16 Jun

2019 Trip Round-up

Where we were

Happy Father’s Day!

I know I have blogged the whole trip with overly-lengthy and oft boring trip reports but I thought I would add a wrap-up for those who just couldn’t stomach all those words. And a map of course…

Some Stats

  • 35 days total
  • 27 nights at anchor
  • 8 nights at marinas (2 at our home port)
  • 5 new anchorages
  • 4 lunch stops
  • 2 raft-ups
  • 1 day of rain
  • 0 nights on a mooring ball
  • 20 days travelling
  • 77.5 hours at sea
  • 421.5 nautical miles travelled (780.6 kilometres)

Interesting Wildlife

  • 2 pods of orca
  • 3 tube-snout fish
  • lots of sealions (even one sleeping at sea)
  • 1 immature bald eagle
  • a dozen or so oystercatchers
  • 2 deer
  • 1 market squid
  • and a clam digging back into the sand

Most Interesting Sight

  • 1 display of extraordinary local knowledge

“Local knowledge” is the term used when a boater navigates a dangerous area using prior experience (and not through ignorance). The image above was taken in the Copeland Islands. The pass which this Bayliner just transited is completely dry at low water and this image was shot about mid tide. We were holding our breathes as we saw him come through anticipating some sort of horrible scraping as he bounced off the rocky bottom. But fortunately he motored casually through, barely slowing down. Extraordinary.

In Summary

We’ve almost kicked the marina habit. Without the flotilla and good management, I bet we could have gotten our total number of nights at a marina down to 5 or 6. And that really makes my wanting to shell out $1000 for a portable generator a non-starter. Oh well.

And once again we reaffirmed our decision to sail in the early season—awesome weather, minimal mosquitos and rarely too hot & sweaty. And, except when we sought out the company (the CYC flotilla), minimal crowding at some of the prettiest anchorages around.

Not tons of wildlife this trip but some interesting new anchorages (Ballet Bay, Tenedos Bay, midway down Von Donop and Pendrell Sound). And I learned a lot about sail trim from watching the other boats on the flotilla. So all in all a great trip. Hopefully enough of one to last me until next year…

As always a jpeg of the map in case Google ever gets mad enough at me to block my access:

14 Jun

Desolation 2019 Week 5

Alone again

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.

27 May

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.

28 May

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.

29 May

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.

30 May

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…

31 May

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?

1 June

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.

2 June

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.

3 June

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.

The Entrance Island lighthouse.

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.

Wrap Up

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.

11 Jun

Desolation 2019 Week Four

Being Social

I’m a weird guy: shy, misanthropic and anti-social combined with a strong aversion to being alone, intensely curious (or snoopy if you prefer) and sporadically “afflicted” from FOMO… you could say my relationship with the world is complicated :-)  My brother OTOH is a people person. He collects friends wherever he goes and is never shy about forming bonds with anyone he comes across, no matter what any particular social code may say about that. I guess that’s why the guy without a boat and in a wheelchair is the one who got me out cruising with a flotilla and not vice-versa.

So there we are, cruising around Desolation Sound with a diverse group of people. And not just people: racers! Will drama ensue? Fights over who won what? Secret midnight commando attacks to sabotage other boats? Spoiler Alert: it was plenty ‘o fun! And chock full of details so brace yourself for a long one…

21 May

The morning started with a skipper’s meeting. The current right outside Blind Channel (where, if you remember, we were currently docked), while not particularly dangerous was going to be running at 5 knots around 9 a.m. which incidentally was the time we would need to leave to catch the  midday slack at Dent Rapids. While we did see three boats slowly make their way up the channel against the current, it was agreed upon to wait out this current, head to Shoal Bay for an afternoon break and do the 7 pm slack.

We cast off first. I am still a bit agog about how nervous the other skippers were and how blasé we now are about the various currents and rapids. I think Waggoners puts a bit of a scare into everyone with their “worst case scenario” approach (although I appreciate why they do it). Be that as it may, we bucked a couple of knots current for a few minutes and then emerged into Cordero Channel with absolutely no wind.

