Friday, May 15, 2009

#16 - Hartley Bay to Prince Rupert

Today's route to Prince Rupert

We are trying cover as many miles as we can while we have decent weather. So today we left Hartley Bay at first light or 4:50AM for Prince Rupert. Last year we were pinned down by storms for 3 days in Prince Rupert. So today it's 80 miles and almost 10 hours of motoring.

As we motored just outside Hartley Bay pulling our prawns and crab traps, we noticed a shiny new Coast guard boat watching us. We all have fishing licenses so no worries. So far, we have seen as many coast guard vessels as any other craft this far north on the Inside Passage.

Shiny Canadian Coast Guard Ship just outside Hartley Bay

To get to Prince Rupert from the south, you need to go up the Grenville Channel. This waterway is almost straight for 45 miles and seems man-made. At 8 knots of cruising speed, it takes so long to traverse the Channel, the current can go through a complete cycle. This means you are going to get 3 knots of current on the nose at some point and will need to stop somewhere to await better current. The best places to stop are the protected inlets. There are three good ones: Lowe Inlet 15 miles up; Klewnuggit Inlet 26 miles up or Kumealon Inlet 38 miles up the Channel. We entered the bottom of the Channel about 6:30AM and by 8AM had 2 knots against us. We pulled into Lowe Inlet, anchored and had a 3-hour nap. At 11AM we reentered to Channel with just a small contrary current which turned to a push current by noon.

Lowe Inlet had ice looking things in the water, which turned out to be sea foam.

We finally reached to top of Grenville Channel only to see BC Ferry Northern Adventure coming at us. Northern Adventure has taken the old route of ferry Queen of the North after her sinking. We wanted to save a few miles by cutting inside the Pitt Point buoy, but that would mean a starboard to starboard crossing with the big ferry. That's like passing a car on the wrong side of the road! It's always best to communicate your intentions in these situations so we called the ferry on VHF 16. The captain was just fine with our proposal for a "green-to-green" pass.

Northern Adventure took over the "Queen's" route after she sank.

About 9AM this morning, a voice on VHF Channel 16 started squawking about gale warnings. It was Coast Guard radio altering us so we tuned into Environment Canada's continuous broadcast to find gale warnings up for most of northern BC coast. 25-35 knots southeast gales headed our way is a concern, but the most important question is when! Our barometer was steady at 1024 millibars and the stations with gale force conditions were reporting 1012 millibars or less. We're OK for now but the weather this year is beginning to look like last year's in Prince Rupert.

At about 5PM we were one-hour out of Prince Rupert. We called the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club for moorage. The dock person said their was just a couple side-ties remaining as the predicted storm had filled up the Club's marina. She reserved us a spot and we tied up at 6PM with the bow pointed easterly, toward the oncoming gale.
The gale kept most of Prince Rupert's fishing fleet at the dock. Or was it just that the commercial fishery was not yet open?

I told the crew that we might be stuck here for a day or two, but that I would check the 4AM weather and if "not too bad" we would go early. Willie cooked a fabulous spaghetti dinner, living up to his northern Italian heritage.

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