The Voyage of S/V Estelle

Cruising the British Columbia Coast

07 February 2020
03 February 2020 | Northern Georgia Strait
30 September 2018 | Vancouver Rowing Club
10 September 2018 | The Laughing Oyster, Okeover Landing
08 September 2018 | Von Donop Inlet, Desolation Sound
08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
16 August 2018
16 August 2018 | Turnbull Cove, BC
15 August 2018 | Pierre's Echo Bay Resort
15 August 2018 | Kwatsi Bay Marina, The Broughtons
15 August 2018 | Potts Lagoon, West Cracroft Island, BC
05 August 2018 | Kwatsi Bay
01 August 2018 | Big Bay
01 August 2018 | Von Donop Inlet
27 July 2018 | Lancelot Inlet, Desolation Sound Marine Park
09 July 2018 | Vancouver Rowing Club
04 June 2018 | Whistler BC
08 February 2018 | Whistler, BC
19 November 2017 | Vancouver, BC

Summer 2019 Cruise Part 2

07 February 2020
James Lea
July 20-26

After Kevin freed our prop, we headed for shore. We spent the balance of the day and the next morning re-stocking and preparing for our visitors. Our grandsons Ben and Ethan were arriving for a week cruising with us. With their appetites, that meant lots of food, so that the cupboards and refrigerator were all full by the time they arrived in mid-afternoon.
Plans for the week were to head slowly from Pender Harbour across to Nanaimo and down through the Gulf Islands and meet their parents in Sidney.
After dinner, we were invited ashore by Evie and Rolly's neighbors for a campfire and marshmallow roast, a great start to the cruise.
In the morning we headed out of Gunboat Bay, through Pender Harbour and across Malispina Strait to Jedediah Island. Just a 16 mile trip, we rounded the southern tip of Texeda Island up Bull Passage and into Boho Bay where we anchored for the night. We chose Boho Bay for its shelter from the forecast north-west winds. By evening we had been joined with just six other boats in a large anchorage, lots of room for all. Anchored in 60' of water, we were glad of our chain counter, allowing us to be certain that we had he proper scope out. After some instruction, Ben and Ethan were handling anchoring duties. Arriving in early afternoon, we launched the dinghy and headed for Sunset Cove on Jedediah Island. Ashore we walked the paths looking for the wild sheep, left from the last permanent residents of the island. We saw lots of signs of sheep, but they kept out of sight as we crossed the island.Our only sightings were some bleached bones of a long gone resident.

Back in the dinghy, Ethan took over the controls and took us back across Bull Passage to Boho Bay.

There was talk of swimming, but only Ben managed to get wet, and just barely.

Next plan was put out the crab trap for the night using the head of Joanne's Chinook from the previous week (kept in the freezer).
Next morning we hauled a trap full of rock crab. But they were all too small to keep, so with great care to avoid the snapping claws, we dropped them over the side.

Anchor up, we headed down Bull Passage and around the south-west tip of Lasquetti Island. We headed SSE across Georgia Strait for Nanaimo. Like our trip north our course crossed the weapons testing area WG. Calling Winchesley Control, we were given permission to pass through. In a fresh SE wind, we were close hauled for the entire crossing, with just 2 tacks needed to lay the entrance to Nanaimo Harbour.
With the sails furled, we motored down the narrow Newcastle Island Passage lined with marinas and literally thousands of pleasure boats. At the southern end of the passage, we rounded up into the mooring field in Mark Bay where we picked up a mooring for two nights.
Newcastle Island is yet another of the many provinccial parks complete with mooring field, marina and dinghy dock. Ashore, Newcastle Island has a campground, small canteen (complete with ice cream), bike rentals and miles of trails.
At low tide, we walked the shoreline, checking out the tidal pools and skipping rocks.

Next ice cream and a game of checkers on a large outdoor board.

Next morning we rented bikes and took a trail around the island, a 2 hour trip.

Across to the Dinghy Dock Pub for supper, then ashore again on Newcastle Island for ice cream for dessert.

