Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Run aground, part two

After the trauma of running aground we stayed put in Waiatt Bay near the Octopus Islands, had a nice hike, then left the bay using the safe entrance this time.  We ran Beasley Passage at 11:12 and before you knew it were approaching the northern section of the Strait of Georgia.  On the VHF radio we heard someone, somewhere hailing the sailing vessel Precious Metal.  We'd met Pam and Henry in Mexico and were delighted to connect with them on the radio.  They were in the vicinity so we changed our plans and headed over to Heriot Bay to rendezvous with them.

The last time I was in Heriot Bay was with Keith Dekker many years ago on our little Newport 27, Platypus, about nine years ago.  Back then, we had roared into the bay running from a southeasterly, arriving in the rain and seeking shelter.  We finally tied to the fuel dock and spent the evening in the pub, then (after many beers) ran through the downpour to get back to the boat.  This time, it was sunny and we enjoyed crab cocktails on the back deck of the mighty Precious Metal.
Precious Metal - Pamela and Henry

Traveler ran across Strait of Georgia to Manson's landing and the organic store there, then we jumped south across the strait back to Henry Bay on Denman Island, just outside of Comox on Vancouver Island.  We caught a nice northwesterly and with the lightweight gennaker flying, roared into the anchorage, turning downwind to douse the sail then upwind to drop the anchor. Picture perfect.  Except we ended up in 12 feet of water and had to reset the anchor.   Resetting turned out to be difficult as the wind piped up and I had a heck of a time keeping her head to wind while Connie payed out the anchor chain.
Oysters, mussels, and clams

The next day I called Kathy and Hal in Deep Bay.  They had a ham cooking and an empty slip so we coasted down the channel and visited them at the marina.  Hot showers, ham dinner, and a smoky sunset from the top deck of Ms. Kathryn.
We've seen some whales

In transit mode, we decided to make some miles and motored south all day down to an anchorage in Northwest Bay and watched the birds playing on the log booms there.  The next day we made more southing and ended up grabbing the last open slip for reciprocal moorage at the Nanaimo Yacht Club.

Working further south we had a long run to Winter cove on Saturna Island. We wove our way into the shallow bay- it was high tide- and found a little pocket of 25 ft water to set our anchor down.  There is a little cut in the reef there that lets water in from the Strait of Georgia so we had a lot of current racing by the boat all night, tossing her head port and starboard.  We could hear the anchor chain grinding on the rocks below.

The next day, my 64th birthday, we started to feel our way out of the anchorage.  The current was stronger than I thought and we got swept towards shallow water.  The GPS chart showed a channel we could negotiate but when we did so the boat struck .... hard.  What an uncomfortable sound and feeling it is to run hard aground on rocks.  You hear a crunch and stumble forward and the boat comes to an abrupt halt.  Reverse did no good. We were hung up.

As we had but two hours before low tide there was nothing to do but wait for the tide to go out, then come back in.  Having practiced the routine just a few days before, we knew what to do.  Put the motor on the dinghy, drive it around to find where deeper water lies, put out kedge anchors, and wait.

There is nothing more uncomfortable than watching your home tilting 25 degrees.  This time we put out two anchors windward, one on the stern and one amidship.  These held Traveler from being pushed further aground as the tide finally started rising. Eventually we got off.  I consulted the GPS and we headed her slowly to the west. Then THUD, we grounded again, right where the GPS chart said we'd have depth.  We backed off quickly then anchored the boat.

Forget the charts. Forget the GPS. Let's do it the old school way.  I got back in the dinghy and with a handheld depth sounder found us a route to deeper water.  Using a handheld compass, from that big tree across the bay to the little dock at a heading of 200 degrees there is a  minimum depth of 12 feet.  Back aboard Traveler with just barely enough forward travel to have steerage we crept out.  This time Connie leaned over the bow giving me soundings every 15 seconds.  "Twelve point five feet.  Eleven Feet.  Eleven and a half."

I pointed the hand compass at 200 degrees and lined up the tree and dock and eventually we were free.  It was 16:00 on my birthday and so far, things had not gone so well.  We left the bay to go pick up the crab traps and one had gone missing, swept away by the current.  The other had one female.  Oh well.  Going out the channel the current was against us so we were making only about two knots.  Finally, as we approached Active Pass, I got out the charts, found the nearest anchorage, and we ducked into Ellen Bay, dropping the hook in a safe 40 feet of water with lots of swinging room and no shallows or rocks in the vicinity.

That's when I said, "Can we just have a do-over for my birthday?"

So today is my do-over birthday, and we had a nice time motoring back into the USA and Friday Harbor to check into customs, grab reciprocal moorage, take hot showers, and have home made pizza for dinner. While I'm not too happy to be back in this crazy country, it's pretty nice up here in the San Juans, and Connie is playing music on Friday night at Vita's on Lopez Island!  Soon we'll have to dive the boat and see what kind of scrapes and gouges we have in the hull. But in the meantime, we are glad to be afloat.
What do you want for your birthday dinner?  Why, pizza and a fancy bottle of wine please.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Run Aground

I'm rigging a crab trap on the top deck when Connie rings out with, "Twenty Feet!"  I knew the little pass into Waiatt Bay was somewhat shallow, so... not to worry.  "Nineteen, fifteen, ten, nine" This is when she started to freak out.  "Seven... F***" I told her to put it in neutral but she already had.  "Five and a half" and then that crunching sound and the deck canted underfoot.  Connie put her in reverse.  Traveler rotated a little then came to a standstill, stuck.  Run aground. High and dry.

