Tuesday, October 06, 2015

British Columbia by boat Day 10: Vancouver

I woke up multiple times in the night, because the wind was blowing so hard that the Stray Cat, though tied to a marina, was listing and yawing as though it wanted to blow away. I wasn't alone, it turned out: I found out later that Arturo had to get up in the middle of the night to pull the flag pole out of the stern of the boat because it was making a noise like a wind turbine and was about to fly off.

With the lack of sleep and the on-going howling wind, I checked the forecast at 4:45am, and sure enough it had changed: gone was the window for moving the boat. The forecast indicated that the wind might die down in the afternoon and become manageable some time late the next day. Our plans for Princess Louisa Inlet was shredded by the wind. Furthermore, the adventure had turned from fun to annoying: I couldn't ask my wife, 3 year old, and her relatives to put up with 6 hours of moving the boat into the Jervis Inlet, and even once there, one look at the position of Saltery Bay on the map indicated that it would provide no protection from this wind. I didn't know the area well, and a call to Cooper Boating indicated that nobody knew what the conditions were like in Egmont.

I called Cooper Boating and asked them if I could return the boat right then, or if they could provide a delivery skipper who would help us move the boat while I flew the rest of my family to Vancouver so they could wait out the storm. At this point I had no confidence in the Canadian forecasting service that fine weather would even return by Thursday. I'd shaken enough trees by the time I was done that Danielle called back and said she'd arrange for a delivery captain to pick up the boat where we were, and we could all fly to Vancouver (on our dime, of course). I checked with both Arturo and Larry, and they were also in concurrence with this plan, as opposed to trying to stick out the rest of the charter.

I was pretty sure I could still deliver the boat safely to Vancouver (having delivered in much worse conditions in Greece), but it wouldn't be fun, and we would be basically spending 3 days motoring against the wind, beating ourselves up for no reason whatsoever. We hurriedly made flight and hotel arrangements in Vancouver, and then packed up and said goodbye to Stray Cat. I was very depressed, feeling as though I'd abandoned a trip (the last time I did so was during the 2005 Tour of the Alps). But it would have been unconscionable to subject the rest of the non-sailors to this.

Arturo found a way to do the Princess Louisa Inlet, but in my sleep-deprived befuddled state I gave him wrong dates. Fortunately, a hurried phone call in Vancouver indicated that the company was willing to accommodate us on  a different day, so we would still manage to see Chatterbox falls after all.

It took all of 35 minutes to fly to Vancouver's South Terminal, and another 40 minutes to make it to L'Hermitage in Vancouver, a thoroughly well-appointed hotel. That night, I slept for 11 hours, which indicated that the decision to abandon the trip was the right one: while I had believed at that time that I could deliver the boat, in sleep-deprived states you frequently think you can do things that you actually cannot, and my repeated mistakes that day could easily have been a harbinger of a much bigger disaster if I'd insisted on driving the boat further.

Monday, October 05, 2015

British Columbia by boat Day 9: Beach Garden Marina

The predicted calm window showed up and we promptly left, alongside several other motor-boats. We got out of the harbor and deployed the main sail, only to promptly find it flapping in the wind! The main needed to be threaded through a jig in order to retain its tension and be self-furling. After 15 minutes, Arturo and Larry figured out whats what, and began the heroic job of threading the mainsail through the jig and then raising the main. Unfurling the jib then gave us sail power.

It was great to be sailing, but there was one ominous sign that I should have paid far more attention to than I did. Nobody else was sailing. Everyone was heading south at speed, and everyone had their engines on. At the time, I had every reason to believe that the next day would grant us another similar window. But nevertheless, I should probably have abandoned sailing and motor'd south at maximum speed.

As it was, it was thrilling to sail at full power in a 20 knot wind, despite not making much headway since we had to keep tacking. After a couple of hours, we were back near Savary island, but the wind had picked up, forcing us to put in a reef. Xiaoqin's aunt started looking green as the water got choppy. We had expected the tide to work with us, pushing us south at a good speed, but what had happened instead was that the south wind was fighting the receding tide, creating choppy water which didn't help us make any kind of progress.
Recognizing defeat, we furled the sails, started up the engines, and after a half hour of motoring into the wind made our way to Beach Garden marina, lured by the guidebook's promise of a swimming pool, untimed showers that didn't require coins, and safe harbor. We refueled at the marina before putting in on a slip, and then checked in.