Next morning we were headed down into the gulf Islands. From Nanaimo, getting into the Gulf Islands requires passing through Dodd Narrows. Dodd Narrows is yet another set of tidal rapids that can only be transited during a 15 minute interval around slack. And to complicate this one, it is frequently used by tugs towing large log booms to the mill in Nanaimo Harbour.
Checking the current tables showed slack at 0956 hrs. With six miles to the narrows from our anchorage, we dropped the mooring just before nine. We have finally learned to trust our calculations and not rush out of the anchorage when we see others begin streaming out.
Arriving at slack, we made another "Securitay" announcement of the VHF to assure we wouldn't meet any surprises in the very narrow passage, and we were through and into Stuart Channel.
The Gulf Islands are a group of islands along the south-east coast of Vancouver Island. Sailing conditions inside the islands are distinctly milder than on Georgia Strait, and we enjoyed the light winds and sunshine sailing as we slowly made our way down from Stuart Channel into Clam Bay for lunch. In the dinghy we motored through the very narrow cut between Thetis and Keuper Islands into Telegraph Harbour. At the north end of the harbour we watched two model sailboats tack back and forth across the harbour. They are tethered to wire below the surface that they follow to one end, tack and sail back. Ashore at Telegraph Harbour Marina, more ice cream servrd. Then back aboard Estelle and
across to Trincomali Channel and into Montague Harbour, another provincial park with mooring field and dinghy dock. We anchored just outside the mooring field and dinghied ashore to the park for a hike.
In the morning, we went back ashore with Ethan's fishing rod and a "stick" rod for Ben. Our targets were the tiny bait fish that swam around the dock. We secured bait by cutting off a very sticky and slimy tube worm under the float. Two hours later we had caught and released countless tiny fish


Then, off again, this time to nearby Ganges on Saltspring Island.
Mid July is peak boating season in Ganges, one of the most popular destinations in the Gulf Islands. Rather than try to find space in the marina or crowded anchorage, we anchored in nearby Madrona Bay with just three other boats in the large anchorage. From our anchorage to the Ganges dinghy dock is just over a quarter mile, yet boaters seem to insist on crowding into a tiny anchorage as close to the dock as possible, leaving us lots of. room next door... not sure why.
Ashore for dinner at The Tree House and after... ice cream.

It's been an ice cream trip. Only in Boho Bay, with nothing ashore, did we miss a day.
Next morning marked the boys last day aboard. We raised the anchor and set out for Van Isle Marina in Sidney. Out in Captain Passage, we hoisted the sails and enjoyed a light air sail through Moresby Passage past Portland and Coal Islands where we rounded up and dropped the sails. Motoring in to our assigned slip, we were secured to the dock at 1620 hours, cruise over.
Next morning we walked up the dock to meet Andrew and Meghan and we were left with a strangely quiet boat.

Summer Cruising in BC Part 1

03 February 2020 | Northern Georgia Strait
James Lea
Sunset in Bull Passage, Jedediah Island

Well, it is now well past time to bring this blog up to date on our 2019 cruising activities. As I write, I am waiting in Whistler for skiing conditions to improve. It has not been the best season, but I still have some how not found time to write.
Basically, our 2019 cruising season can be divided into Three more or less different cruises.

July 7-20, 2019
Our plans for an early start to the cruising season were obviously not a reality. A renovation project at home meant that we had a myriad of decisions to make, involving many trips from Whistler to Vancouver for selection of more things than I could imagine. But by early July we had had enough and headed off, relying on cell phone and email to make any more necessary decisions.
On July 7th, we finally backed out of our slip at the Vancouver Rowing Club and headed out. Plans for the trip were Princess Louisa Inlet, followed by meeting our Whistler neighbours Kevin and Joanne Fogolin in Desolation Sound for a few days of fishing.
Although our destination was north from Vancouver, we headed across the Georgia Strait to Nanaimo, a better sailing angle. After a beautiful sail across the 35 miles of Georgia Strait, we were picking up a mooring at Newcastle Island Park. Ashore, we stretched our legs in a short walk, then back aboard for dinner and bed. It felt great to be cruising again!
Next morning, after a call to WG Control to confirm we were allowed to transit the WG weapons testing area, we were off. As forecast, the wind had swung to the south-west, giving us a nice broad reach on our NNE course to Jedediah Island.
Last spring, we had a few jobs done at our friends Strait Marine. We replaced our primary chain (200') with 300' for better security in the deep anchorages. And we also installed chain counter/remote windlass control. So now, we can not just raise and lower the anchor from the cockpit, we know how much chain we have out, excellent additions for the challenging anchoring conditions in many areas.
At Jedediah Island, our destination, we tested the new system out anchoring in Bull Passage and were pleased with it, giving us real confidence in making certain we have the proper scope out.
Ashore we walked the paths of the island, with the wild sheep keeping well away from us. We have been here a few times before, but always enjoy its feeling of remoteness. And although it can attract lots of boaters, it never seems crowded.
Overlooking Home Bay, Jedediah Island

