BC & SE ALASKA - 8: SOUTHBOUND THROUGH THE SALISH SEA - SOUTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA AND WASHINGTON STATE (August 29 version)
Friday-Saturday, August 5-6 - Sullivan Bay, the Broughton Islands and Port McNeil, BC
Tribute left Queen Charlotte Strait at Wells Passage; entered the Broughton group of islands and immediately the boat and radio traffic magnified and it felt like boating in an urban area. The marina and floating village of Sullivan Bay came into view at 12:30 PM. Shipperly had arrived an hour before.
The marina handles about 40 boats and they range in size to mid-20’s to 70 feet. We were pleasantly surprised to see Kismet, a Ranger 27 that Jim and Lisa Favors have. We have known them since 2008 when we met on the Tennessee River, then again in Florida in 2014. That is an example of the boating community: relationships that last over time and place.
Millie was on the dock in minutes and found flowers in a nearby pot to chew on. She escaped from the cockpit twice to walk the dock and nibble on flowers. The clouds closed in and a light rain fell for about an hour. Visits were made with Rob and Sally and Jim and Lisa. Tribute entertained 6 in the salon for dock-tails and the trawler was filled with laughter. Ken and Pauline are headed to Port McNeil tomorrow to end their trip. The evening was closed with burgers on the BBQ and a movie.
The next morning was cool and cloudy with the wind still and the water calm. The office opened at 0900 hours and while waiting, Jim and Lisa came over for a tour of Tribute. In addition to paying the moorage, two cinnamon rolls were bought for the trip. Tribute and Shipperly headed out at 0930 hours and decided to take the longer and scenic route through the islands to Port McNeil rather than the shortcut across the strait.
The cruising was flat, calm and scenic with low clouds touching the hilltops. The AIS showed a dozen boats in coves, bays and marinas. Morning is the time to travel and about 20 boats were encountered during this trip. A group of white-sided dolphins were feeding, surfacing, and splashing near Shawl Marina. Near Echo Bay Marina, 4 Orca whales were enjoyed for 20 minutes.
Outside of the protection of the islands, Queen Charlotte Strait was flat, calm and still. Shipperly powered up and headed off to Port McNeil’s Municipal Harbor and perhaps to get Tribute a space during this busy high season. We opted to go to Port McNeil with Ken and Pauline to say good-bye but also to provision for the next phase of this adventure.
At Port McNeil, the harbormaster found Tribute a very tight place that required a 90-degree turn and would have been very challenging if there were wind or current, but the docking was uneventful. Tribute was secured at 3:15PM and had traveled 42 miles.
Laurie made a provisioning trip to the liquor store because the store is closed on Sunday. The dock-tails were served on Shipperly and we presented them with a Tribute hat and T-shirt and artwork showing the Inside Passage. Ken and Pauline helped make this adventure an incredible experience because of their temperament, values and similar approach to cruising. We had never traveled with another boat or another couple for so long.
We had a celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant. Shipperly will be prepped tomorrow for the two-day trip back to Alberta and they hope to leave on Tuesday.
The crews of Tribute and Shipperly. John & Laurie and Pauline & Ken.
During the night, thunder and lightning woke us up briefly and it rained. By morning, fog shrouded the area and it would lift by mid-morning. Making a decision on when to leave and where to go came slowly. After pancakes and a second cup of coffee, the grocery list was re-checked and then the two carts and two plastic bins were taken to the IGA grocery that was two blocks away. Many boaters use this market as evidenced by the 30 plus grocery carts that were left at the top of the marina’s ramp.
This was the fourth heavy provisioning for this trip. Take a full grocery cart, take away all the packaging and all the items fit nicely into the plastic bins for easy transport and lifting into the boat. Plus, when it rains, the items stay dry. Following a light lunch, we agreed to stay another night. Laurie vacuumed, did laundry, and communicated with the world. The website had not been updated in two weeks and it took the bulk of the afternoon to accomplish this. Ken and Pauline spent the day cleaning Shipperly and they came to Tribute for dock-tails on the flybridge. Rob and Sally from Riot had arrived earlier in the day and joined us. The talk and laughter continued at the nearby bar & restaurant.
Monday, August 8 – Eastward to Potts Lagoon
Environment Canada got the forecast correct with cloudy skies, patchy fog and 62 degrees. After breakfast we went to Shipperly and because good friends do not say good-bye, we hugged each other with water in our eyes and said, “So long until the next time.”
Tribute had visibility of about two miles for about half and hour and then it went to less than a mile and the boat was running at 7 to 7.5 knots. The iPad ran the chartplotter with AIS and the Furuno display showed the radar. The low fog on Malcolm Island, Cormorant Island and the Pierce Islands was beautiful; accenting gray tones, swirls of arching moisture and the quiet stillness. The radar would identify a hard target, rather than a bird, and first the mast would be above the fog, then the hull and cabin of a sailboat would come into view.