I looked overboard, port and starboard and checked the steering.  When I dove down below I saw that Connie had already opened up the floorboards to check for incoming water.  The bilges were dry.  The GPS showed that we were right at the edge of a shallow area with a cute little X of a rock in the center.  That little X was in the center of the entrance to Waiatt Bay and I had failed to see it on the chart. 
Our GPS track.......oops
"What do we do?", she says.  I looked winward and sure enough the wind was pushing us onto the rocks.  I looked at the dinghy and could see by the way she was drifting that the current was pushing us in the same direction.  Our saving grace was that we'd chosen to make our run today on a rising tide, but we sure didn't want the current and wind to keep pushing us onto the rocks as the tide rose.

"Let's get the motor on the dink and I'll take a stern anchor out."  I jumped into the dinghy and Connie lowered the outboad engine onto the transom.  She tossed me the hand held depth sounder and I circled the boat taking depth measurements.  2.5 feet at the bow. 3 feet on the port side.  5 feet on starboard.  7 feet on the stern. I could tell by the waterline that she was sitting a couple of inches high on the port side. That's it, we'll get the anchor out behind us. 

We manhandled the big aluminum danforth anchor into the dinghy and piled in the 30 feet of chain.  As I drove to windward through the little pass Connie payed out the line.  Checking the depth, I waited until I was in deep water before running out the chain and tipping the anchor out of the boat.  When I returned to Traveler Connie had already taken the anchor rode to the stern winch and was busily cranking away.  The line stiffened and the anchor held.   We looked at each other with big bug eyes then rechecked the bilges. Dry.

Connie grinds the winch, easing us off the rocks
"Gimme the camera." I took some pictures while a fellow sailor in a dinghy came by to help.  "I've got a 15 horsepower motor.  Want me to try to pull her off?", he said.  Since we had a rising tide and a good anchor to windward it was only a matter of time til she came off on her own.  There was no need to scrape any more fiberglass.

Sooner that we thought, the anchor rode went a little slack and we cranked her off the reef and towards the wind.  The decks became level. Our blood pressure dropped, and our eyes popped back into our heads.  While Connie drove the boat, I hauled in the rode, chain, and anchor by hand.  She circled the boat around and we took our second attempt to enter the bay, this time even slower and more to port.  I stayed down below with the GPS.  "A little to port.  A little more.  That's good. Now to starboard."  Up top Connie announced, "12 feet, 20 feet, 25 feet."  We were through.

The big Danforth anchor
After a shock like that, much like getting thrown off a horse, they say you should get right back in the saddle.  So I got the bait into the crab trap and we found a nice spot in 65 feet of water, not 50 yards west of that evil entrance rock.  The trap went down and off we went to the anchorage to find a nice flat spot in 35 feet.  Anchor down, engine off, don't you know we decided to have cocktails even though it was only 4:30 in the afternoon?   

Lessons learned:  When transiting a tight entrance or any place with hazards keep your eyes on the GPS and paper charts.  Use the zoom on the GPS.  Don't let other things distract you at these times.  The crab trap can wait.  I like having the chart plotter at the navigation station down below but if I'm going to have it there then we should mount a second unit right there at the helm.  If we'd had that, I am sure that Connie would have seen that little X and would have stopped the boat in time.

What we did right:  We were going pretty slow.  Connie had her in neutral as soon as the depth got shallow.  We didn't panic but checked the bilge and the rudder right away. We took soundings and quickly deployed a stern anchor to kedge her off. 

What the heck?


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Phillips Arm to Owen Bay

Dent Rapids
The internet at the Stuart Island Community Dock was not working so well so I didn't post my blog that day. Now we are up north, there is no easy internet and no phone service so I'll have to release whatever blog entries that have piled up once we get to Cortez Island and civilization.  At Stuart Island Connie walked to Eagle Lake and, sure enough, saw dozens of eagles.  I found reading material at the "Take a book, leave a book" library and offloaded some of my old stuff.

It is kinda scary but certainly fun running the narrow, fast moving channels.  I'm a little tense, watching the clock as we head toward the skinny part of the channel where at full ebb or flood the water boils in standing waves and whirlpools abound. But we always pass at slack current, or slightly with current, so the timing is essential. When you are transiting the rapids, so is everyone else.  It's a little daunting to see a mass of boats coming forward at you.  I'm hoping they are watching where they are going! Then when they've passed, their wake action is added to the normal jiggidy jaggedy flopping around of the tidal currents and Traveler is fairly dancing around, heading this way and that.

On the radio we hear folks from the little marinas telling boaters to watch their wake!  As these lodges and marinas are right on the channels, boats will come upon them without being aware and as we know, some of the power vessels throw quite a wake.  At Codero lodge in Nodales channel that gal must sit in her office overlooking the channel and be quick on the mic.  "Slow down, we have a delicate dock." And she blows the big air horn.  The approaches to Codero have spray painted "SLOW" written on the rock walls.

Being this far north we only hear snippets of conversations on the radio. We hear one sided conversations, usually the Coast Guard radio operator (a very powerful signal) asking questions to disabled mariners. "Are you in need of assistance?" "What's your location?" or "Please take your conversation to another working channel." and our favorite, "There is a blue hulled 32 foot powerboat with a rope wrapped around the propeller.  Anyone who can provice assistance...." Up here, north of Desolation Sound, these radio conversations are usually about boaters in far flung, more southerly and populated areas. 

