To all friends who have helped me in our many adventures I hope this kindles fond memories for each of you.
Dark ‘n’ Stormy
“They are so good, and they will so hurt you. Also, they are not sensitive to ingredient ratios. That makes them dangerous, as you can make a perfectly acceptable Dark ‘n’ Stormy while snookered.”
A tradition in the Pacific Northwest is to celebrate the winter soltice. What better way then an overnight cruise to Kingston for cards and drinks. The wind howled during the night. Probably at least 3o kts but we were now tied up, dry & celebrating. below is the video of the trip from Everett to Kingston on Que Linda a 38′ 1980 Catalina.
Avoiding Black Friday and being on the boat brings back a much simpler life & pleasures. We were out on our boat in Possession Sound off Everett, Wa on both Friday & Saturday. Not much wind each day, only about 2 hrs of wind >5kts. However, the big treat came on Saturday. We motored south to the bottom tip of Whidbey Island looking for wind. Around 1300 hrs we turned the boat north to work our way back to the marina. There was a 5 knot wind from the north so…..yep….pull up the main & pull out the genoa. It freshened to 9 knots and off we went tacking our way back towards the Mukilteo ferry. Out of the quiet there was a blow 5 yards off the starboard. Yow! A young a grey whale probably about 60% the size of a full adult. The she/he was right off of Mukilteo! She/he surfaced twice more by the boat. Such an immense treat. My apologies to an purists about photo documentation. The above photo is from last late March when Jonathan, Wayne, Scott and I enjoyed a serene day with the whales.
I am hesitant about blogging/publishing work that is not my own. However, we all uncover excellent work by others. The article on this link is from a British magazine “Practical Boat Owner”. This article is worth multiple reads. Recovering a tethered man overboard. Several years back I also read an article that suggested attaching and running the jack lines down the middle of the deck instead of the walk ways.
0830 hrs June 24, 2015 at Port McNeill N 50º34.164′ W126º16.411′
Our plans for the day are to visit Alert Bay on Cormorant Island and then proceed across Blackfish Sound to the Broughtons. In this blog post I will just deal with Alert Bay since it was such a rich experience.
Cormorant Island is about 6nm east of Port McNeill. Access can be by ferry, float plane, or land plane. About 1500 persons live on the island and two thirds are members of the ‘Namgis First Nation living both on two First Nation Reserves and in Alert Bay village. The ‘Namgis are part of the Kwakiutl peoples in that they share the Kwak’wala language. This area is a land of spirits and magic.
A chance to visit a living cultural center of a First Nations people known as the ‘Namgis who are part of the Kwakiutl. They lived in bands in the areas from the Campbell River, to the south, to Queen Charlotte Sound in the north. There language Kwak’wala is still spoken in Alert Bay by adults. They have struggled for well over 100 years to maintain there heritage. Contact with early trappers, explorers and then governments have been harsh until recent times. This is the land of totem polls, carvings and great legends of thunderbirds, ravens, whales, bears. Many oral histories of ancestors transforming from thunderbirds to human and back to the great magical bird. A place alive with people caring for their heritage.
The Raven Transformation mask represents both supernatural beings and also the Raven transforming to a man and then back to a raven. This is from the U’mista Museum on Echo Bay. There is an incredibly rich display of many masks used at the potlatch.
The Kwakiutl had a ceremony of dance, song, and gifts called “potlatch”. This was held in the long house of local chiefs and during the potlatch gifts were exchanged, hunting & fishing rights were granted. Until the late 1950s potlatches were banned both in Canada and the US. Gifts, masks, ceremonial costumes and masks were taken by the governments. Beginning in 1970 the Kwakiutl were able to regain their possessions and created the U’mista cultural museum on the island. After being mesmerized by the stunning collection at the museum I returned to the lobby.
Its about a one mile walk back to the marina that is filled with carvings and art that face out toward the water. Places to view, soak up & enjoy this stunning place.
As I walked along, it was a delight to soak up the spirit of this gem.
Continuing past far more art then I could soak into my brain and simply being overwhelmed by this place we all made our way back to the marina.