Next morning we were off to Pender Harbour to stock up for the remainder of the trip, meaning ten days of supplies. We anchored in Gunboat Bay, off the dock of Evie and Rolly Rolston, Whistler neighbours.
Ashore next morning, Evie took us up to her vegetable garden and with that we had all our vegetable needs for the trip! They they loaned us a car for more shopping in nearby Madeira Park.
To enter Princess Louisa Inlet means navigation the narrow but turbulent Malibu Rapids right at the mouth of the inlet. We chose our day by studying the current tables to find a day with slack current in late afternoon, giving us time to make the 45 mile trip in one day. So it was late afternoon when we approached the rapids. Because there is a curve in the rapids, you can not see the entire rapids before entering, so we called a "Securitay" on the VHF announcing our plan to enter. And luck we did, as a boat already in the rapids out of sight responded telling us they were exiting. So after they sailed out, we began our entry. Although not exactly slack, we were safely through followed by two other boats that had been waiting outside when we approached.
Although we didn't have time to look at it, we swept past the Malibu Club Young Life Camp, a luxurious camp perched on the rocks overlooking the rapids.


Inside the inlet we stared in awe. At its widest Princess Louisa Inlet is just over half a mile. From the rapids at the mouth to Chatterbox Falls at the head is just under four miles. With cliffs soaring straight up over a mile, the effect is spectacular.



At the head of the inlet, there is a dock with a few short hiking paths ashore. Motoring up the inlet, we tied up next to a boat we had met in Pender Harbour a few days before, so we had helping hands to take our lines. Much of Princess Louisa Inlet is a provincial park, but not all. Dock fees are by donation, and a park ranger comes and goes from time to time. There are rules posted about garbage and noise, all seemingly adhered to on the honour system.

In two days, we kayaked around, hiked the small trails including one beside the falls with a sign warning not to go further or you might risk death, as others who ignored the sign did. We heeded the warning.
After two nights, we dropped our lines and motored down the inlet to a small mooring field with a dinghy dock and some larger hiking trails. We also took the dinghy down for a tour of the Malibu Club where we were warmly welcomed.
Next morning it was time to catch the morning slack at the rapids and head down towards Georgia Strait. In light airs we motored down Queens Reach, Princess Royal Reach and Prince of Wales Reach before heading in Sechelt Inlet to Backeddy Marina.
Backeddy Marina is well named. It is just one mile in Sechelt Inlet and two miles above Skookumchuck Rapids, the strongest rapids in BC. So currents at the marina can be strong. But the marina staff are well versed with docking and with their guidance, and three men on the dock, we were safely tied up in late afternoon.
We quickly hiked up to the nearby West Coast Wilderness Lodge to try to make a reservation for dinner, but too late, so we settled for breakfast the next morning.
It was now time to head for Desolation Sound to meet Kevin and Joanne, so we left the dock and across Malispina Strait to the docks of the Texeda Island Boat Club, where we tied up for the night.
Next morning we were off to Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island to meet Kevin and Joanne. We stayed in Squirrel two nights and went fishing during the day.
Lunch while fishing

Joanne celebrated her birthday (a significant one) by catching an enormous Chinook Salmon that we had for a birthday dinner.
Joanne's catch

Dinner with Joanne's catch

Nice Rockfish

Next morning it was time to head back to Pender to meet our grandsons Ben and Ethan for a week cruising. As it is a bit too long for a single day, we again headed for Sturt Bay (home of the Texeda Island Boat Club) for the night. But this time, the club floats were all occupied, so we anchored in the north-west corner of the very sheltered bay. With six other boats in the small anchorage, we found a spot for our anchor and tied off to shore to reduce our swinging. Although this is a common technique in this area, we have not yet really mastered it, but are improving.
Next morning we were off down Malispina Strait in light following winds, prompting the spinnaker to come out. In mid afternoon we pulled in to Gunboat Bay and dropped the anchor. Backing down we nicely wrapped the dinghy painter (line) around the prop just as Kevin and Joanne motored in. As I prepared to dive on the prop, Kevin insisted on doing it. An hour later, with a very cold and tired Kevin, we were back in operation!
A cold Kevin!

Heading Home

30 September 2018 | Vancouver Rowing Club
Late Summer
Seafood Buffet at The Laughing Oyster

This is the final set of blog entries for our summer cruise to Desolation Sound and the Broughton Island Group.

