Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Closing the Loop

After clearing back into the US, (with the most cheerful, friendly customs officer I've ever encountered) we anchored just off the dock in Roche Harbor, and enjoyed a calm evening there.  It felt good to be "home," even though we had never visited Roche before! 

We went ashore to explore the Resort, and the whole place felt like an old-fashioned summer camp, like the one in Dirty Dancing, where whole families spend the summer playing croquet, swimming and putting on skits.   The feeling was driven home when we were preparing to row home, and the Colors ceremony began.  They played parade music, then the Canadian national anthem as they slowly lowered their flag, and Taps as they lowered ours.  They congratulated the couple who had been married that day there, announced a few other anniversaries, birthdays, and welcomes to first-time visitors.  It was charming and a little cheesy and a total blast from the past.   

We hauled anchor early the next morning and quietly sailed out of the Harbor, to catch the favorable current down San Juan Channel.  We had a fresh breeze, and made excellent time to our destination, Parks Bay. 

Photo courtesy of David Patterson
We were anxious to rendezvous with our friend David Patterson aboard Cloud Girl.  We met David in Parks Bay last year, and as he spends a large part of each year sailing mostly engineless around the San Juans, we became fast friends.    David also visited Princess Louisa Inlet under sail this year, and it was fun to compare notes.  

We headed out together the next day, David bound for Friday Harbor, Cody and I headed South. We both really enjoyed sailing in close quarters, taking photos of one another's boats.  

Photo courtesy of David Patterson
Rabannah under sail.    

We ended up at Fisherman's Bay, on Lopez Island that night, where we met an absolute slew of young people messing around on boats.  Adam and his partner Laura, along with three kids, are living aboard Tuwasen, the ketch in the foreground.  They were kind enough to lend us their bikes, and we had a great time exploring lovely Lopez Island that way.  

We also met Alan, on board his little Falmouth 22 Sookie.  He had contacted us through the blog, and it was fun to meet up in person! 

We couldn't overlook the crew of Small World, Craig, Krystle, and Emily, as they arrived at the dinghy dock in their bright orange Portland Pudgy dinghy.  We spent an enjoyable evening chatting with them about sailing adventures and misadventures.  Fair Winds, guys!  

We set sail the next morning, and after navigating the narrow, shoal-lined dogleg channel into Fisherman's bay, it was easy and idyllic sailing across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We anchored happily in Port Townsend, and spent the next day catching up with the blog, buying fresh veggies and resting before heading South once again.  We're preparing now for the jam-packed first two weeks of August.  (My ten-year high school reunion, and three weddings!)

We  couldn't complain (much) about the drizzly, overcast weather when we left Port Townsend. The winds were light, but constant, and  when we neared Port Ludlow, our "Plan A" anchorage, it wasn't even noon.  We set our sights on "Plan B,"  Appletree Cove, Kingston.  We made it there by 5, but when the wind freshened and our speed increased to 5 knots, we felt confident that we could make it to Port Madison before dark.  We dropped anchor in that serene harbor at 6:30 and couldn't believe our luck- we had covered 33 miles, nearly completing what we thought might be a 3 day trip, in just one day, in light air conditions!  

We're back in Eagle Harbor now, and are loving the return of the sunshine!   

Hope you all are well and enjoying the fullness of Summer- the weeks seem to be clipping by at an alarming rate.   We're ready to slow down a bit- and looking forward to some time spent in port and visiting friends and family.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Of Gales and Light Airs: To Vancouver and Home again

I'll pick up where I left off, twenty days ago, in Pender Harbor.  We had been planning to leave on the 5th of July, but woke to very strange weather- a yellow, smoky sky, raining ash, and no wind.  There were huge forest fires nearby, obviously.  Environment Canada (The Canadian NOAA) reported low visibility out in the Strait of Georgia,  as well as very light wind.  We hung out another day, hoping for wind and visibility to improve.  

Can you see the ash on the top of the winch?  
This photo is unedited- the light really was that yellow!  

We finally decided to head out, making for Secret Cove.  The wind was on our nose, but we made our way.  I baked bread, which is always an adventure when we're going to windward!  The gimballed oven, (it's on a swinging bracket, so it stays level as Rabannah heels), kept everything in its pan.  

