Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Out for the count (and the season): the ACL-MCL blues...

Looks peaceful, but... it's the N2O and ketamine

A small fall on a relatively easy run (Expresso)... the result appears to be torn MCL and ACL* of Michelle's right knee.

Extremely painful for Michelle, the Whistler-Blackcomb ski patrol were excellent. Nitrous Oxide helped but not enough for Michelle's pain; Dr. Chad arrived with ketamine which did the trick for the toboggan ride down to Blackcomb Base II.

Then a short ride by BC Ambulance Service to the Whistler Health Clinic, both excellent.  Fast, understanding and knowledgeable. Pain managed well.

A huge thank you to WB Ski Patrol (Jimmy, Dan and Dr. Chad), Blackcomb Safety Volunteers, the Whistler Paramedics, and the Whistler Health Clinic staff. We're lucky to be here.

First physiotherapy session today and an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow. Michelle is tough and a fast healer. We'll see how it goes, but pretty certain that's it for Michelle's ski season.

Not exactly "happy campers", but moving forward.  What else are you gonna do?

* possibly great news today (Dec7th): Orthopedic surgeon says physical exam indicates: (i) MCL is a partial (2°) tear and, even better, (ii) Michelle's ACL does not appear to be torn. Surgery likely not indicated -- we'll know better at follow-up in 5 weeks time (after MCL more healed).

Friday, 24 November 2017

Back home in Whistler... and back skiing

Heading down "Zig Zag" (Blackcomb Mountain, Nov 23, 2017)
A long trip home from Hua Hin (Thailand): 3.5 hours bus to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, 3 hours flight to Taipei, 10 hours flight to Vancouver, and finally 2.5-hour drive up to Whistler (plus all the waiting in between). But finally home.

Thought we'd be too jet-lagged to get up the mountain, but decided fresh air and sun (well, a little) should help.

Managed 5 runs, even all the way to the bottom (a good start to the season).

But quite the change from 30°C in Thailand!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


On the way to Bihi Phedi -- the mountains beginning to show

We have posted all our photos of our Manaslu Circuit trek on an album on our FLICKR account:

For our 14th (David) and 12th (Michelle) treks in Nepal, we chose to complete the Manaslu Circuit. Initially, we had considered adding the Tsum Valley, but decided that with only 21 days for the trek, there would be no wriggle room should there be any "hiccups" (weather delays, stomach and/or respiratory illness,general fatigue, injury, etc), which we know from experience often happens while trekking. Additionally, we weren't so sure we wanted such a long trek. In the end, we were very glad we didn't add Tsum Valley (we heard the lodges were crowded and worse than those on the Manaslu trek). [FYI: David did the Manaslu trek way back in 1993 as a camping trek, starting in Gorkha and ending in Besisahar. On that trip, there were significant weather problems (i.e., snow) with the Larkya La/Pass; something for which this pass is infamous.]

Leaving Larkya Phedi/Dharmsala at 5 am in new snow

David, Padam (guide), Michelle & Dawa (porter): Freezing in -10 deg C at Larkya La/Pass (5160m)
The trek starts a very low subtropical elevation (700m) and follows the "Budhi Gandaki" (old woman Gandaki) river almost to its source high up in the mountains. For the first few days, we found the trekking quite tiring, made much worse by high temperatures (over 30°C) and hot sun; it was hard to believe that in 1-2 weeks we would be in fresh snow and sub-zero temperatures. The river has incredibly steep valleys, which means a lot of trekking up and then trekking back down; very frustrating (but it was far harder back in 1993!). It is a very culturally diverse trek, eventually ending up in very Tibetan areas. In order not to have to backtrack, one has to traverse the 5160m Larkya La pass. Although not as high as the 5400m Thorung La, the Larkya La is far more isolated, is slower to ascend (at least, when going the usual counter-clockwis direction) and seems to get much worse weather. The day one crosses the pass is a long day (assuming one is able to begin at the lodge-tent camp of Larkya Phedi, which is not always open); the descent from the pass quite steep (though we found it not so bad) and seems to take forever to get to the lodges at Bhimtang (which are wonderful after the terrible "lodge" at Larkya Phedi and even the not-so-great lodges of Sama and Samdo). The walk after/below Bhimtang is wonderful, and 1-1.5 days of walking takes you to Dharapani, on the Annapurna Circuit (where transport may -- or may not -- be available).

Start of the trek on the road under construction

We wish we could be more positive, but we really didn't enjoy this trek. 

