Vancouver Island circumnavigation 2015 Episode 3

day 7 day 8 day 9day 10A couple of things:

there are only about 6 photos for the whole summer trip. In July, while Glenn and I were paddling up the Orford River in Bute Inlet I dropped my little camera into the torrent and it was swept away forever, despite its own little lifejacket. I didn’t want to buy a replacement at the last moment before leaving on this trip so I decided to do a radical experiment and NOT take a weatherproof camera. Probably was a bad idea, and I missed it.

The other thing is the whole singlehanded thing; I mostly go alone because Barb has things that she really wants to do that cannot be done on a boat, any boat. I could coordinate with more friends and family, but every rendezvous seems to take a few days and quite a bit of dedicated sailing and motoring to get there and return at the end of the session. Makes it quite a bit more difficult to sail with the wind. Which is the point, for me.

Back to Blunden Harbour: I decided to take the next day and paddle the kayak all the way to the end of the inlets and lagoons. That took a few hours. It took me inland towards the huge area draining into the 3 big inlets inside Nakwakto Rapids: Mereworth, Belize , and Seymour. I also got to glimpse the vast areas of logging , a process that has been going on for generations in that part of the coast.

As I began my paddle I stopped to chat with Mike and Lindsay on Sans Souci , an old Brandlmayr sloop with no engine, from Quadra Island. They were having a leisurely cruise of QC Strait, following the wind.

Returning to tri in late afternoon I found the wind whistling at 20 knots in the anchorage and some more boats anchored nearby. I plucked the hook and re-anchored just outside the main anchorage in the lee of the Augustine Islands, quiet and calm.

Next day I waited a while for the wind, but eventually at 0930 motored out of Blunden and a few miles up the coast to near Wallace Island, where a little breeze developed. I was able to spend the rest of the day tacking into light NW wind towards Cp Caution. I had hoped to land on the beach at Burnett Bay ( after spending only a day last year there on a kayak trip) but the swell was over 2 metres, so I knew landing on the beach was going to be a bit of a mess. Passed on that, and sailed on. I rounded Cp Caution in light breeze but eventually coasted into Jones Cove as the sun set. This is just at the south entrance to Smith Sound. It is a little gloomy deep in the cove so I anchored nearer the entrance to catch the last of the sunset.

The morning of Aug 16th was calm ,sunny and surprisingly warm.  I hung out, reading, drinking coffee and doing a few little repairs. Such as jury rigging the solar panel input plug. The 100 W panel certainly supplies more electrical power than I need. The only demands are lights at night and the autopilot. The autopilot is a Raytheon ST1000 and it works very well. I have a spare.I only hand steer in exciting conditions with good sized seas.

When the inflow wind arose around noon I headed out across Smith Sound wending amongst the reefs and rocks in clear weather, bound for Fury Cove. As I rounded Paddle Rock into Rivers Inlet, I could bear off and set the spinnaker. Smooth seas with 10 – 15 k fair wind took me at 8-10 knots to the entry to Fury. Nice!

It took me 4 trials to get the hook well set in Fury Cove in about 55′. Then I went for a long paddle out along the shores of Fitzhugh Sound.

The following day August 17th , was my 60th birthday. It was a great day of sailing. Here is where I went on that day: I sailed out of Fury in a light westerly and out across Fitzhugh towards Cp Calvert. I dodged into Grief Bay, and was surprised to see a cruising boat anchored there. I had to start the engine in the calm shelter to get through the patches of kelp and through to the west side of Calvert Is. Shut down the engine and tacked north up the west coast towards Chikchik Bay. Gary Purchase had recommended checking this place out, but when I arrived it offered little protection, a big swell was rolling in, and I could not really envision spending that night there.