August 23
From Okeover Inlet, we headed out Malispina Inlet, rounded Sarah Point and began the trip south. In a light NW wind, we quietly sailed down through the Copeland Islands, past Lund, Savary Island, Harwood Island and Powell River into Sturt Bay on Texeda Island, where we tied up to the very accommodating docks of the Texeda Island Yacht Club. Since our first stop here, we have not passed without visiting. Ashore, we walked the quiet streets of the village of Van Anda up to a store for some supplies, then to the village Inn for cash from the only ATM in the area. Then back to the boat.
Jeannie and chef/owner of The Laughing Oyster

The excellent Buffet

August 24
Mary Mary Cafe, Van Anda, Texeda Island

In the morning, we were in no hurry, so walked up to the Mary Mary Cafe for breakfast. Then we were off south again, still enjoying the nice NW breeze. Our destination was Jedediah Island off the southern tip of Texeda Island. But by late afternoon, with a forecast for uncertain winds, we decided to divert into the excellent shelter of Secret Cove for the night. It also gave us a chance to refill the dinghy gas tank again.

August 25
From our anchorage in Secret Cove, we set out for Jedediah Island, just 9 miles away. Jedediah Island is part of the Lasqueti Island group. Although the islands are not far from Nanaimo and Powell River, we expected it to be remote and quiet... we were wrong! Every anchorage was filled, so we found another deep (65') anchorage. It was fine for the day, but we would need to find better protection for the night.
In the dinghy we soon found a trail head. Ashore we crossed the island, passing a few abandoned buildings and kayak campsites (Jedediah Island is a provincial park). The island has a colourful and fascinating history.
Abandoned home on Jedediah Island

By late afternoon we decided that a return to Secret Cove was the best alternative, so we motored back.
And we motored slowly! The boat bottom has a healthy marine garden on it, slowing us down significantly. So much so that I called to arrange a haul-out and cleaning in Sidney.
Back in Secret Cove we settled in just as the first rain in 8 weeks started. And it was here in Secret Cove that we last had rain!

August 26
In the morning the sun had returned and we set out across the Strait of Georgia for Newcastle Island (another provincial marine park) in Nanaimo harbour.
Down through Welcome Passage and out into the Strait, we set sail, crossing area WG, the naval weapons testing area (inactive today) and enjoyed yet another beautiful sail until the winds died as we approached the harbour.
Safely anchored, we went ashore for a short walk, then over to the Dinghy Dock Pub for dinner.
Dinghy Dock Pub, Protection Island... it is actually floating.

Good news!!! The smoke is gone, blown away by the recent NW winds!

August 27
With the now clear air, we have decided to head down to Victoria for the long weekend to visit our daughter Sarah and family.
So today, the first order of business was to get through Dodd Narrows. The currents in Dodd Narrows (over 8 knots is not unusual) are not the strongest in BC, but add the heavy traffic, and it can be quite an experience. Our calculations showed us leaving the anchorage at 11 am to arrive at slack, But at 9:30, we watched other boats begin to stream out in the direction of the narrows. We checked the calculations and waited... more boats streaming out. Finally at 10:30, we could not resist the "herd mentality" any longer and got underway... arriving 1/2 hour early. But we made it through and sailed down in the quiet airs to yet another provincial marine park and Montague Harbour.

August 28
Our scheduled haulout was two days away, and just 30 miles, so we headed over to nearby Ganges Harbour. Rather than head into our yacht club outstation dock, we decided to anchor for the night. We called Mike and Paula from Verstovia, who we met in Desolation Sound and had kept in touch with. They live on Saltspring Island just a few miles from Ganges, so we met for lunch. They took us to the Saltspring Island Cheese Factory, just a few miles outside Ganges, where we had an excellent lunch, followed by a tour of the cheese-making and some purchases in their shop. Then a stop at the Ganges Farmers Market, always fun. A great afternoon!
Ganges Farmers Market

August 29
This morning, we began hoisting the anchor as usual. But as the anchor was coming over the bow roller, the chain swivel snapped, sending the anchor (a 20 kg Rocna) to the bottom!!
Jeannie hit the MOB button to get our coordinates, and we set off wondering how to retrieve it. A call to Paula and she had us in touch with a local diver. His fee was $250 if he found the anchor, $150 if he didn't. Well, I paid him $150... no anchor. We motored into fresh southerlies over to Canoe Cove Marina, where we tied up for two nights. In addition to the haul-out, I had called a marine contractor on the site to arrange to have some work done on the engine. Since it was new, 4 years ago we have had an intermittent starting problem that I finally traced to a faulty pre-heat solenoid. When we arrived at the marina I walked up to the shop (Raven Marine) and also ordered a new swivel. Since I had to have them cut off the remains of the old one, I asked them to install the new one. Nelson (my contact at Raven) asked me about how I had installed the previous one and suggested a modification to prevent a recurrence.
Haulout at Canoe Cove Marina

Next morning, the solenoid was installed, haulout, cleaning and new prop zinc installed at noon and new anchor swivel installed in the afternoon, along with our back-up anchor, a Fortress FX-37
In the evening, we met Sarah and family and went to dinner at the Stonehouse Pub, just a short walk from the boatyard.

