Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Final Leg Home

The Final Leg Home

Sep 13: We wake up to a beautiful sunny day with a good forecast for the crossing of the Strait of Georgia on our way back to Vancouver Island. For the first time in a while now, we enjoy our breakfast outside and afterwards have fun videotaping Karolina explaining all of our safety gear including her getting into an immersion suit. With the military torpedo testing area Whisky-Golf closed today for practice I pick a route straight across to Nanaimo with light westerly winds allowing me to motor-sail at a good pace. Karolina enjoys the sun and the very calm Strait of Georgia by giving herself a pedicure in the cockpit which includes soaking half a foot at a time in a bowl of warm water and spilling nail polish-remover on the floor. Luckily the remover is acetone-free but as penalty I send her to the bow to watch for shipping traffic. As she falls asleep wrapped in her sleeping bag, I try again to fish for salmon while the auto pilot keeps us pointed towards Nanaimo. Nine hours, lots of sun, and many pictures later we reach New Castle Island, a beautiful park across the water from downtown Nanaimo. Fall has clearly arrived as we notice on the trees strolling across the island. We also run into a group of deer grazing as the sun set. Not being able to find any loonies for a shower we go to sleep mutually smelly but knowing that home and unlimited hot water is just around the corner. Distance: 38 nm.

Sep. 14: Dodds Narrows hits slack at a convenient time in the morning and we motor through the tamed narrow passage leading into the Gulf Islands with another twenty boats or so in front of us and following behind. I’m having trouble getting used to this amount of boat traffic on the water, and every boater seems to annoy me as I’m feeling possessive about the mile long radius of sea room around me. This left over feeling from up north of endless free space will have to abandon me soon or I might have issues being around crowds. Our options for today are Galiano Island which is close by, or Saltspring Island bit further, or something even closer to home. But the decision is quickly made for me as the engine unexpectedly starts smoking out the exhaust a bit more than usual. The blue smoke comes and goes but checking the oil level I notice it’s low, and after noticing that I have no more spare oil to add, the decision is made to head to Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. The weather on the island is great. Karolina claims it’s the warmest day we’ve had and I decide we spend the night here. We park at the dock within the marine park and explore the island, enjoying the sun tanning on a beautiful white maiden beach, getting ice cream and looking for oil for the engine. After finding out that all restaurants are closed we return to the boat and Karolina prepares a great meal, our classic of ginger and mango with rice, while I setup the hammock that I got in Peru in the boats rigging. We enjoy our dinner outside with the last bottle of wine while taking turns to swing in the hammock. We are a bit sad knowing that this could be our last evening of the trip, that is, unless the engine has more surprises for us. Distance: 30 nm.

Sep 15: Maybe we wished too hard for this trip not to be over, but this morning while I was performing a final check of the engine and all its fluids before departure, I discovered that what should be green was now brown – a very bad thing – we had oil in the coolant. Worried, I called my “land crew mechanic”, my Dad, who verified my concern with his car mechanic that the head-gasket in the engine was blown. After motoring a huge chunk of the 2600 kilometres of this trip, and only a day away from home, the engine had it. But all was not lost, as the mechanic advised that I could slowly motor while keeping an eye on the oil level. So under dark cloudy skies and with my nerves slightly on edge we started our final leg home. The weather wasn’t the greatest, with heavy rain coming down at times and a bit of spotty fog. I picked the open water of Haro Strait hoping to catch a bit of wind to help the engine out, and was able to relieve it from its duty for a couple hours of nice sailing in moderate winds despite a downpour. Karolina kept me company hidden out of the rain in the companionway - maybe that’s how the boat entrance/steps got their name. We listened to an audio book on the ipod about truck drivers and their CB radio culture while watching cargo ships in Haro Strait going in and out of the distant fog indicating the busy metropolises of Vancouver and Victoria close by. By 7 pm we were in Oak Bay, with its shores engulfed in thick fog and a dead calm all around without a single vessel on the water. We slowly motored towards the marina careful of the many rocks around and noticed a single figure on the breakwater, it was my Dad photographing us coming in. My Mom was waiting for us at the familiar slip, and like this the trip was over. With joyful embraces, my parents greeting Karolina for the first time in person and my Dad commenting how I hadn’t reached Alaska but caught a Zlota Rybka – a Golden Fish, that grants all wishes.

Sep 16-26: The following days were spent exploring my hometown of Victoria as well as Vancouver on the mainland. Showing Karolina our inner harbour downtown, our float planes the float homes at Fisherman’s wharf, and then taking her over to Vancouver on our ferry and exploring the waterfronts of the city, I realized how large a part our ocean plays in our daily experience. Karolina replied that had she lived here she would naturally enjoy life through a sailboat as well.

Reflections on the trip:

Total distance covered by Corsair on the water: 1400 nautical miles = 2600 km. Average moving speed 4.4 kts. 69 days. Around 600 L of gasoline (hey, moving over 6500 lbs. through the water). 7 days and 760 nm in Alaska by ferry. Strongest wind: 35 kts (65 km/h). Thickest fog: <1/8 nm visibility. Coldest temperature: Just ask Karolina, we didn’t have a thermometer.

In retrospect, I should have called this blog “motoring to Prince Rupert”, nonetheless, witnessing the entire BC Inside Passage from the perspective of my sailboat was amazing, unforgettable, thought provoking and inspiring. And If I could, the trip would be repeated in a heartbeat in a boat with a solid diesel engine, a dodger and a hot-water shower, and of course, the company of Zlota Rybka.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Getting closer to home

Getting closer to home

Sep 6: Today another miserable day on the water with heavy cold rain in the face and strong head winds. To end my misery I decide to pull into Lagoon Cove Marina which is a highly suggested stop here in the Broughtons. Karolina and me find out soon why that is the case. Bill, a very friendly veteran has been running the place for years, and every day at 5 pm in the season it’s “happy hour”. Every boater brings something small to share and a drink, but Bill provides the prawns from his bay. Karolina and I both agree that these are the best and largest prawns that we have tasted. Bill catches them each morning and cooks them to perfection. The trick he says it’s to kill them in fresh water, and let them soak for a bit before briefly cooking them in sea water. We are by far the youngest boaters in the crowd, as is often the case, and are entertained by good stories of retired CEOs from the States and their adventures up here on the Inside Passage. Distance: 12 nm.

Sep 7: We head out of the Broughtons with good currents pushing us out at up to 9 kts, and into Johnston Strait where we even manage to do some real sailing. I manage to wrap my fishing gear around the rudder, and dance around the boat getting it untied while Karolina sails us in 20 kts winds and beautiful sunshine. Before the winds get any stronger we decide to tuck into Port Neville and moore at the public dock. Alex, a very friendly elderly man with a heavy beard and dressed like a lumber jack from the 20s gave us a tour of the Port Neville Store and the antiques inside. We learn that this was the first post office in BC. In nice weather we go for a hike and explore the beach for the rest of the day. In the morning we buy a sockeye from fisherman docked here from Prince Rupert, they are nice enough to clean it for us, and at $10 per fish it’s a good deal. The fisherman tell us that salmon is back in higher numbers than it has been in the last sixty years and that today is the last opening for sockeye. Distance: 23 nm.