So, I cracked off and zipped back down to Cp Calvert, thinking that the NW breeze would be good in Fitzhugh. Alas, it was glassy calm ahead. Before I ran into the millpond I bore off back in the direction of Cp Caution. The breeze strengthened to 15 to18 k and I passed a big troller also heading south. Where to go, with the world as my oyster?? Still mid afternoon with a fair breeze and clear skies , so I jibed around onto starboard tack and took off, bound for Nigei Island and the Goletas Channel area. I stayed high to keep boat speed up in the 9-10 knot range and then jibed down the NE side of Hope Island crossing Shadwell Passage and sailed right into Cascade Harbour on the NE corner of Nigei Island. The seas steepened and as I surfed down the odd one the late afternoon sun formed rainbows in the lee bow spray. The ‘harbour’ is small and the N swell rolls in almost to the inner reaches. I picked up a big mooring buoy with good 1 1/2″ polysteel rope attached. I backed down on it with all 6 horses and WTF!! I dragged it about 200 m around the bay. Weird. I anchored, had dinner and went to bed. Happy birthday. Got the cake and ate it too.

What a great sailing day! This is absolutely awesome; sailing this boat in this area. A taste of more to come.

I had seen lots of whale blows and big flocks of shearwaters and rhino auklets this day. The history of Cascade Harbour is interesting, for next episode.

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.

 

A Singlehanded Circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in ‘Fly’ an F27 sailing trimaran

Day 1 2015 VI Circ Day 2Finally, in early August, 2015, I got away from Comox, BC on my planned summer long-trip. Various activities such as hiking, attending a memorial service, and general social activity had kept me closer to home since our fine summer weather started , several months previously.

I’d had spent plenty of time sailing the tri all around the Salish Sea in the spring, and in fact had slept aboard for over 60 nights since first launch for us in February this year up to early August. One of the highlights of the spring/early summer cruising was getting to Port Townsend for the start of the Race To Alaska , and then shadowing the fleet across to Victoria. That was really exciting with the dawn start of 50 , more or less , boats heading from Point Wilson into 20 knots of west wind and tide rips. Then Gavin and I encountered shreds of the race fleet as they crashed into unseasonal fresh headwinds in the Strait of Georgia. We were leisurely cruising north without beating ourselves up at all. Some of the race participants were falling by the wayside with gear failure and slow progress. Meanwhile the race leaders were GONE. Hightailing it up Johnstone Srait into 30 and 40 knot headwinds and square seas; wet cold tired and worried about their boats breaking or injury. Type III fun I would say.

Sailing the F27 trimaran for me has been a real learning experience after 30 years on ballasted keelboats. My memories of sailing my 17′ heavyish catamaran (based on a British design, the ‘Jumpahead’) that I had built as a teenager were faint, but there are some parallels. The acceleration and silence as a gust hits are thrilling. But then if the gust persists and increases, the fear kicks in as the boat refuses to lay down and de-power. Faster and faster we go in what seems to be an unnatural and scary way. I’m getting used to it and learning to manage the power.

With respect to sailing around Vancouver Island, I had done it 6 times before, once solo. But not on a little trimaran. I was hoping for fun and good sailing. Got that. I was hoping to avoid disaster. Got that too. I wasn’t expecting warm or dry weather. Those expectations also were realised.

I didn’t keep statistics about how much of the distance was traveled under sail vs. motor, or even how many miles I traveled. However I did do a lot of sailing, much of it in light winds. The 6 hp 4 cycle outboard used about 12 or 16 gals of gasoline. I would say that the biggest difference between sailing my old boats ( a Brent Swain 36′ steel cutter ‘Silas Crosby’ and a  Spencer 35 ‘Cor Leonis’) and Fly is that there are many more wind conditions that are good for sailing in the little trimaran. Light or strong headwinds are fine. Sloppy seas are uncomfortable and cause a short jerky movement on the tri,but if there is any breeze more than 4 or 5 knots we can make good headway. Following winds are great, but I have tried running dead downwind on the tri and it is much less satisfactory than doing deep jibes.

The downside of solo sailing is that it is a little lonely, and perhaps a bit more dangerous. The upside is that I am quite patient with marginal sailing conditions and I do not need to be concerned about anyone else’s comfort or perhaps impatience and boredom.

So, the trip started with the my 9th launching of the trimaran at the Comox ramp. On my own it takes me about 40 minutes from arrival at the ramp with the boat on the trailer and the mast down, to tied to the dock with the amas out and rigged. About 10 minutes can be cut off the process with one helper because inevitably some bit of rigging will hang up as the mast is being raised, requiring me to climb up onto the boat from the ground (where I am operating the trailer winch) sometimes 2 or 3 times.

