Thursday, August 20, 2020

I lived…

July 30, 2020. Kendrick Island Anchorage to Townsite Marina, Nanaimo. 23 NM.

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It’s done. I have crossed my outbound track, and made it all the way around Vancouver Island. My best guess is that is about 1200 to 1300 kilometres over 50 days. It has been an eventful and remarkable trip. I’m left with impressions of cold and isolation. That is being contrasted with the heat that has finally arrived, and the population that really exists on just the lower half of the island. I’ve learned a lot about the boat, and some things about myself. I’ve enjoyed the time alone, and I’ve enjoyed the time with Sara even more. My Mom asked me if it has cured me of wanting to go sailing. Sorry, Mom. I’m happy to be in port, and looking forward to getting the boat sorted out. But if I could go again tomorrow, I would. (Although I’d rather wait a few days).

Thoughts of freedom in Nanaimo

It was warm overnight in Kendrick Bay, but a sea breeze blew through, and I slept well. A small fishing boat came and anchored about 25 feet of my port side last night. He was close enough that I could speak in a normal voice to him, when I suggested he was a bit close. It was about 2130, and there were huge empty spaces in the bay. Not sure why he felt the need to be right next to me, but he pulled in some rode, and ended up about 60 feet away. He was gone this morning, with most of the other small powerboats that were in the anchorage. I assume they were just waiting for the early slack at Galiano Passage, and had all gone through at 0630. Only the sailboats were left when I got up at 0700.

The wind had already started to pick up a bit in the anchorage, so I raised the anchor as soon as I was done breakfast. The grease I put into the winch last night seemed to help, and it didn’t make any funny noises as I raised the chain.

Sailing on the last leg!

I headed out into the Strait of Georgia, and once I was clear of the Gabriola Reefs, I raised the main and pulled out the jib in 12 to 15 knots of wind. I shut down the engine, and tacked out into the Strait. It was an upwind beat back around Entrance Island to Nanaimo Harbour, but I was in no hurry, and was enjoying the wind. It was pretty steady, and despite pointing as high as I could, I managed to keep speeds of between 4 and 5 knots the whole way. I had to dodge a ferry and a large barge. I know I technically had the right of way, being under sail, but with boats that big, it’s prudent not to assert your rights as a sailboat.

Watching the ferries go by in the Strait of Georgia

Coming into the Nanaimo Harbour, I turned onto a broad reach, and my speed increased to about 7 knots. I was moving along nicely, and steering a course to clear the northernmost point of Galiano. My heading had me pointed directly at the huge freighters that are always anchored in Nanaimo Harbour, but at this point, I tend to think of them as part of the scenery. As I was watching them, though, I noticed a bit of white froth in front of one, and realized it was a bow wave. At some point while I was sailing right at it, the freighter had started to move, and was now coming right at me! I turned deeper into the wind, heading back towards Galiano Island, but putting some welcome distance between the massive ship and me. Again, with these working vessels, might makes right, and I have no problem getting out of their way.

I’m glad I realized he was moving before I got much closer

As I came to the head of the bay, it was still blowing about 15 knots when I dropped the sails. I turned into the wind, and ran the engine at a low RPM, just to maintain a course as I put out the dock lines and fenders. I called my parents, who had kindly agreed to come and catch lines for me, then headed into the Newcastle Island Passage. The anchorage behind Protection Island was full of boats. I could also hear the usual scrum of boats using the VHF as they came through Dodd Narrows at slack. It is almost the August long weekend, and it looks like most people are heading out on their boats, just as I am coming in.

Docking the boat went without a hitch, even though there was about 10 knots pushing me into my slip. Having someone to catch my lines and tie me off certainly made things easier. Mom and Dad climbed aboard, and we chatted for about half an hour before they headed off, and I started to clean up lines and sails. I had managed to make quite a mess as I sailed all day, and it was good to get things put away.

It was about 1500 before I had lunch, so I cooked up my intended dinner of noodles and Spicy Thai Chicken from the deli in Sidney. After lunch, I did some more boat clean up. I needed lots of breaks to rehydrate in the 32 degree heat!

