Klaus and Elizabeth Loehr
Nordhavn 40 Chinook on the West Coast of Vancouver Island
The year is 2006 and we are preparing for our sixth voyage in the Pacific Northwest and the Inside Passage to Southeast Alaska. We have not tired of this fabulous cruising area but do endeavor to vary our itinerary each year, adding some new segment or passage. For 2006 we decided on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and to run up the coast in the springtime.
We noted that all the guide books suggest a counter clockwise circumnavigation, running down the coast with the predominating summer northwesterlies following. Certainly all the sailboats follow this pattern. We assumed that we might have a mix of winds from SE gales to strong NW and that the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the headlands of Estevan Point, the Brooks Peninsula, and finally Cape Scott would bear watching. Perhaps this led Elizabeth to suggest that this open ocean stretch should be covered by the brothers, Thomas and Klaus.
Some extra preparation was called for and I hauled the boat the last week of April in Sidney, BC. By 1 May we were in Seattle to have the Lugger main engine and the Northern Lights Genset inspected by the professionals: Alaska Diesel Electric and Hatton Marine. Harris Electric came on board to install a Furuno GPS replacing a failing Raytheon. We filled up in Ballard and on 5 May locked down the Lake Washington Ship Canal to Puget Sound and Port Townsend, Thomas’ hometown. After a stormy 6th and 7th we departed for Victoria, BC on 8 May in a brisk NW on the nose, a rough and wet 4 hour crossing.
The open ocean segments are usually 35 nm, or about five hours. The roughest part was the northwest run along the Brooks Peninsula, into 20 kts on the nose with crossing swells and diverse currents; this stretch was 9 nm and about an hour and one half. Then the SE gales set in and we laid in Winter harbor for four days.
Our N 40 ran flawlessly with all systems go. We were the only north bound cruising boat for the entire stretch till we saw N 57 Dancing Bear, Anchorage, Alaska in Winter Harbor bound for its home port. Dancing Bear rounded brooks Peninsula in a following SE gale of 40 kts. We finally rounded Cape Scott with minimal following SE winds. Just before we crossed Nahwitti Bar near slack we met four sailboats cruising south bound.
We reached Port Hardy, North Vancouver Island, BC the 27th of May four days ahead of plan. Thomas left for Port Townsend and I cleaned the boat for Elizabeth’s arrival on 1 June. On 3 June she and I departed on our 6th Inside Passage for Northern BC and Alaska.
Thomas’ write ups follow and cover the details of our voyage up the West Coast of the Island.
Regards to all,
May 2006, West Coast of Vancouver Island
Klaus & Thomas aboard Chinook
Yuquot to Port Hardy
Wednesday May 17 was yet another beautiful morning. The prawn trap held about a dozen of which we kept 7 large ones for that evening’s Thai dinner. Since we had been out of phone contact for a couple days and with bad weather looming, we decided to make for Tahsis (as in Mathis) at the N end of a long fiord, Tahsis Inlet. Westview Marina turned out to be a delightful stopover. Cathy, the owner, met us at the dock. She runs a well maintained marina, a fine store (open !), and offered good water for the boat. She also handed us the keys to the van and recommended that we have lunch at the Cook Shack and that we could get groceries at the north end of town. Tahsis is reachable by forest road from Gold River in the North Central Island region, which in turn is connected to Campbell River. Of course, we called our homes to check in.
The route then continued around Nootka Island, first through the scenic Tahsis Narrows, through Hecate Channel into Esperanza Inlet. We anchored in Queen Cove for the night. The cove is reasonably well protected from the ocean to the south, and some strong wind gusts buffeted the boat during the late afternoon and early evening. A sizable wreck lay on the west shore of the cove.
