Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Check-in/OK message from SPOT Bob and Cathryn

Bob and Cathryn
GPS location Date/Time:07/07/2015 13:06:10 PDT

Message:We are happy, well and having fun.

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Bob and Cathryn

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Ready for Adventure

Monday, July 6, 2015

Check-in/OK message from SPOT Bob and Cathryn

Bob and Cathryn
GPS location Date/Time:07/06/2015 15:10:41 PDT

Message:We are happy, well and having fun.

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Bob and Cathryn

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Ready for Adventure

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Best Laid Plans

The alarm went off at 4:30, and just before 5am we pulled out of Port McNeill after 3 days of waiting for gale force winds to subside. Accompanied by Tom and Christine on "Takahe", very nice Kiwis on a 36' Grand Banks, we traveled 27 miles, approaching Mary's Rock, when our alternator failed. Brilliant Bob has a huge number of spares on board, including an alternator, so we detoured 10 miles to Port Hardy. There, Bill from God's Pocket Dive Resort helped Bob install the new alternator, only to find its' pulley assembly doesn't match the failed one. So we'll stay here tonight and Bob will be at NAPA when they open at 8am tomorrow. If he gets the needed part, and installation goes smoothly, and the sea conditions are calm, we'll be on our way mid-morning, hoping to round Cape Caution before the afternoon winds come up. Keep your fingers crossed for us! We're happy and in good spirits despite the disappointment. Text from Tom and Christine says they made it to Allison Harbour and also hope to round Cape Caution tomorrow, so maybe we'll meet up on the other side.

Check-in/OK message from Port Hardy BC

GPS location Date/Time:07/05/2015 11:40:30 PDT

Alternator failure causes us to make a side trip.  We have a spare but the pulley assembly is different so we need to make a NAPA visit when they open in the morning.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Eight Days In Blunden Harbor?

Well . . . we hope not! One of the blogs we follow (svcambria.com) is a few weeks ahead of us on this journey north, and when they left Port McNeill 4 weeks ago, where we are now, hoping to round Cape Caution the next day, the wind came up, and they spent 8 days anchored in Blunden Harbour on the other side of the Strait waiting for conditions to calm.

Shortly after we arrived at Port McNeill, the Gale Force Winds forecast earlier arrived, and it's been blowing like stink ever since. No fishing, no exploring in the kayaks or dinghy. But we had plenty of chores including changing the engine and injector oil, grocery shopping, laundry and lots more. So we've kept busy, and met some nice folks hanging out, just as we are.

The couple who own this North Island Marina, Steve and Jessica Jackman, are amazing: friendly, smart, knowledgeable, and willing to answer all questions and offer "local knowledge", the most important thing cruisers in unfamiliar waters are looking for. Jessica caught our lines, tied us up and fueled our boat on arrival. Steve spent 45 minutes on our boat the next day giving us advice on how to stage our crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound. He has a friend who has NEVER refused to go out on the Sound, but this week he's in port, hiding from the wind and waves.

The white tent above is the social gathering spot for cruisers. Steve and Jessica have a huge barbecue they fired up tonight, and boaters brought whatever they wanted to barbecue, side dishes and drinks and enjoyed a meal with music, lively conversation, and great sea life watching: seals, eagles and more.

We also attended a local car show today, a fundraiser for a non-profit. Bob says his sister Lynn once owned a car like the one below.

Every car shone and was in perfect condition.

Some brought back memories, others were older than that.

We've be-friended Tom and Christine from New Zealand, cruising on their 36' Grand Banks "Takahe". They spent 4 years cruising the South Pacific on a 44-foot sailboat before coming to North America. Our plan is to buddy-boat tomorrow for a Queen Charlotte Sound crossing. The weather forecast looks OK, not great, but the next week looks worse, so as we did on Johnstone Strait a few days ago, we'll stick our noses out tomorrow morning and see how things look. If all goes as planned, the alarm clock will wake us at 4:30am, we'll cast off our lines at 5:00 am, and we'll arrive in Allison Harbour (or Blunden Harbour if conditions are not good), spend one night there, then round Cape Caution on Monday, the "gateway" that keeps lots of people in The Broughton Islands, never to continue to northern B.C. or Alaska. Queen Charlotte Sound is exposed to the Pacific Ocean, Japan being the next land to the west. So ocean swells with waves on top combine to make it uncomfortable if the wind is up. Wish us a good couple of days! We won't have internet for a while probably, but our SPOT (satellite) messages will appear here, letting you know where we are.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

On to Port McNeill in Gale Force Winds?

