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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Discovery Passage & Campbell River

Date/Time: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Location: Campbell River
Weather: Calm, clear, warm

This morning presented us with a low marine layer of clouds with reasonable visibility underneath. After checking for an anchor windlass switch at the Squirrel Cove Hardware Store (they didn’t have one,) we headed to Campbell River and the closest large marine hardware store.

Current in Discovery passage was against us, but we made even better time than expected by staying in the back eddies at the sides of the channel, thus increasing boat speed by a knot or two. (Once again, the old riverboat skills came in handy.)

Discovery Harbor is an expensive place to tie up. Now we remember: It was expensive the last time we came through here, eight years ago. But we got the anchor windlass switch.

Of course, the other reason to be in Campbell River is that it is a boating center. There are all kinds of interesting boats here, many with “for sale” signs, and a few that are pretty close to what we will be looking for once CAMAI is sold. So we spent the major portion of the afternoon walking the docks and talking to boaters. We ran into a few old friends here, and made some new ones, but tomorrow we intend to move on down the coast. If all goes well, Comox will be our next port of call.

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Fuzzy Math, Fast Water

Date/Time: Friday, September 19, 2014
Location: Squirrel Cove, Cortez Island, BC
Weather: Clear, calm, warm

Departing Forward Harbor

Departing Forward Harbor

Tides, reversing rapids, and calculating boat speed and transition times has consumed us for the past two days. But this evening we are in Desolation Sound and most of the hard parts of our voyage are behind.

This morning we awoke to light wisps of fog drifting through the anchorage, but by departure time it was thick. We pulled the anchor by hand (we still haven’t found a foot switch for the deck) as we listened to our friends ghost by in the fog ahead of us. We left the anchorage at 1000 hours.

Our first rapids, Whirlpool Rapids lay just outside of our anchorage. I expected the flood current to be flowing west, and we could go nice and slow, jogging in the current until the fog dissipated as forecast. After a few minutes, however I realized that we were doing 5.5 knots eastbound with the engine at idle. I had not double checked the direction of current flow on the chart, and instead of jogging against the current, we were being swept into the rapids! I recalled reading that Whirlpool Rapids has no overfalls or dangerous features, and the channel is wide, so we went ahead on compass bearings, radar, gps and what little we could see of the water around us. Our boat was jostled a little, but by the time we were through, the fog was lifting and we were making 9 knots!

Two miles later we entered Chancellor Passage, which is a tame piece of water even when current is running. We had time to look at our calculations and found that the next three rapids all flow east on the flood, the opposite of what I had calculated. A stupid mistake, but today it worked to our benefit. All of the times we calculated were correct, but our speed was so much faster that what we had planned as a two day transit could all be done in one day.

We shot through Green Point Rapids 1 hour and 40 minutes before slack water, went through Dent Rapids 45 minutes before slack, and aced Yaculta Rapids about 20 minutes before slack, all within safe time parameters recommended by our guidebooks for this area. By 1500 hours we were through all of the tricky parts, and needed only to select a good place to end today’s journey.

Now we’re tied to a dock in Squirrel Cove with easy access to the beach (for Elsie,) a store (for that anchor switch?) and no anchor to pull in the morning (for me.) We talked to Barb’s brother Don, and her nephew Brian and his wife Jan on the ham radio. The sky is clear, the wind and seas calm, and life is good again.

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

A Few More Miles…

Date/Time: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Location: Forward Harbor
Weather: Overcast, wind 10 gusting to 15, rain showers

With wind warnings forecast in Johnstone Strait for late this afternoon, we elected to take an alternate route through Sunterland Channel, north of Hardwicke Island. Now we are anchored in Forward Harbor, a popular anchorage. The little bight where we are has a fine gravel beach to entertain Elsie; she spent about forty minutes exercising this afternoon. The breeze and rain showers are working into the anchorage and ruffling the water, but they’re supposed to calm overnight.

Tomorrow we willl be cruising through some interesting places with strong currents, narrows, and tidal rapids. So this evening will be spent with pencils and paper, figuring out the best strategy for a safe and uneventful passage.

It’s time to get busy…

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Johnstone Strait

Date/Time: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Location: Port Harvey
Weather: Cool & cloudy with occasional light rain showers

Fog persisted in Port McNeill until after 1100 this morning, as forecast. We topped up with propane, and with coffee and treats at Mugz, the local coffee shop. When the sun started peeking through the fog we headed back to the boat. We were motoring out of the harbor at noon with partly overcast skies and improving visibility.

