Voyages North

03 June 2018
22 September 2017 | Posted in Seattle
08 September 2017 | Posted at Spencer Spit, San Juan Islands
18 August 2017 | Posted at Spencer Spit, San Juan Islands
17 August 2017 | Olympia
22 August 2016 | posted at Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound

July 9, 2018. Storm Bay. Sechelt Inlet

21 July 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Green sea urchins on the bottom of Storm Bay.

Sunlight bounced off calm water reflecting blue skies overhead. Looking out over the small bay from Osprey's cockpit, I remembered my resolve to get at least one photo of each anchorage we stayed at. I grabbed my camera and climbed into the dinghy. Casting off from Osprey, I rowed toward the shallow end of the bay, where the sun angle would give me a good photo of both the bay and boat.

I was drifting with the current while I adjusted my camera, when I happened to look down at the water. The bottom was only 2-3 ft below. I immediately, forgot the planned photo and instead peered down at the sandy bottom. A large moonsnail with its fleshy foot wrapped around its round shell came into view. Several moon snail egg cases littered the bottom around it; this was obviously a good habitat for moon snails. Flat fish dashed across the sandy bottom, leaving trails of suspended sediment. Several starfish were nearby. Then, I gasped with surprise as the dinghy drifted over a large bed of green sea urchins. I associated sea urchins with rocky bottoms and didn't expect to see any on sand, let alone a huge patch of them. In fact, I associate sandy bottoms with not much of interest. And it wasn't even a particularly low tide! We had come to Sechelt Inlet to look for pictographs and had found another type of treasure too.

green sea urchins on a sandy bottom
Photo: Green sea urchins in Storm Bay, Sechelt Inlet

A Smooth Ride. Sechelt Rapids July 7, 1018

21 July 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Sechelt Rapids at slack water.

Some sources claim Sechelt Rapids, also called Skookumchuck Narrows, are the fastest tidal rapids in the world. Others merely claim them as "one of the fastest in the world." Whichever it is, it's fast: 16 knots during times of the most extreme spring tides. Whirlpools, standing waves and rough water are normal. For a dramatic picture of what can go wrong, check out this You Tube video:

So when our project of photographing Native pictographs required us to go through the Sechelt Rapids, we planned our trip carefully, choosing a date of neap tides, checking the time of slack water carefully in the Canadian current tables and rechecking them at least twice. Then we sought advice from a local boater who had been through the rapids multiple times. Still, we worried (or at least, I worried; Steve is not prone to worrying). Had we read the current tables correctly? What if we arrived early? Or late?

On the chosen day, we left Pender Harbour with plenty of time. A brisk wind blew up Agamemnon Channel and we unrolled our jib, anticipating a rambunctious ride up inlet. Five minutes later, we rolled it back up as the wind died away. We motored up inlet, dawdling along. A light rain fell, but it too died away as the sun came out.

As we turned the corner into Sechelt Inlet, the Back Eddy Resort with its cabins, yurts and pub came into view. We were early. "Let's tie up," said Steve.
A dockhand took my line, as I stepped gingerly onto the dock's wooden surface, made slick by winter mold and rain.

"Is there a charge for tieing up while we wait for the current?" Steve asked. The dockhand shrugged. It was probably a question he was asked often.

1544 hours was the time of slack before ebb. At precisely 1530, we untied and pushed off into the channel. No other boats were going through on this tide and it felt odd to be having such a momentous adventure all to ourselves.

Not a breath of wind ruffled the water, and not a whisper of current. We slipped by Boom Ilet leaving it to port. We had planned to leave No Name Island and the Sechelt Islands to starboard also, to follow the widest channel, but when we saw how quiet the water was, we left all the islands to port. Ten minutes later, we were through. Like all tidal passages done right, it had been an anticlimax. Our planning had been successful.

We anchored that night in Storm Bay, a beautiful little tree-lined cove with houses tucked away under the trees. The rapids had taken us to a quiet place. For the next two days, we explored the Inlet, admiring its steep tree covered slopes and even finding some pictographs.