Another ocean run today around Tatchu Point into Kyuquot Sound. It was quite hazy. Despite the inviting name, Clear Passage, we stayed to seaward of the many reefs and islets along this stretch of the coast. We found Nicolaye Channel, and then the narrow and somewhat tricky waterway to Walters Cove or Kyuquot, located on Walters Island. A sturdy government dock with attached floats for smaller boats provided excellent accommodations. Across the island from the inner harbor lies the native village of Kyuquot. There are no roads to this community, and supplies are brought in by ships that call regularly. Locals spoke of the arrival of a ship that evening, and we expected to see the Uchuck III; however, the boat that arrived was a sturdy workboat with a ramp built into its bow. It unloaded everything from building supplies to groceries, cases of cola, boxes of bananas and toilet paper that were set on the dock. The young woman who runs the general store gathered many of the boxes, but she had no plans for opening her store that day. Also, natives arrived by small skiffs from the village to take possession of items they had ordered. The ship was in for about 12 hours; it left at 7:00 a.m. the next morning with the high tide to clear reefs at the entrance to the cove.
The big event in Walters Cove was rural electrification. We met Ron who was busy limbing trees for clearance of the power and telephone lines that were to become active within a few days. Ron has been a resident of the Cove since the mid 1950’s. He was working as high as 50 to 80 feet in some of the trees. He also told us about walks to take; there were only 2 choices: along the inside of the harbor or a short trail to the ocean side, with a view into Nicolaye Channel. On one of the trails, we had the company of a local cat that enjoyed walking with us. The highly recommended Miss Charlie’s Café, named for a local seal, was unfortunately still closed.
The weather continued to hold, and we left next day for an easy run to Columbia Cove so named by Robert Gray of the Columbia Rediviva, after whose ship the Columbia River is also named. This cove is tucked into the NE corner of Brooks Peninsula. Even after spending a couple hours fishing and trolling in Checleset Bay with no results, we dropped anchor at lunchtime. A small sailboat was anchored deeper in the cove, one of the few cruisers we’d come across since starting our trip. The red hull of a stranded CG vessel that is slowly breaking up here is visible; its engine is lying on the rocky beach next to the hull, indications of the wild weather that can beat upon this coast.
With a full afternoon ahead of us, it was dinghy time to explore the area. We started the process of lowering the dinghy using the upper deck crane but were halted when one of its motors failed to activate. Click, click from one of the remote control relays. We spent about three hours checking connections, relays, voltages only to find that the motor had slightly seized; however, by freeing the motor shaft, and scrupulously cleaning and oiling, everything was back in order. The dinghy ride was cut short, as we didn’t get started till after 5 p.m. We abandoned the idea of beaching as the surf was high and the approach shallowed very gradually. The dinghy’s new depth sounder we had installed in Port Townsend proved to work well. A bank of clouds was now sitting on top of the peninsula, and wisps were driven down into ravines by the wind striking the far side of the peninsula.
The front still held off, and we decided to round Brooks the next morning, May 20. The sky was overcast, everything gray but with good visibility. This peninsula sticks out a good 10 miles into the ocean, and some of the worst weather along the west coast happens here. The wind was holding from the NW, so as we turned the corner at Clerke Point, we were now bashing into swells and waves that gave us quite a ride, pitching up and down. The wind on the nose was probably in the 20s. Thankfully, Solander Island, off Cape Cook, the NW corner of Brooks peninsula, slowly grew and was soon rounded. An automated weather reporting station is located here, and we’d been listening to the Solander Island statistics for days. After another hour wind and waves eased and we had a sedate run within Brooks Bay to Klaskish Inlet. After passing McDougal Island we entered the narrow tree- and rock-lined gorge that then opens in Klaskish Basin. No other boats, poor or no VHF radio reception, but an idyllic anchorage. We celebrated the Brooks rounding achievement with a cheese fondue and a bottle of wine.
Next morning was quiet, overcast, and rainy. Our goal was to reach Winter Harbour. The route followed Heater Point and Kwakiutl Point into Quatsino Sound, from where the CG Quatsino Light station on Kains Island becomes visible. We saw at least half a dozen small fishing boats, even a small sailboat under sail and perhaps one or two larger fishing boats in the sound. Also, the wind was picking up from the SE, signs of the approaching low. Winter Harbour, however, is safely tucked 6 miles inside Forward Inlet. It was to become our home for the next four days as it was time for the North Coast to take a beating.
