Archive for the 'British Columbia' Category

Stern ties and cultural (in)competence

Smuggler Sunset

At the end of the day, our flawed stern tie provides this high tide view.

Through the heart of the Salish Sea is a cultural fault line that divides most Canadians from most Americans.

We like to swing and they don’t. They like to tie and we don’t.

I’m talking about the art of stern tying. Stern tying is what you do at an anchorage where people stern tie. After dropping anchor you run a line from the stern of the boat to the shore. This means your boat doesn’t swing, although in the wind the stern tugs at its tether like an annoying dog.

Occasionally stern tying makes sense. Let’s say a storm kicks up in Malaspina Strait and along with most everyone else you head for shelter in tiny Smuggler Cove. More boats can squeeze in when they park side by side around the edges, bows facing in in a neat circle. To facilitate the spacing of boats at this location, Provincial park authorities have installed iron rings at intervals along the shore. But even when there are no rings and lots of scope for swinging, the folks north of the cultural fault line will still stern tie.

And unlike those of us from the south, they are adept at it! No sooner is the anchor down than one of the crew gets in the dinghy, takes the end of a yellow plastic line from a bobbin mounted in the stern of the mother ship to the shore, puts it around a tree or though a ring, bring it back to the boat, and ties it two the stern. Done in less than 5 minutes.

Jack’s log offers a single note on a recent anchorage: “The stern tie from hell!”

There are only three boats there when we pull in to Smuggler Cove, a couple of hours south of Pender Harbour. With our pick of where to anchor, we choose our spot and drop.

As Jack at the helm tries to keep the boat off the rocks, I fumble with the yellow plastic line, get into the dinghy and head for shore. Somehow I manage to lose the end the line and have to go back to the boat to retrieve it. This time Jack unspools a whole lot so we can cover the distance. Fortunately, the yellow plastic line floats and doesn’t foul the propeller.

Stern tie is twisted but t
Here’s our set up on an earlier, imperfect stern tie in Laura Cove.  Note the makeshift bobbin mount, the wet shoes and socks and the fenders on the rail that will complicate a future effort that is going into the books as “The Stern Tie from Hell.”

I reach shore, get wet to the knee as I step out on a large flat rock. I secure the floating dinghy, untie the bitter end of the yellow line and scale the barnacle-encrusted cliff – just as well I’m wearing my snow pants. I find a ring, pass the bitter end through it and head back down to the dinghy, now stuck on the flat rock because the tide is falling pretty fast. I climb back on board Aurora as Jack kills the engine. We assess our twisted lines and check the tide tables.

Oops. We’re a more than an hour from the low low in a full mooned spring tide cycle. We’ve got to re-anchor and do the whole thing again!

Our stomachs are empty and our brunch of poutine will have to wait. I pocket a granola bar and head to the bow to raise the anchor. Rather than taking the trouble to open the hatch and flake the chain back into its locker under the V-berth, I bring the chain up on the deck. Then I accidentally step on the windlass motor button and manage to jam the anchor in the cradle and the taught chain on the windlass. As Jack keeps the boat off the rocks, I fetch the hammer, screwdriver and WD40. Swearing like a sailor, I eventually coax the links off the iron ratchet.

Lunch of poutine.

Our poutine brunch finally comes in the middle of the afternoon.

Finally we can repeat the process.  I drop the anchor and feed out a pile of chain. Then I get back into the inflatable still wearing my wet snowpants and shoes.  I tie the bitter end to the dinghy so the line can follow me.  I paddle out (not row, mind you, thanks to the oarlock that broke in Pender Harbor). The cliff is really high now; a vertical foot of tide has run out during the jammed windlass incident.  But with the end of this saga in sight, I bound to the top of cliff and put the end of the line through it. Now all Jack has to do is feed out the line so I can double it back.