On the (very) positive side, the vistas throughout the trek are stunning. The Budhi Gandaki river and its valley never ceases to amaze (and, yes, frustrate) you. Such an active, seemingly angry (if this is possible) river and such steep canyons with villages high up on the hillsides, eaking out an existence.

The Budhi Gandaki river

Higher up, as the many himal ranges come into view, the mountains become the attraction. First properly seen in Lho, Mt. Manaslu is beautiful (perhaps even more beautiful and certainly more dramatic when it is again seen from its other side below Bhimtang).The many other mountain ranges, such as the Larkya Himal, are pretty stunning too.

sunrise on Mt. Manaslu (from Lho)

A walk above Samdo
The walk below Bhimtang: Beautiful!

Manaslu Himal, from the Dudh Khola valley
Unfortunately, for us, this trek had many negatives. 

First, and foremost, the trek (at least in October) is definitely overcrowded. There are several places where there are more trekkers than there are lodge rooms or beds. This is made far worse by very large groups taking up most of the spaces. With significantly greater resourses, these groups are able to send runners 1-3 days ahead to reserve rooms for their groups. A small group (or a couple such as us), at times, is left with little or no choice (either a terrible lodge or worse, trek on to the next "village"). The "continuing on" solution doesn't work when there is no place at the next stop. Serious "choke points" for these lodge shortages occurred especially at Sotikhola (that was a surprise on our first night), Deng (we called it "Dung", not really worth staying at, and the 2 lodges there are not-so-great), Samagaon, Samdo and Larkya Phedi/Dharmsala.

Arrive later in Samdo? IF you're "lucky", this is the "lodge" you get... (3 beds in a tiny room barely fit for 1)

The lodge shortage problem (or worry about it) put a real negative effect on our trek (finally going away as we got over the pas to Bhimtang; there seemed no shortage of lodges from Bhimtang on). Our guide always worried about it,. We always had to leave early to try to get in earlier to get a room. We never knew for sure until we arrived. [Indeed, the day before arriving in Samagaon, we had a lodge call ahead to reserve 2 rooms there; 1 for us and 1 for a single trekker. When we arrived at the lodge in Sama (early, at about 10am), we were told the single trekker could not have a room. We eventually found a 3-bed room so the single trekker could join us. Calling ahead doesn't always work; something we also found last year at MBC.] This added much stress to our trek. To add insult to injury, we found the quality of most (though not all) of the lodges to be only poor to fair (and well below the quality of lodges in the Annapurna areas or Everest) and their cost higher (see below). More than one of the lodges we stayed in were frankly terrible. Call us softies, but we like good lodges. In the end, we decided the best solution, for those who really must do the Manaslu Circuit, is to have a porter (or two) and bring a tent. They then never have to worry (and, of course, are welcome, indeed pressured, to eat in the lodges). 

The trails on the Budhi Gandaki side of the trek also had serious negatives. We've done many treks in Nepal, and are pretty used to trails with steep drops. But almost always, these are good footpaths. On the Budhi Gandaki side of the Manaslu trek, we were confronted many times daily with bad trails (sometimes active landslides) where a mis-step would easily mean certain death (if the fall didn't get you, being swept down the Budhi Gandaki river definitely would do the job). Being constantly confronted with this wears you down. Any possibility of having to trek back out the same way we came in (for instance, due to snow closing the pass, altitude illness, or whatever) was a constant concern nagging us. No wonder there seemed so many helicopter "rescues" coming down from up high. 

We found the many large groups to mostly be antisocial. We sought out smaller lodges, but when in a lodge with a moderate-large group (6-20 trekkers), we found they rarely talked or interacted with us (even when we tried to start a conversation). Generally, as a couple trekking, we didn't exist to these large groups. Too bad we couldn't feel the same way them. In contrast, we did meet and have good times with a few groups of 1-3 trekkers, including Karni the 70+ year-old Israeli woman, Jim the sometimes cranky (who wouldn't be on this trek) but very funny violinmaker and his 2 friends from the USA, the sweet young Russian woman trekking only with a guide who didn't talk to anyone (groups ignored her) until we got her talking, and also a few other couples. In contrast to us, the large groups had very strict schedules; none seemed to have any extra days for weather or illness issues. In Samdo, we were quite shocked to talk to a guide who stated he had just shipped 3 of 14 trekkers down by helicopter, had just doubled the dose of diamox for a 4th trekker in question, but hoped now all the weaker trekkers were now weeded out. All the money and hopes these people had invested in their trek and this was what they got? The guide then commended us for adding an extra acclimatization day in Samdo; hmmm, why didn't he set that up for his group? Guess it keeps the helicopter companies happy. 

