Monthly Archives: July 2016

Cruising the Broughtons

Green. Green and more green; and sometimes blue and white, when the sun emerges revealing blue sky and fluffy white clouds. But mostly what we see in the Broughtons is green – in the dense trees surrounding us, and in the water too – taking on a deep emerald hue caused by the reflection of so many trees.

There must be something about the color green that connects to the human soul – a color meaning peace, tranquility. Here in the Broughtons the blue and white aren’t always present, but the green always is. It’s hard not to feel like we’ve found a special place.

The Broughtons were our last major goal for this summer’s trip. We’ll spend a few weeks here, and then can turn around and leisurely make our way back to Seattle with the remaining month and a half (spending more time in Desolation Sound – which we rushed through a bit on the way up – and visiting Vancouver and Nanaimo).



Our 2nd black bear spotting, in Shoal Harbor. I had to dinghy closer to get a decent picture. This guy seemed a bit small to me – maybe an adolescent?


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Exploring Queen Charlotte Strait

After reprovisioning in Port McNeil, we had mild southerlies predicted for a few days, so we decided to use those winds to go further north – past the Broughtons and towards Cape Caution and Port Hardy. We went to Blunden Harbor for two nights, Miles Inlet for two nights, and then back across the strait to Beaver Bay which is around the corner from Port Hardy. Then we crossed the strait again to Wells Passage and the Broughtons.

We’re over a month into our 3-month trip now, and realizing how long a time that really is. So much has happened in a month that sometimes it’s hard to believe we have two more of those. On a 2 week or 4 week trip it’s possible to ignore some hardships and just deal with it. When it’s 3 months, you can’t ignore the little hardships of cruising as much – they’re part of your everyday life, so you need to find a sustainable pace. And not every day has good weather – we’ve been finding a lot of almost Alaska-like weather for July – chilly, overcast, and off-and-on rainy.

One thing we’ve been surprised with is how many more powerboats than sailboats there are up here. There are at least twice as many powerboats as sailboats in most anchorages, but in some places it’s closer to 10 to 1 (in our current anchorage we have 9 powerboats and we’re the only sailboat). It makes sense though – the Broughtons and beyond are a long trip from the Northwest boating centers, and powerboats can make the trip quicker than sailboats – which gives them broader range. Since what most boaters are shortest on is time, that means more powerboats reach the more remote areas.


Exploring Miles Inlet by dinghy

We met a sailor single-handing a Contessa 26 (sailboat) in Shoal Bay, and have been running into him often since then – at Port McNeil, at Blunden Harbor, and at Cypress Harbor. Hannes is really serious about sailing – he uses less fuel than probably your average suburbanite’s lawn mower, and will patiently spend hours drifting in a 2 knot wind. He stores his bananas in the bilge because he has no refrigeration. It’s one of the things I love about cruising – we all have different ways of getting here, but everyone gets to enjoy the same beautiful views. The water is a great equalizer.

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Desolation Sound to the Broughtons: Route Planning and Sailing Challenges

In the last week (July 3-8) we’ve made it from Desolation Sound to the Broughtons, passing through the last major hurdle of our trip – four tidal passes (where rapids can form), parts of the notorious Johnstone Strait with its high winds and challenging tide rips, and many kinds of weather including northerlies, southerlies, and rain. In a way it felt like we’d run the gauntlet, in terms of encountering a new sailing challenge or weather condition every day.

We were never bored, and if we had done this with less experience (ie, a year ago), we probably would have been often scared. But thanks to more experience and preparation, things overall went really well.

This post will be mainly about our route – and fairly technical (more of interest to other sailors planning to do this passage). Our route is certainly not the only one possible and many choose to do it differently, but I figured the reasoning behind our routing might be interesting. In researching beforehand I hadn’t been able to find many accounts of people’s actual routing choices in cruising guidebooks or blogs.


