Saturday, August 25, 2007

Discovery Islands Day One




Once the gear was dried out from my wet trip in the Gulf Islands, I still had a handful of days before I was called back to the 'job.' Diana and I loaded up all the food and tent etc, again, and this time included her kayak so she too could have the satisfaction of self propelling her way through passages and crossings. The trip is much more intense if you put some effort into it!


We caught the ferry to Quadra and drove across the island to launch at Rebecca Spit. Once the boats were in the water and all our gear on the beach, I drove the car to the storage compound at a near-by campground. Great hosts!


I walked the road back to the boats and got all the gear back into the storage tanks, sails up and rigged. We had a little crowd waiting to see us off. Despite the lack of any real breeze, I raised the sails to allow the photo opportunity then put them to bed and spent the rest of the day rowing! I followed Diana out and around the point then we headed off for the tiny Breton Islands. Waters were calm and it was easy to talk across the few metres between us. It was wonderfully exciting to be back on the water, setting out on another adventure, but this time, I had someone to share it with and that makes it better yet!


We stopped for lunch on the first of the Bretons and met a few kayakers out for a day paddle.


Once we left that rocky shore, we passed a group of seals basking on some exposed rocks, then made the long crossing to the 'bottom' of Read Island, at Viner Point. There we stopped for a rest and a change of crew positions. Diana's wrists and shoulder were seizing up, so she moved to the stern of my boat and we tied her kayak to follow on behind! I was pleased that this extra weight and drag didn't seem to increase my load, but I didn't have the GPS on to give me any idea of the changed speed.


Along the coast of this island, we saw one of the whale-watching boats approach, pass us by, then stop further along for a few minutes. He motored, then paused a few times but it never dawned on me that they might be watching a whale. Not until the whale surfaced a short distance away from us! The orca was travelling solo and he was a big one! Giant dorsal fin and a great spray of breathing! By the time I was able to grab my camera, he was quite a distance, but I took a short video anyway. Watch for the tiny (very tiny) bit of spray in the center of the frame.


Hours later, we arrived at Evan's Bay. The campsite I used years ago looked pretty rustic and inaccessible. I rowed us back to the main beach where there seemed to be a large party of campers. Turns out they were locals and just using the beach to do some work on an aluminum skiff! They were very welcoming and showed us the tent site, where the fire circle was, how to find the out house etc. Told us to make ourselves at home and they would be on their way after an hour or so of noise making. True to their word, as we ate our supper on the beach, the generator stopped and all the gear was tossed onto the old truck while the skiff motored off too.

The first photo at the top of this entry shows our approach to the Breton Islands. The second shows the boats pulled up at our rest stop at Viner Point. The third photo is me, resting my tired arms after that long crossing.

video This is the video I mentioned above.

Discovery Islands Day Two



Last night's sleep was great! No rain and no bugs in the tent. Sure, the tent was on a bit of a slope, but it was even and stoneless! We had time for an egg-on-toast with fresh coffee breakfast and after a clean-up, set off for a day trip of exploring in the Walkabout only. Our goal was to have lunch in VonDonop Inlet, across Sutil Channel. Ripples on the water promised to make it an easy sailing trip and I was very happy with that! Once I had the sails up we tacked our way out of Evan's Bay, crossing paths with a couple of sailboats; one an older wood boat with a wood mast. Hull shaped like a Friendship Sloop. Before I could tell the skipper that I liked the look of his boat, he paid me that compliment!

The winds lasted until we got well into the channel, but nowhere near our goal. I set up the oars after dousing the sails and began the long haul to VonDonop. It was a beautiful, but hot day. I counted the strokes in sets of sixty, as each one of those sets clicked another tenth of a mile off the GPS. I tried singing, but ran out of songs with the same rhythm as I was pulling.

Finally the wind picked up again as we were just outside the Inlet. I raised sails and let it take us nearly to the top. Glorious rest.

We had lunch in a tiny cove with warm water, then when the tide was drowning our little island, returned to the boat and the long pull against the wind and the flooding tide. This turned out to be a very long trip without a breath of wind to even cool my sweaty face. We arrived back at our campsite at nearly suppertime. Total distance travelled today was close to 12 nautical, with maybe four of those under sail.
Pictures at the top of this entry are of some of the Penn Islets and a view of one of the banks on our way into VonDonop.