Sep 8-9: We wake up to thick fog. The last place I would like to be in fog is a mayor shipping channel between the island and the mainland on the last fishing opening for sockeye of the season, but that’s what Johnston Strait was that day and I decide to head out into it. Feeling pretty confident in the electronics and with Karolina asleep down below not knowing that we are engulfed in a bright white cloud with less than 1/8 nm visibility, for three hours I scoot around numerous slow fishing vessels while other bigger faster “radar blips” pass me seemingly aware of my presence. By the afternoon the fog evaporates and we enjoy a lunch of raw sockeye sashimi and sockeye ceviche prepared by Karolina in nice sunshine and with clear mountain views of the mainland. Once out of the strait a white-sided dolphin pops up beside the boat and starts playing by in the bow wave. Karolina seeing the jumping dolphin can’t control her excitement and I’m afraid she’ll fall overboard from the jitters, but I think the dolphin noticing this leaves us quickly. We make our next stop at Shoal Bay, the old gold mining town that I visited on the way up, and end our day by gorging on grilled salmon in a cream cheese and olive sauce. Distance: 35 nm.

The next morning, with the tidal currents running at max through Yuculta rapids (our next passage) and a dream that I really needed to show Karolina a meadow with flowering bean bushes here in Shoal Bay, I decide we stay for the sunny day and explore. At the dock we meet Nadine who gets our attention by yelling hello at us in broken Polish. Nadine and her husband Bert live here, spending half of the year here and the other half in Vancouver. Excited to have younger company Nadine guides us on a hike up the mountain in Shoal Bay that contains remnants of the old gold mining operations. At the top we find one mine entrance that is not blocked by fallen trees and a hundred years of debris and excited and equipped with flashlights we decide to cautiously explore it. The mine tunnel carved in a solid block of quartz and granite heads into the mountain side a couple hundred feet, finally opening up, with two shafts in the floor leading to larger chambers below. After dropping some rocks into the giant deep hollows and snapping some pictures of strange looking large half-cricket half-spider insects we decide not to risk it more and head back.
Nadine invites us to her home and is extremely generous filling our arms with vegetables from her garden which is filled with flowering bean bushes like in my dream I had the night before. Later we make dinner at Nadine’s home with Bert and Mark the owner of the Shoal Bay marina joining us. We fill up on fresh garden veggies, a barbequed salmon, and even a home-made apple crisp for dessert, while enjoying Ben’s stories of a black bear getting into his boat in the middle of the night.

Sep 10: We leave Shoal Bay after taking advantage of the rare satellite internet connection that Mark generously offers for free at his small dock, and head to cross Yuculta and Dent Rapids. The tide change is high and I carefully measure my timing and distance to cross both passes at slack and avoid any surprising whirlpools and eddies. We cross with no events at all and putter slowly towards Desolation Sound on autopilot as I try to fish. On the way we see a large group of seals in crescents shapes, all of them arching up into the air trying to keep out of the water as the tide slowly creeps up their rocky platform. We pull into Prideaux Heaven in the Desolation Sound provincial park and realize that we must be getting close to the civilized world of southern BC as we drop anchor next to eighteen other boats in the bay. Being so far north I became accustomed to having the bays and coves to ourselves or sharing it with one other boat. The “gates” of tidal rapids like Yuculta and open passes like Cape Caution as well as the pure distance definitely keep most boaters south of this point, for most making Desolation Sound and exotic destination perfect for a two to three week vacation from Vancouver. Even with the other boats here the place lives up to its reputation of sublime beauty. Many craggy islands covered with tuffs of trees at their tops are framed by a background of steep coastal mountains, which on the way up had patches of snow, but today were covered in mist. In comparison to Alaska and the northern inside passage I and Karolina both agree that this is one of the nicer anchorages we’ve seen. Distance: 40 nm.

Sep 11: Today the weather turned sour again, and I had to motor into 15-20 kts southerly head winds with heavy rain. The forecast for the Strait of Georgia was worsening with each new weather report and I decided to stop early and pull into Lund. Lund with its historic 1920s hotel clearly visible from the water is the end of the road that runs along the Sunshine Coast, to get any further north without flying one has to head into the interior of BC or take a boat. Once at the public docks we seek dry shelter in a café where we enjoy some real espresso and freshly baked sweets for the first time since Prince Rupert. We then re-provision, getting some small groceries, getting rid of our garbage, and fuel up and take on new water. Distance: 17 nm.

Sep 12: We motor-sailed for eight hours again into a southerly wind but at least with little rain. Karolina spent her time having a party down below to David Bowie tunes. The next classic BC spot we anchored in was Jervis Inlet, more specifically in the Muscet Island marine park surrounded by some pretty tall granite cliffs. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will cross over to Vancouver island across the Strait of Georgia. Distance: 30 nm.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Skipper Sails the Princess South

Heading South

Aug 19: We leave Prince Rupert after a fuel stop in a mix of rain and sunshine. Karolina is a volcano of excitement for the first hour and ten has trouble getting her sea-legs in the first open-ocean swells straight out of port and is knocked out by Gravol for a three hour nap while I steer us to Lewis Island. Only ones in the cove we enjoy the views with a brightening sky and a dinner of local prawns in a coconut curry. Distance: 19 nm.

Aug 20: Still hoping for dryer warmer weather we plug south with no wind to Baker Inlet, a scenic spot with a tiny corridor like entrance with only 30 feet of room to manoeuvre. Distance: 22 nm.

Aug 21: To exit Baker Inlet I’m forced to get up in the dark at 5 am to pass the tight entrance narrows at slack tide. This, however, forces me to move in some thick fog with less than one-eighth of a mile of visibility. For the first time of the trip I’m forced to completely rely on my fancy broadband radar and I’m glad I spend the money. I get through the narrows with no worries but my excitement grows as I enter Granville Channel, a main route for the Northern BC ferry and many cruise ships and tug boats and their cargo. I travel glued to the GPS and radar for a few hours with anonymous ships passing me with the only indication of their presence being a spot on the radar screen and a large wake. Only the large BC ferry sounds its horn as it passes us, with the fog slowly clearing making for an exciting scene in this tight channel as the colossal block of steel quickly appears and disappears back in the fog.
By noon the fog clears and we pull into Lowe Inlet where we take the dinghy ashore and visit Verney Falls filled with jumping salmon going upstream from the inlet. Karolina and me can’t believe the number of salmon trying to swarm the falls, feverishly trying to hurdle themselves in what seems like great pain upstream. Later from the safety of our boat, parked right at the mouth of the falls we see a black bear prancing on the rocks where we were an hour ago. Karolina squeaks so loud with excitement that the bear decides to gingerly get back into the bush before she can snap his picture. Distance: 27 nm.