August 31
In the morning, we cast off for the Royal Victoria Yacht Club for three nights. With our very active grand-sons, we enjoyed two days of fun, fishing, kite-flying and play.

September 3
With a boost from the current, but in flat calm ait, we motored back up the shore and back into Montague Harbour where we picked up a mooring for the last night of our cruise.
We had it on good authority that the restaurant at the marina was worth visiting, so we took the dinghy over for dinner, their last evening dinner of the summer. The Crane and Robin has a small but excellent menu, highly recommended. The fish tacos are delicious. We found a seat in the restaurant overlooking the harbour and had a great meal. After dinner, we walked back to the shore to watch the sunset, a perfect last night for our cruise.

September 4
With slack currents in the cuts not due until noon, we had a leisurely start to our last morning. Evenings are getting chilly, but with the sun on our cockpit enclosure in the mornings, we were still able to have breakfast in the warmth of the sun.
Heading out, we decided to motor north 16 miles to Gabriola Passage to give us a better sailing angle across the Strait of Georgia back to Vancouver. Slightly late for slack, we still pushed through with 2.5 knots of opposing current. Safely through, we bore off for Point Grey, 20 miles across. In another beautiful afternoon, pushed by a 15 knot NW breeze, we finished our cruise with a perfect sail. Furling the sails as we approached Lions Gate Bridge, we were back in our berth at the Vancouver Rowing Club in early evening, cruise over.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

10 September 2018 | The Laughing Oyster, Okeover Landing
Smoky, warm, light winds
Smoke at Manson's Landing

Getting to the Broughtons is more difficult than getting back. From Port McNeill to Desolation Sound was three great sailing days, with a bit of motoring through the rapids. But as we entered the Desolation Sound area, we were ready to stop. We decided to spend two nights in beautiful quiet Von Donop Inlet. Although just a few miles off the beaten path to the favourite anchorages in Desolation Sound, it gets far fewer boats. Here too we saw far fewer boats that when we left in mid-July.
Anchor down and set, we headed ashore for a short hike to stretch our legs. We had not really done any walking since Port McNeill, four days ago. Then back to the boat for dinner. We are still working our way through the freezer where we stocked up hurriedly on our way north. We still have four big steaks from Big Bay and tonight, we split one. With fresh veggies from Port McNeill and a BC Cab Sauvignon, a nice dinner.
In the morning, we did the reverse hike we did a few weeks earlier... we hiked from Von Donop to Squirrel Cove, where we counted just 14 boats. Although we could not see the full anchorage, there were far fewer boats in the inner anchorage that we could see. Clearly the season is winding down here. Back in Von Donop, we did a dinghy tour of the area, a few boat jobs and the day was over.
When we came through the rapids into Desolation Sound, we noticed a change... smoke. With the wildfires raging in the interior of the province, the smoke has been slowly working its way to the coast. We noticed signs of it when heading north, but today it was noticeably heavier, with warnings about health concerns and not exerting yourself.
Next morning (August 20th), we raised anchor and rounded the west side of Cortes Island and headed for Manson's Landing. We arrived to find a crowded anchorage, typically very deep everywhere but some very small areas between deep water and drying flats. Rather than anchor in 70', we crept up to a nice 20' and set the anchor. Not a spot for low tide as we would be just a few feet from grounding, but fine for a few hours around high tide.
We clearly need more anchor rode. We carry 200' of chain on our main rode. That means safe anchorage in about 40'. But many of the anchorages in the areas we have been cruising are significantly deeper. So we will have to decide whether to replace the entire chain with 300', or add to the existing with 150' of rope. A project for next winter.
But for now, we were well set for a few hours, so we set off ashore. We walked up the road about one kilometre to the commercial centre of Cortes Island. It contained a couple of cafes, grocery store and a few other shops. We decided on a small cafe for lunch and were not disappointed... excellent. Then a few groceries in the attached co-op and we headed back to the dinghy. We took the dinghy into a lagoon, accessible only for a few hours around high tide, found a path up to Hague Lake where we stuck our toes into the warm water. But time to catch the tide and avoid finding ourselves trapped inside the lagoon.
Back aboard, we hoisted the anchor and rounded Sutil Point and dropped the anchor in Cortes Bay in better anchoring depths.
The smoke is getting worse, causing us to re-think the remainder of our stay here. We have some areas we would like to see, but with the smoke, little of the spectacular scenery is visible, not to mention the effect of breathing the smoky air. Our eyes are sore and we are doing little that requires exertion.
But we had one stop we were not going to miss... dinner at The Laughing Oyster. We had a delicious lunch there on our way north and wanted to try dinner. And we learned that Wednesday was Seafood Buffet night. So we made reservations and headed down.
Leaving Cortes Bay (August 21), we motored in light air across the Sound down into Malispina Inlet and up Lancelot Inlet to the Susan Islets for the night. Next morning, we dug clams at low tide, only to find the area closed due to shellfish poisoning, so back they went. In the afternoon, we headed down Lancelot Inlet and into Okeover Inlet. By now the smoke was at its worst. With less than 1/2 mile visibility, we watched the radar screen all the way down. But we met little traffic. Boats were just staying put in the dense smoke. But the meal was worth the trip.

