To all friends who have helped me in our many adventures I hope this kindles fond memories for each of you.
Our destination this afternoon/evening is Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina. We have about 25nm to cover before reaching Pierre’s.
1330 hrs June 24, 2015 at Alert Bay N 50º35.456′ W126º56.204′
The crew slowly wandered back to the boat. Each of us with our own thoughts and images about this place. A half day visit is simply far to short for this island. Three days or more would honor the beauty of this place. But with so many places to visit we needed to have a schedule. With a full crew we cast of our lines and slipped out of Alert Bay.
We motored SE down the south west side of Cormorant Island and then north east for the Pearse Passage as Gordon’s Bluff slid past our port side. Up into the Cormorant Channel as the west winds picked up with growing seas. 55 degree temp with a dropping barometer and raining. As we approached Malcolm island we changed our heading to the east pointing the bow at Backfish Sound. Turning north off the tip of Swanson Island we motored to the opening between Midsummer Island, to the south, and Bonwick Island on the north. Motoring east we entered the Retreat Passage at 1715 hours. We opted to pass anchoring in Waddington Bay due to the west winds and continued on to Pierre’s Echo Bay.
1830 hours we have Echo Bay off our starboard beam. We swing to starboard and enter Echo Bay throw Pierre a line and tie up for the night.
Echo Bay is both a community and a marina. It is famous for Billy Proctor and his museum. The charm of this place is beyond your dreams. Unfortunately, as with all lovely things it can get crowded in July and August. Be certain to do a reservation.
After an evening of showers, dinner in the saloon we walked the docks in the long summer evening. With light to 2300 hours there is a lot of socializing, drinking and meeting new friends. Finally, with welcome darkness I went to bed after creating the nav plan for the next day. Our new destination will be Kwatsi Bay.
It was hard to leave the anchorages and views of Desolation Sound to find other vistas of the inside passage. However, our transit to Big Bay of Stuart Island today from Toba Inlet is part of the plan when you need crew for forty five days of cruising. Members of the crew on Ken Snows boat will come & go over time. Tomorrow Teri W., the ships veterinarian , will be arriving via float plane at Big Bay.
Our layover in Big Bay really helps us address two issues. They have a seaplane dock and it will be nice to have Teri on board. Second, the timing to transit the Yuculta, Gillard, and Dent Rapids from SE to NW is more problematic since tidal changes occur first at the Dent Rapids and last at Yuculta. Yuculta and Gillard are within 0.75nm of each other but Dent is another 4-5nm away from Gillard. With a name on the charts of “Devils Hole” for the main rapids/whirlpool at Dent Island I did not want to arrive late so the layover was good. There is a lovely deck at Big Bay where you can sit, enjoy a coffee from the small grocery store, and watch the rapids go from slack water to rapids and back. It was instructional! Better from the deck on land then on the boat’s deck.
0800 hrs June 21, 2015 at Big Bay, Stuart Island N 50º23.535′ W125º08.145′
Today will be an easy day with plenty of time for us to simply enjoy Big Bay. Teri arrives at noon. 1400 hrs is slack tide for the Gillard passage and the Dent Rapids. I have bail out points for both places if we miss slack tide. If we succeed we will be at the Cordero Lodge this afternoon.
1210 hours Terri’s plane lands and we depart at 1225 hours for the Gillard Passage on the other side of Big Bay.
Small whirlpools and no white caps or large vigorous whirlpools are visible. Gillard is in the last part of the ebb.
1250 hours we are 4nm further at the Dent Rapids. A red/white navaid pillar marks the beginning of the Dent Rapids on the north shore. Still ebbing, towards the end, and the Devils Hole is quiet. 1305 hours and we are well past the rapids and heading to the Cordero Lodge for the night.
