Do we sell the boat? Or take one final "swan song" cruise north to Alaska? Tough decision for us. We have loved being home in our 100-year-old beach cabin. Rustic in some respects, but it still feels like pure luxury after our years cruising. But we love Baraka, too, and aren't quite ready to let her go. So once more we packed and provisioned, and headed north. We intended to make it to Alaska, maybe even out to Prince William Sound, and along the way cruise the Broughtons of British Columbia, a popular cruising destination we have never visited. The following are our log entries from summer, 2016. Spoiler alert: we didn't get enough of Alaska, and left the boat on the hard in Petersburg, planning to resume in 2017.
On March 30 Baraka was hauled out at Edmonds and moved to the workyard. We rented scaffolding and worked for 2 weeks - Dave ground out and filled some blisters, while I sanded, painted and polished. We scraped the prop, strut, shaft and replaced zincs. This last Wednesday we splashed, and Baraka is again in her slip, much closer to being ready for our planned summer cruise to Alaska. We hope to head out by June 1.
At least that’s the plan, if we can get untied from the dock. Dave replaced batteries, and is tuning up boat systems. I sewed new bimini awnings. We move aboard in a week and a half. The clock is ticking, lots to do, but manageable. So far the extent of of planning consists of “head north”, with no set schedule or destination. Stay tuned…
Baraka cut the mooring lines in Edmonds 8 am and caught the outbound tide. We had planned a stop in Port Townsend but underway realized we could make Juan de Fuca by slack water and enjoy an incoming tide ride north into the San Juans. This mostly inland waterway trip can be greatly helped by riding rather than fighting the currents. Less time underway and less fuel.
So right now we don’t know how far we’ll get today. We feel happy - this boat carries a lot of fun memories and now we get to make a few more.
Midday yesterday Dave listened to a weather update. A gale was forecast in the eastern strait overnight. Winds were already piping up to 25, so we ducked into Point Hudson at Port Townsend. No need to get a beating first day out. We did laundry and gave my fitbit 12000 steps. Silverado, last seen in Hilo, Hawaii, was in the yard. Delightful to catch up with them. Bob and Dina came by to give us tips for Alaska, imparting a lot of enthusiasm. They spent 2 summers there and plan to return next year.
This morning we had a scrumptious breakfast at Point Hudson Cafe, then caught the favorable current across Juan de Fuca, threaded our way through the San Juans. These islands are familiar and dear to us, but with our late start we are making tracks north. We anchored in Prevost, close to the dotted line on our charts showing the Canadian border. The pig war treaty created a zigzag that gave the Gulf Islands to England and the San Juans to us. Dave got the crab trap down but fellow boater thought the season might not be open, so he pulled it back up. Sure enough, open at home but not up here.
After an easy clearance into Canada at Bedwell thanks to the US-Canadian NEXUS program, we motor-sailed north to Clam Bay. It sits nestled on the east junction of Thetis and Penalakut, which we knew as Kuper, renamed to reflect that it is a First Nations island. There is a dredged channel between the two islands, connecting Clam Bay to Telegraph Harbour. Tempting to dash across at high water to buy eggs, but we should make Nanaimo tomorrow, timing afternoon slack water at Dodd Narrows. Weather is light and variable, but surprisingly chilly. We are layered up.
Woke at 5:30 to make slack water at Dodd Narrows, which we thought was 8:30 (according to Coastal Explorer) but the iPad Navionics claimed it was an hour later. Uncertain, we could see boats waiting on the north side for the slack. Looked calm enough and the dying flood current was with us, so we carried on through. Turned out we were an hour early, so we got a 9 knot sleigh ride but little turbulance. Good to know which programs are correct, with more rambunctious narrows ahead. We anchored at Newcastle and dinghied to town to buy eggs and veg, bread and milk. Spent an hour planning the next legs. Tomorrow we must skirt the Whisky Golf firing range, unless they are taking Sunday off. Hope so, it would save us some miles to our next stop on Lasqueti.