Summer has finally arrived!  Almost 33 degrees outside, despite the breeze.

This evening, I went for a walk along the Nanaimo waterfront to get some steps in, and enjoy being back on land. Dinner was a Pear Gorgonzola salad, with yogurt and canned peaches for dessert.

Lots of anchored boats behind Protection Island

And that, as they say, is that. I’ve made it around Vancouver Island. I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have been able to do this trip. To have the time, the support, and the means to make this happen is truly a blessing, and I am grateful to be in this position. I’ve tried to be disciplined with the journaling, and have written every day since I left.  Many days, knowing that I needed to write something provided me with the motivation to get out and explore, on a paddleboard, by dinghy, or on foot.

I think I’ll take a bit of a break now, as I work on getting caught up on boat maintenance, work, and the rest of my life. I’ve enjoyed the writing, and I don’t think I’ll stop. If I write something that I think has some value, it may even end up in the blog, but don’t look for daily postings, at least for a while. I’m not done sailing, or adventuring though, so there will be more to come.

Soundtrack – I Lived, One Republic

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


July 29, 2020. Clam Bay to Kendrick Island. 10.6 NM

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I didn’t really know what I was going to do today when I woke up. It was dead calm in the Clam Bay anchorage, and I took advantage of the quiet to sleep in a bit, and relax. I wasn’t feeling too motivated to go anywhere, but after a while of reading, I turned on some music, and got enough energy to clean up the kitchen, and do the dishes.

That invigorated me a bit more, and I started researching slack currents to see about getting out of Trincomali channel. To get to Nanaimo from the northern Gulf Islands, you have to escape through one of three passes: either Dodd Narrows, Galiano Passage, or Porlier Pass. Dodd Narrows is the shortest route, and the one I’ve used most often, but it tends to be a bit of a zoo in the summer, with boats lined up to go through the deep, narrow pass at slack water. Also, I didn’t really have time to get to Dodd by slack current, which is really the only time to make it.

Both Porlier Pass and Galiano Pass were slack at about 1330, though, and I had time to make it to either one of those. Porlier Pass is right across from Clam Bay, so would have meant a later departure. I was ready to go by 1030, though, so I elected to head up Trincomali Channel and cut out to the Strait of Georgia through Galiano Pass.

I raised the mainsail in the anchorage, which made it a bit exciting to get off the anchor, as the wind came up just as I was raising the hook, and the boat tried to sail a bit on it’s own, even though the sheet was slacked. For a minute, I was heading towards a bit power boat, until I got back from the bow and took over steering.

I motorsailed slowly out of the anchorage, and with a wind of 7 to 8 knots, I pulled out the genoa, turned off the engine, and sailed slowly up the channel, past the frieghters at anchor. I had extra time, so I used up about an hour sailing along, doing some chores on the boat. Eventually the wind fell to less than 2 knots, so I furled the genoa and started the engine. As I motored along, the apparent wind fell to 0 knots, so I dropped the main into the sail bag, and kept on up the channel.

Behemoths in Trincomali Channel

I was at Galiano Pass before slack, but the current was only about 1 knot, in my favor, so I elected to go through. It is quite narrow, and there were a couple of other boats in there, but it is shorter and much less busy than Dodd Narrows. I could hear all the traffic at Dodd on the VHF, and I was glad I wasn’t going through there.

Immediately after Galiano Pass is the anchorage at Kendrick Island. I was here last summer with Sara, and it was a great stop then. Today, it has lived up to my memory. It is a warm day, and has been a very still afternoon. I think the wind would whistle through here if there was any, but right now, it is idea. There are a few boats in here, but they are all up by the dock and mooring balls which is an outstation for one of the yacht clubs (Nanaimo, I think). I’ve anchored out deeper in the bay, and there is no one near me.