1600 hours find us approaching the dock at Cordero Lodge. Lorrie Tanguay and Wayne greeted us at the dock and helped us tie up. From that moment and over the next six hours a lovely evening of hosting unfolded. I went to the bar for a drink to celebrate transiting the major rapids without drama and sat with the crew, Lorrie, and Wayne while we exchanged stories. The lodge is on a floating concrete slab with huge steel cables attached to the land. In the past it had been a timber camp. Now its a lodge for fishing and passing mariners. A well stocked little grocery store and green house are there for dinner greens in the restaurant/bar along with evening meals prepared by the cook and bar tender.
After a few drinks and stories the entire crew retired to the bar for an evening meal. The meal was presented family style on a large table with generous quantities and variety! Roast beef, it looked like prime rib, chicken wings, crab salad, caesar salad, broccoli, twice backed potatoes, and cupcakes. It was a feast! Followed by fishing at one of there spots and then a campfire on the concrete slab in the front of the lodge. Finally, I fell asleep with a full tummy from such a evening of generosity on Lorrie & Wayne’s part.
0825 hrs June 22, 2015 at Cordero Lodge N 50º26.860′ W125º27.013′
Today we have 41 nautical miles ahead of us before we reach Port Harvey off of Johnstone Straits. The route is the Cordero Channel to Green Point rapids to Chancellor Channel to Wellborn Channel and Whirlpool rapids then down Sunderland Channel into Johnstone Straits for 13.5 nm before turning into Havanah Channel for Port Harvey. The weather forecast is for 25 knot NW winds in Johnstone Straits. The plan is we will stick our nose into Johnstone straits after the ebb tide and see how it looks. If we don’t like it we can go back up Sunderland to anchor. We will need to hit both rapids during before or during the ebb to reach Johnstone Straits at slack tide.
0845 hrs we slip our dock lines and motor into the channel. 0920 transit thru Green rapids was quiet.
1045 hrs its Whirlpool rapids and again nice and quiet. Riding on the ebb current we turn to 238ºM for a fast 7 nm down Sunderland Channel.
At noon we pass Yorke Island and turn west into a 25 knot wind on the nose with 3′ to 4′ seas. The decision is reached to press on as we head to Port Harvey. 1500 hours and we are turning into the Havanah Channel and within 20 minutes we are at the dock of the Port Harvey marina.
They offer dinner at Port Harvey in the restaurant. We needed to order when we tied up. A pleasant evening with other voyagers exchanging tips about where we had each cruised and future destination. We gathered beta about the Broughtons, Alert Bay, and Port McNeil.
0830 hours 6/18/2015 @ Masons Landing N 50º04.509′ W124º58.958′
After a great evening of dinner, discussion of tomorrows destination, sleep, I was up at 0600 hours to quietly make the coffee with Jon and Wendy being quietly awake and rising about 30 minutes later. Our route for the day would be Refuge Cove to fuel up and take on water. Then we would head for Tenedos Bay.
We pulled the hook and pointed the boat south as we motored down the western edge of Cortes Island to Sutil Point. Turning towards the Baker Passage and passing north of Hernando Island we turned north toward Kinghorn Island and beyond is the Lewis Channel of Desolation Sound. This was my first time to approach and enter Desolation Sound. The raw stark beauty……The feeling of this place was stark & intimate. With apologies to all poets I offer the following below.
Mountains slicing thru the sky
Cathedral walls of evergreens
Glacier clad peaks releasing waterfalls
A carpet of blue green water
The essence of Gaia
Abeam of Hope Point we came to 31º magnetic and motored the half mile into Refuge Cove. Here we had the opportunity to fill up with diesel, take on potable water, fill our propane cylinders and have ice cream & chips. This is your last opportunity for these items and garbage disposal , for a fee at the barge, until you leave Desolation Sound.
By 1400 hours we headed back out to Hope Point and pointed the boat on a 133º magnetic course past Martin Island across the sound towards the southern tip of Mink Island. Then onto a northerly course for the last 4 miles to Tenedos Bay.
There are two bays, a NW bay and a SE bay, for anchoring. Above is our approach to the SE bay. Finding a spot to drop the hook and do a stern tie was not a trivial matter for us. When all was completed it was 1 to 2 hours later! We spent a wonderful evening with food, good wine, star gazing and quiet. Tomorrow we will head to the Wildernest at Toba Inlet.
