When I was a kid I remember the cold north wind piping onto the beach at Three Tree, bringing with it big rolling waves and sideways streaming rain. From where we sat inside by the fire watching the snapping flames as they wrapped their blue and green tentacles around the pieces of salty tree bark we’d collected from the driftwood piles, we’d listen to the rhythmic pounding of the waves rattling the rocks up and down the tide line.
I particularly recall one such wintry day when my older brother started to smirk as he looked out the big windows at the breakers, and turning to me he said; “want to go for a row?” I still grin as I think of how we got all bundled up in rain jackets and sou’esters and headed down to the beach for a crazy adventure. I climbed into the bow and held on to the gunwales in the bouncing boat while Bob waded out to shove us off, then he jumped in and started rowing as hard as he could straight into the white capping waves to see how high we could fly over them. Bob was rowing crew in high school at that time so he could power that unwieldy wooden rowboat into the waves and I can still feel the frigid salt water as it sprayed into my face and threatened to swamp us. I was squealing with laughter and we were both soaked by the time we turned the rowboat around for shore. As I write this I have that same old silly grin just thinking about the joy of it all.
These days I’d just as soon hide behind the dodger when the waves start splashing over the sides of the boat, and I definitely am not interested in knowing how much water we can get in the boat without sinking her, but it’s still a thrill when the white caps are flashing their toothy grins at you and the sound of the wind is something over which you must yell to be heard. Braving the elements; it’s a challenge and a satisfaction. It makes the warmth of the cabin and a good anchorage seem all that much more secure after a long day of sailing in the cold with the wind and rain seeping down your neck to chill you to the bone. But let’s forget all that waxing poetic – it’s cold and rainy and I want my Happy Dance!!
Okay, I apologize for whining a lot these days, complaining about the lousy weather we’ve been having on this trip, missing our home and friends. Our trip to Alaska two years ago was so sunny and nice we didn’t expect to be constantly battling storms and noserlies when we decided to deliver Ruby Slippers from Ketchikan to Anacortes. Maybe the weather gods are laughing at us, in that we tried to escape the heat of the Sea of Cortez by transporting ourselves 1,000 miles to the north. Whatever the cause, we are eager to pack our fowlies away once again and dig out the shorts and flip flops. We miss our Happy Dance and our swimming pool, sundowners in the cockpit and friends always ready to dinghy over for a visit.
But in true cruiser fashion let’s look on the bright side; those few days of warmth and patches of blue sky. When the rains have stopped we’ve simply bailed the dinghy out yet again to go for a ride, jumped in the kayaks for a paddle, or found a new slice of paradise to enjoy. Here are a few tales and photos of our latest adventures between rain clouds since leaving Port Harvey.
After leaving Port Harvey we planned to transit Johnstone Strait to Shoal Bay. We’d stayed in Port Harvey an extra day in order to wait out the strong southerlies in Johnstone Strait, and the forecast was for light northeast winds on the day we left, but as luck would have it when we left the calm water of the bay to turn south into Johnstone, the winds were blowing 20-25 on our nose. Our original plan was to go 30 miles down the strait before turning east into one of the many channels that would get us to Shoal Bay, however the current was with us and the winds were against us, adding up to a nasty combo of large lumpy waves on the bow that soon slowed us down by a couple of knots. Though it was nothing like some of the ocean conditions we’ve traveled through, it was still time for a new plan!
After about 12 miles bashing into the wind we took the first left into Sunderland Channel to get a break from the cold noserly winds. We’d anticipated that this route might be one we’d have to take, so we’d timed our departure to make sure we arrived at the rapids at the right time. The rapids are true to their names and are narrow channels where tons of water gets squeezed through deep slots in the topography creating whirlpools, upwells, and back eddies. They remind me of making dams in the gutters on rainy days when we were kids, forcing the water into smaller and smaller gaps and watching the ripples and whirls as the dams slowly broke apart.
The two rapids we were heading for are called Whirlpool Rapids and Green Point Rapids. These aren’t the strongest of the local flows, but currents can still run 7-8 knots depending on the tides. In order to get through both of them at or near slack (slack water is the time when rapids cease flowing one direction but haven’t begun flowing the opposite direction) we had to take the first one before slack with about 2 knots of current behind us, so that we could reach the second one before the tide turned against us. Even with the current only running two knots we tossed and tilted quite a bit as we bounced from eddy to eddy. It’s mind-boggling to see the water boil and churn as you pass over sections where the current is rebounding off the rocky depths below.