Oh oh. Either my trajectory was loopy or the stern has swung, but now the line between spool and water is badly tangled among the spare fenders hung on either side of the $20-used-barbecue-that-has-never-worked.  Now it’s Jack who is swearing. He pulls fenders back over the rail into the boat, removing all play from the yellow plastic line and making things much worse. In the end he has to untie each of the fender lines.

Finally, standing atop the cliff like a resilient mountain goat, I coil all the line needed to reach the boat.  As I climb back down to the dinghy, the barnacles catch the coils.  Once the line and I are safely down in the dinghy heading back to the boat,  the whole scene changes.  The slack line snags on a rock and then another. As I look back in defeat, my paddling takes the inflatable atop the the half of the line already in place adding a new twist.

Our stern lines are rarely parallel.  Often they look

Our stern lines are rarely parallel; sometimes they do a crazy cat’s cradle.

Canadian stern ties result in neat parallel lines from ship to shore. Ours can be more like cat’s cradle.

Stern tying gives me cultural angoisse, existential anomie. It’s one of those times when the local culture seems impenetrable. How much else about Canadians do I fail to understand?  Does any of this behavior carry over to important differences in, say, the way they park their cars?

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Musings about Tides and Currents

The puzzling movement of large logs on a king tide.

We turn off Sutil Channel into Quadra Island’s Drew Harbour. The place is empty so we have our choice of anchorage. After studying the chart, observing the surface currents, surveying the contours of the land, and predicting the winds through the trees, we drop anchor on a bump off Rebecca Spit.

We find it the perfect anchorage. This is later confirmed by a couple of sailors who had watched us spin peacefully throughout the gale-force winds which battered their similarly sized-boat tied up nearby at the Heriot Bay Public Wharf.

Rebecca Spit 1

As the king tide peaks and carries the beach logs off Rebecca Spit, we can see across Sutil Channel to Cortes Island and Desolation Sound beyond.

In the late afternoon we stand on deck. Through a break in the trees on the spit we can look across the white-capped channel to Cortes Island and the mountains of Desolation Sound beyond. As the sun sets, the winds stop, the tide peaks, and the salt logs lining the lovely curve of the spit, creep into the water. Over a hundred of them, large and small, float throughout Drew Harbour, glistening a rich brown in the setting sun. Then as the tide peaks, they all return to our curve of the spit. The whole show lasts about 90 minutes.

RebeccaSpit 2

Soon the logs from Rebecca Spit float throughout Drew Harbour!

With the same tide height predicted for the next evening, albeit it an hour later, I persuade Jack to stay up and watch the curious journey of the logs. But this time, it doesn’t happen! There’s some modest log movement off a more southern part of the spit, but yesterday’s logs merely floated briefly before falling back into place.

My Otis Redding frame of mind.

When you’re in an Otis Redding frame of mind “watching the tide roll in” and then “roll away again,” you realize a lot is going on. The interplay of tide, current, depths, heights, and wind is a wondrous mystery.

Isolated logs may be encountered anywhere when you’re underway. They may bounce up on steep waves on when the wind is against current in Johnstone’s Strait. They may float calmly, transporting a dozen gulls or a long bald eagle. We have seen a harbor seal using one to haul out while moving on with the tide.

The rule is if you see one log, you keep an intense lookout for others. And when you see others, you know there are more.

I used to think that logs escaped log booms or slid off barges – which they do, of course – but most of them probably move around under their own steam, or rather, under the power of Nature. They fall in the forest, sometimes over streams. They may be the remains of an cannery that has been decaying since salmon runs nearly collapsed at mid-century. They may simply be among the salt logs which group and regroup along the shores in the spring tide zone. They may be new growth trees a foot-and-a half-or two in diameter or huge old growth trees.  In Tidal Passages, Jeannette Taylor’s history of the Discovery Islands, there’s a picture of the Beyers family in front of a fresh log from Von Donop Inlet that is 17 feet in diameter!