0830 hours 6/19/2015 @ Tenedos Bay N 50º07.394′ W124º41.460′
A relaxed morning for all. There is the sense of we’re here lets be less driven. We have approximately 15nm to the Toba Wildernest up the Homfray Channel. Ken fixes breakfast for the entire crew. Pancakes, blueberries, maple syrup, butter. A feast for breakfast. With seal heads popping up to see the visitors we lounge with food & coffee while watching seals.
1000 hours we pull the anchor, Jon & Geoff, with Ken at the helm. We motor out on a reciprocal of our entry course until we are past Ray Rock and then turn to 310º M to pass the southern tip of Otter Island into the Homfray Channel.
As we head up the channel we pass two bays that have potential anchorages. Forbes Bay, the lower, and Atwood Bay the more northerly bay.
As we approach Channel Island directly off the bow we are at the confluence of the Homfray, Price, Toba Inlet. Our destination for the night.
This place is a true gem. Showers, bathrooms and a dock and stunning views. We were welcomed by Ranger Kyle. He shared his knowledge about shell fish with Irene and Geoff. Kyle, his wife & nine year old daughter have homesteaded this place for seven years. The off season solitude must be both wonderful and immense.
0600 hours 6/20/2015 at Toba Wilderness Marina N50º19.440′ W124º47.742′
My iPhone alarm sounds and I’m up to make coffee and start the day. Sunrise is 0430 hours and sunset is 2200 hours this far north. Its 52ºF, little ripples on the water fairly still. By 0815 hours everyone is up and stowing gear in the nooks and crannies of the boat. Today, we need to be disciplined in our departure time, 0900 hours, since we will transit the Yuculta Rapids on the west side of Stuart Island before we reach Big Bay for the evening. Our estimated arrival at the south end of Stuart Island is 1300 hours and slack water at Yuculta Rapids is 1400 hours. Starting today we will be leaving Desolation Sound and going to the Broughtons which are north east of Queen Charlotte Sound. There are three passages to go from the north end of the Georgia Straits to Queen Charlotte Sound. The most direct, the Discovery Passage, has significant tidal currents and fewer places to pull off if things are bad. The passage using the Calm, Cordero, Chancellor, Welborne, and Sunderland Channels decreases our exposure to the Johnstone Straits. This is our choice for the transit to the Broughtons. There is a middle passage but it offers more exposure to Johnstone Straits.
We slip out of the Wilderness and head SSE between the mainland and Double Island. We change our heading to 265ºM to follow the Pryce Channel to the north tip of Raza Island and into the Raza Passage.
We enter Calm Channel and turn to 308ºM as we head toward the southern tip of Stuart Island. 1215 hours we are off the southern tip of Stuart Island with another boat right at the southern tip.
Jon & I discuss our strategy for Yuculta Rapids. We agree on the following. We will go close to slack water time and follow the other sailboat. Jon will be at the helm and I’ll be on the deck with binocs. I’ll be looking for whirlpools, boats yawing, and turbulent water. Everyone is killing time in their own way until 1330 hours. 1330 hours we pass harbor point nav light and follow the other boat at a respectful distance as we reach the Whirlpool point nav aid.
No yawing, frothing just slack water. We hit it dead on and our goal was “no drama” with that we pulled into the Big Bay Marina at 1500 hours. We have a layover until 1200 hours when Teri arrives on a float plane.
A major attraction for local cruisers beyond Puget Sound are the areas north from the Straits of Juan de Fuca which is the beginning of the inside passage to Alaska. In Seattle you can always tell when the cruising season has started by the appearance of three large cruise ships in downtown Seattle. Each of these cruise ships are engaged in taking you and two thousand of your closest friends up the inside passage. For those of us that are more insular, I would be in this group, we choose a more intimate means of transport. A 40’ sailboat will do nicely for me. Then there is the more adventuress who choose the Race to Alaska which started in Port Townsend and ended in Ketchikan, Alaska. There is excellent coverage in 48º North.
