There are often interesting events occurring outside our windows which look out over Colvos Passage. The other day we saw the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Princess sailing, two Tall Ships, northbound with the sun reflecting off their sails and the Sound.
At 10:30 this morning, after our goodbyes to Greg and Terry, the water taxi picked us up at the end of the float where Gold Rush was tied up and took us across the channel to the Ketchikan Airport. We checked into our flight, then went through security where we learned how far we had slipped away from civilization on our ten-day journey. You’d have thought we had never seen an airport security check point before. Bob forgot to take his laptop out of his carry-on bag and had to be reminded to take off his shoes; Cathryn forgot to take out the zip-loc packaged liquids for inspection. I think we just discovered what Greg and Terry meant by becoming “boat dumb” after being away from it all for a while. Luckily the TSA folk at Ketchikan were friendly and relaxed about it all – much different than the airports we normally pass through. When our plane arrived at the gate it contained Jim and Phebe who are going to make the trip south to Port Angeles with Gold Rush. We quickly exchanged hugs and greetings, and they were on their way. Bob and Cathryn were jealous of the fun we know they’re going to have, but also happy to be on our way home to our own bed, showers with limitless water and our spacious home.
A footnote: we got a cell phone call from Jim and Phebe this morning (Friday) reporting that Greg took Jim fishing outside the Ketchikan harbor yesterday afternoon while the 3 women went shopping to stock the kitchen for the journey home. In two hours, they caught 6 pinks and 2 silver salmon, one of them about 28” in length. Jim sounded ecstatic about the fishing, and like us, they were finding Greg, Terry, and the other guest, Carol, to be amiable, easy people and enjoying their company. They left Ketchikan this morning with plans to motor to Prince Rupert where they would go through Canadian Customs and obtain a Canadian fishing license. On to more adventures!
Ketchikan is a town with a population of 8,000 to 18,000, depending on the time of day. Unlike urban areas in which the downtown population swells with workers during the day, Ketchikan’s population swells and shrinks with the arrival and departure of up to four giant cruise ships at a time. When the ships are in, the town is swarmed with people. The “natives” tend to be dressed in worn and creased jeans, the “boat people” tend to have distressed jeans, with the creases ironed in. The picture above tries to illustrate this contrast in another way (that's a yacht, not a cruise ship).
Today we’ve got about 6 hours of cruising to get to Ketchikan. The skies are dry, if cloudy, for the first time in quite a few days, with patches, even, of occasional sunshine. We traveled the East Dixon Entrance into the islands and channels leading to Ketchikan in the first 3 hours of the morning, and Greg says it was an amazingly smooth and easy crossing, with sea swells, but not of the size leading to huge rocking and rolling. We showered and packed our gear to be ready for tomorrow’s departure. We’re starting to see many more boats, but still not much in the way of development. We plan to spend the afternoon checking out the town of Ketchikan, and Terry has given us lots of information on where to go and what to see. The four of us have agreed to have a dinner party “reunion” in September, and invite Jim and Phebe too, so we can all compare stories and see each other back home.
As part of Greg and Bob’s continued exploration of Greg’s new Garmin navigation system, they read the section on anchor alarms after we anchored up last night. They set the alarm for 50’ (the maximum distance the boat could move before setting off the alarm) and we went off to bed. The navigational alarm went off twice during the night. The first time Greg checked it alone, and everything was fine, so he set it for 100’ to allow the boat to shift more with the tide and current. The second time it went off at 2 AM, and Greg and Bob conferred, confirming the boat had continued to swing around in the changing current, but was not too close to shore. Having already sacrificed a good nights’ sleep, the decision was made to turn off the alarm and wait until Greg hooked up the depth finder to the new nav system and use that, rather than GPS position, for the basis of the alarm setting.