Evans Bay Back To Rebecca Spit




This was the third and last day of our short trip into this set of islands. I woke a bit later than usual knowing there was no rush. But, when I walked out of the trees, I saw the wind had blown the boat too close to the shore when the tide was ebbing. I called for Diana to help then walked over the large stones to lever the boat back into the water. Thankfully we had only a few feet to go. I used a few chunks of driftwood as pivots and we 'walked' the boat back to the sea. Sounds simple, but she weighed over two hundred pounds empty! After a half hour of struggle and a few cuts from the barnacles, we had earned our coffee on the shore.

The marine forecast predicted winds to remain from the north until about noon, then calm. We decided to pack up and try to catch that wind to avoid having to paddle and row any great distances after yesterday's long stretch of rowing. I thought my boat could easily sail the two of us and pull Diana's kayak, so we set out with that arrangement.

Once we got launched and felt the wind pushing us toward the mouth of the bay, I raised sails, but found our struggles with the grounding had dislodged the rudder from its position. A few minutes of lying on the rear deck and using my fist to drive it back onto the pins and we were in action!!! The wind blew us out of the bay and towards home, but slowly lost its vigor. After an hour or so, it was no longer much wave action. It didn't take much coaxing to unearth the stove and brew us a second pot of coffee and find a snack or two.

Our optimism faded with the last of the breeze. Back to the rowing station after the sails were furled. My muscles were not happy as the extra drag of the kayak wandering back and forth slowed us to about half my solo speed. I pulled into Twin Bay to let Diana climb back into her kayak, then we rowed/paddled our boats back into Sutil Channel for the long trip home.

Great news greeted us once we cleared Viner Point and felt the breezes. We thought it was best to not toy with the wind diva by having Diana move back to a sail-rigged boat. Instead I tied her throw-line between us and raised my sails. Oh Joy! The wind was on the beam and with enough force to pull us along at a speed of about 2.5 knots! Perfect! That wind increased a bit once we entered Drew Harbour on Quadra Island. I set the kayak free then had to let the Walkabout have some playtime! I tacked up the harbour with three long runs, arriving long after Diana, but with a big grin!
The pictures at the top of this entry show first, my favourite kind of view with receding islands and overlapping passes that invite the eye and the explorer to come and see what is just beyond. Second is a picture of the Walkabout 'mother ship' taken from the kayak, being towed back to the launch. Third picture is a beautiful rock face in Twin Bay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gulf Islands adventure Day 3

Sunday, August 19. It rained through the night. While the real rain rattled on the water and tent, all the moisture from my damp gear condensed on the underside of the poly tarp and rained back down on me too. The sewn-seam leaked badly, soaking the foot of the sleeping bag. Every now and again, a drop would land on my face, waking me abruptly! I'd sit up, take the sponge and wipe down the inside of the tent, shake loose the drops I'd missed then try to go back to sleep.
About 7:00, I was swaddled in wet clothes and a damp sleeping bag. I worried about the continuing rain and could not get a forecast for other than wind conditions. I doubted I could keep warm during the rainy day and even if I could, the next night in wet gear would not be safe. I phoned Diana and asked for a long-term rain forecast. That prediction said rain for that day and the following two. I made the decision to rug up and row to the launch ramp at Chemainus.
For the next hour and a half, I studied the chart, ate a hearty breakfast and packed all my wet gear. Once I removed the tent and rolled it up, the rain seemed to increase. I felt foolish as I rowed past the stares of the yachties, despite being as well prepared as I could be. One old man stepped out onto his deck and chatted about the old days. Days when he made his living working on the water in the rain. He saluted me with his coffee cup and I felt better; stronger.
No wind again, and just as well, as I was counting on the rowing to keep me warm. I crossed Houstoun Passage, keeping my eye out for big boats. One of them came dangerously close and as it approached, I stopped my rowing and even backed up a few strokes. There was no one at the helm.
Once I passed the top of Saltspring Island, the sun came out and a light breeze followed. I raised my sails, then had the bright idea of unpacking the sleeping bag and draping it over my chilly legs like some old man on a cruise liner. It would help dry the bag as well as warm me up! It was luxury itself to lie back and let the breeze take me along for awhile. But it was a short while. Back to the oars.
I rowed a total of 6 miles that day, but it was enough!
Though the trip was about half the length I'd planned, I was thrilled with the time I had! The boat is wonderful. My old body is able to row for some distances. The scenery is amazing. My support crew is just that - great support! What more could a man ask for?

Gulf Islands adventure Day 2




Weather forecast this morning said no wind, but suggested rain. So. I thought I'd go for a day trip. I left Pirate's Cove about 8:00, rowing past the waking yachts, trying to read their thoughts as I slipped by in my tiny rowing boat. I rowed a direct line for the cliffs of Valdes Island. They are stunning and I must send you to this link to view them:




I was so happy and thankful for being there. I was in the perfect boat for this adventure. I felt strong and was given the gift of contentment. All very spiritual. I rowed along those walls for about 2 miles before they became less steep and trees were able to grow down to the water's edge.


