Thursday, November 24, 2016

A New Chapter, Part II

First off, apologies for once again abandoning this blog. I last wrote from Vancouver, back in August. From there, we returned to the U.S., spent a few nights in the San Juans, then made our way to Seattle, where I’m keeping the boat for the winter.

So, what’s new?! Back in the spring, I left the Waggoner Guide and started a new company called with Kevin and Laura.

What is Slowboat? We’re focused on practical boating education, demystifying cruising, and highlighting the cruising lifestyle. We’ve got how-to articles, cruising reports, and more. We’re leading flotillas (back to Alaska this summer!). And we’re working on a series of webinars titled, “Mastering the Inside Passage.” I’m super excited about the project!

What’s happening to this blog? The old posts will remain, and I may occasionally add a new post about non-boat travel. New boat posts, however, will be over on Come join us!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 105-106 | Vancouver

Friday and Saturday in Vancouver were a whirlwind: tons of walking, a bit of shopping (exchange rate sure helps), catching up with Vince and Linda from the flotilla, meals out, Theatre Under the Stars (West Side Story), aquarium visit, tandem biking, more walking...
Jellyfish at the Vancouver Aquarium
Happy hour with Vince and Linda after tandem biking around Stanley Park.
Oops, not sure how this sailboat ended up aground in False Creek.
Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park
Walking near Coal Harbour
Vancouver is a great city to visit by boat. It's easy to walk from False Creek to the major tourist areas like Stanley Park, downtown, Chinatown, and Gastown. Most of the city felt safe (although everyone used bike locks on their dinghies) and prices were reasonable. It's beautiful, with water all around and mountains in the distance. Thanks to Vince and Linda for playing tour guide!

Alaska 2016 | Day 104 | Pender Harbour to Vancouver

After months in wilderness and small towns, we headed for the city.

I'd previously only visited Vancouver by boat once, and that was for a single night. This time we'd have several days to explore the city.

The Strait of Georgia cooperated and we had a smooth trip down. As we neared Vancouver, traffic increased. English Bay was filled with huge ships, which we weaved through as we headed towards False Creek. Once in False Creek, avoiding the dozens of dinghies, kayaks, paddleboards, and boats of all descriptions demanded my full attention.
Approaching Vancouver
Unlike Seattle, Vancouver has excellent urban anchoring. False Creek is well protected, shallow (20-30 feet), and has good holding. In the past it was choked with squatters and liveaboards, but now a permit system limits stays to 14 days of any 30 day period during the peak season. Permits are free and easy to acquire online. We anchored at the head of False Creek, between the B.C. Place stadium and Science World. Super cool!
Urban anchoring, at the head of False Creek
After anchoring we took the dinghy to one of the dinghy docks (there are five or six throughout False Creek...basically anywhere the Aquabus Ferry docks) and walked to Granville Island. Granville Island is kind of like the Pike Place Market on steroids...about a million food vendors selling everything from bagels to cheese to pate to fancy butter to fresh produce. Really delicious.
Wandering around the market at Granville Island
We'll spend the next few days wandering around Vancouver...

47.33 nm today
3122.40 nm total

Friday, August 26, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 103 | Pender Harbour

Chore day. I cleaned all the sea strainers, replaced the zincs in the main engine cooling system, filled the batteries with water, and adjusted the AirSep crankcase vent system to (hopefully) eliminate a minor oil leak. Then we did three loads of laundry. Then we washed the outside of the hadn't had a good wash in months. Not much fun, but good to get this stuff done!

We haven't been near a restaurant for several weeks. After all the work today, we dinghied over to Madeira Park and walked up (and I do mean's quite a hill) to the new Grasshopper Pub for dinner. The food was good, the view was great, and no dishes!
View from dinner at the Grasshopper Pub

Alaska 2016 | Day 102 | Von Donop Inlet to Pender Harbour

We're blowing past some of the most visited cruising areas on the coast. The Broughtons? No time. Desolation Sound? One night. The Inside Passage from Olympia to Skagway is absolutely HUGE. Even with three or four months underway, it's impossible to see it all. I've been wandering around this area for five summers now, and I still haven't come close to seeing it all. But we need to be back in Seattle on September 3rd, so south we go, missing much along the way.
Departing Von Donop Inlet
Our destination today is the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Garden Bay, Pender Harbour. We've been anchored out since leaving Ketchikan, and it's time to catch up on laundry, dump all the garbage, complete a few boat chores, and so forth.

