Saturday, February 2, 2013

Captain Dell has the helm

This is pretty civilized.  My navigation system is working flawlessly today.  All I have to do is stay awake and make dinner.  Earlier this morning I met a sailboat motoring along in the opposing direction.  Poor bastard looked so cold and lonesome at the helm that I briefly thought about taking his picture but quickly decided against it.  Opening the door would have let the heat out of my cozy cabin that was just beginning to smell like dinner. 

IMG_6503 Doug would love all this electronic gadgetry.  Somehow between OpenCPN and the autopilot the two systems are negotiating a course that follows the route I plotted out ahead of time.  If you look really close you will see that there are a variety of headings displayed – course over ground, heading, mag heading – none of them the same – depending on the situation with current and wind it sometimes sets up a crab to stay on course.  And I don’t have to do anything except watch for logs (and whales of course).

Right now I’m running slow to get to Gabriola Pass after the peak ebb tide.  The ebb is against me which is making this a slow trip anyway and the timing is all wrong for me today.  Slack isn’t until something like 3 or 4 PM which simply doesn’t work to get me across the Strait in daylight.  The morning slack was way too early to have any hope of catching it. So I’m timing it to hit the pass after peak ebb but well ahead of slack.  That will make for a more exciting passage than I would like but the alternative is finding someplace to tie up or anchor overnight and turning this into a two day trip.  That’s still very much an option if I should happen to encounter fog.  It was really thick at 5:30 in Cow Bay this morning but it lifted by 7:00.  I’ve heard Vessel Traffic Services asking about visibility and it sounds like maybe there is still some fog on the mainland but – so far – my trip has been fog free.


Well.  Running Gabriola Pass an hour after maximum ebb with seasonally high tides probably wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve ever made.  On the other hand what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  By that measure I’m considerably stronger tonight than I was this morning.  Strangely enough I just feel tired. 

Most of the pass was a piece of cake but there was one choke point that I had identified ahead of time.  Sure enough when I got there the boat went from 6 or 6.5 knots to less than two, even with the throttles right to the pins.  That should give us 8.5 or 9 knots in still water so I had 5-6 knots of current against me.  I could actually see the hill in the water where it was pouring in between two islands.  Right about then the oncoming water caught Gray Hawk’s forefoot and tried to spin me broadside in the channel.  I put the wheel hard over but it wasn’t responding because there was just so much water pushing against the front of the boat.  Before I started in I had turned the bow thruster on so I put in full starboard thrust and finally that, in combination with the rudder, started to turn the bow back away from the rocks that were getting alarmingly close.  There was a boat coming to meet me but fortunately he had stopped to watch my adventure.  After that it was no worries.

We had another little adventure once I got close to the mainland.  I could tell that the coast was fogged in because I just couldn’t see a shoreline.  The radar and the plotter were telling me that the shore was less than 4 miles away and then less than 2 miles away but still I couldn’t see it.  There was only a couple of times where it felt like the fog had closed right in but I guess I didn’t have much visibility for quite a while.  Just to be safe I blew the foghorn for over half an hour. 

As I got closer to Gibsons, Victoria traffic called me on the radio.  They knew who I was because I had a chat with one of the ferries who passed me in the fog.  I never saw him despite the fact that he was less than 2 miles away.  From that conversation traffic must have figured out who I was because a while later they called to tell me there was a tug ahead of me with a log tow.  Its a good thing they called because he was pretty small, wasn’t reporting to AIS and wasn’t showing much of a radar signature.  By cranking my gain up I could get him on the radar but I worried for quite a while about how far his boom(s) might be trailing behind him.  Finally when he was less than a mile away I cranked the gain up even higher and was able to pick out the log boom on the radar.  That made me feel a lot better and then when I was about half a mile away from the boom I all of a sudden ran out of the fog.  It turned out that the tug was sitting dead in the water, in the clear, likely waiting for the fog bank ahead of him to lift. 

When I arrived at Plumper Cove the SAR guys were here practicing.  We’ve seen them here before.  They come out from Vancouver on weekends for volunteer training runs.  Today they had two boats and they were practicing towing.  Before they left they docked the “rescued” boat with it hip tied to the tow boat.   I should have taken their picture but I thought me standing there gawking at them was likely adding enough stress for the poor fool at the wheel.

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