Linger Longer

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04 January 2015 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico
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01 December 2014 | Ensenada, Mexico

Reflections by Kirk

06 August 2013
Reflections by Kirk 08-06-2013

Fog is really weird stuff and we have had our share in recent times. A few reflections. We had been motoring through fog all day while rounding Cape Caution and decided to stop short of our planned destination in a skinny little place called Miles Inlet. Electronic charting and radar allow us to have a good idea of where we are and what is around us, but it’s still a little tense. Within a half-mile of the entrance, we could still see nothing and then slowly the appearance of land began to take shape. Suddenly, we saw tall white rock walls with waves crashing along their flanks on both sides of us. An imposing enough sight to maybe make the heart accelerate for just a moment or so. Just as suddenly everything before us opened up into clear brilliant sunshine and we steered between the kelp beds to a small cove off the main narrow passage. Once again, we had quite a nice place all to ourselves. As evening approached small wisps of cloud drifted down the passage, but not into our cozy little cove. A little later, denser cloud-like stuff rolled through the treetops above the cove and then completely enveloped us so that the shoreline, a mere one hundred feet away, was only a misty shadow. It was really interesting to watch the process. When the fog finally decided to move from just outside of the inlet, the first wisps moved at the speed of the breeze and seemed to be whizzing on by us down the main passage. We wondered why it did not fill our little cove. When it filled our cove, it did not fill from the main passage but descended on us in a dense mass from above.

We then had a passage south to Port McNeill across Queen Charlotte Strait of something over twenty miles that had some degree of fog the entire way. This was a lesson in fog density. From what we could determine via VHF radio weather reports, fog banks covered all of Queen Charlotte Strait, all of Queen Charlotte Sound and all of the northwest side of Vancouver Island, an area of several hundred square miles. At times, we were in areas of dense fog. Gray on all sides with visibility of maybe two hundred yards. With our electronic instruments, we knew where we were and what was around us, but none of the instruments can detect what Kris and I call floaties…logs, timbers, branches, mats of kelp, etc. So we need to slow down quite a bit to gain maneuvering time when one of these things appears out of the mist in front our bow. Our boat does not go very fast in the first place, so when we slow from just over six knots to just over three knots, our four-hour trip turns into an eight-hour trip. This is significant.

Other times we still have maybe a few hundred yards of visibility around but can see blue sky above. Weird. Sometimes the whole bank will thin out enough that we have maybe one-half mile of visibility. Now we can see far enough in front to spot the floaties and increase speed again. Without an autopilot this would be really difficult as there are no visual reference points. At least when you are driving a car in thick fog you can see a road. On a boat it all looks the same. You could turn the boat around one hundred eighty degrees and have no idea that you are now heading in the opposite direction until you glance at the compass. Continuous concentration on the compass to make sure we stay on course ends up making my brain a little wonky. It can go to some really strange places.

Bull Harbor is the traditional last anchorage before rounding Cape Scott. Rounding Cape Scott is a significant achievement because once past you are officially out in the North Pacific Ocean. Before getting to Cape Scott from Bull Harbor one must cross Nawhitti Bar, the first shallow water that ocean swells encounter after having traveled over a thousand miles. Of course the swells resent this interference and heap up and dance around all over the place creating havoc for anything, like a boat, that happens to be floating on top. It may have been a good thing that we could not see the wild water (even at slack) through the fog or we may have decided to abort. The unpleasantness did not last too awful long and we have learned some lessons about keeping things on the boat in their assigned place rather than them having a little party and flying around the cabin at will. (A little side note: Being susceptible to motion sickness, bouncing around rough seas can really make me uncomfortable. Upon the recommendation of friends, I have tried a small electronic bracelet that gives an electric pulse on your wrist about where you would take a pulse. It has been effective with decreasing the discomfort level and have not yet had to resort to using anti-seasickness drugs.)

We were certain that Cape Scott would not be visible due to the fog and were getting ready to print a photo of it from our last trip and tape in the cockpit, when everything cleared up and there it was. Our target anchorage for the day was close by and the backup was only another hour or two away, so we slowed down for some fishing and caught our second salmon of the trip. I forgot to tell you about the first one, but it happened the day we left Fury Cove which was one of the subjects of the thrill of victory reflection.

So we got the fish and headed in to Guise Bay (50 degrees 46.22 minutes north, 128 degrees 24.584 minutes west). If you have not yet done so, this would a good time to check Google Earth and see where we were. This place is at the end of the earth. We normally anchor in well-protected places, meaning that we have as much shelter from wind and waves as possible. This is not one of those places. It is way out at the very northwestern tip of Vancouver Island open to the North Pacific Ocean. In all fairness, it was protected from the prevailing northwest winds and most of the swell; but if wind or swell had changed to come from a southerly direction, things would have become very interesting. It was also the first place where we could attempt a beach landing in the dingy amongst breaking waves. Small waves, but still with the potential to swamp the dingy if we did not do it right. As we were thinking about how to do a beach landing, the first wisps of fog started to drift in along with a bit more breeze. It cooled off immediately and we canceled plans for the beach landing, as both of us would need to jump into the 56-degree water at least up to our knees and much higher if we messed up. The fog continued to drift in, first through a low spot in the topography behind the beach. Then it came through the tops of trees on a higher hillside. Then it was all around us so that we could barely see the beach we contemplated landing on. As darkness approached it got generally thicker, and that combined with a new moon resulted in a very dark night with no way to distinguish our surroundings. It was a little spooky to hear waves breaking on the beach and ocean swells pounding on rocks and shoreline that protected the bay. We could hear the sounds of crashing water from all sides, but did not know if we were facing the beach or the opening to the ocean. Definitely a new experience for us.

We have since moved a bit further south on the west side of Vancouver Island. Grant Bay just outside the entrance to Quatsino Sound had a configuration very similar to Guise Bay with a large sandy beach. We did manage to make our first beach landing through surf. Well, I don’t know if the waves merit being called surf, but some of them might have been two feet and we landed and then launched without getting wet above the waist. We have added sea otters, tufted puffins and Minke whales to the cool animals observed so far. Not in much of a hurry yet as we are going to spend another year up here – just way too many awesome places to visit before we head to a land of palm trees.

Beware the fog monster!
Vessel Name: S/V Linger Longer
Vessel Make/Model: Sceptre 41/43
Hailing Port: Seattle, WA
Crew: Kirk & Kristin Doyle
Our adventure started Sunday, June 16, 2013 with many friends "cutting our dock lines" at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle, Washington. When we left we knew we were pressed for time to reach southeast Alaska for the most favorable cruising months. After contemplating this dilemma for a short [...]
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