A Significant Navigation Hazard in Vancouver Harbour. July 3 2018, 2018

21 July 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: View from the Vancouver Rowing Club, Coal Harbour, Vancouver.

The giant container ship thundered by Osprey and under the Lions Gate Bridge as we idled off to the side. The ship's large blue hull seemed to fill more than its share of half the channel and we certainly didn't want to get in its way. We watched it disappear around the corner, then followed it into Vancouver Harbour.

The Waggoner Cruising Guide warns of two dangers going through Vancouver Harbour's First Narrows: commercial traffic and adverse currents. We had just escaped the first danger, now we had to face the currents. We had opted not to wait for slack before flood, knowing from the current tables that their speed was well within Osprey's capabilities to push through. As we approached the bridge, I looked carefully for evidence of swirling currents. I saw none. In minutes we were through, the dangers behind us.

Our plans were to go through Second Narrows and up Indian Arm, looking for pictographs, but first we had to get fuel. We were heading for the fuel barge outside Coal Harbour when I heard Victoria Traffic (Victoria Traffic controls traffic in both Victoria and Vancouver) on Channel 12, broadcasting a warning that Second Narrows was closed due to a "significant navigation hazard." The announcement alarmed me. What kind of navigation hazard was significant enough to close a whole watwerway?

"Probably just a large ship going through," said Steve. "It won't last."

"It's not just routine," one of the fuel barge employees replied to my question after we had finished fueling. "It's protestors hanging off the railroad bridge. They're protesting the Kinder Morgan Pipeline." I knew about the controversy over the pipeline, which had generated opposition on both sides of the border. I even had some sympathy for their position; with more news about climate change facing us every day, it didn't make sense to me to invest in new petroleum facilities. But I hadn't realized it would affect us.

As Steve headed Osprey for the Second Narrows, I went below to call Victoria Traffic. "Will the Narrows be reopening soon?" I asked.

"Oh no! The Narrows are closed indefinitely to any boat that needs the railroad bridge opened."
Anchoring is forbidden in Vancouver Harbour so we needed to find moorage while we waited (we hoped not really indefinitely). A quick check of our Poulsbo Yacht Club list of reciprocal moorage showed several. I chose the Vancouver Rowing Club in Coal Harbour. In addition to rowing shells, they have moorage. They had a slip available a friendly voice told me over the radio.

We wove our way past the numerous docks of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club on our right and a private marina on our left to find the Rowing Club at the very end of Coal Harbour. As we tied up, I gaped at a row of towering condominiums across the waterway. We had a front row seat to everything going on in Coal Harbour. Rowers in shells of one, two and four glided by in synchronicity and hordes of hikers walked by the pathway leading into Stanley Park.

We were in a very different setting than our usual haunts of wild isolated anchorages. Instead of mountains, we had highrises; instead of whales we had rowers. That evening we enjoyed a barbecue with members and other visitors to the club while we watched the activity. It was almost worth having the Narrows closed just to experience it.

The next morning the Narrows were still closed and Victoria Traffic was still using the word "indefinitely." Reluctantly, we untied Osprey and headed back out First Narrows to turn north.

Epilogue. The Narrows did open two days later. The protestors were members of Greenpeace who had rappelled themselves off the railroad bridge with giant colorful flags. By hanging from the bridge, they prevented the bridge from opening to let oil tankers through. When we had set off for our summer trip of looking for pictographs, I had expected to battle the usual slate of weather and possible breakdowns on this cruise. Protestors were a new challenge.
Vessel Name: Osprey
Vessel Make/Model: Annapolis 44 sloop
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Elsie and Steve Hulsizer have sailed northwest waters since arriving in Seattle via sailboat from Boston in 1979. [...]
2017: local cruising including South Puget Sound and San Juan Islands 2016:north up West Coast VI, across QC Sound to central BC coast 2015: trip to SE Alaska 2014: Seymour and Belize Inlets through Nakwakto Rapids 2013: SE Alaska and back. 2012: from Seattle up the west coast of Vancouver [...]
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