Lincoln Channel, Alaska to Prince Rupert, BC.
23 August 2011 | posted at Port McNeill
Photo: the sailboat Wild Abandon sailing in Venn Passage
After the glorious weather of the day before, it was a shock to wake up to dark clouds and a chill southerly wind. With the wind right on the nose and an uncomfortable chop compounded by a swell, sailing was impossible at first but we pushed on by engine. Once we passed Green Island, the swell disappeared and the wind shifted to the west and we were soon sailing on a reach at seven knots. We headed for Venn Passage, the narrow winding route to Prince Rupert.
I knew the current would be against us going through the passage so expected we would drop sail and motor. But as we approached Tugwell Island, we saw a boat under sail entering the passage. I was amazed. We have been through the passage seven times under power and each one has been like a nail-biter with currents, twisting channels and the constant lookout for the next buoy. Adding sail-handling to that seemed impossible. But of course Steve couldn't motor when someone else is sailing.
To get to the passage we first had to negotiate a narrow channel between Tugwell Island and some shoals that had us pointing right into the wind. We rolled up the jib and powered through, then turned downwind into the Passage.
"Are they still sailing? asked Steve as I peered through the binoculars. For a minute I couldn't be sure as I saw only one sail. But then I realized the main was hiding their jib and they were indeed sailing. We rolled out our jib and followed. Despite the adverse current, the wind was just strong enough to push us through except in one windless stretch. Handling the sails turned out to be easy as we were sailing downwind almost all the time. By going slow, which sailing forced us to do, we had plenty of time to search for the buoys. Eventually we caught up to the other boat and passed them.
We've done less sailing this year than any year before because of lack of wind. How ironic that despite that we sailed through two of the coast's more challenging passages: Venn Passage and Peril Strait.l
As we passed, I noticed the boat's weather cloths; they were printed with the slogan, "No place for Tankers" and a picture of an oil tanker with a hash mark through it -- a reference to the proposal to build a tanker terminal at either Prince Rupert or Kitimat for oil from the tar sands. When I think of the miles of narrow channels, rocks and islands on either of the two tanker routes, I sympathize with the protestors.