The trip down Malaspina Strait was easy. Sunny, warm, light-to-moderate winds, and lots of boats. After spending so much time in truly remote areas, it's amazing how crowded and busy it is here. Desolation Sound is certainly not desolate...
Leaving Desolation Sound behind
We arrived at Garden Bay around 3:30 in the afternoon, got ride of several weeks worth of garbage, and took the dinghy over to Madeira Park for some groceries. Tomorrow we'll stay in Garden Bay and wash the boat and do a bunch of laundry.

60.59 nm today
3075.07 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 101 | Shoal Bay to Von Donop Inlet

Our departure time from Shoal Bay was dictated by current. Today we'll transit the "three rapids"—Dent, Gillard, and Yuculta—that separate points north from Desolation Sound.
Heading towards the rapids
We pulled the anchor about 6:45 a.m. and made it to dent at about 7:50 a.m., 10 minutes before slack. There was some current, but nothing difficult to deal with. At Gillard there was a little less, and by Yuculta the current was all but gone. These rapids intimidate many boaters, but they're really not difficult to run. Tidal conditions are predictable years in advance, unlike weather conditions, and there's at least a little leeway on each side of slack.

We headed for Von Donop Inlet on Cortes Island. It's a scenic if not dramatic anchorage. I like it because there's a reasonably extensive network of trails ashore, and there's always space to anchor without stern-tying.

We arrived by mid-morning and napped on the boat before going ashore and hiking on most of the trails. The trails are dry, not too steep, and lead through beautiful forests.
Hiking along a trail at Von Donop Inlet
25.92 nm today
3014.48 nm total

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 100 | Farewell Harbour to Shoal Bay

At 5:30 a.m. I pulled the anchor in pre-dawn darkness. The darkness didn't really matter, though, since dense fog limited visibility to just a few boat lengths.

Running in these kind of conditions is both fun and challenging. The chartplotter (actually two or three, running different scales, different cartography, and from different GPS sources) shows where I am relative to land and shallow areas. AIS shows where the big guys are, and more and more small boats are visible on AIS, too. The radar shows everything: land, boats, buoys, big logs even, but it requires the most skill to interpret. And the autopilot steers the boat, freeing me up to interpret all the navigation data in front of me.

No matter what the conditions are like—yes, even when it's sunny with unlimited visibility—I use all the navigation tools as if I were in darkness or fog. That way, when I need the tools, I remember how to use them.

Yesterday and this morning were good tests. Thankfully, no collisions or close calls.

Why leave so early? We were hoping to meet up with friends in Waiatt Bay, which meant we needed to transit tidal rapids in Okisollo Channel near slack. Slack was at about 1:15 in the afternoon, and we needed to cover 50+ nautical miles.

Johnstone Strait didn't cooperate. The wind was blowing from the northwest (behind us, at least) at 25 knots, gusting to 35. The current was ebbing, slowing our progress and steepening the waves. The ride wasn't that bad, but it wasn't great either.
Getting bumpy on Johnstone Strait
We ducked out early, cheated Whirlpool Rapids and Green Point Rapids (both have a basically laminar (smooth) flow), and headed for Shoal Bay.
Getting closer to civilization...this guy passed super close.
Shoal Bay is a great stop. The anchorage is only marginal—rocky, steep to, and subject to boat wakes—but we got the anchor set and headed ashore.

Side note: for those not inclined to anchor, there's a public dock, rafting mandatory, first-come, first-served.

Why is Shoal Bay such a great stop? There's a great hike up to a lookout. Walking at a reasonably brisk pace, the hike took us 40 minutes. The view down on Shoal Bay and up Phillips Arm is breathtaking.
View from the lookout
There's also a pub, which is really a cabin with a killer view. They have a single beer on tap, a few bottled/canned beers to choose from, and your choice of red or white wine. It's relaxed, unpretentious, and authentic...the perfect place to hang out after a hike.
Sunset in Shoal Bay
57.11 nm today
2988.56 nm total

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 99 | Pruth Bay to Farewell Harbour

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to check the weather. The report was mixed:
Pine Island: wind west 15 knots, 3-foot moderate, low westerly swell
Egg Island: wind west 14 knots, 3-foot moderate, low westerly swell
West Sea Otter: wind northwest 10, gusting 12, 1.4 meter seas at 10 seconds
West Sea Otter was calmer than it has been in a week, but Pine Island and Egg Island (which are right on our route) were rougher.