A bit later L spotted a sea lion eating a largish fish. He would pop his head out of the water and thrash it violently until the fish went flying off leaving a nice hunk in his mouth to swallow. Then he would fetch his fish and repeat the whole process. So determined was he to choke down this meal that he sunk out of sight as a powerboat passed right over him and then immediately resumed the process. We watched him in the binoculars for quite a while: onboard entertain at it’s best.

The wind came up just as Shoal Bay came into sight and we could see the rest of the flotilla way behind us raise their sails but we opted to just settle in to the bay.  As its name suggests Shoal Bay shoals out quickly. Drop your hook in 50′ of water and you can find your stern in 8 feet or less. It took us 3 anchor attempts to be sort of satisfied (either it was too shallow or the anchor kept skipping) and immediately decided our earlier offer to Teka to raft alongside us was not going to work. 30 minutes later Teka showed up and rafted alongside us — how’s that for decisive.

L went for a row to rescue a fancy fender that was drifting out of the bay; turns out it belonged to one of the powerboats tied up at dock. Then, as it turns out Jean on Teka was a bit of an amateur bird enthusiast and I had mentioned to her we had spotted some stunning Violet-green Swallows here last year, Leslie  was drafted to take the budding ornithologist out to see if one could be spotted. Alas to no avail as the silly things wouldn’t hold still.

It was a pretty lazy afternoon as we all just hung out and visited. Later L and I went ashore, watched the crew of Rainbow’s End and Time Warp play horseshoes and watched a horde (around 10-12) of hummingbirds zoom around the feeder at the little pub. I really do like Shoal Bay.

Some of the fleet cast off early — leaving us and Teka behind. We took the time to have a tour of this classic old 80s boat and then reciprocated by giving Larry a tour of Never for Ever. Some very different design aesthetics from two very different eras of boat building.

Then Teka let go her lines and we started to raise anchor. At this point we actually started to pay attention to our surroundings and it turns out that at some point in the last 20 minutes or so (during the tour) our anchor had let go and we were hundreds of feet away from where we used to be. Not only that but we had about 80 feet of chain out and were now in 90 feet  of water. Umm… Turns out later our drifting had not gone unnoticed but the crew had failed to make connections between our movement and the fact that we were no longer anchored to the bottom. Oops. Oh well, no harm done.

We motor-sailed for a bit until we caught up (and passed) Teka and then killed the engine and sailed downwind just on the jib. The rest of the flotilla was still ahead of us, having been out gybing back and forth and having a good sail as they all waited for slack at Dent. We really have to take a page out of these guys’ book and raise the sails more often.

When we arrived it all looked good so we surged ahead of the fleet and entered Dent about 15–20 minutes early. It was a flood turning to ebb so we got a good push and actually had to try and slow down to not be too early for Gillard. Once Gillard was safely transited we motored to the community docks at Big Bay and tied up first at the otherwise empty docks. Everyone else slowly slotted in and an appie pot luck was declared for one hour hence. I had made some boule on the sail down and popped the focaccia that I had also prepped into the oven so our contribution was fresh bread with some oil and vinegar.

I also gave a few more boat tours to some of the other cruisers while L was stuck socializing with the group at large. And that pretty much ended the day. So far socializing with other people hadn’t killed anyone yet — fingers crossed.

22 May

It was a sunny morning. Big Bay on Stuart Island is situated right between the Yuculta and the Gillard rapids so we had to wait until noon before we could cast off. Our destination was supposed to be the Toba Wildernest (which we had attempted to visit two years ago but were turned away). But a last minute email de-invited us to tie up at their docks — they really don’t like spring cruisers there I guess. So we had a skippers’ meeting aboard Norfinn to settle the day’s plans. It was decided that we would head to Walsh Cove and along the way have a little pre-race race to see how each boat and crew could perform.

A quick note about racing:

Apparently the charter companies don’t like their boats participating in racing — and having seen the mindset of racers in action I have no problem understanding why :-). So the CYC members were careful to refer to any competitive sailing as “the Parade.” They weren’t fooling anyone but the forms were followed and that’s all that counts.