Aug 22-23: Today we witnessed a large concentration of Humpback whales in Wright Sound. It was quiet and the water was still and they were all over the place in this large expanse of water as the sun was setting. We switched the engine off and coasted quietly watching them blowing air loudly echoing all around and hitting the water hard with their fins making it sound like thunder. I think so far I have been calling Humpback whales erroneously Minke whales, but was informed of my mistake. Humpback whales come here to feed on the abundant fish in the area before they migrate to Hawaii where they mate.
Our next stop was the Indian village of Hartley Bay. Here we encountered very heavy rains making life on the boat pretty miserable since there are a few leaks. We make the most of it in the rain by exploring the small village which interestingly has no sidewalks or roads but only boardwalks that continue off the dock all around town, I think it’s because it rains here so much. We then visit an Indian ladies house that bakes bread and buy two loafs. Gale force winds force us to spend an extra night here. Distance: 23 nm.

Aug 24-25: In heavy rain we make our way through Verney Passage to Bishop Bay. This time around instead of beautiful mountain vistas in sunshine we are however treated to a show of waterfalls. In the rainy, misty and gloomy weather waterfalls spring out of every corner of the hills that we pass. Even without the sun the mountains with peaks shrouded in fog and trickles of water cascading over their entire faces made for an impressive site.
In the very deep Bishop Bay where I had troubles anchoring last time, due to no dock space I’m forced to again anchor not so securely in the steeply sloping bottom. At 4 am in the morning Karolina and me are awakened by a violent jolt and sounds of the hull scraping. I dart out of bed ready to pull on the anchor thinking we hit rocks on shore but realize a giant log or rather full size delimbed tree complete with roots has hang up on the anchor rode and is being pushed hard against the length of the boat by a strong current in the bay. Excited from being so rudely awakened in the pitch dark and cold rain Karolina helps me push the tree of the boat as I slacken up the anchor line. The heavy rains washed lots of logs into the bay and a couple more bumped the boat later making for a sleepless night. The next day I realize my anchor is fouled either from the tree pulling on it or from me creating too much slack. I spend 20 minutes trying to free the anchor really hoping not to have to cut it as my spare is only half as good, but the anchor finally gives and I pull the rode up with frayed parts and rust stains on the line.
To relax we enjoy the hot springs in the bay where the water is nice and hot without the sulphur smell. We later meet Marty and Mae a sailing couple from Prince Rupert. They invite us over for wine and we spend talking about spots to visit while Mae teaches me some fine skills for salmon fishing and is nice enough to give me some of her fishing lures to assure success. Marty and Mae are big opponents of the discussed tanker traffic that will ship crude oil extracted in the Alberta oil sands from Kittimat and through parts of this beautiful Inside Passage. Marty with his “No Tankers” sign pasted all over his sailboat believes that with one tanker a week coming in and out, year round even in stormy weather in these narrow passages is too high of a risk for an oil spill. Considering how serious the weather can get here in the winters, including the highest wind speeds recorded in all of Canada, at a 120 knots (over 200 km/h), at the tip of the Queen Charlottes, I think the chance for a spill is definitely there. Distance: 29 nm.

Aug 26: In rain and sun we move south and stop in Butedale to give Lou the caretaker of the old cannery a quick visit. We have a quick chat with Lou who gives us some smoked salmon, visit his power generating plant and after a few stories leave as Karolina is definitely too scared to spend the night docked next to the old buildings of the cannery. Instead we spend the night in Khutze Inlet with a tall cascading waterfall as our background. Distance: 36 nm.

Aug 27-28: Pulling out of Khutze Inlet I spot a large black bear on shore and stop the engine and we quietly drift inshore to watch him wonder on the beach for a good ten minutes. I hear black bears are very near sighted and it seemed like he couldn’t see us only sniffing the air when we made some slight noise and than going back to looking for goodies in the tide exposed beach.
We spent the night in Clothes Bay by the Indian village of Klemtu, where the next day I fuelled for gas being able to get the “band” price for fuel paid in cash. Then we sailed onto Shearwater where we were able to reprovision, wash our clothes and surprisingly even enjoy some Chinese food at the local pub. Karolina even noticed that the pub’s menu had Polish stamps with salmon pictures on them on its cover.
In the morning everyone at the marina was treated to an amazing display of a feeding Humpback whale. They bay was filled with fish and this large whale not minding the marinas docks, boats or boat traffic kept on chasing the schools of fish around the bay and marina leaping out of the water numerous times as he scooped the feed into his mouth. People were lined at the dock like paparazzi snapping pictures of its every move. I thought Karolina in her excited state might fall of the dock into the water as she chased the whale around shrieking “oh my god” every second in Polish. Distance: 36 nm and 43 nm.

Aug 29-30: Today we sailed to Namu, another abandoned cannery that is being cared for by a couple of caretakers. Here we met the most interesting sailors of the trip: Kevin the skipper of Alize and his friend Steve. Kevin a recent PhD graduate in biology has just completed my dreamed route, making it from Seattle to Glaciar Bay Alaska and being on his way back. Making this trip in a boat only two feet larger than mine but maybe with a better engine and starting in May, he had stories of Alaska like making martinis out of glacial ice that made me pretty jealous of his accomplishment. With his friend Steve, also a biology PhD graduate about to defend and sailor we had lots in common and many stories to share.
The next day in a group we explored the ruins of Namu. The place had a high creepy factor with stores filled with goods, wearhouses full of machinery and houses with food left on the table as if the occupants mysteriously vanished. We than went out on the lake in a canoe after an interesting walk through the forest on a very old boardwalk that promised to collapse underneath our every step. We later sailed both boats to Pruth Bay with some heavy winds and exciting eight foot swells on an outside section of the coast that looked very wild and rugged but unfortunately in a heavy downpour that was filling my cockpit with water up to the ankles making the sail pretty dramatic. In Pruth Bay we get kicked off the docks as a fully fledged academic informs us that the docks are no longer for visitors and are meant for the now UVic operated biology research facility. Kevin unaware of this insults the professor for catering only to rich yachties and off we go to a next door cove, Keith’s Anchorage. The boys invite us over for dinner prepared by Steve the gourmet chef and we have the best meal since the beginning of the trip. We have good conversations including Kevin’s continuation of the trip all the way down to San Francisco. He is looking for crew so if not for work in October I would gladly join him. We end the night with an exciting shuttle using Kevin’s kayaks back to our boat in strong winds, rain, phosphorescence in the water and Karolina’s first time paddling a kayak alone :) Distance: 28 nm and 19 nm.

Aug 31-Sep 2: After very slow progress into strong headwinds and waves I decide to stop chasing Kevin and Steve and me and Karolina head for the fancy fishing resort of Duncan’s Landing and its warm showers, while the boys decide to make a run for the treacherous Cape Caution. At Duncan’s Landing we enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant complete with desert and I plan the next day’s crossing to Vancouver Island.
The crossing past Cape Caution to Port Hardy sixty nautical miles goes ok. The winds are southerly again, so I’m forced to motor-sail the whole time to keep up speed, and the swells are large, recorded at 2 m, which is a bit larger than I liked but we needed to get across before the next low system blew even stronger southerly winds for the next couple of days. The swells make the crossing a little intimidating at times but I feel excited like I’m offshore sailing while Karolina full of anti-seasickness medication is hoping the rolling sea would stop.
Safe and sound in Port Hardy we enjoy a day off to re-provision, fuel, change oil and spark plugs, go for dinner and relax. Distance: 26 and 60 nm.

