Sunday, August 31, 2014

Georgia On My Mind

Distance traveled:  35.8 miles

Travel time:  4 hrs, 32 mins

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We’ve crossed the Strait of Georgia half a dozen times, and none of them have been what we call fun. We thought Sunday might be different. The Strait is 110 miles long and 15 to 20 miles wide, so there’s a long of fetch in which the typical northwesterly winds can build. As always, if the current opposes the wind, watch out. We pulled out of Pender Harbour at 6:30am in dead calm conditions, following the 68-foot “Paige Marie” who was on our AIS all day yesterday as we traveled south. The forecast called for a calm morning with wind building in the afternoon.


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Contrary to the forecast, as we rounded the south end of Texada Island, the wind rapidly built, the seas grew to 3-4 feet, and because we were traveling north to south, we wallowed in beam seas. We moved to the lower helm where items had begun to fall over (yes, we know we should tie everything down before big water crossings, even if conditions start out calm). For an hour, it was safe and not scary, but no fun either. The song “Georgia On My Mind” came to mind, and even though it doesn’t apply at all to how we feel about the Strait of Georgia. But it made us laugh when Bob cued up the Eric Clapton/Stevie Winwood version on his iPod and we tapped our toes as we rocked and rolled in the waves.

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After one rough hour, conditions calmed as rapidly as they’d arisen, and the rest of the journey was relaxed and pleasant. Go figure.

29 years ago Cathryn met Nancy at work, and over the next decades Bob and Cathryn hiked in the Cascade mountains, skiied at Whistler, went scuba diving in Puget Sound, shared meals and attended parties of mutual friends with Nancy and her husband Kelly. And Kelly taught our daughter Mackenzie and her husband Matt to scuba dive. For years, we heard stories from Nancy and Kelly about their boating trips in Alaska with their good friends on “Sandpiper”, a 37-foot Nordic Tug.

Sunday an hour out of Nanaimo, we heard two boats on the VHF radio, one named “Sandpiper”. So we hailed “Sandpiper”, asked if they happened to be the folks who were friends with Nancy and Kelly, and they said yes! They were an hour behind us on the Strait of Georgia, returning from Alaska and headed to Nanaimo. We agreed to meet at the marina.

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Nanaimo is not a big city, but it’s busy, pretty and every convenience you could want is within walking distance of the Port Authority Marina.

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An hour after we tied up to the dock, “Sandpiper” pulled in across the fairway.

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Carolyn and Hank invited us to dinner on their boat. They’re both good cooks if our dinner was any indication (halibut they’d caught themselves), Hank is a wood carver and hunter, they’ve been married 57 years, and Hank had open-heart surgery last spring then defied doctor’s orders and left for Alaska two months later. Carolyn has been boating and fishing all her life. We heard lots of great “boating in Alaska” stories, including some about their time at Haida Gwaii (formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, now having it’s First Nations name again.) They’re knowledgeable, very experienced, tough boaters. We’d love to have their skills someday!

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Their boat has dozens of unique features they incorporated when they had her built, an amazing design. We particularly envy them their hydraulic bow thruster; it could move that boat! We ended the evening over cappuccino with a dollop of Kahlua. It was so nice to finally meet these folks we’ve been hearing about for years.

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Check-in message from Nanaimo

Latitude:49.16673
Longitude:-123.93459
GPS location Date/Time:08/31/2014 14:25:20 PDT

Click the link below to see where we are located.
http://fms.ws/IzCo7/49.16673N/123.93459W

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Okeover to Pender: A Day Of Contrasts

Distance traveled:  58.3 miles

Travel time: 8 hrs, 23 mins

“Plans should be made in jello, not stone”, Hobie told us 6 years ago. Today was a great example. Yesterday we’d planned to leave Okeover Inlet this morning and move only 5 miles to Grace Harbour, a “fancy” (by Sunshine Coast standards) marina with a swimming pool, hot tub, laundry and wifi. After 5 nights at anchor it sounded good. But it poured down rain all through the night, and was still drizzling this morning, so swimming pools and even hot tubs faded in their appeal. Instead the calm wind and water suggested we should take advantage and travel further. We’re headed back to the Big Water of the Strait of Georgia, so weather conditions loom larger. We’ve been spoiled by almost 4 weeks in The Broughton Islands and Desolation Sound where almost all travel is in protected waters, and we never saw big wind or waves. Lulled into complacency. So at 7:15am we cast off our lines and back-tracked up Okeover Inlet, uncertain where we were going. Powell River and Hardy Island were on the list of possibilities.

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We traveled the “inside” route through the very scenic Copeland Islands (named by the Canadian Government for an American Confederate soldier who later became an outlaw: what’s with that????)

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Mid-day we entered Malaspina Strait and found steady 3-foot waves with every tenth or twelfth wave at 4 feet. Not scary, not unsafe, but difficult to walk around the boat without risking a fall, so we retired to the salon from the flybridge and drove from the lower helm. The wind eventually blew a steady 18-20mph with gusts to 28, and the opposing current and winds make wave conditions worse. We fought the opposing tide all day, making travel slow. Waves came over the bow and covered the windshield with salt water, so wipers came in handy.