The plan was to gather at the 40°N mark south of the Yucultas at 2:30 pm and head around Raza Island and up Pryce Channel. The halfway mark would be just abeam of island north of West Redonda around 165°W with the finish between of the light at the top of Waddington Channel and Beam Island on the north shore of the channel. I asked what we would do if there was no wind and  the others were confident that wouldn’t be an issue . Heh heh heh…

The rapids were a bit swirly as we cast off but no big deal to transit  about half an hour early.

The fleet was divided into two divisions: the two big boats (Gloman Magic 42′ and Norfinn 49′) and the most experienced racer (Rainbow’s End 36′) in Division One. The other division was us (completely new to racing), Teka (theoretically a big old barge of a boat) and Time Warp (who at 32′ would technically be among the slowest of the boats). At the start the wind was clocking in around 3 or 4 knots so Teka and TIme Warp decided to cheat by rolling out their asymmetrical spinnakers. So here’s the thing. Our Hunter, with it’s weird-ass B&R rig, sports a tiny 110% jib. Both these other boats already had us out-gunned with their 130%+ genoas, but that wasn’t enough for them. The lightweight colourful spinnakers are huge and meant for kind of light winds we were currently experiencing. Luckily they are a pain to raise and fussy to keep filled in these slow drifting conditions.

So we took off like a shot (well ok, more like a slightly inebriated slug with a bad sense of direction) and gained substantial distance on our division-mates before they even crossed the line. We slowly drifted past both Norfinn and Gloman Magic (who eventually stalled in a dead spot and gave up on the race entirely) and that put us second overall and first in our division — Woot! Apparently we also came up on Norfinn on the windward side and stole what little wind they had. Who knew I was a race tactician on top of everything else?

The view from 5th place Teka.

About an hour later Rainbow’s End, who had read the conditions right and had been sneakily drifting towards the opening of Hole in the Wall, caught a nice breeze and took off at a bazillion miles an hour leaving the rest of us looking like rubber ducks bobbing in a bathtub. Eventually, one by one, we all caught the breeze and had a lovely beam reach sail into Gaza Passage. Where we stalled. Like I mean really stalled. So stalled our dinghies were passing us because they were lighter and drifted faster.

Now one might think this would be extremely boring and frustrating. And I suppose on one level it was. But at one point when we were drifting faster than Rainbow’s End and Norfinn (who had reached the passage before us), it looked like we would actually take the lead of the “parade.” At .25 knot boat speed, our adrenaline surged as we urged our vessel forward, determined to capture the overall lead. But alas we caught a back eddy and lost all the gains we had made. An hour later at  5 pm they called it. We had a few hours to go to our anchorage and had moved less than a dozen meters in the past hour. Division Two ended up almost perfectly all line abreast so who “won” remains in much dispute. (Although I think our claim that we stalled first secures us the win.)

After that it was a glorious motor-sail to the head of Toba Inlet and Walsh Cove with stunning views and loads of sunshine.

We stern-tied in 50’ at Walsh Cove and had a bit of an issue with the anchor not catching. But eventually we ended up in 12 feet of water with our stern about 10′ off the rocks: easiest stern tie ever. All settled in we rowed over to be social aboard Teka and had a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate Larry and Tracy’s 36 anniversary. Look at us…being social…

Quite the day.

23 May

Oh what a beautiful morning… 17° C. Coffee in the cockpit and some serious lazing is a great way to start the day.

For some reason I was being mobbed by bugs. Small black flies that didn’t bite or anything but I ended up with half a dozen drowned in my coffee. Blech. And what’s with this bug sense they seem to have? There appeared to be a consistent number and density of bugs annoying me but no matter how many I killed or drowned there seemed to be replacements waiting in the wings. Is there some sort of infinite supply that mandated to maintain the proper level of bug density? If there are actually infinite bugs why am I not drowning in the pesky buggers? Curious minds want to know.