Anchored in the deep part of Kendrick Island anchorage

It was 1400 by the time I got the anchor down, so I had a late lunch, then relaxed for a couple of hours down below, letting the sun and the heat of the day pass by. I did some work on the windlass, which is starting to make some grinding noises. I tried to grease and lube it as best I could without taking it apart, but it will need a more thorough job when I get back on the dock. I managed to get grease all over the deck and windlass, after a mishap with a grease gun, but fortunately, I have lots of rags on board, so I eventually got it all cleaned up. Around 1700, I went out on the paddleboard, and set out around Kendrick Island.

Half way around, I pulled up on the limestone rock, and made a couple of phone calls, since there was cell reception on the outside of the island that I don’t have on the boat. I walked all along the outer shore of Kendrick Island, which is smooth limestone, worn down to pavement smoothness by the waves of the Strait of Georgia. Not far off shore is a rock that the seals use as a rookery. As I walked along, I could hear them snuffing, grunting, and mewling the whole way. They weren’t bothered by my presence.



Sandstone worn smooth makes for easy walking

Eventually, I got back to the paddleboard, and finished paddling around Kendrick Island in perfectly smooth water. Dinner was a ceasar salad and an orange. I was still pretty full from lunch, so didn’t feel like anything heavier.

Tomorrow should be another nice day. I’ll likely head in to Nanaimo, and start to clean up the boat after a long trip. It will be a special feeling to cross my out track and close the loop.

Soundtrack: Breezeblocks by alt-J.  Kind of what anchorages are.

Seal rookery off Kendrick Island

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Just Breathe

July 28, 2020. Port Sidney Marina to Clam Bay, between Thetis and Penlakut Islands. 27 NM

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Some big changes today. For one, it’s actually hot on the boat tonight. Hot to the point that it’s a bit uncomfortable. Also, I’m not feeling all that well – I think maybe something I ate. Led to a pretty quick paddleboard back to the boat when I set out after dinner tonight. Anyway, I’m back on board, so am close to a bathroom by definition.

Oh, and the other change is that I am alone again. I said goodbye to Sara at 0730 this a.m. as she pushed me off the dock in Port Sidney marina. She headed for the bus, the ferry, another bus, the skytrain, and then a flight home. The kids picked her up in Trail (where it is apparently 38 degrees!), and she is now back in Rossland.

Leaving Sara on the dock in Sidney

I motored out of the marina in the cool morning, with the sun coming up right where I was headed. It made it a bit challenging to make sure I didn’t hit any logs or debris as I pulled up the fenders and removed the dock lines. I turned north, and started motor sailing. There was a bit of wind, and it came and went as I traversed the various passages and islands on my way up to Active Pass. I pulled out the jib initially, then switched it for the genoa as the wind dropped off. I furled and unfurled the genoa three or four times as the wind switched. Between that, and keeping the main trimmed, I was as busy as a one armed paper hanger.

Just as I was getting to Active Pass, the ferry that Sara was on passed me, and I waved to her. Through the binoculars, I could see her on the deck. After the ferry turned into Active Pass, I headed on towards Montague Harbour, which was my intended destination.

The Queen of something or other, with Sara on board, heading for Active Pass

The current had been with me all the way north, though, and I was making good time. It was just about 1030 as I passed the entrance to Montague. It seemed to early to stop, so I kept on going, up through the familiar Trincomali Channel, past Wallace Island and the Secretary Islands, and into Clam Bay.

It was around 1230 when I dropped the anchor in about 40 feet. There were already several boats anchored, but still lots of room to swing on adequate scope. I cooked up a cheese and bacon quesadilla, and settled in for a quiet afternoon of reading, watching videos, and napping. I think I am a bit fatigued from the schedule over the past week. We’ve moved the boat every day, and several of the days have been quite long. When we haven’t moved the boat, we’ve kept busy with sight seeing, lots of walking, and working whenever we have internet access. My body seemed to feel the need for a quiet afternoon, and I didn’t fight it.

While I was hanging out in the relative cool of the cabin, the anchorage kept filling up. At last count, there are 13 sailboats in here, and about 5 or 6 power boats. That is by far the most boats I’ve seen anywhere this summer. And also, and interesting ratio of sailboats to power boats – usually it is the other way around.