Three years ago, coming south from Alaska, I remember tucking into the Broughtons, among the most pristine waters of the coast. Just before Echo Bay we found our passage littered with logs of all shapes and sizes. We motored slowly, weaving in and out of them. Fortunately, the thick morning fog had burned off making the logs starkly visible in the noon sun, which must have coincided with a king tide. I need to check the data on that.

Lots of data!

Back in Port Townsend a bunch of scientists, along with my friend Dave who specializes in marine weather, are studying the way King Tides hit Port Townsend shores. As part of a broad Washington Sea Grant study to predict the impact of the month’s highest tides on sea level rise, they’re feeding data into a broad study. They use some simple sophisticated equipment and also rely on ordinary citizens who monitor the same tides with their cameras. What a wealth of new information there is in photographs stamped with time and GPS coordinates! Maybe we’ll figure this out.

Although flows of water may be riddled with riddles, there is a lot of data. It’s been accumulating since Newton. As I understand it, repeated 18 year series of observations now make it easy to pinpoint the two daily ebbs and flows that characterize our area. Our Ports and Passes manual for 2017 Tides and Currents for Washington Inside Waters, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska is 622 pages long. It’s based on research by the Canadian Hydrographic Service, which cooperates with NOAA (and registers the “negative tides” of the US as the commonsensical “zero tides” of Canada.)

Tides and currents are of course very different. Tides are measured vertically although water flows horizontally. As for currents, let’s not go there now. If you want to see the types of questions they throw up for a mariner, just keyword search the blog for “currents”.

What about non-watery currents and tides?

Thought tides and conceptual currents figure in the way we consider and talk about other realities. Is there any order there?

It seems to me that tides are broad movements. Take gold rushes. There were so many of them along the coasts of the Americas! A gold rush is something that takes root in the minds of many to draw physical tides of people from many locations into a single quest.  The past couple of years have brought to European shores tides of refugees, people embedded with compelling notions of freedom or survival.

As in Nature, non-watery tides certainly interact with currents. But currents are sharper, less superficial than tides. They cut vertically. They help explain some of the fault lines in a society. Are the evolving notions of working class and middle class currents in conflict? What about the knife-edged current of contemporary “bathroom bills” that slices through the rising tide of human rights victories for LGBLT folks?

 

Log: 2017 Salish Sea Circle Cruise

Saturday, July 22, 2017 Watsmough Bay. 48º25.9’N

“Watsmough Bay: The most scenic anchorage in the San Juans?” asks the cover of the May 2015 issue of Pacific Yachting magazine. We think so. What’s more it’s the San Juan destination closest to Port Townsend. But never is it more beautiful than when hear an anchor drop and discover it’s Martha. Captain Robert Darcy waves. This century old schooner which recently did the TransPacific race lives in Point Hudson in front of the boat shop in the Northwest Maritime Center where owner Darcy is lead shipwright.

Martha.jpg

The century old schooner and recent star in the TransPacific race normally lives right in Point Hudson near our house.

Thursday, July 20, 2017. Bellingham 48º45.4’N122º30’W

Bellingham is a much bigger place than the Fairhaven district where we boarded the Alaska Ferry years ago.  Indeed the waterfront is vast and forever changing as the city tries to meet the demand for housing.

At the Squalicum Harbour office, where we pay our 75 cents a foot there is not so much as a free map. Figuring out Whatcom County’s capital, visiting friends and exploring its cultural sites will have to wait for another trip. I spend Friday at the library, trying to tie up the week’s loose ends. A stop on the way at the Chamber of Commerce nets an excellent pile of maps and information about the town.

Georgia Pacific.jpg

The old Georgia Pacific site on Bellingham’s long waterfront has just been cleaned up and is ready for development.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Sucia Island 48º45.8’N 122º54.4’W

Have we not been to Sucia since a trip with Kinza years ago? Spanish explorers named northernmost of the San Juan Islands “sucia”, or “dirty” because of the the many reefs surrounding it. We tie up at a buoy and sleep through a bouncy night. To get Washington State Parks’ $15 per night fee to shore we hail a family with a dinghy.