We listen to the VHF Weather each day to hear what wind conditions are like in the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait. Up in these fjords though, the wind is predictable, usually calm in the morning and up-channel in the afternoon.  When we were down south off the Straits of Georgia we could hear station #1 and then maybe station #2.  Now up here, none of that is available and the only reliable one is station # 8 and occasionally #7 but he's usually speaking French so that one is only good for amusement purposes.   

We met a guy at Pender harbor, when we were anchored at whiskey slough. We take the time to talk to strangers, especialy locals, because we learn all sorts of good stuff about the area.  This guy was in a beat up dinghy, loading Spam, chili, and beer. We asked him where we might see bear and trap for crab, mentioning that we were headed for Teakarn Arm. He said to visit Phillips Arm, where we'd see lots of bear, catch ling cod, and take in lots of crab. Fanny bay, in Phillips Arm is the place. Days later, when we got to Fanny Bay we dropped a shrimp trap at the entrance but didn't anchor there because the bay was full of logging equipment. Instead we pushed up into the head of Phillips Arm and got the anchor well set.  How well set we'd find out later.

It is a little strange when you are at anchor having dinner and you see trees swinging by the windows as the boat swings in the wind.  At first it is a little disconcerting as you think the anchor might have pulled loose but it's just swinging.  We set the anchor alarm on the AIS to alert us if we get more than 30 meters from our anchoring spot.  We leave it on all night and I sleep well because of it.  
Anchored in Phillips Arm

So here we are in Phillips Arm looking for bear, scanning the rocky beaches, sweeping the binoculars side to side.  There is one little house across the bay and we see, right near the house, a brown bear on the shore flipping over stones. A woman stands on the little dock watching the grizzly.  It is low tide so Mr. Bear has a good size smorgisboard to work his way through.  With 15 feet of tide up here, the big mud estuary covers with water and looks like a nice deep bay.  Don't try to sail Traveler across it.  There will be only a couple feet of water and she needs six and a half. 

Can you see the bear?

The guy was certainly right about the crab. First trap got two of the right size and sex, 165mm and male.  Second trap got three more. The next day I brought home seven. Those seven boy crabs were in a heck of a bad mood, being stacked into the bright orange Home Depot bucket one on top of the other.  The first day there was a lot of crab shell and guts after cleaning so I rowed a bucket of it ashore and dumped it there for the eagles to snack on. 

We took a trip up the river in the dinghy just as high tide approached.  We ran up as far as we could, keeping going, continuing until the current against us was so strong that the engine couldn't move us forward.  We turned around and sped down river at a terrific rate.  Back at the estuary, the mud flats were gone and we snuck across in just a few feet of water.  Get back, check the traps.
Up from the depths came this big waterlogged tree

In the morning, after harvesting more crabs, we hauled up the anchor and found we'd harvested an enormous waterlogged, petrified tree covered in barnacles and sea stars.  This sulky giant was as long as the boat and our chain was tightly wrapped around one of its limbs. There was nothing to do but get in the dinghy with the hack saw and do a little sawing to release the big giant.  We watched it slowly sink back into the depths to lie at the bottom and wait for then next mariner.  I know the location.  It's marked on the chart with a little red anchor that means, "Drop your anchor here."

On the way out of the Arm we brought up the shrimp trap and found four big prawns and 12 spot prawns. I sat in the cockpit and ripped their heads off and stowed the tails in the freezer.  Then I had to stun the seven big crabs with a winch handle and rip them apart.  We boiled them four at a time then popped them into the refrigerator to cool.  

By the time we finished processing the shrimp and crab we found ourselves at Blind Bay resort and dock.  They were so friendly there, letting us tie up at the airplane dock while we shopped.  Later, they helped us walk Traveler to a better location so Connie and I could put on our hiking shoes and go find the big cedar Tree on the "Big Cedar Tree" hike. It's lovely to walk through an old second growth forest and find huge old growth trees.  We read the plaque put there by the logging company that explained how second growth forests and selectively thinned forests are more healthy and biodiverse than old growth. Hmmmm.

Back on the water and rounding the bend we see masses of dolphins leaping in Johnstone strait, jumping right out of the water with happiness.  Little red boats stuffed with red suited customers zoom back and forth clicking cameras and smart phones. 

We dropped a shrimp trap 260 feet down on the way into Camelon Harbor and found a safe quiet anchorage in the south part of bay. There we spent hours picking crab, froze a bunch, and had a big, all you can eat, crab dinner. Does it get any better than this?  The next day after sorting through the assortment of little crab, skinney fish, and spotted prawns caught in our shrimp trap, we found the incoming tide and sailed into Okisollo Channel to anchor in Owen bay, just north of the rapids that lead to the Octopus Islands.

I'd been waiting to get far enough north to get away from light pollution so we can see the stars.  But we never see the full dark sky, even in the dark of the moon, because it stays light so long here.  At 11:00 PM there is still light in the sky.  At 2:00 AM we can see a glow on the horizon.  By 4:00 AM dawn is happening. Then the other night, after watching a long movie on the laptop, we went on deck to see if the sliver of new moon was visible.  It was. But there was something else going on.  In the north was a glow like you'd see when anchored across the hills from a city.  Across the sky directly overhead were three long stripes of light blue light, extending from horizon to horizon, north to south. Could this be the northern lights?  As time went by, they marched across the sky then disappeared altogether.

All Females

I set and checked the crab trap three times there in Owen Bay.  The total count for those three sets was 14 females and 3 males.  Some of the females were gigantic! But all of them went back to the deep.  We shouldn't keep the females and only one male was large enough so we set him free, thinking that life must be wonderful for a young adult male crab with all those females around.  Looks to me like Owen Bay has seen too many crab traps. 