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Finally picking Pender Harbour as our destination (many miles north of Bedwell Harbour in the Pender Islands where so many Canadians and folks from the U.S. clear Canadian Customs), we found conditions calming and some sun.

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We moved back to the flybridge for docking, only to find the wind was blowing hard inside the harbour, so were grateful for the two marina staff who came to catch our lines. Our docking skills with this single engine boat have improved a lot, but we NEVER turn down assistance with docking, and we ALWAYS wander onto the dock if we see another boat coming in nearby to offer help in catching their lines. The “what-goes-around-comes-around thing”.

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Pender Harbour has lots of pretty homes on the shore, many of which are perched on rocks high above the water.

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We’d forgotten we’ve been to this very nice marina and town once before, August 28, 2011 when we returned from a trip in our previous boat, “Always Ahead” to Princess Louisa Inlet (where the boat was hit by a seaplane). It looked very familiar, and the marina’s computer confirmed the date of our last visit.

We’ll see what Environment Canada has to say early tomorrow morning about our plan to cross the Strait of Georgia. We’d like to get that behind us and have several days to enjoy the Gulf Islands, but if the weather forecast looks unfavorable, we’ll stay in port and do laundry instead.

Check-in message from Pender Harbor

Latitude:49.63136
Longitude:-124.03426
GPS location Date/Time:08/30/2014 16:36:10 PDT

Click the link below to see where we are located.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Rain?!

Prideaux Haven to Okeover Landing

Distance traveled:  16.8 miles

Travel time:  2 hrs, 35 mins

We’ve been so lucky on this trip! This morning was the first time we woke to rain, albeit so light it only qualifies as mist, not real rain. But the forecast said it would last most of the day, and that’s what happened. We pulled the anchor at 9:30. Even without windshield wipers on the flybridge, we still drove from the top, the mist was so light.

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A long (8 miles) side-trip down Malaspina Inlet and Okeover Inlet wound through tiny islets and shoal rocks.

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There were more than a dozen kayakers out in groups of 2 and 4, enjoying the well-protected waters.

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An official campground with tent platforms and outdoor furniture perched on the shoreline, with a number of tent campers in sight, probably the kayakers.

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As we passed Grace Harbour, a posh marina and resort, several dozen larger, nice homes, each with it’s own private dock, came into view.

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This rock outcropping in the middle of Okeover Inlet, obviously a favored seal haul-out, is charted as being 13 feet above the water at low-low tide, so here at almost high tide it was growing as we watched, and must be a bit underwater at highest tides. The seals were attentive to our presence, but not frightened away as we kept some distance.

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We don’t know, but guess this may be a service boat for some of the many fish farms that line parts of the shore.

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Arriving at Okeover Inlet, we learned there’s actually a ROAD!  We left our bicycles at home as we were told there’d be nowhere we could ride them (true), and haven’t gone for a jog since we left Campbell River three weeks ago. So despite the light drizzle, a run was next up on the agenda, albeit shorter than when we jog at home as we haven’t done much exercise in the past month, and the hills here are remarkably steep. But it felt good to work the old muscles a little, and we were able to take a hot shower afterwards as running the engine heats the water aboard. There’s no electricity or water on these docks in this tiny, remote place. We’re the biggest boat here, for sure.

We ended the day, as recommended by friends Aaron and Julie with whom we spent time recently in the Octopus Islands, by having dinner at the “Laughing Oyster”, just uphill from where we’re docked. Remember: we’re out in the middle of “nowhere” (though we learned it’s only a 30-minute drive by care to Powell River from here). But we wouldn’t normally expect to find a truly fabulous restaurant out in the woods. Surprise!

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The food was as good as any we’ve had anywhere in Seattle, and the chef and his wife own the restaurant and live next door. One of their daughters and her husband are renowned opera singers in Paris, Montreal, Amsterdam, New York and more. The other daughter was our waitress tonight, and is studying medicine in Montreal. Who knew you could find such gems out here in remote countryside? Oyster appetizers and seafood entrees were divine.

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And above: our view from our table; not bad, eh? Sweet dreams.

Check-in message from Okeover Inlet

Latitude:49.99372
Longitude:-124.71042
GPS location Date/Time:08/29/2014 12:49:57 PDT

Click the link below to see where we are located.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day Two, Prideaux Haven

We’d planned to move to another anchorage this morning, but liked this one so much we stayed, even though it means skipping the other. Last night’s clouds dissipated, and it was another sunny, warm (79) day. There’s more wind today, so we’re checking water depths and chain to make sure we don’t need to put out more anchor rode. So far, so good. We’re still not completely relaxed about anchoring in 55’ of water, though getting more comfortable.

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We read books and did boat chores in the morning.

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Afternoon called for another dinghy exploration. This area has lots of small coves connected to one another, and we hadn’t seen them all yet. Boats are anchored in almost every cove, usually stern-tied as there’s no room to swing.

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We’re endlessly fascinated by the rock formations (both above and below water) and tide lines. Our hand-held depth sounder the kids gave Bob for Father’s Day is getting lots of use, as we’re often exploring very shallow, rocky waters in the dinghy.