Baker from Sucia

Our view out the wide mouth of Echo Bay on Sucia Island includes Mt Baker and a sweep of other snow-capped Cascades.

Monday July 17, 2017 Point Roberts 48º58.6’N 123º03.9’W

We raise the main among the 18 gigantic cargo ships anchored in English Bay and head out into the Strait taking the swells uncomfortably on the beam. toward the then rock and roll across the delta of the mighty Fraser River swollen with snow melt from far away BC peaks.

Of Point Roberts, Washington, a visitors’ guide writes this:  Locals call it “The Sigh.” You drive through the border, turn right onto Tyee Drive with it towering evergreens and “The Sigh”involuntarily escapes you. Point Roberts is an island of serenity next to the bustle of the Vancouver metropolitan area.

Point Roberts.jpg

Carved into a salt flat just a mile south of the Canadian border, Point Roberts is home to boats from all over the world but has lots of space when many are out cruising.

 

This sleepy, 5-square mile scrap of land that protrudes south of the 49th parallel, is home to 1500 people, many of them dual nationals of Canada and the US.  Point Roberts is an isolated enclave that boasts forests and farms and a sandy salt flat with a tear-drop shaped marina carved into it. The enclave borders Tsawwassen, whose busy port accommodates large ships and the BC ferries that connect Vancouver with the mainland.

Friday, July 14, 2017 Vancouver’s Coal Harbour

Howe Gambier Is.jpg

In Vancouver’s back yard, Howe Sound is especially peaceful before the business day begins.

It’s been more than three years since we docked at Coal Harbour. Our Alaska cruises rarely leave time for it and two years ago smoke from the first fires flowed down the channels to blanket the city. Coal Harbour lies between Stanley Park and Canada Place surrounded on two sides by the city’s renowned promenade, which fills with skaters, skateboarders, walkers, joggers, cyclists and buskers.

 

We get active. Friday night we do to the entire waterfront – under Lion’s Gate Bridge, into the hot sun setting over English Bay, around Stanley Park, past little sand beaches, the bathing beaches adjacent to the vast public pool and back into downtown on Denman Street for our traditional Mongolian Barbecue. Saturday night, we cross downtown to Granville Island on Vancouver’s new separated cycling lanes before heading up the narrow sidewalk on Granville Street Bridge with its spectacular views. Have a bite (and refresh the scooter batteries) in the place adjacent to the theatre overlooking the dock with the tiny colorful foot ferries and the rest of the Saturday evening parade. One the way back to the boat we ask some cyclists about Burrard Street Bridge. They tell us eastbound line is still under construction but we can and should use it. Wow. Burred Bridge has full-sized separated non-motorized paths in both directions, with cars relegated to a single lane. On Sunday we ride through Chinatown and turn south on Hastings beyond Skid Road as check thrift stores for flatware to replace the remaining plastic at September’s Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.

Gulalai and Habib come down to the boat bearing luxurious provisions from land-locked Afghanistan: dried white mulberries, giant golden raisins, enormous walnut halves and a season’s supply of figs. We catch up on the last seven months. Everyone is well except Gulalai’s mom, aging with paraplegia suffered in a hospital mishap several years ago. All her kids and grandkids live nearby but she is a quiet woman who loves to read. Gulalai is trying to find her recorded books in Pashto but Dari will have to do

Thursday, July 13, 2017 49º24’N 123º28’W Keats Island

We rock and roll down the coast. The motion of the water on the hull is enough to clear the barnacles and other gremlins from the knot meter, which suddenly – on day 36 – springs to life! We’d tried to pull the through hull and clean it off – always dramatic when the fountain of seawater covers the sole of the salon – but find that the sea creatures have cemented it in place. As the chart plotter gives us SOG – speed over ground – the knot meter is not essential. How nice to have something just fix itself like that!