The hotel looked pretty run-down and ramshackle, and there weren't very many people about. We made it just before brunch buffett was shut down at the restaurant, and had a filling breakfast. Then we talked to the hotel manager who said that the hotel was $3 for unlimited swimming and showers, but we had to be escorted by an employee who would unlock the pool/shower building for us. To minimize hassle, we went for a walk first, which yielded wild blackberries that were delicious. The walk took us to the local supermarket where we stocked up a bit on supplies before making our way back to the boat and hotel for the swimming pool.

The swimming pool was a tiny 14 foot affair, but was still big enough to do laps on. I did so, and then with Arturo's help, moved Bowen back into the boat as he was quite unhappy about everyone else being able to swim but him.

Arturo and I planned the rest of the trip: we'd use the window to move us into Egmont, which looked reasonably sheltered, spend a day moving up the inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet, and then the next day back. It looked like it would then be a long tough day returning the boat via motor, but the weather was forecasted to be calm by then, so we anticipated no problems. We looked into a day tour that would eliminate all that motoring, but they were all booked up for the days when we would be there, and we had the time, so why not.

We went to bed with full stomachs and strong confidence that we could do this, fully supported by the forecast from the Canadian weather service.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

British Columbia by Boat Trip Index

We recently toured British Columbia by boat, but a storm came in the middle of the trip and aborted the sailboat part of the trip. This is the collected trip index for the entire trip.

I have abandoned Google Photos for OneDrive photos for public photos. Not only doees OneDrive provide more free storage (200GB+ for me), it's storage management capabilities aren't opaque, and there's no chance of my using up so much quota that I end up being unable to receive mission-critical e-mails.

Friday, October 02, 2015

British Columbia by boat Day 8: Lund

We woke up to howling wind and impending rain, as judged by the clouds on the horizon. I looked at the weather and then told everyone else to go back to sleep: I had no intention of moving the boat in weather like this. I was further vindicated as I amusedly observed a monohull leave the port, and then 10 minutes later immediately limp back to its space in the slip: while being tied to the breakwater must have been very uncomfortable, it was probably even worse out in the channel.

We observed kayakers coming into the harbor. Our first impression was: "Wow, those Canadians are tough." When we went down to the dock to see them, however, it was very clear: these were folks on a multi-day kayak tour escaping from a storm, not people who had voluntarily gone out in this weather that very morning. "We were going to be out for another day, but took a look at the weather forecast and paddled the heck out of the islands to get back a day early," said one very cold and soggy kayaker to me.

Thus it was that I declared the day laundry day. We hiked near the area, helped Bowen buy art supplies, did laundry, bought supplies from the delightful bakery in town, and had a very boring day. That night (Saturday night) was to be the worst of it, and in my experience there's usually a window the next day which might let us move the boat and do some sailing.

We decided to abandon going North back to desolation sound and head south towards the Louisa Inlet instead, if the opportunity arose. We plotted out several possible stops the next day, but I said I'd be OK if all we did was to make it South to Westview.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

British Columbia by boat Day 7: Lund

We had a debate in the morning about whether to move the boat. While the night had been windy, it wasn't rough, indicating that Tenedos Bay was an excellent location. On the other hand, if we wanted to move the boat, all indications was that tomorrow would be a horrible day to do it, while the morning looked like it was going to clear. The problem with Tenedos bay was that we'd exhausted everything you could do there, while at Laura Cove or Melanie Cove, it looked like we could hike and swim.
After breakfast, however, the blue skies came and we decided to move the boat so that we'd be in Laura Cove at low tide. Piloting the boat out into Desolation sound, we congratulated ourselves on making the right call as it looked gorgeous! The scenery was moving, but as we moved into Prideux harbor, our optimism about spots opening up diminished. Piloting into Laura Cove, I was dismayed to find that despite all assurances that the place had quieted down, there was not a single place where I'd be satisfied to anchor at, given the big blow that I knew was coming: I did not want to settle for anything less than a secure anchorage.

We settled for Prideux harbor, right inside the entrance. There was little wind protection, but enough swinging room that I could drop anchor with 200' of rode! When it comes to anchoring, more rode is better, especially in tidal waters, and I felt good about this decision.

After lunch, we took the dinghy out and used it to explore Melanie Cove (also very crowded), and planned to swim in the lagoon between the coves. At low tide, we could see all the Oysters bedded along the tidal flow, and tried to think of ways of plucking the oysters. I got into my swimming trunks and waded in the water, which was cooler than the Unwin lake. After it got deep enough, I plunged in and swam onto the opposite shore, where the water was warmer (maybe 76F) but no less shallow. It wasn't a very pleasing swim. I had just started swimming back when I heard Bowen crying.

