Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The evolution of our sailing/cruising plans this Summer (2016)...

Sailing down from Cape Scott (entrance to Quatsino Sound in distance)
In June, we worked our way slowly up the inside of Vancouver Island. We stopped and enjoyed many places for multiple days. A different, non "goal-oriented" cruise for us. As we came to the North Island (Sointula and Port Hardy), we realized that cruising both the BC central coast and the West coast of Vancouver Island would be too much rush. We had to choose.

We've been North of Cape Caution three times, but around the Island completely only once, back in 2002. (We've been around the bottom to Barkley Sound a couple of other times.)

So... we are now "circumnavigating" Vancouver Island. A couple of days ago we went "around the top", from Bull Harbour, around Cape Scott, and down to (near) Winter Harbour, in Quatsino Sound (including a rambunctious sail from near San Josef Bay to the entrance to Quatsino Sound). We have been fortunate to have new friends David and Gillian on SV Carousel to buddy boat on this section.

Our Hydrovane "Fin" finally get a little workout (on the way to Quatsino Sound)

We are now anchored in Varney Bay, up Quatsino Sound near Coal Harbour.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Sointula, and the "Beautiful Bay Trail" hike

We've been to Sointula (Finnish for "Place of Harmony") twice before (2007, 2011) and loved it. It is a very laid back place, proud of its Finnish origins (it was started early in the 1900s by a group of Finns as a "co-operative"; the original "co-op" (est. 1909, the first in B.C.) store continues to be the centre of commerce and the social hub of the island. People waive as they drive by, and do indeed, occasionally, stop and offer a ride. The island's public docks are exceptionally well run and pleasant.

We enjoyed drinks and dinner aboard SV Carousel with David and Gillian, and the four of us decided to hike the "Beautiful Bay Trail" together.

The Beautiful Bay trailhead, at Bere Point, is about 4.5 kilometers by paved and gravel road from the docks. The trail is a wild west-coast trail with beautiful views of Queen Charlotte Strait and the mountains across the Strait on the mainland. The trail has two parts: the first 2.5 km goes from Bere Point to Puoli Vali Canyon. We had lunch on the beach at Puoli Vali, watching a humpback whale feed along the kelp beds.

Lunch at Puoli Vali (Gillian & David from SV Carousel, Michelle in middle)

View northwest from Puoli Vali - there is a whale out there...
The second part, from Puoli Vali to Malcolm Point, is signed as "closed". We tried it anyways and found it to be a good trail with only a couple minor detours. The views at Malcolm Point, a 2.5 km walk from Puoli Vali, were even better than our lunchtime views. Just before reaching the point, one has to walk through -- disappear into -- a thick 3-metre-high wall of salal.   (We liked this second section very much, and feel the island community really should change its status from "closed" to "use at your own risk". There were no real treacherous or tricky parts.)

View down from trail ("closed" section)

View from Malcom Point (mainland Coast mountains in distance)

Gillian exiting the "salal" tunnel (at Malcolm Point)
Of course, the walk back to the docks along the 4.5 km of roadway felt quite tiring -- we could have done with one of those "occasional rides" by passing cars -- but we were all glad to have done the hike.

Overall, we walked/hiked 19 km, and were gone some 7 hours (including lunch). None of it could be called "strenuous" -- only the length was a bit tiring -- and the trail was always well marked.

A highly recommended hike. (As is Sointula.)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

North to Northern Vancouver Island

Kayaking near Crease Island (Village Channel)
We left Heriot Bay to catch slack at Surge Narrows (more correctly, Beazley Passage), on our way to Waiatt Bay/Octopus Islands. Just as we began to negotiate the rock-strewn entrance to Waiatt Bay, we were hit with a mega rain squall -- a "pissqually", in our terms -- little wind but visibility cut to a couple hundred metres. Happily, only a few boats anchored in the large bay (as opposed to typically 60 or so in August), so easy anchoring in the rain.

