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…
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.
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.
Today 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.
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.
Date/Time: Monday, September 15, 2014
Location: Port McNeill, northern Vancouver Island
Weather: Foggy morning, sunny afternoon, northerly breeze
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.
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.
Date/Time: September 14, 2014
Location: Blunden Harbor
Weather: Fog to start, the clear, warm, sunny
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?
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.
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
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.
Date/Time: Saturday, September 13, 2014
Location: Fury Cove
Weather: Clear, Calm, Warm
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.
At 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 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.
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.
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.
Date/Time:Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Location: Horsefly Cove
Weather: Light winds, High overcast, Barometer falling slightly Plan: Hiekish Narrows, Finlayson Channel, Jackson Passage to Mathieson Channel
Coghlan is a good anchorage for a number of reasons–room, proper depth, good holding, etc. But it does get windy. The wind started building about midnight, so I double-checked the anchoring system and made sure everything on deck was secure. The Dinghy was well fendered and double-tied. The anchor alarms and GPS map were left on for frequent reference. I was up a few times to look around, and I was awakened about 4 a.m. by Elsie’s whining; she was worried because the boat was bobbing in a 2-foot chop and waves were splashing against the bow (she sleeps in the forepeak.) I let her come outside while I checked the anchor rode and made sure everything was secure. She relaxed and went back to sleep while I stayed awake on anchor watch. Another long night.
By 0700 hours things were still lively with gusty winds and lumpy seas, but life goes on…After breakfast Elsie got her run on the beach. As we were returning to the boat, two DeHavilland Beaver airplanes flew in, apparently with clients for the other (charter) sailboat in the anchorage.
We were preparing for departure when we heard a distress call on the radio. The s/v Wharf Rat, a beautiful little wooden schooner that we passed the previous day was having engine trouble in Bishop Bay and was being blown toward the rocks by the wind. We did a quick check and determined that we were about 4 hours away. The Canadian Coast Guard put out a marine assistance call that was answered by another power boat only 20 minutes away, so we went about our business. (The Wharf Rat was successfully towed and moored in Bishop Bay.)
The “outflow winds,” as they are called in Canada, were roaring down Douglas Channel and into Wright Sound, the body of water where we would be most exposed. Fortunately, it was a beam reach and we roared along in the wind and spray with a double reef in the main and 95 percent jib. Our hull speed is only 7.3 knots but today we saw 9 knots on the GPS! Though the strong winds continued until mid-afternoon, we spend most of the day in protected waters having a comfortable ride.
We passed a dozen boats today, nearly all sailboats or fishing boats. It seems that all of the power yachts have already left for the season. One of the sailboat skippers hailed us as we passed each other near Butedale and introduced himself. He had heard us check in on the morning ham radio net, knew we were headed his way, and just wanted to say, “Hi.”
Today was also notable for its wildlife: dozens of humpback whales (on one occasion two monsters surfaced together right behind the boat,) a pod of dolphins playing in the bow wake, and a bear on the beach where we took Elsie for her evening walk.
Tonight’s anchorage is much different that last night’s. Horsefly cove is a tiny little hole surrounded by little forested islands and barely enough swinging room for one boat. Though we are anchored deep (90 feet) and our scope is less than ideal, the winds would hardly touch us in here.
If all goes well, we’re about two days from Shearwater, the strategically located resort that supplies “one stop shopping” for most boaters traveling this part of the coast. It looks like this beautiful fall weather will last a little longer.
Date/Time: September 9, 2014 21:15
Location: Coghlan Anchorage just west of Hartley Bay
Weather: Calm night, clear with a little haze, full moon
Plan: To Bishop Hotsprings via Verney Passage to Ursula Channel – weather permitting
We awoke this morning to dense fog that didn’t start lifting until 11:00 am. We took our time with the morning chores and the fog was just starting to lift as we returned from Elsie’s shore excursion.
Outside our anchorage, Grenville Channel remained thick with fog. As we weighed anchor we could hear the fog horn of a south bound ship; it sounded like a train a mile long before it faded into the distance. Funny how being enclosed by fog makes other boats seem sooooo big and the channel seem sooooo small!
Two hours down Grenville Channel the fog lifted and we had a boost from the tidal current. Fog, as it lifts, has its own ever changing beauty as the world changes from black & white to full color.
Since we were making good time with following seas we continued to Coghlan Anchorage at the south end of Grenville Channel. This is a really nice protected anchorage with great beaches at mid to low tide for dog walking. They are covered with clam shells and have areas of nice sandy beach. We could stand quietly on the beach and hear all kinds of squeaks, squirts and clicking chatter from the life around us. Elsie was surprised to squirt on a beach that squirts back. :0)
From the beach we watched the full moon rise over Promise Island giving a pink glow to the wispy clouds around it. (Poor Roger is about to start hitting his head on his coffee cup if I don’t quit now.) G’night all.