Finally, we we also disappointed with the poor job the "Manaslu Conservation Area Project" seemed to be doing. Enviromentally, there was little use of LPG gas for cooking; wood was mostly used (and deforestation was obvious). Each village (or collection of lodges) had a garbage dump at the entrance or exit (sometimes both) to the village, complete with much plastic trash, especially plastic water bottles (purchased/disposed by thoughtless trekkers). And, of course, there is the new road, creeping inexorably towards Tibet (and it will make it there not so far in the future). Culturally, the building of lodges either replaced or hid older buildings, so that often one only saw a collection of lodges and no village. And, as noted already, these were not exactly "beautiful" lodges. And yet, this is a "restricted trekking area",a main purpose of which is (was) to protect the unique cultures present within. This protection is clearly not working.

Garbage beside trail in Samdo
To conclude, we found this to be a difficult tiring trek, with difficulties in getting lodge space and relatively poor quality of the lodges. Too many trekkers (especially large groups) for too few beds added too much stress. As the numbers below indicate, it is also a more-expensive trek. Perhaps we are getting older and softer, but we prefer the trails and lodges in the Annapurnas and Everest regions. The beautiful vistas of the Manaslu Circuit trek (and they are beautiful), for us, do not make up for the poor (and dangerous) trails, crowded (in high season, at least) low-quality lodges, and the costs and complications (permits, transport, guide, etc) of the Manaslu Circuit. We often repeat treks, but we won't be back to Manaslu.

Having crossed high passes in Nepal many times (including: the Kang La, Larkya La, and 4x over the Thorung La), we knew we wanted an additional day of acclimatization (added at Samdo) as well as some shorter days of trekking.
  • Day 1: Transport by jeep from Kathmandu to Sotikhola (~8 hrs). Overnight Sotikhola [700m]
  • Day 2: Trek to Macchakhola [869m]
  • Day 3: Trek to Yaru Bagar [1170m]
  • Day 4: Trek to Philim [1570m]
  • Day 5: Trek to Bihi Phedi [~1990m]
  • Day 6: Trek to Namrung [2630m]
  • Day 7: Trek to Lho [3180m] (half day; stopped for acclimatization and for rain)
  • Day 8: Trek to Shyala [3500m] (1.5-2 hrs walk)
  • Day 9: Trek to Samagaon [3520m] (1 hour walk, essentially an acclimatization day)
  • Day 10: Trek to Samdo [3875m] (~2.5 hrs easy walk)
  • Day 11: Acclimatization day in Samdo
  • Day 12: Trek to Larkya Phedi/Dharmsala [4460m] (2.75 hours walk; heavy snow begins; snow stops in evening with ~10cm) 
Larkya Phedi tents (before the snow fall)*
  • Day 13: Trek over Larkya La [5160m] to Bhimtang [3590m] (9.75 hrs, including breaks, leaving at 5am after two large groups "break trail"; very cold -10°C at top; snowing heavily for last 45 minutes before Bhimtang but well after pass; 5-8 cm snow by evening)
  • Day 14: Trek to Gowa [2515m] (most beautiful walk of the trek; 6 hrs including lunch)
  • Day 15: Trek to Dharapani [1950m] (2hrs walk; after much confusion and misinformation, we find a jeep to share (already booked by 2 other trekkers) leaving ~1pm. Arrival in Besisahar @6pm (just getting dark).
  • Day 16: Besisahar 830am: Padam (guide) and Dawa (porter) take microbus to Kathmandu; we take microbus to Pokhara

Compared to the Annapurna Circuit, Poon Hill, and Annapurna Base Camp treks (and perhaps even Everest Base Camp), the Manaslu Circuit is a relatively expensive trek.

Permits and Guide: First, there are the added costs associated with Manaslu being a "restricted" area, thus requring a restricted area trekking permit (essentially, US$10/day/trekker). Additionally, one must get a Manaslu Conservation Area Permit (2000 rupees/trekker), in addition to the ACAP permit (2000 rupees/trekker). No TIMS required if trekking (or jeep) down from Dharapani to Besisahar. Finally, there are the costs of the required guide and need for a minimum of 2 trekkers in the group (if single, it is sometimes possible to pay 2X the permit fees for a "ghost" trekker).

