Shearwater to Rescue Bay

Tuesday morning was sunny and clear, a real contrast to the previous day. We prepared for a late morning departure to time the currents at Perceval Narrows on our way to Rescue Bay.

As we were pulling away from the dock, Triceratops paddled and peddled away in front of us to restart their wind and people powered Race to Alaska. We wished them a speedy journey as we passed them in the channel.


We had several interesting waypoints on the way to Rescue Bay. The first was this narrow rocky passage. Yes, we had to go through this. 


We poked our nose into Milbanke Sound and felt some Pacific swells before turning into Perceval Narrows. The entry is fairly narrow and around a sharp right turn. We found lots of debris and logs in the channel. All uneventful since we had planned well and there was not significant current. 

The rest of the journey up Mathieson Channel was peaceful and warm – Larry and I took turns napping on the bow in the sun.


Fortunately we were both awake when a frisky group of Dall’s porpoises decided to visit and ride our bow! It was incredibly cool to see up close how fast they are – they obviously had great sport jumping over the bulbous bow and riding our bow wave. Larry got a great video of them which we will post when we have better bandwidth.


We anchored in Rescue Bay and Ted and Sarah rafted to us.

Looking out from our bow toward the entrance to the anchorage. Ted and Sarah waiting in Sanwan to tie to us.

We spent the evening watching birds diving, sea otters playing and watching the tide turn the bay into a large pond. We didn’t crab, since the otters dine on them there wouldn’t be any for us! Today we are heading to Kutze Bay. Currently we are passing the First Nations area of Klemtu so can make this blog update.

On to Shearwater

Today dawned rainy and chilly. We departed our anchorage with no issues after repositioning the chain in the chain locker so it did NOT pile up into a mountain and back up the winch when bringing it up – as it had the last 2 times we weighed anchor. Now that we are in deeper anchorages and putting out 200-300 feet of chain, the chain has had opportunity to cause excitement, at least for me. I have memories of the chain jumping the winch and dumping the anchor and the entire 400 feet of chain into the water while the wind was blowing and we were literally between the rocks and hard place – a friend’s boat – last year. I am still working to overcome my anxiety about retrieving the anchor, so these last few times of chain hiccups did not help. But today we now seem to have the kinks worked out.

Anyway, we proceeded to have a pleasant cruise to Shearwater, which is a small fishing village on Denny Island. You are seeing this blog post because they have good internet and cell phone service!

We wanted to check in to see if we could get some fresh produce and fishing and prawning bait. Since it is raining and gloomy, we decided to stay the night. Fortunately, we also got here on the day they receive their supplies, so lined up with others for the 1pm opening of the grocery store and had the pick of the fresh supplies.

Waiting for the grocery store to open.

Ted, Sarah and I then took the small ferry across the channel to the First Nations Village of Bella Bella, while Larry put out the first prawn trap of the season. Ted and Sarah had been to Bella Bella last year when work had just started to build a new Longhouse for the Heiltsuk nation, and it is nearing completion. We were fortunate enough to get a brief tour of the ongoing work which is scheduled to be completed and ready for potlatches in October. The smell of cedar was pervasive and wonderful.

Interior of the Longhouse under construction.

Bella Bella is a small village, but had an impressive looking school. This is the totem in front of it from the commemoration about 20 years ago.

Walking on the dock back at Shearwater, we also saw the trimaran Triceratops that we had heard in distress on the radio yesterday – their rudder had broken and they needed assistance out in Queen Charlotte Strait. Turns out they are one of the Race to Alaska boats, all no-engine boats racing 750 miles from Port Townsend Washington to Ketchikan as fast as they can. He was fast at work crafting a new rudder and intends to continue on to complete the race – so we didn’t keep him too long talking!

A crew of multiple people sail in this as long as it takes to get to Ketchikan.

Tomorrow we head for Rescue Cove. We are starting to watch the weather at Dixon Entrance, which will be our last significant challenge for crossing into Alaska.

Sullivan Bay

Yesterday, after Larry recovered from his GI bug (during which he was not happy to hear that what I offered was “supportive care”, not a magical cure from my medical kit) we departed Port Harvey for a several hour cruise to Sullivan Bay.

On the way we passed Health Bay, a First Nations village. Maybe I should have taken Larry there the day before.

Longhouse at Health Bay

Along the way we have pretty consistently been seeing a lot of logs in the water, which we need to avoid or we could have a larger hole in the hull. It’s nice when the birds are hanging out on them to give us a heads up. The tides have been large recently so that tends to bring the logs into the water from the beaches.

Sullivan Bay is a village with several thousand linear feet of docks anchored in well over 100 feet of water, some lined by floating houses which are summer houses for fishing fanatics. It’s early in the season, so only a handful of boats stayed the night. The total length of all the docks is around 1.3 KM, so I walked the docks for some exercise. Got back in the boat just before a torrential squall hit.