Sep 3-4: Our next stop is the Indian village of Alert Bay. Here we stay for two nights as Johnston Strait decides to blow strong winds as always. We visit the U’mista Cultural Museum which has a large collection of Indian masks and other artefacts that were confiscated in the early 1900s after Indian Potlaches were banned by the government. We also see a Native dance performance at the traditional long house. Later we find a couple of fisherman that are willing to sell us a beautiful sockeye salmon, illegally I think. The fish is the best we have ever tasted. Out of it we make sashimi and eat it raw Japanese style and it tastes like melting butter, then Karolina makes ceviche which we enjoy for two days and I still make some on the grill baked with olives, capers and cream cheese. Distance: 27 nm.

Sep 5: Today we visit Village Island in the Broughton Islands and the old remnants of the Indian Village with the cool name of Mamalilaculla. With no one on the island but us and some bears we end up visiting the old village after 8 pm, which really increases the spooky factor. Amongst a very heavy overgrowth of raspberry bushes we find old remnants of an original Indian long house composed of two large arches made out of solid cedar timber still intact with hand tool marks still clearly visible. I get pretty excited about such finds. And to top it all off we then find a fallen over totem pole with a carving of a lizard or salamander and a bear below it. We get back to our zodiac as it is almost dark and find it slightly deflated but still manage to row back to the boat. In the night Karolina gets spooked by dreams of Indians getting on our boat and makes me triple check everything outside as I laughingly reassure her that all is fine. And then a spooky thing really happens that even makes me wonder: I run the radar since it’s a very dark night to check the position of the boat to the shore to make sure anchor hasn’t dragged and notice a blip on the screen as if from a boat size object 50 m away from us, but can’t find anything by flashing a light on it, the spot is weak and appears and disappears but seems very steady, not wanting to freak Karolina more I tell her about it in the morning after running the radar again and noticing that all landmasses were as before but the blip was gone. Lesson: don’t mess with old Indian villages. Distance: 19 nm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Whirlwind tour of Alaska

Aug 10 – Aug 12: Karolina came on a flight that might not have landed due to fog in Prince Rupert. All the way from Poland she came loaded with gifts and full of smiles. We visited Prince Rupert for a day checking out the Museum of Northern British Columbia and the real characters in town. Karolina was excited about everything including big diesel trucks and derelict wooden houses that you don’t get to see in Europe. We then boarded the Alaskan ferry for our weeklong tour of Alaska. Our first stop was Ketchikan, our first taste of the typical cruise-ship tourist trap. With three giant cruise ships parked in town and the city swarmed with their tourists we run around town getting Ulu knives as gifts while sipping on cappuccinos. Parked right along one of the cruise ships was one of the boats from the Deadliest Catch show, Time Bandit. Tourists were getting pretty excited about that. Seems like marketing was the reason for the boats mooring spot after seeing DVDs and shirts about the show in all the shops, as well as hearing that Time Bandit has a whole store with their brand name somewhere in Juneau. Our next stop was Wrangell, where we had unusually hot weather according to the locals. We wondered around this quaint typical Alaskan town and had some ice-cream from a local shop. On the ferry we could enjoy some amazing views in the comfort of a large ship, and the luxury of a private cabin with a hot shower. Our next stop was Petersburg where the surrounding scenery began to change compared to that of BC. Steep mountains covered with snow and capped with giant glaciers appeared as the backdrop to the town, making for some memorable views in the setting sun, making me feel for the first time that we are in Alaska.

Aug 13: Friday the 13th we arrive in Juneau, the state capital of Alaska, and on this day we trust to take a flight on a small airplane to Gustavus next to my dream destination of Glacier Bay National Park. We stay at the Glacier Bay Lodge right in the park, where we are greeted by unusually clear skies and warm weather where for the past month there was nothing but overcast skies and fog which blocked the view off all the glaciers. We spend the day kayaking in a double sea kayak chasing an otter, and seeing porpoise dolphins and seals. Karolina doesn’t trust my kayaking abilities and is afraid that we’ll never get back to our lodge after four hours on the water, but a favourable tide slings us back home as planned and Karolina hopefully starts trusting my sweet sea skills.

Aug 14: We spend the whole day on a guided boat tour of Glacier Bay Park. The morning fog lifts and we are treated to spectacular views in pure sunshine and clear blue skies for the rest of the day on a trip that takes us 65 miles into the park and back. The sights are hard to describe and pictures might due them a fraction of the justice, but the scene was like the Rocky Mountains full of snow and glaciers coming straight out of the sea. The scale is gigantic and hard to comprehend even with large cruise ships dwarfed to look like toys in the foreground by massive walls of ice and snow behind them. We observed a couple of calving tidewater glaciers with beautiful blue coloured ice in bays filled with chunks of white ice and listened to them cracking and crumbling. We also observe some amazing nature from the boat which includes a colony of stellar sea lions, two grizzly bears feeding on shore, and swarms of sea otters and porpoise dolphins, and even a couple of gray whales from a distance. I observed only one sailboat throughout the day in the park with a front-row view of a magnificent mountain chain and glacier slipping into the sea, parked amongst small icebergs it was proudly flying a large Canadian flag from the back stay. The sailboat, much larger than mine, and clearly equipped for serious sailing made me pretty envious and at the same time proud of their accomplishment. I so strongly wished I could have made it this far under my own steam but I know I made the right decision and felt privileged to be seeing this amazing place at all. Having Karolina here with me was of course the icing on the cake for me and truly made me feel like the luckiest man in the world. She’s also my amazing on board photographer and credits go to her for all the stunning pictures from now on.

Aug 15: We flew back from Gustavus with amazing arial views of the surrounding mountain tops and spend the rest of the day visiting Juneau. The main site is the Mendenhall Glacier close to town which is also an amazing glacier, the 5th largest in the US, that calves into a lake with a stunning waterfall at its side. With lots of tourists around we were still able to snap some pictures and then headed downtown Juneau to be part of the cruise ship crowds and strolled amongst the dozen jewellery and gift shops.

Aug 16: In the morning we visit Sitka where we have breakfast at a local diner, which is a huge novelty for Karolina. Sitka is a small pretty town with some Russian influence which includes and Orthodox church. We again stop in Petersburg and have Karolina take some more pictures of some classic Americana scenes mixed with Norwegian and Russian influences.

Aug 17-18: We visit Ketchikan again and do some last minute gift shopping since this is our last stop in Alaska this time loading up on some gourmet smoked salmon. Karolina gets a picture with Santa Claus at the year round Christmas Store but to me he looked like a regular Alaskan. We then spend the rest of the day going through foggy Dixon Entrance back to Prince Rupert. With the fog horns blowing I’m glad not to be the one navigating. Back in Prince Rupert we get the boat and ourselves ready for the next leg, our way back south and home. Our day is filled with a visit to the Laundromat, again a huge exciting novelty for Karolina, shopping for groceries, engine oil changes for me, and major reorganizations of the boat making it look more homely. With the weather looking very rainy and forecasts not looking any warmer we are at least ready to head back.