Our small "group" at Lho: Dawa (porter), Michelle, Padam (Guide), David

Transport: It is possible to get to the trailhead at Sotikhola using 2-3 busses. The road after Dhadingbesi is very rough (definitely 4WD; makes the road to Syabrubesi for Langtang trek seem like a paved highway; we are very glad we opted for jeep transport). At the end of the circuit, one can walk out to Besisahar or take transport down. There are shared jeeps but none were available after 10am in Dharapani (indeed, it seemed iffy at any time). We got lucky and found a jeep to share with two other trekkers.

Daily costs: Daily costs (lodge, meals, very occasional pot of hot water) were surprisingly high on the Manaslu Circuit. Our Manaslu daily costs (lodge & food) were 33% higher than those for our 2016 ABC trek. As already noted, there is a definite shortage of beds compared to the number of trekkers, thus lodges have little or no competition and so all charged 500 rupees/night for a double room (this increased to 600-700 rupees above Sama). Similarly, food prices started high (3500-4500 rupees per day for 2), and became outrageously high as one neared the pass (6500 rupees at Dharmsala!).

Costs Breakdown (for 2 persons): [1C$=80 rupees; 1US$=100 rupees]
Daily costs:  Total: 58,800 Nepal rupees [Daily @14.5 days: 4055 rupees; C$50.69; US$40.15 per day]
Permits: 30,220 rupees
Guide and one porter (16 days): 80,000 rupees (excluding tip)
Transport to Sotikhola: 20,000 rupees
Transport Dharapani to Besisahar: 8000 rupees
Transport Besisahar to Pokhara: 1000 rupees
Hotel and food (including beers) in Besisahar: 3600 rupees
Guide/porter transport to Kathmandu: 2000 rupees

Total for Manaslu trek (2 persons): 212,990 rupees [C$2,662.38;  US$2,130]
(excluding Kathmandu & Pokhara costs)

We organized our trek through our friend and guide Ngima Dorjee Lama. Dorjee"agency" is Lets Go Himalaya Adventure (a small agency):
Dorjee's email:

*photo of Larkya Phedi tents from:

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Manaslu Circuit trek completed (survived)

Freezing on top of Larkya La (-10°C): David, Padam (guide), Michelle & Dawa (porter)
Started with a gruelling 8-hr dusty 4WD jeep drive.

First couple days overheated in 30+ degree C and hot sun, eventually "cooling" to fresh snow and -10°C on 5106m Larkya pass. Every day trekking presented us with numerous opportunities where a mistep or stumble could mean certain death (especially walking across steep landslides going 100s of metres down into the Budhi Gandaki river). Trek was over-crowded with large groups and not enough lodges in many places. Mostly, lodges were not so great. 

On the other hand, every day the trek provided us with fantastic vistas.

15 days later, ended with gruelling, bumpy, steep-dropoffs 4-hr jeep drive. 

Maybe we're just getting too old, but we found this trek to be particularly tiring and not so enjoyable.

On the plus side, we are now very fit (well, except for bad colds).  

Now relaxing (recovering) in Pokhara. Off to Kathmandu tomorrow then Thailand. 

More-detailed post about trek to follow with photos (when we get better internet). 

Monday, 16 October 2017

In Kathmandu... back for another trek (Manaslu circuit)

Manaslu circuit

Nepal draws us back... again.

Good flights to Bangkok, with a couple nights there to work on jetlag, and then on to Kathmandu. Been here now nearly 3 nights, and we're ready to get out of town (still smoggy and crazy,  and filled with wide-eyed tourists).

Tomorrow we head out for the day-long drive to the trailhead for the Manaslu circuit (currently at Soti Khola). Manaslu is a "restricted area", which means we are required to hire a guide. (That's OK by us, as we wanted "help" this time carrying our stuff. So a porter and a guide.) It will also be less crowded than Annapurna or Everest treks.

David did the Manaslu circuit trek way back in 1993. A full-on camping only trek (no lodges back them) for 21 days. This time, no camping, and we expect to be trekking for 18-19 days. 

Fingers crossed all goes well. (We ain't getting any younger!)  

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Summer 2017 cruise: our "route" and some numbers

Pelagia's "route" this Summer (2017)

Dates: June 20 to August 21, 2017

Total distance travelled: 774 nautical miles

Nautical miles sailed: <75 nm

Favourite anchorage: Murray Labyrinth

Favourite docks: Sointula, Malcolm Island

Favourite town/village/city: Alert Bay

Worst anchorage: Forward Harbour (little space thus crowded)... it wasn't that bad

Worst experience(s): a tie between (i) Mt. Llanover trail partially destroyed by logging, and (ii) venturing into overcrowded (packed!) Laura Cove in Desolation Sound

Bears seen: 1 large black bear (Booker Lagoon) and 1 small grizzly (Chatham Channel)

Whales seen: several humpbacks around Blackfish Sound/Cormorant Island area

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Back home in the mountains (Whistler)

Decker Tarn (Overload Glacier & Fissile Peak in background), August 2017

Finally returned home to Whistler after 2 months cruising on Pelagia.