Into Blackfish Sound, the patchy fog did not deter the water taxi, sportfishing boats and whale watching boats. We were surprisingly comfortable running in this limited visibility because of experience and trust earned in the tools that Tribute has. South on Blackney Passage, Tribute was avoiding the heavy opposing current on Johnstone Strait but the narrowest part of the passage had its own strong current that slowed the progress to 4.9 knots for 20 minutes.
Then, Tribute entered Baronet Passage that parallels Johnstone Strait but is not used by the commercial traffic. What was odd was the current’s direction is exactly the opposite of Johnstone Strait. The strait was ebbing to the west and the passage was ebbing to the east. After passing fisherman and a humpback whale at the western end, Tribute glided along at 7.8 knots all the way to the destination of Potts Lagoon. We had traveled 26 miles.
We had been to Potts Lagoon in 2011 with the Laurie Ann, a Ranger Tug 25 during a 13-day and 300-mile long exploration of the Broughtons. There are two coves to anchor in and one of them is now home to quarry and blasting operation but it was quiet during this stay. The second cove has half a dozen floating buildings that were all not occupied. The afternoon was cool, cloudy and threatening rain so we stay in and watched the 3-hour movie Titanic. Just before sunset, Rob and Sally arrived in Riot.
Panoramic shot of Potts Lagoon.
Tuesday, August 9 – Eastward to Shoal Bay
A light rain with temperatures in low 60’s started the day and Riot left as we had breakfast. Our destination is Shoal Bay and Rob and Sally may join us there. The anchor was pulled at 0800 hours and the intermittent rain would last for another hour. Heading eastbound on Baronet Passage that becomes Clio Channel, Tribute had a short distance to travel before going through The Blow Hole that is a narrow separation between Minstrel Island and East Craycroft Island that is a short cut to Chatham Channel. Before The Blow Hole, we had a glimpse into Lagoon Cove that is one of the “Village of Marinas” in these islands. The marina and the anchorage had many pleasure boats including some very large ones.
The southbound run down Chatham Channel and Havannah Channel were timed to take advantage of the currents. At 1030 hours, Tribute entered Johnstone Channel and joined at least 15 other pleasure boats that were headed east in the growing opposing current. Johnstone Strait is the final troublesome body of water that needs to be navigated. Today, it is flat and still and Tribute hugged the shoreline where the current is less, and traveling at 7.3 to 7.8 knots for the 12 miles to Sunderland Channel that branches off to the northeast.
The continuing theme of this southbound trip is to try to go to different places and take different routes. The notion is to go around Johnstone Strait, Seymour Narrows and Campbell River by taking a scenic route and is less affected by the strong winds and currents that can make the strait very uncomfortable. However, this route has is own challenges of going over 6 tidal rapids or very narrow passages that require transiting them at slack current.
The first was Whirlpool Rapids at the north end of Hardwicke Island. This did not start well due to the “Vessel Convergence Phenomenon.” We put this title to the randomness that vessels well always meet at the narrowest or worst spot. There were three boats, including Tribute and Riot that were approaching the blind turn that approaches the rapids when at a point of land, an oncoming vessel, riding the current and probably on autopilot and navigating on waypoints and did not receive or transmit AIS, suddenly appeared at the point. The oncoming vessel was very close to the point and did not change course or speed. The three of us had to take evasive action while fighting the current. Normally, vessels behave like cars on the road and stay to the right. The skipper of this 47-foot Defever had shit for brains.
Tribute passed Riot was 45 minutes early for the slack at Whirlpool Rapids. An older 34 foot CHB trawler with an undersized engine was ahead and struggling hard against the opposing current. We slowed to 4.5 knots to give the trawler time and space. Finally, Tribute angled across the current, powered up and went through at 6 knots, to overcome the 2-knot current.
Continuing on Welborne Channel, turning eastbound on Chancellor Channel to go around the north side of West Thurlow Channel, Tribute glided across the Green Point Rapids at slack. At the northern tip of this island is Shoal Bay that has a free government dock, no water or power and the Shoal Bay Pub that has Wi-Fi. The anchorage information was conflicting; Active Captain said it was marginal and the guidebooks said it was average but may take multiple attempts to set. None of that was true for Tribute and its Ultra Anchor as the anchor set first and fast in 33 feet of water. Tribute had traveled 58 miles.
The dinghy was put down and we went ashore to explore the pub, try out the Wi-Fi connection for Karen’s surprise birthday party, and check-out the garden that is available to boaters for a donation or weeding labor. We had steins of amber ale brewed on Vancouver Island that was served by Will, an Englishman and college student who is working at this remote spot for exchange of room and board. Rob and Sally arrived and we enjoyed their company. We also met a Canadian couple from Campbell River and talked about the changes to the area. At the dock, we talked to an owner of a Cutwater 26 who had spent all of this adult life boating around the world.
