This has been a strange cruise so far, weather-wise. We left Sunday under promising conditions: the weather was drizzly and overcast, which meant a low pressure region and there should be southeasterlies blowing up Haro strait.
Thing is, they weren’t there, at least not for long. The winds were light and came and went. We managed to make our way to Princess Cove on Portland Island, but we motored as much as sailed.
Drifting past Sidney Island
The next day broke with fog and some overcast which cleared as morning progressed, and again no wind
We had a brief flurry of excitement as we entered Samsun Narrows, but that zephyr lasted perhaps 30 minutes before we were forced to fire up the engine again. We motored the entire day up Stuart Channel to Ladysmith Harbour, where we dropped hook behind Dunsmuir Islands.
WIndless Sunsum Narrows
It was freaking hot aboard, without a breath of air stirring, so we jumped in the water, which was a brisk and refreshing 19 degrees. I had a diving mask aboard and went to examine the prop and shaft, and to my dismay saw that both the shaft and prop zincs were gone. I use a large guppy anode while in harbour, so I was surprised they had barely lasted a year.
Cooling down after a hot day
Checking out zincs
I had a spare prop anode so decided I would install it rather than hiring a diver. I’m not a strong swimmer so the prospect gave me the willies, but given that the water was warm enough, I decided to give it a try.
It’s amazing how far down that prop is when you are holding your breath. There were three old anode screws still remaining in the prop that had to come out. and I dove, unscrewed one with my allen wrench, and came up gasping for air. Dive again, and surface with the next one in my mitt. Dive again, and lose that screw. Hyperventilate for awhile, and then dive with the anode and screw. It took a bit more time to get that anode in place and the screw loosely installed. Come up gasping again. Repeat two more times, then go back down a final time to tighten all three screws.
It was quite an effort, but I quickly got the hang of it, and as my anxiety dropped I was able to hold my breath long enough to actually do something down there. Last year a diver died in this area doing exactly this (but with diving equipment) and I have no idea how that could possibly have happened. A weight belt would have really helped as my buoyancy made it difficult to stay in place while I was trying to install the screws. I still have a shaft anode left to install, but at least I won’t have to take any old screws out. I didn’t have a spare aboard so will pick one up en route north and install it later.
Holding breath one more time.
The next day was again very hot and we went across to Ladysmith in the dinghy. There is a bakery called the Old Town Bakery, just off the highway, that I will forever make a point at stopping at whenever I drive up the Island. They have the best baked goods I’ve ever had, better than anything I’ve found in Victoria.
We had to make the last of the flood at Dodd Narrows so we hurried back to the boat and headed back into the Channel. Once again there was no wind and we motored the 12 miles to the Narrows. Tracy doesn’t like places like this but I made her helm her way through. Of course there was no problem because the max current of 7 knots had by this time slackened to just a couple of knots. Once we were through we found wind, glorious wind, and were able to sail the hour to Nanaimo Harbour.
Purple Martin colony at the marina, Newcastle Island
I love Newcastle Island
It was very hot in the harbour but at least the breeze kept up while we walked around New castle Island. The island is a park, and a gorgeous gem it is, with lots of old growth still standing, soft sand beaches, and fantastic sandstone formations along shore. At Tracy’s prodding we went for a long hike, during which the wind died and the humidity soared. It was no Toronto, but the heat and humidity made for an uncomfortable hike, ameliorated only by the swim we engaged in when we got back to the boat.
The wind blew pretty good off and on that night, and with another front moving in, I looked forward to a day of wind while we crossed the Strait of Georgia to Smuggler’s Cove. I was wrong. Although the day looked foul, after perhaps 45 minutes of sailing, once again we found an utter lack of wind. Tracy didn’t think much of the crossing because the Strait still carried a chop from the night before and the seas were quite confused. It seemed unfair that we had to fight our way through a chop in the utter absence of wind. At least it had cooled down some.
By the time we made it to Smuggler’s Cove, it was hot and sunny again, although I eschewed swimming this time. The Cove is tiny and I didn’t trust that those boats around me weren’t dumping their holding tanks in there (a practice I’ve always though utterly immoral, long before there was legislation banning it; what kind of idiot dumps raw sewage into restricted places where people might want to swim, rather than in massive open straits between harbours? We know lots of people did, because pretty much all anchorages are closed to clam harvesting because of e. coli contamination).
Smuggler’s Cove is so small that stern tying is the norm, a practice I haven’t had to participate in years, because I tend to avoid high-season cruising. This was a bit of a struggle as I only have lengths of ½” yacht braid, not the light poly that I saw everyone else using. I had to tie three lengths together to make the trip to shore and back to the boat, and once wet, it was quite heavy. It was also barely long enough so I found myself trying to pull the 200’ out of the water on one hand, while pulling the boat away from the anchor with the other, while sitting in the dinghy. I’m sure I provided ample entertainment to the surrounding boats.
Entering Smuggler’s Cove (video)
Off the entrance to the anchorage, looking down the Strait from whence we came.
Snug at anchor
Smuggler’s Cove is very beautiful, with a short walking trail with gorgeous sunset views up Malaspina Strait. It also boasts hordes of mosquitoes. Fainleog came with a set of bug screens for the small portlights, but not for the main hatches. Tracy found some bug netting aboard and by using a couple of coat hangers I was able to make a screen for the salon hatch. I also taped screen over the V-berth hatch.
But I was surprised at how avid the mosquitoes were: there were a few places we forgot to take care of (head portlight for one) and it one point in the wee hours, I woke up, turned on the light, and counted over 20 mosquitoes in the V-berth with us. We smashed and whacked, leaving bloody smears all over the v-berth ceiling.
Leaving Smuggler’s Cove
There was some nice breezes that evening, but again, come daytime heating it died away. Once again we fired up the diesel and motored our way north to Pender Harbour. Eventually, we found some glorious wind an hour out from harbour and were able to sail our way all the way into the inlet to our anchorage. If there had been another choice I would have kept sailing, but the next stretch of coast is pretty barren of anchorages.
Entrance to Pender Harbour
The harbour is actually a long inlet with several marinas and coves inside.
I don’t think much of Pender Harbour. We dropped hook in Garden Bay, and I doubt I’ve ever seen so many boats in such a small place. Boats check to jowl. There are probably more boats here than in Victoria. I’ll be able to pick up and anode and Tracy will get some groceries, then we’re outta here.
That’s a crowded harbour!
Tracy Likes their Mojitos.
This is a cool town!
Walking back from the pub
Even on holiday the work continues. The pump for the shower sump stopped sucking…
Red sky at night…
The wind started howling his morning and Tracy got up to keep watch. The rain started pretty heavily, but now at noon it’s stopped. The forecast was for strong winds out in Malaspina Strait, but I have my doubts. This is by far the longest I’ve cruised with so little sailing. I suppose that’s fairly typical for July but it blows. With stinkpotters it’s all about the destination, but for sailors, it’s also about the sailing, about travelling under a press of canvas. This is like the doldrums, with intense heat and no wind.
I’m grateful for the fabulous beauty of this coast and the privilege of being able to cruise here, but I do want to sail. Most years I start out in August and the later you go (or the earlier) the more wind. I suppose this is better for Tracy in that most times we are dealing with too much wind, while this holiday it’s calm and slow. I’m sure she doesn’t miss the wind.