Karolina in Search of Dominik in Alaska

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prince Rupert

Aug 5: I’m hating Granville Channel. Today, the same thing, 20-30 kts head winds. We tried to motor straight into it, but the waves really slowed the boat, at times below a knot, making it really hard to keep the boat pointed into the waves and wind. This time, since we had the choice, we decided to end this painful process early and hid in Kxngeal Inlet instead of our destination of Baker Inlet. Once on anchor we relaxed again, tried to trap some prawns with no success, had a shower, a shave, and enjoyed some sunny weather. The wind even kept the bugs away for most of the day. I even managed to update the blog for the first time through the sat-phone, but answering e-mails was not successful. Distance: 10 nm.

Aug 6: There are two reasons for a boat being tilted when at anchor: one is because it’s slightly overloaded on one side, which mine is, and the other is that it’s sitting on the bottom with its keel and the tide is going down, and the boat will soon lie on its side in a pile of mud. That was the scenario this morning at 5 am, when I felt a bit more tilted in bed than usual. I quickly got outside, the depthsounder read 3 ft, flashing light into the water verified it, I tried to pull on the anchor rode to pull the boat into deeper water with no luck, then wanted to start the engine but remembered that the evening before the prawn trap line got entangled in the rudder close to the propeller and we decided to leave the job till morning, so motoring into deeper water was out as well. After checking the tide charts, luckily the tide was now at its lowest and going up from now on. We only touched very lightly still moving with the keel in the mud but enough to tilt and keep the boat on either side. By 6 we were completely afloat again. Yes, embarrassing and shouldn’t have happened, but in this area I stopped trusting the depthsounder due to the many streams coming of the mountains and mixing fresh water in layers with sea water giving the sounder erratic readings, especially in inlets. So when I dropped the anchor at 50 ft and then swung a bit to a reading of 9 ft, I didn’t believe it, but I guess it was correct.
After almost a month of completely dry sunny weather today it rained for the first time. For the rest of the day we sailed on north getting completely soaked by sideways rain, but the wind was great and for once we with nothing but sails we moved up Granville Channel up to Kumealon Inlet, a very pretty place with many little islets within the cove and with the added mysterious look of fog and low clouds on the surrounding hills. Distance: 12 nm.

Aug 7: Today while motoring in zero winds to Lewis Island we heard a mayday call on the radio. An aluminum fishing boat 50 nm miles north of us in Dixon Entrance was hit by a wave and lost its windshield and became filled with water with only three inches left of freeboard. We heard Prince Rupert Coast Guard Radio handle the emergency. The fishing vessel, Sunny Boy, with two people on board was caught in six foot swells in choppy weather in Dixon Entrance, the passage between Prince Rupert in Canada and Alaska, which is known for its rough conditions. It took about an hour for a nearby vessel to provide help, which is good or bad, depending on your perspective in the cold water, but everyone was saved. The situation reminded me again of the authenticity of this area and that unfortunate mishaps do occur and quickly with serious consequences, making me rethink my own entry into Dixon Entrance to get to Alaska, especially since I will be picking up some precious cargo in Prince Rupert – Karolinka will be at the airport here in 3 days :) Distance: 19 nm.

Aug 8: Today we arrived in Prince Rupert after motoring in zero wind and bit of fog but at least with a good tide pushing us into port. The port is bigger than I expected with tanker and cargo ships anchored in the middle and cargo loading docks on shore. The city has a population of about 13,000 so it’s the biggest town I’ve seen since leaving Victoria and it does feel odd walking around the city streets and in large supermarkets like the Safeway where everything is at hand. Even the wifi at the marina dock where I’m staying seems like a luxury. We had some very needed showers, went shopping and walking around town, and then for dinner at the Smiles Seafood Cafe where back in 1945 a steak dinner was 70 cents, today it was $20 but the portion was homemade-huge. We also saw the Kazu Maru on display in the fisherman’s memorial park, the Japanese fishing boat that was spotted overturned adrift by the Queen Charlotte Islands in the 80s. Two years earlier a Japanese fisherman was lost at sea while fishing from the city of Owase, coincidentally Prince Rupert’s sister city, and the boat slowly drifted onto our shores. Sadly, my Dad left today by bus for Vancouver, a 24 hour ride, it took us just under a month to complete the journey by sea. I will miss my cook and mechanic with his skills that provided me with a great deal of peace of mind on our trip. Now I’ll have to be bit more self-reliant. My next crew member is bit prettier, probably not a mechanic, and with cooking, I’m yet to find out :). Distance: 20 nm.

Aug 9: Today I’ve decide that Prince Rupert is as far as the Corsair will sail or motor rather. Time is running out and I only have one more week before needing to turn back south, this would get me into Alaska, which is officially just a few miles from Prince Rupert, and into Ketchikan, but still 300 nm away from my dream destination of Glacier Bay. The motor has held out with a single repair, but confidence in it I lack and I don’t think I should push my lack any further, especially with my precious cargo, Karolina, who’s Mom I promised a safe return home. Being so close to Alaska I’ve decided to cheat a bit and booked two tickets on the Alaskan Ferry going from Prince Rupert to Juneau with a two day stop in Glacier Bay. I will leave the sailboat here for a week, and let someone else worry about the marine weather forecast and motoring into north westerns, and enjoy the first few days with Karolina relaxed. We will than head back south chasing warmer weather with the north western winds hopefully continuing to blow but this time at our back.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Past Cape Caution

Jul 23: Today I and my Dad did one of the more important open water passages of the trip – we passed Cape Caution. This consists of leaving from the tip of Vancouver Island (Port Hardy) and sailing across Queen Charlotte strait into open water of the Pacific, around Cape Caution on the mainland and then skirt back into the secluded waters of Fitz Hugh Sound. After careful weather checking we left Port Hardy at 6:15 and into 1-2 m swells that made us feel like blue-water sailors except for the fact that we almost had no wind which caused us to motor-sail. We passed Cape Caution with nothing more exciting than some large open ocean swells and a sighting of a Gray whale. The scenery was beautiful, looking wilder with indications of stormy Pacific weather hitting this coast. Dad enjoyed the sights and trying to cook soup for lunch in the heaving boat. The weather was great and by Egg Island winds started blowing and we decided to do some real sailing and chose to head further than initially planned to make the complete crossing in one go. By late afternoon the winds got to 20+ kt and we hit some speed records of the trip – 6.7 kt - with no current :). We had some great sailing for a few hours with better speeds than on engine, and reached Safety Cove on Calvert Island before 7 pm, with an amazing total distance of the day of 60 nm. We celebrated with a steak dinner with scalloped potatoes and some ice wine for dessert.

Jul 24: With a forecast of 20-30 kt winds in the morning we decided to stay in Safety Cove and take care of some loose ends. With the cove sunny and windless and mp3 tunes provided by Jeffry playing on the boats sounds system I decide to take a shower in the open cockpit of the boat using my fancy propane heated camping shower and then have the first shave of the trip. After lunch we changed the engine oil after doing more motoring than expected on this trip, and despite the forecast still calling for 20-30 kt winds we decide to sail out of the calm and sunny cove. Once in the open of Fitz Hugh Sound we realize the forecast was correct and beat into 22 kt head winds for a bit with water spraying us and then decide to go back to Safety Cove. Before dropping anchor we realize the engine is making funny sounds – Nooooo!!! - one of my worries has materialized itself. We spend the evening fixing the water pump after having realized that the previous owner misassembled a part on the pump, but after getting a bit dirty and customizing some metal parts we fix the problem. Distance: 0 nm – water pump fixed.