Generally speaking, I don’t see too many boat names that I like. It is hard to come up with something interesting and original, and lots of boat names are fraught with issues. Hard to pronounce, hard to spell, hard to understand on the radio, or just hopelessly cliché. I can’t tell you how many “Seas the Days” I’ve seen in various marinas. And try to understand the difference between the name “Breathe” and “Breeze” on the radio. Even the other day, when we hailed Soul Star on the radio, the Coast Guard came back, thinking we were calling them. That’s probably not something they thought of when they named their boat.

Anyway, all this to say that there is a boat behind me with a name that I kind of like. It’s called “Knotty Luffer.” Cute play on words, and very nautical.

S/V Knotty Luffer

After my quiet afternoon, I cooked up some deli pizza for dinner, and I think that may be what has gotten the better of me. I threw the paddleboard in the water to get some exercise, but had to cut it short to make it back to the head. I’m feeling a bit better now, but won’t plan to do anything else too exciting tonight.

Soon, I’ll be closing the loop on this circumnavigation. Until then, though, I’ll try to enjoy these last few days on the boat before I’m back to all my usual responsibilities.

Soundtrack: Just Breathe, Pearl Jam

Lots of boats in Clam Bay

Monday, August 17, 2020

Extra Ordinary

July 27, 2020. Cadboro Bay to Port Sidney Marina. 15.7 NM

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It was another full day, which is sliding into a sad evening on the boat, as Sara packs and prepares to leave once again. We haven’t really had a minute all day to think much about it, but the reality of heading off solo once again is setting in.

It was a gorgeous morning in Cadboro Bay. The packed beach, drunken paddleboarders and sailing camps were all gone, and all that was left was the half dozen boats swinging at anchor in the rising sun. The bay was calm and still, and the only activity we could see was a fellow out rowing “Crimson”, the bright red Whitehall rowing skiff that was pictured in my last post.

Still morning leaving Cadboro Bay

We were up reasonably early, as we wanted to catch the northward current to push us towards Sidney. Also, we had a lunch date that we didn’t want to miss! The anchor was off the bottom and we were moving by 0800. Soul Star pulled out of the bay right behind us, but Bare Necessity decided to stay and spend another day in Cadboro Bay.

It was an uneventful motor northward. Other than some tidal surge as we came through Baynes Channel the water was calm, and the wind didn’t top 4 knots all the way. Most of the time, it was 2 or less. In fact, it was so calm that we both took the opportunity to have a shower and get cleaned up as we slid along.As we turned into Port Sidney Marina, we hailed Soul Star on the VHF, and wished them well on the rest of their journey north back to Nanaimo.

Barely a breath of wind on the motor north

We managed to get on the dock at Port Sidney without difficulty, even though we had to switch our dock assignment at the last minute, to accommodate the port side tie we were expecting. Eventually, they decided to put us on the T-head of the dock with the biggest mega yachts in the marina, so we felt a bit dwarfed, but it was an easy landing.

We tied the boat up, and within a few minutes, my parents arrived at the marina, having come down from Nanaimo for a visit. We had a delightful lunch at the Surly Mermaid, just at the entrance to the marina. I had fish tacos, while everyone else had some kind of salad (which seemed like a bit of a waste of a lunch out, to me. To each his own, though!). After lunch, we walked along the waterfront in Sidney, before saying goodbye to my parents. I’ll see them again before long when I get back to Nanaimo.

Exploring the Sidney waterfront with Mom and Dad

The afternoon was for work. Sara kindly did a bunch of laundry for me, and we got all the linens on the boat cleaned. I logged in to the hospital, and caught up on work there. Then, we went shopping, getting the boat provisioned for the rest of the trip, and stocking up on a few items we’ve used up in the last 6 weeks. We tried hard to buy a new dish strainer for the sink, but struck out on finding something the right size.

Working in the lounge at the Port Sidney Marina

We walked the groceries back down to the boat, then headed into town once again for dinner. We had a lovely Thai meal at a restaurant called “Thai Corner”. It was delicious and quick, which is exactly what we were looking for – we were pretty hungry by that point. We shared prawn Pad Thai, eggplant and chicken, coconut rice, and fried banana and ice cream for dessert.