Sailing Again!

08 September 2018 | Von Donop Inlet, Desolation Sound
As usual, sunny, hot with smoke in the air
18 August
Next morning we were ready to cast off and enjoy the nice north west wind, our objective, Port Harvey. But we were warned.. the sockeye season had opened the previous night! No wonder the fuel dock was empty. And with the fog, we were warned that it would be a real problem working our way down through the fleet. The fishery is a gill net fishery, streaming their nets 1/4 to 1/2 mile behind the boats. And the challenge was to figure out whose net was attached to which boat. But in the end, we had no problems. We worked our way down the western shore, closer to our destination, while the fishermen seemed to prefer the eastern shore. Not only that, we watched boat after boat streaming back to Port McNeill after filling their quota after just 12 hours. So, maybe it will be a big season, just like Billy told me it would be.
Johnstone Strait has a reputation for some serious weather. When the winds on Queen Charlotte Strait, a few miles north, are mild, Johnstone Strait can see gale force winds. Not only does the water narrow, but the mountains funnel the winds into the narrow waters, so that gale force winds are not uncommon when the weather a few miles away is benign.
But sailing down, we enjoyed a 15 knot following breeze as we worked our way down the strait to Port Harvey, where we began our trip into the Broughtons. Great to be sailing again!
We knew our arrival at the Port Harvey Marine Resort would be far different than our arrival last month. We had word that just days after our departure, George Cambridge, who owned and operated it with his wife Gail, died suddenly a few days after we were there. When we were there, I had asked Gail how they could possibly operate the place with just two people. She said that one of them had to always be there. Two people were needed. But now there was only one. Gail has left, and the marina is closed, but boaters are free to tie up. Not only do we feel the loss of George, but the timing just adds to the feeling of loss. They had just been rebuilding the marina and buildings, restaurant and store, after a tragic sinking two years ago. The new docks and buildings pointed to a great future. But this is a remote spot, and it will take a special type to continue here.
When we arrived, we found the docks were just about full, so we had willing hands to help with our lines. In the evening we gathered on the dock and remembered George. Although we only met him for the first time a few weeks ago, we quickly learned to enjoy his dry humour. Sitting on the docks we speculated on the marina's future and toasted George, wishing him fair winds.
On the dock that night, we met Peter and Marsala on Northern Light, a Bennetau 50 from Victoria BC. The discussion about weather (all were heading back south) was, as usual, full of varying opinions. To us, the next day seemed the best to head south. Nice following winds and a following current. All agreed that heading off early would be best.
Next morning, we dropped our lines at 0730, early for us, with not a sign of others. We had a great downwind sail through Johnstone Strait, past Fanny Island and its Environment Canada weather station (I check it regularly) into Sunderland Channel. Two miles into the channel, the winds dropped from 20 knots to calm, leaving us motoring into Forward Harbour where we waited for the change of the currents.
We dropped anchor waiting for slack in the Whirlpool rapids, just outside the harbour entrance. As we waited (wondering where our dockmates were), in came Northern Lights. They told us that everyone else had decided to stay another day.
At 1500 hrs, we headed out into the slack Whirlpool Rapids and down into Cordero Channel. Here we faced a following 20 kt wind bucking the yet to change current... a rough ride. But by the time we reached Green Point Rapids, all was well... calm winds and waters. We considered an anchorage just off the rapids, but too many boats! So we carried on to Shoal Bay where, after some anchor dancing, we pulled into the wharf. We have begun to see smoke from the many forest fires far inland.
Like so many areas up and down the northern coast of BC, Shoal Bay once was a complete town, at one time boasting a population larger than the newly founded Vancouver. But today all that is left is the wharf, maintained, for some reason, by the federal government. The one remaining structure is a small pub/home. Again we met up with Peter and Marsala from Northern Lights, and went ashore to the pub. A bit of a disappointment, ($9.00 for a beer). So back to the boat for the night.
In the morning, we were off early, wanting to time our trip through the rapids, Dent, Gillard and Yucultas. All within a distance of 5 miles. As we set off we watched a flotilla develop around us, all jockeying speed to arrive at the rapids at slack. And we all did.
Through into Calm Channel, we hoisted the main, shut the engine down and pulled out the spinnaker! I don't think it has been used since 2007 in the Bahamas. But today it flew beautifully. We had a couple of gybes, working our way down past Raza Passage, Deer Passage and into Sutyl Passage where the wind died and we motored into Von Donop Inlet, fast becoming a favourite anchorage.

