Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer, 2016 - Destination Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Summer, 2016 - Destination Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Greetings from Port McNeill, near the northwest end of Vancouver Island! Our plan is to arrive at Sandspit Marina, Haida Gwaii by July 2 in order to keep various reservations on Graham Island in the north and make the most of our permits for Gwaii Haanas N.P. on the south islands, Moresby and Anthony. Everything being weather dependent, however, means that date is more of a goal, written in sand.....  Because we have a long distance to travel, we are making a beeline northwest, leaving the return for meandering.

June 1 - June 9

The first week out on the water has been fabulous! After good-byes at the very sociable Skyline Marina TDO dock, we left our slip at 0730, sailed all the way to Sucia with good wind, arriving about 2 pm for a planned rendezvous with Rick and Patti on Winterhawk, Washington sailors that were in Mexico the same time as we were.
Sailing wing-on-wing in Rosario Strait
While anchoring, we tried out a new snubber hook for the first time which became tightly wedged in the anchor chain. Neither of us could get it out after hammering or wedging it with a screwdriver; nothing worked. After 10 minutes of frustration we called Rick over for another opinion. Wham! His one (lucky) hit released the hook. Finally free, we hiked a few short trails on Sucia before dinner while Patti prepared the entire fabulous meal; then bid farewell for the summer.
Winterhawk, Rick and Patti
The next day we sailed all day and right into False Creek, Vancouver, B.C., anchoring just off Granville Island.
Approaching False Creek
Lots of boats and people were everywhere having fun on the warm, sunny day. We dinghied over to check out the market which was now closed for the evening, and stayed for dinner at Tony's Oyster and Fish Cafe, small and home-style with great oysters. False Creek has lots of water taxis which travel dock to dock.
False Creek water taxi
The next morning we flagged one down to avoid getting the dinghy off the boat but learned they do not stop at boats for pick-ups because of potential hazards. So we took our dinghy, True Dink, over to Granville Is. and headed for the market. Markets are often stunning sights and this one was over the top with its colorful produce, aromatic bakery goods, fish and meat markets...and this is only day 3 so no room in our fridge.
Gregg at the Granville Market
After checking out some of the downtown sights we returned to True North to grill salmon with rice croquettes and kale from the market.
Grilled fresh wild sockeye!
On our fourth day out we left False Creek shortly after sunrise, heading northwest with a mild 15 kt wind directly on the bow. Stronger winds picked up early making the passage quite choppy and slow so we cut the day short around 1400 and tucked into Plumper Bay on the NE side of Keats Island. at the entrance of Howe Sound.
Mt Garibaldi (northernmost Cascade volcano) from Howe Sound
It was tempting to go the distance to Horseshoe Cove, a favorite road stop on the way to Whistler, but so much farther. It was calm, warm and sunny inside the cove with a small community of houses along shore and families playing in that cold water. We dinghied to shore to hike the overlook trails. Gregg swam in the chilly water, too...not like Mexico! We would say those words a few times during the first week as we gradually acclimated to the PNW temps. 
Swimming in Plumper Cove
We got used to early 0430 rises after a few days. Our luck was such that 15-20 kts were forecast for mornings for several days, rising to 25-30 kts in the afternoons, coming directly from the NW, the direction we were going. Mix that with current! We stopped at Sturt Bay on NE Texada Is, anchoring in 40' in a quiet bay with a small dock at the other end. 
Our first Canadian lighthouse of the trip
The next day would be a long one. We motored with wind on the bow through the Strait of Georgia. Anchored early around 1400 at Gowland Harbor next to April Point Lodge. First job, dinghy over to the lodge to buy our fishing license; then check out the IPAs on the sunny deck. 
True North at April Point Lodge
The anchor was up in the morning with plenty of time to catch the 0710 slack water through Seymour Narrows, about 1-1/2 hours away. The forecast was for wind from the north at 15 to 25 kts, changing to 30 kts in afternoon. It was slow getting there through the maze of smaller whirlpools and tide rips. Two other boats from our anchorage were following. Just as we were heading into the narrows we caught two quintessential Pacific Northwest wildlife sights: an eagle swooped down on a fish, successfully flying off with its catch, followed a few minutes later by a humpback whale that surfaced and swam across our bow. Wow to both!
Mountain views
The channel was rough and slow at ~30 kts on the nose with gusts to 41 kts. We discussed a few alternate options for hidey holes. Eventually, the ebb prevailed over the wind as we inched up to 8 kts. Looking ahead, though, the next flood in six hours would be ~ 6 kts, about equal with our boat speed and preventing us from moving forward at all so, much as we regretted interrupting our 8 kt run, we took refuge in nearby Helmcken Bay to wait out the next 6 hours until slack, and then riding the next ebb. We took another look at the tide and currents shown on Navionics, compared it with the paper Canadian tides and currents booklet to find a discrepancy which favored moving on. This info showed 3 kts max and with the good weather, we decided we could make better use of the day. It was a good call!  Even with 30+ kts directly coming right at us we rode with the current for an easy 6 to 7 kts SOG. We arrived at Port Harvey about 1830 and called the marina immediately to inquire about their famous pizza. "Not available!" The season doesn't ramp up for another week and it was too late in the evening for this small marina to prepare one. Probably a good thing after the long day. We were too tired to get the dinghy off the boat and into the water.

We were up early the next morning to catch the ebb going north to Port McNeill. That leg was completely calm despite the NW 15-20 kt winds. Great wind, wrong direction!
Calm water and log maze
We are staying two nights in Port McNeill for a few chores: route planning, laundry and grocery shopping.
True North in Port McNeill Harbor Authority marina
Tomorrow we leave Port McNeill and Vancouver Island for the next segment of this run, northern B.C. islands of the Inside Passage.  New territory for True North

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