Now, back on the boat, we’re getting the final touches in place for both of us to take off tomorrow – Sara on the bus, and me on the last leg of this Vancouver Island circumnavigation. Once again, it will be hard to see her go, but I’m excited to be back in familiar water for the first time since we left Nanaimo. In fact, this is the marina where I first met Monashee III, and the waters we sailed in today were the same as the first time I took her out on a test sail when I was getting her surveyed. It certainly will be easier to be in places I have at least seen before. And, I’ve single-handed here as well, in Monashee II, so there will be a comfort level that wasn’t there the last time I cast off the lines on my own.

Soundtrack: Extra Ordinary, by Better than Ezra



Sunday, August 16, 2020

Homeward Bound

July 26, 2020. Coast Hotel Marina to Cadboro Bay. 17 NM

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It was a summer morning like we haven’t really seen so far this year. There was a solid breeze from the northeast, which was pushing us on to the dock, but the sun was up, and it was warm. We were in no hurry, as we didn’t have far to go today, so we got up and went for a walk, exploring around the provincial legislature buildings and the museum. Victoria is a really beautiful city, and before 10:00 a.m., not much is going on downtown on a Sunday, so we had the place largely to ourselves.

Exploring around the parliament buildings

We headed back to the boat and got the water tanks filled and garbage unloaded by shortly after 10:00. It was a bit tricky getting off the dock, as there wasn’t a lot of room to clear the boats further out from us, and the wind was blowing us right back on. We managed, though, and headed out along the Inner Harbour traffic separation zone, until we cleared Victoria.

The wind was just about perfect, blowing 11 to 15 knots, and putting us on a beam reach to clear Clover Point. We raised the sails, turned off the engine, and enjoyed the first warm, sunny sailing day we’ve had since we left. There were no sailboats on the Victoria side of Clover Point, so we just kept going, across the larger traffic separation scheme for ships, and back out into the western entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

The wind kept lifting us around the point, so we didn’t have to tack to make the turn, and we were soon moving happily along parallel to the southern end of Vancouver Island. As the wind died, we switched the jib for the genoa, and shook out the first reef in the mainsail, so that we were making about 5 knots under full sail in a light wind, close hauled.

A beautiful sail from Victoria

We sailed that way almost all the way to the Discovery Islands, before we tacked and headed back up towards Cadboro Bay. Another boat with fancy looking racing sails decided to race us, and tacked to come in right behind us. For a while we both raced along, with him initially gaining at first, but after a few adjustments to our main, we started to pull away again. Eventually he lost interest, and tacked away, but it was a fun few minutes. Sara is in her element when we are racing another boat, and she enjoyed making micro-adjustments to the sails to get every ounce of speed we could.

As we neared Cadboro Bay, we dropped the sails and started the motor. It was a remarkable scene that we came in to, with several classes of sailing school all over the place. There was a fleet of lasers, a fleet of optis, and a third fleet of 420s. In addition, there were crab pots throughout the bay. As we neared the head of the bay, we saw several anchored boats, so we worked our way to a likely spot amid all the chaos, and dropped the hook. As we did, John, Maria, Allison and Doug from Soulstar and Bare Necessity came over in their dinghy to say hi. They were two of the other boats anchored in the bay not far from us. We compared notes on our last couple of nights. They had stayed in Esquimalt harbour a second night, while we were in Victoria. We all discussed the crazy sail we had in below Race Rocks. Each of us had seen speed over ground records in that wind with the rapid current pushing us along.

Dinghy racing, with our boat as just another obstacle to clear

Once we were anchored, I tried to do a bit of hospital work, but even using LTE, the connection was very slow. So, I gave up and relaxed, having a short nap on the settee. Sara read in the cockpit. We had appetizers of chips and salsa around 1600, then dinner of ribs, salad and garlic bread at around 1800.

I went for a long paddleboard around the bay and explored some nooks and crannies, marvelling at the incredible houses that line the bay, with huge lawns and unbelievable views.