We planned to go through Okisollo Rapids then up Johnstone Strait, but slack in these rapids the next couple days would have us have to get up at 4:30ish am. So, next day we opted to catch the later slack and go only a few miles over to Owen Bay. Time enough to put the crab trap down; a few hours later we caught two crabs: a good-sized Dungeness and a Rock Crab.

Weather forecasts for Johnstone Strait for the following day were remarkably favourable: little wind, changing to SouthEasterly 10-20knots. (This in contrast to the usual strong NorthWesterlys.) Up early next day -- but NOT 430am! -- we had a calm, comfortable trip up (down?) Johnstone Strait, managing even a 90-minute downwind sail before turning up Havannah Channel. we were now entering the region referred to by cruisers as "The Broughtons".

Checked out anchorage at Matilpi, but it already had three boats (including a small powerboat who felt oddly necessary to put out two anchors, a stern tie, and an anchor marker), so we headed back over to Burial Cove, for a mostly calm night (except for a 15-minute squall with 25-knot winds). Dinner was a wonderful crab and steak combo.

Next day, we headed through Chatham Channel, then Clio Channel (where one finds "Bone's Bay", "Sambo Point" and "Negro Rock" -- apparently named in 1876 after a troupe of amateur performers), and finally "Beware Passage". Beware Passage was nerve wracking the first time we did it in 2002, but after many times through it, we find this tricky route pretty straightforward. However, careful piloting and vigilance is required.

"Negro" Rock (Clio Channel)... named in 1876

We spent the next five nights in the Indian Group of islands; first two nights at Mound Island, then three nights at Crease Island. Weather was mostly pleasant, and managed several kayak trips. We heard a pack of wolves howling on Crease Island, and even saw one of them doing so on shore while we were kayaking. While at Crease, we heard on the morning Great Northern Boaters (HAM) Net that SV Carousel was heading over to Crease Island "to meet these Pelagia folks"... and so they did. We had some enjoyable dinners aboard with David and Gillian (later joined by Elizabeth and David from SV Demelza -- yes, there were "3 Davids" at one dinner, but we're not tenors). Our HAM SSB radio has definitely made our cruising more sociable!

Pictograph next to the "Chief's Bathtub", Village Channel

Anchorage at Crease Island

We headed over to Sointula ("Place of Harmony") on Malcolm Island, where we joined SV Carousel at the excellent public docks.

Friday, 10 June 2016

A short visit to Desolation Sound area in early June

Entering Desolation Sound (June 3, 2016)

After our 8.5-hour motor back down Jervis Inlet (against a 1-2 knot current), we anchored for 1 night in the Hardy Island Marine Park anchorage. Normally a little too crowded and requiring stern ties, in June it was almost empty and we could free swing at anchor.

Next morning, we headed out with a Southeasterly building in Malaspina Strait (winds reached 25 kn). We had a great (!) downwind sail under jib only, averaging at least 6 knots for 28 nm until the entrance to Thulin Passage (just past Lund). This is why we have a sailboat!

Entering Desolation Sound, we anchored in Squirrel Cove (Cortes Island), again, very few boats, and next day, after a brief stop in Refuge Cove, we went to Von Donop Inlet (North end of Cortes Island), where we spent 4 nights/days relaxing. Daytime temperatures reached 30 degrees C, and sea water temperatures reached a cool 19 degrees C. Warm enough for us to swim (and for David to change our zincs). We also kayaked a couple of days, including over to Robertson Lake for a warmer swim, and to the head of Von Donop for a hike.

After Von Donop, we made the short hop over to Heriot Bay (Quadra Island), where we stayed at Taku Resort. Repairs/maintenance, and provisioning were completed.

It's a rainy day here at Heriot Bay, but we plan to head north up to the Octopus Islands today.  

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Princess Louisa Inlet

Jervis Inlet, on the way to Princess Louisa Inlet
We are surrounded by steep glacial walls, most with streams of water coursing down them. From our mooring at MacDonald Island, we stare up at a snowfield, seemingly just above our heads. It is as if Pelagia is anchored in the alpine.