Calm here at Newcastle Anchorage, Nanaimo, though wind warnings off Qualicum, dying down later today. We will scoot across NE to the north end of Lasqueti, then tomorrow up to the Copelands marine park, then next day cross back over to Gowland Harbour to time Seymour Narrows maybe Wednesday. Today is a good day to go - the Whiskey Golf torpedo testing area is inactive so we can cut across it, saving some miles.
Dave has been troubleshooting our intermittant depth sounder problem and now thinks the engine blower is causing interference. Easy solution, turn the blower off when entering the anchorage. Took awhile to isolate as there seems to be some latency. Dave will reroute some wiring if this is truely the culprit. Otherwise boat systems working well.
Easy sailing day across Georgia Strait, then up pretty Bull Passage to Scottie Bay, a small, nearly completely landlocked triangle on the NE corner of Lasqueti. There are 3 fishing boats here plus a ragtag bunch of sailboats and a couple dilapitated houseboats, with a few handbuilt homes on the shore. Maybe this is where the Vietnam draft dodgers ended up. We are not far from mainland cities, but already a world apart.
I think it could howl a gale outside and in here we might see a ripple, very protected.
Baraka bashed her way north along Texada into Strait of Georgia wind waves, slowing our progress. The forecast had been for southerlies, not these noserlies. Once we could turn a bit NE we rolled out our workhorse staysail to pick up a bit of power, and the waves laid down a bit. By mid-afternoon heavy rain moved over us, causing us to ditch our plan to anchor in the Copelands marine park. Instead we carried on a bit to Cortes Island and Cortes Bay, a larger but equally landlocked bay. Our books claim the bottom is “soupy” and poor holding but once we drop our 75 pound CQR we stop worrying.
Baraka is anchored at the intersection of Crow, Moose and Fawn Islets in Gowlland Harbour. We got excited earlier when we thought we might make today’s slack water at Seymour Narrows, but it was not to be, so we held to our earlier plan and tucked in here to await tomorrow’s slack.
Today’s weather called for squally rain and possible waterspouts, but we only had sprinkles, though I did spot a waterspout forming yesterday. Back in aught-five, when we circumnavigated Vancouver Island in Baraka’s shakedown cruise, we tied up in Quathiaski Cove, a little south and opposite Campbell River. Our logbook reported lively sea otters on the docks, and excellent pizza ashore. Here in Gowlland, a tiny tug is building a log boom but otherwise the protected bay is quiet.
Left our anchorage early afternoon to catch slack water at Seymour Narrows. Ripple Rock midstream claimed a lot of boats and lives until it was blown up in the biggest non-nuclear explosion of its time. Even without the rock, the narrows command respect, with max currents running 17-18 knots, yikes. We arrived a half hour before slack and started through with a couple knot adverse current and smooth waters. Halfway through the current changed direction and we enjoyed a welcome boost past our planned stop at Turn Island, all the way to Helmcken, where we are securely tucked into a no-name bay, behind a hook on the W end. In the last hour the winds piped up to the mid-20s but seas stayed flat and the current continued to boost us along, 37 miles in about 5 ½ hours. A good run. Saw dophins leaping today, the little black guys with orca-like white patches.
Whoo hoo! We are tied to an actual dock, at the head of Harvey Bay. We dallied at Helmcken awaiting the turn, then bashed our way up Johnson Strait with current but a counter wind making for an interesting ride. Fortunately the wind was light -10 to 15, and seas relatively flat. Could have been far worse. We are headed ashore to stretch our legs, first time off the boat since Nanaimo.
Yesterday we docked. I was filled with delightful anticipation! Dinner out at the Red Shoe Cafe, hot showers ashore, laundry, a good walk for my fitbit!
Then reality struck. The marina barge with all its amenities sank last year! We had missed the 4 pm pizza order deadline so no food! The walk was through thick brush. Dave offered to bring his machete but I declined. We could and did order cinnamon rolls for this morning.
