A Circumnavigation of Vancouver Island: episode 2

At 0700 on August 11,2015 the boat cabin was flooded with bright sunshine coming all the way from the east beyond Nodales Channel. It is a very small cabin so there’s not enough room for all that light and a sleeping body, so it was coffee time. Hurriedly, because the ebb was already in it’s waning stages and there was no wind. I raised the anchor and putted out into the west flowing river of Current Passage. The current gave me an extra 3 knots so Hardwicke Ledge approached quickly. Just past the ledge I met ‘Longreach’ with Brad and Janet aboard, so we drifted around for a few minutes and had a gam. They were just returning from a trip upcoast. Brad called the Strait a ‘river’ as the flood current was negligible while the ebb is always pretty strong. A lot of river water coming down the inlets from the Coast Range even in a dry summer.

Continuing on a few miles to Yorke Island I anchored among the big bottom boulders and went ashore to have a look. The trees have grown up and largely covered the concrete structures of the huge gun emplacements built when the threat of Japanese invasion seemed real and frightening. It is hard for me to imagine,  who has never lived through that kind of thing. Submarines and  ships steaming down Johnstone Strait to bomb Vancouver. Not so far-fetched I guess.

It was still mid-morning when I returned to the boat and I motored a mile or two north of Yorke Island past Fanny Island. There is a weather station on Fanny Island that often records 30 or 40 knots in fine NW weather in the summer. Not this day though, but I was encouraged to see a few catspaws developing. I made sail and shut down the motor. The rest of the day was spent in a very pleasant fashion tacking west along Johnstone Strait in a light westerly headwind that allowed steady and satisfying progress; dodging tugs and ships and fishboats and not a few kayak groups. An excellent way to travel, on smooth water, a bit of favorable current, and wind that varied from 5 knots to nearly 20 off Telegraph Cove. By 1600 I was anchored in the Pearse Islands of Cormorant Channel Marine Park.

On the first day’s sail from Comox with a little fresh and salt water flying around the cockpit, a small dollop of seawater had landed on the cable plug of the cellphone, which was being used as a chartplotter. The consequences, an inabilty to charge, became evident about 12 hours later. Peter texted me to ask if I was near Telegraph Cove , because he was on a driving trip with his charge, Danny. With the remaining battery power I was able to ask him to bring another cable and we would meet in Telegraph Cove. Lucky for me. I had decided NOT TO BRING PAPER CHARTS, and just use the cellphone and a hiking Garmin gps with chart software.

An interesting and perhaps stupid exercise. The biggest problem was how difficult it is to plan a passage on the 2 x 3.5″ screen of the cellphone or the even smaller Garmin screen. Later in the journey the Garmin cable also started failing, but a drying session in front of the heater seems to have fixed that. Papercharts are coming along on the next trip, rather than leaving them neatly stowed in the closet at home. I have also ordered the cheapest 4″ chartplotter I could find, which has weatherproof connections.

I went paddling in the kayak on the morning of August 12th keeping close to land as the fog was thick. I could hear whales breathing close at hand. The fog lifted a bit so I returned to Fly and headed to Telegraph Cove to meet Peter and Danny. A coffee and a short boat ride later and they headed north by road and I by sea. I stopped briefly at Alert Bay but it seemed that my contacts there were away, so I set off in the late afternoon with a nice NW breeze to tack to Port McNeill, where I anchored.

Next morning I met Peter and Danny for more coffee. A few groceries. And a bit of gasoline for the outboard. As I was waiting to get fuel a 45′ ish ketch named Aquila was being brought in to fuel up. The skipper, an older (than me) singlehander, was having a very hard time getting the boat alongside, with little wind and no current. I was a bit puzzled by the situation but lent a hand to get the boat secured. Less than a week later this man and his boat issued a Mayday on the VHF and were rescued and towed back in from QC Sound to Port Hardy.Possibly a stroke and mechanical difficulties. I never did learn the whole story.

I finally left Port McNeill around 1300 hrs and sailed in adverse current and light headwind north to Pulteney Pt. The wind filled in from the NW as I rounded the point and I was able to close reach across Queen Charlotte Strait in a fresh breeze. The seas were at first very lumpy and we slammed and banged inefficiently, but as they smoothed out we sped up to 8 or 9 knots so we sailed into Blunden Harbour by 1700. The breeze was perfect to tack right through the narrow entrance dodging kelp and reefs, and anchor right up at the north end. Greg and Jean of ‘Grasal’ called on the radio and I went over for dinner. It had been about 8 or 10 years since we last met and we had both sailed all over the Pacific in the interim.

Thus ended the 6Day 3 day 4day 5 day 6 th day of the trip,August 13th.