Brother Wind goes Urban
21 August 2019 | Sidney, Vancouver Island
Jo Winter | Rain
We quickly realised that south of the Seymour Narrows, the boating in the Georgia Straits, which separate Vancouver Island and the mainland, suddenly becomes very busy. All of it is weekendable from Vancouver and other centres, and makes for some very pretty cruising, although as congested as any we have experienced for many years, probably since the Caribbean in 2005!!
The plus side of this is that the coast and islands now scattered along the mainland side of the Georgia Strait are justifiably known as the ‘Sunshine Coast’, and we enjoyed some lovely hot sunny weather, and enjoyed a bit of swimming in warm water!
The first stop after leaving Desolation Sound was a quick restock at West View Marina, south of Powell River, and a march up ‘Cardiac Hill’ for Giles to find some plumbing parts, and then five miles across to the lovely Texada Island, where we just managed to find a spot to anchor in Sturt Bay. The wind turned to the SE in the night, making it rather bumpy, so we decided to spend a second day there in the small marina.
We luckily met Ken Barton, who was fantastically helpful, and took us to the small museum just a walk up the hill, totally run by volunteers and absolutely excellent. It gave a fascinating account of the lime quarrying industry of the island, as well as much else. Ken also lent Giles a wrench and helped him break apart long corroded valves in our plumbing system, all geared at making the dreaded holding tank work!!
From Texada Island, we sailed 30 miles along the coast to Pender Harbour, and from there crossed the Straits of Georgia to Nanaimo, where we squeezed into a berth at the Nanaimo Yacht Club.
We had organised to meet Olly Woodford and family, before they took a ferry to Vancouver in the afternoon. It was a treat to see Olly and meet Anna and baby Hugo, we had taken Olly on a sailing holiday when he left school about 22 years ago, and had only seen him a couple of times since then! Anyway, we managed to give Hugo and Anna their first trip in a yacht, although attempts to sail were soon abandoned for lack of wind!
We were also meeting up with Phil and Lesley on Sagata that evening, they had just arrived in Nanaimo, so it was fun to catch up with them for a couple of days, before we headed back across the Strait to Vancouver.
We had arranged to spend two nights at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club at Jericho, just on the edge of Vancouver City. It was extremely friendly, a lovely location, and beautiful club house, very well connected to the city by fast bus. Our first priority was to go and see Shelter Island boatyard, well south of the city, but we managed to get ourselves there on public transport quite efficiently.
Next day we wanted to visit a couple of Yacht Brokers in the city who are mostly based on Granville Island, where there is also a big market and lots of touristy eateries and galleries, so it was a good starting point.
We decided to move Brother Wind into False Creek in central Vancouver for another couple of nights, and from there we hired bikes and whizzed off to Stanley Park, I should think that 90% of tourists to Vancouver do the same thing! We took a day trip to Whistler, which is only a couple of hours away, and were astonished to see how busy it was, but we duly took the expensive gondola up the mountain, and then swung across between the peaks and then up a steep chair lift to the sky bridge, the highest bridge in the world they claim! We enjoyed some of the many walking trails that they have made. A lot of the mountains are a rocky moonscape where they have been blasted to make wonderful ski runs.
Mountain bikers were kept to separate trails luckily, but they did some scarily steep and rocky descents, and we did wonder how many of them fell off or got hurt. We later discovered that it was the end of a mountain bike fortnight of competitions and training, all pretty impressive.
After our four lovely sunny days in Vancouver we headed back across the strait of Georgia to catch the tidal gate to get us through the Porlier Pass, which an hour before slack water was still running at 4 knots. The Gulf Islands stretch south from Nanaimo, and the narrow passes between the islands or into the Straits have very fast flowing tides of at least 8 knots at times. Definitely worth working them in our favour!
We found that the anchorage we had been recommended on Wallace Island was very full, and so chose to go to the larger, but still tight Princess Cove, where all the boats were lined up with their sterns tied ashore. We decided it was all a bit congested, so decided to take a view on the weather and anchor behind some rocks further out, which proved to be a lovely anchorage. We were amongst a colony of seals who lounged on the rocks and chatted incessantly to each other, how we would have loved to know what they were saying! There are some nice trails on the island, so we went ashore and enjoyed a good walk through the trees, and noticed how dry it was underfoot. Madrone trees with red peeling bark and twisted trunks gave it all a Mediterranean feel.
We made a last minute arrangement to meet up with Ken and Wendy Squirrel, who had been fellow yachties when we did the East Malaysia rally in 2012. They had sold their catamaran ‘Cop Out’ soon after that, and come back to live in their lovely house on Salt Spring Island, surrounded by cedars and spruce they have a fabulous view out across Ganges Harbour. They took us for a great dog walk through pretty countryside, and then a swim in a lake, before going back to their house for a bar-b-q. It was lovely to catch up with them.