After 3 days of provisioning and general local fooling around I set off at 1000 on Sat Aug 8th 2015 with a good 15-20 knot SE wind and a few drops of rain. Ripped across to Mystery Reef that comes south from the east end of Savary Island, north past Lund, NW out Baker Passage, N through Uganda Passage, and then across to Heriot Bay (past some Grey whales), all under sail arriving about 1600 and anchored, now in real rain, as close as I could get to the beach in Heriot Bay, without taking the ground at low tide.

The only incident of note in the day was that in a good 20 knot gust with the boat traveling 10 or 11 knots, the cleat holding the rudder blade in position slipped, possibly from a piece of kelp, allowing the blade to come up and eliminating any steering. We spun out like a car on gravel, all this happening just after I’d sailed through the lee of a charter sailboat. While not close enough to be dangerous, they must have wondered what I was up to. I re-cleated it and used the back up horn cleat as well.

Next day at the Heriot bay dock I met Brent and Haidan in sunshine and we chatted about boats and people.

Doug and Silas found me at around 1100 and we managed to sail around for a couple of hours in light breezes. They were heading for the Broughton group the next day for a week of kayaking.

Around 1600 I left Heriot Bay and in zero wind motored through the narrow gap between the Breton Islands and Quadra Island then up Hoskyn Channel making Beazley Passage with ebb and continued up Okisollo Channel to pick up a mooring off Josh and Johanna’s house on Maurelle Island across from the Octopus Islands, by 1900.

Josh is a guy from Ontario who has squatted in this Maurelle Island  cove for 9 years.He arrived there after circumnavigating the earth in his 30′ steel junk rigged boat named Lorcha. Johanna arrived sometime later and now they have Kai and Jack, 2 little boys. Not only that but they are building a lovely wood/epoxy 42′ catamaran to Josh’s design (with input from Russell Brown ) in a shed next to their cabin. Interesting, welcoming and positive, energetic people. Living quite happily without the usual delusions of security that home ownership or landlord /tenant agreements usually confer. Nor the expenses.

Three more years, more or less, for them to launch this boat and set off again.

The next morning was cool, cloudy and calm. So I set off in the kayak to re-visit Waiatt Bay. Just as I was leaving the bay I saw a classic gaff rigged boat inching out through a rocky gap. As I approached I could see that Grischuna (Bruigom-built in Comox) was not moving. In fact they had gently run aground on a rock just before low tide, so they had to impatiently wait for 1/2 hour or so to refloat, and relieve their professed but unnecessary embarrassment.

I set off from the mooring bound through Okisollo Rapids without consulting the current book. I made it most of the way, of course until the swiftest water, which was too much for my 6.3 knots with 6 hp, so I ferried across to a small bay north of Diamond Bay and anchored in the sun to await a slackening. By 1400 I could tell the current was abating and under motor we proceeded through the rapids out into Johnstone Strait, past Chatham Point and with a good ebb lift all the way to Billygoat Bay on Helmcken Island.

I am using a Fortress fx23 aluminum anchor (which weighs 15 lbs) with 20′ of 1/4″ chain and 250′ of 1/2 ” nylon 3 strand rope. It takes a lot of scope and careful setting and backing down to trust the holding of this ground tackle. Sometimes I will do 2 or 3 efforts and retrievals before satisfaction, then I can shorten up some rode. But it is not a big deal because hauling it in is easy with the light weights involved. It is tempting to get a 25 or 30 lb anchor on this 3500 lb boat but Farrier is constantly reminding us to keep the weight of gear down. So far so good, but I do miss all chain rode and a great lump of steel anchor on the bottom. I started using a bridle to both ama bows but now I just do a rolling hitch on the nylon rode with a line to a snatchblock on one ama. This reduces the sailing at anchor and keeps the rode from chafing the bobstay when the bowsprit is down. The rather large Fortress is too big to go into the anchor locker so I just lash the ends of the anchor cross bar to the bow pulpit stanchions where it has remained meekly in some pretty vigorous sailing conditions. I do have a small claw type Bruce anchor, with a bit of chain, as a spare, but it sure looks small.

Thus ended the second day of my cruise, with good progress. Too much motoring today, but with a great current lift. I was prepared to catch the next ebb to carry me north to Yorke Island in perhaps 8 hrs or so, at first light.