Month 1 Summary: Sailing from Seattle to the Octopus Islands

In the first month of our six months allotted for cruising, we sailed from Seattle to the Octopus Islands north of Campbell River, BC. About 80% of this mileage was actual sailing – we lucked out with getting pretty consistent wind this month.

Starting from Seattle, we headed north riding a southerly to the San Juans and spent some time there before a stop in Bellingham. Next we spent a few days in the northern San Juans, having a rolly night at Matia but a great night at Sucia.

We checked into Canada at Cabbage Island and then headed through the Gulf Islands a bit. As we went further north in the Strait of Georgia, the weather turned summer-like and we had great upwind sailing coupled with sunny days exploring Lasqueti, Tribune Bay and Blubber Bay.

Sucia Island, looking south over the entrance to Shallow Bay.

We did a one-night stop at Mitlenatch Island, a bird sanctuary and busy seal / sea lion area. (blog post coming soon)

To finish up the month, we reprovisioned at Campbell River (preparing for a week or two with no grocery access as we transit to the Broughtons) and spent our last day of April in the Octopus Islands (blog post coming soon).

The month was really two entirely different halves – the first half was rainy, chilly, and had good south wind. The second half was sunny, warm and had light to moderate northwest wind. Basically the first half was PNW spring and the second half was PNW summer.

We never expected to get summer in April in the Pacific Northwest though. Overall this month wildly exceeded our expectations. The weather was warmer and sunnier than we expected, validating our decision to leave at the end of March. Then I had worried we were leaving too early, but it was warmer than expected most days and when it wasn’t, our diesel cabin heater or Mr Buddy propane heater took care of things.

Stats

  • Distance as the motorboat travels: ~300 miles
  • Distance sailed (estimated): ~400 miles
  • Top wind speed while sailing: 20 knots gusting to 25
  • Top wind speed at anchor: 20-25 knots (Quathiaski Cove by Campbell River)
  • Engine hours: 24
  • # Stays in a Marina: 3
  • % of Anchorages where we were the only cruising boat: 89% (24 of 27)
  • # Days with rain: 5-7

Weather

The first half of April had a good deal of rain, but there was really only one week where it started wearing us down. The rest of the first half we had chilly, partly cloudy days but also some days where the sun showed up to warm things up.

Then the second half of April brought two weeks of sun and warm days. Amazing! This was far better weather than we had imagined possible, and we basically had summer cruising without the crowds. Our busiest anchorages were Clam Bay in the Gulfs (4 sailboats, counting us) and Tribune Bay (3 sailboats). Nearly every other anchorage had just us.

Wind

We had some good southerly wind at the beginning of April which helped us sail to the north. Getting to the San Juans from Seattle we did only about an hour of motoring, which is very unusual and something we were very happy about. After the San Juans, when the weather switched to typical summer conditions we had northwest winds.

For several days they were really consistent and started in the morning, which allowed us to make good upwind miles in the Strait of Georgia. We had a 3 day stretch where we didn’t even turn on the engine, even though we were moving every day. We couldn’t have done that without our solar panels, as they were the only thing supplying power to our fridge (we could’ve turned off the fridge, but who wants spoiled food and warm beer?).

At the end of April as the high pressure system was really socked in, the wind sometimes disappeared (typical for hot summer days) and we had a couple days with no wind over 3 knots. Overall the wind was quite good though this month, even though there was much less southerly wind than we expected.

Favorite Anchorages

Patrick’s favorite anchorage was Fossil Bay on Sucia Island. Despite rainy conditions it was really nice being in an anchorage that protected us so well against 20-25 SW winds (barely 10 kt in the anchorage) and gave us access to phenomenal hiking around Sucia the next day when the sun came out.

Natalie’s favorite anchorage was Mitlenatch Island. She loves seeing the mountain ranges of BC further north, where they’re snow-capped in every direction. She says mountains that don’t have snow on them aren’t real mountains. And the seals, sea lions and bird life at Mitlenatch provided plenty of entertainment.

Next Month’s Plans

In May we’ll be heading through Johnstone Strait for the first week and then cruising around the Broughtons and Queen Charlotte Strait. Towards the end of May we’ll likely start heading up the BC central coast to prepare for the crossing to Haida Gwaii.

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