Saturday, February 19, 2011

This time we didn’t turn back

I’ve learned how to monitor the ocean weather buoys and get realtime data from them.  With my resurrected cell phone I was able to get the information from the Halibut Bank buoy yesterday morning.  Early in the morning it was showing 0.6 meter waves but by mid-morning that had dropped to 0.5 meters.  So it was going in the right direction.  When Environment Canada updated their forecast at 10:30 local time with a slightly improved weather forecast that was all it took to tip me from “we need to stay here until Monday” to “we gotta get outa this place”. 

And we did.  In record time.  Marilyn had a phone conference scheduled for mid-afternoon but she phoned the other participant and they agreed to do it right away.  While she was on the phone I was casting off lines.  Bruce came to help but fortunately I was done before he got there.  When we passed our turnaround point from Wednesday we were pretty confident we were going to be able to keep on going and we were.

There was even some traffic out to keep us company.  As I pointed out to RJ, the last time we were out we were all alone.  And that was likely because nobody else was enough of a damn fool to be out there at that time.

We arrived at Pender Harbour about 6 hours after leaving Gibsons so we were running out of daylight but we still had time to walk up to the general store to get 4 gallons of grossly overpriced milk ($7.50 per gallon).  A nice lady named Lorraine who was buying a Vancouver Sun at the same time took pity on us and gave us a ride back to the boat. 

Losing two days on this trip has cost us our perfect tide window for Malibu Rapids.  For rough figuring you can say that the tide times move back an hour every day.  Its actually slightly less than an hour but an hour back every day is close enough.  If we hadn’t got turned back we’d have been able to catch a high tide late in the afternoon.  That would have meant we had all day to travel up the various reaches that eventually get us to Malibu Rapids.  We need that much time because the last good stopping point is at least 6 hours away from Malibu Rapids.  Now the high tide has moved to just after sunset – not a good time to navigate a treacherous waterway for the first time.  Six hours earlier we have a low tide stand which will also work for getting through the rapids but its less than ideal.

The goal on any of these tidal rapids is to hit them at slack current.  When the tide rushes into or out of an inlet it creates a current in whatever passage accesses the inlet.  Some of those currents can get pretty exciting – Johnstone Strait or Skookumchuck for instance.  Malibu isn’t nearly as bad as those but we still need to hit it at or close to slack current because we move so slowly.  High currents also create eddies and backwaters which can be dangerous.  Ideally we’d like to have crossed at high tide slack current but today that would mean around sunrise or just after sunset so that isn’t going to work.  Or we could wait 10 or 12 days until the high tide moves back into the afternoon.  So that isn’t likely going to happen either. 

We still haven’t mustered the courage to drop the anchor for a night but I’m guessing that will happen today.  Its either that or another overpriced night at a dock in Egmont.  That’s our last possible dock before we get to Malibu Rapids and even it is still 4 or 5 hours away from the pass for us.  There’s not much for anchorages past Egmont either so no matter how we do it we’re likely to have an early morning tomorrow.  I think we’re fairly sheltered from wind now but I suppose they can whip down these narrow inlets too.  Its all new to us.


We did ourselves proud docking here last night.  The picture above doesn’t do justice to how tight a spot we are in.  We had to thread the needle between the two sailboats that you can see to our starboard and then spin the boat to end up port tied.  We don’t like port ties so that was a challenge all by itself and we had less than 45 feet clear between the two boats to spin our 47 foot length in.  I was able to stick that high Defever prow out over the dock to gain the extra room we needed but I’m very conscious of the extra length of the dinghy hanging off our ass end now. 

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