The seductiveness of this area is rich with possibilities. There is the big open deep water of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Straits of Georgia to the deep fjords of Desolation Sound and the San Juan and Gulf islands. Orcas, dolphins, and sea lions are frequently encountered. There are many small coves for a quiet evening anchorage.
From my reading prior to the trip several issues became apparent. I had never used a stern tie anchor along with a bow anchor, nor had I any experience with 16′ tidal changes. The other issues that surfaced during the trip were places for food, fuel, fresh water, garbage disposal, pump outs and showers. Finally, it is a small area and “in season” it can be very busy and “out of season” its empty! The last factor might be whether to go in a sailboat or a motor vessel.
Anchoring in many of the small coves requires good skills & technique. My first choice is to survey the area for suitable depths/sea floors and noting both the tidal range with current depth and charted depth. In many anchorages the sea floor only shallows up very close to shore and the seabed angle may be acute (20-40°). Typical depths away from shore may be 50 feet or greater. The other problem with 16 foot tide ranges, is an area with a current depth of 20 feet based on your depth sounder may be exposed rocks & wetlands at low tide.
We passed over these rocks, in the above picture, with 20 feet of depth at high tide. The chart showed wetlands but no rocks. We also evaluated the scope of our bow anchor rode. We used a 5:1 ratio at high tide on the bow. Once the anchor was dropped and set , by backing on it, two persons took a line off the stern to shore and tied it to a tree, rock of ring in the rock. At low tide allowed a small amount of slack for the rising tide and also tied a floating fender at the mid point.
In planning a trip to Desolation Sound fuel, water, groceries, and pump out should be done at Lund on east side of the Straits of Georgia or one of the areas close to the Campbell River on the island side. The Waggoner’s Cruising Guide is invaluable for this sort of information. Frequently, you can download the pdf version from there website at no charge! My advice is minimize your garbage. The barge in Refuge Cove is the only place that will accept garbage for money. All the small marinas will not take garbage and frequently do not have extra water to fill your tanks. Planning ahead and conservation are the best options.
The busiest season is July thru early September. Make you marina reservations in advance. Although June is frequently cold and raining, it is an opportunity to meet many of the locals and have fewer concerns about finding anchorages and marinas.
Navigational & Weather Challenges
I began to understand the challenges of traveling to Desolation Sound and the Broughtons early in my reading about Johnstone Straits. Anecdotal statements of “I would never do this again” to “No worries it was beautiful” capture the wind and tidal dynamics of this area. When you are pushing 16 feet of water though channels with considerable topographic/bathymetric changes and add 35 knots of wind you have the makings of a bad time for sailboats that can only move at 5 knots. Timing is everything. Seymour Narrows at 13.9 knots is the extreme example.
This chart provides an overview of the entire area. Since tidal current and timing is a primary factor, understanding whether the flood & ebb are from the Georgia Straits of the Queen Charlotte Sound is a good beginning.
The channels on the “A” side of the dashed red line flood & ebb with the Georgia Straits. Channels on the “B” side of the dashed red line are linked to the Queen Charlotte Sound. This helps for channels that are oriented in a north-south direction. Those channels oriented in an east-west are more problematic. The NOAA tidal current predictions for Canada were also helpful. They state the direction of ebb and flood in degrees. The Canadian Tide and Current Tables volumes 5,6,& 7 are available both in print and on the internet.
With significant tidal currents, rapids, and whirlpools the wind can make the sea state conditions easier or ugly. Forty knot winds out of the northwest are fairly common on Johnstone Straits especially in the afternoon. Checking the weather on either the VHF or internet and then the tides can lead to really nice transits. Remaining in port during forty knot winds opposing the tide is a sound decision. Enjoy the place where you are instead of creating a epic that is driven by schedule. I’ve made that mistake and have been blessed by good luck. A careful retrospective analysis has said to me “if one thing went wrong” you would be calling the Coast Guard. That is a poor decision! If you check the canadian weather online be aware that under the “current conditions” tab you can access buoys & land stations the provide weather in the last hour. There are two buoys in the straits of Georgia.
