Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Big Update Time

8 Volumes just got uploaded! These updates were sent November 8th through the 15th... I just could not get them all up until now due to some technical problems and some minor health issues (take care of those teeth kids). Use this post as a guide to help get you caught up on all the adventure. Volume X Volume XI Volume XII Volume XIII Volume XIV Volume XV Volume XVI Volume XVII - ed (Mikey)

We Say Farewell

Volume XVII: We Say Farewell We were truly enjoying the peaceful beauty of Wallace Island. We still had the longer trail to its north tip to hike, but we needed to mail an important letter. So we unhitched ourselves from Juniata and motored out of Princess Cove. Dave and Marcia needed to position themselves for a comfortable and safe crossing of Juan de Fuca Strait across the border. They needed to exit Canada by the end of October. Fog and a damp chill accompanied our boats for the trip down Trincomali– us to Ganges on Saltspring Island, Juniata to Prevost Island. We decided to rendezvous in Glenthorne Passage, on the northwest corner of Prevost, after Rikki-tikki made a quick trip into town. The long trail would have to wait for another visit. I enjoyed a mug of hot coffee as we motored down the Channel. Remember the photo of me with the rain gear on as we crossed Swartz Bay? At Tod Inlet later that day, I got the bright idea to simply pull out the bottom edges of the boom cover to create a mini rain cover. It's amazing how just this little bit of extra canvas over the wheel keeps the helmsperson from getting soaked. Why we didn't think if this sooner, we have no clue– it was so obvious! We could've kept a lot drier on our long days sitting in the rain as we came up the coast! The sun broke through while we were at Ganges doing email, picking up groceries, mailing letters. Juniata was anchored in Glenthorne waiting for us. We invited them over for afternoon coffee out on deck where we could lounge about soaking up the warmth. Marcia brought over some cold beer. What a pleasant afternoon it turned out to be– sharing the last days of summer/fall cruising in BC with such good friends. We knew it was precious time. We are so very fortunate. We looked out our portlights in the morning hoping for more sun. On an expanse of gray silk floated hazy islands, their tops swathed in cloud. The sun was up there somewhere but it looked like it would not be allowed through for a good while. So Clark put a low-carb sour cream coffee cake (Dana Carpender's recipe) into the oven, and I quietly rowed over to see if Marcia and Dave were awake. They listened to the VHF marine forecast and then joined us. We spent the morning hours together, sharing ideas and plans for next year's cruising, sipping coffee. Then it was time for them to leave. Already? Hugs and best wishes, it's not like forever. Just be safe and call us when you get across. It has been such great fun, a long-awaited journey made and friends met. We'll see you soon out on the water! The only spot of color in a monochrome landscape, Juniata's Erin green canvas fades into the mist as she motors away. Good friends, farewell. A few days later, after we'd moved Rikki-tikki-tavi to his winter grounds at Montague Harbour just a few miles away, we called Dave and Marcia. They were snugly tucked into Juniata's winter home in Port Ludlow, WA. We are now getting settled on Galiano Island where we have been lent a lovely home ashore. We can almost see the dock where Rikki-tikki is moored. We'll be doing some installations aboard– a new high-output alternator to keep the batteries topped up when there is no sun for the solar panels, some more insulation for the chilly weather farther north, and fixing two leaks. Rikki has performed so well, not much is to be done. We made a 1000-mile (we haven't even added it all up yet!) journey up the West Coast with a boat we'd only sailed three times on San Francisco Bay. With little time to practice and no ocean experience, we all did a damned good job, especially Rikki-tikki-tavi. Clark, by no small measure, is an admirable boat builder. He made it all possible. Dave called it a "Bang up job!" As a captain, Clark possesses a calm assurance. He has presence of mind, perseverance, creativity and practicality, a pleasant demeanor and lots of patience. We'll go on cruising together forever, he and I. May the skies always be sunny in your hearts, Nina Clark & Nina