Dinner was back on Tribute and we returned to the pub for the connection to Karen’s birthday party. Afterwards, we watched a movie and the evening was closed.
Wednesday-Friday, August 10-12 – Desolation Sound, BC
The Octopus Islands
Screenshot of the iPad showing the boats with AIS going through 3 tidal rapids or narrows at slack.
Today would be one of the shorter mileage days but had more complexity because three tidal rapids or strong current areas would be transited. Timing would be everything. Done right, the trip would be uneventful. Done wrong, Tribute would be fighting the awesome power of a lot of water moving westward toward the ocean. Laurie did the calculations on the timing and re-checked the data and the math twice. Rob and Sally left Shoal Bay an our before us because they travel slower.
The anchor was up at 0930 hours and as we turned eastbound into Cordero Channel, we knew the math was right because there were 6 boats ahead and 4 boats behind us. In the hour that Tribute traveled to the Dent Rapids, another 8 boats would join the pack. Dent Rapids was like a millpond. Immediately afterwards, came Gillard Passage and this to was slack. There were glimpses of the high-end resort that caters to the rich and big yachts. The wilderness was fading away as the golf course, the new condos with docks, and more summer residences were seen. Then came the Yuculta Rapids, the current had switched causing a mild but consistent 1.5-knot opposing current. By 1130 hours, it was all behind Tribute.
The fleet of southbound boats were headed into the heart of Desolation Sound that is one of the most popular and expansive summer cruising grounds in the Pacific Northwest. July and August is normally sunny and warm and the many islands and coves provide ample anchoring places and affords great protection from the wind that often gains strength on the Strait of Georgia.
Tribute’s destination was at the top or northern edge of Desolation Sound, the Octopus Islands. The access to these islands is through a current controlled narrow passage, The Hole In the Wall, or through Surge Narrows. The timing to enter The Hole in the Wall was perfect and Tribute glided through the 4 mile long passage with the mild current.
The Octopus Islands is dominated by the large, Waiatt Bay, that can handle easily a hundred boats. At noon, Tribute anchored in 43 feet near the northwest shore to provide protection against the gale force wind that was predicted for the nearby Johnstone Strait and had traveled 19 miles.
The crab pot was put down, the dinghy took us around the bay and explored the small coves where smaller boats were stern-tied to the rocky shore. The forest is different than the coastal range because it is drier and is more open. We met Mike and Connie and their Kadey-Krogen 42 Anna and enjoyed a nice conversation and discovered that we had the same surveyor, Steve Berg, in common.
The wind did rise a bit but was not uncomfortable. After a dinner of grilled pork chops on the BBQ, the evening was closed with a movie and a book.
Von Donop Inlet
A 180-degree panorama of the anchorage at the head of the inlet.
The next day was clear and sunny, with a heavy dew and temperature in the mid-60’s that by mid-afternoon would be close to 80 degrees. The destination was another place that we had not been to, Von Donop Inlet that is on the west side of Cortes Island. Twice, while anchoring at Squirrel Cove, we had walked through the forest and across the isthmus to Von Donope and had seen boats anchored.
The timing of the departure was about the slack current at the Hole-In-The-Wall. We used the time for a dinghy tour of Waiat Bay and used the generator to power the vacuum cleaner. The anchor came up easily and in 30 minutes Tribute and a Selene 53 were eastbound in the narrow channel that ends at Calm Channel. At the narrowest part, a TD53 yacht, refusing to slow down for a safe pass and running at 20 knots, threw a 3-foot high wake at Tribute’s stern. We renamed the boat, Total Dickhead 53.
Continuing southbound, Tribute joined a small fleet of pleasure boats that were invading Desolation Sound but we broke away from the pack and continued into Drew Passage and passed the Rendezvous Islands that had small summer cottages. Down Sutil Channel along the western shore of Cortes Island came the narrow opening to Von Donope Inlet. Just before the entrance, our phones got 3 bars of 3G service. Tribute was paused as email was downloaded and sent.
The inlet is long, scenic, with several branches that are lagoons. There were boats scattered along the length. Tribute continued to the head of the inlet which is larger and also has the most boats. There was ample room and anchored between a sailboat and a Selene 36 in 43 feet of water.
The dinghy had been towed since entering Desolation Sound because of the shorter distances. It took us on a tour of the head of the bay, a small lagoon, a search for the trailhead that goes to Squirrel Cove, and up the inlet to another lagoon were the motor decided that needed to stop. A temporary resident of the lagoon saw the hood off the motor and heard the repeated attempts to start the engine and came over with an offer to help. We exchanged ideas and decided to let it rest for a while. The day was nice, the slight breeze was going toward Tribute and feeling like exercise would be a good thing, the dinghy was rowed back to Tribute.