0600 hours 6/16/2015 @ Everett, Washington.
Judy & I are up for showers, coffee & breakfast before heading to the Kenmore air base on the north end of Lake Washington.
After an 0800 checkin we boarded the plane at 0900 for an hour and a half flight to Nanaimo, BC. I got the copilots seat as you can see from the video below.
There were low clouds until we were north of Port Townsend and then it was blue skies & sunshine.
Despite planning before the trip, we landed three miles north of the city marina. So I taxied to the city marina by the ferry landing to meet Ken and the crew at the fuel dock. The crew was a mixture of both experience and talent. Jon had sailed with Ken on the previous trip north and is an experienced sailor/navigator frequently spotted with a big camera. Some of these pictures are his shots. Wendy was a source of prior experience in these waters and had used maps before GPS. She came with maps, guide books and local information. Geoff was the boats “MacGyver”. He had good knowledge about the boats mechanical & electrical systems and would frequently improvise. Irene brought several talents. Most notably joy was frequently shared with all crew. Not only is she a capable seawoman but also prepared some lovely meals. Everyone was busy. Taking on fuel, water while others went for groceries.
At 1330 hours we were out of the harbor and passing Gallows Point on an NE heading to skirt Wiskey Gulf and then turn NW for Secret Cove marina. Before crossing the strait check with the coast guard if you plan on transiting thru Wiskey Gulf since it is a live fire area.
We motored across the straits, no wind, and skirted the south end of South Thormanby Island before turning NW thru the Welcome Passage and then NE into Secret Cove marina around 1900 hours to tie up for the night. The marina, part of Sunshine Coast, has lovely showers, got grocery store, fuel and a lovely resturant. This would be our last chance for snack food favorites, beer, showers before heading north to Desolation Sound in the morning.
0800 hours 6/17/2015 @ Secret Cove BC
With showers done we glided out of the docks and headed NW up the Malaspina Strait between Texada Island and the mainland. Our destination for the day is Mansons Landing (N50°04.494′ W124°58.898′) on the west side of Cortes Island. It is about 55nm NW of Secret Cove.
At about 1700 hours we reached Mansons Landing. We settled down for an evening of dinner in the cockpit and admiring the late evening light of the north.
We were now at the north end of the Georgia Straits and in the morning we will pull the hook and head east for Refuge Cove,
5/29/15 @ 2345 hrs, Everett, WA. The alarm wakes us. I get up and put my sea gear in the car while Judy makes coffee. Then its the drive in the dark south to Portland. 0400 hrs we arrive at the Thunderbird marina, sounds like a Las Vegas casino, where the games begin. Judy drops me off and I head down to the boat with my 1112 liter dry bag with shoulder straps. Judy drives home in the dark and early morning back to Everett. I can not thank her enough for her support of my craziness. The crew is up and stowing things. A crew of Ken Snow the owner, Geoff a McGiver fixer, Brandon an agile seaman & new boat owner, Chris a good helmsman, and myself.
5/30/15 @ 0430hrs, Thunderbird Marina. We cast off the dock lines go out onto the Columbia river come to a westerly heading for Astoria which is 70 nm downstream. We slide beneath the I5 bridge with 2 feet of mast clearance and on to the railroad bridge. Contact is established with the bridge tender and in 20 minutes the bridge will open. Its a pivoting bridge rather then a bascule bridge. We circle a respectful distance upstream. Thru the bridge, we continue downstream. Many hours pass as we motor down the Columbia. Breakfast, lunch, drinks, afternoon snacks and talk of the trip. I reflect on my navigation planning for the trip. I had never crossed the Columbia bar. The stories are things of legend, perhaps Disappointment Cape sums it up completely. From the McKenzie Head at R8 (red sea buoy #8) out to R2, the end of the bar, it is 3.4nm. In a sailboat this means about one hour to transit the bar in favorable conditions. The bar is southwest in its orientation and is flanked by Peacock Spit to the north and Catsop Spit to the south. Favorable conditions are slack tide and 5kts of wind or less.