Wallace Island

Volume XVI: Wallace Island We had poked Rikki's nose carefully around the shoals to peek into Princess Cove when we passed Wallace Island back in August. Boats were cheek-to-jowl along the shore, so we kept going, vowing to return when the crowds had vacated. Following Juniata into the cove this late in the season, we were greeted by only two other boats. Dave directed how he wanted us to anchor and tie to Juniata's port side. I took the opportunity to practice maneuvering Rikki in reverse. I'd only done it once before in Smuggler Cove, did just fine too. Needless to say, I am not good at it– yet. Clark and Dave were giving me instructions at the same time. I told them both that it's best if I can be allowed to feel how the prop pushes the boat without the noise in my ears, so be quiet already! I managed to back close to Juniata, then Clark took over and I handed lines to Marcia.. Clark had baked a low-carb zucchini nut bread while we were underway from Russell Island. After we settled in at Princess Cove, Marcia sautéed some of the Tod Inlet apples to go with the zucchini bread. What a yummy topping that made, lots of butter and cinnamon! Toasty aboard Juniata after dinner, Dave discussed fitting his boat with an autopilot like Rikki's. Here we are, snug as bugs in a rug at Princess Cove, Wallace Island. Well, at least one bug... Rikki-tikki looks like a giant water skipper, doesn't he? Next morning, we rowed our twin dinghies to shore for a hike and a haircut for Dave. Marcia put the electric clippers into service, deftly trimming Dave's hair into shape under the canopy of an arbutus tree while I watched rufous-sided towhees and winter wrens in the shrubs. We also spotted an eagle sentinel on the rocks to the west of Conover Cove and a great blue heron. We found these strange jelly things in the water. At first we thought they were damaged pieces of jellyfish washed up to shore. But on closer examination, we saw an attachment foot underneath each creature. Can you identify these odd jellies? They are about a large hand-width across, shaped rather like a wing, and with a tendon-like attachment to the rocks. The trails were wet with the recent rains and huge, orange maple leaves draped themselves over everything like damp paper towels. Wallace Island also has a cruiser memorabilia cabin like the one we found at the Octopus Islands. Hundreds of small driftwood signs, emblazoned with the names of visiting boats, hang in profusion from the ceiling. New arrivals attach their sign to ones already hanging, creating gigantic mobiles inside the cabin. At the far south tip of Wallace, Panther Point, Clark appears to have reached the edge of the world, as the horizon blends away in the fog. There had been quite a successful small resort on the island for many years before it became part of the BC Provincial Parks system. Some cabins and relics are left for visitors to explore. There is a drive to collect funds for restoration of some buildings. We are not the first to pose in and around this old pickup truck! Clark's keen eye found a Rubbermaid-housed geocache under the Jeep. Everything in the box was soaked, so we drained it out and signed in on a waterlogged Post-It® note with our geocaching "handle" and the date. Before we go set out again in the spring, we'll log on to geocaching.com and make a list of geocaches to seek! Geocaching can add another facet of adventure to our already fascinating travels. Wouldn't it be fun to leave a Rikki Trail of geocaches? Anyway, here we are (except for me, the photographer) all smiles on Wallace Island. May the SE gales never blow your way, Clark & Nina

Finlayson Arm to Russell Island

Volume XV: Finlayson Arm to Russell Island Wow! Blue sky! Now that the days are predominately gray, chilly and damp (if not downright soaking wet), we sure appreciate the sun when the clouds open up. Dave thought it would be fun to compare our knotmeter readouts, so as we motored down Squally Reach, which wasn't squally as you can see, he throttled up to six knots and we matched it on our GPS. Our knotmeter is at least a knot slow. It needs cleaning and calibrating, but we knew that. We both slowed to a more fuel-efficient speed (diesel is over a dollar per liter here!), and enjoyed a short trip down Finlayson Arm, deeper into Vancouver Island. This inlet leads to a salmon spawning river at Goldstream. We'd read in the cruising guide that it was great fun to row a dinghy into the stream to watch the salmon in shallow water as they came in to lay eggs. Sea lions were cruising the Arm too, gulping down the large, silvery fish. Flocks of gulls screeched and chased one another as they picked up scraps. Finlayson is deep, bereft of protected niches and so doesn't offer much in the way of anchorages. One dinky dent in the mountainside is named Misery Bay. You get the point– no hiding from squally winds there! The area behind a small island (Sawluctus) near the head was listed in our guide as the best spot to drop a hook. We went in and found some bottom at about forty feet, most of it was about seventy. There were dozens of big, opaque butter-yellow jellies with fringed edges and long, threadlike tentacles. Marcia called them Lion's Mane jellyfish. Juniata elected to anchor across from the small marina, so we put down the Delta near them. Through the binocs, we could read a sign, "Environment Protection Area: No Access." Clark rowed over to the marina to ask how one would get to the Goldstream spawning area since dinghies weren't allowed. "Hike up to the highway, then walk about a mile to the Visitor Center," he was told. More hiking? We were pretty much hiked out after Tod Inlet... Maybe we can visit by car someday. Next day also dawned very placid and mild. We needed some supplies, so Marcia called Gerta on her cellphone and Gerta said she could drive us where we needed to go. Rikki-tikki could take the mooring at the Deep Cove villa and she'd be waiting. We weighed anchor and headed north. I went below for a quick shower and washed my hair. As we secured to the buoy, Juniata passed by on the way to Russell Island Marine Park. This photo is looking out from the villa across Satellite Channel, Saanich Inlet, toward Sansum Narrows. With Gerta at the wheel, we made a good day of it– collecting boat parts, groceries, and visitor info like ferry and bus schedules. We treated her to lunch at the fabulous Fish On Fifth in Sidney. Thanks, Gerta! Dave and Marcia were waiting for us, tucked behind little Russell Island, which is at the entrance to Fulford Harbor on Saltspring Island. Russell Island was settled by immigrants from Hawai'i who were brought here to work on the Canadian railway. As we anchored, a very strange-looking catamaran came motoring toward us from the Saltspring shore. Its hulls were bright yellow and lashed together with two spar sections, an outboard mounted between. It was cold-molded construction and of course we asked questions, as they did of us. Turns out this was their first tryout in the water after the launch. Phillipe and Guy hope to offer nature tours under oar power, though they will step a mast once the akas and tramps are in place. We'd love to see the finished boat. They invited us to stop at their place anytime for a visit. We wish them well. The four of us walked the short (and thankfully level) trail around the island, examined the remnants of the settlements and watched the birds. We decided to move on to Wallace Island, a Marine Park in Trincomali Channel on the opposite side of Saltspring Island. When we pulled up the Delta, this very large sunflower star was firmly gripped to the stock and chain. It was tough to pry loose and left numerous sucker feet behind. Sorry, we hope they grow back quickly! At a relaxed pace, we followed Dave and Marcia to Princess Cove, mostly under power. Clark baked a low-carb zucchini nut bread with cranberries. A small breeze picked up in Trincomali and we rolled out the jib for a bit. The late October sun felt good on our faces. Good friends, good weather, great cruising! May the sun brighten your days, Clark & Nina