Some of the floating homes in Sullivan Bay, taken from our boat on the outer dock.

This morning dawned clear and mild, and we are off to Allison Harbor for the night, hopefully to make the crossing of Cape Caution tomorrow if the weather predictions hold steady.

Morning view from Sullivan Bay

Nanaimo to the Broughtons

On Monday morning we left Nanaimo at 9am and proceeded 80 miles north to a beautiful anchorage at Gowland Harbor, near the town of Campbell River. It was a long day – we didn’t put the anchor down until 7:30 pm or so. Quick dinner and check of the weather and headed for bed because our plan for Tuesday called for getting up at 4:30am to head for Seymour Narrows to hit slack current at 6am.

Tuesday morning’s forecast still looked ok so we weighed anchor at 4:55am in the early morning dawn and headed out. Not long after we started Dall’s porpoises were jumping all around us – a good omen!

Seymour Narrows has a fearsome history.

The currents run very strong through here on ebbing and flooding tides, up to 16 knots. There used to be a large rock on the right side called Ripple Rock. Over the past couple hundred years many people and boats were lost, in part because of the rock. Two attempts were made in the first half of the twentieth century to blow it up – only the second time in 1955 did it succeed, making this a less scary but still serious narrow channel to navigate to go north.

We hit it at exactly the right time. No whirlpools or overfalls to scare us and push us around. The rest of our journey north through Johnstone Straight was sunny with a few exciting times at the mouths of channels where tide rips and whirlpools pushed the boat around and Larry had to hand steer aggressively. We also passed the 30 or so sailboats gathering for the start of the Vancouver 360 race which started at 9am just after we passed from West Thurlow Island.

Now we are tied up the dock at Port Harvey. We visited here 7 years ago on our trip to the Broughton Islands and really enjoyed the spot. Sadly, the marina is closed now because the owner suddenly passed away a year or so ago. One ties up here at your own risk. Since we are with our friend Ted who builds docks for a living, and he thinks it checks out, we feel secure.

Before heading for a nap, Larry and I went for a walk to revisit the path where I had a bear encounter with McGee on our last visit. It is now quite overgrown in parts before getting to the forest path, so Larry decided to bushwhack the path back and get a workout in.

He was imagining himself slaying many Vikings or white walkers from Game of Thrones but acknowledged he might not last very long if his life depended on his swordsmanship. He did do a nice job of opening up the path.

We did not meet up with a bear this time, but they are definitely around from the scat evidence.

Now we wait to see if we catch any crab and for what the weather brings in the morning.

We’re in Canada!

After a wavy rocky start in Rosario Strait – waves averaging 3 feet because of 15-20 knot wins against a strongly ebbing tide, we had a smooth sunny 5 hour uneventful cruise through the San Juan Islands to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island in the Gulf Islands of Canada.

Now we are comfortably anchored and are seated at the Crane and Robin bar and restaurant for the arrival beer!

Our friends Ted and Sarah are not far behind us on their boat, and we will plan our next few days journey up the BC coast this evening.

Lessons in Boat Patience

Last Wednesday morning we were very excited to head to Philbrooks in Sidney, BC to pick up Miss Miranda after a month of maintenance work and a few upgrades. We boarded the Washington State ferry that goes from Anacortes to Sidney once a day and settled in for a pleasant 3 hour cruise. About 1 mile away from the dock, the boat came to a stop. After a while , it turned around and headed back to the dock, where we sat for 90 minutes while they tried to fix “mechanical difficulties” and warned us not to use the toilets. But after all that, the sailing was cancelled for the day and we disembarked, wondering how the heck we were going to get to Sidney that day. We had a tight schedule because we were committed to taking the boat down to Seattle for Opening Day of boating season weekend. We had promised Miranda that she could host a bunch of her college pals for the big event on Saturday. And, this was likely our last Opening Day for a long time and we wanted to catch up with our friends before we depart.

We have often watched small private planes fly into the tiny airport just over the hill beyond our harbor. Now we were going to get a chance to experience that first hand. Larry arranged for a tiny 4 person plane to fly us up that afternoon and saved the day.

Heading to the plane. It was VERY small.

It was only a half hour flight, and I think we waited longer on the runway to clear Canadian customs than it did to fly there. Thank god, because I did have to work to keep my stomach in its place up in the air currents!

View of Skyline Marina from the plane.

We did a thorough check out with the crew at Philbrooks, including a lot of time on our new massive anchor and its operation. Then we cruised back into US waters to Friday Harbor in time for sunset and a quick dinner. The next morning we left at sunrise for Anacortes and turned ourselves around in 2 hours to sail down to Seattle. We made it to Seattle, through the Ballard Locks and the Ship Canal and tied up onto the log boom in Lake Washington, again just in time for sunset and a well-deserved cocktail!