Unfavorable conditions are 15-25 kts coming out of the SW during an ebb tide of 7 kts. Twenty foot short stacked seas are fatal. Just imagine twenty foot beakers close together(5 seconds apart). So timing and weather are everything when crossing the bar. We arrive in Astoria at 1930 hrs with time to refuel, water up, and pump out. No party crew here, we are all really tired and head to bed by 2130hrs.
5/31/15 @ 0530 hrs, Astoria
Up to the marina for showers. After that its coffee and check weather, tide times, and the offshore Catsop weather buoy. Winds 5kts north, slack tide is 0753hrs and 4-5foot seas with a period of 12 seconds at the buoy.
0600 hrs we depart Astoria turn to 249 degree (magnetic) heading at 5 kts and slip beneath the Astoria Megler Bridge. A cantilever bridge with a span of 6,545 meters opened in 1962. We are 10nm from the mouth of the Pacific as we pass under the bridge, clearance is 60m at high tide,with plenty of room. At Tansy Point we come to a 2790 m heading to Sand Island.
As we skirt the edge of Catsop Spit, you can see the breakers on the Pacific side. With Sand Island off the starboard we come to 2550 m and 3nm to the mouth. 0800 hrs we are at the R8 buoy. The new heading is 2090 m we start out across the bar with slack tide. Sea state is 4-6 foot rollers with a 10 second period wind out of the north at 5 knots. Sea lion heads are popping up frequently and all around us. They do have a large population in this area. In Astoria they have purchased an Orca sculpture to keep the locals off the pier. I suspect the sea lions are smarter then the fake Orca and eventually we’ll have a picture of an Orca sculpture surrounded by basking locals! All over the place in the water…heads popping up every place you look. A large container ship is heading in fishing boats going out. 0825 hrs two grey whales surfacing & diving off the port. 0900 hrs we are at R8 buoy and across the bar. Our depth has changed from 50 feet to 104 feet. At the 250 foot contour line we come to a new heading of 2550 m as we turn W toward deeper water.
1100 hrs at 0460 13.663’N 1240 1321.746’W we turn north to 3270 m for the layline north to Cape Flattery. Our next way point is 110 nm to a buoy north west of LaPush. Sunday, 6/1/15 @ 0030 hrs 25nm west of Greys harbor the diesel dies and will not restart! Chris suggests we pull out the gib since we have no motor. Its done. Really no wind and small seas. 0130 hrs the conclusion is the fuel filter….We can’t find the filter wrench on boat. A good hour of searching commences while one member mans the helm as a lookout. NO FILTER WRENCH!*# Necessity is the mother of invention. Geoff is a true McGiver & rock star. Duck tape , a fiber strap, a locking leatherman and we have a filter wrench. Its now at least 0230 hrs. While Geoff and Brandon are working on the filter Chris & I are in the cockpit as lookouts. Earlier we had spotted a fishing trawler with all its lights off our starboard beam at a distance of 5+ miles. It has come closer and is still on a heading for us. Really no wind currently. All nav lights have been on including the deck lights which fully illuminate the genoa. I take the radio mike and on 16 broadcast “Large fishing trawler about 25 NW of Greys Harbor this is the sailboat in front of you with the illuminated foresail”. Two broadcasts on 16 and two on 13 with no response from the trawler. Another sailboat about a mile away did respond but nothing from the trawler! Fishing trawlers are always a problem. I think they use autopilot a lot and are out of the wheel house doing what ever!! The trawler continued to approach until you could start to see its bow wake before it turned to starboard. The more I dwell on this incident the more threatening it becomes. I wish I had a solution but with no motor and no wind I’m gobsmacked. 0330 hrs the filter is done. Back to motor sailing. Everyone was pleased to hear that noisy deisel! The remainder of the night was quiet as we motor sailed towards Cape Flatter.
1300 hrs and we are off Cape Flattery. 1500hrs we round the Cape and check out the Duncan Rocks passage. Whitecaps in the passage so we go north and around Duncan Rocks. 1800 hrs we are on the approach into Neah bay.