Quickly got up for hikes on local mountains.

Wonderful to be back in the mountains.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Desolation Sound in August...

After 4 relaxing days in (somewhat crowded) Von Donop Inlet, we moved over to Heriot Bay for provisioning and a small repair.

The repair, happily, turned out to be simple. We had a leak from the hose from the engine heat exchanger to the hot water/heating system. David had made a jury rig repair with rubber tape and Rescue tape (thr rubber tape worked better) for the trip down Johnstone Strait, which slowed the leak to a dribble (half a cup/day). The hose had been damaged by an over-tightened hoseclamp; repair required cutting off the damaged end and re-routing hose slightly to get the needed ~5 cm. No problem. But we went to a dock in case therepair "went South" (or "pear shaped" or...). Happily no issues.

We returned to Von Donop for 1 night, then headed to Desolation Sound. Knowing it would be very busy, we hoped Laura Cove might be OK. As we came into Laura Cove, we were shocked. Shocked at the cove being absolutely packed with boats stern-tied on both sides of the cove, and with people actually reserving spots for friends with stern ties to shore to an anchor buoy. Really bad behaviour (something we also saw in Tenedos back in 2012). Most boats in Laura Cove (>75%) were from the USA; too bad there's not much room for us Canadian boats. We immediately turned around and left Laura Cove.

As we wrote in posts in 2012 and 2015, Desolation Sound  is very overcrowded and far-from-desolate in July and August (from Desolation Sound north to Octopus Islands).  So crowded it is time that some limitations in numbers be considered. We were clearly spoiled by off-season cruising and by cruising North (despite the colder weather and water temperatures).

Luckily, Roscoe Bay turned out to be much better for us. Although busy, it seems the nearly-drying bar keeps a lot of boats away. So we enjoyed several days there. After Roscoe Bay, we headed over to Cortes Bay so that we could enjoy the good hiking in nearby K'Was Park. We then headed South to Ballet Bay and then Pender Harbour. While in Pender Harbour, a Southerly came in, and we stuck inside Pender until winds/seas quieted down.

We had a good sail (!) across Georgia Strait, anchoring at Kendrick Island (a new-to-us anchorage). At Kendrick, there were only 2 boats anchored. We chose to anchor in between them, with at least 90 metres separating us on either side. This didn't stop the guy on the power boat from Wilmington DE from complaining we were too close. David replied, rather strongly, that we were 300 feet away from him, so perhaps he should reconsider his issues. Nothing else was heard. (David is clearly losing patience....)

We spent the next (and last week) visiting friends in Maple Bay/Duncan (Barbara and Jim from SV Berkana), rafting up at Sidney Spit with Mexico cruising friends (Bob and Dee Dee from SV Sunshine), and finally a couple of nights in Port Sidney while we attended a family wedding. So much socializing, but fun!

Finally, we headed up to Clam Bay for a night, then motored (what else?) across Georgia Strait to our home slip at the Vancouver Rowing Club.

Our 2-month Summer 2017 cruise was over.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Mt. Llanover trail partially destroyed by logging (Roscoe Bay, Desolation Sound)

After the loggers have left....
In June, we spent 4 nights in Roscoe Bay, one of our favourite anchorages (see our previous blog post). One reason we like Roscoe Bay is the hike up to Mt. Llanover. This year we got a shock.

Logging in 2016-2017 has significantly impacted the trail up Mt. Llanover (not to mention other impacts). About 30 minutes up from Roscoe Bay trailhead, logging has completely destroyed the trail (for a short section). We spent nearly an hour lost trying to find the trail. Making it worse, there was significant deadfall on other parts of the the trail, likely because, due to the logging, no one was hiking the trail and keeping it clear. In the past, we typically go up and down in 3-3.5 hours (including a short lunch at top); this year, it took us over 5 hours (with many cuts and scratches on our legs)!

The trail used to pass through this area... (no, the road does not head in the trail direction)

We did eventually find the trail again above the logging (and the many chopped-down logs on the edge across the trail) and made it to the top of Mt. Llanover. The views were still great.

