Monday, August 24, 2009

Gulf Islands

Dave & I took a break from the garden and took to his Dad's sailboat for a week. We had a fantastic time, had some great sailing, beautiful weather (not necessarily coinciding!) and managed to not kill each other in the tight quarters of the 22' Puffin.

Day 1 - Ioco to Mannion Bay, Bowen Island

It takes a remarkably long time just to get out of Burrard Inlet from Ioco in Port Moody; we spent a good chunk of our time fighting the current to get out past First Narrows (our fault; we didn't get going early enough in the day). Then it was clear motoring past West Vancouver, beyond Point Atkinson and into Mannion Bay, just on the other side of Snug Cove. It was our first anchorage, and it was beautiful.

We had a couple of gentleman row past warning us of the low tide that night and that the anchorage would get shallow. We were ok - with only about 3 feet below us in the keel, we're more flexible than larger boats. But just in case, we set the alarm on the depth sounder; it went off around midnight, with only an hour's worth of ebb left and about 6 feet to spare below us to go, we turned it off and went back to sleep.

Day 2 - Crossing the Salish Sea to Silva Bay, Gabriola Island

A little jockeying for position as we sailed out of Bowen Island to avoid power boats and ferries, we managed to get out into the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) in pretty good time, and cross with the wind pushing us all the way. It wasn't exciting sailing, but it was good sailing, and we averaged about 4.5 knots (given our hull speed is about 5 knots, that's not bad at all). The weather was overcast & glaring until we got about 2/3 of the way across, then we broke past the cloud banks into glorious sunny weather. We gave Thrasher Rock a wide berth, and managed to navigate our way successfully into our second night anchored out, this time in Silva Bay. Another gorgeous sunset and lovely evening.

Day 3 - Through Gabriola Passage and Sailing Trincomali Channel

I was getting little sleep (and that pretty much continued) as our forward berth is a little cramped, and pretty hard surface. Hips & knees weren't particularly pleased with me, so I took some kick-starting in the mornings to become somewhat human. The weather was grey and breezy; we wound our way out towards Gabriola Passage close in time to maximum ebb, and rode the currents wildly through. It was great, but brief, excitement. We poked our nose into Degnan Bay, an alternative anchorage to Silva on Gabriola (depending on which side of the Passage the tides catch you), then headed out to Trincomali. We decided the wind was fair, so we set the genny & main, and had a fantastic sail down the Channel - we heeled over 35 degrees at one point!

We took a brief lunch at Clam Bay on Kuper Island, then fought our way past the waves and wind back into Trincomali Channel, and sailed for another few hours. Unfortunately, our time ran out and the wind wound down a bit, so we had to motor for the rest of the afternoon and into early evening to reach our destination at Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. On our way there, we saw a small pod of Orcas off our starboard (maybe 50 yards away), it was magic! We moored at the public wharf, so that we could get up and spend the day exploring the Marine Park.

Day 4 - Montague Harbour Provincial Marine Park

We woke up to drizzle, so we waited out the weather until late morning, reading and playing cards on board. When the weather cleared, we made our way along the shoreline to the forest, and walked along the trails through the salal (nibbling berries as we went), then down to the shoreline again, looking in tide pools, watching bees on flowers, looking at weird and wonderful rock formations. After lunch, we felt we should brave the temperatures and snorkel. Yikes, but it was cold!! And on the side we were on, pretty murky. So we kept the snorkel brief, and then went back to move the boat around the other side of the peninsula to a beautiful bay for our night's anchorage.

Day 5 - Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island

The weather finally caught up to us and turned rather snotty. So we motored across Trincomali and up into Ganges for the day. We spent the day wandering the shops, and were delighted to find the complex work of Quadra Island printmaker, Richard Calver at the Pegasus Gallery. The gallery manager spent a very long time showing us the portfolio they carry of Calver's work, explaining his inspirations and stories behind his works. It was delightful. We stayed tied up at the Ganges Kanaka public wharf, watching the sea planes arrive and their pilots dock dexterously across from us.

Day 6 - Sailing to Sidney Island

We motored just out past the Three Sisters on a sunny, clear day, then brought up the sails and tacked our way along Saltspring and Pender Islands, and we finally had to start the motor just past Portland and Moresby Islands, then we saw another small pod of Orcas just off Sidney Island. The way into the wharf at Sidney Spit on Sidney Island is somewhat anxiety-inducing; there are some really shallow bits. So we aimed our bow for where all the big sailboats were anchored, and worked our way between them, keeping mostly to the less shallow areas. Sidney Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. We had a little walk around the Island, noting where the overpopulated fallow deer had chewed all undergrowth into non-existence, and a "high tide" line of branches trimmed six feet above the ground, as well as very stunted and thorny hawthorns. We even saw a small herd of six bucks wandering through the forest.

Day 7 - Sidney Island

We spent the day walking the sand spit, looking at birds & flowers (of course!), and searching the shallows for critters off the dock, then the afternoon walking through the forest, surprising fallow deer and seed eating birds. We shared the wharf with a huge catamaran crewed by a family with five kids and four adults; they loaned us their little foot-driven paddle kayak for a little trial run around the lagoon in the evening. Our other neighbours were a powerboat from Washington, and one of the gentlemen took a beautiful photo of Dave & I on board.

photo by Michael Pedrosa
Day 8 - To Cowichan Bay

Another poor weather day, but we saw a raft of rhinocerous auklets, a nice sighting to add to all the pigeon guillemots we'd seen up to that point. Again negotiating the passage between where the WSDOT ferry from Anacortes comes to Sidney, and the BC Ferries travel between the Island and the Mainland, and the Island and the Gulf Islands. We made it into dock at Cowichan Bay just catching the tail end of a squall, so we didn't have to endure rain in the cockpit for long. Mom picked us up, and we were off the boat for four days. Guess what I got up to? Yup, canning!

Day 9 - Cowichan Bay to Silva Bay

Our intention had been to cross the Strait, but we once again didn't get going early enough. Through Sansum Narrows at a great speed near maximum ebb, then caught sight just barely of what we think was a Harbour Porpoise. Little wind, but we were trying to make the tide through Porlier Pass. We did succeed, but got out into the Strait with little wind and waves running across our path. We tried, but it was so slow that we'd have gotten across at midnight, and not even into anchorage by then. So, cutting our losses, we turned up Valdez and went to Silva Bay again for our final anchorage. Sitting at dinner, Dave noticed a river otter swim towards a sailboat, haul himself up the ladder on deck, and proceed to chomp down on the huge bullhead sculpin that he'd dragged up with him. It was such a great sight!! We would have loved to see the owners return to a gut pile and fish head... I wonder what they thought?

Day 10 - Return Home

We had a beautiful wind for 2/3 of the way across the Salish Sea, and sailed along at 5-7.5 knots, then the wind dropped off, yet the waves and swell didn't. I made the mistake of trying to focus on something through the binoculars, and that, combined with the chop and swell, seemed to make me really feel sick (an unusual event for me). So I had not much focus other than feeling like crap while Dave manouvered us towards the entrance to English Bay. We managed to get closer to shore and out of the chop and swell, and I felt much better as we motored through First Narrows (making over 9 knots!), and proceeded through at maximum flood towards Second Narrows (making over 11 knots on the other side!!). We made it back to Ioco, and managed to haul our crap off the boat, then collapse at home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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