The marina is occupied by small fishing boats and several docks full of sea lions. We tie up fix dinner and prep for sleep. Sleep comes amongst a cacophony of sea lions.
We arrived in Puget Sound one year ago. After three months of appraisal we decided to put roots down. Missing our friends, sun shine, ski patrol, and the meditation center are experiences that we still cherish. The challenges of new experiences have not dimmed our past but rather have encouraged us to embrace these new opportunities. To wander about and find our new home.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
We left home and drove down to Mukilteo to take the ferry over to Clinton on Whidbey Island.
The ferry transit is about twenty five minutes to cross the southern end of Possession Sound below Hat Island. On most crossings, including this morning, the sea state is calm.
During the fall winter season when some tightly packed cold fronts come roaring thru it can be really bad when there may be fifty knot winds coming up the sound from the south. The winds, the long fetch, and the narrowness of this section of the sound combine to create considerable seas!
Saturdays wind was much kinder as the ferry approached from Clinton. At Clinton we drove north along the Saratoga Passage up to Oak Harbor some 25 miles north and the northern most harbor of the island.
The Saratoga Passage is the body of water between Camano Island and Whidbey Island. Its is named after the war ship Saratoga that cruised Lake Champlain during the war of 1812. The passage is about 20 miles long in a north orientation and connects with the Straits of San Juan de Fuca thru Deception Pass and the Skagit river empties into Skagit Bay on the north east end. Along the passage there are several marinas and state parks for sailors. Clinton, Langley, and Oak are the most notable on the west side of the passage. On the east side there are bays and a state park on Camano Island. Cabins and small day sailboats can be found at Camano State Park and are managed jointly with the Center for Wooden Boats.
I have day sailed the southern half of the Saratoga Passage from Everett. It is a great area. Plenty of deep water with little traffic. One sailing cruise I would like to do is from Everett thru the Saratoga Passage to the Straits of San Juan de Fuca via Deception Pass. This trip would require correct timing for transit of Deception Pass since it has a seven knot current on the ebb tide.
As we continued to drive north to Oak Harbor I was looking forward to the jet boat tour of Deception Pass since it would allow a view of the currents without the risks associated with a sail boat. We found the marina but I was disappointed to learn it was to early in the season for jet boat tours thru the pass. However, March and April are the months when five grey whales come into the Saratoga Passage to bottom feed on shrimp. Two weeks earlier we had sighted a grey whale in Steamboat Flats while sailing out of Everett. Also local media had reported sightings off Camano Island.
Being opportunists, we signed up for the three hour whale tour of the Saratoga Passage. We suited up in our fleece lined expedition suits since the jet boat is an open design and roared out of Oak Harbor and headed south down the passage. At key spots where greys have been spotted they killed the engine and looked & waited.
After checking many spots we found two greys feeding off Elger Bay on the west side of Camano Island. Every two to six minutes they would announce themselves by blowing a heart shaped geyser of air & water arching their back and diving back down for more shrimp. We drifted on the current along with the greys for about 45 minutes before we needed to leave return to Oak Harbor. A lovely time………. A kayak would have been so intimate. A future thought.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Sunday was a day to sail out of Everett on Scott Selby’s Catalina 34 S/V Duck Soup. We cast off the lines at 1100 hours, motored out of the marina to a 15 knot wind from the SE.
We passed the outer buoy with its residents & I jumped the main, came back to the cockpit & we hauled out the jib for a beam reach over to Whidbey passing south of Hat Island.
Then a jibe north pass Hat Island up to Camano Island and into the Saratoga Passage. At 1400 hours it was time to return home so we headed back south. No whales today but great company and conversation. The tide had turned to flood so we had the bow into both the wind and tide. With us pointing up as high as possible into the wind for the starboard tack we were making no headway for thirty plus minutes. The port tack was more promising for a lay line around the bottom tip of Camano and on the next starboard tack we finally made it around Camano and toward the marina.
1700 hours and we’re dropping the main. Back in the channel to the marina to tie up. A wonderful weekend in our new home.