We’re headed to the spectacular Howe Sound. Jack hands me the Waggoner Guide and says, “You choose.”  I expect the nicest wilderness coves on Gambier Island now have real estate. I eschew any waters that are constantly rocked by the many ferries that bind the Sound to the City. Samammish and the high peaks around Whistler are too far, better to save it for a future trip.

PlumperCove.jpg

Plumper Cove from stem to stern.  At right are new floats for boats that arrive too late for a buoy and the expansive views of Howe Sound and the Coastal Range.

So I opt for a mooring buoy in Plumper Cove Marine Park with its great view up the Sound. In addition to the seven mooring buoys, there are new floats on the dock. The family of Canada geese still come up to boats expectantly at supper time. We watch them cross the cove strategically to visit any boat where people appear in the cockpit, exercising their preference for barbecuers and children. Ah, the weedy creatures of civilization!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Smuggler Cove 49º30.9’N 123º57.9’W

Lovely place but as Jack remarks in his log: “Stern tie from hell.”

Bow to stern panorama of Smuggler Cove, a gem of a safe anchorage off often angry waters.

Monday, July 10, 2017 Pender Harbor 49º37.8N 124º02’W

We fly down Malespina Street with only the jib, poled out.

We pole out the jib and fly down Malespina Strait. Dave and Jennifer’s Fisherman’s Marina is now part of John Henry’s grocery and fuel dock. The marina manager is an enthusiastic young women from New Brunswick named Randy. We cross the little wooden bridge to the Garden Bay Pub, where service is slow. I count ten other tables without food and only one with it. But it’s pleasant and a huge portion of french fries begs to be taken home for tomorrow’s poutine.

Jack wants to visit Garden Bay by dinghy. I know I’m up to rowing because another time, long ago when the electric outboard was working, we ran out of juice in a lovely estuary between the mountains off the Bay and I had to row back. This time, the plastic oarlock fails, though toward the end of the journey. If rowing an inflatable is hard work, have you tried paddling?

Friday, July 7, 2017 Powell River 49)49.9’N 124º31’W

I’m not eager to leave Desolation Sound but Jack proposes the Salish Sea circle: we head down the coast to Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, cross the Fraser delta and spend some time in Bellingham. Powell River, a town we have passed many times without stopping, is getting great reviews. We soon learn why.

No we didn’t take this picture. It’s from a poster invitation to Powell River, where active outdoor recreation rules. The Tin Hat hut, one of 15 along the Sunshine Coast Trail, is visited year round by locals.

The people of Powell River are fitness freaks and outdoor recreation nuts. The town spreads out on either side of the very short Powell River and its famous mill. There is no natural harbor. Westview Harbour is simply a very long seawall with a ferry dock in the middle. Mill operations are protected by the “incredible hulks”. Log booms and barges of sawdust are protected by a barrier of hulls from nine World War II battleships. As spectacular as is the shore with views of Vancouver Island and the north end of Taxeda, it’s really the town’s backyard. For the people of Powell River, their front yard is the mountains and lakes beyond and hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, and kayak trails that link their favorite destination. Powell River’s tag line “Coastal by Nature” is apt.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 Laura Cove 50º08’N124º40’W

As the Gorge Harbour docks empty out after the double holiday long weekend, Tom and Terri move from boat to car, leaving thoughtful offerings of coffee, Wisconsin cheeses, pasta, and milk. Across the float, Wyatt and Janet’s tiny antique wooden Monk cruiser rocks as their kids jump on an off. More offerings. “Would you like some red snapper? Or ling cod?” They insist and pass us a three enormous snapper for the freezer. “We’ll just catch more on the way home.”

Flag flags, sails remain unfurled but Desolation Sound is as spectular as ever.

We head out, around the south end of Cortes and up into the spectacular Desolation Sound. There are a couple of boats in Laura cove, including a noisily happy one with about a dozen children. They splash around, perform stunts on the SUP, swing out over the water on a rope hung high in a tree. We drop anchor near the cove entrance with a view of the mountains of West Redonda. Much as we’d like to leave it there and just swing with the winds and currents, we stern tie, which Jack says is required. After all this is British Columbia’s most beloved and spectacular marine park and you can squeeze in a lot of boats.