We have two long cruising days ahead in order to reach Ketchikan on schedule, so Greg rose early today and began the process of starting the engines, pulling the anchor, setting the tender out and taking off at 5:30am. Greg and Terry were adamant that we must take the time to turn off Grenville Channel and motor up Lowe Inlet to a waterfall at the end where they’ve previously seen bears fishing. The rain was letting up as we approached the terminus of the inlet and we spied the lovely waterfall. Soon Terry shouted “There’s a bear!” and we were all snapping photos, exclaiming and high-5-ing. Then Cathryn mentioned the bear had disappeared into the woods with a fish in it’s mouth and expressed her hope that it would reappear shortly, to which Terry responded “No, it’s still there. Don’t you see it on the left down by the water?” It was at that point we realized we’d been watching TWO different bears, none of us seeing both of them! Sure enough, one bear was on the left side of the waterfall, another on the right. One had a brown coat, the other black, but Greg and Terry tell us they were both actually Black Bears. Greg held the boat against the current running off the waterfall, as close as safely possible. What a thrill! Those bears sure are patient. Salmon were jumping everywhere, but we didn’t actually see either bear catch one during the time we watched.
Today was our longest day of cruising: 12.5 hours and 105 miles! To allow a bit of extra time in tomorrow’s schedule in case of bad weather or boat trouble, we continued 3 hours beyond Prince Rupert to Dundas Island, including about 20 miles of “big water” crossing. Cathryn decided to test Greg’s theory that she has now developed her “sea legs” and wouldn’t need scopolamine despite the 3-4 foot sea swells. And guess what? He was right!!! Tomorrow in Ketchikan we add Carol to the mix, a friend of Greg and Terry’s who will make the trip home to Port Angeles with them. In addition, when Bob and Cathryn disembark Thursday to fly home from Ketchikan, our friends Jim and Phebe Richards will arrive in Ketchikan an hour earlier and join the boat for the 10-day cruise south to Port Angeles. After dinner we played another game of “65”, then Greg and Terry went to work drawing up lists of things to take care of in Ketchikan tomorrow: laundry, groceries, re-filling the water and fuel tanks, a stop at the hardware and book stores, and on and on.
Anchorage tonight at the north end of Dundas Island
We spent much of the day close to shore, slowing down every time we passed a stream (and there were lots of them) looking for bears. While this is supposed to be bear country we haven’t spotted any yet. Along the way we stopped at Bishop Bay where there is a hot spring with a small building enclosing a natural rock hot tub with a view of the bay. We spent about 40 minutes soaking, a wonderful, relaxing respite.
We ended today’s cruising about 6:30pm in a cove on the western shore of Promise Island, about 15 miles short of our hoped for destination. It was raining hard, but with very little wind, and Greg anchored close to shore in 40 feet of water. We’ve been in very remote territory all day. We’ve seen no houses, few boats, and mostly wilderness with staggeringly tall, rocky mountains climbing straight out of the water. We saw one lone humpback whale briefly. The scenery is awe-inspiring. There are 3 other boats anchored in this same harbor.
Those Who Cruise the northern waters
We’ve developed a huge amount of respect for the kind of people who make a journey like this, not as guests like we’re doing, but as a couple who captain and crew their own boat. The remoteness of much of the waterway makes it mandatory that anyone who expects to do this successfully must have a dependable boat (is there such a thing?) or set of skills Bob and Cathryn cannot ever imagine acquiring. Greg works on or repairs various components on the boat daily. He is a knowledgeable diesel mechanic, knows how to do wiring and plumbing, and is a jack-of-all-trades. He and Terry understand navigation, including information about water, tides, currents, wind and weather, and how they affect travel. They manage to balance their adventurous spirits with appropriate caution. In the 15 years they’ve been doing this, they’ve experienced an on-board fire, numerous storms, and frightening water and currents. They’ve often made this trip alone, without the aid of additional crew, which looks like a major under-taking to us due to the extended cruising time. Gold Rush has two electronic on-board systems – one Garmin and one NobleTec – with GPS data, navigation charts, radar, current charts and lots more we’ve yet to see and use. Our conclusion, based on this trip, is that we would not be comfortable making this kind of trip without someone with a great deal of experience on board, without at least trying a shorter trip first. Whether in a new or old boat, a break-down of any kind could result in being stranded, or even grounding on the rocks in a remote location with help very far away.
