Author Archives: Patrick

Transition to Winter: Slowing Down, and Finding Balance between Sailing or Not

It’s been a bit over a month now since we stopped full-time cruising (after being at anchor 95% of the time for 6 months!) and holed up in a marina for a break. I know there are some sailors that spend northwest winters at anchor, hopping around, but honestly that seems really really tough.

Fall seemed to arrive fast and furious this year, bringing surprisingly strong early southeasterlies and pretty regular rain. Some people are saying that fall lasted only one week, because by early October we already had lows of 36 F in the coastal areas and snow in the mountains. A tough time to live on a boat at anchor, even with a diesel heater.

The rainy weeks are tougher than the cold ones – when it rains for 7 days straight we rely pretty heavily on our AC powered dehumidifier to dry out wet clothes and keep the boat from growing mildew. At times the pounding on the deck seemed unrelenting.

So in the fall and winter we turn to marinas more for power and also for a break from cruising. Marina life is way easier than being on the hook. We have luxuries like unlimited power, water, and laundry machines on shore. Plus there are restaurants, so occasionally we can get a break from home cooking all our meals. Of course, these luxuries are something most people take for granted, but as sailors you learn to appreciate them a lot more.

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Sailing Photography Prints for Sale

I’ve decided to make available a portfolio of photographs from the top ones I’ve taken over the years, for sale as framed, canvas or metal prints. If you’re looking for wall art (or boat art!) and any of these images appeal to you, please consider purchasing through the link. It’s professionally printed and shipped direct to you. Any proceeds will go towards helping support this blog and the camera equipment used to photograph the remote places we visit.

I started this site back in 2015 as a way to share our adventure learning to sail, but also as a way to share all the amazing, beautiful sights we’ve seen on the way. In the last 4 years of sailing we’ve spent over 500 days on the water, and I’ve taken over 4000 photos. Before that I practiced my photography through Seattle photography clubs and some work in journalism on a newspaper photo staff. If you want to read about how I do photography onboard a sailboat, I’ve written about that here: Photography Onboard a Sailboat.

There’s a lot of amazing photography on the Internet now, but I’m hoping that something of what I have might bring something unique to the table. We’ve had the privilege of sailing to remote areas of British Columbia that are only accessible by boat, and that few people get to visit. The anchorages and coastlines are pristine wilderness, often with no trace of human touch. It’s hard to communicate the beauty out there, but I think photography is one of the best ways to do it.

Some of the images that are available for sale:

Sailing in Dean Channel, Central Coast of BC

Sunset at Anchor

Bunsby Islands, West Coast Vancouver Island

At Rest in Watmough Bay, San Juan Islands

You can choose from canvas prints, traditional framed, unframed, a metal print (durable, with vibrant color reproduction) and other options, in sizes from small (8×10″) to large (48×36″). If you have any questions or need to reach me, send an email via this Contact page.

Thoughts on a Month and a Half Sailing the West Coast of Vancouver Island

We just finished our first full circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. This is a big milestone for many sailors, although for several years we shied away from it – partly due to misplaced fears, and partly because we don’t do things just to check them off a list. We’re trying to maximize the fun ratio in cruising, and we weren’t sure the west coast provides the best bang for the buck.

To sum up the whole trip would be very difficult – we spent over a month going north on the inside, and 6 weeks going down the west coast. I’m going to recap the west coast part though because that’s the portion that was the most unknown to us (and to most PNW boaters).

As they say in cruising, the highs were very high and the lows very low. Overall though we didn’t have any terribly difficult parts – our main challenge was dealing with the weather, which turned out to be highly unusual this year. It was the rainiest, chilliest, darkest, most humid July we can ever recall.

And that’s not just our perception – Seattle meteorologist Cliff Mass apparently thought so too. We had southerly wind the majority of the time, which meant our voyage was mostly upwind, not a downwind sleigh ride like everyone thinks it is. More on that later.

Route

We started out from Port Hardy, sailing/motoring up Goletas Channel to Bull Harbor. From there we crossed the Nahwitti bar and sailed around Cape Scott in excellent conditions. We spent some time in Quatsino Sound, spotting sea otters and refueling at Winter Harbor, and then sailed around the Brooks Peninsula, having one of our best sails on the headland that has the scariest reputation.

Next we spent 5-6 days in Kyoquot Sound, slowing down to explore the beautiful anchorages and also because there was no wind. We motored to Esperanza Inlet on a flat, calm ocean, and then the forecast changed to a low pressure front bringing 5 days of southeasterly wind! We wondered if there is ever northwest wind on the west coast, and where summer was.

In the second half of July, summer showed up and we sailed from Nootka Sound to Clayoquot and then Barkley Sound, spending 2 weeks in Barkley Sound. We had sunny days and easy sailing inside Barkley Sound, although the rain wasn’t completely over (we got drenched for 24 hours on August 1). A few days later we headed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca via Port Renfrew and Becher Bay, bringing the west coast portion of our voyage to an end.

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Nootka to Barkley Sound: Final Legs of our West Van Isle Trip

In the last week (July 13-20) we’ve sailed from Nootka Sound to Clayoquot Sound and then on to Barkley Sound, the last stop on our trip down Vancouver Island. As we left Clayoquot Sound on July 18, summer finally showed up and we’ve had northwest winds with sun and blue skies most of the time since then. We’ve still had some rainy southerlies sweeping through about every 4-5 days, but they’re usually short-lived.

