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