The Butchart Gardens

Volume XIV: The Butchart Gardens From the dinghy dock in Tod Inlet, we walked the short trail to The Butchart Gardens main entrance. After gulping hard at the fees (thankfully somewhat lower this time of year) we spent hours walking along the paths at the leisurely pace admiring the warm Fall colors, myriad textures and stunning dahlias, in full bloom despite the cooler temps. Even in the chill and damp, it was all serenely and astonishingly beautiful. The grayness of the day didn't dull the colors for the camera in the least. Workers were busy setting out thousands of plants for the winter season. Holiday lighting displays begin December 1st. This is the main garden where the quarry pit used to be... You can climb the stairs to the top of the vine-covered rock spire in the center. Please stay on the paved path! Clark taking video at the entrance to the Japanese garden. An opening in the hedge has been cut to allow viewing into Butchart Cove, which has a back gate through the Japanese Garden. When you arrive and call them on the intercom, an employee comes to collect your money and let you in. Boats crowd in here during the summer months. It's empty this time of year. Tour buses still arrive at the main gate with loads of tourists– we were lucky that crowds were light. Just one of the varieties of spectacular dahlias at Butchart Gardens, this spiky bloom is dripping with rain. Fountains dance in the large pond, The Pit itself. They are lit at night. There are also fireworks on Saturday nights during the summer (just can imagine the crush of boats!). We bought passes good for a year, so we'll be back. Our legs walked out for awhile, late the next morning Juniata untied the lines holding Rikki-tikki alongside, cranked up their chain and anchor, and we both motored over the glassy waters of Finlayson Arm to Goldstream. We were hoping to see spawning salmon! Smooth seas, Clark & Nina

