All alone at last. We were now on the clock before getting L back to civilization so it was time for some serious relaxing. We pretty much decided, between available time and battery charge, we would spend a few days in Smuggler Cove then scoot back to Nanaimo, spend a day (or afternoon) recharging our batteries at Stones and finish off the week in Mark Bay.
There were a few things I forgot to mention in the last blog post. One was the appearance of these totally cute tube-snout fish (Aulorhynchus flavidus) on our swim ladder in Pendrell Sound. About 4 inches long, these funny looking things are closely related to seahorses.
The other was just how much I learned about sail trim from sailing close proximity to other sailors in the same conditions.
As an example if you compare the trim on the two headsails you get a wonderful example of what air spilling out the top of the sail really is in terms of sail shape. It doesn’t necessarily tell you what will work on your boat, but by observing and comparing others you start to get a better sense of what all those many words of advice you read mean in a practical sense. Very useful and I learned tons.
What a lovely hot and sunny day.
We decided to take a trip in the dinghy to Thormanby Island and visit the beach there. It was deserted except for one set of intrepid campers, so we had the whole place to ourselves.
We wandered around for a bit, although my foot was giving me a bit of trouble so there was a lot of standing in cool water and sitting on logs. Later in the day I did run into this fellow who was living aboard his smaller boat (30 feet maybe?) with his wife and two kids. His outboard had died so he was traveling everywhere by sail only. It had taken him over 8 hours to get to Thormanby from Halfmoon Bay the previous evening having to tack back and forth. My Navionics app tells me that is around 2.5 nm, less than a half hour motor for us.
At one point I was standing in the slowly receding water watching all the clams spit and thought to myself, “I wonder if I can dig one up?” I used my handy-dandy walking stick and started scratching in the sand until lo and behold I found a small clam. At first I was convinced it was dead, like every other clam we had ever seen, but I noticed it was still shut pretty tight. So I plopped it back in the water and watched in fascination as it slowly dug its way back into the sand.
Turns out this was a Varnish clam or Savory clam (Nuttallia obscurata). Not native to our shores, it is an import from Japan and considered an invasive species. I sped the film clip up 4x so you wouldn’t have to sit through all his shifting around.
Back on the boat we cracked a chilled bottle of white to go with the fading heat of the day and enjoyed a lovely sunset.
Overnight the winds came up. Once again I had to get up in the middle of the night because I forgot to secure the boat. This time it was the spinnaker halyard banging against the mast. I have to say, one thing about full-time cruising was we got used to these noises and were much better able to sleep through them. Now I have to learn to get used to them all over again every year.
It was a windy and cold morning, but the forecast said it would be nice by noon. We were planning on heading to Nanaimo as the batteries were getting low. So we decided to wait. At 2:30 p.m. it was still 20 knots off Merry Island and gusting. The forecasts are always so reliable (he mutters sarcastically). Well the batteries were sitting at 55% and we’d wasted most of the day waiting for the weather to warm up, so we decide to make the 3 nm trip and tie up at Secret Cove instead.
There we were finally able to dump the garbage we had been carting around all month—the aft locker was getting a bit stinky—and do all the recycling. A few places along the way had had limited options for recycling but garbage is pretty hard to get rid of unless you want to pay for it. Since we had the storage space we figured why bother.
We tied up alongside Drumbeat, a 70+ foot racing boat that had been fitted out for cruising. It was massive. I spent half an hour just tracing all the lines and halyards. You could adjust literally everything on this gorgeous sailboat.
All tied up, the weather was suddenly sunny and a lot warmer and we had a quiet night.
We woke to a calm morning. Too calm. It didn’t look like we would be sailing at all today. That’s what you get when you choose comfort over sailing I guess.
It was overcast as we cast off. As we headed down Welcome Passage we kept the radio on the weather channels to see if Whiskey Gulf was active. It was. This was the first time we had ever had to change our direct course to Nanaimo to avoid it. Whiskey Gulf is a military exercise area that is often closed to transit. It’s a rough trapezoid shape in the middle of the Strait roughly from Entrance Island near Nanaimo up to almost Parksville. So we headed east along Merry Island, checked out the lighthouse and weather station there and eventually turned south towards Gabriola. Later we could see some sort or warship stooging around near Ballenas Island but it was too far away to identify.
On the last leg of the trip we finally got to roll out the sails and had a nice bit of sailing for an hour or so. As we came around Gabriola the traffic started to pick up and we were squeezed between two big huge Seaspan carriers, one following us and one coming out. And just as we cleared those, the Duke Point ferry started coming up on us from behind and we could see two Departure Bay ferries behind him crossing each other’s course. All safe, but a little nerve wracking…
Then, after all that, the Gabriola Island ferry crossed just in front of us just to keep us on our toes.
We dropped anchor in Mark Bay. The anchorage was nearly empty (if you didn’t count the private moorings—and there were a lot more private moorings than last year…sigh). We opted to grab dinner and some cider at the Dinghy Dock Pub since that would save us from having to shop for one more meal—we were almost bang on in our plans to use up all the provisions. After that it was a warm calm night and we drifted off to sleep.
