Monday, April 14, 2014

Minstrel Island

We’re on the move again & I like to post, at a minimum, every time we move.  Today was a short hop from Port Neville up to Minstrel Island.

Along the way we came through Chatham Channel which involved running the range markers.  Range markers are fixed points which you line up against in order to ensure you are in the appropriate channel.  The picture below shows the markers up close but they’re not lined up.  In order to be properly positioned in the channel your boat needs to be located such that the top marker appears to be directly over the lower marker.


This next picture is from inside the cabin while we were running the range.  I had George’s famous sonar system running today because it is really useful for skinny channels.  As it turned out, Chatham Channel was dead simple and I wouldn’t have needed the sonar but I didn’t know that going in.  The sonar display is the one with the red/pink semi circle around the blue centre.  The blue is safe water – the red area is hard returns from rock or mud.  The range markers from the previous picture are directly ahead of the bow.



If you look really close in the “V” under the angled stanchion, you can just see the range markers lined up in this photo.  There was another set of markers behind us which we followed until they got too hard to see and then we switched to the forward marks.  But like I said, Chatham Channel didn’t really warrant any concern.  The problem I’m having on this first trip into these waters is that I don’t know which author to believe.  We have pretty well every guidebook published for the area.  For every potential hazard, if I look hard enough, I can find some author who will assure me that the hazard is in fact hazardous.  To paraphrase Sir Lancelot in The Quest for the Holy Grail, we can handle a little peril – as long as its not too perilous.

Once we came out of Chatham Channel we almost immediately could see the dock at Minstrel Island.  I’m not sure why Minstrel Island figured in my plans for this area other than that it is mentioned frequently in Spilsbury’s Coast and The Accidental Airline.  There’s not much left here of the former grandeur but this must have been some kind of place in its heyday. 



IMG_7144 IMG_7142

I think the docks are still solid enough to hold us this trip but give this place 5 more years of neglect and I may be reluctant to tie up here again.  Just one more reason why its important not to put off this trip. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tied up in Port Neville

We got away from the dock at Shoal Bay at 8:30 this morning in order to get through the last of the rapids on the ebb current.  Up at this end of the Island ebbs flow north and west around the top of Vancouver Island.  We got to Greene Point rapids early enough that I was worried about going through and we actually ran slow for about half an hour in order to delay our arrival.  I don’t think I needed to have worried.  Other than whipping us along at well over 12 knots they were mostly a non-event.  By getting through them early we were able to arrive at Wellbore Channel before they had turned to flood so we got both sets of rapids behind us on one tide cycle.

All that extra speed from the rapids got us to Port Neville by around noon.  There’s a rickety old government float here that we’re tied up to now and we’ll spend the night on it.  We talked to some locals who assured us that its owned by the government so its free and we should just stay as long as we want. 


After a couple of days of running in tight narrow channels, when we got closer to Port Neville everything opened up and all of a sudden we were back in big wide open water.  We’re now back into Johnstone Strait which is the commercial route from the Pacific into the north end of George Strait.  We didn’t see anything particularly big today but there’s a vessel separation lane shown on the charts so the big guys definitely go here.

We’ve been amazed by the degree of cellular coverage that we are accessing.  We have been briefly out of coverage during the day but this is the second night at a relatively remote location where we have a ripping fast cellular internet connection.  I’m sure that will end pretty soon but we’ve really appreciated it so far.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Who picks these names anyway?

I’ve heard about the Yuculta Rapids ever since we started boating out here.  They’re usually mentioned in the same breathless way that Skookumchuck is talked about.  And then there’s Devil’s Hole.  All of these places are tidal rapids – narrow, shallow spots where the tide rushes through as it alternately fills and empties Georgia Strait twice every day.  The fastest one of them all is a place called Nakwakto Rapids but nobody has ever heard of it.  Nobody except Van & Nancy who told us we absolutely HAD to go there.

Today we pulled the anchor at 8:30 in Von Donop Inlet.  It was well set.  Really REALLY well set.  So it came up absolutely coated in mud.  There was even mud on the swivel that connects the end of the chain to the stock which means that the stock or “handle” of the anchor was actually buried.  We weren’t going anywhere.

At about 10:30 we passed the entrance to Hole in the Wall.  From then on we were in new water.  Shortly after that we entered Yuculta Rapids which were pretty well a non-event.  We got there just past slack so we were pushing against maybe a 2 knot current but they were pretty tame.  At the top of Yuculta we pulled into Big Bay with every intention of staying there for the night.  The current was turning strongly against us so there was no chance we were going to get through first Gillard and then Dent Rapids on that tide. 