After 17 years of cruising British Columbia waters, we have finally come to Princess Louisa Inlet. Avoided in the past because of the long motor required to get here (this proved to be true) and to the expected crowds (this proved not to be the case).

On the way, we stopped for a night at the Harmony Islands (another first visit for us). They were quite nice, but the anchoring not great. We were fortunate to be the only boat to go into "Kipling Cove" -- one USA sailboat tried but didn't like it and couldn't get their anchor to grab (we think they were reversing too fast) -- so we had it to ourselves. Lucky thing, because it was tiny, filled with rocks and surrounded by unfriendly "Private Island" "No stern ties" signs. A pox on that owner! [Note: private or not, in Canada below the high tide line is public.] We would not have gone in if another boat were anchored. We stern tied to the tiny park-owned islet, and prayed that the sharp rocks and sharp oysters would not cut our line. [As it turns out, the larger southern island is also Park-owned and has several stern-tie rings installed.]

No need to have worried, as the night was still and we didn't budge. Great stars, and great phosphorescence with schools of fish darting around. And yes, we could hear the falls a mile away.

Next day, we up anchored by 6am and headed out to catch slack at Malibu Rapids at 1:26pm. Jervis Inlet was windless and glassy, and we had to slow ourselves down. The views were beautiful. We arrived 45 minutes early, and after several boats went through and saying it was fine, we ventured through, with about 1.5 knots flooding but no turbulence.

The views in Princess Louisa Inlet, as noted at the beginning, are stunning.

Looking up towards Chatterbox Falls, at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet

There was lots of room at the dock* next to Chatterbox Falls, but we opted for the quiet of a mooring buoy at MacDonald Island. (The dock was a bit too "social".) We enjoyed kayaking the inlet -- filled with huge schools of small fish (herring?), many many seals, mergansers and gulls, and at least one otter. On our second day, we hiked up to the "Trapper's Cabin". There were signs posted by B.C. Parks NOT recommending the hike, warning it was challenging and potentially hazardous. We agree -- and we're used to hiking! A rooty, slippery, nasty trail, leading to the ruins of what once was a cabin, with a waterfall beside it. The view from the waterfall was indeed a good view down the inlet to Malibu Rapids, but it was a dicey spot due to the danger of falling rocks (which the trees bore ample evidence of, having being hit by large rocks). We did this hike once; it is not worth it to do again. If you're not used to strenuous hiking or are not sure-footed, you might want to give it a pass. [Signs say the hike requires 2 hrs each way; we required 1.5 hrs up and 1.4 hrs down (with a couple of falls included).]

View down Princess Louisa Inlet (from "Trappers Cabin")

Rockfall hazard: check out the scars on the trees

Arriving back at the bottom of the trail: the signs are correct

Tonight will be our 3rd night at Princess Louisa Inlet. Each night so far has be quiet, both wind and noise wise. Today, though, has been a rainy day. More water coming down from the mountains. Weather depending++, we will head back down tomorrow. Another 7 hours of motoring.**

After the rains, more waterfalls appear (Princess Louisa Inlet)
It is worth the effort (at least once)!

*During our time, as it was very early in the season, neither the mooring buoys nor the dock filled up. Nevertheless, it certainly wasn't "empty". About 2/3rds of the boats were from the USA.

++ FYI, There is NO weather info by VHF radio available in Princess Louisa Inlet (and, of course, no cell service). It was a perfect example of how our Marine/HAM SSB radio and Pactor modem was able to provide us with full weather forecasts (as well as voice contact with other boats via the morning and evening HAM Nets).

**Turns out it took 8.5 hrs of motoring. we had a 1-2 knot current against us all the way down Jervis Inlet to Hardy Island. TIP: If possible, exit Malibu Rapids at High Water Slack, then one will have a favourable current on trip back down (south) Jervis Inlet! 

[Sent by Winlink (HAM) email]