Some of the neighbours, bif and small, in Cadboro Bay

Now back on the boat, it is a warm night. For the first time since we got on the boat, we’ll leave some windows and hatches open to let the summer air in as we sleep.

Enjoying a beautiful evening in the cockpit

Soundtrack: Simon and Garfunkel, Homeward Bound

Saturday, August 15, 2020

It’s always better when we’re together…

July 25, 2020. Quarantine Cove to Victoria Inner Harbour via Esquimalt. 10.6 NM

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It was a lively night in Quarantine Cove next to the prison. The gale continued to blow in the Juan de Fuca Strait, and a lot of the wind made it across the headland into Quarantine Cove. Monashee strained at her chain, hunting back and forth, eager to be back out on the water, flying on the wind. Inside the boat, every gust caused a new creak, and the water splashed at the hull all night long, while the wind howled in the rigging. It didn’t follow the usual pattern of settling down around 2000. Instead, the wind kept blowing until about 0500, when things finally started to ease off.

William Head Institution.  Reminds me of the time we sailed past Guantanamo Bay…

By the morning, the wind had died to almost nothing, and the day dawned bright and sunny. With little sleep overnight, we slept in a bit. I was up by about 0730, and caught up on some work emails. Sara got up just after 0800, and we slowly sorted the boat out after our adventurous sail the day before. The anchor came up by 0930, and we set off to explore around Victoria a bit. We had decided to take it easy today, to make up for the last couple of long and tiring days.

We started by heading over to Esquimalt to check out the harbour. Soulstar and Bare Necessity had chosen to anchor at the shallow head of the harbour, and we wanted to see where they ended up last night. We chose the more exposed Quarantine Cove as it was simpler. Esquimalt Harbour is a major port for the Canadian Navy, and in addition to avoiding multiple warships, there isn’t a lot of depth to anchor at the head, so we didn’t want to be jockeying with several boats in the evening after a long day yesterday.

Sure enough, as we headed for the harbour, four military ships that had been moored outside headed in at the same time. We slowed to let them go ahead of us. As I studied the chart, I saw a note saying that we were to hail the Esquimalt Harbour Master as we entered between Fisgard Lighthouse and Duntze head, so we did that. He seemed relatively disinterested in our presence, but did warn us that we needed to stay 200 feet from any military vessel.

One of the military vessels heading into Esquimalt

Once inside, the four ships that had entered just in front of us began to maneuver to get on to a large dock. This took up a lot of available space, and it became apparent that it would be hard to stay 200 feet from them, so we just poked our nose in, then came back out and headed for the Victoria Inner Harbour.

It’s been a long time since we’ve navigated in a city setting, and it was unnerving to come into Victoria’s busy harbour after being in such unpopulated places all summer. We managed to stay in the appropriate traffic lane, and avoid the seaplanes, water taxis, ships and barges. We came around the corner to the Coast Hotel Marina, which we had selected more or less at random as a good place to stop. It was near downtown, but not too near, and looked promising. Victoria marks quite a milestone for us, bringing us back into civilization, and really ending our open coast adventure. It felt like time to celebrate a bit, with a trip into the big smoke.

A huge barge full of crushed cars passing a seaplane in Victoria’s busy inner harbour

We backed into our slip, to make for an easy departure tomorrow. The dock itself was a bit disappointing, with broken cleats, and an old rotting dock box right next to our boat. The marina is clearly an after thought to the hotel, and there is no gate, or dock hands, or anything to signify that is a going concern. All that was OK with us, as it made it easy to tie off the boat exactly where we wanted it. Once we were secured, we took advantage of the hot water from running the engines, and had showers, before heading up and checking in at the hotel lobby.

We then headed in to Victoria for lunch. We walked downtown, past the Empress, and headed up to the mall food fair to grab Edo. We were looking for something quick and easy, as it was getting late, and we were pretty hungry. Downtown Victoria was relatively quiet for mid-summer, especially compared to how busy Tofino had been. It was still and auditory assault, which is a bit hard to adjust to all of a sudden. When we left the boat, there was a screaming baby on the boat opposite. As we walked into town, we passed Harley’s with no muffler, then a classic muscle car club came by, again, all without mufflers. Police cars screamed by with sirens wailing (unrelated to the muscle cars, as far as I know). There was music playing as we ate, and it was all a bit overwhelming.