A sunny, warm morning. I spotted a smaller sailboat sporting the white ensign on one of the park mooring buoys and then noticed the crew were all wearing the same sort of uniform. Then I noticed another just behind it. A quick google and it turns out they were the Royal Canadian Navy’s STV Goldcrest and Tuna (Royal Canadian Navy Sail Training Vessels). These are two CS-36s that were bought back in the 80s to provide hands-on small craft sailing experience to Navy personnel.
Then I figured out they were here for the VanIsle 360 which is a big international race around Vancouver Island. I posted a pic and Matt from Gudgeon let me know they also had one of the Orca class Patrol Vessels as their support vessel. Too cool.
The previous evening I had spotted a mast in the cut between Protection Island and Newcastle so we rowed over to check it out. It looks like someone was caught out by the drying reef and foundered. It couldn’t have been there too long (a couple of months? more?)althugh it had been stripped pretty thoroughly. But I wonder just whose responsibility getting rid of the wreck is going to be.
We spent the day resting and later went for a lovely walk around Newcastle. Then, just before dinner, I managed to smash my pinky toe while walking down the deck. I had been babying my feet all week in preparation of hauling all our gear and then I go and turn one of my toes a vivid purple. Smooth move…
Another sunny and calm morning. The harbour really is empty except for permanently moored boats. We will probably be in for a huge surprise the next time we come back in high season, we are getting so used to the low volumes of boaters at this time of year.
While L was still around we started packing up bins, recording the inventory on our spreadsheets and sorting the laundry. We got it all done in about a half-day.
Then we motored in by dinghy to Stone’s where L’s parents picked us up and we headed to Tim’s for doughnuts, coffee and a nice visit.
Back on the boat we spotted our first Lions mane jellyfish south of Desolation. Didn’t get a good picture though. I wonder if that’s normal?
We woke up bright and early and started to raise anchor. It was time to head into the marina. Turns out though, the VanIsle 360 was about to start—so we took our time and drifted around the anchorage for a while so we could see the start of the race. Talk about a whole lot of money in sails and technology circling around like hungry sharks. Neat to see and it made a whole lot more sense than it might have otherwise with our brief introduction to racing with the flotilla.
Snuggly tied up in our slip, we walked over to the BC Ferry terminal and dropped L off for her trip to Vancouver. Then I moved bins into storage and generally cleaned up a bit. Later in the afternoon I found the new (used) chartplotter I had purchased on ebay and had shipped to NYCSS and sat down to install it.
It was a straight swap: Raymarine e80 for e80 so wiring wise, pretty simple. I got it all done and setup except for tuning in the radar. There was just too much signal in the marina and it looked like I would have to take it out into open water to calibrate it. So I left it for the NYCSS guys to do. Nice to have a working screen again. Now I have to decide if I will send the old one away to get refurbished or not. I’ve since found out the backlight issue is fairly common on these models and there are places that will swap out the fluorescents for new LED technology.
And that was that.
I spent the last day cleaning and doing laundry.
I noticed after spending an hour or two scrubbing canvas, trying to get the moss out, that after it dried, it still wasn’t looking very clean. That’s when I realized I had purchased Mold and Mildew Cleaner… moss…mold…it’s the same thing right? Not.
Around mid-morning an old friend from Hole’s swung by for tea. Liz had been at a family thing in Nanaimo and saw on Instagram that I was here as well. She wandered over while she was waiting for her ferry. Super great to catch up.
I hauled the clean laundry up to storage and dealt with the last of the chores before watching a bit of West Wing and heading to bed.
I was up early. Turns out it was too early. 1 hr too early. I have a lot of trouble with rounding sometimes. Anyway, I was off the boat and chilling in Seair’s terminal before 7 a.m. waiting for my 7:45 flight. We were on the Cessna again —I miss flying in the Beavers — and landed in south terminal YVR 15 minutes later.
Coming up to the docks at south terminal, there was a strong current and the dock boys screwed up their lines. Turns out it was their first time doing it alone and didn’t get a wrap fast enough. Then they couldn’t sweat the line to bring the plane onto the dock. The pilot had to cast off again and bring her around a second time, this time a bit closer to the dock. Alls well that ends well, but its nice to see that the pilots have troubles sometimes too.
2 minutes later one of the Turbo Beavers came in and and that pilot slotted it into a tiny spot with just enough clearance. I would have hesitated to do that in a boat. Show off. Back at the terminal, one of the taxis then backed into a bus. An exciting morning! We took our shuttle into the main terminal and that was it for Cruise 2019. I did learn that if we call Seair from the terminal next time we fly in we can often grab a ride on the shuttle if it happens to be heading back. Good tip.
I will write up something a bit more numerical for the official roundup but I will finish this by saying it was a great cruise. At the end of the trip I was eager to head home to my own bed for once, so I think that meant I had my fill of time aboard which makes the length just perfect. And we saw some great spots, met some great people and had some great experiences. So that makes the trip just perfect too.