Bob and Marilyn's Weblog
June 2016
We're not drownded - just been busy
June 24
Probably nobody was worried but its been a while since I posted.  We're not crab bait - we've just been really busy.  After we left Waddington Bay we made a flying trip down Johnstone Strait and holed up for the night in Gowlland Harbour which is just across the strait, directly east of Campbell River.  We were in Campbell River early enough that I seriously considered running for Comox the same day but the forecast was for freaking tornados on the ocean.  They call them "water spouts" but they're tornados fergawdsakes.  So we thought it wise to stop in the hope they'd be out of the forecast the next day. They weren't.  But we didn't see any and we got safely to Comox where we had a good visit with some dear old friends that we met 20+ years ago in Alamos, Mexico.

Home Again
From Comox we hustled ourselves down to Nanaimo, getting there a day ahead of Michael's scheduled arrival last Friday.  Then commenced the best week we've had in a long time.  We got a moderate break on the weather - it was by no means perfect but it wasn't anywhere near as nasty as BC is capable of.  We spent Michael's first night on the boat in Nanaimo and then made an early AM crossing of Georgia Strait to get to Egmont. 

Egmont is just outside the world famous Skookumchuck Rapids which are reputedly the second fastest tidal rapids in the world.  Our old friend Bruce says us west coasters are wimps and we should come east to see some real tidal rapids but, if they are bigger on the east coast, then those must be some fearsome rapids.  
Evidently these guys come from all over the world with their stubby little kayaks to play in the rapids.  They work a  standing wave - the picture makes it look like he's about to go over that wall of white water but he's actually surfing back and forth across the face of the standing wave.

We timed our hike up to the rapids so we arrived at maximum flood which is apparently the best conditions for the kayakers.  We were just lucky that there were some kayakers there the day we happened to be there.
Bruce says that, when the rapids are running hard, there's so much water pressure pushing you to the middle that you couldn't hit the rocks along the edge if you tried.  I don't want to find out but this little tug showed up at maximum flood and never missed a beat.  He just lined up on the flat water in the middle and went flying through.  He wiggled a little at the south end where Bruce says there's a bit of cross current but for the most part he made it look easy.  According to my tide tables the current should have been 13 or 14 knots at the time. In this photo its easier to see the sweet spot on the standing wave where the kayakers liked to play.
After Egmont we took Michael up to Princess Louisa Inlet.  We were there the first winter we owned Gray Hawk, over 5 years ago now.  Its just such a special spot - we had always wanted to go back but never got around to doing it.  There's no practical way to get there except by slow boat.  I guess a float plane would be an option but that's out of the question for most of us too.  

The falls are at the head of the inlet. About 4 miles away is a set of tidal rapids - Malibu Rapids - which prevent entry except at slack tides.  Unlike Skookumchuck these rapids take a couple of tight turns so transitting them at anything other than slack could get more exciting than you bargained for.  There were several boats on the dock this year.  Last time we were up there we had the dock to ourselves most of the time.  this year there was never occasion to raft but the dock was pretty full both nights that we were there.  

Its not much more than a white speck on the shoreline but that's Gray Hawk, second from the right on the dock at Princess Louisa, seen over the bow of one of the kayaks.  They got a good workout, mainly because of the Energizer Bunny, AKA Michael.  It was hard to keep up - who am I kidding - we didn't keep up.  But it was wonderful having him onboard.  He's a damn good operator too.  Last night he laid Gray Hawk into the reciprocal dock at the Nanaimo Yacht Club in a wind on a port tie every bit as well as I could have done and all I did was watch.  He was an equipment operator when he was 4 years old on the garden tractor and he's only got better with time.
Back around the corner
June 11
I've written previously about the "gates" that bar admission to the waters as you move north from Puget Sound - the Canadian border, Georgia Strait, the tidal rapids at the north end of Vancouver Island, Cape Caution and finally Dixon Entrance.  Of those we've had the most adventure rounding Cape Caution so it was a relief to get it behind us again last Wednesday.  And it was largely a non-event this year.  We got some big Pacific rollers and more or less surfed into Allison Harbour but without any serious peril at any point.