We settle in with our books, taking turns in the bow on the zero-gravity folding recliner that was a Father’s Day special at Henery’s Hardware. The kids go home and do not reappear. I wonder if this mobile summer camp is regularly dispatched to a different cove everyday so that parents whose work falls so heavily in the summer can actually work.

Rereading the first chapter of Curve of Time brings me to dreamy tears before I start into Naomi Klein’s new No is Not Enough.

Saturday, July 1, 2017. Gorge Harbour. 50º 06.3 N 125º11.7’W

No sooner do we wind our way through Uganda Passage and shoot straight thought the narrow granite faced channel into Gorge Harbour, than it’s a homecoming.  Jon and Steph kayak over from Strangewaves’ anchorage in the bay and Terri and Tom  park their car after an all night drive from Portland and walk down the dock.  Cold beer for our reunion on the hottest day of the year and Canada’s 150th birthday!

Gorge

Tom and Terri have a car and take us to visit the spectacular Cortes Island beach at Smelt Bay.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Von Donop Inlet. 50º08.5’N 124.56.6’W

After a lazy morning at the spit we make the short but spectacular passage into to the wild heart of Cortes Island. Before the tied drops too low, we enter the long narrow Von Donlop Inlet, also known as Hathayim Provincial Marine Park.  More books to read.

VonDonop

We drop anchor near the trail to Squirrel Cove. As they paddle by before the 10 km hike, Rhonda and Jim stop by to say they are members of the Port Townsend Yacht Club.

Sunday, June 25, 2017. Rebecca Spit. 50º08.5’N 124º11.7’W

Another calm sunny morning with a very light wind. As we enter new territory to the east of Cape Mudge, four male orcas suddenly cross our path about 150 feet off our bow. Jack kills the engine and we watch them swim off toward Campbell River. One has the longest, tallest dorsal fin I’ve ever seen. It towers over those of his kin. In time a whale watching inflatable with passengers in red survival suits appears out of no where. Are these whales tag to tell their whereabouts? Have the whale watchers hacked into an orca’s geotag? Or do they just have good eyes?

We pass a large shellfish operation marked by yellow buoys before reaching the pristine Rebecca Spit which bounds Drew Harbor and provides some protection to Heriot Bay and the ferry dock. Note those coordinates: they are the perfect place to drop anchor.  We read books.

Thursday, June 22, 2017. Comox. 49º40’N 124º55.5’W

Light NW winds on calm seas take us Georgia Strait. We turn east behind Denman and Hornby and take Baynes Passage seemingly forever to the guest moorage at Comox Valley Harbour’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  We tie up in the basin that nestles in the spit. At low tide neighboring boats with good water under their keels appear to be in the middle of a desert dune.

Low tide along spit.

Low tide along Comox spit.

Finally the weather turns its back on winter. Jack’s favorite place is deck near the bow in his new zero gravity chair.  We also tour the town, work out at the Rec Center, enjoy the Seafest catamaran races.

Jack

The broad glacier-headed Comox Valley stretches out to the west beyond the Fisherman’s Wharf

Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Boho Bay on Lasqueti. 49º29’N 124º13.7’W

Calm seas. Some sailing through the lovely colors of dawn on Georgia Strait with Whiskey Golf inactive.

BohoBoat

Trim is a halibut boat built in 1945 and fitted out for comfortable living by Royce and Penny of Vancouver. Stabilizers kept them balanced in strong evening gusts.

 

Sunday, June 18, 2017. Nanaimo 49º10’N 124º56’W

After a pleasant transit of Dodd Narrows, we up among the fishing boats in what should be the thick of things. Dreadful cold keeps everyone inside.