Jul 25: Today we woke to the boat softly touching the bottom with every small wake and I quickly got up to shorten the anchor rode to pull the boat to deeper water. Safety Cove has a long shallow beach and I think I tried to park in a bit too close. We were again forced to spend another day here due to 25-35 kt forecast winds. We did some maintenance on the boat, suntanned, and even baked bread for the first time on the boat. In the evening, being the only ones in the cove we were treated to an extravagant display of the natural wonders of this coast. Two Minke whales came into the cove and we watched them feed for a couple of hours as the sun was setting creating amazing colours all around. With the two whales blowing air which echoed loudly across the cove, the occasional breach, and with the addition of four seals and an eagle all going after the same schools of fish, all on the same green forest backdrop, it was an amazing sight. Dad filled his camera with pictures and movies till the memory card was full and batteries run low.

Jul 26: Seeing whales has become an everyday thing these days, but this morning one breached next to the boat at 5:30 in the morning making the boat rock enough to wake both of us up scrambling to the deck trying to see what happened. After breakfast a whale chasing a school of fish jumping out of the water towards the boat came halfway up head first a meter from the boat with me standing outside – this scene made my heart race a few beats faster and made we wonder if he knew where the boat was, now I’m more afraid of whales than bears :). After an exciting morning we headed out of Safety Cove and into Fitz Hugh Sound and an hour in realized the raw water pump was failing again. With me on helm Dad went to fixing the problem as we sailed on with no running engine. He managed to fix it again, but we will have to get things checked out by a mechanic in New Bella Bella or Sheartwater. We sailed with some good winds for the rest of the day seeing the occasional cruise ship and whale. For the first time of the trip we did more sailing than motoring, and finally stayed in the beautiful and secluded Codville Lagoon on King Island. Distance: 36 nm.

Jul 27: We crossed Fitz Hugh Sound today with some good wind for sailing and passed by New Bella Bella and moored the boat at the Shearwater Marina. Here we felt slightly out of place with some serious motor yachts, mostly from the US, dominating the marina. We were only one of two small sailboats here, the other SV Evita owned by John and Karen from Vancouver that we met the previous day in Codville Cove and coincidentally were sailing with across Cape Caution close to each other a few days before. In Shearwater I took advantage of the marine facility here and had a mechanic come on board and checkout my raw water pump issue. He didn’t seem all that confident in his solution, used my tools, and left grease all over the boat, and left me wondering if Dad’s fix up was a better job, than the $95/hour mechanic will provide here. He left with my pump, so I guess with no engine we are stuck here for at least a day. We had some showers, had dinner at the local pub, and then were invited by John and Karen for wine and some good conversation on their boat. The two men were laughing and joking that I was crazy to be inviting Karolina to sail from rainy and foggy Prince Rupert to cold Alaska, and that instead I should take here south to the Broughtons and Desolation Sound to enjoy warmer swimsuit weather. Karen was more supportive of the idea. Karolina has a ticket from Poland to Prince Rupert on the 10th of August, so at least I have to be there, but the next steps are yet undecided - north to Ketchikan and further or south? It feels like I’m very far from Victoria already and pushing a smaller underprivileged boat than most who venture this far north. But here it seems that for most, as it is in the metropolitan yachtie demographic, the driving force is still pure wealth and age rather than a real sense of adventure, with only a minority like John and Karen still feeling it. Distance: 18 nm.

Jul 28: With the engine not running we were stuck for one more day in Shearwater. Kevin the mechanic came back with the pump and it’s new bracket after his lunch break, as greasy as before, and with me buying him bolts at the store, the use of my tools, my Dad helping him out, two hours later, was able to put the pump back on. We gave Kevin a pack of Strongbows for the road and went to degreasing the boat from Kevin’s greasy hand and shoe prints in and out of the boat – I better get a discount on the bill for this. Later it was laundry time and Chinese food for lunch at the local pub. For dinner we had BBQ pork chops with scalloped potatoes (Lipton special) and wine. I also tried to connect to the internet through my satellite phone but with a sporadic 9 kbs connection the process is a little frustrating. I use it with no problems for brief connections to get my wind prediction maps, but checking my e-mail is next to impossible and only succeeded twice so far without being able to reply to anyone. The updates for this blog and any e-mail or facebook replies will have to wait for high speed internet in a Prince Rupert cafe – I hope.

Jul 29: After paying close to $500 for repairs - ouchhh!, I think Kevin didn’t like the Strongbow ciders, we should have gotten him beer, he looked more like a beer drinker – we sailed off, but at least the pump looks more solid and the original miss-alignment of the belt is gone making me feel more at peace venturing on with this boat. With some motoring and some nice sailing in the afternoon we crossed Milbanke Sound which is exposed to the Pacific and then sailed into Finlayson Channel to park in a remote cove just a mile before the Indian village of Klemtu. Distance: 41 nm.

Jul 30: This morning we awoke to thick fog and tried to sail out of the cove, but even with the radar on and GPS chart plotter running, the visibility at below a quarter of a mile and humming boat engines in the channel got me concerned and I turned the boat back, anchored again and waited for the afternoon sun to burn the fog away. Than we moved on to Klemtu where we got more gas, refilled our water tank, and my Dad got some burger buns and hot-dog wieners for over $10 in the local store. They had no bread and there was only one jug of milk in the store. Everything has to be shipped up here by water, and I guess it goes fast even at these high costs. We did a bit of sailing today in Graham Reach, but still more motoring and decided to call it a day after 26 nm and dropped anchor in Swanson Bay. In the early 1900s there used to be a saw mill and pulp mill here with a population of 500 people, today there remain only pilings in the water and ruins on shore that nature has mostly reclaimed. Here we met two American guys, Ozi and Kris that looked like real adventurers slash fisherman. They pulled into the bay after us in their 24 foot trawler that looked more like a toy due to its comic size. They are heading up to Sitka in Alaska partly for adventure and partly to learn how to fish and hopefully make some money on it. It feels like we are definitely further north now, around 550 nm from Victoria to put a number on it. It gets dark here at 10:30 pm and the hills around us are becoming steeper and more barren at their tops. Graham reach is known for these sights and it is why it is also the route of the many Alaskan cruise ships. Distance: 26 nm.

Jul 31: This morning we explored the remains of the saw and pulp mill at Swanson Bay which consisted of corroded bits of machinery on shore with many pilings in the ground and bits of pottery and old beer bottles strew all over the beach. I found an interesting beer bottle that was almost intact with the logo saying The Property of Vancouver Brewing Company, made out of thick moulded glass. Then we moved a bit further north up the inlet to what has to be the most beautiful anchorage of this trip until now in Khutze Inlet. The inlet is long and lined with steep hills with a lot of steep exposed granite rock, with snow capped mountains visible at the head and sides of the inlet. But the spot where we dropped the anchor was right in front of a 1000 ft. cascading waterfall that fell in steps from the very ridge of the mountain to the water on shore over some lush green terrain and boulders. It looked like the waterfall from a fable. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly there were other boats in the bay, but we had front-row seats. Another brief annoyance in this fable was the thousands of deer flies that tried to eat us alive, but that was quickly remedied with some netting on the companion doorway. Later, after the deer flies went to sleep we ventured on shore to see the waterfall up close and where I couldn’t miss the opportunity to have a shower under one of the plumes of water from the waterfall – extra chilly, almost went into hypothermia, but refreshing. Dad picked some salmon berries cautiously as we saw some bear scats and also looked for gold in the stream, still hoping to find that nugget to get a bigger boat so we fit amongst our neighbours here. Distance: 10 nm.

