Saturday, September 6, 2008

From Vancouver to Port McNeill

I just did a week long passage with Ric, a friend from Bellingham, where he made it to Vancouver and I met him there, then we sailed up Vancouver Island (about 200 miles of it) and we ended up in Port McNeill.
I wrote some things on the way, I guess some of it starts before picking up Ric.

I took two days to get back to Vancouver after Qualicum Beach, and I stopped on the way at the Ballinas islands, in the middle of the Strait of Georgia. I noticed that one of the islands is for sale for 1.6 million dollars, so I might be in the market for some real estate. They are beautiful, of course, similar to Smith island in the remoteness, except that these are not a wildlife preserve, so people come out here to visit. There were mooring ties, so I tied up to one of those for the night, but the wind was howling through there, so there were some waves that kept me rocking a bit through the night. I got to do some exploring, and the island has a few little hills that I climbed, but I think I want to go back and explore some more.

I cooked on the beach that night, and it was a pleasant evening without worrying about the boat drifting around. The next morning I got up early and took off around the island to have a look around. I got around to the leeward side and then dropped an anchor and went for a little walk. The sky was amazingly clear, it had cleared up over the night, and the sun hadn’t started pulling water into the sky and making clouds or fog or anything, so it was like a cold winter day looking north from Sehome hill.
So I finally got under way at around 10, and rolled out the jib (did I talk about the roller jib that I made for the boat? I am very proud of myself for making it, just 2 weeks ago, for about 50 bucks. Now is the trial period for it, but its working out well) and headed out to Vancouver. I was worried about the amount of wind, because it was supposed to be small craft advisory, but I eventually rolled up the jib and popped the spinnaker to get more speed and made really good time to Vancouver.

Vancouver is an amazing city, but I never knew it before. There are mountains with ski areas within public bus rides from the city, there are steep mountains like right next to North Bend, rising up from the plains, but the plains are the water, so there’s the strait of Georgia right there too. Coming into the city is a lot like coming into San Francisco, where you start turning some corners with big light houses around them, and the current starts to make a potato patch outside the entrance, and there is a big bridge in the distance that you watch grow. This bridge is the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and I (foolishly) decided I wanted to sail under it, so when I pulled up anchor and untied myself from the cliff I was tied to (I had a 3 point anchor system for that night to keep myself 6 ft from the cliff edge and in a nice, but small, cove), I headed for the bridge. I had some time before I was to meet Ric at Granville Island. The current was pulling me inland, under the bridge, so I made it under really quickly, but then I needed to turn around and head back out to get to Granville Island, and I wondered how strong the current was at this time. I think it was just starting to build, so it was only about 3 knots, so I made it out, but I think it builds to enough to where I would have been late to the meeting place had I timed things wrong.

Granville Island is like Pike Place Market, crowded and busy and full of people and smells and music and really expensive. I didn’t feel much at home there, but we ended up buying some fruit and then heading out.

The wind was at my back going north to Qualicum Beach, then it switched while I was there, and was at my back (Northwest winds) pushing me to Vancouver, and then after picking up Ric, we headed out Monday morning with a snappy Southeast wind filling the spinnaker and tugging us along at about an average of 6 knots all day long. We made 60 miles in one day, which is really quite a long shot I think. We anchored and tied up to shore in two places at this little tiny island near Russ Creek on Texada Island, and I caught a fish and we had pasta and fish and sausages and hot chocolate. All cooked over a little open fire on the rock. Lots of mosquitos, and I had a tough time sleeping, with all the constant slapping and the thunderous chop-chop of the wing beats.

Tuesday we took off from Texada and made it most of the way across the Strait of Georgia, headed for Campbell River, but the wind died and (is now heading from the Northwest again) we got tired of sitting, so we motored over to a little island called Mitlenach island. Its really similar to Smith island, since its out in the middle and nobody comes here, kind of like Ballinas islands too. I climbed to the top, but this one is big enough that I couldn’t explore the whole thing. There were apple trees here and there, and a lot of small scrub trees and some bigger ones in the valleys, and little cacti here and there as well, clinging to life on the scoured rock. There is a little cabin for the ranger of the island, since it’s a nature area or a park or something, but nobody’s home now. Lots of oysters, some Oystercatchers, and I went fishing and caught a sea urchin, which somehow snagged the line, and something really big took the hook and ran with it, zipping out line, for about 50 ft and then promptly let go, so I don’t know what it was, but it was strong. There are a ton of seals around, but I don’t think a seal would be dumb enough to take the hook, and I don’t see how they could let it go so easily. I think maybe a cod or big rockfish or something. Maybe I’ll give it another shot tomorrow.

