Tuesday, May 11, 2010

#8 Port McNeill

On Sunday we returned our unwatched DVDs to Sullivan Bay's office then started for Port McNeill, a 30-mile cruise southwest across Queen Charlotte Strait. It was a gray day with little wind and flat seas. We saw a few larger pleasure craft taking advantage of the calm conditions heading north to cross the QC Sound and round Cape Caution. It would be a great day for that.

Last bit of land at Percy Island before 15 miles of Queen Charlotte Strait

Upon arrival in Port McNeill, we saw two other Selenes and with just a few boats around, we moored just behind Raindancer at the privately run Shell fuel docks. We soon learned that the docks are being reconfigured and there was no power. So it's just like being anchored: we run the generator a couple times per day to wash clothes, keep our freezer cold and charge the batteries.

Like us, the new Selene 59 Raindancer has been cruising north into BC from the Selene Rendevous

Pat and I called our moms with Mother Day wishes and our own kids actually called their mom this year! We had prolonged Skype phone calls at 2.1 cents per minute instead of .89 using the cell. We celebrated the day at the local steak house with fresh prawns.

On Monday morning we moved the boat across the bay to the Port operated marina and signed up for a month's moorage. We ran across the crew from the Selene 57 Argo which was also moored here. This Selene is one of the first 57's built and has every conceivable option and piece of electronics that could possibly be installed on a boat. Canadians Yogi and Sue are the third owners of Argo which was built in 2004 and remains in like-new condition.

Argo is traveling with two other Canadian boats while exploring the Broughtons and points north. The group invited us for drinks and we had lively discussions with these friendly Canadians. Although quite proud, and rightly so, of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics they offered their condolences for beating the US in the final hockey game! This is the second such condolence message from Canadians in the last two weeks. As with most US-Canada cocktail conversation, goverment and politics dominate many of the topics. They think there is a better solution to illegal immigration than the "Arizona" approach; they envy our low tax rate, deductible interest and property taxes and California's Proposition 13; and they are sure that the average US citizen is way more nationalistic than a Canadian. From the land of many flagpoles with the Maple Leaf flying high, the US is more patriotic? Over the last 15 years of traveling/crusing in BC, this is a surprise.

We're heading back to California for a few weeks for doctor and dentist appointments, fund-raising events, business meetings and trail riding. We plan to be cruising again in June and will send out another email letting you know when we resume cruising. Later.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

#7 Echo Bay and Sullivan Bay

Late yesterday afternoon the Selene 55 Spirit moored at Lagoon Cove. We said hello to owners Patrick and Miriam Gill, who are very experienced boaters, on their way to Alaska. Everyone shared their “Monday Storm Stories” which also battered all the resorts in the area. Spirit had been anchored inside Pender Harbour, and not being protected from the strong northerly winds, enjoyed the “revolving restaurant” view as the boat sailed around on the anchor. They related that the Selene 59 Raindancer experienced similar gyrations while anchored in Prideaux Haven. Even a 130,000 pound boat moves around when the wind gets strong enough!

Friday dawned to bright sunshine and we began chatting with the crew of a Nordic Tug 42. Apparently their windlass battery had expired and another was being flown in from Port McNeil. This was a type 8D battery 22 X 10 X 10 inches and 150 pounds. So Alex decided to assist the owner installing the new unit. It arrived by float plane and within 20 minutes was resting in its new home, the bow of the Nordic.

Spirit had left for Echo Bay Resort, about 25 miles further into the Broughton Islands, and we decided to join her there. We took the skinny route, that's the one with the tiny passages with many twists and turns. Even the route reads like the path in the woods that Little Red Riding Hood took to grandmothers house: down Clio Channel, through Beware Passage, across Indian Channel, through Village Channel, through Eliot Passage, across Knight Inlet, up Spring Passage, through Retreat Passage, over Cramer Pass and finally to Echo Bay Resort in Echo Bay Marina Park. It was a fine cruise in the bright sunshine.

More snow covered mountains which make for great photos!

As this Canadian Coast Guard boat passed us, we were happy not to be cruising with the Squires since Dick is still wanted in Mexico. Canada is always eager to extradite Americanos back to Mexico to face their court system and we didn't want to be accomplices.

Echo Bay Resort with the Selene 55 Spirit.

The Echo Bay Resort is quite popular in the summer. The owner Pierre roasts a pig each Saturday afternoon and the regularly have 150 people attend the party. He also has trails and a museum of local history. The place is kept cleaned and polished. We'll visit here again in June.

It was too early in the year for the pig roast, so the crew on Spirit invited us for happy hour. They have the full liquor cabinet and offered various single malt scotch choices and Jamisons. Pat and I enjoyed their "Spirited" hospitality, and with that liquor cabinet, they are sure to make a bunch of friends on the way to Alaska.