Tsehum Harbor to Tod Inlet

Volume XIII: Tsehum Harbor to Tod Inlet On October 15th, Rikki-tikki-tavi and Juniata, each with his or her respective crew aboard, joined once again at Tsehum Harbour on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island. Rikki-tikki, I guess one could say, closed the circle, crossing the track he created upon entering Canada at Tsehum on August 4th. We were excitedly looking forward to some one-on-one time with Dave and Marcia, visiting and sharing experiences, before they had to leave Canada and we would tie Rikki to the dock in Montague Harbour. The weather was pleasant and partly sunny. We filled up the diesel tank and the water tanks at Van Isle Marina shortly before Juniata came in from Victoria to anchor nearby. We loaded two-plus months' worth of accumulated garbage into Darzee and took it to the marina compactor for proper disposal. Most of the islands do not have garbage disposal (at least not for free) so we consolidated our trash as we cruised and stored it in an ama. We recycled our glass and cans. That done, we visited with Dave and Marcia in Juniata's cockpit, soaking up the sun. As hunger pangs struck, we moved over to Rikki-tikki for a "dinner" of cheeses and smoked shellfish. It was threatening rain as Juniata went into the yacht club dock next morning. We motored over in Darzee that afternoon. Gerta arrived in her BMW to take us for a special dinner at a lovely shoreside villa on Deep Cove where she was housesitting. Everyone headed immediately for the big kitchen where Clark fell in love– with the stove. He was in seventh heaven, in ecstasy, cooking on an Aga. If that Aga didn't weigh nearly as much as Rikki-tikki himself, I'm sure Clark would figure out how to get one aboard! He was having so much fun– roasting, baking, sautéing. He even had time to throw together a beautiful tray of appetizers. I found a piano in the living room and plunked out a few classical pieces. Luckily for those listeners in the kitchen, the music scores available for me to sight-read were simple. It could've been ugly otherwise. I hadn't touched the keys in decades. I even enjoyed the music myself! Returning to Rikki just at dark, we started up our diesel heater to warm the boat but sleep was hard to come by. The wind and waves bumped and jostled us all night. It rained buckets. Gusts of wind shook loose glops of water from the rigging, which plummeted to the deck above our heads in unpredictable thumps. Our brains seem able to tune out steady rain, but not this random pelting. Each time we started to drift into dreamland, the noise would startle us awake. The wind calmed by morning but the day started out chilly, foggy and drizzly. The first time we were at Tsehum, we saw a crab boat pulling lines of traps out from under the dozens of anchored boats. We didn't see any floats marking the cables, each with several metal mesh traps attached. In the US each trap must have a float. In Canada, a crabber is required only one at each end of the cable connecting up to ten traps. When we told people that crabtraps were on all over the bottom of Tsehum harbor, nobody believed us. Well, the crab boat was out again! He pulled at least four lines of traps, harvesting crabs, and resetting traps under the anchorage. We wondered how many boats tangle their anchor in a trap or snag a cable. There are a lot of traps down there! When the crab boat was pulling a line of traps next to Rikki-tikki, I took several photos. Here's oneÐ taken through our aft settee window. There is an undersized crab teetering on the gunwale. Late morning, Rikki followed Juniata out of Tsehum, zigzagged through John Passage between Coal and Goudge Islands, down Colburne Passage, and across the very heavily trafficked Swartz Bay BC Ferries Terminals. The fog was pretty thick so we had turned on the radar. Clark watched the screen for approaching ferries as I steered Rikki-tikki at a brisk pace. There are lanes converging from three different directions! Just as we cleared the last terminal, a big Tsawwassen ferry loomed out of the fog from Gosse Passage to cross behind us. It slowly turned a 180û to place the car deck stern toward the terminal. Whew! We arrived in Tod Inlet about one-thirty and side-tied with Juniata, the only boats save a large trawler liveaboard that was here in August too. It was good to get out and walk the trails. We scrounged a few late blackberries and filled our pockets with apples, knocked out of the trees in an abandoned orchard. We discovered a lovely fern-lined canyon with tress upholstered in moss. Hikers had placed found items along the retaining wall– leather soles from old shoes, broken crockery, rusty iron farms tools, bottles and odd bits from the little factory-town settlement that was here when the quarry was active. The quarry, of course, became the famous Butchart Gardens, which is easily visited from Tod Inlet, either by dinghy from Butchart Cove at the entrance to Tod Inlet or by short trail from the head of Tod Inlet. Juniata and Rikki-tikki-tavi anchored together in Tod Inlet– makes visiting boat-to-boat very easy. The wide, maple leaf strewn path through the BC Park around Tod Inlet is used by locals for biking, walking the dog, and running. The residents are fortunate to have such a beautiful area just blocks away from their homes. We cruisers are likewise grateful for the easy access to stretch our legs and even catch a bus, if we want, to downtown Victoria! Needing a few provisions, we asked if there was a grocery within walking distance. An enthusiastic, helpful, friendly young man gave us directions, said it was an easy 25-minute route. Trudging along the road to Brentwood for twice that long, we finally found the store. Stretching our legs is one thing, but walking nearly two hours roundtrip for a few groceries is a bit much! I mean, do we really need coffee that badly? If another enthusiastic, helpful, friendly YOUNG person estimated walking time, we vowed to double it, then decide if we were up to it! Dave, Marcia, Clark and I gratefully lowered ourselves and our groceries into our dinghies and rowed out to our little floating homes, where we could just sit. And sit. Such is life aboard a boat! May all trails and roads be level, Clark & Nina