After lunch, we walked past all the downtown marinas, and decided if we ever were to come into Victoria again, we would probably try one of them instead. The docks are bigger, and there are gates, and more room to get in and out. It also looks like there is probably more depth at the other marinas.

We walked out to Fisherman’s Wharf, and had a quick look through there. It was quite busy, and is not built to allow appropriate social distancing, so we didn’t hang around long. We headed back to the boat, and I had a nap to make up for the poor sleep from last night.

Float houses at Fisherman’s Wharf

At 1800, we headed back downtown for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. My wife has fancy tastes in dining establishments, and I do my best to make her happy. Once again, we were struck by how loud everything is. I feel 100 years old writing that, but it was the thing that really stood out.

After dinner, we walked up to Beacon Hill Park, then along Dallas Road back around past Fisherman’s Wharf. We’re now back on the boat, and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before we carry on around the bottom of the Island tomorrow.

Soundtrack: Better Together by Jack Johnson

Friday, August 14, 2020

You’ve been pulling, you’ve been winching, you’ve been hoisting…

July 24, 2020. Pacific Gateway Marina, Port Renfrew (Port San Juan) to Quarantine Cove. 48 NM.

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My adrenaline is still subsiding as I write this. 11.5 knots of boat speed through the tide rips south of Race Rocks a couple of hours ago, followed by a beat in 28 knots of wind, with a reefed main and luffed jib, heeling over with the rail in the water. Still coursing through my veins.

Let me start at the beginning, though. It took a while before it got that exciting.

I woke at 0500, as the fishing boats started to leave the marina. The marinas on the open coast are really not set up for cruising. Their market is strictly sport fishing, with a few slips set aside for the odd cruising boat. We debated whether or not to go into Pacific Gateway because of this. Port San Juan is pretty open, though, and we weren’t sure if we would have reasonable protection for a night in there, so we elected to do the conservative thing.

We were parked in behind the two other sailboats I mentioned yesterday, Soul Star and Bare Necessity. With the wind pushing us on to the dock this morning, and not much room in front or behind us, it would have been a challenge to get out of the marina before they left. So even though we were up early, we thought we would wait for them to leave before we headed out.

It was around 0730 by the time Sara and I were both up. I got the boat all prepped to go, filling the water tanks and opening up the mainsail, but there was still no sign of life from the other sailboats. We decided to go for a walk, and explore Port Renfrew a bit more. We hiked up the hill away from the marina, and walked along the road towards the pub. We checked out a few of the tourist cabins and lodges, which were quite cute, and had incredible views over the bay.

Exploring Port Renfrew

Eventually, we wended our way back to the marina. John and Doug, the owners of the other two boats, were seated in the cockpit of Bare Necessity. I chatted with them, and we compared plans for the day. The timing of the tide and current in the Juan de Fuca Strait was bad for us, as it was against us for most of the day, not turning until 1430. They had elected to have a late start because of that. We didn’t disagree strongly, even though that would mean a late arrival after a long day. As a rule, we don’t like to arrive in a new place late, in case we need to move to another spot. Nevertheless, we went along with the plan, and hung around until after 1000, when they both slipped off the dock.

The wind had come up a bit by that time, so it was just as well we waited. It would have been hard not to be blown into their boats if we had tried to slip out earlier. The tide was low as we left, and I had visions of our departure from Tofino, but we managed to get off the dock and navigate the wind pushing our bow around without touching bottom. The lowest I saw below our keel was about 7 feet.

As we motored out of Port San Juan, we were excited at the possibility of getting some good wind for a sail. It was blowing about 13 to 15 knots in the inlet. As we headed out to sea, though, John from Soul Star radioed us to let us know that there was only about 3 knots of wind out on the open water. It was looking like another long motor ahead of us.


