Author Archives: Patrick

Month 4 Cruising Summary: Johnstone Strait to the Gulf Islands

In July, month four of our cruising plan, we started slowing down (intentionally) and enjoying hot weather and easy sailing. After the challenges of June, easy sailing in Johnstone, Desolation Sound and the Strait of Georgia was a welcome change.

Also it got hot – really hot, in some cases – 90F in Desolation Sound. We weren’t used to this heat, and it was great while sailing (like sailing in the tropics!) but tough the rest of the time (sailboats heat up like an oven, and good ventilation doesn’t really do much when there’s no wind).

In July we went from Port McNeil to the Gulf Islands (Tent Island, at the top of Saltspring). We only did 20 days of sailing (we had a 5 day break to attend a wedding, and 5-6 days where we stayed in the same anchorage), and took a fairly meandering route (see map below).

Blue line indicates approximate rhumb line, not actual sailed line.

We had a fast downwind sail through Johnstone Strait, and then took a loop around East Thurlo Island. We reprovisioned in Campbell River and then sailed to Desolation Sound, spending 5 days in Pendrell Sound enjoying the sun, swimming, inner-tubing, paddleboarding and hiking.

Next we sailed to Cortes Bay and then headed south in the Strait of Georgia, having very light NW winds (2-6 kts). At Tribune Bay, the wind pattern picked up to NW 15-20 but only at night – from about 8pm – 8am. Very strange, and inconvenient since it meant windy nights at anchor and windless days with very slow sailing. We spent 2 nights at Jedediah Island and some forest fire smoke moved in, making for bright red sunsets but lower visibility.

Next we headed to Nanaimo and spent 2 nights at anchor catching up on chores, reprovisioning, and hiking around Newcastle Island. Nanaimo was busy! About 100 boats in the anchorage and frequent ferries and dinghies racing about, making for choppy conditions until dusk.

The wind pattern switched to moderately strong southeasterlies as we headed south to the Gulf Islands through Dodd Narrows. The Gulfs were unlike I’ve ever seen them – SE 15-20 and pretty choppy waves (wind against current), enough to send saltwater back to our dodger. Previously we’ve only had NW wind in the Gulfs in the summer, and 20 knots was a surprise – usually it’s light wind days (5-10) with the spinnaker up.

Stats

    • Distance as the motorboat travels: 286 nm
    • Distance traveled overall (estimated): 350 nm
      40% upwind, 60% downwind
    • Top wind speed while sailing:
      Downwind: 30 knots NW, Johnstone Strait
      Upwind: 20 knots SE, Gulf Islands
    • Highest wind speed at anchor: 15-17 knots (SE) at Montague Harbor, north of the beach; and 15 knots NW at Tribune Bay, Hornsby Island (a motorboat dragged here in the night, to port of us).
    • Days in motion: 20
    • Engine hours: 20 (~1 hour/day)
    • Diesel consumed: ~8 gallons
      (about 1/2 our engine hours are at near idle RPM, while anchoring, so that’s why our engine only consumed less than 1/2 gallon/hr – when we’re sailing a lot, our engine hours become more predominated by idle speeds due to harbor entry/exit/anchoring)
    • # Stays in a Marina: 1 (Campbell River)
    • # of Gale Warnings: 0 (Yay! That’s 10 fewer than June)

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Pendrell Sound for 5 Days

Pendrell Sound is one of those places I almost don’t want to write about – I’m afraid raving about how much we love it will make more people go and it will become crowded. But I know realistically this is nothing to worry about – because everybody already knows about it, and there’s plenty of room here. And honestly we wouldn’t mind having more sailboats (we could do without the party motorboats and jet skis though – which are fortunately few).

Two years ago we came to Pendrell Sound and declared it our favorite anchorage. This year we already declared Pruth Bay our favorite anchorage, but we’re going to have to say Pendrell is also our favorite. Cruisers are allowed to have multiple #1 favorite places… right?

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Pendrell Sound is a 6 mile long sound (that looks more like an inlet) in Desolation Sound, known for having the warmest water in the Pacific Northwest (75F currently). It’s a special place for us because every time we come it has a perfect combination of conditions – hot, sunny, warm water, and beautiful views of mountains (some with snow still on them in late July!). We swim in the 75 F degree water, paddleboard around the anchorage and lagoon, lounge in our inflatable river tube, do boat yoga, catch up on boat projects, and basically take relaxation to 110%. Pendrell Sound is where you go to take a vacation from your vacation.