Sadly, we made the boat ready to head over to the Broughtons.
0830 hrs June 23, 2015 at Port Harvey N 50º34.164′ W126º16.411′
After a pleasant evening of dinner with Irene and a cruising couple from Portland, I was up at 0600 hrs this morning to make coffee, take a shower and be ready for our 0830 departure to Port McNeill some 35nm west of Port Harvey.
We slipped our lines and motored down past the Havannah Channel past the Broken Islands into Johnstone Strait and came to a west heading below Escape reef. Calm winds and sea state this morning. We continued to motor towards the west.
1000 hrs as we are approach Robson Bight we see about 50 dolphins, feeding in groups off both sides of the boat. Later, about an hour, two Minke whales can be seen off the port side. An amazing day. Everyones on the deck enjoying spotting.
1400 hrs we’re in the channel between Cormorant Island and Vancouver Island. We come in close to the shore of Alert Bay to recon tomorrows visit.
At 1700 hrs we have passed the nav aid on the south west tip of Cormorant Island. We are about one hour before reaching Port McNeill as we motor past the Alert Bay ferry heading towards Port McNeill.
We are now within sight of Port McNeill at 1800 hrs.
First stop is the fuel dock. We fuel up and then go to the water/pump out dock. Some crew remain on the boat to go to our slip and tie up while others head to the grocery store to restock the boat. The grocery store, restaurants, etc. are just up the hill from the port. Easy access. Tomorrow we will visit Alert Bay.
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.
Saturday…..January 24, 2015 @ 11:00 hrs start time for the Iceberg regatta on Puget Sound. Weather at the start is 17 to 20 knots from the SE, 2 foot chop, 45 degrees air temperature. Beneath leaden skies rain is possible.
The distance is approximately 14.5 nautical miles with 40 boats starting at five minute intervals in five classes from 24 foot crafts to over 35 foot boats. We are in the class 5 start at 11:25 hours on “Avalanche” a J105 in the FS (spinnaker) class. We have a crew of five. Paul is at the helm, Sarab is doing mainsail trim, Erica and Brian are doing jib sheet trimming. Raising, dowsing, and jibing the kite is a synchronized dance by the entire crew. My role is managing the spinnaker halyard and tack lines.
After rigging the kite lines for hoisting on the starboard side we motored out of the Shilshole marina and raised the mainsail.
The start will be south, up wind, between the committee boat and the burger buoy (#1). The five minute horn sounds and I start the stopwatch running. Our start will be in 30 minutes. With the jib furled and the mainsail up we cycle between east west on the north side of the start line waiting for our start. We plan on a westerly beam reach approaching the line from the east. When the horn sounds we will swing the boat from a port beam reach to close hauled and bring out the jib.
Our start horn sounds and we cross the line within 10 seconds of the horn on a port tack for West Point buoy (#2). At 1.9 nautical miles we round the West Point buoy and with the wind on port stern quarter, port broad reach, we hoist the kite & furl the jib. With Skiff Point buoy (#3) 2.8 nautical miles to west, we accelerate and get into position to round the buoy and jibe the kite for a starboard beam to broad run to Spring Beach some 6 miles to our north east across the sound. The wind pipes up…….to much power….so its time to douse the kite. A massive effort by the crew to get the spinnaker into the cockpit of the boat and not in the water. With the kite down things settle on the boat as we continue to the Spring Beach buoy (#4). Rounding the buoy inshore its a port beam reach towards the finish line 3.5 miles into the wind.
Some boats stay inshore and some go out toward the center of the sound. The wind looks good for both! We choose offshore and initially have a great ride until, upon further assessment ,we realize it will take us two far out. When we tack in toward the finish line, our line will bring us in but too far behind the finish line because of the wind angle. The end result will not only be two tacks instead of one but the necessity of going in close to the beach before the final tack. With a boat speed of 9 knots and the crew ready to turn the boat quickly we head for the beach as observers on the beach stare on with disbelief. Finally, we tack and head for the line. There is a great release of tension mixed with satisfaction as we finish what we started two hours earlier.