ON THE DOG WATCH
To deliver a boat up the Inside Passage in the Pacific Northwest has been at the top of my “Bucket List” for some time. So, when Daniel Palanio called from Astoria, Oregon, and asked me if I would be interested in helping him sail his newly purchased Maple Leaf 48 to Port McNeill at the upper end of Vancouver Island, I had to say “yes,” but with some conditions:
• My wife, Karen, would go along as the third crew. Karen and I had quietly celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in July and it was time to enjoy another adventure together as we began our next 50 years. (Not to mention that she is a good cook, can stand a watch, and knows how to read a chart and navigate with the best of crew.)
• Since the boat was built in 1979 and had been used as a “dock condo” for the last several years, I wanted a few days to thoroughly check her out prior to beginning the journey. Daniel would be working alongside me to familiarize himself with his new purchase and its systems. We would not leave until we both felt the boat was ready for the voyage.
• The weather and sea conditions along the Washington Coast would have to lay down a bit, long enough for us to make the +24-hour passage from Astoria, Oregon, to Neah Bay, Washington, just inside the entry to the Straight of San Juan de Fuca.
Daniel agreed to my conditions and purchased airline tickets for Karen and me to fly to Portland the end of August. Here is the account of our preparations and the voyage:
SEFERINA: “Astoria, OR, to Port McNeill, BC.”
30 Aug. 2011 to 2 Sep. 2011, Lay days
We spent four days at the dock in Astoria’s West Basin Marina getting the boat ready to go.
While Karen did the provisioning and developed a stowage plan, Daniel and I checked out every system on the boat: replaced batteries and a bad battery switch, found a mechanic to work on the engine, repaired a leak in the aft head, removed the radar antenna to take to a shop for service, inspected sails and rigging, and stowed the dinghy.
It came as a surprise to me when we discovered that marine repair services in Astoria are somewhat limited, especially when it comes to sailboats.
After several tries (and putting Daniel in the bosun's chair numerous times to check connections because there were no riggers available to go up the mast) we were unable to get the radar to work properly.
Since fog was not in the near-term weather forecast, I decided to go without the radar. If we encountered fog, we would just have to double up the watch or find a place to hole up somewhere.
3 - 4 Sept. 2011, Astoria, Oregon, to Neah Bay, Washington.
Our morning departure from the marina was timed so we would cross the treacherous Columbia River Bar at slack tide. Conditions at the mouth of the river were uneventful and, once outside, we encountered NW winds in the 15 to 20 knot range with moderate seas. We put the second reef in the main and motor-sailed up the Washington coast.
By 15:00 the next day we were anchoring in Neah Bay and Daniel got to see how tangled an anchor chain can get when the boat is tossed around in bumpy seas.
Visibility had reduced to less than five miles and my concerns about encountering a fast moving freighter in the Straight of San Juan de Fuca grew. Hopefully the fog would be lifting in the morning.
5 Sept. 2011, Neah Bay, Washington to Victoria, B.C
Anchor up in Neah Bay and we head out into the Straight of San Juan de Fuca, toward Victoria.
The International Boundary between the United States and Canada runs down the middle of the Straight. We crossed at a right angle and hugged the northern shore, hoping to avoid the shipping lanes.
Visibility got down to two miles at times and I was glad to keep the land on my left after so many years of keeping it on my right.
By 1420 hours, we were tied to the Customs Dock in Victoria’s Inner Harbor, ready to clear into Canada.
It took approximately one hour for Customs and Immigration officials to arrive; then another hour to complete the inspection and paperwork.
Daniel, a Canadian citizen, was importing the vessel into Canada and this meant he had to pay the duty, right on the spot. Fortunately he had planned for this, had pre-authorized the amount with his bank, and could put it on his credit card.
By now it was late afternoon and the wind had come up. I was glad to move SEFARINA to another more protected dock and tie up for the night.
Karen wanted to check out the markets. I wanted to find a guide book to the various anchorage options along the route and purchase Canadian charts for the rest of the trip.
Because of tides and currents, debris from logging operations, and my unfamiliarity with these waters, we would be traveling only during daylight hours from Victoria to Port McNeill.