Homestead on the island
There are four slack current times per day for transiting the rapids. Two of those are at night or near dark, so forget about those.  Of the other two, one is the slack at low tide and the other is slack at high tide.  If we are headed toward the way the flood tide runs then it's best to catch the slack when it turns from low tide (ebb) towards a flood current. That way we can safely transit the rapids then have a nice rising tide to push us on our way on the other side.  Similarity, if our destination is toward the ebb, then we should transit at high slack and ride the ebb to our destination. 

Hole in the Wall
We choose to move from Owen Bay to the Octopus Islands during the afternoon slack to flood.  Hence, we had plenty of time for a hike on Sonora Island, following a rough road that becomes a meandering path to an overlook of the upper rapids and the entrance to Hole In The Wall.  Walking the "road" we could tell that it had not seen many vehicles lately.  Is was evident that the dozen or so waterfront homes used the water for transportation and so the roads and paths were for walking or running a wheelbarrow full of groceries up to the neighbor.  The ramshackle nature of the buildings tell us there isn't much need for building codes here on the island.  What a perfect place for the do-it-yourself type individual. We dreamed about bringing up a load of lumber and shingles and making ourselves a little private camp.  Of course there was no internet here, so we'll put this blog in the hopper to wait for later.  In the meantime it's time to head over to the Octopus Islands.  The tide is turning within the hour!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Princess Louisa Inlet and Beyond

After clearing Harmony Islands and removing the bark wrapped around the propeller shaft, we headed north up Jervis Inlet.  It's a lengthy haul up Jervis, divided into three long reaches, Prince of Wales, Princess Royal, and Queens.  Fortunately an up-channel breeze arrived and we rolled out the Genoa, continuing with the engine to keep up our speed.  We needed to maintain at least four knots if we were to make it the 35 miles to the rapids at the time the current turned slack.  Later, when we noticed that our speed over ground was in excess of five knots with the engine at idle we knew we could dispense with the diesel altogether.  By the time we entered Princess Royal reach the wind had built and rollers were lifting the stern of the boat.  I noticed that Tula had popped her headsail as well and was speeding along the north shore. It is usual in these reaches for the wind to blow up-channel in the afternoon, bringing white caps later in the day.  After a raucous ride, we arrived at the entry to Princess Louisa Inlet 90 minutes ahead of schedule.

With too much time and no lack of wind, we tacked back and forth waiting for the rapids to calm. By slack we had four sailboats and about six power boats hovering at the entrance. One power boat decided to jump the gun and go through before the ebb turned to flood. We watched the boat struggling against the current.  Horsepower won out the the rest of the power vessels followed suit leaving the four sailboats to linger a little longer.  Sailboats are a little under powered and their deep keel can get swept to one side or the other if a stiff current grabs it. It's good to wait.

Tula with power boat hot on her tail.. through Malibu rapids

Finally at the stroke of 16:11 a single hander in a ketch headed through the now placid rapids.  A sloop followed and Tula fell in line behind with Traveler bringing up the rear.  A power boat named Papa De'eau had just arrived up Queens Reach and approached under speed, looking like it was going to cut off our friends on Tula.  Scott Tobiason hailed the boat and asked what his intentions were. "I'm going through Malibu."  Scott (in a very professional manner) explained that he was already in the approach and we should transit one at a time.  Papa De'eau came back with " But I'm doing 10 knots!"  Scott came back with, "I'm doing four knots and the speed here in the rapids is posted not to exceed five."  There was a few more terse words exchanged but Tula kept her position and old Papa De'eau had to follow.  Of course, he cut in front of Traveler and we followed through, last in line. 

Once through I hailed Tula and suggested that we put up the sails and take our time coasting the few miles up Princess Louisa Inlet, giving us time to forget the rudeness and making our entry a pleasant one.  Now that the current had turned, everyone who was going through the rapids had already done so and the power boats who raced to the anchorage and dock were claiming the good spots.  That's how it always goes.  The boats with big engines hurry to the destinations and take what's available.  The sailboats come in later and take what's left.  I cannot count the times we've entered a breakwater or anchorage and had powerboats zip around us to beat us in. I just stand off and wait for them to get out of the way. 

Chatterbox Falls with public dock

At the head of Princess Louisa Inlet is Chatterbox Falls, a lovely cascade of water.  All around the head of the Inlet are waterfalls, running thousands of feet from the towering heights of the fjord. I counted ten visible from where we drifted while Tula went ahead and scouted the dock for open spots.  We felt lucky as we got the call on the radio from them to come on in and that there was room on the inside near the ramp.  "You can raft up to Tula or try to squeeze into a 45 foot space."  Our boat is 44 feet long overall so it would be a squeeze.  We slowly coasted in, nosed her bow into the dock and used reverse and a little prop walk to slip into the dock with inches to spare.  Across the dock from us sat the towering Papa De'eau, blocking our view of the bay and the falls. 

That's Ok.  We had a great group dinner with Scott, Karen, Alan, and Dick and the next day we hiked and kayaked and had a grand old time.  The first morning a few boats left and we got Traveler and Tula relocated to the outer part of the dock with nice views all around. Day three we motored out of Louisa and arrived at the rapids at 10:37 to again be the last boat to transit. Entering Queens Reach we were glad to see the stern waves of the half dozen boats racing away into the distance.  We had Jervis to ourselves for the rest of the day except for when we met the next batch of visitors about halfway through Princess Royal Reach. First the plodding sailboats, then an hour later, the racing powerboats.  All of us visitors live by the timing of Malibu rapids.

