Map Display

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Curtain Falls


From London England to Victoria, British Columbia Canada
March 30, 2013 to October 30, 2013
At St Katharines Marina, London

Traversay III in front of the Empress Hotel ... photo by Rae Audette

Monday, 28 October 2013

Seymour Narrows, Discovery Passage

This morning's start was at 5 am - even earlier than usual. We wanted to get to Seymour Narrows just north of Campbell River at slack water. This is the brief moment four times a day when the tidal current stops and reverses. On two of those occasions, the current reverses to become a favorable current for our direction of travel.

This may all seem a bit uninteresting but in a stretch of water where the tidal currents regularly exceed 10 knots and reach 16 knots on occasion, contrary currents - or even the eddies and whirlpools associated with strong fair currents are not to be trifled with. Seymour Narrows has possibly the strongest tidal currents anywhere in a passage regularly used by large commercial freighters, ferries and cruise ships.

An interesting bit of trivia regarding Seymour Narrows relates to Ripple Rock, a mid channel shoal with 13.7 meters of water over it. Before the 1950s, this rock had considerably less water over it and, with the fierce tidal eddies capable of setting large ships onto it, was a serious danger to ships transiting the rapids. The Canadian government engaged hard rock miners to tunnel down from the shore, out to mid channel and up into the rock. It was then filled with enough explosives to make the largest planned non-nuclear explosion to that time. The big event in which the 1/2 mile wide channel was filled with an eruption of ocean and rock was all shown in glorious black-and-white on live television.

Seymour Narrows, along with other tidal rapids at Yuculta, mark the northern limit of the cruising grounds typically travelled by recreational boats from Washington State and southern British Columbia. They also seem to mark the beginning of "civilization" with all its busyness, towns and cities.

Thus as we break out into the Strait of Georgia, we are seeing lots of boats - more than we've seen at any time since Scotland.

But our last eagle was yesterday.

At 28/10/2013 14:56 (utc) our position was 50°08.38'N 125°21.27'W

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Sea Lion City

Male Stellar sea lion

Humpback whales breathing in Sync

We passed a sea lion rookery yesterday - there were masses of animals lying on the rocks like big over-stuffed yellow sausages - communicating in a conversational sort of way. The murmur of barking with occasional yaps by the females was underscored by the hefty WOOFS of the males. Sea lions are designed by Nature to appreciate the chorus they're hearing and contributing to by having exposed external ears. This is an advantage (along with that of 'speech') denied to seals who are additionally condemned to slithering along on their bellies. Sea lions can use their flippers to propel themselves over the ground albeit in an ungainly sort of way - especially when compared to their fluency and ease in the water. Even with ears and easier mobility aboveground, I still wouldn't want to be a female sea lion. The males are disproportionately huge - they stare down at the lowlier members of the group in a near-sighted, imperious sort of way and are quite capable of squishing the female during mating.

Speaking of mating, we saw a number of whales yesterday. Two different duos of Humpback Whales seemed to be synchronized in their breathing and diving. This led us to wondering whether we were watching a courting ritual, or whether this was just a female with her large adolescent child. We just don't know enough …

The Hand of Man inevitably displays itself in an unseemly and ugly way when set alongside the formidable natural beauties of the area. We know we've now moved south out of the Wilderness and into Civilization. In our anchoring spot Friday, someone had planted their claim in an ugly duet of orange and yellowed mooring balls. We're not immune to the same desire to extend the colour radius beyond forest green, blue and grey (especially if it's been raining for a while). I guess we're fortunate to be able to exorcize it by scuba diving and finding the other colours of the rainbow underwater - there are oranges, purples, yellows and fluorescent pinks to be seen in the collection of sea stars, encrusting algae, tunicates and cup corals.

Tonight we're surrounded by a Shantytown - complete with a garbage dump (no residents at this time of year). This is in an anchorage which we remembered as pristine twenty years ago. Luckily it was dark shortly after we moved in, and it will be dark when we leave.

Rose star
At 27/10/2013 14:18 (utc) our position was 50°34.22'N 126°41.94'W

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Inside Passage

No part of the of the 9000 nautical miles or so from London to Victoria is quite like any other. And so the last 500 miles, from Prince Rupert to southern British Columbia, are different again.

There are few weather worries; and if weather were to threaten there are a myriad of places to hide. With a few exceptions, the passage between high mountainous islands is deep from shore to shore such that the mariner must be inattentive indeed to collide with rock. Even the exceptions to this general rule are well marked and charted. In fact our principal worry has been the large [and therefore heavy and solid] floating logs washed down the steep slopes by mountain streams. A collision with one of these can [and does] cause serious damage to small vessels. It is this hazard, along with the greater complexity of coastal navigation compared with offshore, which discourages us from travelling at night and thus halves our average speed.

The feeling of sailing a passage on this coast reminds me of treks I made long ago in Nepal. Every day we rise before dawn and move until dusk; in Nepal it was a walking pace; here it is a medium jogging pace. There is a seemingly endless supply of miles such that, mid-trip, the start seems far into the past and the perception is that the voyage, made up of an endless succession of days, need never end. Aboard our boat life is simple - there is no money and no shopping - our only daily concern, among the trees and mountains, is to add more miles to our tally.