Ric made a speargun for me, so I have to go diving sometime soon and try to spear some fish with it. Most likely I’ll use it for poking things, and look for fish and then come back later with the rod and reel to get them, but if I can get a fish on the spear that would be neat.

Its Friday now, September 5, and I haven’t written anything in a while, but here’s what we’ve been up to. After Mitlenach island, we went to Campbell River in the morning and went around town for some shopping, which seems to be a very popular thing to do there, there is a mall right next to the harbor. After getting some food and getting frustrated with the prices on other things, like marine equipment and electronics stuff (I want to make a small antenna extender, but I’m having a lot of trouble with the cable, and nobody sells it) so we took off again and made for a bay across from Campbell River. We double anchored (a set-up that I had just made the day before, and I am really quite happy with it so far) and then canoed over to a shipwreck to discover what we could find. Jackpot! I pulled out a nice sized wood stove, perfect for a boat! And a couple of shackles and some chain and a fender that matches one I’ve had for a while. The stove was the jackpot, but it’s in critical condition and is presently in urgent care. I built a fire in it to heat it up, because at some high temperature (its on a chart in the Materials Engineering books) and at some oxygen pressure, the stability of Iron Oxide becomes worse than Iron, so things un-rust. Also, it helps to chip the rust off. I’ve got a nice project to work on, and if it doesn’t work, I’ve got an anchor to throw overboard. And Mom, if you read this, you might be able to use this for cookouts for Civil War stuff.

The next morning we passed through Seymore Narrows, where currents can get up to 13 knots and “take the pleasure out of Pleasure Boating” according to a book Ric brought with us. We got up early to make it to the narrows and made it there before the current shift and then blasted on through. It wasn’t that bad, I was figuring on big waves, but it was quite smooth, then the current got behind us and we took off. We motored most of the day, anchoring in Helmken Island. A beautiful place, for sure, but well known, it seems. We got in early, and everyone is heading southbound, because it’s the end of the season, but there were two other boats there that night.
We were there alone in the evening, so I’ll talk about that. The anchorage is a nice little cove, nearly round it seems when you’re in it, and you drop a hook in the middle and have a nice little swing around. We paddled ashore and I got on my dive gear and went for a swim, in probably the clearest water I’ve been in yet, but cold, like little arctic mosquitoes driving their ice into your head. I brought the speargun that Ric made for me, and took some video with the video camera mounted on the speargun; the “GunCam,” as Ric called it. I didn’t see any fish, sadly, though I saw a lot of other things, like sea urchins. I like the guncam, but I think I need to take longer time looking at things with it, because my video skills are still too jerky.
We then made a big fire and I got warm and we cooked dinner and went to bed. Ric said he saw two other boats in the night, but in the morning there was only one, and they left when we did. We sailed a bit today, tacking back and forth in the current, and we made about 10 miles by sail, but then the winds died and we motored the rest of the way. We’re in Boat Bay, about 20 miles from Port McNeill and we’ll make the rest tomorrow.
Boat Bay is across the Johnstone Strait from a whale preserve, so hopefully we’ll see whales tomorrow, and there are two little camps that house kayakers and whale-watchers and rangers (wardens) who try to keep the whale (harassers) watchers in check. We talked to one of the wardens and she was nice. Then I went fishing and didn’t catch anything and we cooked a fish-less dinner. Salmon are jumping all around us as I type and they mock me. Maybe I’ll go swim tomorrow and get on with a spear, and we’ll see how much they mock me then…

We did see the whales, and I got a few pictures...

1 comment:

Andrew Osborne said...

Fanstastic CL! love it