Unfortunately we had the up-channel wind again and so had to motor into wind and waves all day, arriving finally at Ballet Bay within Blind Bay and an easy anchorage for the night.  Tula left the next morning with a northwest wind to help them sail south back to Pender Harbor.  As our next destination was to the north, we decided to take a lay day and wait for the northwest wind to lie down a little.

Tenedos Bay
Texada Island is a crazy 28 miles long and it seems to take forever to leave it astern. In light winds we motored north and were finally able to sail for a while just off Harwood and Savory Islands. We passed the town of Lund and found a stern tie anchorage in the Copeland Islands.  The next day the little channel between the Copelands and Malaspina Peninsula was quite active with boats, everyone motoring north to get into the famous cruising grounds of Desolation Sound. I seemed like all the boats in Canada were converging on this one spot!  We choose to duck into Tenedos Bay and enjoyed a down wind genaker run to the head of the bay.  It took some doing but we found a spot to stern tie and then took the dinghy over to the creek for a hike and a swim in the lake.

Our Desolation Sound anchorage

The next day we rounded the corner and sailed by Prideaux Haven, a fabulous place but much too popular.  I could see on our AIS that there were numerous big yachts in there and by the chatter on the VHF could tell it was quite crowded so we gave it a pass.  We did enter Laura Bay but seeing the 20 boats in there, we left as soon as possible.  Around the corner we finally found a spot to ourselves in the lee of Roffey Island.  The 15 foot tide was quite alarming as the next morning we found ourselves down in a little hole surrounded with heaps of drying oysters.  Carefully, we made our exit, sailing west to Squrrel Cove where we found a large anchorage of constant depth and no stern ties necessary. 

Responding to a hail on the VHF, we were surprised to find Tammy and Dan on their Union Polaris cutter Anjuli. We knew them from our cruising time in Mexico and were surprised to see them up here in the Northwest.  They had just shipped their boat to BC on a cargo ship and had picked it up in Nanaimo the same day we happened to be there. Small world.  We enjoyed the anchorage, the provisioning, and the company of our friends, staying in quiet Squirrel Cove for two nights.  On the way across Lewis Channel Connie calls me up deck.  "See that fishing boat?  Is that a log boom back there behind it?"  "Holy Cow! Don't go behind that boat... It's a tug, towing a log raft!"

Refuge Cove

We visited Refuge Cove and topped off the diesel tanks and visited the store at the docks.  There we met Joy and Jeff on Folie a Deux, friends from Olympia and the South Sound Sailing Society.

Another chance meeting!  From Refuge Cove we went around the corner and found a nice stern tie right at the mouth of the falls at Teakerne Arm. There we hiked to the lake above the falls. Connie did some world class dives off the cliff and we met another couple from Olympia, Geb and Shannon on S/V Marie.  It's amazing to run into so many people you know up here....

We are seeing oysters all around but also see the signs saying not to eat the oysters, but then I see a guy on the dock with a bucket full of oysters hanging in the water.  I ask the guy, "What about the signs?"  He's telling me that anywhere near harbors or populated areas they put the signs just to be safe.  Evidently the problem isn't red tide, it's a fecal chloroform problem.  He recommended we find the oysters in less populated areas.  Open one up and put a little on your lip to test for red tide. Now we are on the hunt again for oysters

Traveler anchored at Teakerne Arm near the falls
And now we are in the land of fewer boats, less people, and more wilderness.  The run north from Teakerne Arm was against the wind (a typical northwesterly) and we were short on time to catch the flat water at Yuculta rapids at precisely 17:18 ... on the 22nd.  Turns out I'd lost a day somewhere and it was the 23rd, with flat water at 18:08 so we cooled our heels floating just south of the rapids for an hour.  But soon we arrived at Big Bay and the Stuart Island Community Dock.  Everything here happens at the turn of the tide with Yuculta rapids just around the corner to the south and Gillard Passage and Dent rapids just north.  As we approached the dock, two more sailboats came in, SawLeeah and Kwinnum from Vancouver.  Cocktail hour happened and we made Canadian friends.  Everyone is so friendly here. We talked, drank some wine, and Connie played a couple of songs.  Now it's almost 10:00 PM, still light in the sky, and the local folks in small boats are drinking and smoking on the dock and grilling fresh caught fish.
Big Bay, Stuart Island Community Dock

I'll be hiking up to the little store in a minute where rumor has it there is WiFi. And we've got showers included with the moorage here. It will be the first shower in 25 days. Can you imagine?  Of course we take deck baths, sink baths, spit baths, and swims in lakes, but a shower... with hot water... what a luxury!

Tomorrow at noon we run a couple more rapids and proceed further north in search of bears on the beach, crabs in the trap, and shrimps on the barbecue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gerrans Bay to Harmony Islands

Poor little tug.  A submerged wreck is nearby.
When we left you last we were creeping slowly into Gerrans Bay where we spied a red buoy that itself was submerged by a few feet.  We coasted by and looking down into the depths we could see the fore deck of a sunken ship about 8 feet down. Some poor soul had lost his boat to wind, weather, or neglect.  Upon anchoring, Connie gave me the pumping fist signal meaning "The anchor is dug in well."  We readied the dinghy for a trip across the bay.

At this time I might talk a little about our anchoring routine. Our preferred method is to locate our spot, do a circle watching the depth sounder to assure enough depth so we don't run aground when we swing the other way at low tide.  After we have the spot, I approach head to wind and bring the boat to a complete stop, watching the water beside me to see when we've stopped moving.  Then I begin to back up and signal Connie up on the bow to drop the anchor. 

