Log: Up the coast of “The Best Place on Earth”

This cheeky superlative comes is courtesy official British Columbian communicators, although its use may be on the wane. Combine unimaginable stretches of wilderness with a couple of North America’s more sophisticated cities and I suppose they have a point. In our eagerness to spend more time in Alaska, however, we decided to eschew favorite destinations we can reach on shorter trips. And with our sailing cousin Cruz Chouré along, we could make good time.

Tuesday, May 15 Bedwell Harbour. 48º45.07’N 123º13.87’W

Dry weather, light winds, and favorable tides took us across Juan De Fuca, up Haro Strait. and into the Boundary Channel. Opposite the Stuart Island light, Cruz put up the Maple Leaf pennant and we cleared customs at Bedwell Harbour. Snagged a buoy on the first try; later a cheerful park ranger crew would motor up to take our $12 on the opening night of their season. After lunch, Cruz and I pulled the inflatable out of the locker, put on the little egg beater of an electric motor and went to shore to stretch our legs. I’d never been to the top of Mount Norman; the view of what lay ahead was spectacular.

Wednesday, May 16 Protection Bay, Nanaimo. 49º10.71’N 123º55.76’W

Lovely weather. We tacked up wind with time to kill while waiting for the late day low water slack at Dodd Narrows. Just as we headed in to take advantage of the last minutes of the flood, a tug with appeared in the Narrows and fought the current with a large log boom. The raft was so wide that it got kept getting stuck, keeping a little sidekick tug busy unhooking it from rocks.

Finally we got through, motored into Protection Bay and hooked a buoy, eschewing the docks of this pleasant city because it was so late in the day. Instead, Cruz and I treated ourselves to good hoppy drafts at the famous Dinghy Dock pub while watching local boats race around those moored in the Bay. On the way back to Aurora, the motor faltered and quit, so we rowed.

Thursday, May 17 Comox 49º40.11 N 124º55.56’W

Maybe one reason we found Comox so delightful, again, is that it was hell getting here. The wind and weather would have been perfect for the open waters of Georgia Strait but since Whiskey Golf was active (with naval exercises) we had to stay just east the Ballenas Islands. We rocked and rolled and rose and pitched, our bow in the troughs, waves washing over the deck. We strung and jackline and clipped in.

With a great deal of concentration I was able to regain my stomach, just in time to find our dripless, engine dripping a cup a minute and the bilge full. The bilge pump was on but ineffective, as were attempted at manual pumping. In the end, I got down on my knees with and hand bailed, using several large bottles, hoisting them up the companion way onto the deck. and emptying them over the side. After doing this about thirty times, I was exhausted. We’d departed at 5:30am and it was nearly 8pm when we made fast at the Comox Harbour Authority dock. Fell into bed after supper, dirty clothes and all.

The next morning, Jack is up looking for answers to the bilge and engine issues long before anybody is up and ready to respond. In the end, Cruz and I figure out how to open the unit that filters the bilge water before it reaches the pump: you use the oil filter wrench! The inch-high cylinder of screen is all mucked up. Problem solved. As for the dripping dripless shaft, I get Jack to call Doug in Port Townsend while the fuel dock guy puts me in touch with the local expert, Glenn of Wills Marine. It’s a Friday before the May long weekend but he’ll send Travis or Haidar. He sends both in succession and then comes himself. After some diagnosis and a larger dose of charming local chat, we all decide not to worry about it. Glenn insists they didn’t do anything and refuses to charge us.

I do the laundry, check email and hit the supermarket for salad makings, eggs and a loaf of bread. Then Haidar and live aboard girlfriend Lara show up with beer and a crate of very live crabs which need to be consumed. We get out the pots and eat our way through them, hammering big claws, making a mess, having the best night so far.

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