The forecast called for northwest winds 15-25 knots, decreasing to 5-15 in the afternoon.

So I decided to go back to sleep and leave a few hours later, hopefully to take advantage of the calming trend throughout the day.

We eventually left Pruth around 8:00 a.m. Fitz Hugh Sound was calm and the skies were sunny. Things were looking good.

As we motored south of Calvert Island the swells built. They weren’t lazy ocean swells, but steep, white-capped waves 4 to 8 feet tall, right on the beam. We were rolling around a lot, so I bumped the engine speed up to 1600 rpm which provided a somewhat better (though still rolly) ride and settled in for the next several hours.

By the time we were abeam of Cape Caution conditions had calmed down a bit, and once we turned southeast and put the seas behind us the ride really improved. Still, it wasn’t a fun day on the water.
A fishing boat passes us in the calmer water south of Cape Caution
Oh, I forgot to mention the fog. We rarely saw more than a quarter mile. Radar and AIS make travel in these conditions safe and relatively easy.
Norma H emerges from the fog
The view most of the day
I’d originally planned on spending the night in Blunden Harbour, but once we were into Queen Charlotte Strait conditions were calm enough that I just continued on. Might as well make miles while we can.

We eventually pulled into Farewell Harbour just before 8:00 p.m., after finally emerging from the fog around 7:00.
We can see again!
Tomorrow we’ll get an early start down Johnstone Strait and try to beat the wind.

92.55 nm today
2931.45 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 98 | Codville Lagoon to Pruth Bay

We left pretty early this morning, before we could get distracted by fishing or hiking or whatever. Fitz Hugh Sound was nice and calm, but as we neared Hakai Pass fog rolled in and cut visibility down to just a few hundred yards. Navigating Hakai Pass required careful radar use since small fishing boats were zooming all over the place, presumably looking at their chartplotters but oblivious to other boats.
Into the fog
Pruth Bay is a perfect anchorage. It’s scenic, reasonably shallow (50 feet), well protected, and has excellent holding. Ashore, the Hakai Institute maintains trails to several ocean beaches (and they provide WiFi, now with a 300 mb daily limit).

We hiked fist to West Beach. The trail is flat and easy—even the non-boardwalk sections weren’t muddy this time of year—and the reward is a truly outstanding beach. Maybe a half-mile long, gentle grade, soft sand, few people. The weather was warm and sunny today, and it felt a bit tropical.
West Beach panorama
Perfect day for the beach
We walked north on the beach, then continued on the trail to North Beach. Historically this trail was pretty rough, with steep, muddy sections. Either BC Parks or Hakai improved the trail. Now, boardwalks span most of the muddy sections and stairs make the steep sections easy. I had no problem doing the walk in flip-flops. North Beach is similar to West Beach, just less visited.
Trail to North Beach
North Beach panorama
Back at the boat I poured over weather information. Tomorrow looks like the best day in the foreseeable future for rounding Cape Caution. Not ideal, with 1-2 meter seas and 15-25 knots of northwest wind, but acceptable (meaning safe). Given that we otherwise might be waiting for five days or more, we’ll probably head around tomorrow.

28.69 nm today
2838.9 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 97 | Codville Lagoon

We’d planned on heading south to Pruth Bay today, but got sidetracked at Codville and ended up spending another night.
Aerial of Codville Lagoon, looking towards Fitz Hugh Sound
Last night, John and Darlene on Ocean Osprey, one of the neighboring boats, offered us fresh-caught salmon. They’d filled all their freezers, and although I don’t like seafood, Anna gladly accepted their extra fish. We ended up having a few drinks with them and chatting for awhile.

This morning we decided to hike back up to the lake before leaving and offered to give John and Darlene a ride in. John was heading out in his skiff to pull his prawn traps, and Anna jumped at the chance to join him and see what prawning is all about.
Back to the lake
They caught a few hundred shrimp and prawns, and after they returned we all hiked up to the lake together. John and Darlene invited us for dinner (fresh prawns and salmon), thus the additional night at Codville Lagoon.