I paused for a bite and some juice at Blackberry Point. There I found three groups of kayakers, and none of them in any hurry to start their day. The beach was made of broken shells and about as long as a city block. Lots of room for more lounging paddlers.

The bottom photo attached was taken at that point. Once again there was lots of interest in the boat, but instead of amazement at my being on the water in such a tiny boat (typical reaction from skippers of the giant yachts) I was greeted with the respect of beginners in small boats. Some jealousy for the amount of gear, and stability as well as the sails too. When they asked where I was headed, I casually waved towards the south-west and said, "It doesn't matter." They gave me the look reserved for great and fearless explorers.


Truth was, I didn't know where I was headed. I just knew there was little point in going back to the mosquitoes and I had my campsite right with me! I rowed in the direction of Reid Island and crossed back across Trincomali Channel. No wind, but rowing was fine. Once I passed the north end of that island, I checked the GPS and found I'd entered the wrong data for the nearest provincial marine park. I 'd have to start paying attention again to where I was. The wind came up and I gratefully raised sails. After about fifty metres, the wind changed to rain! DANG! The rain poncho kept me dry enough as I doused the sails and continued to row. By this time, my hands were getting very tired from the constant gripping of the oars, trying to keep the blades properly oriented to the water. As my hands tired, the approaching wakes seemed to more seriously throw off my stroking. Beautiful and rugged shorelines with very handsome houses all along. But I was worried about taking the camera out of its tunnel home beside the tiller and exposing it to the rain. That rain paused for a few moments just as I was rowing between the shoreline of Wallace Island and a ridge of rock just offshore. Like the spine of some giant sea creature! That would be the top picture posted above.

I arrived at Conover Cove mid afternoon, after rowing off and on for about seven hours. The GPS said I'd rowed about 12 nautical miles (straight line) but my scenic detours must have added another three. I tied up at the dinghy dock and went for a walk. Oh yes, the rain returned. A link to information about the park is here: http://www.britishcolumbia.com/parks/?id=537 A year ago, I read the account of the man who owned the resort here during the fifties and it was eerily satisfying to walk among the old cabins.

Once again, I anchored in the solitude of a tiny cove. I'd done my day's exercise so after a late supper and boat organizing, off to sleep!

Gulf Islands adventure Day 1







Diana and I drove from Comox this morning to the launch ramp at Cedar. I didn't check the launch time, I was so excited!!! I launched the same time as a large group of novice kayakers. All of us bound for the provincial marine park at Pirate's Cove on de Courcy Island. I was sure I would get there long before they and I was confident I would get a prime campsite. But they ignored the stunning scenery and paddled a straight line for the park while I mooched around the rocks then found some delightful wind and went to play in that! For some sailing action, check this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlRNJuD38qc I also ran through a couple of heavy rain areas, and I sat there at the tiller in my soggy fleece and water-proof maps draped over my knees!


The boat handled the wind and water beautifully, including some huge wakes from passing yachts. The day's distance, mostly sailed was about four nautical miles.


I arrived far too late to get any campsite but was happy to spend the first night within the walls of the new boat tent! Leave the kayakers to feed the billions of mosquitoes! A link to the park's site for more information is here:http://www.britishcolumbia.com/parks/?id=524

It was a great sleep in a quiet cove, far from the generators on the 'real' boats. The tent worked perfectly, with no condensation but lots of fresh air!


The pictures and video with this post were taken with a new treasure from Diana. So, I sat in the tent she sewed, grateful for her generosity.

Monday, August 06, 2007

wonderful conditions

Last Friday evening, Aug 3, was one of those rare occurrences of high tide, nice winds and my being free to go sailing. I launched at the Ken Forde ramp south of Campbell River just after supper. I saw that the flags in the area were blowing on-shore and there were no white caps to worry about. After I launched, I rowed out into the strait and raised the sails. The wind seemed to have died despite the flags still being blown inland. A few minutes of lazily drifting about and the wind increased to about ten knots. Stayed at that strength for the next hour and a half! Wonderful sailing toward Quadra Island until the tides carried me down island, then I could tack back and forth until I was upstream of the ramp then sail back out for another run down island. I was so pleased with the boat. She easily tacked and sailed with so little heeling that I was able to sit on the floor of the boat for most of the evening. In the last half-hour, the wind increased and I sat on the benches but was not tempted to put in a reef! I took the boat out of the water as the sun was thinking of setting and I was dreaming of longer trips.