L and I went out for a row to explore and check out the petroglyphs on nearby rocks. Quite nice examples of the form. We also spent some time peering underwater and watching the Oystercatchers that were wandering the shore. Really cool looking birds. In turn, a snoopy seal spent quite a bit of time checking us out.

Eventually we took off had a great sail tacking through Waddington Channel and then turned to go up Pendrell Sound where the flotilla had decided to stop for lunch. We made it about a quarter of the way up on sail before the wind died altogether and then we motored the rest of the way.

The fleet had been maintaining a watch on VHF channel 68 for inter-boat communications but as we started tacking back and forth across Waddington it turned out the Waggoner’s Alaska flotilla was also on 68. So we were treated to a bit of a guided tour of Desolation Sound with some interestingly insecure boaters asking all the good noob questions… ah, those were the days.

We dropped anchor about 3/4 of the way up Pendrell. Three boats were already there rafted together and splashing about in the water. Apparently Pendrell Sound has the warmest water in Desolation, which in turn has the warmest water in the PNW. On the surface it was running about 72° (22°C) that day. Of course about a foot lower it was much, much colder. Still, it was bearable and much splashing and swimming ensued.

Pendrell is a beautiful place, surrounded by snow covered mountains and rolling hills. Jean and I watched an immature bald eagle who spent its time watching us. Its identity was in doubt for a while (immature bald eagles do not yet sport the distinctive white head) but eventually her bird book and some high-powered binoculars confirmed the ID.

After lunch we all headed off for Grace Harbour. It was calm until we hit Desolation Sound proper and then the wind climbed into the 20s with some pretty nasty gusts. We were just about to roll out our headsail when Time Warp, who was just ahead of us sailing on their genoa, got nailed by a huge gust and rounded all the way up. Then Norfinn tried to raise their main and almost immediately dropped all their sail again. We decided to just motor the rest of the way, although everyone but Gloman Magic eventually managed to find a nice balance and sailed it. Apparently Rainbow’s End and Teka — way behind us — had a great sail, managing to hit hull speed (their theoretical maximum speed through the water).

The current was running in Malaspina Inlet and we hit 9 knots over ground in a few of the narrower spots. Eventually we all trickled into Grace Harbour anchor in fairly close proximity. We enjoyed a late supper, some tea with Teka and relaxed in the setting sun.

24 May

Morning came around grey and cloudy and we lounged around until 11 am. Brian had dinghyed by to let us know today was race day. The “parade” would go from between Sarah Point and Kinghorn Island to Major Islet (the rocks just off the Copelands where we had seen the sealions).

Raising anchor proved that perhaps we had anchored in a bit too close of a proximity to each other and Gloman Magic‘s anchor came up with Rainbow’s End‘s chain. A quick tug from the dinghy and it was all good.

Coming out of Malaspina Inlet the winds were fierce and most everyone was throwing in reefs and we were contemplating bailing altogether — but once we got out into the Sound proper they settled down and it looked like a long downwind sail was what we had in store. And right after the start of the race everyone with a reef shook them out and we were off.

 

As previously noted Hunters are not known for their downwind performance so we decided to check out the rumour that gybing back and forth in long broad reaches is actually faster. So we watched as the other boats headed downwind towards the finish line and we sailed westward towards Vancouver Island.  We had just turned back towards the line and, at 6+ knots, it looked like we might actually rejoin the pack in a good position, when Time Warp asked permission to raise their spinnaker and then “poof,” Teka had theirs up in a shot as well and any hope of catching them was gone.

Teka won. We think it was unfair. Mostly because we lost. We were the underdogs and so should have won…right?

I had been worried about pulling into Lund so late in the day but the wharfinger did a fantastic job of squeezing us all in (along with the Comox Yacht Club who were there as well). We were rafted up to Rainbow’s End and Time Warp ended up rafted alongside Teka and everyone else got a nice spot at the docks with no one relegated to the breakwaters.

Dale had been looking forward to a good shower after a few days of being stuck on board but it turned out the handicap shower was out of order. But they made do. He also popped a tire in his wheelchair—but a patch kit and a borrowed air pump made short work of that.  As if cruising isn’t already full of work that needs to be done. All cleaned up and presentable we all headed up for dinner and presentations at the newly reopened pub at the historic Lund Hotel.