Today was hot—the highest temp I saw was 83, plenty warm for a dip in the saltwater.
Warm enough for me to jump off the top of the boat 

Tomorrow we’ll actually head towards Pruth…

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 96 | Kynumpt Harbour to Codville Lagoon

Kynumpt Harbour is just a few miles from Shearwater/Bella Bella, which is the principal resupply point on this section of coast. They have fuel and water (neither of which we need) and, more importantly, liquor and groceries.

We didn’t need much, but since we’ll probably be hanging out on the Central Coast for five or six more days I wanted to pick up some fresh produce and some more beer. Bella Bella is a native village, and the grocery store was surprisingly well stocked given this remote location. Lots of fresh berries, melons, vegetables, etc.  We made it in and out in 15 minutes and were back on our way.

Let’s take a brief digression and talk about self sufficiency. I’ll preface this discussion by saying that I much prefer being anchored to being tied up in a marina. Anything that extends the time between marina visits is a good thing…

When I was cruising on the C-Dory, the limiting factor was fuel. With only 50 gallons, I had to stop for fuel every few hundred miles, long before I’d run out of water or fresh food.

Safe Harbour carries 370 gallons of fuel and has a useful range of over 1000 nautical miles. I never worry about fuel. Fill up in Anacortes, Ketchikan, and Juneau and I’m good.

Water, though, is an issue. I carry 150 gallons of fresh water, but that goes quickly. Showers, dishes, flushing the toilet…it all adds up. We’ve been using about 30-40 gallons a day.

Enter the watermaker. I bought a secondhand Katadyn PowerSurvivor 160 last summer on my way south, and finally got around to installing it just before leaving this summer. It’s awesome. It runs off the 12 volt DC system and uses about 20 amps making 6-7 gallons per hour. This doesn’t sound like much, but I tend to run it whenever I’m underway since the alternator makes plenty of electricity. Since I tend to average about 6 hours underway each day, I make enough water to keep up with use.

So fuel and water aren’t limiting factors, but fresh produce is. Hence the stop in Bella Bella. Digression over…

The weather has turned hot! Think mid-70s, maybe even 80. After Bella Bella we headed for Codville Lagoon. Codville is a big, well protected and reasonably scenic anchorage, but its real charm is Sagar Lake. Sagar Lake is accessed via a short (1.2 km, 10 minutes of hiking in flip flops), mostly-boardwalk trail. The best part, though, is the lake’s improbably sandy shoreline.
Codville Lagoon anchorage
So calm!
We relaxed in sun, swam, drank a few beers and ate snacks. Perfect afternoon!
Sagar Lake
The weather looks like it will stay hot for a few more days, so we’re going to continue the beach theme. Next stop, Pruth Bay.

20.44 nm today
2810.21 nm total

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 95 | Kynoch Inlet to Kynumpt Harbour

Another day with no set destination. Part of the problem is the weather…
Cloudy in the morning
Here’s the deal: we’re trying to get back to Seattle by September 3rd. The next area where weather matters is Cape Caution. The current forecast is for relatively calm conditions today, then 25-40 knots for the foreseeable future. Rather than rush ahead, we’re going to slow down and enjoy the Central Coast. No reason to rush only to wait later…

Ideally we’d go around Cape Caution in a couple of days, then see the Broughtons and Desolation Sound. It looks like we may spend three or four extra days on the Central Coast. If that’s the case, we may have to skip the Broughtons entirely…a bummer, but the weather rules.

The upside of this weather is sunshine. By afternoon, the sun was shining brightly, and it looks like we’ll have warm, sunny conditions for many days to come.
Sunny by the afternoon
Today we moseyed south. Originally I planned on anchoring for the night in Berry Inlet, but Seaforth Channel was windy and rough. Although the forecast was for northwest winds, the wind was actually blowing from the southwest, right up Berry Inlet. Rather than risking a rough night, we continued an hour further to Kynumpt Harbour. The upside of this is cell service: with the booster I’m getting reliable Telus 3G or LTE!
Anchored in Kynumpt Harbour
Happy hour on the beach
Cell service is worth a brief diversion…

Roaming has, historically, been expensive (I use Verizon), somewhere on the order of $3 per megabyte for data, or 100 megabytes for $25. Cheap enough that I’d use it sparingly for email and weather, but not much more. If I was in Canada long enough, I’d pick up a Telus SIM card, but this had its own problems: I wasn’t reachable through my normal phone number, I had to physically find a Telus store, and it was still about $30 per gigabyte.