Sockeye Fever

08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
Still sunny, light NW winds, hot
Tug setting up a log boom for towing south.

August 15th
Billy Proctor told me about sockeye fever. And in Port McNeill, we experienced it. I have learned a lot about salmon fishing on the west coast. Some from Billy directly, some from fellow cruisers, some from fishermen and some from Billy's book. I doubt I have it all correct, but, from what I have learned, this is how it goes.
The sockeye fishery is the biggest salmon fishery on the west coast. And the biggest river is the Fraser River, emptying into the Strait of Georgia through two main branches in Vancouver. The main body of the run comes in south of Vancouver Island through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. About 30% of the run come in north of the island down through Queen Charlotte Strait and into the narrows of Johnstone Strait.. just where we were headed.
The sockeye fishery is a 36 hour fishery, beginning at 1800 hrs. But what day is a well guarded secret by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They monitor the run and determine when it is at its maximum, and the season is on. Because of the narrow waters, forcing all the fish into a few narrow channels, fishermen from as far away as Bella Coola come south, burning over $1,000 in fuel to participate. Each fisherman has a quota, and there is an overall quota. The sockeye run goes in cycles. Every fourth year is the biggest, and this was year four.
We motored across Queen Charlotte Strait in flat calm waters, with about 1/2 mile visibility in fog. As we were on our first leg heading south, we were disappointed to not be sailing. All the way north we motored into headwinds, so we are looking forward to some nice sailing as we head south, but today, our first southern day, no luck.
Port McNeill has two marinas, one municipal and the other private. We had arranged a slip at North Island Marina, the private one. It has the only fuel dock in town and we wanted to fill up. We got into our slip with no trouble and asked about fuel... “well, maybe tomorrow.” After registering, we watched as boat after boat pulled into the fuel dock, all fishing boats taking on 1,000 gallons each. Later we finally figured out that they were filling up in preparation for the opening, only days away.
We had booked our slip for two nights... even all the slips for recreational boaters are fully booked... a busy spot. Next morning, we took a ferry to nearby Malcomb Island, and its main community of Sointula. A very interesting history.
Early in the 20th century, a group of Finnish settlers who were employed in coal mining on Vancouver Island decided to establish an egalitarian community where all were equal . They settled on Malcomb Island and named there community Sointula, meaning “harmony” in Finnish. After a few years, to no ones surprise, it petered out. But a few settlers remained and today it is a combination of the original settlers, fishermen, summer residents and aging hippies. We had an excellent lunch at Coho Joe's. Then we borrowed bikes from the tourist bureau and biked a few miles down the shore.
Back in Port McNeill (a 20 minute ferry ride, free for BC seniors) we headed for Port McNeill's finest restaurant, Northern Light. It took a few minutes to convince our waitress that we wanted to see the wine list (You have to order the whole bottle!), but the expense was worth it, with the Halibut Neptune, a Bearnaise sauce with shrimp and crab... delicious!!

Heading South

08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
Sunny, hot.
Blunden Harbour

August 14th
Well, true to recent form, the morning dawned foggy in Napier Bay. We wanted an early start to beat the wind and current. But before we left, we took some extra time to watch a bear wandering on the shore just off our stern.
Our objective, Blunden Harbour, was just 12 miles up Queen Charlotte Strait, but in this area, the winds build from the north-west in the afternoon, creating an uncomfortable ride. So we set out in the fog, using the AIS reception and radar to feel our way down Wells Passage into Queen Charlotte Strait. We saw lots of small boats fishing along the shore, but only met a few out in the strait. Approaching Blunden Harbour, we watched three radar targets leaving, and wondered if we would be anchoring in another crowd. But, safely into the harbour, we dropped anchor in a cove with just one other boat in sight.
Blunden Harbour has a long history, recently as a logging camp, but for years before as a native village. The middens (remains of shellfish) are huge. Now there is nothing left of either the village or the logging camps. We walked the shore thinking about its past.
We set the crab trap and went off on an exploration of the area. It is an intricate maze of islands with the incoming tidal current sweeping water into a large lagoon. We poked our noses into the lagoon but decided to turn around for two reasons. First, we were running out of fuel. Second, the entry is a tidal rapid. So once in, you are in until the current changes in your favour. So we retreated to the boat for the night.
This morning, we hauled our crab trap with no success. The neighbouring boat told us that they had been thee a few weeks before and watched as commercial crab fishermen covered the area with traps, wiping out the stock.
New plan... Port McNeill for supplies, as always, running low. We delayed our departure until late morning, hoping for the fog to lift and the wind to rise... we are now heading downwind... in a southerly direction. No luck. We motored in fog and flat waters 23 miles to Port McNeill where we tied up at the North Coast Marina.
Port McNeill is a small town on the north coast of Vancouver Island that owes its living to fishing, logging and mining. But it has everything the cruising sailor needs.