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People off the boats (and their many dogs) anchored in the area were all out playing this afternoon, on the rocks, in dinghys, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards.

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Or swimming . . . or at least threatening to do so.

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A handful of huge boats are in the anchorage, including this 100+ foot yacht with a hot tub on the cockpit. And it made us smile to see this tiny sailboat rafted up with a much larger pilothouse trawler.

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The pretty boat on the left is anchored less than 100’ from us and hails from San Francisco, with a professional crew of at least 4 we’ve spotted so far. The green tug nearby clearly used to be a working boat, but has been converted to recreational use.

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We decided not to go for another bucket of oysters today, so are grilling burgers instead. We’re having a ball.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Refuge Cove to Prideaux Haven

Distance traveled: 10.1 miles

Travel time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

After another leisurely morning, we left Refuge Cove and headed northeast. A nice thing about Desolation Sound is that it’s small, so distances between spectacular anchorages or marinas are short. The scenery is . . . we’re running out of adjectives! But short travel distances means more “down time”, and we love that.

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Blue water, mountains, trees and rocks continue, and in the sunshine and warm temps, it feels perfect.

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The approach to Prideaux Haven looks narrow and rocky. And it is.

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But the nautical chart makes it look worse than reality. Advancing very slowly, it’s not a problem.

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We anchored in 44 feet of water with 3:1 scope, knowing high tide would bring 11’ deeper water. As long as the weather forecast remains mild, we’re expanding our comfort and willingness to anchor in deeper water. Learning continues, whether we like it or not. And mostly we do.

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On a tip from a boater anchored nearby, we left in the dinghy to explore the area and see if we could find some oysters off East Redonda Island, 2 miles across Homfray Channel from our anchorage. We had the latitude and longitude for our destination, so navigated accordingly.

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We found the spot, and while Cathryn fended the inflatable dinghy off the sharp rocks and oyster shells, Bob went ashore and chipped oysters off the rocks. We’ve not done this before, so it was “trial and error”. This spot also produces clams, but the tide was too high to find any.

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After collecting 28 oysters in a bucket of salt water, we returned to Next To Me. The afternoon was warm (83 degrees, light breeze, humidity 52%), and Cathryn wanted to test the waters, famous for being warm enough to swim, despite being many miles north of home where the water never breaks above 55 degrees. A neighboring boat reported the water to be 72 degrees, chilly at the onset but comfortable after a couple minutes. Bob had observed Next To Me’s boat bottom has grown some long green scum, so since she was there, Cathryn spent an hour scrubbing the waterline to get rid of the scum. Besides, we’re lacking sufficient exercise on this trip, so it seemed an opportunity to work a few muscles.

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Our anchor neighbor, Ray, offered his shucking knife, we gratefully accepted, and Bob shucked 16 of the oysters. This boating life offers continuous learning experiences, and we wish we’d paid more attention previously when we’ve been with friends shucking oysters. But Bob got the job done.

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Cathryn mixed up a bit of olive oil, butter, lemon juice and garlic, and voila!  Delicious dinner.

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Bob gave our extra oysters to another anchor neighbor, who in return gave us a very nice bottle of wine we plan to save for 10 days from now when son Ryan and daughter-in-law Jaime join us aboard, and we’ll belatedly celebrate both of their August birthdays.

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This is a gorgeous anchorage, and we note from the VHF weather reports, the barometer, and the clouds that the weather is changing. Summer may not be over, but near-term things will be different.

Check-in message from Prideaux Haven

Latitude:50.14185
Longitude:-124.68822
GPS location Date/Time:08/27/2014 14:25:32 PDT

Click the link below to see where we are located.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Into the Heart of Desolation Sound

Distance traveled:  19.8 miles

Travel time: 2 hrs, 40 mins

We’re loving the short distances from place to place here. Leisurely mornings are great, and getting to a destination mid-day instead of late afternoon feels luxurious. We have time to do chores, take naps, read, and if we’re in a marina, do laundry, catch up on email, buy fresh produce and more.

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The trip down Lewis Channel was beautiful. Conditions were calm, sunny and warm. Temps here are at least 10 degrees warmer and much sunnier than in The Broughton Islands. We’ve heard from people who were here last month that it was “too hot”. And from relatives at home that it has been record-breaking warm there too.

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We bypassed lovely-looking Teakerne Arm because we had more interesting stops to consider than we have nights left here.

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Mid-day we pulled into Refuge Cove.

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It’s a pretty spot, rustic and active and genuine. Bob washed the boat for the first time since we left home (something normally done at the end of every 2-3 days, but water is so precious and expensive in these parts). Cathryn touched up some deck paint, Bob bought gasoline for the dinghy, washed the windows, and we found lots of things, including our first fresh produce in awhile, to buy at the Store.

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A small maze of docks, ramps, modest homes and a couple of tiny shops hug the shoreline.

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We have internet, and thus email and access to posting to the blog for the first time in a few days as we’ve spent the last 3 nights at anchor in remote places. We’re beginning to plot our route and schedule for the return to home, and the weather forecast calls for changing conditions. We have to cross Georgia Strait again, so need to figure out when is the best time to do that. Life remains good.

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