Dave set the alarm to catch the tide at Chatham, north of here. We had planned to carry on to Lagoon Cove. But this morning’s weather forecast has changed and looks horrible, so we may hunker here until it settles. The next 2 planned anchorages have some western exposure and don’t look tenable in a blow. C'est la cruising vie! On the bright side we are in a protected place, folks are friendly, and the cinnamon rolls are great. We will use the time for boat projects and a nice break from our journey north.
We tried to leave Port Harvey yesterday morning following Moments. Rae and Leslie had imparted a lot of local knowledge on weather, currents and good anchorages. But just underway we both heard a new rattle. Sounded like the shaft brake, which when locked prevents the prop from turning the transmission while sailing. We turned back to the dock. Dave backed out and reset the shaft brake set screws and we think the problem is solved. By then it was time to order pizza and another round of cinnamon rolls!
This morning we again checked the currents in Chatham Pass, and decided to go for it. We were running a bit late, so were ready to bail if the current was too strong. Chatham is tricky, you must stay precisely on a range line to avoid some shoals. No drama, we motored on through, then did the same down “the blowhole”, another skinny passage. Making good time in flat waters and slight breeze, we carried on through aptly named Beware Passage with its many hazards. Hard to remember sailing these waters before GPS and electronic charts made it safe, but we did, using paper charts, radar, dead reckoning and a hiker’s GPS.
We carried on to Goat Island Anchorage on the east end of Crease Island. Easy day, despite the obstacle course. Weather forecasts are very changeable, but up here we are outside the howling winds of Johnstone Strait.
All we caught in the crabtrap was kelp. Pulled anchor and motored a zigzag course for a couple hours through small unnamed rocky islets, working north to Echo Bay. We tied to the nearly deserted dock to take on water, do laundry and enjoy hot showers. The store is well stocked, but sadly no produce. All this will change in a week as they gear up for peak season, when they hold pig roast night, prime rib night, mexican night, etc. and boats will pack in here. We are just off the cusp and have the place almost to ourselves.
We walked through the woods to Billy Procter’s museum and met him. Billy was a logger and fisherman. Now he is in his 80s and gets 4500 visitors a year who come to see his museum, though the prime exhibit is Billy himself, a great storyteller who knows this area intimately and has become one of its caretakers. On the way home Dave noticed a fresh pile of bear scat.
I overestimated our travel days to get this far, and our trip insurance rider for waters north of 51 degrees isn’t in effect until June 25, so we have a few more days to explore the Broughtons. Not a bad problem to have.
From Echo Bay we motored a couple hours north and east in flat water to Kwatsi Bay. These long channels look like fjords, with snow on distant peaks. Pretty country and a sunny beautiful day. At Kwatsi Marina we are met by Max, the owner, who has been here 20 years. These family run small wilderness marinas lack most amenities we take for granted when we hear “marina”, like fuel, water, electricity, stores. Instead these seem to be little more than a floating dock with a gathering place for happy hours or potluck, a reflection of the social aspect of cruising these waters. We are already starting to meet people last seen a few anchorages ago. Reminds us of the Sea of Cortes and the social cruising life there, though the Broughtons lack the sandy beaches, hence the need for these small marinas.
Solid rainfall this morning (“Rupert Mist”) as we motored to Sullivan Bay where we tied up to take advantage of slow wifi and a store with wine and some produce. Sullivan is a cute houseboat community and “international airport” seaplane dock. We grabbed a spot on the long docks dealing with some current even though Dave had timed our arrival at low tide. Amenities here include a tented happy hour area, and even an actual restaurant (open MWF) serving nasi goreng tonight, $30 a plate. We bought frozen shrimp at the store and will dine aboard as the moorage is enough of a splurge.