Our next stop on was Sidney, right at the bottom of Vancouver Island, but on the way we wanted to find a mooring buoy (we had its waypoint), which belonged to the father-in-law of Jesse, who we had got to know in Alaska, and had kindly lent us a cruising guide we wished to return!
No sooner had we picked up the buoy than someone appeared on a paddle board, and we were able to give him the book to return to Jim Merrit, - mission accomplished!!
It was only a three mile hop across to Sidney from there, although we chose a very narrow rock strewn passage to get us there. Our hopes to anchor in Tsehum Harbour soon evaporated once we saw the number of boats on moorings, but we managed to locate one which we could pay a small fee for the privilege of using, and then could begin our search for winter storage in Sidney, which is a centre of yachting in the area!
Desolation Sound and busy boating
06 August 2019 | Powell River
Jo Winter | Hot sunshine
We had organised a road trip with Mike and Laurian at the end of their stay, leaving Brother Wind, snugly in the Fisherman's Wharf Marina, in Campbell River. Infuriatingly the only available car had to be collected from the airport by a $35 taxi ride. We had organised to stay in Port Alberni a good half way stop towards Tofino, and only a couple of hours drive away, which gave us time to visit the dramatic Elfin Falls, close to a large hydroelectric scheme, and the excellent Campbell River museum.
It turned out that we had booked two bedrooms in what they called the penthouse suite in Port Alberni, so we were very comfy, except for poor Laurian, who slipped and hurt herself in the shower. Port Alberni although geographically closer to Vancouver Island's east coast is a west coast port, thirty miles up a very long inlet. It is an interesting work-a-day place, so far by passed by tourism.
It provided a good jumping off place to get to both Ucluelet and Tofino on the west coast, both places attract surfers in the summer and storm watchers in the winter. There are very few roads that go through the mountainous interior to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and there had been a big rock slip which meant that part of the road was one way single track. We had lovely sunshine in which to enjoy the popular lighthouse trail in Ucluelet, which goes around the lighthouse and along the steep rocky cliffs for several miles. Tofino, another 20 miles along the coast is a bigger more touristy town, but both places are laid back and attractive, and we enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch.
On our way back to Nanaimo the next day we stopped by to look at the nearby petroglyphs carved into the rock face on the edge of Sproat Lake, they are of indeterminate age, and gently erode through time. McLean sawmill, now a museum, gave us an insight into what by most standards was a very hard but organised existence from 1928 for fifty years, very cut off from the rest of the world.
Our route also took us past the honey pot sight of giant red cedars that grow in the area, and are immensely tall and straight, although the trunks of the trees were smaller in diameter than the last one we visited.
We left Mike and Laurian in their hotel in Nanaimo, for their onward journey home, enviably their first leg was a sea plane flight to Vancouver city, a hop across the water!
We got back late to Brother Wind, who in spite of an alarm (carbon monoxide) going off which gave us worried phone calls from the marina, looked non the worse for wear! We had a hectic morning making full use of the car to do a big shop and piles of laundry, and then while Giles returned it to the airport, I managed to find a hairdresser to cut my hair, which was a real luxury!
We set off late in the afternoon and caught the tide only a few miles north across to Quadra Island and the very pretty Gowlland bay, where we anchored to the south of Stag Island, one of the many tiny islands in the bay. The bay has several houses along its shore line, many with their own private jetty, so next day after a morning of rain had dissuaded us from moving, we ventured ashore to try and go for a walk. The owner of the jetty we selected was delighted for us to tie up there, and walk through his lovely orchard on our way to find a road, which resulted in a reasonable woodland trail to walk.
Part of the reason of staying close to civilization had been to have a phone signal, and as it was my birthday next day, I was able to Whats App and speak to all of the family. The sun had obligingly come out and as our next destination was not far off, we spent more time trying to catch a salmon off Mudge Point, our only consolation was that we couldn't see anyone else hauling in fish either!
We had booked a table at the resort in the large landlocked Gorge bay, on Cores Island, entered by a steep sided narrow channel , our luck held and the evening remained fine, so that we could sit out on the balcony enjoying the view over the harbour as darkness fell.
The expected rain came during the night, and the wind blew and rain came down torrentially for the next 24 hours. We were relieved to be in a safe haven, although we got slightly crowded in as other boats came into harbour anchoring closer than we would have liked. We watched with wry amusement as a large motor boat went inshore of us, where a rock was marked on the chart, he clearly hit it, came to an abrupt stop, and reversed off in a hurry!!