Distance traveled: 46.6 miles

Awake at 5:45, we listened to the weather forecast on the VHF radio, calling for Gale Force Winds on Johnstone Strait just outside the harbour where we spent the night. The current and wind were moving in the harbour, but our view of the Strait included no whitecaps. So 25 minutes later we cast off our lines to "poke our nose out" to see for ourselves what the conditions looked like on the Strait. If it was bad, we could always turn around, tie up at the dock again and go back to bed, right?

But it was pretty nearly calm on the Strait, so after identifying several "bail out points" where we could duck out of the wind and waves if necessary, we proceeded northwest.

We're normally a 7-knot (8 mph) boat, but the current was ebbing northwest, the same direction we were traveling, so it gave us a 1-3 mph boost the whole way, significantly shortening our trip. And it stayed calm, WHEW! So much for weather forecasts.

Three times, "bursts" of activity startled us in the water near our bow, and each time it turned out to be a pod of 5-7 dolphins (or porpoises? we're not sure what they were, except not the Dall's Porpoises so common in Puget Sound). They surfed our bow wave, dove from one side under our boat to the other side, and raced alongside, always briefly. Sorry, we weren't quick enough to get photos.

And after 5.5 hours, we pulled into North Island Marina at Port McNeill, not far from the northern tip of Vancouver Island. So much for those Gale Force winds!

For our entertainment, a group of young people were practicing their paddling skills in the marina, half of the crew facing each direction and paddling against each other!

And a fog bank rolled in during the evening, in the distance. After a bunch of days putting lots of miles under our hull, it looks like we may spend more time than planned in Port McNeill.

Check-in/OK from Port McNeill BC

GPS location Date/Time:07/02/2015 11:44:29 PDT

Message:We are happy, well and having fun.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Let's Not Do That Again! Johnstone Strait at It's Worst

Distance traveled:  48.5 miles

We timed our departure from the Octopus Islands anchorage to coincide with Slack Tide at the Upper Rapids 3 miles away, And we hit it on target along with several other boats.

Conditions were calm and uneventful for awhile, but eventually gave way to wild eddies and whirlpools, big waves and opposing currents that had Next To Me sometimes traveling only 2 mph. Waves are high in these stretches, and we recalled having a similar "bad day" through the Helmcken Islands stretch last summer. It wasn't scary, just slow and disconcerting, sometimes finding our sideways "crabbing" leaving us making no "speed over ground". 

But the scenery remained spectacular. Boating traffic thinned out considerably, as did communication on channel 16 on the VHF radio.  We saw several tugs chug past hauling HUGE piles of timber. And lots of clear cutting attested to the health of the Canadian timber industry.

Late in the afternoon the tide turned from flood to ebb, meaning the current and wind were opposing, so big waves formed. In addition the wind increased to 30 knots making the last two hours of travel very uncomfortable if not scary. Finally, late in the day, we pulled into Port Neville, a "lonely" former Government dock now overseen by a retired couple who serve as caretakers. It's not a marina, just a single dock with no electricity or water, a place to tie up out of the weather. We had a delightful evening here a year ago with two other boaters. Chet (or is it Chuck?) who lives here caught our lines again this time, as he did both times we visited northbound and southbound last summer. He and his wife live an unusually adventurous life, wintering with no nearby neighbors, and occasionally having to shoot a bear who tries to enter their home.

We "rocked and rolled' all night in the current and wind, so were happy to be tied to the dock instead of at anchor, where we know we'd have worried about dragging anchor, so would have slept badly.

Check-in/OK from Port Neville BCC

GPS location Date/Time:07/01/2015 17:22:29 PDT

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Return to the Octopus Islands, June 30

Distance traveled: 37.2 miles

We left Lund at 5:30 a.m. with the goal of hitting Slack Tide 4 hours late at the Beazley Passage Tidal Rapids. These rapids reverse directions with each tidal swing (approximately every 6-7 hours) and run to 12-14 knots at Spring Tides near the full or new moon. With our 7-knot boat, we have no chance of getting through except near slack tide. Lady Luck was with us, and we arrived 10 minutes early, sliding through in calm water and without incident.

The scenery in this stretch is staggeringly beautiful. Especially early in the morning with the spectacular light. Near the Octopus Islands, the final half mile takes you through a disconcertingly narrow, shallow (11 feet) , rock-lined passage, which can only be navigated at idle speed and with great caution. We've done it before, but it's always a challenge when tired at the end of a long travel day. And it's gorgeous!

So we anchored in Waiatt Bay with fewer boats this early in the season. Wind was gusty through the night. Kayakers enjoying an adventure are common in this area.