Johnstone Strait currents were against us, up to a knot at times, but we bucked the current just to make a few miles. Water was glassy smooth and once more we spent the day motoring toward our goal. We saw no whales in spite of the fact that we had to stay clear of an “Orca Preserve” along the way. The water in the preserve looked the same as every where else, but only authorized boats can go there without getting a ticket, and that included us.

s/y Pinta and s/v Camai at Port Harvey

s/y Pinta and s/v Camai at Port Harvey

We chose our destination on the basis of the weather forecast (weather front coming through tomorrow,) and time. The next good anchorage would have taken until after sundown. As we motored up to the dock at Port Harvey Marine Resort we recognized the boat, “Pinta,” immediately. Our friends from The Netherlands, Maarten, Marianne, 18 month old Daniel and their guest, Reanne (sp.) had arrived just a short time before.

The resort owner was friendly, and offered to bring cinnamon rolls in the morning, since the restaurant was closed for the season. We had a nice visit with our friends until late into the evening.

Tomorrow’s plan will be flexible, depending on weather among other things. A forecast weather front could bring rain and winds, but chances are we will be moving farther south.

Ham Radio | Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Port McNeill

navstaToday we stayed in Port McNeill.  By the time we were done provisioning, relaxing and calling relatives we decided that a “lay day” was in order.  We did some needed maintenance and by mid-afternoon the fog was rolling in from the north again.

We like Port McNeill–last time we were here (eight years ago) we were stormed in for several days.  Some of the same coffee shops, stores and other amenities are still here, though the place has grown somewhat.  We stayed at the private marine in town (North Island) which is a little more expensive, but with a free courtesy car, Internet access, and really friendly folks.

Sit.

Sit.

Today we managed to get a phone card (from the post office, of all places!) and now we can more easily use any pay phone to call friends and relatives.  Barb talked to her dad, and I to my folks.

This evening we made contact with our nephew, Brian, via ham radio.  Radio propagation conditions were just right–he sounded like he was right next door!  We’ve set up a radio schedule for future contacts: Barb and I will be listening to 7280 mHz at 7:00 p.m. PDT daily, whenever our shipboard schedule permits.

So today was productive, but tomorrow it’s time to start moving again.

Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Queen Charlotte Strait

Date/Time: Monday, September 15, 2014
Location: Port McNeill, northern Vancouver Island
Weather: Foggy morning, sunny afternoon, northerly breeze

Crossing Queen Charlotte Strait

Crossing Queen Charlotte Strait

We expected the fog in Blunden Harbor this morning, so we slept in, did some chores aboard CAMAI and gave Elsie a couple of walks on the beach. We departed at noon with rapidly dissipating fog banks visible in the distance. We crossed Queen Charlotte Strait on glassy water, and the only wind we saw was in the harbor at Port McNeill.

Barb and Elsie on the rocks.

Barb and Elsie on the rocks.

For Elsie it was some relief–only 5 hours on the boat and we tied up to the dock so we can take her for as many walks as we want.

Barb and I went the local pub (noisy!) for dinner, and enjoyed a nice evening walk. Tomorrow morning promises to be foggy again, but that will give us time to get more boat parts and provisions.

The last two days are a turning point in our journey…the most remote waters are behind us. Towns and communities are more frequent and if the weather turns bad we can tie up in a nice, safe marina for a while. What lies ahead is the labyrinth of channels, tides and rocks between Vancouver Island and the mainland. As long as the weather stays good (and it’s forecast to,) the hardest part of the next few miles is calculating tides and currents for the fastest and safest passages.

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Queen Charlotte Sound

Date/Time: September 14, 2014
Location: Blunden Harbor
Weather: Fog to start, the clear, warm, sunny

The view from Fury Cove looking southwest

The view from Fury Cove

Well, this morning at O-dark-30, we woke up to fog thick as pea soup. So much for plans for an early departure! Roger navigated the dinghy to the beach in the fog and darkness for Elsie’s nature walk and when he returned decided it would work out fine to depart as planned. So we had a quick breakfast and up came the anchor (hand-cranked again). By 7:45 am we were creeping along to exit the narrow opening to Fury Cove. It was light by then and we could just barely make out part of the shore. With the aid of the moving map and radar we made it out to Fitz Hugh Sound without difficulty, although on full alert!

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

The winds were calm but there were ocean swells in Fitz Hugh and Queen Charlotte Sounds so we put up the main sail to steady the motion. Roger spent the first hour of the trip in the pilothouse with navigation chores while I was out on deck in the crisp cool air keeping watch. Consequently the constant motion of the swells took their toll making Roger kind of queasy for awhile. But after a nap, some ginger candy, ginger snaps and ginger tea he was good to go…gingerly.

Approaching Cape Caution.

Approaching Cape Caution.

The fog persisted for a couple of hours, cleared up and then returned for another hour. Sometimes the fog was so dense that it only took 15 seconds from the time some birds became visible on the water until we passed them. Not much time to react to things we might run over or that might run over us. Thank God for radar. When the sun was shining from blue sky above into the fog around us, a white bow (like a rainbow) formed with just a hint of color at the outer edges – something I had never seen before.