After we wandered up the dock at Big Bay and realized that we were all alone we decided that maybe we wouldn’t stay overnight after all.  So we waited 6 hours for the tide to turn and caught the ebb tide through Gillard and Dent.  We had a little current against us in Gillard – maybe a knot but Dent was glassy calm.  The famous Devil’s Hole was nowhere to be seen.  From what I’ve read that’s a good thing.  People talk about looking into that hole and vowing to never transit that stretch of water again.  The big problem with whirlpools is not so much that they might swallow us, although I guess in theory that is possible but the real problem is that they can spit out big logs.  If a log gets sucked underwater and then comes exploding out it can do serious damage – like poke a very large hole in whatever it hits.  So we don’t want to go there.

Tonight we’re tied up in Shoal Bay.


That’s the view out our front windows for the night.


Apparently 100+ years ago this place was bigger than Vancouver.  It was a gold mining community.  There’s no land to build on so the town was built on floats that covered the bay.  You sure wouldn’t know it now.  A couple of hippies and a few shacks is all that’s here now.

IMG_7117 The hippies have a good sense of humour.


According to my chart, that’s the famous Devil’s Hole at Dent Rapids.  Go figure.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On the move again ……….

……. but we weren’t in any huge rush to get going this morning.  We had about a 4 hour run from the Copeland Islands to Von Donop Inlet and I wanted to arrive on the rising tide this afternoon so we didn’t lift the anchor until close to 10:00 this morning. 

We had a great day for travel – kind of high overcast so not much sun but good visibility and calm waters.  Von Donop Marine Park is a narrow inlet into the west side of Cortes Island.  Between Von Donop on the west side and Squirrel Cove on the east side the island is almost cut in half.  Apparently if you like walking there’s a trail between the head of each inlet.  I doubt we’ll ever prove the truth of that statement.

Its about 3 miles back into the inlet along an increasingly narrow winding entrance.


About halfway in we met the fish cops coming out in a fast dinghy, something like a C-Dory.  I’m not sure what they might have thought they were accomplishing up here.  I saw them go in about half an hour before we arrived at the entrance so they were in here for a long time.  At the speed they were travelling, the trip up the inlet likely took them well under 10 minutes.  There’s no crab floats up here – I thought they might be fish copping the commercial fishermen but that’s evidently not what they were up to.  They didn’t seem interested in us.

We dropped the anchor in about 30 feet of water and it stuck hard on the first try.  We were in here once before, the first year we had the boat but that time it was pretty crowded.  Today we have the little bay all to ourselves.  After we leave this place it will be all new water to us.  Up until now we’ve been crossing our old wakes but that all ends from this point north.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Copeland Island Marine Park

This morning started out a little weird.  We were getting ready to lift the anchor when Marilyn let out a shriek and yelled “you’ve got to look at this!”  “THIS” turned out to be a little deer swimming calmly across Gerrans Bay.

Swimming Deer

We stood on the aft deck and watched the stupid bugger until he disappeared under a dock on the east shore.  We never saw him come out.  Perhaps he’s still under there.  One can hope.

After we recovered from the shock of the deer we pulled the anchor and headed out into Malaspina Strait.  It was more than just a little lumpy out there first thing this morning.  The automated buoy at Sentry Shoal (at the north end of Georgia Strait) was reading 18-22 knots of wind and .9 meter waves when I got up at 5:00 but by the time we left at 10:00 that had dropped to 6 knot winds.  The waves were still pretty serious but we knew they would diminish as the day went on and they did. 

By the time we got to Powell River it was pretty well flat water, the sun was shining and the wind had died to nothing.  In short it was a perfect day for our 6 hour cruise up to Copeland Island Marine Park.  The Copeland Islands are just north of the coastal BC community of Lund.  We stayed here last spring, over on the other side.  When we were last here there were two or three boats in the little bay that we are in now but today there isn’t a soul here.  I’ve seen exactly one boat go by since we anchored around 4:00.  After we got the anchor set I took a stern tie line to shore in the dinghy.  Then I phoned Al Pinkney and told him he was lucky he wasn’t here because I would have kissed him square on the lips if he had been.  Thanks to his advice my dinghy not only started first pull but it idled and stayed running the whole time while I was pulling the stern tie line and returning to the boat.  Just the way good outboards do.