By this time she knows how deep the water is so she can calculate how much rode to let out.  The anchor swims to the bottom and as I back down Connie lets out chain so that it lies on the bottom in a fairly strait line.  Once we have at least a three to one scope (Say in 30 feet of water we have 90 feet out) Connie will tighten the clamp on the windless and put her hand on the chain to feel what is happening underwater.  As the boat goes back, the anchor chain tightens and hopefully the anchor will dig in. Connie might hold up her hand in a stop signal and I'll put the boat in neutral and let her drift backwards.  Then if the anchor chain goes bar hard Connie will give me the happy fist-pumping signal that means "It's cocktail time!"

When it comes time to up anchor we have some signals that work well for us.  Up on the bow, Connie holds her arm out to one side so I can see it through the wind screen.  She might motion forward with her fingers or give me the "just a little bit" gesture.  Palm back is stop.

When bringing the chain on board, I drive the boat and follow the chain (as per Connie's signals) as it lies on the bottom.  Connie will point one way or the other and that's the way I'll point the boat.  It's better to drive the boat up to the anchor location instead of making the windless do all the work to pull the boat.  When we've come up right above the anchor I'll creep forward slowly. Because Connie knows the depth and the markings on the chain tell her how much we have out she can easily tell when we are directly above the anchor and when it's time to break it out of the bottom.  If the windless slows down and the chain strains, then Connie knows it's stuck pretty well.  In order not to stress the windless I ease forward and Connie brings in the chain until it's bar hard.  Then on her signal, I'll power forward and this usually will lever the anchor out of the mud or sand. Once she's broke free Connie gives me the scooping back and forth hand motion to tell me it's off the bottom. As the anchor comes up, I hold the boat steady in the water, trying to keep her head to the wind.  Once the anchor is aboard Connie circles her arm in the air and points to our exit from the bay and off we go, happy as clams. 

So you see, most of our anchoring is done without a word being said and certainly without anybody yelling.  If there is a problem, I'll put the boat in neutral and walk forward to have a quiet conversation. Or Connie will walk back to the cockpit to discuss it with me. In this instance I've positioned Connie on the bow with me at the wheel.  However, we switch positions often so we're both familiar with the bow and stern duties.

We seem to see lots of folks on boats who have stressful anchoring experiences or who just anchor badly. It's a fun cocktail activity to sit and watch the fleet come in and anchor.  The later in the day, the less selection of good anchoring spots is available.  The most common bad practice we see is a boat drop the anchor while moving forward at speed.  Now if you are anchoring under sail, that is a valid method, but not for motoring.  We also see folks drop the anchor, pile a lot of chain right on top of it, and call it good.  That anchor is not set and possibly it will be fouled in the chain.  And we hear a lot of yelling, one person screaming something and the other yelling "What?" 

And of course there are the professionals who wear headsets so they can have a nice little conversation as they go about their anchoring duties on different ends of the boat.  With Connie and I, we use hand signals.

S/V Tula stern tie operation at Harmony Islands

Lately, we've been doing a lot of stern ties, where you drop and set an anchor then take a line to shore in the dinghy, bring it around a tree or through a ring, then back to the stern of the boat, suspending the vessel between the shore and the anchor.  That way the pull on the anchor is always in one direction and there is room for many boats to do the same alongside. Again, it is a fun cocktail activity to get your stern tie in early, then sit back and watch the fun begin.


Back in Pender Harbor, using the public float at Madeira Park we offloaded our garbage and recyclables and walked up the hill to the liquor store, pharmacy, and Thriftway grocery.  While Connie shopped for produce I stood guard over the cart full of wine outside the store.  I ducked inside and asked, "Do you have internet here? I haven't checked my mail in a week."  The young man at the service counter said, "Sorry, we don't have public internet."  His coworker coldly studied me for a moment then told me the office password. "What's it matter? Go ahead and use it." Canadians are so nice, aren't they? 

Heading up Jervis Inlet with a strong breeze behind us
From Pender Harbor we sailed up Agamemnon Channel to Green Bay.  Making our way to the head of the bay we circled the small rocky anchorage. There was a little house on the rocky shore with a small dock upon which a young lady was nude sunbathing. Upon our arrival she rushed up the trail to the house.  Sorry about that! We circled around watching the depth sounder. Rocks abounded left and right.  The wind was building and we were on a lee shore.  Connie gave me that look that means she is uncomfortable with the location so we motored back out of the bay and continued up Agamemnon Channel under sail, taking advantage of the afternoon up-channel winds. 

We crossed Jervis Inlet and found the Harmony Islands where it took us three tries in the windy conditions to get the anchor set mid channel in 50 feet.  Luckily there were numerous iron rings set into the shoreline rock face and it was comparatively easy to run the stern tie to shore. Actually, it was really easy because there was a guy rowing about in a dinghy and he took my line ashore for me while I held Traveler stern to shore in reverse gear.  We settled in and watched the show as a big 45 footer struggled to get his 300 feet of line strung from boat to shore and back when the boat was 200 feet from the ring.  I finally jumped into the dinghy and gave the skipper a hand. Turn about fair play, eh?

The following day the Tobiasons arrived in Tula, their Catalina 36 and we were all set to buddy boat up Jervis.

The next day while heading out, we heard and felt a change in the propulsion and a little bit of thumping noise.  Neutral, reverse, forward.  Still some sound.  Neutral, reverse, forward, less sound but still something there.  I began to worry, thinking about propeller shaft, cutlass bearing, the propeller itself....  In forward gear the shaft was vibrating causing the dripless bearing to spew salt water into the bilge.  We thought the worst but hoped it was just a little something caught in the propeller.

