2018 Waggoner Guide Flotilla, Part 1
Our 2018 Waggoner Guide Flotilla to Alaska was a big success. Eight boats made it safely to Ketchikan and we had a lot of fun on the way. As you will see, we started out with nine boats and one had some minor mechanical problems and ended up behind the group. They did make it all the way to Prince Rupert and enjoyed Northern B.C. Now the entire group is dispersed. Some are still enjoying SE Alaska, some are already back in Anacortes and the Seattle area with their boats on the hard. Some are working their way down and running into each other in The Broughtons or Desolation Sound. All had a great time and challenged their nautical knowledge. Today, they are much better and more experienced mariners as a result. For some, they can’t wait to make the trip to Alaska again. There are so many beautiful places to go and see. ~ Mark Bunzel, Editor and Publisher of the Waggoner Cruising Guide
Anacortes to Port McNeill
Saturday, May 12
After months, and in many cases years, of anticipation and preparation, we gathered on Saturday afternoon in the Cap Sante Marina to meet and celebrate our departure the next morning. Two of our ten boat flotilla was already in the San Juan and Gulf Islands and would meet us in Ganges on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia the next day.
We had our happy hour appetizer potluck in front of the Harbormasters office. We shared good food and got to know each other. We would be spending the next 21 days together working through weather on our passages, mechanical issues on our boats, and the many social events of a flotilla cruise. It was a good group, and all were looking forward to a great time and the adventure of cruising to Southeast Alaska.
Sunday, May 13
We started with throttles up for a 6:30 a.m. departure for Bedwell Harbour from the Cap Sante Marina. The currents were in our favor as we were pulled out through Guemes Channel with the ebbing current. We made good time to Bedwell Harbour and soon crossed the United States border into Canada. All boats cleared Canadian Customs reasonably quickly. One of our boats, Xtra-Tuff had to clear up a question about its previous names.
Through this process, we learned that it is very helpful to know the history of the prior names of your boat. The Canadian Customs computer database is very good about identifying a long history of border crossing for a vessel and it saves time if they know what names to use when looking up the vessel.
We cleared in three minutes as they had our full records on file and only asked who was on the boat. They had First Mate, Margaret Pommert, in the computer as an annual passenger and we were done.
We proceeded on to the Salt Spring Marina in Ganges, where Harbourmaster Lesley Cheeseman greeted us, and we got everyone settled into their slip. Dinner was set for 5:30 p.m. at Moby’s Pub. Dale and his crew did a great job with our group and the food. The strip steak special was outstanding, and the fish n’ chips at $12 CDN was a bargain. For dessert – birthday cake! Mine! I got to celebrate my birthday with 24 new friends with chocolate cake at the pub. Lots of fun.
Monday, May 14
An 8 a.m. departure got us through the Gulf Islands and up to Gabriola Pass for the slack current and then on to Silva Bay and Page’s Resort and Marina. Page’s owner Gloria Hatfield got us all set in our slips and our dinner that evening was in the picnic grove under the trees. This potluck featured ribs, chicken and many other treats prepared by our flotilla participants. Page’s is remodeling their store to offer more convenience items with no changes to their excellent selection of books.
We were surprised to learn that the Silva Bay Pub and Restaurant had a fire that spring and was not open. Nor is the liquor store. Plans for repairs and a rebuild are not clear.
Tuesday, May 15
Our early morning crossing of the Strait of Georgia was flat calm under blue skies. Near Merry Island, we spotted our first whales on the trip when two orcas passed our bow, and the disappeared into the calm waters. We arrived at John Henry’s Resort & Marina, and everyone got situated for the afternoon and evening. Some in the group went over to Madeira Park by dinghy to visit the meat market for house-made sausages such as Tuscany lamb sausage. Others filled in their supplies at the IGA grocery store. No one is going hungry in this crowd.
The sunset dinner on the deck at John Henry’s that evening was excellent. Chef Brooke created a multi-course, fixed price, family-style meal featuring baked salmon that was cooked perfectly. We enjoyed our elegant setting sitting outside on the deck with the setting sun enjoying our desserts.
Wednesday, May 16
Our departure took us up the Sunshine Coast (under sunny skies again). We passed Powell River/Westview and Lund, which is the end of Highway 101, the furthest most you can drive north along the water. The other end of Highway 101 ends at the tip of South America.
