July 24. We crossed the Strait of Georgia southbound yesterday. At the moment we’re snugged down in Sibell Bay at the mouth of Ladysmith Harbour in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, and we might spend a second night here. Or we might not. Several stops further south are appealing. We’re on our way home.

Strait of Georgia. In the first cruise report I knew I was tempting the weather gods when I said we had a good northbound crossing of the Strait of Georgia. The gods don’t like people to brag. If the golf gods hear a golfer say, “I’m having a pretty good round,” they fix that problem right away. Balls suddenly fly into the woods or the water, and easy three-foot putts take extra strokes to complete.

The weather gods got their revenge on yesterday’s southbound crossing of the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo and Dodd Narrows. Things started well enough. We left Pender Harbour with an 8-knot northwesterly breeze rippling the surface. Shortly after, the tide turned to ebb and we had a sweet 1-2-knot current not only helping us along but flattening whatever swells the light breeze created. Area WG (Whiskey Golf) was not active, so we didn’t have to go around. My wife Marilynn commented that it looked like we would have a good crossing.

Maybe that was the mistake. About midway into Whiskey Golf the wind backed to the west, and it definitely freshened. We weren’t running with the seas anymore. We were in the troughs, the wave tops grew high and the troughs grew deeper. The boat began to roll as the waves passed under us on their eastward quest, and Marilynn gave me that look. We agreed it was time to change course. I put the helm down and the bow turned to the right. Now we weren’t wallowing in the troughs; we were plunging from the crests, crests that grew higher and closer together, which meant steeper.

Fortunately, the seas weren’t in the dangerous category. They had changed from 1-foot chop to 3-foot moderate, not 6-foot rough or anything like it. But they salted us down pretty well, and they forced us away from our intended course to Nanaimo and Dodd Narrows. Three-foot moderate isn’t moderate enough for us. Finally, as we got close to Vancouver Island, we found some protection and the waves returned to civilized size. We turned left toward Nanaimo and Dodd Narrows. We got to the narrows about an hour before the turn and rode the last of the ebb through the pass with no drama at all.
The weather gods had given our wrists a slap, but they hadn’t tried to destroy us. The seas reaffirmed our appreciation for the Tollycraft 37 hull. Even when we crashed down into the troughs, there was no flex and no pounding. Not once did we fear for our safety. Tolly said the 37 was the best seakeeping hull he ever built, and yesterday’s adventure confirmed it once again. We were tired, though. When we got to Sibell Bay we napped for an hour.

Zach and Billy Proctor

Our grandson Zach with Billy Proctor

The Broughtons with Zachary. In a moment of impetuousness last winter, I invited our now-16-year-old grandson Zachary to join us for a week’s cruise through the Broughtons. Zach flew to Port McNeill, where we picked him up, and flew home from Lagoon Cove a week later. During that week he saw the annual Port McNeill Logger Sports competition, with chopping, chainsaw and axe-throwing competitions. In Wells Passage, a huge pod of Pacific white sided dolphins played in our wake. When we anchored in Turnbull Cove, the three of us (Zach, Grandma, and I) hiked from the bay, over a steep ridge, to historic Huaskin Lake. Zachary saw nearly all the marinas in the Broughtons. He got to spend time with legendary Billy Proctor. He saw a black bear on a beach. I had hoped Zachary would have at least one memorable experience each day of his visit, and that’s how it worked out.

Zach Sleeping

Zach napping on the couch.

Sixteen-year-old boys sure can sleep a lot. I think Zach would have slept till lunch if he had the chance. After the hike to Huaskin Lake, he lay down on the cabin couch and did not want to be roused. Adventures had to be worked in around slumbers.

Zach running the boat

Zach at the helm of Surprise.

Despite my grumbles about sleeping when I wished he’d look out the window, Zach enjoys the boat. He’s learning how to read a chart, how to plot courses, how to estimate times of arrival. He’s learning how to set the anchor and how to bring it up. He’s learning that good helmsmanship involves steering straight course lines and making definite turns. He’s learning to spot rocks by the kelp growing on them, and identify tide rips, even little ones, by the pyramid-shaped waves they create. He’s learned that bow and stern lines hold the boat to the dock, and spring lines keep the boat from moving forward and back. And he likes it.