This a Yurt. A Yurt is like an upscale tent cabin. This is a 1-bedroom unit with separate bath, dining, full kitchen and living areas and includes a fireplace. this one has a great view of Echo Bay. For about $10,000 for a 450 sf unit, all you need is a lot with level surface or platform. This may be the wave of the future given our shaky economy. This is also a popular type of environmental "nature lodging". See http://www.rockwatersecretcoveresort.com for an lodging example. Order your very own Yurt at http://www.pacificyurts.com. What color would you like Pat?

This river otter is looking for a Yurt!

Spirit departs Echo Bay for Alaska. Have a great cruise!

We enjoyed the warm temps and bright sunshine Sunday morning in Echo Bay. Around noon we organized our departure for Sullivan Bay. It was an easy 2 hour jaunt in wide passages. We spent most of the time on the fly-bridge in the sun.

We enjoyed brilliant sunshine over the last few days in Southern British Columbia.

View from the fly-bridge, our own 1080 pixel 3D HDTV!

Snow covered peaks are bright white in the sunny skies along our route.

The view towards Main Street in downtown Sullivan Bay.

Sullivan Bay is a floating community. All the homes, restaurant, shops and lodging are built upon floats. All are interconnected with dock walkways so that sometimes you tie up "downtown" while other times it's "suburbia". This time Wild Blue was the "only boat in town" so we tied up outside in the "country", away from the buildings.

The resort opens for full scale operations June 1st. The caretakers gave us a few DVDs to keep us entertained, but the scenery is so splendid, we didn't even think of watching the tube, except of course, for the Lakers. Great game!

Tomorrow, Sunday, we cross the Queen Charlotte Strait headed for Port McNeil on Vancouver Island's northeast coast. Hopefully we'll have an uneventful crossing as the weather looks to be awesome and sunny once again. If you are up early tomorrow we should show us on AIS at www.marinetraffic.com approximately between 8 and 11am. Click on the box near the northwest end of Vancouver Island. Goodnight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

#6 Lagoon Cove

On Wednesday the wind was up to 30 knots in Johnstone Strait, the next waterway between us and our next port, so we stayed another day in Blind Channel. No phone but great wifi internet. We even did a few phone Skype calls before it became too slow. We also purchased our Canadian Fishing license online. Alex diagnosed the refrigerator compressor after downloading the manual over the internet. Turns out the compressor cooling fan was beginning to fail, and was drawing too much startup current, causing the compressor unit to shut down. He will order and replace the fan later in Port McNeil. Pat went looking for the local black bear with no joy.

Thankfully we have completed the last viewing of "Pride and Prejudice" and can now continue life back in the real world. I think somehow the P&P DVD got damaged, as it doesn't seem to want to play anymore. I guess we'll just have to see back to back viewings of "Hunt for the Red October"...... forever.

Today's route to Lagoon Cove via Johnstone Strait.

On Thursday morning at 6AM we departed for Lagoon Cove on East Cracroft Island. To get anywhere north from here requires entering Johnstone Strait and heading west at least 20 miles, before being able to leave it. The Strait is notorious for big westerly winds, and those winds combined with large westbound current mean giant, choppy seas. The Selene loves these conditions, but the crew can't stomach it! To make it easy on us, our early morning departure was timed for a building eastbound current, same as the forecast wind direction. By 6:30 we entered the Strait enjoying flat seas and little wind. Johnstone is a boat traffic choke point on the Inside Passage and we saw five other pleasure boats all westbound, the most in a week.

The snow was still clinging to the mountains on the Vancouver Island side of the Strait.

10 miles complete and 10 miles to go: looking east down Johnstone Strait.

Above Port Neville on the Vancouver Island side of the Strait, an ex-BC Ferry has been put to use by a logging company. The ferry which was moored to logging barges, looks to be in excellent condition. It's just too sad the Washington State Ferry system didn't have a clean looking ferry like this one to replace its aging equipment.

Even though the Johnstone's seas were glassy flat, were we still happy to leave the Strait and turn into Havannah Channel. This Channel has small islands scattered throughtout its length. One island is appropriately named Hull Island, as documented by our photogragh of the hull on its western shore.

Hull Island documented.

In 2008 it started on May 1st. Last year they moved it to May 15th and there was too many complaints. So for 2010 they compromised and started the BC commercial prawning season today at high noon. And that's why before noon we saw five commercial prawn boats idling at various locations, waiting until 12PM to drop their traps. Time to get the Wisers ready for trading!

Prawn boat waits patiently for noon to set its traps.