We have not traveled on a large power boat before, and didn’t know quite what to expect from Gold Rush. It’s a 60-foot fiberglass Enterprise pilot-house trawler built in Taiwan in 1981, and Greg and Terry bought it in Juneau last year. It was in sad condition needing much repair at the time, but after several weeks of mechanical rehabilitation, they were able to bring it home to Port Angeles. Greg continued to work on it all winter, upgrading all the electrical and plumbing systems, re-building the roof to make it water-tight, re-doing the kitchen, adding kitchen cabinetry, replacing carpet upstairs, and engine work. Almost all the interior is exquisite teak. It has lots of big windows in the pilothouse, salon and kitchen. There is an enormous roof-top deck and fly bridge, a covered back deck, and swim-step. There is a half-bath on the main level. Below are 3 staterooms – one is the master with king-size bed and private bath, the second has a bunk-bed (our room) and a 3/4 bath across the hall, and the third is a forward V-berth with privately enclosed half bath. All the bathrooms have marble countertops, good-sized showers (for a boat, that is) and tile floors. The kitchen has two refrigerators (perhaps 6 and 3 cubic feet), a microwave, 4-burner gas stove, oven and double sink plus lots of storage cabinets and drawers. Greg has done an astonishing amount of work on it in the year since they purchased it, and despite this, his “To Do List” remains long. It is really lovely, comfortable and on the way to full restoration.
We dropped anchor at 3:00 yesterday. Khutze Inlet is a 5-mile finger off Graham Reach, the main channel we’ve been traveling recently. At the far end is a spectacular waterfall over 1000’ high. Five boats anchored here for the night, and Greg and Bob dropped 2 crab pots and 1 shrimp pot right away. It was raining when we boarded the tender to take an exploratory journey up the Khutze River at the mouth of the inlet, so we bundled up in warm clothes, visors, rain gear and waterproof boots. To our astonishment, right off we began spotting eagles perched in the cedars and firs lining the mouth of the river, sometimes 2 or 3 to a tree. Cathryn started to keep count, and by the time we returned to Gold Rush, we’d seen 33 bald eagles perched in trees, on rocks or flying low overhead hunting for fish. Greg took us a mile up the river until the water was so shallow, about 3 feet, that he turned around. We saw many more than 100 seals along the way, sometimes surfacing near the boat and peering at us to see what’s up. Later in the evening, Greg and Terry taught us their favorite card game, called “65”, and the 4 of us played two rounds – fun!
The rain continued unabated throughout the night. This morning it’s raining again, and only reluctantly Greg and Bob took off in their raingear to pull the crab and shrimp pots. Only one crab found its’ way into the pots, which will make a nice omelet or appetizer tomorrow. We motored out of Khutze Inlet back to the main channel and headed north to Butedale, a tiny, almost-abandoned village at the south end of Fraser Reach adjacent to an enormous waterfall. It used to be a fish-packing camp, but was mostly abandoned some 50 years ago. The dozen or so remaining wooden buildings are collapsing into the sea with each successive winter storm. Only one resident remains, a caretaker who manages the very rustic dormitory-style warehouse where lodging can still be rented, floating dock and water supply pipe for boats passing through. Lou lives there year-round with his dog and cat. Various groups of volunteers have attempted to re-build Butedale during the past 2 decades, but each group eventually loses enthusiasm and moves on.
Today’s journey will be shorter, so we didn’t pull out of Rescue Bay until 8 a.m. We’ve left “big water” behind for the next few days and will be traveling narrower passages with mountains climbing straight up out of the water, Greg and Terry tell us. Greg says this is where the “REAL” Inside Passage begins. Our 400-gallon water tank is about ¾ empty, which we’re told is excellent for a week into the trip, however, the village of Klemtu fronting on Finlayson Channel on Swindle Island is our last chance to “water up” until Prince Rupert, or possibly Ketchikan. It began raining shortly after we left Rescue Bay, so Greg turned the radar on as the fog is also heavy, though sitting a couple hundred feet above the water. We reached Klemtu, a small First Nation village, about 10 am only to find it all closed up as it’s Sunday morning. Even the tiny grocery store was dark and locked. However, there’s a water spigot at the floating dock, so we tied up, and Greg filled the water tank while Terry and Cathryn went up the steep ramp (low tide) to the only pay phone here. We’d bought an International Phone Card before leaving home, and since Cathryn’s T-Mobile cell phone hasn’t had a signal in 3 days, and no internet since Squirrel Cove on Tuesday, she wanted to try to make a phone call. Cathryn called her parents and it was good to hear their voices. All is well at home. We’ve discovered again, as we learned when we were traveling to and from Baja earlier this year, that T-Mobile has lousy coverage compared to Verizon, as Terry has cell service MANY more places than we do. It’s still raining lightly, though not really cold as there’s little wind.