Another cold start, with full foul weather gear

Sure enough, initially, the wind was non-existent, and we were motoring against the current as forecast. We were only able to make about 4.5 knots of forward progress. Before long, though, the wind started to pick up, and we pulled out the genoa. At first, we motor sailed to try and keep our speed up, but the wind picked up more, and we managed to turn off the engine and have a beautiful sail. By about noon, we were making steady progress, with small to moderate waves behind us, and both sails full. I popped down to the galley, and whipped up some of my famous “underway quesadillas” for lunch, which we enjoyed in the warming cockpit.

Soul Star wing on wing as the day warms and the wind picks up

The wind died again not long after that, and we had to restart the engine. As the current slowed, then turned, we began to pick up speed anyway. Around 1500, the wind started to come back up, and then really began to climb. We doused the engine, and pulled out the genoa, with a full main. We bore off to a broad reach, and started to really move, heading further out into the strait. It wasn’t long, and we started to see speeds of 8 knots, with wind and current conspiring to move us along smartly. The waves were building, but we were heading down wind, so things were still pretty comfortable.

Eventually we decided to jibe and head back toward Race Rocks, so we could make the turn around them, and head back up towards Quarantine Cove. The wind had built to over 20 knots by that time, and we talked about putting a reef in the main. It was still a pretty comfortable ride, though, and we reasoned that after we got behind the shore, the wind would die, so we would regret reducing out sail power.

As we approached Race Rocks, the wind and current continued to build. Eventually, we were seeing 25 knots of wind, with gusts up to around 30 knots. We had already switched to the small jib when we jibed, but we were flying along as the current concentrated itself over the shallow water south of Race Rocks. I kept taking pictures of the speed log as our pace increased. 8.8 knots! 9.5 knots! 10.3 knots! 11 knots!!! 11.5!!!!

Setting new speed records.  After a certain point, this is not fun.

We were definitely moving too fast for comfort. I reefed the main as we flew along, worried about what would happen when we turned upwind to make for Quarantine Cove. Once we were through the tide rips, the water and our speed calmed down a bit. Looking back, we realized we had come too close to Race Rocks, and should have stayed out in deeper water. The wind was still pretty ferocious though.

As we turned to port, and further upwind, we heeled over steeply. Sara was steering, and was riding the ragged edge of luffing the main to depower it a bit, and avoiding a beam reach to heel us over any further. As it was, we were over far enough that the outside paddleboard was dragging in the water, and occasionally the rail was getting wet as well. We hung on, hoping for the wind to settle as we came into the lee of William Head, and into Quarantine Cove.

Eventually the wind did settle enough for us to bear off a bit. I furled the jib a bit at a time, letting it out on the starboard side, then coming back across to port to pull in the furling line. Once that was done, we slowed quite a bit, and Sara turned the boat up enough for me to drop the main. With the engine running, we motored into Quarantine Cove.

Despite being protected by quite a large hill, the wind is still blowing pretty hard in here. With gusts into the mid teens. We let out a lot of anchor chain, and set it hard in reverse. Normally at that point, we stop and relax for a bit, but we were both still a bit jangly from the wild ride in here, so we cleaned up all the lines, which had spaghettied all around the cockpit. We put the mainsail away, and cleaned the deck up completely. In a lively anchorage, we try to keep the boat as tidy as possible, in case adjustments need to be made in the middle of the night. The forecast is for the wind to settle overnight, though, so we are hoping we can sleep eventually.

We are sitting just off William Head, which is the site of the William Head Institution. From what I understand that is a minimum security prison. That may be why this anchorage is not listed in any of the guidebooks. No good opportunity to go ashore. We heard some First Nations drumming from the shore a while ago, but otherwise, we are hoping the inmates make quiet neighbours for the night.

I should mention that we sailed the whole day with Bare Necessity and Soul Star right along with us. They headed into Esquimalt for the night, though, so there is no telling when we will see them again. We’ll watch for them, though – they seemed like very nice folks.

Current Soundtrack: Apple Pie Bed by Lawrence Arabia. No apple pie for us tonight, but bed will be welcome, if the wind settles enough to let us get some sleep.