Silva Bay & Pirates Cove

Volume XII: Silva Bay & Pirates Cove This hitchhiking vamp at the end of the fuel dock sets Page's apart from the other marinas in Silva Bay. Inside the little office and bookstore are more whimsical sculptures and crafts from local artists. A homey, friendly spot, where Ted & Phyllis will assist in finding the perfect cruising guide or book of poetry for your reading pleasure. They told us that the store down the way featured homemade sausages and European cheeses, so we made fast tracks there under oar power. It's a very small grocery but packed with a very wide selection of meats, cheeses and those sausages, even salmon sausages! We brought our bootie back to Rikki-tikki and tried some for dinner. The Stilton cheese with apricot was very good as dessert. As I slid into the settee next morning with my coffee, I heard crunching noises outside under the window where Darzee was tied. Two otters were in the dinghy, munching loudly on fish. I reached for my camera. Otters are pure perpetual motiion... they leaped out of the dinghy just as I raised the camera of course. We've had otters in the dinghy before – twice at Rebecca Spit – but always night visits by unseen, messy otters. The scraps from their snacks had already attracted hordes of flies by morning. Those otters required cleaning up after. The otter family of four at Silva Bay were thankfully fastidious and left no evidence of their meals. We asked about internet access at Page's and were directed to the restaurant/pub above the Silva Bay Marina. No luck. The young man in the marina office offered to let us plug into the office ethernet, so we brought our iBook over next day and did email while he was on the docks attending to visiting sailboats. An unusual number for this time of year seemed to be arriving. We later learned that this was three-day Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Even with the rain and windy conditions, it seemed to us that a group of Sceptre 41s had made the trip across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver for a rendezvous. This is only our assumption based on the fact that they were one-design and all tied up together. It's funny... we'd never heard of the Sceptre 41 until we got to the Octopus Islands. John and Lynda's boat was of this Canadian design, although he bought it as a hull and deck, finishing the interior and outfitting himself. What a beauty! Perfect in every detail, with fine craftsmanship and thoughtful layout, their Sceptre 41 looked like it had just come, brand new, from a boat show. We were astonished to learn that they had cruised BC aboard for eight seasons! After seeing their lovely boat, we realized that another boat we'd seen several times at different anchorages was also a Sceptre 41. John told us there were only fifty made, so it was surprising to see four others arrive in Silva Bay. Of the fifty, we've already seen six. As we returned to Rikki-tikki, we saw that all four otters were on the stern deck, running up and down our convenient transom steps with their slimy catch. We crossed our fingers that we'd secured the aft window, which we usually leave vented and hanging open because it's rainproof. We had chicken thawing on the counter... what a mess they would be making inside! Their neatness in the dinghy wouldn't prevail inside Rikki, if they got in. Before I could get good photos, they were off in a streak of shiny brown wetness. Thankfully, the window was cinched down and we vowed never to leave Rikki with it open in otter country. We left after breakfast next day to reach Gabriola Passage at high slack. As we approached the pass, we saw a large power boat sitting sideways across the channel. He moved aside as we neared, but suddenly throttled up to cross our bow. As he went by, we noticed a very small dive flag and a diver in a drysuit standing aft. Looking around, we spotted the bubbles of at least one diver submerged near shore. We were surprised that the dive boat didn't stay between vessel traffic (us) and its divers. He should have. We remembered seeing a brochure in the marina office that offered dive tours in Gabriola Passage. Diving is only possible at slack current, but we didn't immediately connect the sideways boat with diving until we saw the diver on board. Their dive flag was way too small to be seen from any distance. Pirates Cove, a small BC Marine Park, on De Courcy Island, was a place we'd visited back in August 1993, during a heatwave. Back then we were aboard a 32-foot catamaran captained by Roy Mills, and accompanied by our friends, Bob and Peggy. Bob is the crewperson who so skillfully steered Rikki-tikki through the maelstrom of our first night out from San Francisco, May 26th. This October 2005 visit, the weather was very much cooler and wetter, but the small bay was certainly a whole lot less crowded! We walked all the park trails, rowed Darzee around the small bay, and got to know Luis and Betty on their self-built steel Dutch-design sailboat. A group of young kayakers was camping in tents on the point, apparently unfazed by the rain. As we sat in the cockpit drinking our afternoon coffee, a very nice, large sailboat of about 55' approached the entrance range-marker. Pirates Cove has a tricky channel with shoals either side. Cruising guides give clear instructions, the charts show the proper channel, and there are red and green markers. The sailboat was on course for avoiding the long shoal extending out from the point, but instead of turning sharply to port to enter the channel between the markers, the skipper brought the boat close in to shore and proceeded to drive right over the rocks! I stood up, my heart in my throat for them, and expected to hear fiberglass crunching on rock any second. Luckily for them, it was a very high tide and the boat didn't ground. I told Clark we should dinghy over when they got anchored to advise them of their mistake, so they wouldn't risk damaging their bottom on the way out. We didn't get the chance! They made a quick U-turn around an anchored boat from Australia and headed back out the way they came! "NO!" I yelled. They looked toward us. "Keep the red buoy to port on your way out!" I called, as loudly as I could to be heard over their engine. All aboard smiled and waved, then continued over the rocks, even closer to shore than before! Yikes! We were just about to turn on the VHF and hail them before it was too late, when a little sport boat zoomed out from the resident docks blowing their horn and yelling, "Keep the red buoy to port!" They raced over to the sailboat, repeating the warning. The sailboat continued to inch forward. What were they thinking? Surely they were aware of their shallow depth sounder readings. Finally, the little motor boat reached the side of the sailboat. The sailors finally turned to pay attention to the repeated warning, asking "Keep the red buoy to port?" The little boat turned around, waited for the big sailboat to back away from the shoal, then showed them the proper way out. We were left shaking our heads. If the tide hadn't been extremely high... Even the float planes use the marked channel. At least it wasn't raining when we left Pirates Cove and motored down Trincomali Channel toward Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. A brisk south wind was blowing on our nose, and the water was lumpy. We'd arranged for Rikki-tikki to have dock space at Montague, November through January. The harbormaster was waiting for us to sign documents and pay the modest moorage fee. We anchored out in the bay, rowed to the dock and left a voicemail from the pay phone. As we returned to Rikki, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared over the marina and harbor. Perhaps a good omen? Turning away from the rainbow to face the setting sun, we saw that this apparition of a shark had formed inside a cloud. Should we be worried? Fortuitously, a comfortable place ashore has been made available on Galiano. My aunt offered her lovely house for our use while Rikki is tied to the dock. Its deck overlooks the BC Marine Park beach. It's a bit of a hike up the road to the property, but we plan on having our car brought up to BC. We'll be able to get some larger sewing projects done indoors, while also doing some small home repair for auntie. Having a carpenter in the house for a few months was one of the perks for her. The biggest advantage is ours though, and we send our heartfelt gratitude. We are looking forward to being on Galiano Island and getting to know BC a bit better by car. Another low was forecast to bring SE gales, so we took Rikki to Ganges for groceries, doing email at the Saltspring public library. Then we took refuge in the small inlet called Glenthorne Passage on Prevost Island, just across the way. We'd be meeting up with Dave and Marcia on Juniata in a few days. Fair winds, Clark & Nina