 Secret Cove is about 40 miles from Vancouver, which we thought we could maybe cover in a single day, if the wind came from the North.  The wind wasn't coming from the North, but from the South, so, we set our sights on Plumper Cove, in Howe Sound, 24 miles distant, to the South.  

We started out with ample wind, which gradually faded over the course of the day.  Proper anchorages are few and far between on that stretch of the Strait of Georgia, and we had to find the best of the bad options for the night.  We tucked into the little bight  near the town of Sechelt, or Davis Bay, more specifically.  

The Strait of Georgia was in a tame mood that evening, and the next day as well.  We weren't very protected at anchor there in Davis Bay, but there wasn't any wind to speak of, and the only swells came from the occasional passing tug or container ship.  We went for walks, tossed our frisbee at the nearby park, and listened to every new weather report.  The Canadian-accented voice crackled bad news over the VHF, (Winds 0-5 knots from the Southeast), but we were optimistic as usual.  We tried to leave in the afternoon of the first day, just hoping to cover the 11 miles to Plumper Cove on Keats Island.  We headed out, drifted for a few hours, then turned around.  

The next morning, the wind looked light but constant out on the Strait.  We raised anchor yet again, despite the forecast, and headed out, determined to make it to Plumper Cove.  The wind blew just enough to keep the sails full, and Mr. Vee handled the helm.  We read to one another from The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, (He circumnavigated the world in a modified dugout canoe, completing his voyage in 1905).  Cody baked some mini-quiches for dinner, and while we still hadn't made it to Plumper Cove, we had passed the point of no return.  We couldn't go back to Davis Bay.  So, we decided to just keep sailing, and hoped to arrive in Vancouver in the early morning.  The forecast called for more wind around 4am, when it should be nearly light.  We set a watch schedule, set up a life-jacket with a light and a whistle, and arranged to stay in the cockpit while alone on watch.  

I took the first watch, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset out on the perfectly calm waters, sailing along at about 1 knot.  Her majesty trailed along behind us, happy as a duckling following her mother.

Cody climbed into the V-Berth to try and sleep for a few hours.  He came out to check on me when the wind increased around 11:30, and he felt 'Bannah start to gently heel.  By 12:30, we had dropped the genoa (our larger sail that we use until it's blowing about 15 knots or so), and raised our staysl', the smaller headsail.  We tucked one reef, then another into the mainsail.  The wind kept building, and the seas along with it.  I went below to try and stay warm, and maybe rest a bit.  I wedged myself into the vberth and listened to a podcast to try and drown out the sound of the wind howling in the rigging.  

The wind kept on building, and so did the seas.   At some point in the night, when we were sailing under our double-reefed main alone, which is the smallest amount of sail we can fly, we heard an announcement over the radio, of a revised forecast for the Strait of Georgia, south of Nanaimo.  "Strong Wind warning in effect.  Winds increasing to 25 knots."  Well, we had discovered that for ourselves!  Luckily, we were the only boat out on the Strait, so there was no concern about collision.  I had retreated back to the V-berth, cowering from the conditions, which was not the best idea- I emerged, rather urgently, having found the bucket just in time. 

It was the roughest, longest, worst sailing of our lives.  We abandoned the idea of continuing on to Vancouver, and made for the closest anchorage we could find, which was Plumper Cove.  When we altered course, Her Majesty was no longer protected from the wind and waves, like she is when we're going to windward.  I looked back just in time to see her narrowly avoid being flipped by a large wave. I took over the helm while Cody pulled her in closer behind us, and played her painter to help keep her upright.  

Once we entered Howe Sound, we found some much needed and relished relief from the large seas.  The wind however, wasn't through with us.  Some williwaws came screaming down the side of Bowen Island, and nearly knocked us flat, despite the fact we were still only flying our double reefed main.  Finally, finally, the wind abated, and Rabannah stopped heeling, and we timidly raised more sail.  A call came through on the radio, the Coast Guard reporting a call from a "Concerned Citizen" about a 30 foot pleasure craft that may be in distress, just east of Bowen Island.  We looked around, wondering what other poor souls were out in these conditions, but we were the only vessel.  In our sleep-deprived haze, we didn't realize that they must have been talking about us!  