We went fishing with Greg after dinner tonight. Greg, Cathryn and Bob went about a quarter mile from our anchorage in Rescue Bay on Jackson Passage 10 miles southeast of Klemtu. Greg caught a Yellow Eye, Bob caught a Rock Cod, and Cathryn caught a small yellow eye and rock fish (unfortunately both of Cathryn’s were not large enough to keep). Greg continues to be a great teacher – Bob’s thinking about buying a fishing pole!
We left Green Island at 7am after Greg and Bob pulled the shrimp pot they’d dropped last night – skunked! Bob was at the helm, and only 10 minutes after departure yelled “Whale!” There was a Humpback just off to starboard! Several hours later, having passed through Fitz Hugh Sound, Fisher Channel, and west into Lama Passage past the town of Bella Bella, we were headed north through Blanc Passage, again with Bob at the helm. Again, “Whale!” and several hundred yards ahead we saw 4 Orca whales cavorting. As we continued toward them, Greg yelled out “More whales, over there!” and pretty soon we were watching 3 sets of 4-5 Orcas tail-slapping, spy-hopping and blowing. We slowed the engines considerably, kept to a safe distance, and watched and photographed for about 30 minutes. Greg and Terry said it was the best whale watching experience they’d had in the 15 years they’ve been coming up here. We haven’t written about every single whale encounter, but we’ve seen one or more whales every day for 4 days now. The Humpbacks are always traveling solo or in a pair, while the Orcas have been in significantly larger groups.
Our image of the Inside Passage continues to evolve. We commented earlier that we were surprised about the amount of “big” water we saw early in the trip. This continues. While we’re regularly in narrow channels, as you can see in our photos, we’re most often in areas where the distance between islands is at least as great as that between Vashon Island and Des Moines (2-3 miles), and often as great as between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island (5 miles). The currents and tides are trickier than anything in Puget Sound, and there are only a couple areas in the San Juans that even come close. As we said before, not really a small boat trip, certainly at least 32’ and probably larger.
North of Queen Charlotte Sound the nature of the boat traffic and settlement pattern has changed dramatically. There is only about 20% as much boat traffic as we saw further south. The boats we do see tend to be quite a bit bigger, and commercial fishermen make up a larger proportion of the mix. The human habitation has also dropped off to about 10% of the number of people seen further south. The type of human presence has also changed: down south there were lots of what looked like “summer homes”; up here they are full time communities, and the architecture looks much more functional. Queen Charlotte Sound is clearly the dividing line between casual and serious boaters.
Crossing Queen Charlotte Sound today was another wild experience. There wasn’t much wind, and the fast-running current was going the same direction we were, but the sea swells were running 5-6 feet and the boat was rocking and rolling pretty wildly for 4-5 hours. We understood the routine this time: take everything off the kitchen counters, tables, open shelves, and put it all on the floor – because if you don’t, it will end up there anyway! It’s harder to walk around in the boat in these conditions than on any turbulent airplane we’ve ever experienced. Greg and Bob shared the helm the entire time, alternating every hour. Cathryn suffered mild nausea but no throwing up (thank you again, scopolamine), so spent most of that time lying on the floor in the salon under a comforter, nodding off at times. Terry tried to sleep but couldn’t, so rested and read. Finally we finished the open water crossing and entered Illahie Inlet, anchoring at Green Island, a lovely, secluded brilliantly green spot out of the wind, swells and current. Bob and Terry cooked up the 5 crabs from yesterday, and shortly we enjoyed fresh shrimp and crab for an afternoon snack, with plenty of crabmeat left for a crab salad for tonight’s dinner.