Turn Around Time

16 August 2018
Sullivan Bay "Floating Village"

We woke in Turnbull Cove to another morning of light fog that quickly burned off leaving another cloudless day. After breakfast, we took the dinghy ashore for a short but steep a 3/4 mile hike up to Huaskin Lake. BC Forestry has built a large raft that you walk out to on a ramp. Jeannie swam in the (to her) warm water, but it was just below my threshold, so I just dipped my feet in and watched. Back aboard we prepared to get underway, and watched in astonishment as boat after boat streamed into the cove. By the time we left the numbers had swelled to ten. Time to seek out even more remote anchorages!
So we set off for Drury Inlet. I thought I had timed our travel to arrive at Stuart Narrows at slack (our last set of rapids), but our speed wasn't what I planned. But we chugged on. According to the current tables, slack was at 1;55 pm. But by the time we arrived at 2:30, we slid through at slack!
Inside the narrows, we headed for a small anchorage, Davis Bay, just a few miles into the inlet. We have three cruising guides. One said this was the best anchorage in the inlet, another said it was a navigation horror, and open to the winds. The third didn't mention it at all. But we settled in. It is a small anchorage, so that once we were anchored, there wasn't room for any other boats. Settled in, we took our prawn trap out and set it in 120' of water. We had been assured that Davis Inlet was excellent for prawning. Then a kayak expedition to explore the area. In the evening we checked the trap... nothing. So we relocated it and left it for the night. In the evening we watched a black bear prowl the beach off our stern in search for food. He finally settled on some berries and sat on his haunches munching.
Next morning, out to the trap and... success!!! We had one red rock crab, too small, so back he went, and three tiny prawns! These we kept as we are sure we will catch more and will add them to the haul for a dinner. Then we were off to Sutherland Bay at the western end of the inlet. This is as far west as we can go in the Broughtons. We anchored and set the prawn trap, then off exploring. We have one trap, using it for either prawns or crab, depending on depth. We wanted prawns, so found the deepest spot in our area and dropped the trap. Then off on a dinghy tour.We took the dinghy into some long arms through areas too tight for big boats, the only sign of life was the logging activity.
There has been extensive logging all through the Broughtons. Areas that have been re-planted grow green and lush while recently cut areas show the scars of the slash left behind. We landed at the dock of a logging camp, empty on the weekend and hiked up the logging road to stretch our legs. Not too much of interest, but lots of "evidence" of bears, so we decided to head back to the boat. Another quiet night with three prawns for an appetizer.
We are close to Queen Charlotte Strait now, and in the month of "Fogust" mornings are now foggy. Usually it burns off before eleven. We were in no particular hurry to leave as the slack at the Stuart Narrows was not until 3:30 pm. So we waited out the fog, went for another walk and picked up our trap. No prawns, four rock crabs. Three crabs were female, so we released them. The fourth was soon dispatched on the foredeck and in the pot. We need a couple more to make crab cakes.
Around noon we got underway and slowly ran down the inlet. At the narrows, we found ourselves early, but slogged through, reduced at times to just two knots. Through, we headed for nearby Napier Bay for the night. Not an anchorage of any real significance, it was close to Queen Charlotte Strait. Plans have changed. From here we planned to head for Sointula, on Malcolm Island, just off the Vancouver Island coast. But we decided to push just one anchorage further, to Blunden Harbour, home to an abandoned native village. From there, we'll start to work our way back south. Hopefully that will bean more sailing! With the prevailing north-west summer winds, we have had a motoring trip so far, and look forward to the change.
Vessel Name: Estelle
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol 41.1
Hailing Port: Charlottetown, PEI
Crew: Jeannie & Jim Lea
About: Flag Counter
Extra: After cruising the east coast of North America for 10 years, from Nova Scotia to Panama, it's time for a change. Estelle will be cruising the coast of British Columbia and Alaska beginning in 2017.
Estelle's Photos - Roatan 2013
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Added 21 May 2013