We have seen eagles and whales each day; towns only on some days. Even those were very small towns and we stopped at none of them. We prefer the ease and simplicity of anchoring in small tree-cocooned wilderness coves to rushing around rigging lines and fenders for docking. Having lots of fuel, water and food aboard, we need nothing.

In a way we move too fast but we have other things to do in Victoria. We are reminded daily that in our nine years of voyaging we have seen few cruising grounds as rich in beauty and possibilities as this one. ... we will be back this way soon to spend more time and to travel more slowly.

In a few days we have to move on to another part of our lives but there will be a twinge of disappointment when the lines are tied to the Victoria dock and Traversay III comes to rest.

At 25/10/2013 20:31 (utc) our position was 51°12.86'N 127°50.42'W

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Grenville Channel

After a spate of welcome meals out, provisioning, banking and fuelling the boat we left Prince Rupert considerably poorer on Monday at noon - heading south in the sheltered waters of the Canadian portion of The Inside Passage. This fabled cruising ground originates in Olympia Washington and continues north to such destinations as Glacier Bay and Skagway Alaska. Although this was Traversay's third visit to Alaska, we have always travelled at the height of the tourist season and opted to miss the more heavily-travelled Glacier Bay and Juneau area in favour of Prince William Sound and points west.

Back in BC we're now on familiar ground having made our way back from Alaska in 2002 along this route. That was a fairly fast passage with little time for enjoying hot springs and animal sightings. This time we're again feeling that our trip will be very hasty. We rise at 0700 and were on our way in the pitch dark at 0730. Today is our only 'early' day (we stopped at 1500) but we've scheduled 12-hr days from now on - leaving and arriving in the dark.

It's beautiful country. Suddenly after an almost tree-less summer we're surrounded by beautiful tree-covered mountains. We know that this vista is particularly appealing to cruise ship passengers, and that the off-side of many of these beautiful mountains would be clear-cut. The loggers in this country also have to make a living.

We are resolved to come back and spend more time - scuba diving and enjoying the trouble-free and safe anchorages.

I've planned a meal of Prosciutto-wrapped halibut suggested by Frida Audette. Of course, we don't have BC Liquor Store's recommended wine to go with it, but the halibut (a gift from our friend Larry Babcock in Alaska) looks perfect. So off I go to the galley.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Prince Rupert

Langara Island sits of the northwest corner of Haida Gwaii guarding the southern edge of Dixon Entrance.  As the Langara light flashed its greeting around midnight, the winds died away and our motor, having been freed of various threats, plant or human, took over from the wind to move us toward port.

The smooth inshore waters eased the tasks of tidying up ourselves and boat as we coasted the last few miles toward Prince Rupert.  Tree covered islands, lighthouses, grey wave-lashed rocks and mountain shores began to surround us and reminded us that the land we had left nine years ago was as pretty as any we had seen since.

Finally, seventeen hours after we passed that first bit of Canada, we tied up at the Prince Rupert Yacht Club docks.  Shortly after, officials of the Canadian Border Service Agency quickly and efficiently completed customs and immigration formalities and set us free to wander into the town.

The first warm place we have been in ages!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fooled by a Plant

Bull kelp & Larry
1. Outside Forward Locker: we remove the 2 large orange and 5 small fenders (used to protect us when tied to other boats or a dock) and stow them safely on deck so Larry can remove a SCUBA tank from the bottom of the locker; Inside forward Cabin: Larry removes his "wooly bear" underwear (used under the dry suit) from underneath the bed; Inside aft Equipment room: we remove his dive gear and suit
2. On deck we lie a-hull to stop the motion: Haul up lazy jacks; furl genoa sail; drop mainsail; disengage auto pilot so boat gradually turns broadside to the waves; steer rudder perpendicular to waves;
3. In the cockpit: cast off attached floating line [for safety]; assemble dive gear; Larry dons drysuit; we do an equipment check
4. Larry jumps into the water
5. AND:
ALL OF A SUDDEN: a huge Bull Kelp floats out from under the hull. It was attached in a few places by the stipe (B) which was caught on a zinc and also in the propeller. Our marine I.D. book Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest says that the "pneumatocyst (A) contains carbon monoxide and was used by coastal First Peoples as a storage container for water and fish oil." This float acted like a drum and was banging against the hull. We thought it sounded like a man-made lobster buoy! The kelp was only held in place by the motion of the boat, so once we stopped the motion it disentangled itself and floated out.

APOLOGIES: to Gulf fishermen for accusing them of leaving their gear lying around to entangle innocent sailboats!

Our book (produced by friends Andy Lamb and Bernhard P Hanby) goes on to state that the Bull Kelp is an "annual" and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It reaches its full size in June. It can grow to 20m (65 ft). This one did its job (giving a protective habitat for young fish and other animals).

It then decided to retire and go off-shore (just like us). And that's how we met. So we can hardly blame it!

At 19/10/2013 15:35 (utc) our position was 54°21.89'N 133°57.41'W