Aug 1: We left the gorgeous Khutze Inlet early in the morning and headed for Butedale. On the way there we were congratulated for trying to sail in the meagre winds over the VHF radio from the sailboat Polyandrea based in Oak Bay as us, the skipper was on his way back from Alaska already after having visited as far as Glacier Bay, making me think again that I might be late in the season for that final target. We than pulled into Butedale where there is a stark reminder of the days gone by and the history of the area. Here stand a half dozen dilapidated buildings, half of which are falling from their pilings into the sea, as leftovers of a cannery that operated here from the 1930s to the 1960s. Here we met a great character and caretaker of the Butedale ruins, Lou Simoneau. Lou, probably in his 60s, showed us around the property, showing us his house, old photos of the cannery, and showing of his water turbine driven power generator that he was able to restore from the old powerhouse to generate electricity for his use. Lou has lived there alone for the past nine years and told us stories of seeing the white spirit bear here on Princess Royal Island, as well as stories of his dog getting fishing hooks stuck up his nose and other tales of funny American tourists and cold lonely winters without women. We than motored on into some 20 kts head winds to reach Bishop Bay where I had the biggest pain in the ass dropping the anchor for a good hold in a bottom that is steep and goes from 100 ft to 5 ft right by the shoreline. After pulling the 60ft of chain and anchor plus 200 ft of line on the manual windlass for the third time I was ready to give up staying here, but I finally got a modest hold and will probably get no sleep tonight thinking about drifting into shore or away.

Aug 2: This morning, after all the locals from Kitimat left the park to end their long weekend, we enjoyed a soak in the hot springs in complete solitude. Afterwards we tried to leave the bay to find that the engine was not flushing its cooling water. I knew what happened right away as the day before while trying to anchor for an hour I had no choice but to drive the boat through a great deal of tidal debris on the water. I donned on the Billabong wetsuit for the first time and went under the boat trying to unclog the raw water intake but with no avail. In the end, my mechanic (my Dad), came to the rescue and we unclogged the blockage by taking the intake hoses apart and using some electrical cable to push the debris out. Now I’m ultra sensitive to running over any debris on the water, which there seems to be a great deal of here. We then had a beautiful passage through Ursula Channel and Verney Passage which had stunning views of steep, 3500 ft high, bare granite cliffs surrounding green, bowl shaped valleys, which I believe were carved by glaciers into a series of these enormous hollows in the mountains called cirques. The scale is gargantuan and hard to comprehend with very little in the views to give proportion, but I felt like I was sailing on a giant lake somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately we had very little wind and motored for seven hours till we reached the Indian village of Hartley Bay, where upon our arrival we heard howling wolves and talked with locals who complained that a pack has surrounded their village and is attacking the local cats – might be another sleepless night. Distance: 29 nm.

Aug 3: I’m not sure if I enjoyed today – maybe when a fisherman at the wharf says good luck it’s kinda windy out there, I should listen. I think at this point I’ve become a bit too complacent about the weather forecasts and need to take things more seriously again. The forecast was for gale winds in Hecate Strait but I figured Grenville Channel must be more protected than the infamous Hecate, so we headed out. And I was wrong. For eight hours we tacked into 20 to 30 knot head winds, with sea spray in our faces, and it mostly blew in the upper range of that bracket. The wonderful atomic 4 engine that I have, at normal rpm, would not push us into the wind alone and the boat would stall so we were forced to tack, double reefed main with motor on, up the narrow Granville channel which is also shared by all the Alaska bound cruise ships and the Northern Expedition BC ferry – (the old one sunk in 2007 just before the entrance to this channel). In eight hours we only covered 23 nm due to the zig-zagging and possible currents, which also did some funky things to the boat, like making it move backwards (shown by GPS) while heeled over in 25 kts with an appearance of sailing forwards. I’m pretty sure my Dad didn’t enjoy the experience either, but in the end we made it into Lowe Inlet, in fairly good spirits, and when the winds dropped to 20 kts it seemed like the wind stopped blowing altogether, so at least I hope this event bumped up our threshold for stronger winds. On another better note, my Dad bought some homemade bread from a local Indian lady in Hartley Bay and bread in her language is “Elbin”, but unfortunately her culture and the Indian village here is on a certain vanishing path according to her.

Aug 4: I’m not sure if I learned my lesson just yet, but today I must admit I scared myself a bit. We left again with a less than stellar forecast but figured it’s only 18 nm, so if it’s like yesterday we can handle it for a bit. So again we motored up Granville Channel in 15-20 kts head winds, this time without even trying to motor-sail, just plugged away at 2-3 miles an hour, till we hit the entrance to our next inlet, and there all hell seemed to break loose. I should have known seeing white caps on the horizon, but now it was too late and we were already in it. Here two currents from both ends of the 48 nm channel meet, and I think we hit a tidal rip judging by the only 1-2 m waves, but which were steep. The wind bumped to a steady 30 kts with gusts to 35 kts, which I think qualifies as gale force winds. And this time we got completely soaked, my underwear were wet, not sure if I peed myself :), and water even splashed into the cabin, not just the cockpit, of the boat. With a double reefed main and engine off we got to 7.5 kts with a bit of surfing down the waves. Luckily it only lasted for a short bit till we managed to escape into the protected inlet, but that was enough for me, and I think my Dad got pretty excited as well, he’s not sure about the source of his wet pants either. Within the 4 mile deep inlet the wind was non-existent and we dropped anchor, made dinner and relaxed. What an amazing contrast in weather and sea state this region can have amazes me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Leg - Vancouver Island

The Start: The start of the trip was slightly postponed due to a little detour for a Peruvian adventure with my Karoline down in Peru for three weeks. After too many exciting stories down there I begin the sailing trip bound for Alaska.

July 9: We left Oak Bay with Jeff with little wind, motored all the way to Ganges Harbour in Saltspring Is. Saw a large group of porpoises by Darcy Is and saw probably a minkey whale before leaving Oak Bay area. Distance: 32 nm.

July 10: Once again with almost no winds but very hot sunny weather motored all the way through Dodd’s Narrows and into Nanaimo harbour parked between Newcastle Is and Protection island. Did some sailing by Nanaimo dodging marine traffic while chatting with Karoline in Poland on the satelite-phone – I love technology :) But mostly today we baked in the sun waiting for tide to turn in narrows. Got some showers on New Castle island and discovered Zodiac is taking in water due to back end coming apart. Distance: 40 nm.