We dropped anchor at 8am, 23 hours after we set sail from Davis Bay.  Our GPS track says we covered 41 miles, but measured in straight lines, we went 19 miles. We were exhausted and starving and feeling defeated.  We slept through the morning, and stayed in Plumper Cove for two nights, recovering from our epic.  

Rabannah had handled the heavy conditions excellently, and we sustained no damage whatsoever.  We were a bit shaken by the whole affair, and vowed to bring Madge on board, lashed securely to the foredeck anytime we're heading out onto a larger body of water, like the Strait of Georgia or the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We also were convinced that a motor with a longer range would be a valuable addition, especially as we continue to sail in these inland waters.  The engine wouldn't have gotten us out of the rough conditions, but it would have gotten us safe to an anchorage before things got rough. 

We never felt as though our lives were in danger, we were just uncomfortable.
 (Don't worry, Mom & Dad!)

Finally feeling up to setting sail once again, and bouyed by a good weather report, we raised anchor and headed, yet again, south toward Vancouver.  This time, the sailing was great, and we made it! We tacked through hundreds of boats out sailing on English Bay, (it was Sunday, and many races were going on), and sailed all the way up to the Burrard Bridge, which crosses False Creek, and marks the beginning of the "No Sailing" zone.  False Creek is somewhat narrow, and full of vessel traffic.  Small foot ferries zip around paddleboarders, mega-yachts glide majestically through, and sailboats put along.  We dropped sail and fired up our little electric outboard motor.  We had been on energy conservation mode for a while, and the battery said it was fully charged, its little green light shining.
We had just passed beneath the Burrard Bridge, and were heading for the Granville Bridge, only .4 of a mile from where we hoped to anchor.  The battery was now showing a yellow light, which means it's half full.  We were fighting a headwind, and making about half a knot through the water.  I checked the battery again- Uh-oh.  Red.  

We prayed and crossed our fingers, and eventually made it to a snug little spot, though the battery was angrily blinking red, and wasn't fully charged until a few sunny days later.  

False Creek was an absolute pleasure to visit as a boater, and one of the highlights of our voyages so far.  What a contrast from Princess Louisa!  

We visited Granville Island, which has a fun European-style market full of good food, lots of little shops and buskers.  (My favorite was the trio of teenage boys tap-dancing!  We watched Singin' in the Rain the night before, and it was neat to see young people dancing in the same style as Gene Kelly.  Kind of- they tapped to Uptown Funk, but the steps were similar.)  

We loved walking through beautiful Stanley Park.

"Girl in Wetsuit" at Stanley Park 

False Creek is surrounded by parks, and they were just full of people out walking dogs, jogging, biking, playing volleyball, throwing Frisbees.  Were we Canadian, and could find work in BC, we would move to Vancouver.  We met some other engineless sailors around our age, and loved hearing about their adventures and visiting their boats.  After taking our licking in the Strait of Georgia, we had doubts about continuing to pursue sailing.  It really boosted our spirits to feel like we're not just these singular, completely insane people- there are other people just as crazy as us!  

We wished we could have stayed longer in False Creek, but we have plans for August, and had many miles to cover to get back to Seattle.  We lucked out, and left on a day with good, constant Northeasterly wind.  We covered 49 miles, and dropped anchor on the southern tip of Saturna Island, in view of Orcas Island.  

We spent a beautiful evening in Echo Cove.  

Two days later, after remembering the challenges of sailing in the strong currents and fickle winds of the San Juan Islands, we cleared customs in Roche Harbor.  

It felt wonderful to be back in US Waters, to be able to use our phones, and have familiar waters ahead.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

C-A N-A D-A!

We left Ganges Harbor on Salt Spring Island and made for Montague Harbor, which is only a few miles away, tucked into Galliano Island.  It's a large, extremely well protected harbor with a park making up one side.  It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle!  
The iconic Hummingbird Pub on Galliano has a bus which stops at the Marina and the park.  The pub was nice, but not as fun as the bus ride was!  "Tommy Transit," the driver, takes immense pleasure in his work, and hands out classroom instruments to passengers as they board.  He's lined the bus with drums, and plays along with the blasting music while he drives, telling with local stories between songs.   