It was still raining when we woke next day, but soon the clouds had given way to blue sky again, and the temperature climbed back to a pleasant 20', and made a quick trip ashore to leave rubbish, always high on our list of priorities, and to briefly use the wi-fi, which brought poor Giles bad news of a leaking shower and angry tenant (easier not to know)!
We up anchored and moved on to Desolation Sound, a small area of islands, bays and inlets of outstanding beauty, but also rather to our horror outstandingly popular and every anchorage was crammed with boats of all descriptions, made even worse by the fact that on Sunday it was British Columbia Day, and the Monday was a bank holiday!
The normal procedure in some of the tight bays is to take a long stern line ashore to tie to a tree, so that the boat doesn't swing, which makes more space for others. For this purpose most of them had thin long lines of about 50 metres, which we sadly lack. So far we have managed to anchor without needing to go through that performance, but inevitable we will have to in due course, and yet another line needs to be added to our inventory!
The anchorage that we chose in the Desolation Sound, Tenedos Bay, had the attraction of a short walk to a freshwater lake where you could swim, luckily as we dragged our dinghy ashore, a friendly lady, another 'Jo', befriended us, and we followed her to a prime swimming spot off a large rock.
Next day we moved on, trying to find somewhere less popular, and to our delight we are now anchored in a marginally more exposed spot, (not in the guide books), which means that we are a small channel away from a few other boats, instead of cheek by jowl with them, a small price to pay for the small amount of swell caused by wash from passing boats in the Waddington Channel.
The Broughton Islands and shooting rapids!
26 July 2019 | Campbell River
Jo Winter | Sunshine
We left Port McNeil in torrential rain, minus Flora and Dan who had jumped ship, to continue on their way with a hire car, all set to do lots of walking.
The Broughton Archipelago lies just 15 miles across the Queen Charlotte Strait from Port McNeil, and would be a fascinating cruising ground to explore with Mike and Laurian.
The rain and visibility cleared, and soon we were looking at lots of whales, one obligingly breached for us! We had been collecting place names of islands, straits, and coves which matched family members ever since we had been in Canada! Captain Vancouver was obviously out to please everyone, and that day gave us Meynell Point, and we spent the night in Joe Cove (it turns out that Joe was a rather belligerent ‘First Nation’ chap who had lived there in the early 1900s!)
Next day the sun was set high in the sky again, and we decided to call on Echo Bay, where there is a small marina, and some tourism, but it offered the chance of a walk to what sounded an interesting and eclectic museum, a collection of all sorts of items from beautifully fashioned stone tools and implements, 2,000 years old, to a large glass fishing float that would have travelled across the North Pacific from Japan, without being smashed on the rugged rocky coasts of either country, to artefacts from Japan and China brought into Canada and Alaska by the many workers in the canneries, and gold mines. Billy Proctor, now in his 80s was sitting in the sunshine outside his collection, he clearly enjoyed talking about his life in the area, fishing and logging, and Laurian kindly gave me his book, which has added enormously to our understanding of life in these beautiful, remote islands.
We were beginning to get used to the fact of sharing anchorages almost everywhere we went now that we were in ‘home counties cruising areas’ so to try and do the less obvious we went up the long Simoom Sound, and were treated by a stunning display of Pacific white sided dolphins, in very convivial mood as they darted across our bow, and leapt in tandem for us, and one persistently leapt for pure joy skywards, which amazingly I managed to capture on camera!
One of the reasons for going up this long bay was the promise of a trail to a lake, but our attempts to find it were painfully unsuccessful, we tried fighting our way upwards through the forested valley, but became increasingly hindered by fallen trees, and even rotting ones that you could just push over, it was a good reminder of how incredibly harsh life had been for those early settlers, and that canoes and sea travel were an easier option! There were bear prints on the foreshore where we landed, and Laurian was soon telling us about cougars leaping from trees and biting people’s necks!
Still in search of a walk we moved up to the head of the bay, and spotted what appeared to be a logging trail. This proved semi successful, until the trail ran out, but it was marked by coloured ribbons, which continued steeply up to a plateau, which Giles and I climbed.
We got back on board very hot and sweaty, and both Mike and Giles decided to swim, I’m not sure I would have joined them, I had seen rather a lot of lion’s mane jellyfish, but my excuse was that I had already had a shower! They both stayed in some time, so I can only believe that it truly was warmish!!
We had read that in Watson Bay (not named after Dan) you could do a scramble to see a 1,000 year old cedar tree, we attempted to fish on the way, but to no avail. Watson Bay proved to be only a lunch time stop, as the wind had picked up from the west, and was funnelling down the cove. We conveniently landed on a smooth boulder supplied with a rope for pulling yourself up, and then did our short walk to the ancient cedar, whose trunk has a diameter of about 15m.