Walking back to Baraka we met Carol and Bob of Singularity, a Slocum sister ship to Baraka. Fun to compare boat notes. In conversation we learned that this is the former Golliard, last seen by us in Panama in 1990 where Moulin Rouge rafted to her through the canal and tied up together at the Colon Yacht Club! Bob and Carol are also headed north.
Motored here in drizzle, reminding us of how fair our weather has been. I have the handrails stripped, ready for varnish, but that must wait for dry weather.
We have the tiny cove on the west side to ourselves. A large fish farm occupies the east side of the bay near the entrance. Max, our host at Kwatsi, waxed eloquent on the questionable practices of fish farming, citing examples of icky additives to soy fish food to boost quality measurements, while Rae described a shipwreck of processed farmed fish south of here. The seals wouldn’t touch the fish. The world is getting more populated and oceans are getting fished out, so fish farming is a big industry up here.
Dave wants to add a buoyed trip line to our anchor, concerned about sunken logs and cables. Nearby is an active log slide and we are tucked inside what may be a booming area, for assembling log booms. I do the anchoring and don’t want to mess with a trip line. So far we have never lost an anchor. Tides are getting bigger as we work north, so we factor that into our anchoring depth and scope.
Woke to rain music on the cabintop. Dave spent the day troubleshooting a bunch of unrelated problems, starting with a boot failure on Baraka4, our 10 year-old Vista laptop that circumnavigated with us. Amazing it still is alive. Simple reboot, and still running but we know we are on borrowed time, and Baraka6, our newer Win10 laptop doesn’t have the driver for our old garmin gps.
Next he worked on the sideband radio which appears to have the catastrophic failure we ran into on the way from Panama to the Galapagos, sans the flames and smoke. It won’t tune or transmit. We can get by without the radio while coastal cruising, especially if we can get internet every few days, but it would be nice to have.
Next a wiring mystery with the fans on the diesel heating system, easily remedied.
Then we turned the boat around to make for an easier getaway in the current tomorrow, pumped out the dinghy which was half full of rainwater, and secured it on deck for open waters.
Right now the weather looks ok to run out to Queen Charlotte Strait, then up to Brunden Harbour to start our next leg north. We may not have internet for awhile…
At Sullivan we took on 150 liters of fuel, settled our moorage and collected 2 fresh baked cinnamon rolls. By a little after 9 we were underway, motoring with a slight favorable current, out to Queen Charlotte Strait for an easy run up to Blunden, our last stop before 51 degrees north. Cold now, we are bundled up, but the rain stopped. Through the decks we can detect a very slight swell, first hint of ocean motion as we work toward open waters.
Dave was up early checking weather, via cell modem. We tossed the dinghy on deck and raised anchor in drizzle and some fog, but calm. We wanted to catch the ebb north through Queen Charlotte Strait as far as Cape Caution. Worked great, very moderate wind and slight seas, then caught the flood north into Fitz Hugh Sound, making 6-7 knots with motor and jib. Underway 2 cruise ships passed, doing round trip in a week or two what will take us 4 months.
We’d planned to go as far as Miles Inlet, before Caution, but lulled by the easy conditions carried on, past other planned anchorages at Millbrook and Schooner Cove, all the way to Pruth Bay on Calvert Island. We were last here in August ‘85 on our way south in Moulin Rouge, 31 years ago. Since then the fishing lodge became more exclusive, unwelcoming to transient boaters like us, but now is an eco-research facility, and again allows visitors.
The approach to Pruth is westward down a long straight cut, deep into Calvert Island. At the entrance a small pod of orcas were feeding on salmon along the shore. Anchored in 55 feet at high water among a half dozen cruising boats. Dave has rowed in to get the password for the wifi! May be our last chance to be connected to the world for about a week to 10 days, when we make Prince Rupert.
Ravens squack, one gurgles like a water drain, and another bird screams, don’t know what that is. We finally got off the boat and rowed in to hike across on boardwalk to West Beach. Gorgeous. We packed airhorn, bear bazooka (one wolf reported) and bug spray, but nothing tried to eat us.