After a shower, dock-tails in the cockpit, and dinner, the ability to cognitive problem-solve returned. More gas, clean filters, a tighter hose attachment to the fuel filter and adjusting the fuel mixture all resulted in a quick starting and smooth running Honda 9.9 horsepower outboard. A dessert of cheesecake with raspberry jam was earned. The evening was closed with reading and the satellite radio.
Prideaux Haven - Otter Bay Cove
Laurie woke up first and it was still dark. The sunrise brought clear blue skies and heavy dew. After breakfast, the flybridge and the cockpit deck were scrubbed with a stiff brush and rinsed. Laurie did a host of cleaning tasks and by 0930 the sun was too warm to continue working hard. The anchor was raised at 0945 hours and Tribute did a slow no-wake speed for three miles past the three dozen or so boats that had anchored.
The destination was one of the coves at or near Prideaux Haven that is in the southern part of Desolation Sound. Tribute went around the top of Cortes Island continuing down Lewis Channel to the intersection of Desolation Sound, which is like the town square. The town of Lund is to the south, Refuge Cove with its marina, fuel and store is to the north, Squirrel Cove with its huge anchorage is to the west and Prideaux Haven is to the east. There are hundreds of pleasure boats in a 10-mile radius and it felt like it. After all, this is the peak season.
Tribute was in the hunt for a pleasant anchorage in Prideaux Haven that is a collection of small coves and bays in a marine park. 4 coves were explored and looked over and simply there was no room for Tribute or the anchorage was too small.
At the main entrance to Prideaux Haven, a float plane landed, stopped and turned off its engine. Four dinghies approach and passengers stepped onto the pontoon under the wing and got into a dinghy and when that was done, a dinghy off-loaded people into the aircraft. At 2 PM, a suitable spot was found at Otter Island Cove that is a small cove between Otter Island and the mainland and has room for about 6 boats. Tribute had traveled 29 miles.
Stern-tying to land is mandatory and this would a first for us in Tribute though it had been many times in our boats. Stern-tie is a tactic used with a bow anchor to stop the boat from swinging and allows for more boats to use a smaller anchorage. The trick is to put out enough anchor line, called scope, and get close to shore but not too close. Then, before the wind swings the boat, take a long line in the dinghy, paddle to shore, but the line around a tree and bring it back to the boat.
The first try was successful but needs polishing. The anchor set well with less than a 3 to 1 scope but the Ultra Anchor is really good at this. The paddle to shore and dragging the floating line was fine. But the first step onto the slippery kelp on the rocks caused half of left leg to be submerged. Then, the trees were to high to reach on the rock cliff but there was a stout line hanging from a tree that was left by another boater. The trip back to the boat with line needed more practice. With the afternoon being pleasantly hot, a delayed project of cleaning the upholstery was done. Then, the dinghy did a long cruise to check out Tenedos Bay with its 4 bays and arms. This is a great anchorage and without the high-rent feel of Prideaux Haven.
Saturday-Sunday, August 13-14 - Southward in the Strait of Georgia: Hornby Island & Nanaimo
Sally on Riot spoke highly of Tribune Bay on the south end of Hornby Island (see the red marker on the map) and with the predicted winds from the northwest at 15 to 25 knots for the coming evening, this was the kind of protection that Tribute was looking for. At 0800 hours, under clear blue skies with temperatures in the high 60’s and climbing, the stern tie was pulled in and the anchor raised.
Proceeding on the south side of Mink Island, into the heart of Desolation Sound, the water was rippled with northwest wind at 10 knots. There are two main routes to head south. The most common one is to follow the eastern shore, past Lund and Powell River, stay in the lee of Texada Island and then cross the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo. The second route and the one that Tribute took was to stay in the lee of Cortes Island to the north and cross over to the western side of the strait and then head south with the northwest wind on Tribute’s stern.
After going through Mary Passage that is between Cortes and Hernando Islands, Tribute was quartering a 2-foot wind chop to Mitlenatch Island that is a wildlife preserve. For the next 4 hours, Tribute enjoyed “Going with God” with wind on the stern and no opposing current and made a straight line to Hornby Island. The ride was very smooth and easy. This was the first day with a continuous and strong cellular coverage.
The VHF radio sounded a piercing alarm. The coast guard was broadcasting a mayday or emergency that was within 3 miles of Tribute in Baynes Sound near the ferry dock. We were far away with an island between us and the emergency. An autistic teenager was swimming away into deep water and a rescue was needed. We listened as the drama unfolded over the radio. The crew of the ferry sent a lifeboat and in about 10 minutes found the swimmer who was exhausted, hypothermic but otherwise OK.