OK, I'll do it.
I hailed the Tobiasons on Tula to see if they had their Go-Pro underwater camera aboard.  They came by, rafted up, and Scott Tobiason attached the camera to a pole and took a movie of the propeller and rudder.  Sure enough, there was something brown wrapped around the prop shaft.  Daylight was burning, as John Wayne would say, and we didn't have too much time to waste if we were going to make it to Malibu rapids at slack.  Connie was having wrist problems and I didn't feel comfortable trying to free dive the prop.  We talked about setting up the compressor and using the hookah so I could go down, thinking that would take us an hour or so to complete. I looked at Scott Tobiason with a raised eyebrow and he finally said, "OK, I'll jump in there and do it." 

Scott's father Dick set his timer.  Exactly 8 minutes later the propeller was cleared of a strip of bark and we were casting off and heading north to keep our appointment with Malibu rapids.  A strong wind built pushing us up channel and giving us an exhilarating, head sail only, ride up the famous Jervis Inlet.
Alan and Scott and the offending piece of bark
............posted from Squirrel Cove on Cortez Island. 
                                                                            More to come as soon as I get time to write it..........

Monday, July 10, 2017

To the Sunshine Coast

The cavernous holds of Traveler were chock full of seafood when we sailed north out of Pirate's Cove on the 27th of June, timing it such as to approach Dodd Narrows at a slack ebb current predicted for an hour past noon.  Our GPS track showed that we'd been here southbound last September 9th 2016 on our way from Ketchikan to Olympia. That time we caught the slack flood and rode the ebb, trying to make good time south as we were in boogie mode.  This time I could see a few sailboats up ahead hovering as they waited for the current to turn the other way. When we arrived at the pass the time was right, and we all poured through the channel, which is about 175 feet wide at it's narrowest point.

Because there is a dogleg at the north end of the pass, boats must transit carefully so as to not be surprised by oncoming traffic.  Some people announce on VHF radio channel 16 that they are coming through. However, since there are normally only two slack times per daylight hours, when those times occur during busy summer months, a parade of boats will be coming through. No need to broadcast guys, everyone is doing it.  We crept through slowly, keeping to the right and hoping that nothing huge would come around the corner when we did. Nothing huge did.

I'd been talking to a power boat operator the day before who witnessed what he called "road rage" in Dodd Narrows.  A few powerboats were coming through at slack when right at the tightest point they came upon a small fleet of sailboats, all trying to sail through without the benefit of their auxilery engines.  The powerboats, being "give way" vessels, had to dodge the sailboats who were "stand on" vessels by maritime law.  Channel 16 erupted with road rage as power yelled at sail. 

When I heard that story I remarked politely to the power boater, "Seems like those sailboats could have just motored through like everyone else.  Maybe they were in a race."  And of course that's what was happening, a normal occurrence there at Dodd Narrows.  To myself I chuckled and thought of the times I'd been going through narrow passages when a powerboat roared through tossing me about in an unsafe way.  Can you say, "Just desserts?"
In Nanaimo we anchored two nights and tied at the dock two nights with the Nanaimo Yacht Club. Canadians, what friendly people. They invited us to a party and gave us hamburgers, hot dogs and cheap local beer or wine. We left Nanaimo on Canada Day, avoiding zippy little boats, jet skis and the fireworks display that was to take place right there in New Castle marine park where we'd anchored.  Everyone wondered why we gave up our precious spot...

Exiting through Departure Bay and seeing big wind and waves in the Strait, we hauled up a reefed main, rolled out the jib, and pushed out into the bigger water.  With the wind and waves on the stern, we sailed north.  The Strait of Georgia gets up some big blocky rollers, we call it chop, when the wind blows across that long stretch of fetch, not unlike the Golfo de California. We were battened down well and stayed on deck so as not to get seasick; such it was as we galloped north.  Traveler was happy to have wind in her sails and to get playfully tossed about. 

Eventually we rounded the corner and found Northwest Bay with a sheltered anchorage for the night.  I fired some flares (half of them failed) to celebrate Canada Day and we listened to the people ashore on the beach celebrating around their camp fires by singing Oh Canada.

The next day was similar weather and sea state.  By early afternoon the rollers were about three foot high and we were happy to again turn the corner, this time into Deep Bay where we found Hal and Kathy on their summer boat, Ms Kathryn.  This couple has two boats, one in Mexico (Airborne)and one in Canada (Miss Kathryn) and that's where they call home.

Summer home, Miss Kathryn

Hal and Kathy arranged reciprocal moorage for us there at the Deep Bay Yacht Club dock and we spent three nice days with them there, sharing meals and tall tales.  Deep bay is deep, the marina being in about 50 feet of water and just the right depth for me to catch crabs off the back of the boat. Could't be any handier.  We took the opportunity of having Hal's 18 year old nephew, a lifeguard and recent graduate, available for labor, and he cleaned the bottom of the boat for us.

Boat bottom cleaning team: Boss #1, Boss #2, and Diver

I'm amazed that after 15 months there was very little growth and no barnacles!  That's what happens when you keep the boat moving and then put her in cold Puget Sound waters.

Oysters a plenty!
North of Deep Bay we found Henry Bay on Denman Island for a quiet night.  The next morning we took the dinghy ashore at low tide and harvested 20 beautiful oysters before raising anchor on the mother ship and threading the needle through Comox channel to go around the corner to Hornby Island and the popular anchorage and beach at Tribune Bay where boys chased girls in bikinis, and kids dug in the sand. We joined the crowd for a warm afternoon of walking the beach, swimming, and drinking beer sitting in the sand.  