This stop has been interesting. We found the tree face, here at least since we last saw it in ‘85. The Hakai Institute does sustained year-round eco-research, and is privately held and well funded, staffed by a lot of young scientists. There is limited internet, seemingly only available under the antenna.
We are off today to codville Lagoon, then to Ocean Falls, out of our way but sounds interesting, and possibly has internet. I do some volunteer web work for my neighborhood association, and it is coming up on monthend when it is due.
Balmy mild day, I got another coat of cetol on the handrails while Dave polished away the rust streaks from the anchor chain, underway from Pruth to Codville Lagoon. We left Pruth via the “back door” a smaller channel that snakes north through Calvert Island, then continued up Fitz Hugh to Codville Lagoon, a large tricorn hat shape of water entered through a narrow neck. Our books tell us to avoid the rock in the middle. Once past, we were swept sideways by current, carrying us into the lagoon on the rising tide. We tucked around an island and anchored in 52 feet just off the lake trail sign. Beautiful evening, dinner in the cockpit and so far no bugs.
After a blissfully calm night anchored in pretty Codville Lagoon, we were up early to clear the pass near high tide. Then we motored in flat calm north to Ocean Falls. Sunny day, I got the 3rd coat of cetol on the handrails while underway.
I didn’t remember how very steep-to mountainous this area is, but when we passed through in Moulin Rouge it rained every single day, so we probably never saw more than the ghostly shoreline.
Coming up Cousins Inlet we watched a tug getting underway with a huge barge of logs stacked high, while a boom rig lifted and sorted logs from a logging truck.
Up the cliff faces we see the vertical scars of rock falls. Max, at Kwatsi, theorized they are getting more frequent since the first growth cedars are now long gone. There is a thin skin of topsoil covering the granite. The old cedars had shallow roots that extended beyond their drip line and intersected with their neighbors making a grid of roots. The newer replanted growth has a different root system with more undergrowth competing for resources. One rockfall narrowly missed Max’s house, deflected by a ridge and ending up behind his boatshed.
Ocean Falls offers another piece of history. At one time 5000 people worked here in a large paper mill, powered by the roaring dam just up the valley. Today Herb Carpenter and Nearly Normal Norman, octogenerians, escort visitors through the old mill warehouse. They are what make this stop worthwhile.
Today the mill town is a ghost town of only 25 souls year round. In July and August the docks will be packed with salmon fisherman and the hotel will be open. Herb offers to sell Dave a house for $80 k. We are tied up at a beautiful dock, built by Herb to encourage visitors. Herb made his fortune crab fishing out of Kodiak, then moved here 20 years ago. There are still pioneers in these remote spots.
Dave worked on the radio problem, transmitting sucessfully to a boat 10 feet away. So maybe not the same chip failure. Beautiful sunny day, again the wind came up in the afternoon. We walked 2 km to the valley, a mostly ghost town now, of homes probably built in the 50s and 60s to house mill workers. Along the way was a rockslide that claimed a few of the 500 Japanese workers imported for the mill, who were then shunted inland during WWII. We explored the graveyard. Lots of kids didn’t grow up, and those that did didn’t often grow old. A few stones were beautifully inscribed with Japanese characters, including one wooden plinth.
Tomorrow we start moving again. Plan is to Strom Bay (via Gunboat Passage), Rescue Bay, Swanson, Couglan, Verney Falls, Lawson, then Prince Rupert. So we “go dark” for a bit, out of range of internet or cell towers. There is still a lot of frontier out here!
Untied this morning from the docks at beautiful Ocean Falls and zigzaged our way south and west via Gunboat Passage. Another range mark run, but no drama, plenty of water.
We are on the north end of Campbell Island, tucked into either Strom Bay or Strom Cove, depending on which chart you read. A welcome surprise, we seem to have cell coverage with Bella Bella/Shearwater just over the hill.