Most of Teka’s crew, looking smug as they’d already eaten while the rest of us wasted away.

Growing pains made dinner for 20-odd people a long, slow process and the thought of presentations was abandoned since half the  people were ready to go before the other half had even been served. Our table managed to score free drinks as an apology and we had a nice evening chatting with the American contingent of the flotilla.

25 May

It was rolly in the harbour overnight and a squeaky fender between us and Rainbow’s End threatened to keep me awake after I woke up in the middle of the night. So I dragged myself out of bed and liberally applied some dishwashing soap to the fender to lubricate it. The bright blue Dawn soap made for an interesting “stain” the next morning.

We gathered on the dock for presentations. We came in third in our division and scored a lovely bunch of smoked oysters. I think were were robbed and should have gotten second (I guess I really wanted the 2nd place bunch of smoked oysters). It was obviously a high-level conspiracy and we had failed to grease the right palms (wasting all our lubrication on the fender). I figure this means we will just have to come back next year and exact our revenge.

Teka came out of it as leader of Division Two and overall winner. Apparently they managed to lowball expectations and sandbag to a point where everyone had expected them to barely be able to cross the line with their handicapped crew and overweight brick of a boat. Hah! We weren’t fooled, even if they managed to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes.

Watch out Teka…we are watching you now…

After that we all started to pull out for our respective destinations. Gloman Magic and Norfinn were due back at the charter base in Comox and Teka had crew to drop off at the same place. Rainbow’s End and Time Warp were headed back to Sidney and we were going to start our slow way back to Nanaimo.

Rainbow’s End was off like a shot and we kept company with Time Warp while they broke out their spinnaker again as we sailed downwind around Harwood Island. Then they opted to head further west and we gybed back towards the Malaspina Strait.

Later we lost the wind and motored south in calm waters eventually deciding to keep going until we hit Smuggler. It was a long day but we had a glorious few days of doing nothing ahead of us so decided to get it over with.

26 May

Morning found us stern-tied back in Smuggler. It was a the start of a lazy, lazy day. All that socializing takes a lot out of a guy. And we really weren’t used to the constant movement from one place to another. We really hadn’t done much of that since we got our own boat.

I wanted to take the dinghy into Secret Cove to pick up some FSR (to start on the brightwork) and some Doritos — running low on snacks can be a grave issue. So we did. And that was the sum total of useful things we did that day.

A very west coast sunset.

Alone again

What a week. We had tons of fun and there were enough people and enough separation that we could all find some time a space to hide when it got to be too much. I have to say I think I really could start to like the idea of flotillas. At least with a groups of interesting and friendly people. And almost uniformly boaters seem to be interesting and friendly people. So there you are. I’m glad my brother invited us along and we will be sure to join in again if schedules align.

And I found out apparently, because of the last minute presentations, we were cheated. Cheated out of our traditional right to winge and moan good-naturally about our failure to win. I knew it.

This racing thing might be addictive.

06 Jun

Desolation 2019 week three

Gearing down

All in all it was a slow week. We finally settled into the groove and got in some relaxation time. So that means this will likely be a pretty short entry. I think. Lucky you.

14 May

Rain in Von Donop Inlet. We knew it was coming so it wasn’t much of a surprise to wake up to the sound of rain on the deck. It wasn’t raining too hard so I still got my morning coffee in the cockpit and the inevitable and annoying drip from our overhead traveller didn’t start until I was almost done. And then I pretty much stuck it out there for the rest of the day, shuffling around to avoid the various drips. L, on the other hand, didn’t emerge at all; I think she popped her head up maybe twice all day. She at least spent the day productively, working away on her project.

I spent the morning finishing last week’s blog and enjoying the sights and sounds of a rainy PNW day at a beautiful anchorage. At the risk of encouraging even more people to visit at this time of year, rain really can be a positive rather than a negative if you just adjust your mindset.

