Shelter from the Storm in Clark Cove, Princess Royal Island

“Central Coast from McInnes Island to Pine Island: Gale warning in effect. Southeast 10 to 20, rising to southeast 30 to 40” spoke the Canadian lady’s recorded voice on the VHF marine broadcast. “Hecate Strait: Gale warning in effect. Southeast 15 to 25, rising to southeast 30 to 40.”

We’d been following the changing forecast for a couple days now and knew there was a big southerly system coming for Friday (today), Saturday and Sunday (May 25-27). The forecast was for a 30-40 knot gale in Hecate Strait and the Central Coast (roughly where we are). So we knew we’d need what the cruising guides call a “bombproof anchorage.” We chose Clark Cove, a bit north of Laredo Channel, for this.

Clark Cove

The Douglass guide writes that Clark Cove is an undiscovered gem, and sheltered from all weather. It has a very narrow, shallow entrance, which likely is what discourages many boats from visiting here (that and the fact there are nearly no boats on the outer waterways now anyway).

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Overview map with Clark Cove circled in red.

We entered at high tide and it was the narrowest channel we’ve ever threaded the needle in, with rocks visible underwater to each side of our boat. Inside, it was the perfect protection, getting gusts to only about 15 knots when it was blowing 30 outside. The wind howled above the trees over our boat, but little reached the water.

It was still raining non-stop so we cranked up the fireplace (our diesel heater), read books and played board games. It was a good cozy spot to be for three days while waiting out the gale. I also worked on a rain water harvesting system to fill our tanks (more on that in a separate post).

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Somehow I got mostly vowels this whole game, which was a bad thing because vowels are low point value. Needless to say Natalie won this one.

When Will the Rain Ever End?

On day 3 we had hoped to leave Clark Cove, but the forecast again was for 30-40 knot winds that day. And it was still raining non-stop in torrential sheets of windblown rain. This was an impressive rainstorm even by Seattle winter standards, on the order of a big November rain storm or a March pineapple express.

By day 3 the boat was dripping wet, inside and out. Humidity inside was very high from all the rain and wet clothes, and we had condensation drips in many places. We ran the diesel heater which helped warm things up, but it’s impossible to dry out a boat during 3 days of rain without being in a marina or having a generator to run a big dehumidifier. It was so dark that our solar panels yielded nearly no power.

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Part of my rainwater collection system on the bow.

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Fancy happy hour in the rain with the fireplace running.

It was a bit surprising to get this much rain at the end of May, but I guess they don’t call it the Great Bear Rainforest for nothing. Speaking of which, we’ve been fervently hoping to see a spirit bear, the rare white or cream-colored black bear subspecies which is most common on Princess Royal Island (which Clark Cove is on).

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This stream wasn’t noticeable when we arrived, but after 3 days of rain it was gushing and holding our boat steady into the current.

Clark Cove doesn’t have a big beach or grassy area though, and bears would have little reason to come down here – plus they’re probably avoiding the rain too. Even the seagulls seem miserable.

Exiting Clark Cove

On the day the rain let up, we had a bit of a harrowing exit from Clark Cove. We left a few hours before high water, calculating that we’d have enough water under our keel. But since it wasn’t slack tide yet, current was rushing in through the narrow entrance. It tried to push us towards the rocks and trees, and we had only about six feet clearance on each side. Next time we would wait till high water slack!

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Leaving Clark Cove we found a ton of fried egg jellyfish had been attracted to the freshwater outflow of the stream. They were surrounding our boat and one got stuck on our anchor chain!

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Conclusions

This was a tough 3 days. We felt anxious over being stuck here, like we’re being delayed and should keep moving. We’re waiting to cross Hecate Strait to Haida Gwaii, and this low pressure system has put our plans on hold. But really we have no need to feel anxious or in a rush, because we’re not sailing on a schedule and have plenty of time.

It’s hard not to get stir crazy though because we’re mostly stuck inside given the non-stop rain and wind, and there’s nothing to do here. But we know we made the right decision, because going out into 30-40 knot winds would not be fun, nor the most prudent decision. In remote areas, putting safety first is always a smart move.

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