Kwatsi Bay, just around the corner is well sheltered from all directions, the tiny marina allowed us to fill up with fresh potable water which comes straight from the mountains behind, via a few filters. We anchored in the stunning circular bay, where we added line to the anchor chain to cope with the depth. Mountains soar above you, it was very spectacular, and Mike got the sextant out to work out the height of the tallest mountain, about 1,000 feet he thought, but they looked taller to me.
Working out a few tides was becoming increasingly important for our onward leg, passages narrowed and heads of water build up to give fast tides that we had no desire to fight. Our route took us down the dramatic Tribune Channel, where the high walls of the fjord mountains plunged down thousands of feet beneath us, and snow-capped peaks peeped between the valleys.
We sailed across Thompson Sound, into Chatham Channel, and had 2 knots of good tide to help us through the Narrows, although once again we lost the wind behind the mountains. After joining the next wider channel there was a pretty though tight anchorage behind a small island at Matilpi, there was already a yacht there and just room for us too.
Next morning was an early and dark 04.30 start, dawn took its time in climbing behind the mountains, but pink edged clouds as well as mare’s tails told us of wind to come and an approaching low. This was an excellent reason to be scurrying on to catch the fast flowing Johnstone Strait while it was still in benign mode, it has a horrid reputation with wind against tide.
The Johnstone Strait is a narrow 70 mile channel which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland and from a network of islands and fast flowing channels, which end in the Discovery Passage and the Straits of Georgia, where Vancouver Island and the mainland become more widely separated.
Our option was to either carry on and do the Johnstone Strait and the very fast flowing but well predicted Seymour Narrows, or to do the inland route through islands and narrow passes and passages, where there are several ‘rapids’ to be negotiated and timing of tides becomes critical. It sounded more of a challenge and an altogether more interesting option, with the added advantage of no commercial traffic.
We had to do 12 miles of the Johnstone Strait regardless, and then turned into the Sunderland and Wellborne Channels, and got through the Whirlpool Rapids with no problem on about slack water. We knew we would have to wait for Green Point rapids, so anchored in a bay very nearby, to have a snooze after our early start, and lunch, before negotiating the rapids at slack water.
Mike and Laurian had yet to see a bear on this trip, but finally when we woke from our siestas, there was a brown bear wandering along the beach, digging furiously, obviously in search of a favourite mollusc. He obligingly was in no hurry, so everyone had a great viewing.
Green Point Rapids were behind us, and there was a strong wind forecast for the evening from the NW, which seemed to have scuppered my plan for an anchorage that night, but when we sailed past Shoal Bay, 12 hours after leaving in the morning, we saw a very pretty, sheltered bay with NW protection, though open to the North, and lots of boats tied up to a dock there.
It was an irresistible lure, and we rafted up outside another yacht, in stunning sunshine, at what looked like an alpine retreat. It is extraordinary how appealing a bit of cut grass and clearing from the never ending trees becomes.
All the boats were ashore for a ‘Happy Hour’, which we joined in at 1700, normally a bit early for a drink, but it had been a very long day, and there was wifi on offer, the first for a week!
However, the sun was still shining, and a glass of wine (or beer) later, Giles and I set off for a hike up the Goldmine Trail, allegedly an hour, one way. We made fast work of it on a rugged climb, and were rewarded by a lovely view down to the bay where we were moored, and were back to Brother Wind a couple of hours later.
We could have stayed longer to admire the vegetables growing which felt very nostalgic, but next day we had to set off to negotiate two more rapids, where even the chart gets carried away with dire warnings of 13 knots and whirlpools. We were at a neap tide, and judging by the number of other boats moving at the same time as us, we were spot on slack water, which lasts for only a few minutes, for both the Dent and Yaculta Rapids.
Such potential excitement brought us into Calm Passage, and a fair tide swept us on past Reid Island, and up the Sutil Channel dodging rocks as we sailed, again slowly determined to catch that elusive salmon, towards our anchorage NW of tiny Bold Island, on Quadra Island, where we sailed into the bay skirting rocks, and dropped anchor under sail.
A walk beckoned, and we found our first road and cars for a week, but also found a fresh water lake where we swam in warm shallow water!
We had to have rain some time, but it fell at night and into the morning, but cleared as we made a late start to go south around Mudge Point. What we had hoped to do was catch a salmon, but in the event we were treated to the most extraordinary sight of humpback whales breaching, not once or twice but over a period of half an hour probably fifty times, none of us managed to catch anything except huge splashes on camera, but never mind, the sight is enough to stay in our heads forever!
By the time we reached Campbell River, and got into the Fisherman’s Wharf Marina, the sun was hot, and we have organised a hire car and last minute accommodation for a couple of night away to get across Vancouver Island to Tofino on the west coast. Mike and Laurian will leave us on our return from there on Sunday. Lets hope the weather holds!