NanaimoCoal

The coal mine at the Nanaimo Museum gives an unforgettable glimpse into the labors on which the town was built. Mined coal seams under the sea joined the city with Protection Island.

Thursday, June 15, 2017. Ladysmith. 48º59.8’N. 123º08’W

Ladysmith is always wonderful but the weather continues its bad behavior.  Still Ladysmith never disappoints. (Lots more in previous blog posts.)

Ladysmith

Mark at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Community Marina, says a member of his board designed their lovely floating cafe and boathouse. Showers, laundry and elevator to community room are in the rear.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Cowichan Bay. 48º44.5’N 124º37’W

Great sail around the light house and up Haro Strait. The Sidney Spit boring buoys are tempting but we can’t find enough water under our keel. Figure the winter storms have rearranged the sand. Later we learn that in the best of times there’s only one approach and it has a couple of doglegs in it.

We head to Cowichan Bay, recommended to Jack by Erica’s nephew Peter, who skippers the wooden ketch Thane in both races and twice daily summer sailings for visitors. Peter’s rightly distressed that the Victoria waterfront has lost its feel for maritime history and says Cowichan Bay still has it.

It does. Downright scrappy waterfront at the end of the road with a lethal lack of parking. People come for the fine bakery, cheese store, the community-rooted Maritime Center and a marine science center where dozens of kids, liberated from their school deals, were joyfully tracking low tide critters.

Cowichan

The Cowichan Valley community has preserved old marine ways as a museum and traditional working boatyard.

We tie up at Fisherman’s Wharf in the shadow of the bow of Arctic Fox, an old wooden fishing boat newly painted bright red. Soon Wharfinger Marc Mercer appears, musing that he must have been on the pot when we’d radioed. He’s a big handsome guy who spent his career piloting tugs, with a couple of years off to captain a two year sailing cruise up and down the coasts of the Americas timed to be in the Pacific during hurricane season in the Atlantic. Now he live in the vast fertile Cowichan Bay Valley and canoes to work.

Friday, June 9. Victoria Inner Harbour. 48º25.3’N 23º22’W

Close down the house, hop on my bike and catch up with Kinza on her way thought Boat Haven to Aurora. leave at dawn on a sail that’s just about perfect. Full sun, light to moderate winds, balanced helm, wing and wing until we make a single jibe to close haul right at 7 to 8 knots into the troubled waters at the entrance to Victoria Harbour.

Moor at the Causeway floats in front of the Empress and Parliament, after clearing customs. Jump into my Race to Alaska Minion tee shirt and onto my bike and head to Whitefish ?. This small boatyard that produces kayaks, paddle boards, and ocean rowing boats is hosting the party. I’d worked (picking trash) at the big pre-race Ruckus on Wednesday in PT; this party is for the teams and their groupies. After setting up to feed and float with drink a couple of hundred people, I join Penny and Kathleen at the merch table and discovered I love selling swag!

Spend the next day figuring out how each of the Race to Alaska boats worked and talk to crews about strategies. On one tour of the floats I look only at rowing stations; on the next only at pedaling stations. Every year there are smarter innovations. Amanda, Jeff and Ryder stop by. Jack hasn’t seen Ryder since his birthday party and asks Ryder what me remembers. “Alexa!” Ryder shouts. In the evening Kinza comes for supper with Nelson and Mona and a whole bunch of stories.

Vic

Lovely to look out the portholes on the British Columbia Parliament.

The Le Mans Race start is always thrilling. After watching the last SUP head out we turn to diagnosing what’s wrong with the solenoid switch for the propane, which had gave out only after dinner was ready. It’s a Sunday – such problems normally present on Sundays are when breakdowns happen – but we gamely bus around to hardware stores, whose clerks laugh at our ancient switch box. We pay another day moorage and are at TroTec Marine when they open at 8am. They order a rocker switch that fits the ancient housing that fits into the teak panel near the store and agree to have it solder up by COB. I pick it up, get clear on how to rewire and pay a grand total of $4 Canadian ($3 US). An awesome business! They were so busy with R2AK racers – who got seriously beaten up on the first leg – that next year they’re providing a shuttle.