Tribune Bay was arrived at 2:30PM and Tribute had traveled 52 miles. The bay is a huge rectangle, open to the south, and the north end is ¼ mile wide and all of it is a beautiful white sandy beach. Because Hornby Island is easily accessible to the mainland, this incredible beach was well populated with several hundred people with umbrellas, beach volleyball and assorted beach toys. The water is shallow for 100 yards and small powerboats were beached or anchored. The anchorage had at about 100 boats swinging on anchors. This was the highest concentration of people that we had seen since the cruise ship docks in Juneau. Tribute dropped anchor in 20 feet near a new Ranger Tug, three sailboats rafted together, two weekend cruises rafted together and an older 26 foot sailboat.
The dinghy was lowered off Tribute’s roof and was beached for an hour walk of the forest and the beach. The walk reminded us of how out of shape that we have become. Back aboard, a steak was grilled on the BBQ and a few boats left. Starting at about 8PM, the wind picked up to about 15 knots and increased to 20 around midnight and quickly calmed.
The next morning, half of the boats were gone by noon. PredictWind and Sailfo apps both showed that the 20-knot wind and the 3-foot seas off of Nanaimo would quiet down in the late afternoon. A few boat projects were worked on, communication was done and at 1PM, the anchor was raised. The wind and the resulting 1 to 2 foot chop pushed on Tribute’s stern and made the four-hour run to Nanaimo smooth until Entrance Island where the current and wind made the water rougher. The snow-covered peak and western slopes of Mount Baker was in the distance meaning that the visibility was 100 miles on this clear and cloudless day.
The harbormaster at the Nanaimo Harbor Authority had a 50 foot long spot on a long dock. This would be a challenging feat because the space between the docks was narrow, it meant parallel parking between two boats and it was nearly at the farthest spot inside meaning that Tribute would pass four other boats.
Just as we made the first of two tight turns, a 10 -foot sailboat was stopped in the middle of the fairway. A 90 year old man, with brown leather skin, dirty gray hair and a long scruffy beard blowing in the breeze was rowing very, very slowly. He looked at Tribute but did not change his actions. Idling at a very slow speed and coming closer and closer, he was waved at, Tribute’s horn was sounded, and Laurie yelled at him. He clearly was functionally impaired but he slowly moved away.
Turning into the fairway and toward the assigned spot, the space clearly did not appear long enough but we were down the throat, past the second of four boats and were committed to trying it. The bow was put in to the dock and from the pilothouse, it liked the anchor was in the cockpit of the sailboat in front. Laurie said that the stern was clear of the big cruiser behind us. Using the breeze, the bow thruster and instructions that Laurie gave to the helping hands, Tribute was secured. The docking was the entertainment for the Mexican restaurant that was 30 feet away. The harbormaster said the 90 year old is a summer fixture in Nanaimo and takes his sailboat back and forth from Protection Island. After docktails in the cockpit, we split a wonderful dinner at the Mexican restaurant, walked the boardwalk that a splendid view of the harbor, had ice cream for the first time in 80 days, and later watched a movie.
A panorama of Nanaimo's inner harbor.
Below: A sunken fishing boat is being raised off the bottom over 4 hours.
THE GULF ISLANDS, BRITISH COLUMBIA: These extend from Victoria to Nanaimo along Vancouver island's eastern shore.
Monday-Tuesday, August 15-16 – Clam Bay, Thetis Island
Millie, the admiral, in a typical mid-day contemplation mode.
The clear sky and warm temperatures continued with an idyllic forecast for the next week. With the water tank full, a minor provisioning trip was only needed before leaving. A walk to the nearby marine store resulted in some supplies and then the Thriftway grocery store got enough produce and consumables for the next week. Check out time was 1100 hours so Tribute was slowly backed down the long and narrow fairway with the neighboring boaters ready to assist, and then made the hairpin turn to the right. Of course, at the lowest tide of the day.
Tribute idled out of the marina complex and into the nearby Mark Bay that is at Newcastle Island and took a mooring buoy for the afternoon. We needed to wait for the slack current at Dodd Narrows that would happen at about 3:30PM. A nearby boater came over and asked about the smooth and easy system that was used to capture the mooring buoy and secure the trawler to it. The bay was busy with 80 percent of the moorings full, the dock space was nearly full and the anchorage and another 50 boats in it. We spent the afternoon in the fresh breeze, watching the white caps on the distant Strait of Georgia, and witnessed the raising of a sunken fishing boat. A commercial salvage and diving crew were working about 200 yards away. All that was visible of the fishing boat was the rigging and flags. Over the next 3 hours, huge air bags were put inside and around the outside and then inflated, raising the boat partially up from the 25-foot depth. 45 minutes before the predicted slack, Tribute left the mooring buoy, crossed the bay and encountered the dozen northbound boats that had transited the narrows when the current was going north. There were about a dozen southbound boats ahead of us. At slack, the narrows is nearly placid and calm. Going through, Tribute had entered the Gulf Islands.