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Last time when we were here we stayed for 3 days, and spoke to someone who said he comes for a week every summer. We thought that was genius, and this time stayed for 5 days. We’ve heard some people stay until their holding tanks fill up (Pendrell Sound has lots of oyster farms, so you really don’t want to flush sewage into it). Many boats we saw though stay for only one night.

[This post covers July 19-24, 2018.]

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The Walker Group Anchorage in Queen Charlotte Strait

We’ve wanted to anchor in the Walker Group for a while now but had always passed it up. It’s in the middle of Queen Charlotte Strait and is a small anchorage, only fitting perhaps 3-4 boats. Since it’s in the middle of the strait, it can be somewhat tricky to get into if there’s 20+ knots of wind blowing against current.

The first time we tried to go there, on our way north this year, we had NW 20 gusting 25 against 1-2 knots of ebb current, and we pounded upwind in the sloppy mess that created (3 foot close spaced waves) for 2 hours, only to find that the anchorage looked pretty full, plus a bit of a scary entrance. Swell was rolling right up to the narrow west entrance, which is about 80 ft across and exposed to NW winds.

There are two entrances (east and west), both narrow, and the east one is choked with kelp at low to mid tide. This time we had lighter wind and were near high tide, so we entered through the east entrance since we were coming from Miles Inlet. We threaded a course mid channel to avoid the kelp, and the next day exited through the west entrance (this is the easier way, as it’s passable at all tide levels).

Luckily there was no one there, so we had the anchorage to ourselves. This made anchoring simpler, since there’s not a lot of room and NW wind was blowing through the anchorage at about 15 knots. The NW gusts seem to actually amplify in the Walker Group – we had only about NW 10 in Queen Charlotte Strait.

[We anchored here June 27, 2018 – we’re a bit behind on some blog posts]

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View out the west entrance of The Walker Group.

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Taking the Johnstone Strait Express Train

As we sailed through Race Passage in Johnstone doing 6 knots over water and 8-10 knots over ground, with pretty much flat water, we marveled at the conditions. Easy downwind sailing in Johnstone on a sunny, warm day – it can’t be often that this happens, and we felt really lucky.

We went through all our favorite downwind sail configurations: spinnaker and main wing-on-wing, genoa and main wing-on-wing, and broad reaching with a slightly reefed main and reefed genoa. Our boat loves 15-20 knots of wind downwind, and we had that pretty much the whole duration of the flood tide.

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A sweet downwind sail in Johnstone while southbound is more probable than not, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. The last time we did it, we had to motor one or two days in very calm, windless conditions. Other times, Johnstone is raging gale force winds that even downwind wouldn’t be very fun.

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So we were very excited when this year our southbound run through Johnstone worked out pretty much perfectly – NW 20-30 the first day, and NW 10-20 the second day. We started from Farewell Harbor in Blackfish Sound, hopped to Port Harvey, and then to Blind Channel anchorage (not truly the end of Johnstone, but close, and we had extra days we wanted to spend exploring the area around East Thurlow Island).

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Month 3 Cruising Summary: Haida Gwaii to Queen Charlotte Strait

Month three of cruising was our most challenging month yet, stretching our capabilities as sailors and testing our patience with wind and weather conditions. June is early season in Haida Gwaii, and we had some of our toughest sailing there, but really enjoyed late June conditions on the Central Coast.

In April (month one), we traveled from Seattle to the Octopus Islands near Campbell River, BC. In May (month two), we sailed from the Octopus Islands to Haida Gwaii. In June (month three), we went from Queen Charlotte City at the center of Haida Gwaii to Port McNeill.

June started in Queen Charlotte City, where we reprovisioned, rented a car for 2 days and explored the north end of Haida Gwaii. We then moved to Sandspit marina at the east end of Skidegate Inlet, where we got stuck for 5 days waiting out southeast gales. On the 3rd day we tried leaving, overly optimistic about the forecast, got beat up in huge waves and wind across the Sandspit bar and turned back.