Volume XI : Sturt & Smuggler

The cruising guide said to anchor in Caesar Cove, a little bight off the south arm of Sturt Bay, but it looked way too tight. A private dock farther in was stacked double-deep with fishing boats and they needed room to get in and out. We like to stay out of the way. There was a little marina, but we try to avoid paying dock fees. The bay itself was very deep (82 feet), so we nosed around into its head looking for shallower water. The tide was going to drop only five feet overnight so no worries there. We wanted to swing with the winds when they came because the rocky ledges around the bay looked hazardous. The spot we chose to drop the anchor was fifty-five feet deep, right at the entrance to the north arm of the bay, with a good bit of scope. We felt pretty sure no other cruising boats would be coming in to impede our swing.

We needed coffee, so we slid Darzee into the water and Clark rowed over to the docks. Hopefully, the store wouldn't be too much of a hike up the hill. Asking directions of a woman walking there, Clark scored a ride. The woman, from a sailboat on the transient dock, said she was on her way there for beer and steaks. The sun was out and they were going to barbeque. While Clark was at the store, a large freight boat came into the bay. "Marine Link Tours" and an 800-number in big block letters was painted on its square deck house. We'd seen the same boat at Tenedos Bay on September 8th. It pushed up to a gravel road at the bank behind Rikki-tikki, dropped a loading ramp, and started carting off sacks of heavy cargo with a forklift. Passengers up top observed the goings-on. We learned that this vessel offers paying customers a unique way to see BC as it picks up and delivers cargo throughout inaccessible islands and shoreline villages. Through the binocs I could see Clark back on the dock talking to the folks at the boat. I'd noticed their windvane and apparently he had too, so he was checking it out.

As Clark started back to Rikki-tikki in Darzee, a little orange-and-black tug pulling a similarly painted barge came steaming around the corner. I wondered where he was headed with that barge and how would he control it within the confines of the bay. I called Clark on the walkie-talkie as he began to row out to Rikki. "Do you see that barge coming in? Where do you suppose he's going to go?" The radio must've garbled my question because Clark thought I was talking about the freight boat that was already situated at the dock and so he continued rowing... right out in front of the tug! From his position behind the breakwater, Clark couldn't see the tug until he'd got out in front of it. The tug pulled over to the side of the barge and powered hard in reverse to take way off the barge. I suppose he would've been doing this anyway even without my husband rowing a little plastic dinghy across his path, but I was a bit worried. Barges don't have brakes.

Clark started paddling much faster when he finally caught sight of the barge as it came into the small bay under its own momentum. The tug lead the barge close in past the transient dock and directly into the "anchorage" of Caesar Cove, crossing right over the spot we'd decided NOT to drop anchor. Good choice. As the barge urged its mass toward the shore behind the Marine Link boat, the tug suddenly dropped the tow cable and zoomed out of its way. The skipper churned up white water with the tug's big engine, bringing its rubber-padded bow against the flanks of the barge. He deftly nudged the hulk to lie alongside a row of steel pilings. Quite impressive. I was thankful to be parked safely away from big boats moving about. As the sun settled behind Texada Island, our view across Malaspina Strait to the BC mainland became a monochromatic composition in blue.
  Next morning, October 1st, we hoisted the Delta anchor and motored out of Sturt Bay, destined for Smuggler Cove, a popular BC Marine Park on the Sechelt Peninsula. We were hoping it would give Rikki good protection from more SE gales forecast for the 2nd, 4th, and 5th. The thunderheads were building high and mighty over Texada and the mainland, the sun hardening the edges and throwing glittering shards of light in our eyes. Smuggler Cove caution: "Proceed at dead-slow and post alert bow lookouts." Encumbered by rocks, reefs, shoals and narrow passages, this tiny small craft stopover, we are told, can harbor dozens of cruising boats during peak summer months. I was just relieved there was nobody else around! Entering the cove was not difficult– we took the advice of "Exploring the South Coast of British Columbia" authors, the Douglasses, and avoided the hazards. The tiny first basin was too open to the SE for our comfort, the second not much better or much bigger. The inner basin, with its extremely narrow, shallow passage, offered the most shelter, so we went in – very slowly – with me posted as the alert lookout, taking photos at the same time. It was a low tide but there was eleven feet of water, leaving seven under Rikki's keelson.