We docked at the float of the public dock. At the head of the ramp was a community building with a public phone. Other amenities such as a library and meeting rooms were all closed. Across the way was a small post office. A small handwritten sign said it would be open on Tuesday, May 23, from 9-12. A large new building built partially on poles out over the water and partly on an old wooden barge serves as a fishing lodge. A few people were busy getting the place ready for the season, appx. June 1 to September 1. We were given a tour of the place, and it looked quite accommodating for the three days of fishing that the typical guests do here. A small general store/liquor store opened as needed.
During the afternoon, a couple of small boats came in as well as a 50’ fishing trawler, the Viking Sunrise. Their crew said it was getting nasty out there. The trawler made us a welcome present of halibut filets. Rain continued on and off, and during lulls, we walked along a boardwalk, chatting with the few visitors and vacationing fishermen. One of the trawler crew pointed out a tall tree and suggested that we see it. It was along a trail through the woods back to the waterfront of Forward Inlet. The tree appeared to be an old growth spruce, easily 10 to 12 feet in diameter at the base. The pebbled beach had wondrous polished rocks.
The following day, an even bigger fishing boat came in, Viking Moon; the weather was too rough for them to start fishing, and they too spent 3 days in harbor. Despite their similar names, they belonged to competing firms. The captain of the Moon was talkative, giving advice on good anchoring spots and places for caution as one continued around Cape Scott and beyond. We also received a tour of his boat, which was specifically outfitted to freeze whole fish, as well as an invitation to join the crew for a nice hot stew. We spent a third night at anchor in Browning Inlet, just 3 miles away to try some crabbing, as had been recommended. No luck at all. While motoring back to Winter Harbour for a fourth night, we saw a Nordhavn 57 out of Anchorage at anchor. We came to within hailing distance and learned that they had rounded Brooks PeninsuIa the day before in winds over 40 knots.
The forecast for the 25th of May was for more settled weather. We timed our departure from Winter Harbour to round Cape Scott and to reach Nahwitti Bar, the entrance to Goletas Channel, close to slack water at 12:30 p.m. Since this was some 50 nm distant, we left in the dark at 4:30 in the morning. By the time we reached Quatsino Lighthouse it was starting to get light. From the CG station, we followed the coast, passing San Josef Bay and Sea Otter Cove, both quite exposed to the southeaster still blowing. But the waves had subsided substantially, and with following wind and seas, we endured a corkscrew motion for several hours. By the time we reached Cape Scott, conditions had improved markedly. The passage around the top of Vancouver Island and past Cape Sutil was easy; the bar conditions were insignificant even though we were almost an hour early as we had picked up favorable currents around Cape Scott. By 12:30 we were anchored in handsome Bull Harbour on Hope Island. That afternoon, we walked several miles, along a road and then along the beaches on the north side of the island facing Queen Charlotte Strait. The sea was now flat calm, the sun was starting to poke through, and eagles were watching our moves. All in all, it was a time for relaxing and rejoicing.
Next day we motored the length of Goletas Channel toward Port Hardy to reach cell phone service and, after phoning our spouses that we had completed the journey, made arrangements for a rendezvous with Marc who was to drive up from Victoria the following day. We spent one more night at anchor in Clam Cove on Nigei Island, but found it to be an unpleasant hole. Only the entrance through a narrow passage was of interest. However, a bit of bottom fishing earlier had yielded a nice rockfish for supper.
On Saturday the 27th, we docked at Quartermaster Marina in Port Hardy (544 nm since Seattle) and began cleaning up the boat. Marc arrived later on. On Sunday, I said my “good byes and thanks” to Klaus, drove with Marc back to Victoria, hopped on the Coho ferry to Port Angeles, and was back home in Port Townsend by 11 pm for a nice homecoming with Joanna.
Victoria to Yuquot (Friendly Cove)
We did it !!!