On June 9 we had a good forecast, escaped Skidegate Inlet and were back to normal cruising! We made our way through Gwaii Haanas national park, briefly waiting out another 2 day gale in Bag Harbor. When the wind finally turned north, it did so suddenly and with a bit more force than we would’ve liked. We had a harrowing crossing of Hecate Strait on June 15 in 30-35 knots with 6-12 foot waves at 6-7 second interval.

But after that it was back to the Central Coast, which we love and provided some nice easy sailing days plus 4 days at the beaches of Pruth Bay. We had fun spotting all the R2AK (Race to Alaska) boats and rounded Cape Caution under sail this time. We explored the wildlife rich anchorage of the Walker Group and then finished the month in Port McNeill for a couple days.

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Southbound on the Central Coast of BC

After our harrowing passage across Hecate Strait in a gale, we were ready for some easy sailing days. We landed in St John Harbor of Milbanke Sound, and spent a rest day cleaning up the boat of salt and everything that got tossed around.

We then sailed to Shearwater, having a fantastic downwind sail in sun and 15-20 knots of wind. It was just what we needed after the awful Hecate passage in terrifying waves. We anchored by Shearwater and were shocked at how hot it is here – apparently summer is on the Central Coast of BC! The fleeces and cold-weather gear we wore in Haida Gwaii were replaced with shorts and t-shirts.

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Passage from Hell: Crossing Hecate Strait from Haida Gwaii to Milbanke Sound

As the roar of the breaker came up behind my shoulder I looked back to see green water curling towards our stern. *Boom!* The wave smacked the side of the hull. In the next instant the wave top crashed into the cockpit, sending gallons of cold water over me and immersing my feet ankle deep.

My jacket, pants and sneakers were drenched, and the water slowly drained. No time to worry about that though, as I steered to ride the wave down. This wasn’t the first breaker we’d had that day but it was the one that caught us the worst.

It was June 15 and we were crossing Hecate Strait from the south of Haida Gwaii to the Central Coast of BC. With a forecast of NW 20-30 we thought we’d have a tough but manageable day, but ended up having a steady 30-35 knots and 6 to 14 foot waves at a 6-7 second interval (very short interval, with confused tidal interactions in some places).

Apologies that I don’t have many pictures, but conditions were way too difficult to spend time doing photography. All photos except for one were taken before 10am, in the relatively easier conditions.

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Sailing into the sunrise, 6am. The best sailing of the day was done by 9am!

Stats

    • Hours: 18 1/2 hours; June 15 2018, 4:30am – 11pm
      Sailed: 17 1/4 hours, Motored: 1 1/4 hours
    • Straight-line distance: 90 nautical miles
    • Distance covered: 104 nautical miles
      Covered under sail: 97 nm, Covered by motor: 7 nm
  • Wind range: NW 5-15 (10% of passage), NW 15-25 (5% of passage), NW 30-35 (80% of passage), NW 20-25 (5% of passage)
  • Wave state range: 3 ft (near Haida Gwaii), 6 ft, 9 – 12 ft, confused tidal interactions, confused swell + wind wave interactions.
  • Waves as measured by South Hecate buoy: 2.3m (7.5 ft) significant wave height at 5:30pm, 6 second period. Maximum zero crossing wave height 4.3m (14 ft).
  • Sail configurations: full sails (main + 135% genoa), reefed main + full genoa, double reefed main + full genoa, double reefed main + double reefed genoa, double reefed main + staysail, staysail alone, double reefed genoa alone, full genoa.
  • # Sail config changes: 9
  • Autopilot usage: ~40%; 8-12 hours of hand steering
  • Boats seen: 1 (cargo vessel)
  • Seasickness preventatives: Patrick: Sea-bands, 1 Bonine; Natalie: 1 Bonine
  • # of times we wished we were someplace else: Too many to count
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Route across Hecate Strait (purple line is the rhumbline – straightest course – and yellow is our actual course). We initially stayed close to the rhumbline or headed up above it (because we knew building winds would force us more downwind). The part where we were forced off the rhumbline was mostly 30-35 kts with staysail alone, and the turn where we pointed more northeasterly is where we decided to try to make Milbanke Sound.

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