June 22 and it is
our first night at anchor – in
the San Juan Islands. Feels peaceful and strange
at the same time. The world has rotated on its
axis. The next morning I awake to waves rhythmically
lapping on the shore. Sounds like the earth is
breathing. OK, it’s the wake from the passing
Ferry, but still... the magic is here. It’s
so good to be on the water again.
We decided to clear Canadian Customs at Van
Isle Marina in Sidney, British Columbia; it
was an easy phone call from the phone at the
dock. We don’t do expedited customs clearances
so we keep our ear to the ground for the most
hassle-free location. Someone said Bedwell
Harbour on South Pender Islands was a zoo this
year; someone else said it was a piece of cake.
Who can say, but we decided to avoid it.
There are lots of hazards in the water to watch
for along the Inside Passage; some of them are
related to crabbing and shrimping. This particular
buoy was easier to spot because of the vertical
spar right next to it. I wish they were all this
On June 24 we slipped
through Dodd Narrows and made a quick turn
towards Nanaimo. There were strong winds in
the Strait of Georgia – with
one gust of 39 Knots. So we happily bailed
Going through Dodd Narrows turned out to be
bit of an adventure. We decided to go through
the narrows 25 minutes earlier than the predicted
slack because the ebb (against us) didn't seem
too bad on our approach. We speculated that the
strong south winds may have forced the turn-to-flood
earlier. At least that's what our SOG (speed
over the ground) seemed to indicate as we were
approaching the narrows. When we got right into
the funnel we expected less than the 2.5 knot
ebb the electronic charting was indicating; we
had even speculated less than that based on our
SOG to that point on the approach. Oops - not
quite. We in fact found ourselves pushing against
a 4 K ebb! Once you are in the narrows that far
there is no turning back. We are a 7-8 K boat
so this was a slow struggle for us to go through.
It was my turn (Linda) at the helm and I was
working plenty hard to maintain steerage. I remember
saying: we shouldn’t be here. You can bet
I was shaking my finger at myself on this one.
Sorry no photos; I was really busy.
However, here is a photo that you might find
interesting. It gives a great example of all
four variations of Canada's “Cardinal Buoys”.
Seeing all variations in one location is a treat.
They were marking a very small island (Beacon
Rock) inside the Nanaimo Port Authority harbor.
I worked at getting a good photo to use in the
navigation classes I teach and the boating-group
talks I give.
See the sets of
black triangles on the yellow poles? Two black
triangles pointing down = go south of this
marker; two pointing up = go north of this
marker; two that narrow in the middle = go
west of this marker; two that are wide at the
middle = go east of this marker. Seeing four
of them at once surrounding a little island
really brings the message home.
We were glad to see that the buoyage at Nanaimo’s
Newcastle Island Passage clearly marks the correct
passage to avoid Ogden Rock. I can remember being
puzzled by this spot year after year. They added
the two red markers (to the right), so it's a
much safer passage now.
Today we decided
to grab a very early-morning weather window
and slip up to Tribune Bay to get anchored
before the afternoon winds came up. David is
the Captain this year and he called the moves
on this one just right.
We're hearing Canada's new terminology for
wind reporting. Old: "small craft warning" (20-33
Knots); new: "strong winds" (20-33
K). More new terms: "light winds" (0-11
K); "moderate winds" (12-19 K). You
can find the new terminology in the opening pages
of the tides & currents book, Ports and Passes.
We heard from a respected Canadian boating professional
that the Canadian forecasts will become much
more conservative this year. That's a disappointment
because in years past many cruisers have favored
the more realistic Canadian weather forecasting
over the U.S. ultra-conservative forecasting.
In my opinion, those of us out on the water need
to know the most realistic forecasted conditions
so we can factor that information into our go,
Our first encounter with the forecasting when
it really counted was very positive; the forecast
was right on. We had anchored in Tribune Bay
nice and early because of the forecast, resisting
the urge to continue up theStrait of Georgia
because things seemed so nice. Tribune Bay is
very open to the south and we were putting up
with the end of the southerlies that made the
boat "hunt" (bow swinging back and
forth in response to the winds). With the piano
music in the background I was rocking and floating
- almost free of any earthly tether – except
for that anchor chain. But then, that chain is
safety. Life is good.
We continued to track the actual wind and sea
state conditions throughout the day on the VHF
radio, watching for a pattern. We also watched
the sky. Did you know that watching the sky is
like watching a life. Ever changing. All the
moods, the shifts of light, the effect on...
You know what I mean. Part of the drama that
day was having a "Waterspout Watch in effect.”
And then the late afternoon shift from south
to northwest happened. We saw it coming by watching
the sky. In the space of less than a minute our
boat shifted 90 degrees; within three minutes
we had swung around about 150 degrees. Our Bruce
anchor just rolled over and reset itself without
the slightest hiccup. We were very glad to be
holding at anchor rather than fighting some nasty
seas in the Strait of Georgia.
The next day we trusted the forecast again and
waited until 1030 rather than making our usual
very early start. And – as forecast – the
winds uncharacteristically dropped in the afternoon
and we glided past CapeMudge at dead calm. The
rule of thumb to travel early early and expect
the winds to rise in the afternoon doesn’t
always work. Sometimes you have to work the exceptions.
By the way, here is David merrily typing away
on our new little netbook. He grumps about technology
a lot, but he loves this little dude.
It even has enough
oomph to connect wirelessly if we are close
enough to wifi equipment. Most of the time,
however, we’re really glad
to have an external antenna to make connections
via our laptop. BBXpress has been the connector
of choice so far. It was great both at Nanaimo
and here at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell
This year I have chosen to keep our Float Plan
updated via cell phone texting to a very small
group of people. Cell equipment along the Inside
Passage is much more ubiquitous than wifi locations
so it is proving to make this the best (low cost)
way to stay in touch and keep our location information
very current. As in the past, I always look for “Micro
Towers” on the raster (paper) charts because
I think cell equipment is being added to those.
Once we leave Campbell River, I’ll pick
up cell signal again at Port Neville – because
of one of those towers.
Diesel fuel in Canada is between $3.50 to $4.00
(U.S.) per gallon (choke) since we paid $1.89
per gallon in Anacortes, WA. Cheapest so far
is at Campbell River - $3.40/gallon.
We’ll transit Seymour Narrows this morning – going
for the 1030 slack. It will be David’s
turn at the helm so maybe I’ll get some
pictures. However, if we do it right we’ll
both be yawning. Let’s see what happens.