Author Archives: Patrick

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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Sea Otter Cove to Quatsino Sound

Upon departing Sea Otter Cove, we had 18 nautical miles of ocean coastal sailing to do, followed by 3-4 nm into Quatsino Sound. After a lot of motoring to get to Cape Scott, we were hoping to sail all of the 18 nm. But it was not to be.

We had a very confusing forecast (it changed four times, pretty much every 3 hours), but the latest was S 15. We can sail upwind fine in 15 knots, so we left in the morning with about S 4-7 up, sailing at 4 kts for a couple hours in gentle swell. Then the fog set in and the wind disappeared. It was some of the densest fog we’ve seen, reducing visibility to near nothing.

No fun. Fog is very tiring because you have to keep a constant watch – even though we were running radar, at any moment a small fishing boat or log could pop out of the fog.

So we ended up having to motor about 2/3’rds of the way to North Harbor, our anchorage in Quatsino Sound. So far my fear of going to the west coast equaling having to motor more has been looking true. In the two days from Bull Harbor to Quatsino Sound, we motored 7 hours, which is more than we typically motor in a week. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for better sailing soon though.

[This post covers June 26 thru June 30, 2019.]

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Sailing Around Cape Scott, the Northwesternmost Cape of Vancouver Island

As we sailed past Cape Scott, the northwesternmost cape of Vancouver Island, a mix of elation, relief, and “is-that-it?” filled our heads. The passage we had worried about for so long ended up being kind of easy, and about half fun / half boring. That’s pretty typical of cruising though – things are never exactly what you expect, and they’re rarely perfect.

In a way, we’d been trying to get to Cape Scott for 10 days – but it also was a dream we’d had for at least a year. Rounding Cape Scott marks the beginning of our first full circumnavigation of Vancouver Island (although we’ve done 75% of it already during other cruises).

To be honest we almost bailed on our west coast plan again this year. Our plan was always “probably, maybe” and the awful swell against current that we hit in Hakai Pass in June very nearly deterred us. It was a reminder we don’t like sailing in PNW ocean swell, because the confused swell often destroys sailing ability if the wind is below 10 kts. And ocean swell here is rarely true ocean swell; it’s generally a worsened form – sharpened by currents, headlands and shallows.

But many, many people sail (or motor) around Vancouver Island, and we realized we could probably do it without too much misery – we just needed to be smart and wait for the right forecasts.

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Aborted Passage To Cape Scott, Taking on Water, and Finding a New Plan

As we began to motor out Hakai Pass at 5 am, I could see the swell would be getting pretty sloppy soon. But I had no idea how bad it would get. An ebb current was meeting a 2 meter (6 foot) westerly swell and W 15 of wind, creating monstrously uncomfortable waves. Both Natalie and I were nearly instantly seasick, despite taking Sturgeron upon waking (4:30am).

The waves were 6 to 9 feet, very closed spaced and cresting in foaming white water. Heading into the opposing steep swell was nearly stopping our boat at times, despite our Yanmar churning away at 2300 rpm. Our speed was reduced to 2-3 knots at times. The wind was precisely on the nose, and we hadn’t yet cleared dangerous rocks to our port, which the swell was trying to push us towards.

As we crested a wave, sometimes the bow would pound down into the trough, and at times we nearly buried the bow. We were rolling and pitching in the confused swell, with barely enough power to get over the steep waves. It was difficult to even stand – I was braced behind the wheel, unable to sit because the bucking and rolling would throw me across the boat. We could do this for a while, but 70 miles of it (~14 hours) was pretty hard to imagine.

We decided to turn around. It was the right decision, but completely demoralizing because we had staked a lot on this plan and spent 6 days of anticipation waiting for a weather window. But it was the wrong forecast, wrong swell, wrong wind, and probably even the wrong course / plan to begin with.

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“Central Coast is the Best Coast”: A Month of Cruising the Central Coast from Cape Caution to Bella Bella

The Central Coast of British Columbia, stretching from Cape Caution to McInnes lighthouse, is quite possibly our favorite cruising area in all of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a huge area that is often underestimated – while it’s possible to pass through it in 2-3 days (and many people do just that), it’s equally possible to spend 2-3 months happily cruising here. With hundreds of anchorages and dozens of passages, inlets and sounds, in some ways it feels like a larger cruising area than the San Juans, Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound combined.

For that reason we spent 4 weeks here, mid-May to mid-June, as it’s our turnaround point before heading south. The wonderful sunny, summer-like weather we had in the second half of May certainly had something to do with the great time we’ve had. At the end of May we had 80 F days and were wearing shorts and no shoes a lot of the time. While here we’ve seen five black bears, over the course of four separate occasions, and plenty of other wildlife – humpbacks, eagles, seals, etc.

It hasn’t been sunny all the time though – in early June it switched to about a week of near constant rain. This can be tough, as everything gets wet and we feel cabin-bound in the boat. But it’s something we know to expect in the early season, and I still think early season is the time to be here. We were here last year as well and loved it then too.

Following the R2AK (Race to Alaska)

We enjoy following the Race to Alaska via the tracker, and last year it worked out that we were on the Central Coast while some of the R2AK boats were sailing by. This year we were actually at Shearwater, which is even better because the boats are required to pass through nearby Lama Passage. The lead boats don’t usually stop into Shearwater unless they need an emergency repair, but we still were able to see three boats in Lama Passage when we were leaving. There was no wind so they were all rowing / pedaling / paddling.

We also had the excitement of seeing Givin The Horns come into dock at Shearwater because their rudder had broken in half. It was a disappointment for them because they were in second for a while, but I think they had a lot of fun meeting the boating community there. And they did an amazing job building a new rudder out of plywood in less than two days.

Givin The Horns coming in to dock at Shearwater for rudder repair

The next day we saw four more R2AK boats working their way up Fitz Hugh Sound. Another reason we love seeing R2AK boats is they’re the only other sailboats that are sailing with us. Although they represent less than 10% of the sailboats up here, they represent over 80% of the sailboats we’ve seen sailing (other than R2AK boats, only 3 out of ~50). They also show us the boundaries of what is possible (and barely sane), doing things that no other boats do, and in a way that no other sailboat race does.

New Anchorages

Since we had so much time on the Central Coast this year, we made an effort to visit new anchorages. We weren’t in a rush, and often only had 10-15 nm between anchorages, so were able to sail all the way usually (even if that took 4-5 hours). I already wrote about the four spectacular days we spent in Dean Channel, so I’ll just cover a few of the remaining ones we liked here.

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