Needless to say we’re reveling in the summer sailing experience now – shorts and t-shirts, ample solar power for cold beverages, paddleboarding, swimming, and rigging up the hammock between mast and forestay.

Rounding Estevan Point: Nootka Sound to Hot Springs Cove

Getting out of Nootka Sound is always hard. The entrance to the sound is shaped like a funnel, and it funnels both wind and current at the constriction point. Westerly ocean swell tries to roll into the entrance, and with an opposing ebb current the waves can get quite steep and sharp. And going out is always an upwind sail, because the wind inflows.

Fortunately we had a pretty good day for it, with light south wind (8-10 kts) – which comes pretty much from the west until you make Estevan Point. The waves were choppy and pound-happy but we had timed our departure to near slack current so they weren’t nearly as bad as they could be.

 

It was a long day (~9 hours) but a fun one. We think we saw an ocean sunfish near Estevan Point. They’re a very rare creature that we’ve never previously seen. They can grow quite large and have two fins, which wave alternately above the water.

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Windless Days and Southerlies on the West Coast of Van Isle: Strange July Weather

After passing the Brooks Peninsula on June 30, July has brought very weird and challenging weather. It doesn’t feel like summer, and we’ve gone many days not even seeing the sun, because it’s obscured behind a heavy cloud layer. We’ve had rain about half the days; normally in Seattle we count on summer arriving after the 4th of July, but that hasn’t seemed the case on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The weather varies between chilly to warm and very humid (90% humidity). The humid days are completely overcast, darkening the sky and reducing solar output. It feels like a Hawaiian rainforest, but without the sun. Other times, the temperature has been chillier than we had a month and a half ago, in late May on the Central Coast. We’ve been wearing foulies and fleeces in July, which seems very weird.

BC weather forecasting says there’s a ridge offshore and a quasi-stationary trough over the mainland, but I don’t know if that explains things or not. Someone we met at Nuchatlitz said there’s an inversion going on, which explains things a lot better (we’re quite familiar with inversions in Seattle, but they usually happen in the spring or fall, not summer!). An inversion, as I understand it, means warmer, clearer air is stuck above a dense cloud layer. People at ground level (ie, anyone on a boat) experience dark, chilly conditions, but if you could hike up 5000 feet or so you’d get to nice sunny conditions. It also means little wind – if there were wind, it would blow out the inversion.

The lack of wind has been the most frustrating part. It’s almost like we’re in the doldrums, the ITCZ, or the South Sound in August. Our last 4 days in Kyoquot Sound didn’t have a single hour with wind over 5 knots. And when we “sailed” to Esperanza Inlet on a forecast of NW 5-15, we had to motor pretty much the whole way because there wasn’t more than 4 knots on the ocean the whole day.

Another rainy rainy day.

[This post covers July 7-12, 2019]

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Exploring the Beautiful Anchorages of Kyoquot Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island

Kyoquot Sound is the second sound on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, after Quatsino Sound, and is the place of refuge after the Brooks Peninsula. We’ve spent almost a week here, discovering some beautiful anchorages – the highlights being Columbia Cove and the Bunsby’s.

We continued to see sea otters, including the first raft (group of 20-30) we’ve spotted. And Kyoquot is the first place I’ve seen bat stars, a sea star that is black in color (almost an iridescent blackish-purple) – there were lots in the Bunsbys and also Walter’s Cove. Mosquitoes are also present in all the anchorages here, so make sure to have good hatch nets.

We spent all our time in the outer waters of Kyoquot Sound – technically not within the sound itself (Columbia Cove > Bunsbys > Walter’s Cove > Barter Cove > Rugged Point). We read that Kyoquot Sound itself rarely gets much wind, so it’s probably not a good region for sailing. The anchorages of the outer region are rugged and beautiful, with several of them having views out to the Pacific Ocean. We tend to like the rugged outer anchorages, and found they made for great exploring by dinghy or paddleboard.

[This post covers June 30 – July 6, 2019]

A bat star

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A Perfect Sail Around The Brooks Peninsula and Cape Cook

To a sailor there’s nothing more exciting than feeling the boat power up in a strong breeze. The boat digs in to the swell and takes off, using only the power of the wind. Everything is in harmony – the rig, the sails, the rudder. At times like these one of my favorite things is to go below. Listening to the sound of water rushing past the hull always brings forth a sense of wonderment.

In a book I’m reading, “Alone Together” by Christian Williams, he puts it aptly: “To sail a boat across water using only the wind is like a miracle, every time. The wind is free and gives its gift not just to you but to the waves and the sky, the clouds and the birds, who all move with it, day and night.”

Our rounding of the Brooks Peninsula was just about perfect, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was a combination of patience and luck – patience for waiting out persistent southerlies and rain, and luck that all the variables aligned. A forecast of NW 10-20, low swell state, and a warm sunny day.

The distinctive Solander Island is just a bit offshore of Brooks Peninsula, and has a wind reporting station.

The Brooks Peninsula, and Cape Cook at its northwesternmost point, jut out about 8 nautical miles into the Pacific Ocean, the largest promontory of Vancouver Island. The Brooks Peninsula is  feared and respected by mariners because it creates a powerful wind acceleration zone and also potentially confused seas from headland interactions and up to 1.5 knots of current flowing by.

Our guidebooks said that Cape Cook is the most difficult obstacle of a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. With the ideal conditions though, it was one of our easiest sails. I can certainly imagine it being tough though – it’s common to hear a forecast for W Van Isle N of NW 15-25 except NW 25-35 at the Brooks Peninsula.

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