Cathryn has decided that Green Island is her favorite anchorage spot so far. After crab and mango slaw for dinner, Bob and Greg took the tender to a small nearby beach to burn our combustible garbage. On their return, Terry and Cathryn asked to go on a tour of Illahie Inlet and the area immediately surrounding Green Island. It is a magical place! Bright yellow seaweed grows on all the rocks exposed below the high tide line, zillions of cedar trees are bright green, and the water and sky were gray and calm. We toured the shoreline for an hour seeing waterfalls, loads of colorful starfish (bright purple and red!), fireweed flowers (Greg picked a bunch for Terry), 2 otters and a seal lounging together on some rocks at the shoreline, and hoped for, but didn’t see any bears. It’s a spectacular and peaceful place, and our boat was the only one in the entire inlet. Boat traffic is significantly reduced now.
Today we make our last big open water crossing. We have 20 miles to Port Hardy at the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island, then a 40 mile crossing of the Queen Charlotte Sound. We pulled out of Port McNeil at 6 AM hoping to get much of the crossing behind us before the wind comes up, as it often does in the afternoon. So far the water is flat, but Cathryn put on a Scopalomine patch early, just in case. About 7:30, Bob was at the helm when he called out “WHALE!”. Unfortunately by the time the rest of the crew got to the windows, the whale had taken a dive and didn’t come back up in our vicinity. Greg, who did get a brief glimpse, says it was a humpback and that we have a fair chance of seeing more as we cross the Sound. The scenic beauty of the Queen Charlotte Strait reminds Cathryn of her Book Group’s reading of “The Golden Spruce”, a true story set in the Queen Charlotte Islands, (which are actually about 100 miles north, and 60 miles east of Queen Charlotte Sound) a fascinating read.
On day 5, we’re starting to fall into a routine, not so much in terms of always doing the same thing, but how things get done and who does what. For example: when we drop or pull the anchor, Greg and Bob now have clearly established roles. When dropping the anchor, Greg positions the boat where he wants it while Bob pulls in the tender and secures it to the stern of the boat. Bob then takes the helm while Greg goes forward to actually drop the anchor, and uses hand signals to direct Bob in putting the port and starboard engines into either forward or reverse gear as the anchor plays out. Raising the anchor involves reversing those same steps. Greg and Terry remain relaxed, patient teachers as we acquire knowledge about life on a boat. When we make mistakes, at the helm, for example, they never get jumpy or loud, or take over from us. Instead, we get low-key instructions on how to correct our mistakes.
We pulled into Port McNeill about 1:00 and dropped anchor for the night, our shortest day of cruising so far, about 40 miles. We loaded the crab pots into the tender and dropped them in the water not far from the boat. Terry went into town in her kayak, while Greg, Cathryn and Bob installed the down riggers on the tender and took off a couple miles up the coast where we fished in 100’ of water looking for king salmon. It was a warm, sunny afternoon of trolling, but after a couple hours we concluded today was not the day for us to land our first fish. When we got back to Gold Rush we found Terry had not returned from town, so we grabbed the laptop and headed across the bay. We tried to post to our blog but couldn’t get an internet connection, so headed back to the boat to start dinner; it was Cathryn and Bob’s turn to cook. Back at the boat we were joined for an hour by friends of Terry and Greg’s, Preston and Lois. These folks spend their summers on their 50’ Nordic trawler on the Inside Passage, and winters in their 40’motor home, often in Baja. They haven’t owned a land-based home for several years, but are now building an RV garage with small apartment above it on Whidbey Island. After dinner we pulled our crab pots. The first had 5 big Dungeness crabs, so we were really excited, but the next three pots only resulted in 1 more crab. Still plenty for a meal and a snack.
We woke this morning to clouds and cooler temperatures, but no rain. There’s also fog, but it hangs 200 feet above the water, thus not requiring that we travel using radar. Terry whipped up Denver omelets for breakfast while Bob made coffee, and we headed into Johnstone Strait, which runs most of the northeast shoreline of Vancouver Island before hitting the Queen Charlotte Sound and Islands. The water this morning is flat with little current. Halfway up the Strait at the confluence of Barnet Passage and Hanson Island we spotted a couple of whale sightseeing boats, so slowed the engines, swung out wider toward the middle of the passage, and spotted EIGHT Orca whales! They were feeding, so dove out of sight for a minute or two at a time, then re-surfaced with big blows. We were far enough away we had to use binoculars to see them clearly, but Bob used his big lens and took about 100 photographs. We all slept like logs last night, our best sleep yet, and even Greg didn’t awake until 6am, which he says is “sleeping in”. Terry and Greg remain amiable, amusing, friendly, patient hosts on their lovely boat, and they have an enormous collection of boating stories that are amazing to hear.