2017 view from top of Mt. Llanover: now a lot more work to reach

Hopefully, over time, local hikers will restore the damaged sections of the trail. We understand that the forest industry in an important part of B.C.'s economy. This blog is not a rant against logging. However, it would have been so easy (and cost little) for the logging company to have assigned a person with a chainsaw to clear the trail and ensure its continued availability. (Indeed, being community minded, perhaps that person could have done some extra clearing/cleaning up of the trail beyond that they destroyed....) Doing so would certainly help relations between tourism (including boaters, hikers and kayakers) and logging industries.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

To Cape Caution and back

Fog outside of Murray Labyrinth

After leaving Alert Bay, we decided to spend some time on the mainland side towards Cape Caution. Hoping for a sail, we motored past Pulteney Point and headed towards Blunden Harbour. We did indeed get a short and slow sail in (1.5 hours at 3-5 knots), but as usual (for us this Summer), the winds died. Arrival at Blunden Harbour was easy, with lots of space (as has been typical for locations west of Johnstone Strait this Summer). We decided to spend two nights.

While in Blunden, we had a visit with Stan and Pat (SV Alcheringa), who had indicated on the evening HAM net (West Coast Boaters' Net) they were coming down from Skull Cove (Cape Caution area) to say "Hi" to us. We had an enjoyable drink with them on their boat, then we all came back to Pelagia for dinner. Also, while in Blunden, David put out the crab trap. Much to our surprise, we caught more crabs than needed -- we kept 1 Dungenous and 3 Rock Crabs. Michelle made some great crabcakes and dip later.

After two nights in Blunden, we decided to head up to the Cape Caution area. We navigated the tricky entrance into Murray Labyrinth (well, tricky for us, as it was our first time here). This is a fairly small anchorage in the midst of a labyrinth of small and medium-sized islands (hence its name) at the end of Schooner Channel, only 10 or so nautical miles from Cape Caution. It is a wild and remarkably beautiful place (and will almost certainly win the "most beautiful anchorage" award for our cruise this Summer). We stayed 3 nights at Murray Labyrinth, and would have stayed more if the weather forecast stayed stable. 

Wonderful kayaking around Murray Labyrinth
Weather was forecast to turn to strong (possibly gale force)southerly/southeasterly winds. Being near Cape Caution and Queen Charlotte Sound, Murray Labyrinth would be sure to get some strong winds (even though the anchorage has decent protection). We had, by now, decided we were not going North of Cape Caution this Summer (too much rain etc up North this Summer, and the extra time we spent in the Broughtons both contributed to our decision to stay South of Caution). With strong southerly winds forecast, we decided to high-tail it down to the docks in Sointula. The following night, we had lots of rain and strong winds at the dock; up at Cape Caution, winds were in the 30-35 knot range. We congratulated ourselves on our good decision.

We provisioned at the Co-Op store in Sointula, and after a couple nights, headed back to the Broughtons, with the intent to hang around until we would get some decent winds for an Eastbound/Southbound trip back down Johnstone Strait (but not too much...). It was still drizzly when we anchored in the cove by Dead Point (a new anchorage to us), but sun the next morning made us decide to hang out for a little kayaking. Next we were going to anchor in Cutter Cove, but the winds forecast for the strait suggested the "right" winds (15-25 kn West/northwest) in two days, so we got going early, caught slack in Chatham Channel (where, to our surprise, we saw a young grizzly), and anchored at Matilpi. We were the only boat, so we had our choice of the very few spots. Our first choice we became unhappy with as winds were funneling directly at us and we neared an underwater rock. None too pleased to have up-anchor, Michelle nevertheless liked our new spot without a breath of wind and lots of space. Happily, this all occurred before dinner (as opposed to later in the evening.

Young grizzly on the beach in Chatham Channel
The next morning, we motored down Havannah Channel and headed out into the strait. At first, we had only 5-10 knots of wind (behind us) and a current against, so we had to motor. By about half way to Port Neville, the wind filled in and the current died down. Soon we had 15-20 knots of wind and even a 2-4 knots current in our favour (at times 26 knots of wind and 5 knots of favourable current). We finally had the great sail we wished for, all the way to Chatham Point. We completed the day anchoring in Chameleon Harbour. (It was also fortunate to be able to sail, as in Matilpi we discovered a tiny leak of antifreeze -- a dribble -- from a damaged hose between the engine and the water heater. Rubber tape temporarily decreased the drip. We will repair when we get to a dock soon.)