Quiet night in Strom, again we were the only boat. Left early to run out Seaforth Channel to Finlayson, to work north in some light fog and spritzing fine drizzle. A gale is forecast just offshore for tonight, so we are looking at Bottleneck Inlet or Inner Goat, both on Roderick Island. Both appear to offer fine shelter, and Bottleneck looks interesting.
Dave explored his scrap heap this morning to fabricate a cockpit stand for his iPad so it can sit out of the mist safely. I’ll try to mail this early - may be within cell range of Klemtu.
Ended up at Inner Goat, tucked into the lagoon, after skirting the fish farm in Outer Goat. Nice calm evening. Our anchor dropped in 52 feet, not much more than that from shore. These anchorages are deep and steep! All night the chain grumbled, but we never budged.
This morning Dave set the alarm. We left at 6 am to catch the favorable currents up the long reaches. Worked great until 11:30 and the turn, but by then we were at the top of Fraser Reach. Following winds kept the jib working, and we made good time until we turned west into McKay Reach and got 20-25 on the nose, dang uncomfortable for an hour until Dave could again get some foresail working to help drive us. We turned north inside Promise Island, just SW of Hartley Bay, to anchor at Coghlan Anchorage among a few crab traps. Wind has clocked south in here but we are in the lee for fetch and the holding is good. Winds rattle the rigging, but we are secure.
Along the way today we nosed in to Butedale, one of our memorable stops in Moulin Rouge 31 years ago. The old cannery was already defunct but a caretaker and his cronies around a pot bellied stove let us tie up for the night and take on water. Dave tried to turn off the hose but was told it came direct from the adjacent waterfall so no shutoff.
Most of the buildings are crumbling mossy shards, though it looks like the new owners have installed a long dock and new ramp to shore. Gorgeous setting, and another piece of history being reclaimed by nature.
Short run today in heavy rain. We anchored on a skinny shelf off the south shore. When the salmon are running there are bears here at Verney Falls picnicing. No bears in sight, but 14 boats rolled in to share the shelf. Strong winds are forecast the next couple days and there are few good anchorages along these long channels. We did see humpbacks blowing and flipping their tails in majestic slow-mo yesterday and today. Dave fires up the deisel heater so we are cozy.
This morning we checked one last time for bears, no joy, but spotted a lone wolf moseying along the shore just a few hundred feet away. We weighed anchor and headed north up Grenville Channel, planning to make a stop at Lawson Bay, but made such good time with favorable currents that we pressed on to Prince Rupert where we snagged a welcome slip at the PR Rowing and Yacht Club. We will rest here a couple nights.
Baraka is moored near the busy fuel dock. Fun to watch all the activity as fishboats, ferries and pleasure boats jockey for their turn. Down the dock happy fishermen gut their catch while a seal swims below for an easy meal.
We walked to Rushbrooke to check out an alternate marina, but feel happy we are in the heart of town. Had a wonderful seafood dinner at Dolly’s. Today we explored the town, hit King Koin to do laundry and the big Safeway for groceries. Dave bought rainboots at Walmart. Hot showers, and my fitbit is finally getting a workout. Life is good.
Today we visited the excellent longhouse museum with its brilliant collection of First Nations artifacts. Just the right size, easily seen in an easy hour or two.
We have been checking the tides and currents and sunrise and making our plan for Dixon Entrance. River outflow meets ocean swells for sometimes lumpy seas. We plan to leave at first light, a little after 4 am and either run up to the north end of Dundas, or if conditions aren’t too bad, carry on up to Foggy Bay where we have permission from US Customs to anchor, though we won’t clear in until Ketchikan. We should be in Ketchikan either Thursday or Friday. As we work north the tide changes are getting bigger, compounded by a new moon, so it is worthwhile making a daily plan. Rain is forecast, but with it we hope to get light winds and smaller seas.
We’ll have a last dinner tonight at Dolly’s with another cruising boat to glean more Alaska tips, then turn in early.