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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Transiting Vancouver Island


June 5, 2015
Underway, heading north, it now feels like the journey has really started.  Our first major segment is to travel the length of Vancouver Island (all 250nm of it), running on the inside between it and the mainland.  Approximately the first half is the open waters of the Straight of Georgia.  The next third or so, starting with Seymour Narrows and continuing through the Discovery Passage and Johnstone Straight, are long relatively narrow straights with wind and current considerations.  Under worst case conditions, Seymour Narrows current can run over 10 kts.  Our boat can only move about 9 kts, so you can see that we need to time it with some care.  The last part opens up again into the Queen Charlotte Straight.


Our first destination, about half way up the Straight of Georgia, was a spot called Ballet Bay.  Entering the bay was our first exercise in creeping in through a narrow channel into the woods, only to find it opens into a beautiful cove.  This would be the first of many such anchorages, remote, unspoiled, and mostly uninhabited.  It also was the beginning of the end of cell phone service.

June 6, 2015
Today’s goal was to get our selves positioned close to Seymour Narrows where we could spend the night then catch slack high water at the narrows for our pass through.  Gowlland Harbour is off to the east side of the approach to Seymour Narrows and just a few miles away making it easy to time your arrival.

June 7, 2015
The channel beyond Seymour Narrows – Discover Passage – floods from both ends in towards the middle, then ebbs out both ends from the middle.  Going north as we are, the trick is to go through the narrows a bit before slack water on the rising tide.  The residual flood will give you some extra speed heading north and get you far enough that once the current turns and starts to ebb, it will pull you along out the north end and into Johnstone Straight.

Oh, and did I mention the cruise ships?  There is a steady parade of them running to and from Alaska this time of year, and they all come down through the straights and Seymour Narrows.  And they all time their pass for slack water, just as we are.  And these cruise ships are big – around 900-1000’ long.   The evening before while at anchor in Gowlland Harbour I could see them passing by during the evening slack water.  There seem to be about 5 per day that go through.  Nothing like a little traffic to add some excitement.

Well, clearly I worry too much, because our pass through Seymour around 8:30AM was uneventful, and the currents carried us favorably through the 13nm of Discovery Passage in no time at all, bringing us to Johnstone Straight.


Seymour Narrows not looking very narrow or very treacherous

Johnstone Straight has a reputation for being pretty nasty at times, but of course it all depends on the conditions.  The worst is when you have strong ebb current (heading northwest) and a strong wind coming against it from the northwest.  As you will recall, we were riding the ebb current up Discovery Passage and out into Johnstone Straight, so had at least half of the ingredients for a nasty ride.  Our plan was to size up the situation when we arrived at Johnstone and either bail out or continue on.  On arrival, conditions were good, it was early, and we were still making good time, so we kept on going.

Our strategy worked great until we passed through Current Passage off Hardwicke Island and come out into the longest and most open part of Johnstone Straight.  At this point the wind had kicked up to 15-25 kts, the ebb was at its maximum, and the boat was hammering up and down into the waves.  When things in the pilot house start getting air borne, it’s time for plan B.  Port Neville was only a few miles away across the straight, so we started heading there, but then realized that the large bay closer by looked like it would offer some reasonable protection from the worst of things, and was closer and offered easier anchoring with more swing room, so over we went.

Although there was no Active Captain marker for it, it turned out to be a pretty good refuge in Blenkinsop Bay.  The land around it was relatively low so much of the wind still came through, but holding was excellent and the wave action was greatly diminished.  Two other boats came in later, and although one had a hard time getting his anchor set, both ended up tight for the night.

June 8, 2015
Up in the morning and on our way to Port McNeill.  Port McNeill and Port Hardy are the last two ports at the north end of Vancouver Island, and pretty much mark the end of populated towns along the BC coast until you reach Prince Rupert up near the US Alaskan boarder.

Johnstone Straight

McNeill is a pretty utilitarian place, and that’s just what one needs before venturing off for the next leg of a journey.  There is a hardware/building store, a marine and logging store, a couple of grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.   We used the phones and internet, went grocery shopping, bought misc parts, and readied ourselves for the next segment – The BC Coast.

While in Port McNeill, we had an interesting experience.  A few days earlier we had finalized the contract to sell our Grand Banks, and in preparation for the closing there were a number of papers that we needed sign and get notarized.  Well apparently north of the Campbell River (Seymour Narrows where we passed a couple of days ago), there are no notaries.  I have no idea why, but instead you use an attorney.  Undeterred, we asked the friendly and very helpful guys at the marina office where we might find such a person.  Well, there was only one attorney in Port McNeill, so they rang him up for us.  I spoke to a nice gentleman, explained our situation, and asked if he might be able to notarize a few documents for us.  He agreed, asked where I was, and said his office was right across the street over the sports bar.

These direction made prefect sense given the sports bar that I could see out the window, however the guys at the marina were describing a different location for the office.  I figured the guy must have moved offices, so off we went.  But over the bar we just motel rooms?  Puzzling, so I googled the office and found the address was as described by the guys at the marina.  As we were walking to this alternate location, I decided to call the attorney's office again just to confirm where I was going.  They were puzzled why it was taking me so long to walk across the street, so I explained where we were.

Ahh haa, it turns out that this law firm has two offices, one in Port McNeill and one in Port Hardy.  The attorney in Port McNeill was out for the day, so the phone had forward to the Port Hardy office and they naturally thought I was calling from there.  What a comedy.  But we were able to make an appointment for 9:00AM the next day in Port McNeill to catch the attorney before he again left for the day.

Now you probably think the story is over, but it's not.  It turns out that in Canada a notary actually looks at what's being signed.  Or maybe that just what an attorney naturally does.  In the US, a Notary is nothing more than a witnessing and certification of a signature.  All it says is that you appeared before the notary, convinced them who your were, and they saw you personally sign the document.  They don't look at the document.  In fact, it's none of their business what's being signed.  All they are saying is "that's Peter's signature.  I saw him sign it".  Well, our Canadian attorney wanted to pour through all these bills of sale and warranties of title and this and that.  And then it started to get really funny.  The boat was being sold to a guy named Patsy.  He jokingly asked if this was a mob deal, then looked at our passports and saw that we were both born in New Jersey.  Now he was really worried about this deal that he was witnessing and certifying and wondering how legitimate it really was.  But we got through it and all had a good chuckle.

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