Rowing home after visiting the Hummingbird Pub. 

We have been extremely lucky with weather.  It's been hot and sunny nearly every day! 

Cody did some diving for crab in Montague and came up with three giant rock crab.  Delicious!  

From Montague, we headed to Wallace Island, which is a small, skinny island in Trincomali Channel.  It's almost entirely a park, and a really lovely one, reminiscent of Sucia Island in the San Juans.  Once upon a time there, a young couple bought the island, with dreams of turning it into a resort.  They built a cabin for themselves, and a few guest cabins.  Unfortunately, they went bankrupt in the end, but their cabin still stands, as well as a picnic structure.  Visiting boaters have made it a tradition to decorate a piece of driftwood with your boat name and attach it to the picnic structure.  There were hundreds of these signs when we visited, and we enjoyed making our own to add to the walls.

From Wallace Island, we made our way slowly to Nanaimo, stopping along the way in Telegraph Harbor and Kendrick Harbor, transiting Gabriola Pass under sail.  

We had a bit of rough sailing between Gabriola Passage and Nanaimo, through the Strait of Georgia.  We earned every inch of the seventeen miles we covered that day, beating into large, lumpy seas and 25 knot headwinds. But we were pleased at how Rabannah handled the heavy conditions, even if I wasn't too happy about them.  

Nanaimo was a nice town to visit.  The historic downtown is charming and walkable.  We particularly enjoyed Newcastle Island Park, which is just across the harbor from the city.  We also ran into our friends Dennis and Ingrid, aboard Tapawingo.  They were heading home for a solstice party, and generously filled our fridge with perishables that wouldn't last until they returned.  

A gaff-rigged schooner under sail in Nanaimo Harbor.  

From Nanaimo, we crossed the Strait of Georgia, which was in entirely a different mood.  Dennis had said to us, the night before we left, "Oh, you'll be fine.  I've never motored across the Strait of Georgia,"  meaning that there's usually ample wind.  On this day, we left the harbor with a fresh breeze, and once we were onto the Strait proper, the wind lightened, and then died.  We dawdled and drifted and lazed around in the sun.  Cody dragged his fishing line, and actually caught a fish!    

This little six-inch Sockeye brightened our day.  A tough little guy, he bit the lure which was only an inch or so smaller than he is.  Remarkably, he survived the experience.  

We anchored that night in Water Bay, in the dark, accompanied by dozens of glowing squid do to the phosphorescence.  There was a nice little park there, which we explored the next morning.  We found a few handfuls of native blackberries there, which made up for the disturbing number of garter snakes in the grass. 

While we were underway that day, dragging our fishing line again, heartened by our success from the day before,  I looked back and saw the lure and "diver" contraption leap out of the water.  Cody reeled it in, entirely certain that the diver was acting up again, and we were shocked and delighted to find this glorious Chinook Salmon on the hook.  

Baked Salmon with lemon vinaigrette for lunch while underway, and a perfect grilled fillet for dinner that night.  

We spent a lovely four days on Lasqueti (pronounced La-skee-tee).  The island grew on us over time.  We enjoyed the first farmer's market of the season, a women's choir performance, a high-octane game of pick up ultimate frisbee, and a restoring visit to a tree house style homemade sauna afterward.  

The view from Mt. Gibraltar.

From Lasqueti we visited Jedediah Island, another Marine Park.  We stayed in tiny Sunset Cove, hiked to Mt. Gibraltar, the highest point of the island, and watched the wild sheep graze.  

I was reluctant, as usual, to jump in from the bowsprit.  But the water wasn't as cold as it usually is!  

Pender Harbor, the "Venice of the Sunshine Coast" was our next stop, to fill up on ice and groceries. We enjoyed hiking to the summit of Mt. Daniels, and the milkshakes from LaVerne's diner.  

We decided that we couldn't miss sailing up Jervis Inlet toward the famous Princess Louisa Inlet.  PLI is guarded by a narrow, dog-leg opening at the mouth, where the flood or ebb current can run at up to 9 knots, and can put your boat on the rocks if you're not careful.  We planned to transit the narrows at slack tide; when the tide is switching from high to low, or from low to high, and the current is negligible.  