Insert pics of orca whales 18 19 20
Can you imagine “shooting the rapids”, upstream, in a 70,000 pound boat? Well we did it today, twice. This morning we passed through “Hole in the Wall”, a 2 mile channel that’s about 1000’ wide much of the way, but narrows to 400’ at the mouth. The tide was against us and running 6 knots according to the charts. This afternoon we did the Upper Rapids of the Yaculta Channel. This channel was about a mile wide but with currents as strong as those at Hole in the Wall. We’ve included a picture of both, but they don’t do justice to the reality. At Hole in the Wall there was white water swirling, eddying along the shoreline as the water whipped around the corners. In the upper rapids the water would “boil”, and create giant whirlpools. In one place you could see a 3-4 foot difference in the height of the water, due to the wild currents resulting from the changing shoreline and bottom profile. It was exciting. Bob was at the helm as we passed through Hole in the Wall, with Greg close at hand. Greg piloted us through the Upper Rapids with Bob glad that he was watching. Greg worked up a sweat fighting the wheel as the current tried to whip us around. At one point our forward speed dropped to less than 2 knots, and this was at the same engine RPM that usually pushed us along at 8 or 9 knots.
Insert pics of sail boat at upper rapids and hole in the wall
08/05/09 6 PM
About noon today after passing through “Hole in the Wall”, we pulled into the Octopus Islands Marine Park, a beautiful set of rocky islands that has been set aside for protection and also provides excellent protected anchorage sites. We dropped anchor and took the tender to a nearby island that is still in private ownership. On the island is a small open cabin (no doors and windows, just the frames) that has been vacant for the last twenty years. It’s now sort of a “driftwood museum” in which hundreds of boaters have left their mark in the way of folk art signs made of driftwood and “treasures” found on the beach. Some are quite elaborate and show real creative talent. We included one here, and when we have time we’ll upload more into Picasa for those who are interested. It’s wonderful that a place like this could evolve over so many years and yet remain free of vandalism.
We’ve now been traveling 3 full days. When we reach our anchorage tonight at Port Neville we’ll have cruised a total of 27 hours at an average speed of 8 knots (9.2 mph), which means we’ve covered approximately 250 miles of our estimated 650 mile journey. Greg says after today we’ll be able to take it at a more leisurely pace. If we want to give ourselves an extra days’ margin, just in case, we’ll need to cruise 7 hours a day to cover the average 66 miles per day remaining. This suggests that a 10-day cruise between Port Angeles and Ketchikan is really pretty much the minimum. It’s easy to imagine spending a month each way exploring all the inlets. This isn’t to say by any means that it isn’t worth doing on the 10-day plan, but it’s hard to imagine doing it on one of the big cruise ships that makes the whole trip to Juneau, twice the distance as to Ketchikan, in only 7 days.
We pulled out of Nanaimo at 7 AM and are crossing the Georgia Strait. Much less eventful then yesterday’s Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing. Greg and Terry say it’s about the most benign crossing they’ve ever had. There’s an 18-24 inch chop, which in our little boat would produce a lot of banging around, but Gold Rush, at approximately 70,000 lbs just cruises through with only a slight roll. Cathryn is much more comfortable today. We cruised the western shore of Jedediah Island first, followed by the west shore of Texada Island. The forecasted 15 knot winds never materialized and the water grew increasingly flat throughout the morning. We’re hoping to make it to Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island for tonight’s anchorage. One of the reference books says there is wireless Internet available at the Squirrel Cove Trading Company so we hope to put up posts to the blog tonight. We’re finding Gold Rush to be a very comfortable and attractive boat. Most everything inside is teak or other wood, very pretty. Greg tells us this boat is considered a Pilothouse Trawler, for those of you who know boats. It has a fly bridge on which Greg and Bob spend much of the afternoons so far, sometimes joined by Terry and Cathryn. There’s lots of freezer capacity, and Greg and Terry tell us they hope to arrive back in Port Angeles in 3 weeks with a freezer full of halibut, salmon, crab and shrimp. We’ll see. (We have not had time to process photo's of Squirrel Cove, yet, so perhaps we will add then latter.)