It was still a pretty warm morning (15°-ish in the cabin). The cove was pretty sheltered and there was absolutely no signal so I have no idea what the weather was actually like elsewhere — but we were treated to glassy, still water and lots and lots of precipitation. It rained pretty much non-stop all day.

Last night as we explored the anchorage by dinghy, L picked up some cell signal and we got a text from my brother. Apparently he is already aboard Teka and heading north to Comox, expecting to arrive in a few days. Since he was supposed to board in Comox, I have no idea where he actually started from. We tried to get a note off letting him know we would likely meet him in Gorge; if we were lucky he got it.

At one point, when the rain slacked off to a mere dribble, I did grab my rain pants and jacket and rowed out into the main inlet to try and get a cell signal. I picked up one bar and a wet ass. Seems the waterproofing on my rain pants has held out pretty well in every area except the ass — something I hadn’t expected. So, pants and underwear…not so dry.

And that was the day.

15 May

Two nights was all the batteries had so we decided to head to Quadra Island. It was a beautiful day for a sail, so we motored the whole way to try and get as much charge into the batteries as possible. We even motored slowly to maximize charging time. Although the initial plan was one night on the hook and one night at Taku Resort, we were thinking if we could jam enough amps into the batteries to stick out two nights on the hook then we could skip the fees at Taku since we were subsequently booked into two nights at Gorge Harbour.

As we passed the entrance to Hoskyn Channel, L spotted a whale watching boat headed our way and then, a few minutes later, the telltale long black dorsal of an orca. They were about 200 meters off and headed straight for us. We killed the engine just as they dived and they must have passed below us because we didn’t spot them again for several minutes before the reappeared off the port side, again a few hundred meters away. With another whale watching boat coming, a small powerboat circling back, and the Whaletown ferry barrelling straight for them, we decided to just float there and watch them swim away rather than altering course to keep them sight. Sometime I feel mighty sorry for them—it’s a wonder if they get a moment’s rest. Anyway, we estimated 4–6 in the pod although its always hard to get a good count and they were diving for longer periods than usual between breaths.

As we rounded the spit, there was one other boat at the north end just dropping anchor so went a bit east and dropped in 40’ of water and backed on to the shore to settle in about 17’ with our bow facing south. There were supposed to be little to no wind and pretty protected from the north, so we figured we were good.

We ate and went for a walk around the spit and enjoyed a lovely evening soaking in the relative calm and the gorgeous views.

16 May

The calm before the storm.

We enjoyed that lovely evening until around midnight. Then L and I were woken by winds howling, gear banging and the anchor chain creaking like a medieval torture device. The forecast had called for calm winds out of the north west, but what we got was strong winds out of the southeast — the direction we had absolutely no protection from. Thankfully we had anchored bow to the south so not only was your anchor set that way, but all the chain was already out that direction and there was no question of us swinging further toward the rapidly shallowing shore.

What we did have was an awful racket. I had not secured anything since we weren’t expecting wind. I made several trips up on deck to tie back slapping halyards and lines, snap down flapping canvas and finally to readjust the snubber so the loud creaking sound of the chain banging on the seafloor stopped being transmitted right into the cabin. But by that time we were wide awake. And also kinda freaked out by the violence of the swing and the plethora of creaks, groans and bangs. So we slept in the salon for most of the rest of the night, keeping an ear out and eventually moving back to our cabin in the early morning.

When we finally got up, we overheard that the Truant 36 who had dropped anchor beside us (but set it 180° to us) did drag a bit but no one else seemed to have suffered any other consequences.

Around 11 am L had her conference call while I hung out with her in the cockpit. That bit of work done, we headed into shore to buy some supplies. We finally found some skim milk so that big crisis was averted and we also picked up some snacks and sundry other things.

 

The rest of the day was walking the shore and relaxing. I spotted some beautiful fritillarias and explored the massive piles of driftwood ever-present on Rebecca Spit. We did find a halibut head in the dinghy after returning from one of our strolls. I have no idea how it got there except maybe a passing eagle or seagull dropped it. Gross anyway you look at it.