Over the winter Verizon began offering “Travel Pass.” For $2 per day of use, you can use your phone just like you use at home. It’s awesome.

51.53 nm today
2789.77 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 94 | Butedale to Kynoch Inlet

We walked around Butedale a bit in the morning then headed off, destination unknown. We debated between Windy Bay and Rescue Bay…

Ultimately we chose Windy Bay, but as we approached, I realized it wasn’t that much further to the head of Kynoch Inlet. There’s not enough room for a flotilla of boats to anchor up there (that’s why I didn’t go up there on the way north), but there’s plenty of space for a boat or three.

Kynoch Inlet is a classic fjord, and part of Fiordland Recreation Area. The scenery is stunning: rock walls, glacial bowls, snowcapped peaks, waterfalls everywhere. The weather wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t terrible—overcast and no visibility over a thousand feet or so. No rain, though.
Scenery in Kynoch Inlet
Every turn brings new (beautiful) views
We anchored at the head of the inlet, all alone. Like many anchorages in this type of setting, the bottom is steep, going from too deep to too shallow very quickly. I dropped 250 feet of anchor chain in about 110 feet of water and backed towards shore. The boat stopped in 80 feet of water, just a few boat lengths from shore.

From the head of Kynoch Inlet we explored Culpepper Lagoon by dinghy. The entrance was surprisingly deep and free of hazards—at low tide I didn’t see anything less than 14 feet on the sounder. I later flew the drone over the entrance looking for rocks and didn’t find any mid-channel. In the future, I’d happily take the boat through near slack water.
Looking into Culpepper Lagoon
Looking down on the entrance to Culpepper Lagoon
Landslide evidence in Culpepper Lagoon
Later in the evening the weather cleared a bit and we got a peak at the mountains around the anchorage…gorgeous!
Big mountains!
Last light
50.61 nm today
2738.24 nm total

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 93 | Bishop Bay to Butedale

The trip down to Butedale was short and uneventful.

Butedale is one of the collapsing canneries along the coast, a victim of refrigeration on fish boats. It’s a collection of collapsed and collapsing buildings, yet it’s oddly charming. Wandering through the grounds and peaking into the old buildings is a look back in time. And the setting, nestled off Princess Royal Channel just past a huge and particularly scenic waterfall, is beautiful.
Drone shot of Butedale
Another angle, with Butedale Lake
A peak inside one of the buildings
Back in 2012 I had the good fortune to raft up to Shawn Kennedy and his family in Hartley Bay. I was southbound from Alaska in the C-Dory, and Shawn had recently sold his company and purchased a boat. He’d recently visited Butedale and fallen in love.

I had yet to visit, but I’d heard stories. Ownership group after ownership group had purchased the cannery, which was abandoned in the 1980s, with grand plans to rehabilitate the place. Nature had won, though, and Butedale continued collapsing into the sea.

That day in August 2012, Shawn talked about buying the place. Sure enough, he did. Progress on improving Butedale has been slow, but it’s happening. The most toxic waste was cleaned up. The rickety old docks were resurfaced and stabilized. A new, sturdy ramp between shore and the floats replaced the previous rusty heap. Internet was added. Rumor has it that major changes are in the pipeline.
The WiFi doesn't reach the boat, so this is where I blog from...
Officially Butedale is closed. Calling it primitive is an understatement—parts of it are downright dangerous. But Cory, the caretaker, doesn’t turn boats away. Anchorages on this section of the coast are few and far between, and Butedale is an important point of refuge.

We arrived in Butedale early in the afternoon and hiked up to the lake. It’s about three-quarters of a mile each way over sometimes-rugged and often muddy terrain. Wear boots. The lake is beautiful, with hundreds of massive logs jammed in one end like someone dropped a box of matches. We checked out the powerhouse, where two hydropower generators once produced a combined 600 kW of electricity. Today, one of the turbines is connected to a single 130 amp, 12 volt alternator which powers a 2000 watt inverter.
The trail to the lake, boots preferred
Butedale Lake
Oh, the black flies. These small, harmless looking insects have plagued us so far in B.C. They’re prolific, and their bite is like a mosquito’s, only much worse. The welts easily eclipse the size of a quarter and the itching lasts for days. Unlike the giant horse flies, which are big, slow moving, make a buzzing sound, and draw blood, black flies are small and stealthy. There’s not enough deet in the world to deal with these nasty critters.

22.22 nm today
2687.63 nm total