Category Archives: summary

Month 5 Cruising Summary: Gulf Islands to San Juans

In August, the 5th month of our 6 month cruising plan, we went from the Gulf Islands to Garrison Bay in the San Juans. August was a *BIG* change from our previous months. We didn’t go very far, and many times we stayed in the same anchorage for 3-4 nights. This was our plan all along though – we wanted to hang out somewhere nice, yet not go very far at all, because August is typically the worst month for sailing.

The first week we sailed through the Gulf Islands (early August had great wind!) and then we spent the next 3 weeks bouncing between Friday Harbor, Sucia Island, Shaw Island (Blind Bay), and Deer Harbor. The San Juans were starkly different in August than when we came through in April. They were super busy, with motorboats zooming everywhere and the marinas and anchorages were all very chaotic and busy.

This took some getting used to, after months of sparse boat traffic (July was a bit busier, but August noticeably more so). But we enjoyed the short days because it gave us lots of time for hiking, photography, blogging, catching up on boat chores, etc.

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The #1 impact on our August cruising though was the forest fire smoke. I’ll talk more about that under Weather, but the short version is that the Pacific Northwest has been blanketed by dense forest fire smoke for the last few Augusts, and it really puts a damper on being outdoors.

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Stats

  • Distance as the motorboat travels:  120 nm
  • Distance traveled overall (estimated): 180 nm
    80% upwind, 20% downwind
  • Highest wind speed at anchor: 15 knots (Montague)
  • Highest wind speed while sailing: 20 knots (Gulf Islands).
    (If you don’t count that first week though, the highest wind speed we had in August was 13 knots – the lowest peak of all months so far).
  • Engine Hours: 13 (3.25/week)
  • Diesel Consumed: 7 gallons (1.75/week)
  • # Marina Stays: 2

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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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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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