Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Haro Strait to Victoria

Distance Traveled:  23.8 statute miles

Travel Time:  3 hours, 28 minutes

We've crossed the Strait more than a dozen times from Port Townsend to the San Juan Islands or return, but always in a smaller, faster boat, traveling 18 - 30 miles per hour and completing the crossing in 1 - 2 hours. This is the first "slow boat" we've owned, a trawler that does 7- 8 knots, turning that crossing into 4 or more hours depending on tides and wind direction. Cathryn decided 5 days ago she didn't want to make that journey without more experience with the boat and knowing the weather can change in short order, so we could be caught in fog, heavy rain or high seas before completing it. 

And as always, if one of us feels more conservative than the other, the conservative opinion wins. So we traveled the east side of Puget Sound, through the Swinomish Channel and into the San Juan Islands, a longer but more protected route, rather than making the 4-hour Strait crossing. That allowed us to cross the Haro Strait to Vancouver Island instead, a 2-3 hour journey from San Juan Island to Victoria.

On arising Monday, the forecast looked good for the morning, but 15-25 mph west winds and  higher waves than we prefer were forecast for the afternoon, so we took off shortly before 8. After picking our way south through Mosquito Pass, we entered the Strait, protected from west winds by Vancouver Island, and found no wind and 1-2 foot swells, with mostly sunshine. Ideal!

 See below for the route we took.

The southwest diagonal crossing of the Strait stayed calm the whole 2 hours, but as soon as we rounded the corner to go between Discovery Island and Vancouver Island, headed west directly into the wind, waves generally 3 feet with occasional 4-footers and whitecaps appeared. It wasn't scary, but wasn't comfortable either, as this 30,000 pound boat isn't stablilized, so tosses and bucks in waves like that, especially if they're at all on the beam as they were this morning.

We hoisted our Canadian courtesy flag, got out the Customs Quarantine flag along with passports and NEXUS cards, and stopped trying to walk around the rocking flybridge.

You can see how beautiful the first two hours of the journey were.

About halfway across Haro Strait we spotted in the distance what appeared to be a boat with no one in it, always a concern in the event someone has fallen overboard. We deviated off course to check it out, only to find a derelict old dinghy half full of water and needing no help from us.

Rounding the corner heading toward the lighthouse on Harling Point, the freighter traffic noticeably increased.

We were happy to round the last flashing Green buoy and turn into Victoria Harbor, out of the wind and waves that tossed us about for the last hour.

It's a busy harbor, and the Victoria Clipper was coming inbound, while the 341-foot Coho car and passenger ferry which operates from Port Angeles to Victoria came outbound.

Though friend Robin had given us advance notice, when we came into the Harbor we forgot her admonition that a stretch of it operates as a Runway for seaplanes, so a narrow passage on the south is marked by yellow buoys, and we were supposed to stay inland of them. We didn't. So a  little Water Taxi came racing alongside with the Captain waving his arms, and in a friendly fashion yelled for us to get out of the runway. Yikes, we moved quickly.

We hailed friends Jim and Robin on the VHF radio who are living aboard their 49' De Fever in Victoria Harbour this winter (until they head toward Alaska next month). They met us on the dock to arrange a slip close to theirs and catch our lines. Nice! We haven't seen them since they visited Gig Harbor in November and had dinner at our home. They snapped the next photo as we came in.

So we're tied up at the Ship Point dock where we have a great view of the Empress Hotel and Parliament building, and the city lights are spectacular after dark.

We're surrounded mostly by enormous, newer fiberglass ships and historical, wooden schooners. Not many people are aboard these boats, so it's quiet except for passing pedestrians just outside the gate.

The Coho ferry docks just across the narrow harbour from our slip.

After a short walk and lunch with Jim and Robin, we bought a few fruits and vegetables (can't bring most of them into the country from the U.S.) and settled in for the afternoon.

Later we joined Jim and Robin and their Canadian live-aboard friends Perry and Diana for dinner aboard "Adventures". The pressure-cooked ribs were the tastiest we've ever eaten, and the conversation was lively all evening, with lots of technical and boating discussions, funny stories and raucous laughter. We stayed up way past "Baja Midnight" or "Looper Midnight" (9pm).

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1 comment:

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