Well it was an interesting afternoon. Everyone took turns napping and taking the helm. Late in the afternoon as we approached Dodd Narrows, an aptly named place through which the current runs incredibly fast except for a few minutes at slack tide, Greg debated long and hard about whether we should attempt it. Consulting tide charts, it seemed slack tide would be at 6:15, and we arrived there exactly at 6:00 p.m. To our surprise, the current was still running hard, and Greg went through another round of debates about whether to go for it or wait until tomorrow. Noting that we were still making progress against the current, he decided to shoot it, and nervously steered hard as the current tried to turn us sideways and into the rocks on the west side of the narrow opening. It felt pretty nerve-racking for 4-5 minutes, then we cleared the tightest point of the rocks and shot through clear. We were all pleased, especially Greg! Another hour into the Nanaimo Harbor where we anchored for the night, had dinner, and sat talking in the salon. We all expect to sleep well tonight! Unfortunately tomorrow’s weather forecast calls for winds in the Georgia Straits that are higher than we’d like, so we may be in for
At the moment Greg and Terry are taking short naps and Bob is at the helm (his helmsmanship having improved significantly by this time – so it’s now deemed safe to leave him on his own). The waters are calm, and if we make excellent time the rest of the afternoon, we’ll get through the Dodd Narrows before the tide turns and it becomes impossible, in which case we’ll anchor for the night and make it through in the morning. Earlier today we had a sighting of a Minke Whale crossing about 100 feet in front of the boat, and shortly after a school of half a dozen Dall’s porpoises crossed about the same distance ahead. A bald eagle flew low overhead early this morning, so we’ve gotten off to a good start on collecting animal sightings. Greg and Terry are affable, good-humored people who we think will be easy to travel with for 11 days, and Gold Rush is lovely, well outfitted and comfortable. The Nunns have fascinating stories from previous trips like this one, and farther north, and we’re learning a great deal! So far so good. We are happy!
We made good time across the Strait, through the San Juan Islands, and into South Pender Harbor to go through Canadian Customs. The boat runs about 9 knots unless the current is speeding it up or holding it back. Greg took care of the seemingly perfunctory Customs procedure, then we cast off for Ganges on Salt Spring Island to do our grocery shopping. Terry and Cathryn gathered groceries while Bob and Greg got fishing licenses and found the drugstore where more Scopalamine patches could be purchased. We debated whether to stop then, but decided to push onward and see if we can make it through Dodd Narrows before calling it a good, long day!
We’re under way! Yesterday afternoon we left Olalla with the Toyota RAV4 loaded to the gills. We had 3 kayaks on top, 2 crab pots, loads of groceries, 2 carry-on suitcases for the flight home and a large suitcase of things to leave behind on the boat when we leave Ketchikan, to be collected later. We met Greg Nunn, owner of “Gold Rush” at the boat, unloaded everything, drove to his house to drop off our car and pick up Terry, then returned to the boat. Last night we slept more briefly than normal as we were in bunk beds in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar lights and noises, then got up at 4:30 a.m. for coffee before casting off from the Port Angeles marina.
The weather on departure was not what we’d hoped for. As we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca the fog was thick, it was barely light, and so we took off under radar. The seas were running 5-6 feet with swells, and the boat was wallowing as a result. Bob, taking his first turn at the helm, soon learned how easy it is to over-correct in steering when in the fog. He managed to take Gold Rush through 360 degrees in no time. Perhaps not coincidentally, shortly Cathryn was throwing up, then lying on the floor in the salon under a blanket for the next couple of hours while she waited for the Scopalamine patch (anti-seasick medication courtesy of sister Lynn) to kick in. By 10:30, Cathryn felt fully recovered and joined the rest of us for egg sandwiches, the fog lifted, and we had warm, sunny weather.