Next day, we transited the Yaculta rapids (Dent, Gillard and Yacultas, which were crazy busy and not so pleasant) and headed to Von Donop Inlet (top of Cortes Island), where we are currently anchored.

We are finally back in our "Southern" waters. It is very warm here in Von Donop (~25 degrees C); Water temperatures are up to 21 degrees C; finally, we are swimming off the boat. On the downside, it is very crowded (40+ boats) -- it is what one must expect returning down South.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Alert Bay: Possibly the friendliest town on the BC coast

We didn't plan to spend three nights at the docks at Alert Bay, but there's lots to see and the people are all very, very friendly. It started right off with a very friendly and helpful wharfinger here at the Public Docks (Thanks Steve!). Then, walking the streets, everyone makes a point of saying "Hi", waving etc. We thought Sointula was friendly, but Alert Bay takes a large step further.

The Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation people have been especially welcoming. We've already been to the U'mista Cultural Centre two times on two previous visits (absolutely a "not-to-missed" visit). This time we decided to take in the T'sasala dance performance in the 'Namgis Big House. Normally, visitors do not get to visit the Big House, but they get to do so for the dance performance. The T'sasala group is made up of  Kwakwaka'wakw kids from the very young to teenagers. The performance was both enthralling and educational, and we visitors were made to feel very very welcome. Definitely time well spent and all of us enjoyed it very much. Overall, Alert Bay is probably one of the best places to experience and learn about local First Nation culture and history, and to meet and interact with locals.

T'sasala dance group (Copyright; no commercial use allowed)

T'sasala dance group (Copyright; no commercial use allowed)

We also did a very nice (and not difficult) hike while at Alert Bay: (i) Alert Bay Ecological Gardens (also known as "Gator Gardens), (ii) John Anderson Big Tree Loop, and then (iii) the Gwakawe (North Side) Trail to the Big House. The swamp in the ecological gardens was probably the highlight; the views toward Malcolm Island on the North Side trail were also nice (though not as dramatic as those on the Bere Point trail on Malcolm Island).

The boardwalk in Gator Gardens (Alert Bay Ecological Garden)
 There are many beautiful totem poles around Alert Bay. Some very old and some very new. And always in your face are the antics of the many eagles and huge (and very vocal ravens) around Alert Bay.

All said, Alert Bay is a great place to visit.*

*For boaters: Steve the harbour manager does his best to accommodate visiting boats. IF docks are full, he will arrange rafting, usually to a local's boat who is away and/or not moving. We found the docks to be comfortable and interesting. Note also, there is fairly decent anchoring in the bay between the public docks and the U'mista Centre.  We've found the local grocery store to be not too bad for provisioning (No, not as good as Port Mac). There is a BC Liquor Store and a Vancity Credit Union in the village. There is also a gas station in town (no fuel dock).

Two weeks (so far) in the Broughtons

We've now spent 2 weeks cruising parts of the Broughtons. Anchorages have been uncrowded and weather mostly benign (although never "hot").

Our first night off of Johnston Strait was spent in the inner bay of Pott's Lagoon. We were very concerned upon entering the outer bay to see a very large log dump and logging operation. However, the inner bay was the same as ever, with the usual floathomes. There were only two of us boats anchored. We did get a very friendly visit from four guys from the logging camp, even inviting us to check out their "Hilton" hotel (bunkhouse) and come for breakfast (possibly tongue in cheek). However, although the logging operation was not visible from the inner lagoon, it still could be heard, and given nothing was stopping them, not even Canada Day, we decided to move on the next morning to Crease Island/Goat Island anchorage.

Logging camp/log dump in Pott's Lagoon outer bay (July, 2017)
Crease Island had a few boats anchored, and we had a little trouble with the rocky bottom (there seemed far more kelp the in previous years), but we had a good two days at Crease, including two kayak outings.

Next was our favourite, Sointula (Malcolm Island). One of the best public docks around, Sointula is very laid back and comfortable. It is hard to leave. We got out our folding bikes (not used for a couple of years) and had a good bike ride, and also did a hike on the Mateoja Heritage Trail to Big Lake (which was very small). We did a little food shopping, but selection and cost were issues at the local Co-Op store. After 3 nights in Sointula -- we could have stayed longer-- we decided to head the few miles over to Port McNeil for fuel, groceries and alcohol.

Port McNeil is very convenient for provisioning, and the public docks pretty good (there is also the "North Island Marina" at the fuel dock, which seems more popular with the power boats). However, Port Mac is entirely lacking in any character or beauty (unless you like parking lots...). One night was a lot.