Laurie had identified three possible anchorages. The wind from the northwest was predicted to rise to 15-20 knots so finding a location that provided protection was desired. The first two places were either too crowded or too open. The third option was too deep at 90 feet. The fourth option, Clam Bay on the east side of Thetis Island, was very good. Contrary to the advice in the guidebooks, we found good anchorage that was well protected on the northern side of the bay and near the cut that dinghies use to get to Telegraph Harbor on the western side of the island.
The anchor was dropped in 40 feet at 5:30PM and Tribute had traveled 20 miles. Burgers were grilled and the evening was closed with card games and reading.
The next day, the wind rose in the morning to the low teens and the low tide closed the cut to Telegraph Harbor. This would be a major cleaning day that included working on the wood rails and the finish that had started to blister. Using the generator and an electric sander, in two hours the major sanding to remove the blisters had been done. Laurie cleaned Tribute’s interior. After lunch, the dinghy took us through the cut and the afternoon was spent exploring Telegraph Harbor Marina where ice cream was enjoyed. Then, a beer was enjoyed at the nearby Thetis Island Marina. These two marinas seem to have a cooperative business plan. Telegraph Harbor is the nicer marina and full most of the time and offers a pleasant atmosphere with a limited café. Thetis Island Marina has the pub, post office and live entertainment but the marina is older and needs upgrading.
Returning to Clam Bay, a tour of the bay was done, a large sailboat navigated the cut at high tide – a risky venture, and 90 minutes was spent cleaning Tribute’s entire hull above the waterline. Using the dinghy, a squeegee to apply “On and Off,” and a hose to rise it off, all of the grime, salt and stain from the 2,800 mile trip since the end of May was gone and Tribute was glistening. Fresh salmon was grilled on the BBQ and the evening was closed with a movie.
Wednesday, August 17 – Montague Harbor
Though the days are clear and the afternoon brings very warm temperatures, this would be the second day of moderately strong winds, though nothing like Queen Charlotte Strait or Queen Charlotte Sound and certainly not like Lake Michigan. The fresh breeze brought ripples and a light chop into the anchorage and beyond the point of land that protected Tribute; white caps were blowing on a line from northwest to southeast. There was no reason to make an early departure.
The anchor was pulled at 1000 hours and the destination was Montague Harbor that is on the west side of Galliano Island and is about 12 miles away. This is the phase of the trip of small daily mileages and it has taken close to a week to mentally transition from 40 to 70 mile days to less than 20 miles and staying longer. We are intentionally trying to stay more than one day at each destination.
After idling out of the bay and evading Center Reef that is the center of Clam Bay, Tribute headed south in Trincomali Channel with a 15 to 20 knot wind on the stern. The engine was slowed to 1500 rpms that would normally cause the boat to go 6.5 knots but nature was pushing it along at 8.0 knots and the ride was calm and gentle as we were with the seas. The AIS screen showed a dozen boats in the coves and channels around us and visually, there were at least that many behind us. Inexplicably, there are more sailboats than powerboats both underway and at the anchorages.
Montague Harbor was arrived at 1145 and there was ample room to anchor and mooring buoys were available. Not feeling the need for a mooring buoy, Tribute was anchored in 30 feet at low tide and was very close to the same place that we did in June when we rendezvoused with Ken and Pauline in Shipperly. After lunch, the dinghy took us to the provincial park dock for an exploration of the shoreline, the site of thousands of years of use by humans, and a walk through the campground. Then, we motored to the south end of the bay to the Montague Harbor Marina and bought ice cream.
Returning to Tribute, we worked together to do finish the prep of the wood rails by hand sanding the wood. Laurie has higher standards than I, so she followed behind my work. After a break with a dock-tails in the shade of the cockpit, the first of four coats of Cetol Light was applied. This project will need four days and only a couple of hours per day to finish. Like many things in life, satisfaction is often about the management of expectations. The wood rails do not have to be perfect, just better when the project is finished. Dinner was grilled chicken kabobs and salad. Afterwards, Laurie continued to devour Michener’s Alaska and I watched a movie.
Thursday-Friday, August 18-19 – Ganges, Salt Spring Island
At about 1100, the anchor was raised and we did the short hop of 8 miles to the west, to Ganges on Salt Spring Island. Ganges is the center of the civilization in the Gulf Islands. It feels like a scaled back Ketchikan only without the cruise ships. As Tribute approached the harbor, at least 20 boats mostly huge and fast were leaving. We opted to anchor between the first and second marina leaving the other two at the head of the harbor. There were about 50 boats at anchor or on a mooring buoy and about four times that number in the four marinas.