After getting settled in our anchorage, we dropped the dinghy and traveled to the "Art Shack" or "Driftwood Museum", which goes by different names to different boaters.

The cabin/shack is privately owned and only has a roof and posts, no walls, but the owners kindly allow cruisers of all kinds to install creative artworks commemorating their boat and visit. Some are 20 years old as indicated by the dates on the pieces.

This, our third visit, we installed a piece made of driftwood found at Blakely Island near home, using a wood-burning tool borrowed from brother-in-law David. We also re-found art installations from friends on "Eight Bells" and "Gold Rush" who have visited in previous years (we were here with Gold Rush in 2009 and with Eight Bells in 2014).

Check-in/OK from SPOT Bob the Octopus Islands BC

GPS location Date/Time:06/30/2015 11:11:35 PDT

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Secret Cove, Sechelt Peninsula, to Lund, "End of the Road"

Distance traveled:  48.8 miles

After three loooooong days of travel, we finally had a short one that allowed for play time. It's not common to see a tugboat hauling THREE barges loaded to the gills as below!

Another sunny, hot (90s) day found us in Lund on the Mainland side of the water in time for a late lunch at Nancy's Bakery. We hit the art gallery to arrange the purchase of a piece sister Susan wants.

Lund is a charming SMALL town, at the end of the road. Highway 1 begins at the southern tip of South America, continues north through Central America as the "Pan American Highway" and then up the west coast of the U.S.A. as highway 1 along the Pacific coast. After crossing into Canada, it finally ends here at Lund. Really. 

We've been here before and enjoyed our time again.

Check-in/OK message from Lund BC

GPS location Date/Time:06/29/2015 17:19:09 PDT

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Check-in/OK message from Secret Cove

GPS location Date/Time:06/28/2015 18:41:28 PDT

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

What's Next?

Anacortes to Bedwell Harbour

Distance traveled: 38 miles

We'd already traveled 23 miles from Friday Harbor to Anacortes with sister Susan and her husband Bob, but we arrived before noon, so it seemed to early to stop for the day. After bidding Adieu to the crew of Allure, we turned around and headed north.

A couple hours later we crossed the International boundary with Canada and began seeing BC Ferries instead of Washington State ferries. These are bigger and travel faster.

Soon we arrived at Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island where we quickly cleared Canadian Customs by phone:  "No, we don't have any firearms, nor more than $10,000 cash, nor raw poultry or eggs (avian flu concern), nor alcohol beyond "Ship's Stores".

So we anchored for the night along with 30-40 other boats, near Poet's Cove Resort.

Nearly bedtime, the sunset was spectacular, and our anchor neighbor, a large Hatteras, enjoyed the view too. On waking the next morning, the wind had swept us disconcertingly close to one another, but the wind also carried us apart soon after.

Check-in/OK message from Bedwell Harbour, So. Pender Island

GPS location Date/Time:06/27/2015 17:27:34 PDT

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Adieu "Allure", June 27

Distance traveled: 23 miles

We got an early start Saturday to travel together back to Anacortes where both boats got pump outs and fuel, and the Shaffers turned in their charter boat. Again, ferries appeared in narrow passages where no regular ferry routes are charted.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lopez to Friday Harbor, June 26

Distance traveled: a whopping 6.2 miles

Short travel day meant we got a slow start before pulling anchors and heading west from Lopez Island to Port of Friday Harbor where we were assigned adjacent slips. Lunch at the Cask & Schooner, walking the town to pop into galleries and shops, mostly looking, made for a nice afternoon. We got a few tiny boat projects done and Bob S did some work.

Susan and Bob S have friends/clients who live in their Texas neighborhood half the year, and in Roche Harbour half the year, where they keep a boat and live in a condo. They arrived from Texas today, drove the 10 miles to Friday Harbor, and we met them for dinner. We very much enjoyed meeting Tom and Cyd who have lots of great stories about the many trips they've made to Alaska on their beautiful Grand Banks Eastbay.

This was our last night with the Shaffers, and after dinner we sat on the aft deck of "Allure" sipping fine whiskey provided by the Shaffers. What a trip it has been, and we can't wait to have a reprise next year!

Check-in/OK message from Friday Harbor

GPS location Date/Time:06/26/2015 16:45:55 PDT

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Two More Great Days

Day 1:  Stuart Island anchorage in Reid Harbor, distance 12.7 miles

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After a good night's sleep for all 4 of us, we pulled our anchors and made the short, easy trip to Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island. We saw our first clouds, and the sunny skies gave way to cloudy, but flat, calm conditions.

Fittingly, shortly after we tied up at the marina, a Seaplane landed, painted to look like an Orca Whale. Cute! 