We worked our way up the east side of East Cracroft Island and entered Chatham Channel. Chatham is narrow but well charted channel. Halfway up the 4-milechannel, Alex spotted a large dark boulder on the shore. Then it moved, and became our first bear sighting of 2010. Mister bear totally ignored our presence just about 150 away in the channel. So sometimes it's OK to be ignored!

We exited Chatham Channel and made a hard left turn through the Blow Hole, a narrow channel with 6.5 feet of depth, and pulled into one of our favorite resorts, Lagoon Cove. Bill and Pat greeted us at the dock and tied up the boat. We relaxed then took a 40-minute trail hike and missed stepping in fresh bear scat three different times. We finished off the evening with Pasta carbonara per the Chef Vince Fonte recipe. What a nice day!

Wild Blue moored at Lagoon Cove Resort

Besides being a great poker player, San Luis Obispo's Italian born and fluent Vince Fonte is really better at pasta sauces. Here's his Carbonara recipe over abruzzese di semola di grano duro (linguine for non-Italians). Awesome!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

#5 Blind Channel

By late Sunday afternoon the winds had built up from the Southeast. Reports had steady breeze above 30 knots all around Cortes Island. Thankfully Von Donop Inlet is nicely protected from southerly winds and we hardly felt any puffs 3 miles inside the Island at the end of the Inlet. The low was expected to be 1004 millibars passing through after midnight. Assuming he may be up later, Alex went to bed while Pat stayed awake to watch the weather.

The Wild Blue was anchored deep inside 3-mile long Von Donop Inlet.

Alex was awakened from a deep sleep around 2AM. Pat reported the barometer at 996 millibars, lower than forecast, and had to speak loudly to keep from being drowned out by the heavy clatter of rain on the boat. Not quite awake, Alex stumbled up the the pilothouse, wiping his sleepy eyes, straining to see the instruments, when suddenly he was jolted by a huge white flash and deafening explosion. Lightning and thunder next to the boat! After his heart restarted, he decided to stay below, and sleep a bit longer. The raucous lasted another half hour, and then the fast moving low had passed.

The barometer dipped to 998 millibars at 2am and was up to 1010 by 11:30.

By daylight the rain has stopped, the barometer was making a meteor-like rise, and the northwesterly winds were whipped up. The Inlet was not nearly as protected from that direction, and with regular 30-knot gusts, the boat sailed back and forth on its taught anchor chain. During lunch, Pat equated the meandering boat to dining in a revolving restaurant: the view was always changing. A special weather statement by Environment Canada warned of many waterspouts. We saw none, but the high winds lasted all day. By evening the wind was down to 15 knots and we were a enjoying a more stable view.

The big winds caused the boat to "sail" on its anchor.

The Benson's have a tradition of watching the same particular movie during each cruise. We've enjoyed "The Hunt for the Red October" at least 25 times aboard Wild Blue. With our sons aboard, boys out number the girls three-to-one, so as Sean Connery says, "Engage the caterpillar drive!" However, for this cruise it's one-to-one, and as you might guess, tonight's movie is "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin F i l t h. Oh well. We managed to absorb the first half of Colin and company, before turning in for another early start in the morning.

On Tuesday at 6:30AM we pulled anchor from an icy deck, bound for Blind Channel. We needed an on-time departure to insure arrival at the Yuculta Rapids at 8:45, 30 minutes before slack current. This would put us at the more treacherous Dent Rapids near slack current. Once outside Von Donop, it was clear we had experienced a large cold front: snow covered all the nearby mountains down to about 1500 feet.

Just one of the hundreds of newly snow covered peaks blanketed by the storm.

We arrived at Yuculta on time with only 1.5 knots against us and admired the many upscale oceanfront resorts glistening in the sun ready for another busy summer season. We continued through to Dent Rapids arriving near slack with .5 knots of current in our favor, our easiest rapids transit to date.

Dent Rapids was tamed by the slack tide.

One of the many ocean front resorts facing Yuculta and Dent rapids.

We keep coming back to Blind Channel Resort year after year. It's conveniently located just off Johnstone Strait, a required waterway when transiting the Inside Passage, and near all the tough rapids. It's a natural overnight stop. The resort has been operated by the same family for three generations, has all the amenities, and is not too pricey. With wifi, a convenience store and forest trails to be explored, we may stay two nights.

Wild Blue is the only patron at Blind Channel Resort. These docks are sold out each day during the summer.

Pat stands next to Canada's National Tree: a huge cedar tree with 16 foot trunk.