We left Shearwater at first light so that we could get favourable tides out Fitzhugh Sound.  I was 50/50 on whether we would stop for the night at Fury Cove or go for the Cape all in one day.  We got bumped a little at the north end of Fitzhugh but it had settled down by the time we got to Calvert Island and the ocean.  It was still only noon and the ocean looked relaxed so we headed out around the Cape.  From the decision point its a 5 or 6 hour commitment until the very earliest opportunity to get back into sheltered water so its not a decision to take lightly.  A lot can happen weatherwise in 6 hours. I'm usually reluctant to take those decisions late in the day because the weather on this coast is usually better - sometimes MUCH better - early in the day. This time we got lucky and the weather held late into the afternoon.  

Briefly Back in the Broughtons
Shearwater Marine Resort
Shearwater is a cruiser destination on the inside passage.  We've stopped there several times now but this was the first time we've seen the dock full.  Its pretty sleepy most of the year but right now its a happening place.  We hadn't planned to stop and its pretty expensive now in high season but the timing worked out after we left Klemtu so Marilyn used the opportunity to do laundry.  They've got a waste oil dump so I got rid of some dirty oil which is actually kind of a problem for us.  We generate roughly 8 gallons of used oil every 100 hours of engine run time and when we're on the move we log hours pretty quickly.  Some marinas are well set up to receive used oil but some just haven't got with the program so I have to take the opportunities whenever they present.
As we approached Shearwater we started meeting a procession of boats leaving Shearwater headed north.  There had been some bad weather on the south coast for a few days so I suppose most of these boats holed up at the dock to wait out the weather.  Whatever the reason they looked like a parade of little ducklings as we met them.  The photo doesn't do justice to the length of the parade.  Many of them were evidently travelling in some kind of convoy because we could hear them chattering to each other on the radio.  Actually we could only really hear one of them chattering because they had agreed to use Channel 68 for their comms but one poor doofus evidently didn't get the memo because he kept plaintively calling on 16.  Every so often one of his buddies would remind him where everyone else was.  On further reflection perhaps it was no accident that they hadn't told him which channel they were using for the cruising net.
Your tax dollars at work
This one was also heading away from Shearwater but not part of the previously mentioned convoy.  You may have to click on the photo to enlarge it but - if you do - you will see the nameboard which identifies this little gem as the HMCS Oriole.  They were also chattering on 16 but it wasn't until we met them that I appreciated the full extent of the lunacy I had been listening to.

Somebody please explain to me why the Canadian Navy - proud owner of the 4 incredible non-submersible British submarines - needs to teach sailors how to motor on a sailboat.  I can maybe, if I stretch credulity, conjure up a slim justification for teaching sailors the basics of sail power.  I think that would be best left fo them to do on their own time but maybe the taxpayers could provide the vessel.  But teaching sailors how to motor a sailboat?  Come on - how stupid are we to pay for this shit?
No special signficance to this picture - just a gray day on the inside passage.  Its unusual to see a sailboat actually under sail but the day I took this picture we saw several sailboats with their sails at work. 
Back in familiar waters
On Thursday we ground our way east along the north side of Queen Charlotte Strait against a contrary current for about 6 hours.  We could have waited until later in the day to leave the anchorage at Allison Cove and caught more favourable tides but that would have just made our day end later so we endured the 5.5 to 6 knot speeds.  Our destination was Waddington Bay at the front door to the Broughton Islands.  When we got here Al and Christi were already arrived on Viking Star, their Monk McQueen woodie.  We got a stern tie rigged up and then watched a parade of vessels arriving as the afternoon wore on.  Doing a shore tie is kind of a pain in the ass but, in a small anchorage like this, I think its the only courteous course of action.  Mind you my opinion is definitely in the minority because right now there's 7 vessels in here including us and there's exactly one of us with a shore tie.
One big advantage of a shore tie is that your view isn't always randomly changing depending on the whim of the wind and the tide.  More importantly we take up a LOT less room.
Between wandering the docks, travelling for the last 6 years and tying up in marinas over that time we've seen a lot of boats.  And an alarming number of mind numbingly stupid boat names.  I haven't captured photos of even a fraction of them.  Sometimes I simply didn't have my camera with me or, if I did, perhaps I didn't want to bother.  Sometimes, as happened earlier this week at Shearwater, the circumstances don't lend themselves to taking a picture without having to explain what I was doing.  I've always intended to post the most egregious examples in a kind of wall of shame.  An incident this morning prompted me to get around to writing that post.