Once through the rapids it was an easy trip into Shoal Bay where there is a public dock, a pub, and a few cute houses scattered around the open fields at the end of the bay. With a gorgeous view of the mountains surrounding Philip’s Arm, we enjoyed an afternoon walking around, checking out the gardens, and sitting in the Adirondacks sipping an adult beverage.
Our plans for the following day included two more rapids, these being of the 9-knot variety and requiring perfect timing. That meant an early departure, however when we crawled out of the cabin at o’dark thirty the bay and surrounding channels were hidden in a thick blanket of fog. We have radar so we certainly could have ventured into the soup, but we had to ask ourselves, why? We decided to have a second cup of coffee and see what another hour would bring. Sure enough, the fog started lifting, so off we went – on a different route. We had wanted to take the back channels into Octopus Islands, but since we weren’t going to be able to get to the rapids in time we decided to head back out into Johnstone Strait and transit Seymour Narrows at nearly slack, then head around the corner to Rebecca Spit.
Seymour Narrows is the main shipping channel for the north south traffic on the inside passage and it’s pretty wild to see the big commercial vessels that go through it. Large tides that occur during the full moon can generate currents in the 14-16 knot range here so it’s not surprising that the commercial traffic only goes through at slack tide. Can you imagine getting one of those ½ mile long tug and tows sideways in the channel? Yikes! We arrived with the current going with us, and started getting sucked through with a speed over ground (SOG) of 11 knots. When we rounded the point we got pulled into an eddy and the SOG hit 12.5 knots, another E-Ticket ride!
With the rapids and narrows behind us we zoomed past Campbell River at 10 knots, then slowed down to fish at Cape Mudge where the current creates a back eddy that is supposed to be great for salmon fishing. We joined the parade of about 50 fishing skiffs for a couple of hours, and saw one salmon chasing Marty’s lure as he pulled it in to clear the eel grass off it. We never saw any of the other boats pulling any fish in either, so maybe the salmon didn’t get the memo!
We set the anchor next to Rebecca Spit, took a quick run into Port Heriot for fresh veggies and a quick look-see of the town, followed by a walk on the driftwood strewn beach. Port Heriot seems to be where old boats go to tie to the government dock and die, or be overtaken with friendly tattooed pierced natives.
It was only 30 miles from there into Desolation Sound so we left the anchorage early with coffee cups full and pointed the bow east toward the mountains. After zigging and zagging through a few narrow island passes we started checking out the anchorages in Prideaux Haven. We were surprised at how many boats were anchored there this late in the season, so we went up to Laura Cove, a smaller anchorage. Of course we arrived at low tide, so Marty had to climb up the slippery rocks in order to get the stern tie set, always an entertaining event!
We stayed in Laura for three days enjoying the beautious-ness of the place, kayaking and exploring. AND we had a very special event while there; my birthday! In true Marty fashion, I was given a lovely LARGE PRINT crossword puzzle book along with my eggMcMartyManMuffin brekkie. Then I was told to “go paddle”! When I came back Marty had made a cake and even decorated it..with craisins! When it was time for the big celebration, I knew I was in trouble when Marty gave me my “thinking cap”. I unwrapped my present to find a thumb drive. Hmmmm…! That opened a crossword puzzle that held the clue to my present. I’m happy to say that I was able to figure out the puzzle and can’t wait to go spend lots of Marty’s money on a new zoom lens! Gracias MartyMan!! Je t’aime!
With winds starting to blow down Laura Cove we decided to head a little further down the road to Grace Harbor, another lovely spot and a bit more protected. Leaving Laura felt like we were literally running from the black clouds and rain rolling down the mountains. We had only seen the mountains on our first day in Desolation, so we were glad to remember our first visit there in 2011 when the weather was a bit more cooperative!
From Desolation we made the long trek to Pender Harbour for a visit to the Garden Bay Pub, one of our favorites. We considered staying a few days for the upcoming jazz festival, but with another round of 20-30 knot southerlies forecast for the Strait of Georgia we decided to get out while the getting was good. The next morning we were up early, along with half a dozen other boats, all pointing south before the storm, and all navigating our way around the live fire target range called Whiskey-Golf. The Canadian Navy was monitoring the edges to make sure none of us ventured too close, so we had to travel off course for a bit before making a 90 degree turn straight into the now lumpy seas. Ahhh, it was good to enter Nanaimo Harbor and see Dodd Narrows, the entrance to the calmer waters of the Gulf Islands.
So now we’re anchored in Montague Harbor, and making plans for a big night on the town. We’ll take the Hummingbird Bus to the Hummingbird Pub, for….Talk Like a Pirate Night! Oh my gosh, what timing, I think Marty will be in nirvana! If I survive I’ll tell you all about it…so stay tuned to this bat channel! ARRRRGH!