We walked the resort forest trails looking for the resident black bear. The owner says he's a bit shy so maybe we will bring him something to eat. He has just woke after sleeping all winter and must be hungry. We'll try again tomorrow. It's time for the last half of the Colin Barf movie. Good night.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

#4 Secret Cove, Grace Harbour, Von Donop Inlet

On Friday we rose early for the cruise to Smugglers Anchorage or Secret Cove. The forecast called for high afternoon winds so after yesterday we were motivated to get away early. The two coves are a 3-hour motor and just a mile apart. So if the weather is good we would anchor in Smugglers (and drink from our stash of smuggled American whiskey); if not we'd tie to the dock in Secret Cove and have a warm Canadian tottie.

To stay out of Vancouver's nasty ocean as long as possible, we proceeded north from Snug Cove, over the top of Bowen Island. After 40 minutes we entered unprotected water with 15-knot winds and short 2-foot chop, easily manageable by boat and crew. However, today's forecast caused us to be cautious mariners. Expecting the worsening conditions we were surprised by dying breeze and flattening seas! It was a quiet cruise to Secret Cove where proprietor Scott Rowland welcomed us once again to his home and marina 10 months out of the year, (He spends two winter months each year in Palm Springs).

Since it's the beginning of May in British Columbia, the commercial spot prawning season is about to open. Many prawn fish boats were amassing at Secret Cove, ready to saturate the ocean with traps just as soon as BC Fisheries gives the green light. On past cruises we've bartered with prawners for choice fresh prawns. Our experience has taught us to bring extra provisions of Wisers Whiskey, a powerful bartering tool! Can't wait for the season to open.

In Secret Cove we ran into the new owner of Joya del Mar, a beautiful Selene 55. The owner is a Scot and has renamed his boat Albanic. He has big plans to take Albanic down the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Wow!

Saturday we moved northward towards Lund, BC. Lund is the last town on Canada's Highway 99, which the extension of US I-5. As we passed Pender Harbour we were once again surrounded by Selene trawlers returning from a 2-day Princess Louisa Inlet expedition. There was the Selene 53 Horizon headed for the Gulf Islands; then Selene 59 Koinonia headed for Nanaimo, and then the Selene 53 Duesie headed for points north. We heard the Selene 55 Molly II was in Pender Harbor and we spotted the Selene 59 Raindancer crossing the Georgia Strait headed north. That is the most pleasure boats we've seen yet on any day cruising, and they were all Selenes!

The Selene 53 Horizon off Texada Island with the mountains of Vancouver Island in the background.

At Lund we didn't like the moorage arrangements, as there was no dock ramp to the floating moorage. So we continued north into Desolation Sound, ending up anchored in Grace Harbour, a peaceful setting. While there Alex did some engine maintenance: replaced the cooler zincs, cleaned seawater intake strainers and checked the oil. In doing so he noticed a small drop of rust emerging from the shaft of the main engine seawater pump. He plans to order a spare pump when in Port McNeil.

Skinny entrance to Grace Harbour in Desolation Sound. Actually there was one other boat.

The galley refrigerator seems to be misbehaving. Runs great when on AC power, either from the generator or when cabled to the dock. On 12 volt DC power the unit stops cooling. The DC motor starts for about 10 seconds then shuts down. On Monday, We'll be calling the manufacturer, Sea Freeze in Bellingham, WA, to see what they recommend. If there is no easy solution, we can always re-wire the refer to the AC Inverter circuit and run it that way when off the grid.

Propane delivery to a remote home in Desolation Sound.

Grace Harbour was quiet and the expected 30-knot winds, if they materialized, did not penetrate this anchorage. Today, Sunday, with yet even more wind expected, we set our course for Von Donop Inlet which cuts deep into Cortes Island from it's north shore. The guide books say Von Donop is a bomb proof anchorage in any storm. BC Marine Weather broadcast calls for 40-knot southeast winds tonight. We'll see.

Being anchored out, away from phones and the internet, is nice and quiet. Of course we do get DirecTV and have been following news and the Lakers. But Alex's habit of picking up the iPhone for email is slowly being broken as there is no service in these remote anchorages of British Columbia. Of course there is always "War Boating" to allow us to connect to the world. "War Boating" is "War Driving" from a boat: you cruise along looking for open wifi signals. Today we located a good connection in Squirrel Cove on the east side of Cortes Island. Once connected, we drifted around for 30 minutes while answering emails, making Skype calls, Googling for Sea Freeze manuals, and reading the local news. This mode is really catching on as many of the BC lighthouse offer free wifi as a service to passing boaters.

Thank you to the community of Squirrel Cove for leaving your wifi open to passing boaters. We read the news, email and got our Google fix for the day.

Desolation Sound is just that. No other boats today!

This seagull is also waiting out the storm.

We are hunkered down here, deep inside Von Donop Inlet, anchored in 30 feet of water with 150 of chain out ready for the big winds, if they happen. Have a great rest of Sunday.