Happy to be in Blunden Harbor

Happy to be in Blunden Harbor

By the time we got to Cape Caution it was clear, sunny and beautiful, but by 4:00 pm when we arrived in Blunden Harbour we were happy to call it quits – especially Elsie. Blunden is a good anchorage with room for lots of boats and a good holding bottom.

Tomorrow is supposed to be foggy again; we will head for Port McNeill, weather permitting.

Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Shearwater to Fury Cove

Date/Time: Saturday, September 13, 2014
Location: Fury Cove
Weather: Clear, Calm, Warm

inside

Today was easy, if a little long. We waited for the Shearwater Grocery Store to open (9 am) and then departed at 0940 hours. We ran the engine up to 2200 rpm and it stayed there until 1745 hours when we dropped anchor in Fury Cove.

Our route took us out Lama Passage to Fitz Hugh Sound, past the Addenbroke Light Station, to Fury Cove. Tides were with us most of the time, and seas were calm except for a short stretch where the inflow winds from Hakai Passage ruffled Fitz Hugh Sound into a three-foot chop.

whaletailAt the light station a whale was giving a great show, splashing the water with his flippers and jumping out of the water. Most interesting were two people in a small (18-foot) Lund skiff that was loitering nearby. It was so close that we could compare sizes, and the whale’s flippers appeared as long as the skiff! The whale was still giving a good show as we continued into the distance.

Fury Cove beach

Fury Cove beach

Fury Cove is a popular anchorage for many reasons. It is beautiful, looks out on Queen Charlotte Sound, and is strategically the best jumping-off point for boaters who are southbound, crossing the sound. From our boat we can look out between the rocks and see the conditions outside.

Elsie’s favorite pastime here is running lickety-split on the fine white shell beach, a nice change from rocks and barnacles.

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Logbook Entry

Date/Time: Friday, September 12, 2014
Location: Shearwater Resort near Bella Bella
Weather: Mostly clear, warm, perfect

We set the alarm and woke up at 5:00 this morning, to take advantage of favorable tidal currents. After morning chores, I took Elsie for her morning walk in the dark.

Manually raising the anchor was a little easier this morning, since we were anchored in shallower water. I used the manual crank on the windlass and worked up a bit of a sweat, but that was much easier than yesterday’s hand-over-hand effort.

By 7:10 the anchor was aweigh and we started down Mathiason Passage in beautiful clear, calm weather. Barb served an excellent breakfast in the cockpit while we enjoyed the early morning travel. We went through Percival Narrows on the last of the ebb tide, then cut over to Reid Passage, a narrow and beautiful passage that saves a couple of hours and keeps us out of the ocean swell in Milbanke Sound.

We arrived at the fuel dock in Shearwater at 12:30, took on water and fuel, then moved to the main dock. We did laundry, took showers, gave the dog a long walk, and had dinner at the restaurant. We looked in the Marine Store for an anchor windlass switch but the had just sold their last one.

As usual, we experienced sticker shock at the prices here, but we have always received first rate service and good food here. The resort is strategically located in the most remote part of the B.C. Coast, and they have to make ends meet, so we just grin and bear it. It was a perfect day weather-wise, and a welcome break from the shipboard travel routine.

Tomorrow we head south, and in two days we should be rounding Cape Caution to the north end of Vancouver Island.

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Inside Passage | Ship's Log

Finlayson Channel and Jackson Passage

Date/Time: Thursday, September 11, 2014
Location: Rescue Bay, east end of Jackson Passage in Mathieson Channel Weather: High overcast, calm
Plan: Shearwater tomorrow, weather permitting

Today was an easy day, except for the anchor windlass switch that decided to give up the ghost as we were retrieving the anchor from 90 feet. It’s been a long time since Barb and I pulled the rode in hand over hand. So we found ourselves wishing that we had anchored in shallower water, and that we had something less than 70 feet of chain adding to the weight of the anchor.

Nevertheless, we got underway about 0930 hours and caught the tide just right at Jackson Narrows. Since Rescue Bay is the best anchorage in the area, we thought we’d try it out. We anchored at about 1440 hours (in shallower water) and gave Elsie some great play and swimming time on the beach.

Some of the remarkable observations of the day included whales, dolphins, eagles, fish farms, and helicopter logging in Jackson Narrows. It’s impressive to watch a Sikorski Sky Crane lift three trees at a time out of the woods, and then drop them into the water where they are rafted for transportation to the mill. We got a few photos. Also remarkable is the style of logging: They’re not clear cutting large tracts of timber any more. Rather, they are cutting small irregular shapes out of the forest that will not be noticed by the average tourist when they green up in a couple of years.

Tomorrow we will get an early start to take advantage of favorable current conditions in Percival Narrows (the south end of Mathieson Channel.) We’ll take a shortcut through Reid Passage which cuts off part of the transit of Milbank Sound. If all goes well, we will be at Shearwater tomorrow night for a hot shower, dinner out, and a new anchor windlass switch.

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