I was reading quietly, drinking my morning coffee, when a Mayday call came over the radio.  As it turned out the vessel in distress was only about 7 miles from us but initially I couldn't hear him too well.  He was kind of mumbling, and he had a really stupid boat name.  He didn't get any response out of the Coast Guard on his initial call so, when he called again, I thought I should provide a relay for him.  But I still wasn't sure what his name was.  Fortunately a lighthouse keeper stepped into the conversation so I could sit back and enjoy the show.  

By the time the lighthouse operator got done talking the Coastie operator must have woke up or returned from the coffee room so she took over.  Then she wasted at least 5 minutes just sorting out what the stupid boat name was.  At first she and I both thought we were hearing Ella Dawn which wouldn't be an uncommon name for a boat.  Lots of guys name boats with a girl's name.  And for the purposes of a Mayday distress call Ella Dawn would have been close  enough.  But the witless fool on Eala Bawn wasn't letting go of it until the poor hapless Coastie got his name right.  Rather than spelling his name phonetically he just kept saying it over and over in the same mumbling voice and every time the Coast Guard started to talk and said his name "wrong" there he was again walking over them to correct them.

As it turned out there never was any risk to life so it didn't really matter but the Coastie was really frustrated until finally some other nearby boater said "I think he's trying to say Bravo Alpha Whisky November".  The boat's position was an equal fustercluck.  He didn't have a GPS position and, rather than mention the great big island to his west, he insisted on naming the insignificant little reef that he was actually foundered on.  I don't know where the operator was working from but clearly she didn't know the local waters at all intimately.  Again another boater came to the rescue and said "I think he's on that little rock ridge east of Midsummer Island."  He may have had the GPS coordinates as well but by that time I had found the little group of reefs that the boat was evidently sitting on.

The guy never broadcast the exact details of his screw up but he did say enough for me to guess at what likely happened.  He said he was a 37 foot sailboat with a 5 foot draft and he said he was in 1 foot of water.  So a 37 foot sailboat doesn't hit a reef and ride up into 1 foot of water.  Doug and I did that years ago in Grandmothers Bay with our old Swiftsure but it sure as hell didn't draw 5 feet and we were likely doing over 20 knots when we hit the reef.  The only way this guy got a five foot draft boat into one foot of water was by sitting there while the tide went out.  That was also his big worry on his initial call - "I'm on the reef and the tide is going out!!!!"  My guess is he anchored in the reef last night without bothering to check his tide tables, the tide went out this morning and he woke up when his boat heeled over and his stupid ass hit the floor.  I guess it could happen to anyone but the first thing I do before we ever enter an anchorage is check the state of the tide so I know how much water we need under us when we drop the anchor.  You always want to anchor as shallow as possible because generally shallower water is more protected, its easier if you don't have to dump out miles of chain and you get a better set in shallower water.  But what you don't want to do is anchor in 20 feet of water on an 18 foot tide when your boat draws 5 feet. Of course if you do then its really entertaining for everyone else.
More details
June 5 redux
I was kind of in a rush this morning in Prince Rupert.  We didn't need to be underway until around 11:00 so I let myself sleep in but then I felt guilty and hurried all morning until we got underway.  Now we're halfway through the Grenville ditch (more about that later) and its our ideal day - BORING - so I've got time to add a bit of detail.

We expect to be anchored within range of the cell tower at Hartley Bay tonight.  Assuming the Indians still have cell service we should be able to get online with our wonderful Wilson booster.  Just by way of comment the Max Signal piece of shit that an asshole named Gord sold me is in a landfill somewhere which is where it should have spent its entire life.  If it had done so I'd be about $900 to the good because - as I recall - it was about $1000 into Gord's thieving pockets and the Wilson which replaced it was a mere $70 at Wally World.  But I digress.