There is nothing restful, peaceful or calm about Ganges. Between the constant and heavy boat traffic, the swarms of racing dinghies, and the constant landing and take-offs of floatplanes, this is a noisy place with wakes constantly rocking Tribute. The dinghy took us to the designated dinghy dock that the Rotary Club built and we first went to the hardware store to get supplies for the wood rail project, for the crane painting project, and for the generator oil change project. Then, we did a bit of shopping at the Thrifty Foods before going back to the boat. The afternoon heat was the highest this summer at 90 degrees. The remainder of the afternoon was spent working on cooling strategies. After dinner, the harbor was more quiet. We watched a movie and the moonrise that happened after sunset signaled the cooling of the night.
The next day, the work on the wood rails started after breakfast while it was still cool. This project is about 1/3 done. The boom on the crane showed some tough use by the prior owners. It was sanded with the power sander and then hand sanded for a smooth finish. The oil and oil filter on the generator was changed for the first time and a procedure was written for the next time. We had some new errands to run in town, so the dinghy took us through this busy harbor as another exodus boats occurred followed by another swarm of new ones. After the shopping and browsing, we had lunch out with fresh pizza and draft beer. Back on the boat, Laurie brushed on the first coat of paint while the generator’s oil and filter were changed. Late afternoon and it is too hot to work or actively play, just sit in the shade. After dinner and near sunset, the dinghy took us for a tour of the bay that is east of the main harbor. This is a much better anchorage because if the main harbor is main street, it is like being on a side street that is free of the wakes and is quieter.
THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASHINGTON STATE
Saturday-Sunday, August 20-21 – Stuart and Jones Islands
No telephoto lens and very little cropping, this gives an idea of how close these orcas came to Tribute.
Jones Island and wildlife that is NOT very wild.
The main purpose for coming to Ganges is the Saturday Farmer’s Market and we were there as it was setting up and opened. Most markets are bigger and have more variety but in the Gulf Islands, this is the main one. Craftsman representing the island’s artist community showed their wares, home bakers had a variety of breads, kids were selling cookies, and there was amble produce to choose from.
Back at Tribute, the anchor was raised at 1000 hours and we headed south, nearly in a straight toward Roche Harbor on Washington State’s San Juan Island. The sky was cloudless, going with the wind made running from the flybridge desirable as it was warm and still there. Leaving Ganges, Tribute fell in behind a group of boats leaving and passed a half dozen that were coming in.
Near Stuart Island, Tribute crossed into the U.S. and Norman Gregory sent a text welcoming us home. Two miles ahead and against the northwest point of San Juan Island a cluster of boats moving slowly indicated Orca whales. The group was heading toward Tribute and in 20 minutes, we were surrounded by a pod of whales. We stopped as they approached. A whale came nearly completely out of the water, two surfaced right under Tribute’s bowsprit, and four more were very close. The camera was completely forgotten in the five minutes of total excitement.
One of the top highlights of this adventure was the amount of whales seen and we were satisfied and not expecting to see more. The behavior of this pod and their coming so close to Tribute was like a welcome back and fitting bookend to the adventure.
45 minutes later Tribute was in Roche Harbor, another mega-harbor for pleasure boats and was idling in line with other boats and waiting for a spot on the customs dock. After a 20 minute wait, Tribute started the check-in process. Of all the recent experiences with customs, this was the best with a polite and interested officer. A new experience was being boarded by two agricultural inspectors who inspected the galley, including the refrigerator, and seized the apples. But this was not a negative experience because of how they conducted themselves and our attitude of, “Take what you want.”
Leaving Roche Harbor, the destination was Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. The large bay had about 50 boats at anchor, on mooring buoys or on the floats. At 2:30 PM, the anchor was dropped in 25 feet. Laurie put the final coat of paint on the crane’s boom and worked on the wood rails. Later in the afternoon and doing a tour of the bay, we talked with the owner of a Camano 31 and Rich and Linda on their Krogen 52, Ocean Liberty.
Sunday morning brought a fresh breeze running the length of the bay. An hour was spent in the dinghy with a brush scrubbing the grass off of the hull that as at the waterline. Not paying attention to the wind or current, the anchor was pulled at 1100 hours with the intention of going to Friday Harbor but nature had another plan. The current at Spiden Island slowed Tribute to 4 knots and the 25 to 30 knot south wind between Spiden and Jones Islands created 2-3 foot wind chop that made the protected harbor at Jones Island desirable.
Arriving at Jones Island, a mooring buoy was available and Tribute took it. The protection of the harbor allowed little sign of the turbulence happening outside of it. Over the course of the afternoon the harbor will fill with boats. While Laurie worked on the rails, windows and upholstery were cleaned. We found working on boat projects while at anchor in a beautiful spot was far more satisfying than doing it in a marina. After dinner, we took a walk on the island, met 6 deer that were too comfortable with people, counted the 16 kayaks on the south side of the island and later watched a movie to close out the day.