The lagoon inside was larger than we expected and, since we had the entire place to ourselves, we anchored in the middle in eighteen feet of water. We started noticing details as we settled in. There were dozens of orange rings drilled into the rock along rocky shore for use as stern line anchor points. A lot more rings revealed themselves as we rowed Darzee along the edges of the two outer basins, many of these seemed to be placed much too close to the numerous shoal areas. We were left questioning whether anyone would actually use them. We couldn't imagine the Cove harboring as many boats as there were rings! While we enjoyed hanging on anchor there for six nights, only three boats ventured into the inner basin and all three turned right around and went back out. Only four sailboats anchored in the outer basins overnight, usually only one at a time, and they were always out of our view except for the tip of their masts. We were secluded in our watery haven, visited only by an otter and two pair of loons, the resident belted kingfishers, a large pileated woodpecker, an osprey, the usual fleet of common mergansers and flocks of lovely varied thrushes. We heard voices. At the head of the lagoon, a group of hikers stopped to read a marker. There was a trail! Finally, a place to get off the boat and walk. But first things first, before the gale hit, we put the motor on Darzee and motored over to Secret Cove, a mile to the north. We hoped to find a grocery store for eggs and cream, but the marinas looked shuttered for the season. At the Jolly Roger, a man on the docks was carrying boat cushions up to his van, preparing to leave his sailboat closed up for winter. We asked if there was a grocery. He said the closest was five miles away in Halfmoon Bay. Jans offered to drive us there, so we hopped into the van with the cushions and sailbags. The Halfmoon Bay Grocery is a historic artifact of a building, whose owner is from Pleasanton, CA. We've met numerous folks from the States, enjoying a quieter life here in BC. We bought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our anniversary.

Back at the Jolly Roger, we made a few calls to home on the pay phone. It rained a lot at Smuggler Cove, especially on the 6th. The winds, when they arrived, went right over us through the top of the trees, leaving us unflustered. We walked the mossy, bouldered trails along the point to overlook Welcome Passage, Malaspina Strait, and Thormaby Island with its sandy beaches. This photo of the entrance to Smuggler Cove was taken at high tide, when the shoals and rocks are most hidden. Notice the blue sky and flat water? Environment Canada forecast gale winds across the Strait of Georgia this day, so we stayed put. They gave us a lovely day to stretch our legs while enjoying the sun. Over the next few days, we twice walked the longer trail, which had a boardwalk over wetlands and passed through dense forest, even extending our walk out toward Fishermans Cove along the road. We never got there but we got in some good exercise. The bog trail was truly wonderful. It went through several habitats and environments and offered sightings of winter wren (I always pack the small binocs now) and some red mushrooms with white spots. A pair of hikers with whom we got to chatting told us what they were, but we've forgotten. As we arrived at the road, a group of school children was trundling out of cars and vans with their teachers for an excursion down the trail. Smuggler Cove was once the home of "King of the Smugglers". It was once profitable to assist Chinese laborers across the border into the US. The trail markers also tell of the local Indians and how they used the plants and resources of the area to live. It's a good place for a field trip. We should've tagged along and learned even more about the Cove and its history. We motored over to Secret Cove again, for a more thorough exploration of its shores– and five gallons of water. We went up and down each arm of the large harbor, gawking at some impressive homes, one of which set Clark's urge to build into high gear. It was a particularly well-balanced neo-craftsman style, situated in the trees with a private dock. I agreed that the design was both impressive and comfortable-looking. We gazed at it for many minutes. Another, on a picturesque point just across from Secret Cove Marina, was in the final stages of completion. It looked as though it could be an Architectural Digest feature home, with its contemporary lines, expansive angular rock and slate entry, wide overhangs and large windows. A bit too commercial-looking for our taste, but admirable.

We listened several times a day to the marine forecast. The day we chose to leave for Silva Bay, about thirty miles across Georgia Strait on Gabriola Island, the voices crackling over the VHF predicted winds of less than ten knots. We experienced winds more in the 15-18 knot range. The "automated reports" claimed the "combined wind wave and swell height" at Halibut Bank to be "zero decimal three meters". As we passed by The Bank, we were splashing though waves obviously more than a meter high, not counting the SE swell! It was bumpy! We rolled out the jib and fell off the wind to pick up some speed, which we could do because the military activity zone "Whiskey Golf" was not active that day. It was "clear for transit". Crossing on this angle meant that when we reached Entrance Island, we'd have to motor directly into the wind for the last couple of miles. But, hey, we did that all the way up the West Coast, so nothing new there. Silva Bay was more busy and open to weather than we had become accustomed to but we anchored in front of Page's Marina to wait for another SE gale to pass over. We'd also have to time our transit through the rapids at Gabriola Passage, out of the Strait of Georgia and into Trincomali Channel. We were back in the Gulf Islands.