Along the way we listened to a dramatic coast guard story unfold over the VHF. An unconscious man was found in the water near Whidbey Island and rescued, but the boat he came from was nowhere to be seen. Later a second person was found who unfortunately did not survive. The boat has still not been found. A sobering reminder, and maybe the reason Larry purchased the rig yesterday that I am supposed to use to get him out of the water if he goes in, despite thinking it was expensive. We need to practice.

I was prepping dinner when the water pressure trickled to nothing. A reset of the pump breaker seemed to fix it. Friday morning, however, the flow of water continue to stop periodically. I managed to take a shower but we decided we needed a spare pump because we left our other spare in Anacortes. A dingy ride and trip to Fisheries Supply was in order.

Larry went to bed early because he was beat after several hectic days. I stayed up cleaning and talking with Miranda, and by the end of the evening the pump was officially dead. No amount of breaker resetting would get it back on. Careful use of the head overnight was in order.

When Larry woke up to the beautiful sunny Saturday, I had to inform him the pump needed to be replaced. He did it with a smile, even when he discovered the box was missing the parts needed to actually attach the pump and he had to jerry rig others to fit, turning a 5 minute job into something much longer. But then all seemed well and we were ready for the party day!

Miranda picked up her buddies from the UW dock minutes before they closed it for the rowing races. It was a clown car of a dingy because she ran out of time for two trips.

We were set up on to spectate in the cockpit and the kids up on the boat deck. Larry got the davit out to set up a swinging hammock chair, when suddenly it stopped in midair, the generator died and all our power went out. Dead in the water. Larry has become very restrained – no salty sailor language was heard.

It’s a very long story and Larry is an amazing electrical detective. He spent much of Opening Day puzzling over the generator and figuring out how to rescue at least a leg of power to provide some charge to our deeply discharged batteries – brand new Lifeline batteries that are supposed to be charge much faster with our newly installed dual inverter chargers. He rewired one of the charges to the water maker circuit (one problem was the charged breakers were clearly too low capacity). He recovered our 120 volt service, but not our 240, which runs the davit. That meant no ability to raise the dingy or put the davit back where it belonged. Also very long time to charge our batteries and stay out of the danger zone while anchored for the 4 day weekend.

Miranda and friends had a great time, fairly oblivious and enjoying the crew races.

The line of boats across from us is freely anchored in the water, on our side we are all tied up to a log boom and anchored. The races and the parade go down the canal between us.

By about 1pm Larry felt there was nothing more to be done and we watched the parade.

The Chief Seattle Fireboat is always a favorite. They usually avoid spraying the crowd.
Many boats come to participate from Canadian yachts clubs and large vessels like this one.

We were happy Miranda had a great time and that it was a beautiful day, but we still had to figure out how to get home through the Locks with the dingy towed behind us in the craziness of hundreds of boats all trying to do the same thing. We planned out all our steps and thought through what could go wrong. We hooked up our tow rope, and lashed down the davit in its upright saluting position. Then early Sunday morning we headed out. We uneventfully hauled our anchor up (our windlass is not on 240 power) and made our way to the Locks. As usual after Opening Day it was an exciting time in the large lock, which can handle up to a small cruise ship and has strong currents when the gates open. A boat always seems to go sideways and there’s yelling and screaming, but damage was averted. Fun to watch when it’s not you.

The view of the Locks filled in front of us. They did cram another boat in there after I took this picture. The view behind us went on twice as far.

We made it home to Anacortes with blessedly calm wind and no significant wave action. Now we are regrouping to get the electrical work fixed over the next week back in Sidney. I am sure Larry will post a technical update for those of you who are into that.

Elephant Seal Molting

Walking McGee late last week near the shore down the street from our condo I came upon a solo elephant seal in the grass by the gate at Cabana Park. There were a few signs on the fence warning “Female Elephant Seal Molting – Stay back 100 yards”. This seemed a little tough for the people attending the retirement party at the Cabana that evening because she was right on the edge of the driveway. I kept McGee back and he seemed blissfully unaware until I tried to take a picture with my phone, rather unsuccessfully.

This morning in front of the boatyard.

I had no idea that seals molt. Turns out at least that elephant seals do, every year once they reach a certain age. I went back this morning, expecting to see her in the same place, but this time she was right in the cul-de-sac itself in front of the boatyard gate. A volunteer named Corinne was adjusting the tape and markers around her and I got to learn some more from her.

She started to get curious about McGee I think.