I was worried about the weather forecast as it predicted 10 to 15 knots from the SE rising to 15 to 25 knots early in the morning.  Tribune Bay opens to the southeast so I had good reason to be concerned. The night was calm. The early morning was flat as a pancake. The big gaff schooner, Pacific Grace had anchored a quarter mile off our bow and we watched her three boats row ashore, each young bosn steering with an oar, the bow person calling out the cadance to the four oarspersons.  Each of the three boats beached, then got carried up the tide line.  The 30 crew then set about playing an active game of frisby.  About 09:30 the wind started softly from the SE.  A few boats up-anchored and left.  At 10:00 the wind became brisk and a short chop came up.  A few more boats left.  At 10:30 I looked at the small sailboat next to us and the skipper on the bow was having difficulty hanging on while trying to pull the anchor up.  Time for us to go! 

Tribune Bay
Connie road the bow like a cowgirl, running the windless to pull the anchor on board as I struggled to keep the bow into the wind.  Finally we got her secure and, full throttle, headed out of the bay right into the teeth of a 20 knot blast with three foot building waves. After an hour of upwind progress I climbed onto the cabin top and raised the main, putting in three reefs.  Then I brought up the little staysail and Connie turned to port bringing her under sail and pointed at Lasqueti Island, eight miles to the north.

Crossing the Strait of Georgia
We had closed all the hatches and put everything away down below.  With the reduced sail she still made 4.5 knots which was plenty for us as the waves were rolling in on the starboard side and sending spray onto the boat.  As we neared Lasqueti the wind veered from a beam reach onto the nose so we had to crack off and head toward Texada Island.  Once we found that shore we tacked our way SE up into Sabine Channel to finally find refuge between Lasqueti and Jedediah Island. We'd sailed 25 miles, taking about six hours to do so.  If we'd been a powerboat, we could have motored a straight line and made the trip in 15 miles. But hey, we are a sailboat and should sail whenever there is wind. Just think what we saved in diesel costs!

Pacific Grace

 As we came across the strait I saw on the AIS that Pacific Grace had also left Tribune Bay as was making her way south.  Just think of the team building experience those kids had launching those boats in the surf and pulling hard to get back to the mother ship.

Lasqueti and Texada Islands are right in the middle of the Strait of Georgia and serve as stepping stones for boats transiting from Vancouver Island to the mainland.  Between Lasqueti and Texada are a group of little islands that seem remote, but aren't. They have excellent anchorages.  We found our spot and spent a quiet night.  The next day I set out a shrimp trap in 200 feet of water and a crab trap in 50 feet then we went to work on projects.  The day before when Connie was stowing the staysail halyard she inadvertantly pulled the wrong end and it got lost inside the mast.  Now somebody had to go up the mast to drop a weighted line down inside the mast so we could re-run the halyard.  Normally the person named "somebody" is me.  However, there is an old saying "She who 'skies' the halyard, climbs the mast".  Nuts up the mast.JPG CB up the mast.JPG

It took a few tries but finally I was able to retrieve the line from inside the mast as Connie fed it in from the top. When I looked up I could see her way up there above the deck clenching the mast between her thighs like a vice. I'm darn proud of my wife for facing her fear of heights and scampering right up that mast.  And what a relief to have the halyard back in service!

While Connie continued work on her new song, I went back out in the dinghy to search for the shrimp trap and at long length found it just where I left it.  Empty.  Then the crab trap. Empty. With my head hanging low I stowed my traps, floats, and lines while my wife fried up some fresh oysters for dinner.  Then while bread was baking in the oven, we watched one of the new videos we'd scored from Hal and Kathy. Thanks, you two. Such nice people. They are Canadian, you know.

Lonely anchorage on Lasqueti
From Lasqueti we sailed across Malaspina Channel in a light southeast wind, flipping the jib out to the port side and the main out to the starboard side in a maneuver called "wing on wing". We sailed into Pender Harbor on the sunshine coast of British Columbia.  Oh my Dog, what a bunch of boats they had in there!  We tried to squeeze into Garden Bay but unless we'd be comfortable with a scope of 3 to 1 we'd not fit.  Then we tried near Wellborne Cove and fished up a bunch of rocks with the anchor.. grind, rumble, rumble.  I spied a Hans Christian 38 off to the south in Gerrans Bay and thought, "There is a kindred soul.  He'll know where to anchor".  We coasted by, engine off, and had a conversation with the Vancouver sailor who directed us around the corner where there was lots of room and a submerged wreck to avoid. 

While boiling two pots of water I hung various pieces of fabric around the cockpit creating a bit of privacy then got naked and had a wonderful bath/shower/cleanup there in the cockpit.  Connie followed suit and then we're both squeaky clean.  Me shaved. Fresh clothing on, ready for tomorrow when we go ashore to seek out the following:

Gasoline  ( for the dinghy )
Hydrogen Peroxide ( for a splinter in somebody's finger )
Prescription refill ( my rosacia is acting up )
Internet ( to post this blog entry )
Wine ( always )
Trash ( depositing, not acquiring )
Panko ( for all that seafood stuff we are catching )
Kale or Chard
Broccoli or Califlower
1/2 and 1/2 ( for my dear Connie's tea)

I look at the GPS trail and see that we sailed right by here ten months ago, making good time to cross the Strait of Georgia, bound for Nanaimo.  That was a different time, a different plan altogether.  What we did then in two days we now do in the opposite direction in five.  Taking life at ease. Meandering.

Pender Harbor, Gerrans Bay on the Sunshine Coast