I am writing this from Port Townsend on Tuesday & Wednesday, May 30 & 31. I returned to PT late on Sunday after driving from Port Hardy to Victoria, then ferried on the 7:30 pm sailing of the M/V Coho to Port Angeles and on to PT.
Our trip really started in Sidney on April 29 when we left Van Isle Marina for Friday Harbor. I came the day before, leaving my A4 at VIM. We had dinner with a fellow Nordhavn 40 owner, Cal Massey. Klaus had already overseen the annual haulout and was back in the water. In FH, we got vessel safety checks for Chinook and the dinghy. Sunday morning we left for PT via Cattle Pass and then across the Straits. Tuesday to Seattle, up the locks and docked at Alaska Diesel Electric. In the next two days, work was performed on Chinook: a complete engine tune up, some electrical work, and the installation of a new Furuno GPS to replace an ailing Raytheon. On the three evenings, we walked a lot around Ballard and had dinner out in the neighborhood, once at Klaus’ favorite Indian Bistro together with Cal Massey whose boat was now hauled out at Seaview East; the next evening at a fancy Italian eatery, Volterra, with Cal, Bob Senter of ADE, and my Seattle brother-in-law, J. Loux, and the third night at a Thai restaurant. Early Friday, May 5, back through the locks and a fast trip on the ebb via the Port Townsend canal back to PT.
The weather turned blustery, and we stayed in PT where we continued to provision the boat and do odd jobs. On Monday, May 8, we left PT for Victoria as we needed a Canadian port-of-entry. The waters around Point Wilson were roiling and the next two or three hours, en route to Victoria in the Straits of Juan de Fuca (JdF) gave us some of the roughest see-sawing of the entire trip as we headed into strong westerlies. We landed at the Canadian Customs dock, were cleared by phone, and then repositioned to a guest dock in front of the Empress Hotel. There was big activity at the docks as the fleet of Clipper 05-06 Round-the-World-Yacht-Race boats were in after their long and arduous sail from China. A 10th boat had not yet arrived. This race was open to novices who bought passage on city-sponsored 68-foot sloops (e.g., Cardiff, Liverpool, Qingdao, Victoria, …) and would last 10 months. They had started in Liverpool in September 2005, had called in Cascais (Portugal) and Salvador (Brazil) [Leg1]; Durban [Leg 2]; Fremantle (Australia) [Leg 3]; Singapore, Subic Bay (Philippines), Qingdao [Leg 4]; Victoria [Leg 5] where they had just arrived. The race was set to continue on May 17th for Panama and Jamaica [Leg 6]; and the final leg via New York, Jersey, and back to Liverpool, and thus calling on most of the 10 cities represented by entrants. The race would be 35,000 miles. Klaus’ stepson, Marc Provencher, temporarily home from his piloting job in Thailand, joined us for walks and dinners the next two evenings.
The weather settled down over the 9th, allowing us an early start on May 10. In fact, the waters were so smooth and calm that we bypassed both Sooke and Port Renfrew and decided to go all the way to Bamfield in Barkley Sound - 92 nm in 14 hours. The Canadian side of the Straits between Sheringham and Sombrio Points, area WH (“whiskey hotel”), was announced to have CG exercises. At one point, a big USCG inflatable with guns mounted fore and aft raced up to us; we asked if it was OK to transit the area. They said, “no problem; we’ll hold off target practice until you’re clear, but our shooting is so bad we’d probably miss you anyway.” The south coast passed slowly by: Carmanah light, Pachena light, Cape Beal, and so into Barkley Sound. In the late afternoon, the wind had picked up substantially, perhaps as high as 20 knots from the west, but the decision to continue to Bamfield turned out to be good as the following days brought gale force winds into the Straits of JdF.