The boat can motor at 7 to 8 knots, depending on currents, (9 knots if we need it) so I picked anchorages approximately 50 to 60 miles apart.
6 – 7 Sept. 2011, Victoria to Comox.
Our purchases complete, we left the Victoria inner harbor around 1100.
By 1800 hours, we were anchored in Clam Bay, in the company of 18 sailboats and 3 powerboats, in 37 feet of water.
Daniel and I spent the evening trying to make sense of the Canadian tide and current books we had picked up in Victoria.
Karen prepared a hearty breakfast the next morning and we pulled the anchor up by 6:15 in order to make it through Porlier Passage at slack tide.
By 1500 hours we were tied to the Comox fuel dock, and then anchor down in a nice quiet little cove outside the harbor by 1715.
As the sun went down, we could hear the beating of drums in the distance and the chanting from an ancient Indian ceremony.
8 Sept. 2011, Comox to Cordero Islands, via Seymour Narrows.
Washing off the mud on the anchor as we raised it at 06:50; it was time to depart if we wanted to arrive at Seymour Narrows when the current changed in our favor around 1500 hours.
This was going to be a new experience for me. I am familiar with the large tidal ranges that exist in Central America, but have never encountered the kind of currents we will be up against in the narrow channels along this route.
Seymour Narrows begins about 11 miles from the south end of Discovery Passage where it enters the Georgia Strait near Campbell River. For most of the length of the narrows, the channel is about 750 meters wide. Through this narrow channel, currents can reach 15 knots. I wanted to get there early so I could see what other boats were experiencing as they tried to make the transit.
When the southbound traffic lessened, we figured the current was beginning to change. This seemed to agree with our current charts. When a few boats started north and had to turn back, I figured it was better to sit off to the side and wait. So, that is what we did. Finally, our transit through the pass, though a little turbulent, was uneventful.
Now, it was getting late in the afternoon. I had planned to anchor at Knox Anchorage near the lumber camp. We tried putting the anchor down several times but the holding was poor. I decided to back-track, go up another channel and anchor at Cordero Islands. Finally, we got the anchor down at 2015 hours, just before dark, in 52 feet of water! The electric windlass had stopped working, Try as I could, I couldn’t fix the problem, and we would have to deal with it in the morning.
9 Sept. 2011, Onward, past Alert Bay and arrival at Port McNeill.
07:20 Anchor up and a new anchoring lesson for Daniel: how to raise 275 ft of 3/8 inch galvanized chain and a 45lb CQR anchor, manually. Good aerobic exercise but tough on the back and shoulders! (I played the “age” card and let Daniel do the majority of the work.)
During the final miles of the trip, we were navigating through patchy fog and encountering sections of rapidly moving currents. Everybody was on alert, monitoring the charts, watching the depth sounder, and on the lookout for other vessels.
By 1610 hours, we were home, tied to the dock in Port McNeill. Karen popped the cork on a new bottle of wine and we toasted our accomplishment.
The voyage route was approximately 466 nautical miles. It took us four days to prepare the boat, and seven days of voyage time because we anchored each night.
When the delivery was over and our work on SEFARINA complete, Karen and I took the ferry over to Alert Bay and spent the day as tourists, checking out the ancient totem poles and this historic place.
What a great way to celebrate our 50+ years together!
I am certainly a very lucky guy!
ID1 = 42
- March - Rediscovering The Once Forgotten Middle
- May - Bringing The Boat Back From Mexico
- July - New Regulations for Private Vessels Moving From Port To Port in Mexico
- August - Six Yacht Deliveries
- October - 26 October to 3 November 2005, M/Y HERCULES, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Ventura, California
- September - October - Sailing and Writing
- August - 29 July to 5 August 2008, M/Y ORIANA, Mazatlan, Mexico, to San Diego, California
- January - April - three very different yacht deliveries.
- October - Climbing the Hill: “Rounding the Cape.” and Climbing the Hill: “Up to Mag Bay, then on to San Diego.”
- September - SEFERINA: “Astoria, OR, to Port McNeill, BC.”
- December - BELLALOU: “Tortola to Florida.”
- May - ENSENADA, THE EASIEST PLACE TO CHECK INTO MEXICO
- May-June - WHAT A LIFE: “Newport Beach, CA, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.”