Headed for Hartley Bay
Running the ditch
As I already mentioned, we're about halfway down the Grenville Channel.  As with many of the channels in SE Alaska, the Grenville is open to the ocean at both ends.  It connects to the ocean at the south near Hartley Bay and to the north just outside Prince Rupert.  The reason that is significant is that it means the tide floods and ebbs from both ends.  

"Normally" during a long day's passage you will encounter some favourable (flowing in your direction) currents and some unfavourable ones.  As a low speed boat we obviously try to maximize the opportunity for favourable encounters but if you run 12 to 15 hour days you can't avoid a contrary current.  And it can impose a significant penalty.  We run about 6.5 knots, maybe as much as 7.5 if we want to buy a LOT more fuel.  For easy figuring at 6 knots a 2 knot current is either a 33% penalty or 33% boost but its actually worse than that.  At 6 knots through the water, a 2 knot penalty gives you 4 knots over the ground versus 8 knots over the ground if the current is favourable so its often half the speed (or double if you get it right).  

The tides move about 40 minutes every day so there's roughly 2 six hour periods of current in either direction every day but its always a moving target.  Today we left Prince Rupert very late for us in order to try to time the flood into the north end of the Grenville Channel such that we would arrive at the point where the two tides meet exactly when the tide turns to ebb.  We're at that point right now and it appears our timing has been excellent.  We're paying for about 7.5 knots through the water and showing 10.8 knots over the ground as I type this.  It doesn't always work out that well.  On some of those big long channels in Alaska it was unavoidable that we would spend a large part of the day fighting a contrary current and often it felt like we were doing that all day every day which actually CAN happen on this kind of open at both ends channel.
This is nothing special - just a light on a rock in Chatham Sound, near Prince Rupert.  From a distance though it looked like some kind of medaeval walled castle. 
Its not uncommon to see commercial fish boats converted for pleasure use.  In fact our friend Currie's Mermaid is exactly such a boat.  This year we've seen several conversions in the other direction, from pleasure to commercial. This guy ended up tied up across the dock from us in Meyers Chuck where he ran his (noisy) contractor generator pretty well non-stop.
Yesterday we left Ketchikan for an uneventful crossing of Dixon Entrance back into Canada.  The crossing was uneventful however the lead up was anything but. 

We've had some awful weather pretty well ever since we left Baranof Hot Springs but we were trying hard to get Don & Darlene back to Prince Rupert so we pressed on. We ducked into Meyers Chuck last Wednesday because we were getting the shit kicked out of us in Clarence Strait and it looked to be getting worse the farther we went.  I fully expected to be stuck there at least until yesterday and maybe longer which would have been bad because there's not much in Meyers Chuck.  Its pretty and Steve lives there but otherwise ......

Thursday morning I got up to have my breakfast and of course I checked the water.  It was glass inside the chuck which wasn't completely surprising because it is bombproof protection but I couldn't see anything happening outside either.  Long story short, I rustled my crew out of bed and we ran for Ketchikan.  
June 5
Back in Canada
As it turned out our early morning run to Ketchikan (we arrived in town at about 8:00 local) was our only chance.  The weather kept deteriorating as the day went on and Friday was just awful.  One of those damn stupid floating hotels made the news when it lost control and slammed into the dock Friday afternoon because the wind was so bad.  The forecast still looked promising for a return to Canada yesterday but obviously I couldn't promise that it would hold so Don & Darlene elected to take the ferry out of Ketchikan to Prince Rupert on Friday night.  

Marilyn & I were up before dawn on Saturday and, while it wasn't perfect conditions in Ketchkan, it didn't look awful.  We were underway before the morning forecasts updated so we took it easy until about as far as Saxman when the new forecasts came out.  They looked OK so we powered up and headed home.  It wasn't perfect at first but it got steadily better as the day went on.  Right in the middle of Dixon Entrance we had those big long Pacific swells raising and lowering us rhythmically but by the time we got into Prince Rupert it was almost dead flat water.
Dixon Entrance in our wake - not glassy flat but pretty damn good compared to what we've seen on previous crossings.