Next day, we headed out across Queen Charlotte Strait to Cullen Harbour for a much-anticipated meeting with our friends David and Gillian on SV Carousel (who had just come down from the Central Coast). Last year we cruised 19+ days with Carousel going arounf the top of Vancouver Island to Kyuquot with them. A calm windless crossing, but happily Cullen Harbour was empty. We spent the next seven nights with Carousel.

SV Pelagia and SV Carousel anchored in Cullen Harbour

We dinghied through the rapids into Booker Lagoon, spying a bear turning over rocks on the shore, and exploring the channels around the islands near Cullen Harbour. Very beautiful -- we might return over the next week. We then went into the Broughtons proper, spending two nights at "East of Eden" Cove on Eden Island (sometimes called "Ladyboot Cove, due to its shape), then a night at Laura Bay. We checked out the Burdwood  Group (beautiful, but not a great anchorage) and then spent another night at Crease Island (this time with no rocky bottom issues). Finally, we decided to visit Alert Bay, where we are now.

Gillian and David (SV Carousel) with bear on beach (Booker Lagoon)
After seven nights cruising together (with dinners together every night), SV Carousel left this morning to head back down Johnston Strait. We are staying on in Alert Bay for a third night.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Up Johnstone Strait

With gales and near-gales blowing down Johnstone Strait almosy daily, we've had to pick our passage carefully. Essentially, leaving early in the morning, then getting off the Strait before the winds pick up in the afternoon. (For example, motoring up Johnstone Strait yesterday, we only had 10-15 knot Westerlies against us, with no seas. However, in the early afternoon, soon after we pulled into Chancellor Channel, then Wellbore, and anchored in Forward Harbour, Johnstone Strait winds picked up to 24 knots, gusting to 29.)

We are currently 3 nm from our exit of Johnstone Strait at Havannah Channel. Winds and seas are low. Looks like another successful Johnstone Strait passage.

Update: we got lucky with the current in Chatham Channel, and made it easily to Potts Lagoon for the night.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Finally, away for our Summer cruise

Just in time for the Summer solstice, we have finally completed our prepping of Pelagia, and have left our dock in Vancouver.

The PLAN is to cruise for 2 months, hopefully/possibly making it North of Cape Caution this year, spending time on the Central Coast of British Columbia.  (Of course, as experience shows, sailing "plans" are all written in the sand at low tide.... πŸ˜‰)

Currently, we are in Pender Harbour. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Weather resources for British Coumbia: post updated

The 2016 post providing information for marine- and land-based weather resources for British Columbia, with an emphasis on getting text-based band-limited forecasts, has been updated (broken/changed links fixed.)


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Three weeks in Germany...

Heidelberg Castle and City

With temperatures warming up and skiing winding down, we have taken off for 3 weeks of biking, hiking, touring and socializing in Germany.

A "bike & boat" trip on the Rhine and Neckar rivers, and hiking with old friends in the Pfalz region then the Mosel. All major wine-producing regions... oh dear!

Monday, 17 April 2017

We're still here... skiing

Michelle at Whistler Peak, Easter Sunday: heading down Whistler Bowl

Blog went silent for months as all we've done is basically ski... well, mostly.

It has been a great season snow-wise here at Whistler. Tons of snow since opening day in November. As photo above shows (from yesterday, Easter Sunday), there is still is lots of snow left (indeed, more than there was in January/February).

For David, it has been a somewhat frustrating ski season: torn calf on Day 2 of season (3.5 weeks recovery), 8 days off for bad cold (both of us), and in February another 2 weeks off for a back and shoulder injury from a "hard" fall. In between injuries, much more "cautious" skiing. Lots of aches and pain... (must be getting old πŸ˜’). So, not quite as "gung ho" of a season as we would have liked.

Not to say we haven't had some great days skiing! 🎿🎿

On top of Spanky's Ladder (March 20, 2017)

Looking up at Ruby Bowl (Spanky's at top)
Still, we are still skiing and had a great day on the slopes in the sun on Easter Sunday.

Whistler Mountain closes April 23rd; Blackcomb Mountain stays open until May 22nd. There will be no shortage of snow.

Meanwhile, we are making plans for sailing this Summer, as well as a biking-boat trip in Germany in May.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Free 2017 Waggoner Cruising Guide (from publisher)

The Waggoner Cruising Guide is a very useful guide for cruising in Washington and British Columbia. 

Amazingly,  the publishers offer a free download.  (Many,  I expect,  would then purchase the paper copy after seeing the guide's usefulness.) 

Thank you to the publishers!