We rounded Sarah Point, and you can see why Desolation Sound is considered so beautiful and popular. Snow-capped mountains and beautiful vistas. We pulled into the narrow entrance of Prideaux Haven and some boats anchored in the middle and some stern-tied. Some decided to tuck back into Melanie Cove, as over the last several years, more and more chains and rings have been secured into the rocks to provide stern-ties.
I did learn a new lesson. If it is low tide, it is not worth climbing up the rocks to get to the rings. Anchor and wait for the tide to come up to the level of the rings where you can reach them from your dinghy. I almost slipped on the tipping rocks several times and cut up my legs on the barnacles on the rocks. Not fun and it was dangerous (What was I thinking – or not thinking?).
Dinner that night was on our own boats and we had a beautiful evening in Desolation Sound with snow-capped mountains.
Thursday, May 17
Our start time was critical except for the fast boats. We had two boats in our group that could cruise in the mid-twenties or faster. The group needed to be at the base of Stuart Island for our start time through Yuculta Rapids. We elected to go through about 50 minutes early to hit slack at Dent Rapids. Most boats had done their calculations three times to make sure it was right. As the trip leader, I also did the math and made sure everyone knew how to do it for when they would take this route on the way home in July, August or September. There were some visible whirlpools, but you could steer around them. There was some current in Gillard Passage, which was expected due to the proximity to the new moon. We hit our timing for Dent Rapids perfect, and there were just a few areas of turbulence in the water – a piece of cake. Just the way it should be. No drama. This was particularly important since we were close to the full moon when the currents are their strongest and the period of slack is the shortest.
We proceeded up Cordero Channel under sunny skies with a beautiful view of Phillips Arm. The current had started to run at Green Point and on Mayne Channel by the time we got to the Blind Channel Resort. One by one the staff worked to get everyone settled in their slip. Around 5:30 p.m. we gathered in the dining room for a special fixed price dinner. I can vouch for the halibut – it was outstanding. We celebrated two other birthdays that night with a birthday cake baked by the Blind Channel kitchen.
Friday, May 18
We departed Blind Channel at 5 a.m. to hit the right timing for the currents at Greene Point and then 12 miles later at Whirlpool Rapids on Wellbore Channel. Whirlpool was running about 4 knots. It is a short run through the rapids, and everyone made it through and had a chance to see whirlpools in the water. Useful information for use on the way home in a couple of months.
We exited Sunderland Channel out to Johnstone Strait at about 7:15 a.m. The winds were light, and the seas would be considered rippled. By 10:30 a.m. we were at the docks at Port Harvey Marina Resort. George Cambridge was there to meet us. With our early start that morning, naps seemed to be the sport of choice. Even though it was early in the season, George had a batch of pizza dough ready and the menu for that night was fresh pizza. George also took orders for his famous cinnamon rolls for the next morning. Who doesn’t like cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven and on to your boat?!
Saturday, May 19
We left Port Harvey fortified with cinnamon rolls at 7:10, we timed our departure for near slack on Chatham Channel. We had set a plan where we would observe the winds on Knight Inlet and make a decision whether to avoid potential winds by taking a route on Tribune Channel, an option that would add about an hour and a half to our trip to Pierre’s at Echo Bay. We headed down Knight Inlet and found the conditions beautiful, and then up Spring and Cramer Passage to Pierre’s at Echo Bay. That night we had a potluck dinner with all you can eat Dungeness crab and British Columbia spot prawns. The entire group brought salads and desserts and a few adults beverages. Another night of delicious food and drink for our flotilla group.
Sunday, May 20
With a 7 a.m. departure, we headed through the islands and Queen Charlotte Sound to Port McNeill and the North Island Marina. Two of our boats needed repairs, and many in the group were ready for fuel and provisions. I was watching the weather for our upcoming 40-mile crossing of the Cape Caution area. We were planning a potluck dinner at the marina but decided to make a shift to meet at Gus’s Pub for dinner rather than eat outdoors on a cold day.
Our cruise the next day was critical as we would be leaving Port McNeill for Fury Cove, crossing the 40 miles of open water past Cape Caution. The weather forecasts were iffy, and we were planning a 4 a.m. departure.
The next day turned out to be iffy. We learned something. The weather forecast was not what the weather turned out to be… stay tuned for Part 2.