Fair winds, Clark & Nina

The Gorge

Volume X: The Gorge "The Gorge", a half-mile long, 200-foot wide passage with nearly vertical walls, frames the nearly centered entrance to a land-locked harbor, not surprisingly named Gorge Harbour. It is an impressive, protecting door, with up to a four knot current when the tide is running. As we slid by the high west wall, we failed to spot the remnants of Indian rock paintings that decorate it. On the east, the boulders are said to have formed burial caverns. SE gales were forecast, so we turned left once inside the harbor to find a spot for a snug stern-tie along the south shore. Gorge Harbour Resort was just across from where we anchored, looking very unprotected along the north shore, though there were only three boats in the slips. Music was blaring across the water as we rowed over. It wasn't from the restaurant, but from a stereo system in a house right next door, all doors and windows open. Several young people were lounging in chairs on the deck. It looked like a frat house party. We bought some wine at the tiny resort store. A passerby told us that the restaurant served excellent food. The creative selections on the menu sounded delicious, but the high prices (and the loud music) sent us paddling back to Rikki-tikki. We wondered how the restaurant proprietors felt about their neighbors. The breeze started to pick up and a small sailboat with no engine came in, also seeking shelter. The skipper, alone, worked like the devil attempting to reach the marina docks. He tacked and jibed, back and forth, again and again, but he was unable to get close enough to safely tie up and there was nobody to help. Just before it got too dark to see, he fell off downwind past the marina where he threw out an anchor. The wind died away and we slept well tucked into our little niche of rocky shore. As the sky lightened next morning, I awoke and peeked out the portlight on my side of the bed. The sky was lit up all pink and violet, with golden highlights, colors displayed on a plethora of wind-driven clouds, clouds piling up, lines of stratus clouds. I leaped out of bed and pulled on my fleece, grabbed my Lumix FZ20 and was out on the deck snapping photos lickety-split. As a rule, I don't open my eyes at dawn or leap out of bed for anything, even Clark's coffee, so this sky had to be something special. When I got out on deck, it looked like this... The sky put on a marvelous show as our side of Earth turned slowly toward the sun's brilliance. I took many photos, but these capture two of the infinite faces one sunrise can show. It was A Most Spectacular Sunrise! But, the entire time we were ooohing and aaahing at the sun's glorious introduction to our day, the sailor's ditty, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning," was ringing in our ears. It didn't take long for the front of clouds to completely obscure the sun once again. Before we finished breakfast, the wind started up again, this time like it wasn't going to let up for quite a while. Whooshing toward Rikki-tikki from the NE, instead of SE, it raised a significantly uncomfortable chop on its way across the harbor. Rikki was being pushed sideways by the gusts, splashing up and down on the building waves. We knew it would only get worse, so we decided to move. We started the engine, double-tied Darzee, who was between the hulls, then Clark released the sternline and rolled it in as fast as he could. His stern now free, and Clark still rolling in line, Rikki swung toward the rocky shore. I used the engine to hold position, trying not to drive over the anchor. With the sternline finally secured, Clark went forward to raise the Delta. We got away clean and headed into the wind, making a beeline for the east side of the bay. We passed by The Gorge to look for an area where the wind wasn't stirring up the water. Inside a rocky peninsula, we spotted a quiet little bight and went in for a look. The water was forty-two feet deep with lots of room to let out enough scope and let Rikki swing unfettered. We crossed our fingers that this would prove to be a great spot. It did– as the winds gusted above, they barely ruffled Rikki-tikki's fur. It rained and blew, but we felt safe. Between rain showers, we rowed Darzee into the lagoon behind us to see what we could see. It was an oyster lease area and there were grids of wire nets stapled to the gravel bottom. A small stream flowed into the saltwater, creating perfect conditions for the bivalves, though there weren't many. Perhaps they'd been harvested. Out in the bay, we saw quite a few aquaculture floats, which were attended by yellow rain-slickered men in aluminum runabouts. One fellow must've been the harbor go-between (or busy-body) because he roared back and forth constantly, at top speed, from one end of the harbor to the other, all day long. After weeks of quiet anchorages, the noise was unsettling. Even from our new spot far away from the Resort, we could hear the on-going party music echoing across the water. A small, unfinished cabin enjoyed a great location on the promontory. I spotted three mergansers that looked different from the common ones we saw at nearly every anchorage. They were hooded mergansers! An eagle perched on a tree above and a beautiful loon entertained us as he dived for fish beside the boat. Our little inlet was lovely, its edges framed by handsomely arranged boulders, some of which were black obsidian. The mist-shrouded conifers and arbutus created a curtain– we could almost ignore the cacophony outside. Finally, the storm moved on, leaving only stillness, so we weighed anchor. The Gorge, mirrored perfectly in the gray morning light, framed our course down Malaspina Strait toward Texada Island. With only a day or two before the next front, this time with forecast NE winds, we thought Sturt Bay might be a good place to hide. Smooth seas, Clark & Nina


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