"We're going to have to drive into the harbor and get a doctor," said Arturo. "What? How about calling on the VHF to see if there's already a doctor within the area?" I said. "Great idea!"
We went back to the Stray Cat, and after I looked at the wound it was obvious that it needed stitches. I got onto the VHF and radio'd my question, and immediately the Canadian Coast Guard responded! After some discussion, they called me on my cell phone, and we had a conference call with the emergency services, where they ascertained our location, and got a team out to the Westview harbor where the Coast Guard would ferry the paramedics out to us. The plan was to get Bowen and Xiaoqin out to the Powell River hospital while we would then follow in the Stray Cat.

It was a tense hour waiting for the coast guard boat, but they arrived in good time, identified us, and tied up along us with professionalism and speed born of practice. They didn't even examine Bowen's wound, and just shuffled him and Xiaoqin aboard the high speed rescue vessel. We asked their advice on how to follow and they suggested Lund. While Bliss Landing might have slip space for us, they emphasized that it was a dirt road connection to Powell River, which would not be comfortable or cheap from Powell River.
With tension and impatience, we weighed anchor and drove out of our precious parking space. Arturo noted that the anchor came up with pounds of mud, indicating that we had dug in well and good and would have been very secure. For the first time but not the last, I kicked myself for not getting a fast motorboat instead of a sailing catamaran, which was turning out to be a ridiculously unsuitable charter for the area.

The trip to Lund was easy, and the water was surprisingly flat given the weather. Upon arrival at Lund, we discovered the public dock was full, leaving only the breakwater floating slips available to us late arrivals. Not only would it be uncomfortable, it would require ferrying Xiaoqin and Bowen in the dinghy. We opted for the hotel dock, and it turned out they had room for us. It was a tight docking maneuver, but the couple in the home-made boat a couple of spaces ahead of us moved a dinghy to fit us in better. They even turned out to be from Bowen Island!

By the time we were docked and paid up, Xiaoqin had called and said that Bowen's stitches were all done! She had to buy some medical supplies but would soon be on a taxi over to Lund. That was a relief, and gave us permission to take pictures at the "End of Highway 101" marker, and have a scrumptious dinner over looking the beautiful sunset at Lund. We even sprang for the fried snickers bar dessert, which was every bit as decadent as you might imagine.
After dinner, Xiaoqin showed up with Bowen and a bunch of bandages and medical supplies, and the crew of the Stray Cat was united once more, if a little bit exhausted and tense by the emergency. We had started the morning making decisions based on the possibility of being bored while at Tenedos Bay, but at that moment we all wished we'd had a bit more boredom and a little less excitement!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

British Columbia by boat Day 6: Tenedos Bay

We got up at 6:00am and drove away from West View, projecting an arrival at Prideux Haven at 11:00am. The drive out was pretty, but knowing what I knew now, I'd drive through Thulin passage instead of bothering to go out beyond Savory island. Not only is the return between Hernando and Savary gave us some shallow areas with tricky navigation that added unwelcome tension to the vacation.
It turned out that the guidebooks on the boat which had mentioned the mandatory speed limits in the Thulin passage neglected to mention that the speed limit was all of 8 knots, which was what the Stray Cat could do at maximum speed. In other words, as far as we were concerned, there werre no speed limits anywhere in the area.

Turning Sarah Point into Desolation Sound, however, all was forgotten as the natural beauty of the area just stunned us. Tall mountains that come all the way down to the sea greeted us, as did a bevy of sailboats, kayakers, and motor cruisers. We originally thought about going to Prideux Haven, but a quick look at Tenedos Bay indicated that not only was it closer, it was also very sheltered and had access to a warm fresh water lake for swimming.

Arriving at low tide, we looked at anchoring, but quickly decided that the harbor was too crowded for just one anchor, and so did what everyone else did by dropping anchor at around 25m and then backing the boat towards shore for a stern line. Larry unfortunately injured his leg climbing onto the rocks to tie the stern line, but he said it was OK. We backed with the boat 10' from the shore. Unadvisable with ground tackle that I didn't know well, but on the other hand, I hauled hard on the stern line without being able to shift the anchor. I'd had plenty of experience anchoring just off a shore, and felt confident that it would hold.

The reason you need to stern tie in these deep harbors is that the ground under the water is curved steeply away from the shore. If the wind were to shift the boat around while you were anchor'd thus, the anchor would simply hold no traction and lift off the ground, dragging or coming loose in deep water. In strong tidal waters, you had to have enough rode for high tide while not having so much rode on low tide that you'd swing onto shore, but on a high tide you'd actually get more space from shore, so it's OK to have what looks like a dangerously long rode when anchoring.

