cabin top! The waves were steep with a short period between them so we got bucked around a bit; we were definitely having an uncomfortable ride. Of course the wind was on the nose so sails were not helpful and we could only motor into it. Usually we are heeled to one side or the other so if things are going to shift inside it is to one side or the other. The bucking action shifted forward and aft and a few things spilled off a shelf and out of a cabinet with a faulty latch (funny what things you discover at times like this). Happily, the mess was minimal.
By mid-afternoon the weather forecast had changed. They were calling for significant winds until this evening, becoming calm overnight. The three of us being uncomfortable, tired and queasy, we decided we’d had enough, but this part of Vancouver Island has few places to find shelter. We bypassed the small harbor at French Creek with a small unfamiliar entrance on a lee shore, opting instead for Northwest Bay, which has an easier entrance and excellent shelter from southeast winds–still about 20 miles short of our intended destination, Nanaimo.
As we ducked behind the island near the entrance the seas settled down immediately. But the winds increased and a HEAVY rain squall dumped on us as we entered the bay. It rained so hard the little rain drops were each creating their own white cap on the water. Sheets of rain were blowing across the surface of the water as we examined the small marina for an open moorage spot (there were none.) Water was pouring down my face so heavily I could stick out my tongue and drink it. I went through two pair of glasses before I abandoned their use altogether and then had to squint to keep the rain drops from stinging my eyes. My good rain gear was doing its job but water started running in the neck and down to my waist and if I lifted my hands to do anything the water ran up my sleeves.
Even our water dog didn’t like it. Half seasick already, all she could do was sit by the binnacle in her “vulture” pose, looking longingly at the dry boat cabin. When we spoke to her she looked up, squinting her eyes against the rain, staying as much under the dodger as possible. She didn’t need to speak; her look alone said, “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”
Each time we entered the pilothouse water cascaded off us and everything got wet. Between the gusting wind and pounding rain we could hardly hear each other as we came into the head of the bay to anchor. As soon as the anchor was down the squall passed, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the change was stunning.
Once anchored our first job, as usual, was taking Elsie to the beach in the dinghy. She had a great time running and swimming on the pea-gravel beach as if it had just been another easy day. (Dogs are so resilient.) After the doggy essentials were done, Roger returned and we all three took a trip to the beach; it felt good to walk on dry land. The bay is over a mile long and well-protected from the heavy seas outside. One side of the bay has log booms which have become a temporary home to about 100 sea lions. Their bellowing was continuous, echoing off the trees and rocks on both shores.
We returned to the boat, cleaning up water where we could and hanging things to dry while the weather continued to improve. Small amounts of sea water had managed to slosh through the dorade-type vents and the hatches that were not dogged down, and cabin sole was wet from the rain water we had carried in.
But for the most part, the boat was warm and dry, and we had a good dinner and a comfortable night at anchor.