A view from Port Neville. Yes there is a sailboat (flying genoa only) behind that cruise ship. Really puts into perspective how big the cruise ships are.


Celebrating the Fourth of July in Forward Harbor

Tidal Currents

Understanding tide and currents is important anywhere in BC or the Puget Sound, but going through the rapids on the back route to the Broughtons, or through Johnston Strait, it becomes much more important. This is still one area we struggle with sometimes. The currents often seem to be doing different things than what the tide tables and current stations say they should be doing. The tidal movements in this area are extremely complex – in Johnston Strait you can have surface ebbs while a flood is going on, or it could be flooding on one side of the strait while it’s ebbing on the other side. And if you miss slack at a rapids by just 30 minutes it could already be moving at 2 knots; miss it by an hour and it could be moving at 5 knots.

Here’s an example of a typical route planning question we have to determine the answer to: If you need to sail 10 miles north in Johnston Strait with a 15-25 kt wind blowing from the north, would you go when the current is flowing north (ebb) or when it’s flowing south (flood)?  I thought the right answer was the ebb. While current opposing wind (current going north, wind going south) is well known to be a recipe for short waves and tide rips, surely that would be better than bucking a 3-5 knot opposing current?  Going against current could slow us to a crawl. Since the typical 38-foot sailboat can only do 6 knots into a 20 knot headwind (motoring; and less when sailing, considering VMG to the windward destination), a 5 knot opposing current can slow you down to 1 knot – it would take 10 hours to do 10 nm.

After experiences in Johnstone Strait on an ebb with a northerly, I’m not so sure. The current opposing wind created short, sharp waves, especially in the tide rip areas, and these waves slowed us down by a knot anyway, in addition to making things really uncomfortable. And although the current predictions said there should be a 3 knot current, we only experienced about 1 knot of current. This was a lesson we took away – that current against wind trumps going with the current. At least in Johnstone Strait.

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Sunshine and Inner-Tubing in Desolation Sound

This Monday (June 27th) we sailed into Desolation Sound with the sails wing-on-wing, a gentle breeze from the southwest pushing us towards Sarah Point. There couldn’t have been a more picturesque way to arrive in Desolation Sound, with snow capped mountains unfolding before us. Reaching Desolation Sound was the first major goal of our summer cruising plans. So far this area is proving why it is so deserving of its reputation and popularity.


We’ve had surprisingly good sailing, this whole trip in fact. Other than the trip up Jervis Inlet to go to Princess Louisa, we’ve had fewer than 2 days (out of about 20 days) with no sailable wind. It’s funny because the reason I was in favor of doing the west coast of Vancouver Island last year was primarily because I had heard the inside route (to Desolation Sound) lacked wind and not much sailing could be done. But this year we’ve sailed far more than we did last year. We’re sailing so much that we’ve barely used 30 gallons of diesel, since leaving Seattle three weeks ago. Perhaps we just know the boat better and have worked out the right rhythm – short hop trips and flexible timing based on the weather – but I’m kind of  surprised our formula for being sailing cruisers is actually working.


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Mosquito Hunting On The Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound

“There’s a mosquito on your head!” said Natalie. “Where?” I replied.

“On your forehead.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, it’s going to bite you.”

We’ve found a new game as we approach Desolation Sound – mosquito hunting. On a good night (bad night?) my kill count approaches a dozen. The two anchorages we’ve been in – St Vincent’s Bay in Hotham Sound near Jervis inlet and the Copeland Islands (north of Lund) – both had an army of hungry mosquitoes waiting for us as soon as we arrived.

Since we don’t have mosquitoes in Seattle, I had forgotten how annoying they can be. On a boat, there’s no where to run; you can hide, but they will find you. The mosquitoes sneak in through open hatches as soon as you arrive. “Dinner!” they must be thinking. We then closed the hatches, but that makes the boat extremely hot. We have bug spray, a bug net to drape over a hatch, and a citronella candle. These help only a little bit.


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