July 11: Weary of heavy predicted winds 20 kn and up in the strait of Georgia by predict-wind software but reasonable winds by radio we head to cross the strait into Howe sounds to Bowen Is. Nice sail for first time, sail most of the day, couple of porpoises followed for a while, we thought we were hearing people but it was them blowing air. Jeff took me out for dinner considering his last day sailing with me here in Snug Cove where there are many shops and restaurants. Had some drunk power-boaters pay a visit in the middle of the night at the public dock here in Snug Cove and then couldn’t sleep after flashing my light at them peeing on someone’s boat and getting some remarks about them being locals – loco ?. Distance: 32 nm.

July 12: Jeff left on the early ferry and the winds finally got here, has been blowing all day 15-25 kt with the wash every hour or so from the BC ferry it was a bumpy day. But got out for a bike ride got some small groceries done. Talked with parents and Karoline a few times on sat-phone trying to connect after every break in the signal. Did some organization, route planning, tried getting weather but couldn’t through sat-phone. Dinner, although veggie was a success: mango rice with peppers, mushrooms and all other goodies that Jeff had left, his good cooking left me inspired. Also read Alessandro Baricco’s book Silk, got into it, almost read half of it today, got pulled in by it – Karolina’s suggestion on the Italian author.

July 13: Did some solo sailing (motoring) today. Hit some 1 m or so waves in the Strait of Georgia making me a bit excited but due to lack of wind or a NW puff ended up motoring the whole day to Pender Harbour, where I dropped anchor in Gerrans Bay, nice looking place but lots of mosquitoes. But it was a fun day being on the boat alone having the autopilot do most of the work as I made lunch and watched the scenery of the Sunshine coast slowly go by. Distance: 42 nm.

July 14: Had a slow morning start, waiting for better current in the strait. Checked the engine added some oil and had a nice breakfast. Did some talking on the sat-phone, lots of texting as always - got to keep my land crew updated. Left in zero winds, but later slight NW picked up which possibly helped with the motoring, later in the evening switched the engine off and sailed into Powell River (Westview) with lots of tacking in some solid 10 kn winds. Pulled into the very busy public harbour and luckily the harbour master had a spot for me. Was bit nervous, tight little marina where everyone, mostly fisherman park Med-style (like in the Mediterranean) stern in, which required me to back the Corsair in a couple of times but no collisions. After a neighbour joined me I ended up being squished between to fishing trawlers. I feel closer to Alaska already. Later, like a real seaman had some dark and stormies (Bermudan drink: dark rum, ginger beer, sprite, lime) after a good dinner of mango-salmon-ginger-rice and finished reading Baricco’s Silk which made me ponder my situation and current far off travels. Distance: 27 nm.

July 15: Today I traded in my Zodiac that was falling apart at a marine store for a prawn trap and some fibreglass polisher, I think both of us thought we were getting a good deal, it’s all a matter of situations and perspective. My Dad came over by ferry today to join me for almost a month. He came loaded with another inflatable, used but shouldn’t have problems like the last one. We then went into town to load up on some new provisions for our next leg.

July 16: Headed off to Frances Bay in Raza Is. Today we had some winds so we tried very hard to sail, although it was constant tacking into head winds, but I’m feeling guilty for running the engine so much, however, it’s a constant dilemma between making distance up north. Today was good for distance, with engine and sailing we made 40 nm.

July 17: Today we passed the infamous Yuculta, Gillard and Dent Rapids, which when taken at the wrong time can have large whirlpools and eddies that can mess with boats and peoples nerves. We passed all without a hitch, although sometimes into 20 kt head winds which made me worry about time and timely progress through them. Short day today, but passed a major obstacle on the route and parked into beautiful Shoal Bay on East Thurlow Is. This used to be gold town back in the late 1800s that had a population of 5000, bigger than Vancouver at the time. Today it has a public dock that we stayed at and a small pub. The atmosphere here was amazing, great people, great stories, guitar music in the evening at the pub the size and feel and look of a cottage living room. Distance: 21 nm.

July 18: Johnston strait was still blowing gale force winds so we decided to stay another day in Shoal Bay and today explored the island. We hiked to the lookout, found two gold mines, and had Dad cracking quartz rocks looking for gold. We also looked for old artefacts and found some old bits of bottles and pottery, my piece included a drawing of two sailboats which I kept as souvenir of this place. Chatted some more with the boaters here which are a lot more adventurous than the ones I met around the Gulf Islands. Here they live on their large, equipped to the max boats and go as far as Alaska routinely so I tried to get as much info as I could.

July 19: Johnston Strait still blowing gale force winds in the afternoon but we decide to move anyways hoping to get closer to the strait so when the weather breaks we can pass it early in the morning. We sailed/motored on through the next set of narrows with tidal currents: Green Point rapids and Whirpool rapids, passed these no problem even running Whirpool rapids with a fair ebb tide, and then dropped anchor in Forward Harbour amongst another 30 or so boats that got stuck here waiting for the winds in the strait to ease. Next is Johnson Strait which has kept boaters nervous here for the past week as the stable stationary high pressure system brought nice weather but also steady gale force winds in this area. Distance: 20 nm.

July 20: Today we had an early start at 6 am trying to avoid the predicted strong to gale force afternoon winds in Johnston Strait. It was a cold and cloudy day with 10 kt head winds so we took turns at the tiller switching every 30 minutes with one guy enjoying the warmth of the cabin. We ended up motoring the whole day up the strait anticipating the winds that never showed up and finally dropped anchor in a tiny secluded cove named Growler Cove that remained peaceful throughout the night with fish jumping out of the water all around us. Distance: 36 nm.

July 21: Another early start at 6 today to catch the ebb flowing us out of Johnston Strait and into Queen Charlotte Strait. On the north side of Malcolm Island we were treated to a display by Killer Whales. With a few other boats finally arriving at the scene we watched a group as they prayed on salmon and even witnessed a few jump (breach) completely out of the water. By chance we met Matt’s (land crew :) and Antarctic explorer) friend Haley (sea kayaked around Vancouver Is and recent solo sea kayak expedition in the Antarctic) who was working for Strait Watch driving a zodiac making sure boaters follow certain rules of engagement with the Orca whales. She came over to thank us for staying out of the Orcas path so well and then informed us that they are a resident Orca group called the Sea Sixes that primarily feed on salmon, a good indicator of the salmon run in the area. Later we managed to do some solid sailing till we got into little trouble getting close to Port Hardy. We hit some steep seas caused by 25+ kt winds against a maximum ebbing tide that bounced the boat all over the place causing me to try my storm jib and decide on a retreat back just miles from Port Hardy. We had to instead hide in Patrician Cove. It was a day full of adventure but I think I scared my Dad a bit and Cape Caution is next :). Distance: 40 nm.

July 22: Finally in Port Hardy. Woke up this morning to a whale swimming around in the bay, talked to Karoline on the phone, and decided to make the jump to Port Hardy despite the winds. Had an exciting sail in Queen Charlotte Strait in some 20+ kt winds with a double-reefed main and furled jib against some steep seas again, it was short but probably the most exciting sailing of this trip. Both me and my Dad donned on some harnesses for safety, and I think at the end my Dad was ready to go back to Victoria, but this short leg was a confidence booster. We celebrated with a huge meal at the local pub and some good conversation. Distance 10 nm.