23 June 2023 | Westview/Powell River B.C.
Barbara Johnston | Warm
When I finished our last blog entry we were in Ganges on Saltspring Island. We enjoyed our time there and found the people to be exceedingly friendly. We walked a fair bit and enjoyed the beautiful views and the interesting shops. The weather was chancy and there were some real downpours.
We had hoped to empty and fill that diesel-sullied water tank. But it turned out that Saltspring Island is having a serious drought (despite the downpours), and they don’t want you to take any more water than you need to get to your next port. They also instruct “no grey water discharge" on various signs. Soap suds are definitely grey water. As it turns out, the reason they don’t want grey water is because Ganges harbour already has fairly dirty water. There is an immense amount of floating wood and detached seaweed, and who knows what more underwater. Thankfully, it does not appear to be human garbage. Presumably all that stuff is there due to tidal action in a long narrow inlet.
But, as it turned out, some piece of that tidal detritus wound up getting sucked into our raw water intake for the engine. We were about 3 or 4 miles into our day’s trip when the engine alarms started going off. Overheating engine. These are the moments when I’m very glad Craig is an engineer. He was able to diagnose the blockage in the cooling water intake fairly quickly. First step: close the through-hull fitting for the raw water inlet. It went “crunch”, obviously indicating there was something in the way. Then, the only question is how to spit it out. It turns out this is actually a fairly common problem – just one we have not encountered in our 30 or so years of owning a diesel-powered sailboat. We detoured into a little bay on the east side of Thetis Island, we anchored and Craig started inventing. There are 3 or 4 hoses that branch off from the raw water intake. All those hoses are, of course, below the waterline, so potentially detaching any of them is an opportunity to let lots of ocean into the boat. Eventually, Craig was able to plumb a different hose onto one of the fittings, and he attached it to our fresh water system, thus applying the system’s water pressure against whatever was stuck in the through-hull fitting. Third try, it actually worked! The blockage was fixed!
We got underway again rather quickly, because we needed to reach Dodd Narrows before the tide turned. As it turns out we got there an hour early and the four-knot current flowed with us as we passed through (it can flow as much as 11 knots at peak flood and peak ebb).
We anchored that night in a very crowded anchorage by Newcastle Island, across the channel from downtown Nanaimo. I think I slept about 10 hours that night. It had been an exhausting day.
The next morning we crossed over and got a spot in the municipal docks. Nanaimo is a lovely city, and I was sorry not to spend more time there. We did do some grocery shopping, had showers, did laundry and walked a fairly long distance on the waterfront promenade. Craig went off in search of some small hardware items and a fishing license. It turns out that they ONLY now sell fishing licenses online. There are lots of complicated rules, and many areas are closed to fishing. Craig also found out about a new requirement that you must have, and have at the ready while fishing, a device that returns a rockfish to the original depth where it was caught. (Some rockfish are the wrong size, or are a variety you are not allowed to catch.) There was a $12 version of the device, but it sold out long ago. The only alternative was $90. (It actually looks like a can opener.) The out-of-province license was $106. I think there were more fees than that as well. But now we’re all set, and hoping for some good catches this year.
We're on the route we followed so often (every summer) when our kids were little. Back then we had a much smaller boat, so couldn't go nearly as fast. But I still tend to think of these distances as really far. Crossing the Strait of Georgia from Nanaimo to Smuggler’s Cove used to be an all day thing. In this boat, in relatively calm conditions we can do it in 3 hours. We also now have the luxury of waiting for the most favorable weather whereas back then we had only 2 weeks before we had to be back at work, so you go at the earliest opportunity, no matter the weather.
Almost always when we have done that crossing before, we’ve had to make a major detour around Area Whiskey Golf. That’s a military exercise area, and they sometimes use live ammunition. So it was a great surprise to find out that this time the area was open. This time the warning was that naval vessels will be out there and may be firing blanks. But "you're free to transit". As we proceeded into area Whiskey Golf we could see the military ships up ahead, and they were actually emitting an AIS signal (in our experience, military ships always run silent, without any AIS signal). One of the ships, “Canadian warship 703” was periodically sending out announcements of UAV (drone) operations.
We ended up anchoring that night in Bargain Bay, a small bay just south of Pender Harbour. We’ve never been in there before, but it’s a nice anchorage surrounded by cliffs and beautiful forests, and dozens and dozens of homes ranging from modest to super-luxurious. That was the Summer Solstice, and indeed there was light in the sky as late as 11 pm.
We are in Westview, having arrived yesterday. It's probably been 10 years since we were last here, and they have certainly upgraded the port facilities. We're right out at the end, by the harbor entrance, and our neighbors are a large RCMP boat and a large Coast Guard boat. Today we're biked up to what used to be the Safeway and is now called "FreshCo" (still, apparently, a division of Safeway). After that it was laundry and other boat-tidying tasks. Last night we pumped the sullied water tank out (full of suds from the Dawn treatment). We waited until after the RCMP boat had gone out for their evening exercises. They presumably are set up to enforce environmental laws and we had no desire for them to see our suds emissions. Who knows what environmental laws we might be violating! They do allow grey water discharge here, but our suds might be pushing the definition. Anyway, we've now filled the tank up with municipal water, and there are only a few suds floating around in there. No smell of diesel. So we're definitely making progress!
We are enjoying Westview. For the first time on this trip we have been actually hot, wearing shorts and not wanting to be out in the sun. We did a bit of exploring, found some stores we haven't seen before, had showers, had a nice Thai dinner. Last night some First Nation guys arrived on our dock and were cleaning 2 King salmon and a ling cod. The salmon were beautiful, and as it turns only First Nation people are allowed catch the Kings. They asked if we had any plastic bags and offered to trade a piece of salmon for some plastic bags. Craig said sure, how about a piece big enough for 2 senior citizens to make dinner out of? They ended up giving us about 2 pounds-certainly enough to make 3 or 4 meals out of. (We cooked some of it for dinner this evening – it was absolutely wonderful!)
Tonight we’ve been dealing with first-world issues before we head out into the wilderness of Desolation Sound. There’s a certain amount of bureaucracy to assure our sublet of a slip in Bellingham in July. Also, back home, we’re trying to get a solar project ready for installation when we get back. Our contractor reports the county is requiring a massive amount of documentation which we’re effectively unable to do from here. Ah, such is life!