Reid Harbor at Stuart Island on a still August late afternoon.
Monday-Wednesday, August 22-24 - Friday Harbor and Sucia Island
Mt. Baker from President's Channel and Orcas Island.
The next day and Tribute was released from the mooring buoy at 0930 hours for the one-hour run to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The harbor crew is friendly and very efficient and gave us one of the 44-foot slips that are largest slips in the guest moorage section. The key to success in finding moorage in the peak season is the same tactic in finding a space in a popular campground; arrive during the period of turnover. With a checkout time of 1100 hours, most boats start leaving at 0900 hours for the next destination and that creates the turnover time.
Friday Harbor was a busy place. We split up for the errands; Laurie took the cart and plastic bins to the King Market to provision for the coming week and I went to upstairs at the market to the marine store to buy the last gloss finish for the cap rail project and then headed to the Ace Hardware store for the brushes. Back at the boat, Tribute was “re-set” meaning that water, power, food and supplies were all set. The fuel tanks had 300 gallons from the fill in Ketchikan. Laurie finished the coats of stain on the rails. The marina was busy but not noisy and the weather was warm, still and calm.
The next day, we headed for Fossil Bay on Sucia Island to rendezvous with long time boating friends, Steve and Tina and their American Tug 34, American Pride. The 16-mile trip took just over two hours because Tribute rode the currents around the north side of Orcas Island. The sky was clear, temperatures in the low 80’s and an afternoon breeze peaked at 12 knots. Sucia is heavily used and can easily handle 700 boats but the island and its anchorages are so spread out that the impact of those number is not felt. Fossil Bay is shaped like a long rectangle, open at one end, two rows of mooring buoys that run its length and has two docks at the end.
Again, Tribute arrived during the period of turnover and had a wide choice of mooring buoys to choose from. Steve and Tina took a space on the dock so their dog, Roscoe, had easy access to land and Steve could more easily use his new toy, an electric assist pedal bike. We would spend two days at this Washington State Park, enjoying the trails, the beaches, having dock-tails and dinner with Steve and Tina. Laurie finished the cap rail project and that maintenance project is done.
Panoramic shot of Fossil Bay.
Thursday-Sunday, August 25 – 27, - Back to Puget Sound and the end of this trip.
Staying true to the theme of going to new places that were not visited on the northbound trip, the next destination was Anacortes and the Cap Sante Marina. The 21-mile trip took just over three hours because we had to fight the strong northbound current while going between Cypress and Guemes Islands. The Cap Sante Marina was a huge guest dock with probably 60 slips but in peak season, these can fill up. Laurie had called ahead and secured a reservation.
The further south and close we get to our homeport of Everett, the more familiar the setting. We had been to Anacortes many times in nearly all of our boats. The reason to come was to provision for the Labor Day Weekend and the gathering of the family, to spend time with Steve and Tina, to research a boatyard for the bottom paint project, and for the Saturday Market.
Emotions are tricky and an unexpected feeling can come out of nowhere for no expected reason. We are back in range of the NPR radio station that was our morning companion in our normal life. A strong cell signal and there a consistently strong Internet connection is back. All of those are appreciated but the complexity and intensity of this life is also returning. There are appointments on the calendar, there are options to consider, plans to make and decisions to make. We are back in the world of planning weeks in advance, not just a day or two.
We are glad to back to be with friends and family. But, gone is the adventure of seeing a new place every day, wondering what will be seen on a new route, not knowing what the next anchorage or marina will be like, and where will the next whale be. We had grown comfortable and accustom to moving nearly every day and about a third of the days, the travel mileage was over 40 miles. We are in a transition of being cruisers who feel like vagabonds to being residents.
We need to get used to being in close proximity to many people and boats. Also, we had many days that were spent with two or four people and now there are many people, many conversations, and the intensity of humanity and this thing called civilization. Unknowingly, the beginning of the trip had stripped away the shield that saved us from the impact of this intensity and now it needs to grow back. That is the tricky part of emotions, where sadness, being abrupt or inpatient and sometimes being short-tempered just happens.
We stayed for three nights in Anacortes, two to be with Steve and Tina and the third to wait for a better weather window. With the conversations with Steve and Tina, a long phone call with Rich who had done the Inside Passage 3 years earlier, and having dinner with Norman and Clarice our long-time friends who had done this trip 16 years earlier, this was the closest thing to a finish line. Mileage-wise, the trip would be over in another 38 miles at Hat Island. We were transitioning by making plans for the next two weeks, making reservations for a conference in October and talking about a trip in November and Hawaii after Christmas. Alaska and British Columbia were behind us but will always stay with us.