After lunch (which doubled as a way to observe the boat's behavior over a period of rising tide), I satisfied myself that the Stray Cat was in no danger, and we dingy'd over to the trailhead to Unwin lake. We discovered once again that our boat briefing was inadequate when we couldn't figure out how to raise the motor, but fortunately a group of people were leaving as we were arriving and showed Arturo how to push that button. We tied the boat down firmly as we were in tidal waters and I fully expected to come back to find that the rock we'd tied the dinghy to would be under water.

We hiked to Unwin lake, with everyone except Xiaoqin, Bowen, and I spotting a bear while we were there, indicating that we were in bear country.
Unwin lake turned out to have 72F water: warm enough to swim in, but not so warm that I could last for more than about 15-20 minutes in the water. Bowen, however, complained that it was too cold despite the wet suit, but everyone else got a chance in the water. We returned to the dinghy to find that indeed, we had tied it to a stone that was underwater, but since our tie-down had held, we were in good shape for going back to the Stray Cat, where we had dinner and settled in for what would be a windy night.

We'd checked the hand compass to ensure that we were going to be aligned with the prevailing wind that night, so I slept well, but at 1:00am was awoken by lights pointing into my eyes from other boats in the area. I wondered if things were going wrong, and so got up with the flash light to check the boat, but didn't find anything disturbing. I went back to sleep, and only discovered in the morning that one of the other skippers had panicked, dropped his stern lined, and moved out into the middle of the harbor to re-anchor. One benefit of being so close to shore was that the land really did act as a wind break for the Stray Cat, so we might have had a much easier night than those who had a longer anchor line.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

British Columbia by Boat Day 5: Westview

True to our word, we got up at 6:00am, had a quick breakfast and coffee, and then left the dock, leaving Bowen island. It took us the better part of 60 minutes to actually leave the tip of Bowen island, illustrating again to us how giant Bowen island was.

The morning was beautiful, but there was next to no wind. Whenever we saw a boat with sails up, it would inevitably turn out that they would be motoring with the sails up for show. We passed several candidates for stopping for the night as we got to them too early: Smugglers Cove, Pender Harbor, We discovered that the starboard head wasn't working. The same owner who thought eliminating a V-berth was a good idea no doubt thought that an electric head would be just the thing to impress the folks. Unfortunately, those things are much less reliable than manual heads, and us charter people are the people to find out about that.

A call back to Aubrey gave us a bunch of trouble-shooting tips that weren't actually helpful, but since we were near the Powell River base, I thought we'd find out if their local mechanic could help us. The prospect of a working head therefore, drew us into Westview harbor under the direction of the harbormaster for both fuel and a slip for the night.

As we pulled into the harbor, we were told to back off and wait a bit while a giant motorboat "The Majestik" was leaving the fuel dock and making her way to her slip. I held off and saw this huge boat coming off the dock, with the skipper chattering with the harbor master asking questions. The harbor master seemed a little flustered but he managed to maneuver around the large piling in the middle of the harbor despite her misdirections.

We soon pulled into the fuel dock and filled up with both water and fuel. We then hosed down the head so it wouldn't stink from all our attempts to fix the head, and then headed over to the slip. I parked the boat gingerly while an audience of fellow yachtsmen watched to see if I was an incompetent who would destroy both my boat and theirs. The skipper of the Majestik impressed me by coming over and saying, "Want some help?" I said I'd never turn it down, and he quickly said, "Well, sometimes the help makes things worse."
After parking the boat to my satisfaction, everyone got off the boat while I waited for Larry, Cooper's Powell River manager to come by and see if he could fix our problem. My heart sank when I saw that the only tool he carried was a plunger! No amount of plunging helped, and I soon realized I was going to be stuck with one head for the rest of the trip. I did discover another idiotic thing the electric head did, however, which was to flush the toilet with fresh water, rather than salt water. Whatever it was that went on in the head of the owner of the Stray Cat, it wasn't one that concerned itself with long term cruising.

Since we didn't have an oven, we decided to figure out if the BBQ could bake frozen pizza. It turned out that it did, and did a fairly good (if slow) job at it. We made more friends with the owner of the Majestik, and he showed us aboard his luxury motor-yacht. With twin engines producing horsepower into the 4 figures, he could cruise at 20 knots and had a maximum speed of 30 knots. Throughout the rest of the trip, I would kick myself for not realizing that the Pacific Northwest wasn't a sailing destination, but was really a motorboat destination: one best served by motor-yachts such as Michael's.