We dropped anchor in Bamfield Inlet, tired but happy of our progress. Next day we explored West Bamfield (on Mills Peninsula), walked the boardwalk, and noted that, with the exception of the post office, the General Store, and Lady Rose, the steamer that goes between Port Alberni and Bamfield, everything else was still closed. With nothing else to do here, we went on another 7 miles to Fleming Island and docked at Port Alberni Yacht Club that had been highly recommended. What a beautiful spot, and we had it to ourselves, not another person or boat in sight. Next morning a father and son arrived by boat from Port Alberni to put in some work at their club; extremely friendly and welcoming, this was a highlight. On the 12th we went into the Broken Group, hundreds of islets forming the Pacific Rim National Park, in central Barkley Sound. We fished in Sec hart Channel above Nettle Island and, while trolling for salmon, Thomas caught a nice ling cod for our dinner. The weather was glorious: sunny, blue skies, quiet waters.
Next day took us to Ucluelet. We had lunch aboard the old steamer Canadian Princess that now serves as the central point of a resort. During lunch, a loud PA system across the harbor began making announcements. Initially irritating, it turned out that they were calling the finishes of foot racers doing their third event. The contestants had started with a kayak race out to Amphitrite Point, then a bicycle race up a mountain road, and finally a 10 km foot race. As we did our own hike out to Amphitrite Point and beyond along the Wild Pacific Trail, we passed many of the runners who were often grouped in teams, many jingling with their bear bells.
Next morning was another early start for the ocean passage from Ucluelet to Tofino in Clayoquot Sound. We learned rapidly, as other sailors had told us, that winds started in the early afternoon and blew till evening, and, thus, mornings were the best times to travel. While there were many ocean passages, it also turned out that ocean legs were typically around 35 to 40 nm, or about 5 to 6 hours for Chinook. The passage was smooth, passing Long Beach in Wikaninnish Bay and then the CG light on Lennard Island marking the entrance to Tofino. As others had already warned, the tidal currents at Tofino docks were very strong, and it took dockside to help alongside. The water rushed past the boat like a raging river. It was another gorgeous day, and we spent the afternoon walking the town and seeing the sights. A highlight was the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery featuring his prints, sculptures, and totems.
From Tofino, we had an inside passage through West Clayoquot Sound to Hot Springs Cove, first passing the E and N sides of Vargas Island, then the E, N, and W sides of Flores Island. When we arrived, we were the only visiting yacht at the public floats. A large old tug (1927) made over into a floating B&B was on the float. Several water taxis and float planes arrived from Tofino to drop off and pick up tourists bound for the hot springs. They are accessible by a 2-km long boardwalk through a beautiful forest, often with pretty views into the rocky bays. Many boards are intricately carved with the names and dates of visiting boats; some are so fancy that they were surely done “at home” and brought in. We waited until past 5 pm to make our trek, but we were still surprised by the number of people. There are no improvements of any kind; access is gained by climbing down rocks and working one’s way slowly to the small hot pools. Aaah!
The weather far offshore was beginning to change, a low moving across the Pacific and approaching the Washington Coast. Predictions were now for increasing winds turning from the normal NW to the SE; the words “small craft warnings” and “gales” were being used in their forecasts. Although the winds had now shifted SE overnight, they were moderate and with following seas, we continued the next day with another ocean passage, this time around Estevan Point. Sailing friends who have done the West Coast several times say they have never seen Estevan Point on account of fog. Well, it was clear, and sunny for us. The Estevan Point lighthouse is the tallest on Vancouver Island’s west coast and is one of six Canadian lighthouses built with flying buttresses. Quite extraordinary and beautiful. There are accounts that a Japanese submarine surfaced within two miles of Estevan Point on June 20, 1942, and shelled the area, but with no casualties or major damage.
Our target for this leg was Friendly Cove (Yuquot) in Nootka Sound tucked in behind the CG’s Nootka light station. However, upon arrival, the villagers had not yet put in their floats in the water for the season. As there was no place to stay, we continued north to anchor between Bodega and Nootka Islands. However, before dropping anchor, we left a prawn trap in Cook Channel to be reclaimed the next morning. After anchoring, I explored the area in Klaus kayak, keeping in radio contact with walkie talkies. The weather stayed beautiful and sunny.