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.
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.
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?
A day by day account of how we got where we are. Stay turned for photos, links, and updates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
Monday, July 10, 2017 Pender Harbor 49º37.8N 124º02’W
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.