We kept an eye on the battery monitor and it looked like we would be good until morning without having to run the motor.

17 May

We awoke to cool, grey weather and a state of charge of 52%. Time to “get up and go little dinosaurs!” (inside joke). An hour or so later we were negotiating Uganda Passage purely with charts at low tide. Not having a functioning chartplotter was really honing my chart reading skills. This involves a bit of a serpentine in a narrow channel threading amongst three buoys. It always seems a lot more difficult than it actually is.

It was not quite 11 a.m. when we emerged from the passage alongside Shark Spit — which is a long sandy spit south off of Marina Island that necessitates the Uganda passage transit. It’s a popular place for locals, picnics and lunch stops but we’ve never actually stopped. Since the tide was out and the entire spit was exposed we decided it was time to give it a try.

I had Leslie drop anchor when we hit 20’ but by the time I had the boat in reverse we were down to 4’ under the keel. Oops. So we pulled it back up and moved out to 40’ of water and tried again. Success. We rowed ashore and beached the dinghy in the mud flats that were exposed. A bit to the north a local had their shoal keel sailboat completely beached so they could work on the bottom while the tide was out. Handy.

The spit was a lot of fun. We collected oodles of shells and sand dollars (the first we’d seen in this area) and walked all the way out to the end of the spit. We were maybe 100’ from the green buoys we had just passed. When the water is up those buoys look like they are in the middle of a huge pass. We also found some huge spiral shells that were broken and it was hard to guess what they were. Later when back aboard we figured they were Moon Snails, which can grow up to 2 and half inches. We also spotted what I thought was plastic or rubber refuse but turned out to be Moon Snail egg collars. I wish I had known so I could have checked them out more closely. Next time.

We made lunch as the winds started to build out of the south and by the time we raised anchor they were doing pretty well. It was only 15 minutes to Gorge so we motored along spotting 3 dolphins off the starboard side for just a few minutes before they disappeared.

We headed to the fuel dock but had to wait while they got a power boat tied up in the increasing winds. After we filled up we moved out, switched our fenders to the starboard and headed into our slip. Luckily the by now strong wind was blowing us on to the dock so it wasn’t much of an issue, but that was the first time I have ever entered a finger with the boat in reverse and still making too much headway.

The rest of the day was watching boats arrive and the shenanigans associated with a strong wind on exposed docks. The Calgary Yacht Club flotilla gradual assembled. Rainbow’s End, a Dufour 36 was already at dock when we arrived. Teka, the Kelly Peterson 44 my brother was aboard snugged in behind us. Then Norfinn, a Jeanneau 49 from Desolation Sound Yacht Charters showed up to everyone’s consternation. A bit of miscommunication had listed it as a 38’ boat and they were not prepared to accommodate an extra 12 feet of boat on one of their busiest weekends of the season. They made it work by rafting up Time Warp, a Catalina 32 to Rainbow’s End. Last in was Gloman’s Magic another Jeanneau from DSYC, this time a 42’ DS (deck salon). And that was the group for the next week. I gradually met most of them over the next few days.

18 May

We were stern to the wind, and while Teka blocked some of the waves, it was a loud bangy night in the aft cabin as the waves slapped up against the transom. It’s one of the worst features of the design of our boat and if the wind had been just a little less, I would have backed into the dock to avoid that particular flaw. Still, we eventually managed to get some sleep.

Visiting aboard Teka.

The morning started with a coffee with my brother aboard Teka and a skipper’s meeting aboard Norfinn. It was weird being one of the more experienced skippers there. I would guess most of them were probably better sailors than I was, but they hadn’t been through these waters much and only Larry (Teka) and I had been through the rapids multiple times. The plan was to head north through Surge Narrows to Octopus Islands; transit Upper Rapids the next day to work our way to Blind Channel; and then come back through Dent and Gillard to Big Bay. Then the next morning we can scoot through the Yucultas and then it’s a couple of days in Desolation before we head for Lund.