Looking up at Malbourough heights while at anchor in Vancouver Bay.

It took us two days to sail from Pender Harbor to Princess Louisa.  We stayed a night in Vancouver Bay, which has a small shallow shelf in the northern corner.  The rest of the bay, just like the inlet, is too deep for anchoring.  The dramatic peaks lining shores of the inlet don't stop at sea level, but continue down to amazing depths, as deep as 1800 feet. 

"Check the depth sounder, will ya?"

Funnily enough, while most of the water is too deep to anchor in, the shelf where we spent the night was just deep enough, and we ran aground for a second while setting sail the next morning.  

Afloat once again, we had some really excellent sailing through the "reaches" toward Princess Louisa.  The wind was at our backs, the sun was shining, and the Mountains just kept coming.  

Luck was on our side, and we managed to arrive at the entrance to the inlet about 5 minutes before the charted slack.  We sailed through, trying to keep calm, while a motor boat full of Young Life campers cheered us on.  (Malibu Camp, a Young Life operation, is located right at the entrance to Princess Louisa.  What a beautiful spot!)

Once at anchor, with a view of Chatterbox Falls, we celebrated Cody's 29th birthday!  With delicious bread pudding cooked underway.  Not a bad place to celebrate!  

We went on a good long hike the next day, up to Sun Lake in the high alpine above the inlet.  We passed many waterfalls, picked wild berries, and swam in the surprisingly warm glacial lake.

Wild Raspberries

Sun Lake

Turquoise alpine waters

Wild blueberries

The Inlet was a truly magical place to visit.  We spent four happy days there, swimming in the salt water, which is as warm as a swimming pool, and rinsing in the fresh water from the falls, which is slightly cooler, but feels great on a hot day.  

We knew, especially as we were sailing in, that there would be a good deal of longer, harder sailing to get out of Jervis Inlet.   We weren't wrong.   The first challenge, of course, was exiting the rapids.  We left early one morning, to allow ourselves ample time to reach the mouth.  Of course, there was more than enough wind, and we arrived there early.  So we sailed around in circles for a while, waiting for the current to abate.  

A screen-shot from our GPS tracking our course while we waited for the rapids to go slack.  

It finally did, and we were off to the races once again.  

 It was good, fast sailing.   

Mr. Vee, our wind vane (self-steering) handled most of the steering.  He loves going to windward in lots of wind.  

After a short, calm night spent in tiny McMurray Bay, where there's just enough room on a shelf to anchor, we headed out in the early morning.  It was still calm, and we knew that once the sun rose, the inflow winds would kick up again, which would make it tricky to exit the bay.   We sailed 20 miles that day, and our early start meant that we dropped anchor in Green Bay (Home of the Packers) off of Agamemnon Channel around 2pm.  

Cody went for a swim (with his wetsuit), and caught me a sea cucumber.  I'd never seen one up close before.  What a little alien!  I went for a sunny row to check out a little waterfall, and then we both napped.  

We made it back to Pender Harbor yesterday afternoon.  

We're thinking of heading to Vancouver next, where you can anchor right in the city!

We hope everyone has a fabulous fourth!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Back On Board

Since we last wrote, we've sailed from Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island to Ganges Harbor on Salt Spring Island.  When your average speed is 2 knots, that's pretty far!  We made a few interesting stops along the way, in some of our old favorite places.  After a brief stay in Port Townsend, we headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We've heard it can get a bit rough out there, but have yet to see it that way.  On the day we left, the forecast was for 15-20 knots of westerly breeze, which would have been wonderful, exciting, fast sailing.  However, once again, there was very little wind, and we relied mostly on the strong tidal currents to carry us where we wanted to go. 

This is mostly what our crossing looked like.  I had prepared for a chilly, windy day, but spent it reading, checking out other boats, and sunning myself.  

Our new wind-steering vane, Mr. Vee, did some of the steering, but struggles when the wind dies, just like we do. 

The horizon, looking towards the Pacific...  

We managed to catch the flood tide through Cattle Pass, (a narrow pass between the southern ends of Lopez and San Juan Islands) which is one way to enter the San Juan Island archipelago.  Finally, we had a bit of wind, and finished our long day with a really lovely bit of sailing all the way to Indian Cove, on Shaw, our favorite San Juan Island.  