Malaspina Strait storm. Encouraged by a good weather forecast, we departed Powell River’s Westview moorage early, planning to run Malaspina Strait along the east side of Texada Island and across the Strait of Georgia in one long day (and one long sentence, I see). The Malaspina Strait part went very well. The predicted gentle northwesterly breeze helped us along, and we made good time.
At the south end of the strait, however, an ugly black cloud hung over the tip of Texada Island, and appeared to be moving toward us. We motored along for a bit, hoping the cloud would move to the west. Storms were not called for on the weather forecast. Marilynn was busying herself in the galley when I decided the black cloud was not moving west. It was headed our way. Normally, Marilynn and I agree on courses and course changes, but this time I made the decision without her. Helm to port, hard left rudder—now. Abandon thoughts of crossing the Strait of Georgia. Make for shelter in Pender Harbour, some five miles away.

With the course change Marilynn popped up out of the galley. I pointed to the cloud. Marilynn agreed.

Stubbornly, perhaps, I held to our 8.5-knot speed. At 15 knots we might have outrun at least some of the coming storm, but the throttles remained unchanged. The cloud grew closer and the wind with it. Marilynn moved items off the galley countertop before the waves did it for her. The seas built, and soon we were rolling in the troughs. It was time to tack south, away from Pender Harbour. We plunged off the wave crests, but the rolling was reduced. At last we got to the east side, and could turn toward Pender Harbour, the seas on our stern. All’s well that ends well, goes the old saying, and we found shelter.

As we motored through Pender Harbour to Garden Bay, friends in a 27-foot boat were headed out. We told them it was pretty windy, but they continued. They came back and tied up near us a short time later. “Ugly out there,” they said.

Riley G

Peter Guiles designed and built Riley G.

Later, I got an e-mail from Peter Guiles, who cruises with his daughter Riley on the 27-foot Riley G, a boat Peter designed and built himself. It’s a beautiful little ship, with lines and proportions that are just perfect. Peter and Riley had departed Westview a couple hours behind us, and the storm found them about halfway down Malaspina Strait. Here’s what he says:

“[We faced] that same black cloud, probably about 2 or 3 hours after you found it. The rain was so thick that we couldn’t see Texada, and off of the mouth of Jervis Inlet we ran into confused 4′ seas that slammed us around in a most uncomfortable fashion. Wipers on high, and water over the top of the pilot house. Anything not stowed most likely airborne. The direction of the wind and waves gave us one option, which was to plunge (literally) ahead, and tuck into Blind bay and Ballet Bay, which was a thoroughly welcome relief to way too much adrenalin. We spent a quiet night there after one amazing rain storm, stern tied in the little side bay to one of the tripod pilings off the cabins on the point. I tied a line with a loop for the stern line around one of the pilings at the high water line, and left it for others to use.”

Pocket-size watermaker. It doesn’t take many years living here to realize that summer weather doesn’t really come to coastal Pacific Northwest until sometime in July. Leaving for our annual cruise in mid-June, therefore, we were prepared for rain, maybe quite a bit of rain. This year didn’t disappoint. The rain fell, and fell. So I experimented with my home built, pocket-size watermaker. It’s simple and almost free. The only maintenance required is drying it out after use.

This amazing watermaker is a length of light line with a weight attached. After a few days of rain, I can hang the line at the back of the cabin top, and put the weight in the fill for the water tanks. Water washes off the now rain-scrubbed cabin top, down the thin line and into the tanks. It doesn’t take much more than a gentle rain—nothing like a downpour—to put more water in the tanks than we take out, even with daily showers and regular dishwashing.

Our new freezer. Unlike the watermaker above, our new 45-quart Norcold freezer wasn’t free, and it dines on battery power. It isn’t very big, but it holds a lot of meat. It also keeps ice cream frozen. Ice cream is one of Marilynn’s essential food groups. The little freezers in the galley’s undercounter refrigerators won’t keep ice cream.

Although Marilynn insisted she didn’t need a freezer, I went ahead and got it against her wishes. As long as I don’t do things like that too often, she goes along. I notice as I’m writing this, however, that Marilynn is recovering two frozen fish filets from the Norcold freezer—supper tonight. These filets were caught at Costco.

Life change. This has been an interesting cruise. Although we didn’t have to keep moving, I’m not yet comfortable with just hanging out. I’m good with navigation, places, and people along the way, but I’m a complete futz at fishing, crabbing, prawning, clamming, and doing nothing. There’s always more to learn.

—Bob Hale

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