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.