This seal is from a elephant seal family that lives around Whidbey Island, but she’s an independent young woman who behaves atypically and takes off on her own. This will be the first time she molts as she still considered a juvenile. Molting is the process of shedding the fur and skin layer to reveal fresh fur underneath. It takes about a month, during which the seal doesn’t eat or go in the water. They don’t even like to be on the sand. Speculation is that sand doesn’t feel good on new skin. Females molt around now, after they’ve given birth to pups earlier in the spring. Males mold later in the summer. More often they congregate as a group, so her solitary choice is unusual. They usually return to the same site every year.

This will be something to watch for the next 5 weeks as we prepare to leave for Alaska. She should be finished with the process by the time we leave.

Lucky for the boatyard they have another entrance. Hopefully she won’t come further out into the road. I would much prefer to see her back up on the grass. The volunteer also said she is becoming very interested in dogs. Good thing they aren’t supposed to eat during this time. I think I will keep McGee away from her anyway.

Hydraulics, fluid dynamics and wine

This week we went to Santa Rosa California to spend two days at a training class learning about our hydraulic stabilizers and bow thrusters. The stabilizers are very important features that make our boat easier to handle and more comfortable in rough seas. They won’t save our lives, but they will make us less likely to want to die from seasickness.

A fin – one of a pair that are attached to the hull. Their hydraulic powered motors react to waves hitting the boat to reduce roll.
A tube with a thruster – we have one of these in the bow of our boat – huge assist for docking in wind!

The company ABT Trac holds these classes at their US based manufacturing company in California. The most amazing thing we learned was how service oriented ABT is – they have all the original drawings of our specific boat installation from 20 years ago, and we can call them at any time for help. We got the entire history of parts replacement and service for the life of our boat from the previous two owners. Now we are ready to do what’s required before we set sail on our voyage. We were truly impressed with ABT’s commitment to quality and reliability, and to their highly skilled long-standing staff.

The machine shop and one of the machines that builds the parts.

Our instructor Eric was hilarious – I wish my Physics professor in college had Eric’s enthusiasm and excitement for fluid dynamics – I would not have struggled nearly as much! “Hydraulics is like baseball – everything goes back to home plate. “

In addition to learning the principles of hydraulic systems, we also got hands on mechanical experience taking the system apart to fix problems that are rare but COULD happen. Larry now thinks I am in charge of all maintenance.

I learned a lot doing it myself. Including the importance of LOTS of oilsorb towels available at all times.
The left side is the assembled motor for the stabilizer, the right side is the one I disassembled.

We’ve ordered the list of spare parts that would be hard to get in Mexico. Now I just need to review where everything is on our own boat so I know what to look for when and if anything stops working.

Jordan Estate Winery

In Sonoma County, if you are studying fluids you must study wine. We spent an enjoyable day with two tastings – Jordan Winery and Ramey. Perfect on a dreary rainy and chilly day in California.

Our Land Base

The dock that Miss Miranda lives at is accompanied by a one bedroom condo. This is our land base for the foreseeable future. Miranda will have a place while we are away, and this will be a touchdown spot for us in between voyages.

For the past 3 years we’ve rented it out and not set foot in it. When we reentered in December, it was obvious it needed a LOT of work. It’s 40 years old and not much had been done in all those years. Remember 1970s avocado green and orange? We first decided to do the kitchen, paint and refloor and replace all the appliances. Along the way we decided might as well do the whole thing – a bathroom refresh is still in the works.

The old condo – you can’t see the 1970s orange flowered floor tiles in the kitchen!

Of course, as all remodels do, it’s taken twice as long as planned. To be fair, that’s partly because all the snow delayed the delivery of the kitchen cabinets by two weeks.

Yesterday, all the protective covering was removed and the new condo revealed!

Now we can clean the dust off and the movers will pull up with our stuff from storage on Monday morning. I am having a bit of a panic that we haven’t downsized our stuff enough! I’ve also realized that after nearly 2 months on the boat, there is not much I have missed from our stuff.

I can’t wait to enjoy the view through our newly revealed windows while sitting on the couch enjoying a cocktail.

Miss Miranda is right outside the window on the left.

Deception Pass

February was a snowy and frigid month, but we did have a weekend that was good for getting outside. We decided to get our boat chores done one Saturday morning and then explore Deception Pass State Park. We have passed under the Deception Pass bridge which connects the Straight of Juan de Fuca to Skagit Bay many times, but had never seen it by land.

Going through by boat can be hairy if you don’t time the currents right. When the tide is coming in or going out the currents can get up to several knots. It’s a tight passage with lots of rocks and lots of boats wanting to go in both directions, so we always time it for slack current to make it a non-event.

On Saturday we came by car, and walked over the bridge. This turned out to be much scarier than I expected! I wanted to take a picture looking directly down from the bridge, but my stomach wouldn’t allow me to. So here is a shot from the bridge looking out and Larry pointing down. Neither of us could actually look down.

Looking back toward Saratoga Passage
Looking out to the Straight of Juan de Fuca

It’s a long way down!