Bus 11 every 15 minutes works for us. As soon as the switch is installed I get back on in the other direction and go out to Cadboro Bay to visit Erica, who I find installed in the garden drinking red wine and supping on Alan’s weekly rare cheese. Erica’s had a stroke and is mad as hell that they took her license away so she can’t drive up the hill to U Vic, but otherwise seems pretty fine.

Up the Coast of British Columbia


When we left on the 14th of July after an impossibly busy week that left me on a wave of exhaustion. Thanks to Kinza crewing across the fairly notorious Straits of San Juan de Fuca and Georgia, I could help a bit with the sails and then fall fast asleep on them once they were down. Vancouver was great. We moored downtown again but on the funky side of town near the Granville Bridge. Gulalai, Habib, Saeed, Hala, Frances and Philip, who took Kinza away, all came down to the docks.




Then Jack and I set off again across the Strait of Georgia only to run into impossibly thick fog once we hit Gulf Islands. In Boundary Channel the kindly pilot of a 400 ft vessel moving at 14 knots caught us in his radar and gave us a safe heading. We managed to find our way to safe harbor and dropped our hook and relaxed, enjoyng solar power but no other intrusions. All the fewer after I lost my cell phone on a tumble on a slippery slope during a short hike into the Gulf Islands National Marine Park. Finally we were able to creep into Victoria where it simply went cold and rain, complete unseasonable, early “Fogust,” not July.

We flew across Georgia again in 25 knots on a single tack and explored Howe Sound, where in Vancouver’sback yard 10,000 ft peaks rise from sea. Next a sunny long zigzag up to Pender Harbour and Fisherman’s Marina. Dave was again on the docks to greet us just like last year. Crature comforts in a “green” marina and nice surprises all around. The first night, Bill Thompson, the 80 year old restorer of a 1938 open cockpit single float biplane, gave an air show in the setting sun. The next night, his tug boat did the rounds with a live concert by 8 member bagpipe band.

Back to the wilderness, up Jervis inlet to Princess Lousia Inlet, a secret fjord with mountains rising straight out of the sea. A sky full of sun and mist. A once in a blue moon eperience and there was a blue moon to boot. But no radio, no telephone, no electricity, no news, no email, no place whatsoever to spend money.


We’d expected Princess Louisa – one of the world’s great destinations for sailors – to be crowded, but it was blissfully empty.



No so on the Vancouver Island side of the Strait of Georgia. After our fourth and final crossing after having spent a number of nights on the hook, we just wanted to pull up at Nanaimo Public Wharf. But there wasn’t a space and the bay opposite was so full we gave up our attempts to anchor outside of swinging range of other boats. So we gave up on this nice town.

At 6 pm we passed through the very narrow Dodd Narrows on a slack, after waiting for tugs to pull and push a large log boom through in the opposite direction. At 8 pm, with a dazzling sunset before us, we pulled into the delightful Ladysmith Harbour and radioed successfully for moorage at a marina.

Today we dinghied past the log booms and the saw mill to dock at the foot of forested hill on which sits a gem of a little town. Jack slept in the dinghy while I went up the hill to the 49th Parallel Grocery for some fresh lettuce, tomatoes and fruit. Then we went on to Montague Harbour Marine Park – where I was reunited with my cell phone thanks to helpful park staff.
The next day we sailed down past Active Pass and entered US waters just north of Stuart Island Marine Park, the northern most of the San Juans. As we pulled into the bay, we were greeted by two tall ships,the Hawaiian Chieftain and the Lady Washington.


We snagged a bouy on Turn Island and rocked and rolled in the wake of Friday Harbor ferries as a strong reluctance to return set in. But in a weather window the next morning we slowly made out way out Cattle Pass, into Juan de Fuca and home to Port Hadlock.


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