Afternoon filled with work (Bob S), laundry (Cathryn), minor boat project (Bob W) and dealing with business stuff at home (Susan) before walking up the hill 1/2 mile to dinner at the Deer Harbor Inn and Restaurant, where the food was fantastic, view excellent, and weather perfect. Starting to sound redundant, huh?

Day 2:  Deer Harbor to Fisharman's Bay anchorage, Lopez Island
Distance:  13.2 miles

Thursday morning the Shaffer crew on "Allure" took the lead in navigating us from Deer Harbor to Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island. Flawless execution!

They even did everything properly when an enormous Washington State ferry appeared in narrow Harney Passage just after Crane Island, not a location of a usual ferry route.

Both boats dropped anchors, about 100 feet apart, and off we went in our dinghies to explore the tiny village on Lopez, where we had lunch and poked our heads into shops and galleries.

Our last dinner onboard was halibut eaten on the aft deck cabin in the sunshine. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Check-in/OK message from Deer Harbor

GPS location Date/Time:06/24/2015 20:36:29 PDT

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Off To Stuart Islands - Orcas!

Roche Harbor to Stuart Island (Reid Harbor) Anchorage

Distance traveled:  22.7 miles

On departure from Roche Harbor, we decided to take the Mosquito Pass shortcut to Haro Strait, travel a few miles south to Lime Kiln Point, and try again to find some whales.

Lime Kiln lighthouse and the white "splotch" on the shoreline, which is Lime.

After giving up, finding no whales, we turned around to head north to our anchorage for the night, and WHAM! whales appeared! It's hard to see in the photo below, but there's a whale just behind the bow pulpit (anchor) on the front of Bob and Sue Shaffer's boat. It was not more then 40' off their beam!

For 30 minutes we were swarmed, closer than we've ever seen Orca Whales to our boat. There was at least one male with a very large dorsal fin and more than a half dozen females.

Every time we turned around another whale surfaced close by.

What a thrill.

Finally the whales headed south (with commercial whale watching boats in hot pursuit) and we headed north to Stuart Island. Bob Shaffer wants to learn EVERYTHING, so declined our invitation to raft up their boat with ours on one anchor, saying he wanted to learn how to anchor his own boat. So we dropped our anchor, jumped on board their boat, and 30 minutes later Bob and Sue had successfully anchored their own boat, asking one question after another to understand the "why" behind every step. Woo hoo!

A short hike across the island took us to Prevost Harbor on the north side where other boats were anchored or tied to a State Park dock in a beatuiful setting.

It was Susan and Bob's turn to host dinner at anchor, and we had top-of-the-line Rib-eye and Filet Mignon steaks to end another terrific day.

Check-in/OK message from Stewart Island

GPS location Date/Time:06/24/2015 06:48:29 PDT

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Off To Roche Harbor

Sucia Island to Roche Harbor, San Juan Island

Distance traveled:  18.2 miles

We awoke Monday to high winds and some waves inside the Fossil Bay anchorage, so prepared for a rough crossing to San Juan Island. But we found it was the prevailing SW winds that made it rough inside the anchorage, and once out in President Channel, things were much calmer. Three hours later we pulled into Roche Harbor. After tying up "Next To Me", we called the Shaffers on the VHF radio to tell them to come in, where we'd catch their lines. Those Shaffers NAILED their first docking of a big ol' 36-foot boat! They looked like they've been doing this for years. Go Team Shaffer!

After getting the boats settled in, both Bobs dropped the dinghies and we traveled through Mosquito Pass, a shallow, rocky 2-mile stretch that the Shaffer's charter boat company warned against traveling in their big boat. It's a short, beautiful way to reach Haro Strait where Orca whales can often be seen, but we struck out on whales, so enjoyed eagles, Dall's porpoises and seals hauled out on rocks. 

Boats in the Roche Harbor marina range widely, from 143-foot "After Eight" which we saw our first day out of Gig Harbor and posted on this blog a few days ago. We talked to one of its' 8 crew who said they'd been there for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, then came here. On the other end of the spectrum is the beautiful 30-foot wooden yawl pictured above. And everything in between.

Susan and Bob looking utterly miserable drinking coffee on their aft deck in the morning sun, right?

Susan looks to be having a little less fun adding water to thru the transom deck fill while Bob looks on.

We all enjoyed walking the docks to look at boats, and love this photo of our "sister ships" below, Next To Me and Allure sitting happily side by side.

We enjoyed a late dinner at Madrona Grill at an outside table on the deck, where we enjoyed the sunset, the lowering of the flags, and playing "Taps". Life is good!