I don’t know if I have ever mention my brother is in a wheelchair. I was anxious to see how he negotiated the problems of moving around a sailboat. Larry et al. had devised a great portable ramp system and the low center cockpit of the Kelly Peterson made it relatively easy for him to haul himself off and on the wide side decks. It really wouldn’t work on our Hunter.

The Cortes Island Seafest started at 11 and everyone headed up to enjoy it. We opted to do laundry. Shellfish and I and not currently on speaking terms. That and the fact that until this point we have spent a sum total of $34 in moorage (at Lund) and had just been hit with a $150 touch for two nights — have I mentioned that Gorge Harbour is a pretty high-end resort? I was still in shock and another $50 to sample seafood that would likely be a literal pain just seemed silly.

Seating was open to the public however, so we joined in, listened to music and met a few more flotilla participants in between laundry loads. L went back aboard to finish off the last of her presentation so she could send it away while we still had some internet access. Later she came back with a bag full of cider. Lucky me.

That night the band moved down to the deck overlooking the marina and we were treated to front row seats from the comfort of our own cockpit.

19 May

I was up pretty early but the flotilla were up even earlier. We planned to get off the dock around 9:30 but as the boats strutted casting off one by one that shifted closer and closer to 8. L was not impressed when I came down and shooed her into the shower since all the other boats had already taken off and we were last at dock.

Eventually we cast off and headed out. There was more turbulence in the gorge than I had ever seen before. Nothing to fuss about but still a new phenomenon. We spotted three dolphins as we turned west to head for Uganda. Maybe the same ones we had seen coming in?

It was a long sunny motor up to Surge Narrows where we caught up to the other boats who were milling around. Eventually someone pulled the plug and we all transited through a swirly Beasley Passage like ducks in a  row.

A short while later we dropped anchor in Octopus Islands and set up a stern tie. We were first in as some of the others hung back and the rest opted to go thought the rockier (but ostensibly deeper) back passage. We had hit the narrow pass into the islands at low tide and a few were wondering if their deeper keels would be a barrier. There was never less than 13 feet of water so I really don’t think this was a real issue.

Eventually everyone showed up in the inner cove with 4 boats lined up in a row and the two others on the other side. Rainbow’s End opted to stern tie to a boulder that eventually ended up well below the surface of the water. It’s really not something I would do, but it all worked out for them. Still…

Some people headed off to hike to the lake at the far end of the bay, but we opted to hang and I rowed around the cove for a while.

20 May

I heard the others raising anchor at gawd-awful o’clock but didn’t bother to crawl out of bed to see, instead just rolling over and drifting back to sleep for a few more hours. You see, there were two possible slack at Upper Rapids that day. One, just before 6 a.m. would give you a push up Johnstone; the other, at noon, would have you bucking the flood tide. I wasn’t going to get up at 5 just for a knot or so push.

At around 7, I crawled out of bed, made some coffee and hit the cockpit for some peace and quiet. Four out of six boats were gone with only us and Norfinn opting for a more civilized beginning to the day. The sun was still out and shining brightly but it only lasted about an hour until the south winds brought in clouds and the occasional drop of rain.

L rolled into consciousness right around then and we started our morning by doing pretty much nothing except watch a family of Canada Geese  showing off their rock climbing skills. And we emptied out main propane bottle. Luckily Blind Channel can refill it for us. Eventually we started prepping and raised anchor in a light drizzle before slipping out into Okisollo Channel to poke our heads into the rapids. We transited about 20 minutes early and Norfinn tucked in about 5 minutes behind us.

It was a grey, calm day and we motored the whole way. A few points displayed some interesting currents and we varied between going 8 knots and 3 depending on what the water was doing. Eventually we tied up at Blind Channel and despite both a warning by the staff and prior experience, I almost got caught out by the ever-present current. It just sneaks up on you at the last minute.

And that was that

We opted not to enjoy opening night at the restaurant and visited a little with Teka. The flotilla had started out pretty well although the constant movement each day was something we haven’t done since our chartering days. Still it was fresh and interesting and maybe we would actually sail with the fleet at one point :-)