We spent a relatively calm night at Indian Cove, but the next morning, we had a bit more wind than we liked blowing into the anchorage, so we raised sail and headed to a more protected spot, Blind Bay, on the north side of the island.  

We spent two relaxing days in Blind Bay, going on long walks around the island, picking a few berries, nettles for tea, and doing a bit of work on the boat.    

We like nettle tea mixed with lemonade, but hold the aphids, please.  

Doing a bit of splicing.  We also scrubbed and re-oiled the handrails, and of course, a bit of varnishing.  

We saw this raccoon carcass hanging in a tree on one walk, and wondered what could have happened to him?  Did Shaw Islanders just hate raccoons? 

We got our answer on the walk back, when we spotted this bald eagle, as well as a few juvenile eagles, hanging out in the same tree. 

Last year, we managed to snag a bit of the local cheese made by the Nuns who live at the Our Lady of the Rock Monastery on Shaw, but we didn't get a chance to visit.  We made it a priority this year, and called up Mother Hildegard to arrange a visit.  

What a beautiful place! The nuns own 300 acres of Shaw, on which they raise Jersey Cows for milk, cotswold sheep for wool, chickens, even alpaca and a muskox!   Mother Hildegard was wonderful- a real nun in a habit, bustling and busy and very personable.  She showed us around the cheese making room, and the guest house/store. We bought some of the famous cheese and a bag of herbal tea, which was grown in their gardens.   

The serenely beautiful chapel at Our Lady of the Rock. 

Some of the pastures managed by the nuns.  

We could have stayed longer.  
Maybe forever, but we were itching to get to Canada, to new islands, and where Cody has a fishing liscense.   We also needed to replenish our fresh food stores, bathe and do some laundry, so we headed to Friday Harbor.  

 Looking aft, going about one knot. 

We made a new friend in Friday Harbor.  Jeff, an Aussie, who has sailed all over the world in his boat, Indian Summer.  We had a nice visit with him and a tour of his boat. 


I also finally beat Cody at chess.  

Our town needs complete, we weighed anchor and headed out, glad to leave the hustle and bustle behind.  As we were tacking out, we were passed by the Victoria Clipper, several fishing boats, and three float planes, (two landing, one taking off).  It was with relief that we dropped anchor in Reid Harbor on Stuart island.   The long bay is extremely well protected, and the water there was some of the calmest we've seen while afloat.  

Sweet little Madge floating in the sky...  

Stuart Island is small and remote, but populated by a stalwart 30 or so year-round residents.  We hiked out to the Turn Point Lighthouse, and passed by the remarkable one-room school, complete with a tiny "teacherage" museum, which is inside the little one-room house that the school-teacher used to occupy.  

We spent a day in Reid, enjoying morning jogs on the beautiful trail system at the park, and going for a long row out to the two tiny islands that guard the entrance to the harbor.  Gossip is the larger of the two, pictured above.  We landed on the little shell beach, which made the water turquoise and tropical looking.  

Not much to see, but lovely wild roses in bloom.  

We headed over to Cemetery Island next, and happened upon a pair of Black Oystercatchers.  I had never seen these birds before, and it was fun to try and get a closer look.

Don't they look exotic?!

We departed Reid Harbor, bound for Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island, of British Columbia.  We had a great romp of a sail, and tied up at the Customs dock with no trouble.  We cleared easily, and headed out again to anchor by the marine park nearby.  There was a wedding going on, and live music playing all afternoon.  We celebrated our first sail in foreign waters with dinner ashore.  

The next day, on a hike up to Mt. Nelson, we ran into a guy we had crossed paths with on Stuart.  Turns out, he's teaching boatbuilding classes to kids at the Lake Union Center for Wooden Boats this summer.  We chatted for a while, and invited him to come by and see Rabannah later.  He did, and then we visited his parents boat, anchored nearby.  We made plans to meet up here in Ganges, but we were beset by light winds and opposing currents.  Hopefully we'll meet up again with the Hansens somewhere down the line.

Salt Spring is wonderful so far- the highlight being the campground showers we found yesterday.  

They weren't as cold as they looked!  

Until next time....