Those two photos are the view off our bow.  We look out over a narrow channel past the east side of the islands – the photos are looking at the mainland.  That section of mainland is also the start of the famous Desolation Sound which depressed Captain Vancouver as much as it now delights hundreds of thousands of summer visitors every year.  We’ll spend a couple of nights here enjoying our last access to 3G internet service before we head into the wilds north of Desolation.  Pretty soon we’ll start leaving our wake in waters that we have never travelled before.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Alaska is very big and very far away

Oh my goodness, we sure haven’t covered much distance yet have we?


This morning we left Keats Island as the sun was getting up and headed out over the Gibson Bar into the Strait.  Unlike our crossing 3 years ago, this morning was uneventful.  As we told Jack and Donna, the goal of our boating is boredom.  Exciting days are to be avoided if at all possible.

We arrived in Pender Harbour around noon and considered anchoring in Garden Bay but ended up back in our favourite spot in Gerrans Bay.  The weather is supposed to go to hell for a few days so we wanted a sheltered spot.  Garden Bay has a reputation for poor holding and it was deeper than I remembered it being.  We’ve only ever anchored there once – it was the first time we anchored anywhere and we ended up dragging our shiny new CQR around the bay when the wind came up in the middle of the night.  I don’t think our Sarca would drag tonight but we were seeing roughly 40 feet of water compared to 20+ in Gerrans Bay.  I like to have 5:1 or better scope so 20 feet of water plus 6 feet to the bow pulpit translates into a minimum of 130 feet of chain our here compared to maybe 250 feet minimum in Garden Bay.  The more chain we have out the bigger swinging circle we need. 

If you look very close at the image above, there is a little red line from Cow Bay to Pender Harbour but you’ll probably have to zoom in to see it.  Our goal is to, at a minimum, get to Ketchikan so we can say we were in Alaska.  Ideally I’d like to be in Juneau on the June solstice but we’ll let weather, reluctant generators and whatever other mechanical misfortunes befall us make the final decision as to our ultimate destination.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

On our way

I know – I said we were on our way a while ago but now it feels like its for real.  Yesterday we left Burrard Yacht Club after a leisurely breakfast, left a wake under First Narrows Bridge and moved to Plumper Cove.  This little marine park is one of our favourite spots in lower Georgia Strait.  The forecast was crap – wind and heavy rain - for today so we never planned to go any further.  Getting as far as Pender Harbour yesterday might have been theoretically possible but we’re not in any panic.  I  don’t mind spending another night close to parts sources while we test the generator.  (which seems to be just fine now)


There was a particularly large pile of sulphur on the north shore when we were leaving Burrard Inlet.  There’s always sulphur piled there.  Its a byproduct of oil refining – they scrub out the sulphur dioxide and elemental sulphur is one of the results.  Another byproduct of scrubbing it out is that we no longer have acid rain which in turn means that we need to add sulphur containing fertilizer to our soils. 

I spent today hooking up our new GPS “mushroom”.  We’ve been using a GPS puck for our main nav software but I’m not 100% happy with it because it has a lot of position inaccuracy.  The new Garmin multi-function unit uses a mushroom that was already on the boat.  I tried that source on the nav software and it was much more stable.  The one I just installed however is giving me some grief.  I have to bring the data in through a COM to USB adapter which I believe is causing trouble.  I’ve got two identical adapters on that computer now and I’m not sure that was a good idea.  We’ll run it for a while before I make any drastic changes but I won’t be getting rid of the puck in the short term anyway.  I hate serial communications.


That’s not much of a picture because its absolutely pissing rain right now and the boat was a long ways off but that’s the SAR hovercraft passing the park.  It put on a real show for us a couple of days ago when we were leaving Vancouver with Grace & Al onboard.  There was a jumper on First Narrows bridge (actually UNDER First Narrows bridge by the time these guys showed up).  We had been following the conversations on the radio as the police responded and vessel traffic control asked for other assistance.  All of a sudden these guys came roaring in from the port side (left) and then spun a 180 directly in front of us and buggered off as fast as they had arrived. 

There was a big hullaballoo out here a year or so ago when the feds closed Coast Guard Station Kitsilano.  I think the remaining station is up the Fraser a bit and I assume that’s where these guys came from.  I also assume that whatever emergency they were responding to was over before they got there.  I don’t know for sure it was the jumper but it seems logical.  I commented to my crew that it was hard to imagine how someone could think their day was that bad when we were simultaneously having as much fun as we were having.