Joe's 1998 Alaska Cruise, Part 8

Prince Rupert - Port Hardy
(Including a scary night at anchor in Captains Cove

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Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, September 9, 1998

Sending this from Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Some recent scribblings...

Monckton Inlet, September 2, 1998

Tonight I am tucked in a nook in a cove which is part of a larger cove tucked away behind Monckton Point which is within Monckton Inlet off Principe Channel which is one island (Banks Island) away from Hecate Strait. I intend to get a good night's sleep tonight! Inasmuch as the last few days have been somewhat interesting, let me work backwards a little...

Today I had a great motor/sail of about 40 miles, accompanied by about a dozen porpoises which played around the boat and kept me company for about four hours - beautiful creatures! The sail down Principe Channel had me a little nervous (as the wind was piping up) because I kept passing these places called Headwind Point, Foul Point off Anger Island, Storm Island, Despair Point, Breaker Islets, and Trap Island. I just kept making sure that I had enough searoom as I went by them. This area is totally deserted and I didn't see a single boat or person today.

Last night was the roughest night at anchor I've had for the entire trip: I had sailed all day down from Prince Rupert, knowing that there were some violent storm warnings predicted for the evening, and with this in mind I holed up in a place called Captain Cove which a guidebook allowed was a well-sheltered spot. I tucked in and anchored in the corner of this small cove in 7 fathoms (42 feet) and put out 150ft of 5/8" nylon three-strand line coupled to 15ft of chain and my 22# Bruce anchor just as the rain started pouring and the barometer plummeting. I couldn't put any more scope out because the boat would then be awfully close to the sides of the cove - uncomfortably close already, as it was (guidebooks are written by powerboaters who simply use humongous chain with power windlasses- all their anchor rode seems to be vertical). Anyway, I was feeling pretty good about all this because it seemed to be a protected cove, surrounded by trees and mountains, and the slight breeze through the cove seemed harmless enough. No sooner had I snuggled into my sleeping bag with a downpour going on outside that I felt the wind whap the boat, and looking out the window I could see that we were spinning! What was happening is that williwaws would come blasting down the mountains and violently throw the boat around, on any of about 270 degrees (there was an arc of only about 90 degrees from which the wind didn't blow) - the anchor was repeatedly subjected to these massive directional shifts. The bad news is that these gusts were very strong (I thought the dodger was going to be ripped off), but the good news is that they were not sustained winds - a gust would last maybe 30 seconds or a minute, and then die down, only to hit almost immediately from a different direction. I spent the night trying to sleep while occasionally peering out into the pitch-black night with horizontal rain and trying to judge if the rock walls of the cove were getting closer... fun. This morning, it was beautiful, peaceful, and sunny, and the barometer was back up and climbing (it had dropped10 millibars in less than four hours the previous evening).

Yesterday was also an interesting day from another persepective: FOG. I left Prince Rupert early in the morning and ran straight into a fogbank which was so dense it almost completely obscured my bright yellow bikeboat which was trailing me on 100' of line! Happily, GPS takes all the fun out of navigating in the fog. Most boats out there are bigger than I am, so I blew into my super-loud lung-powered foghorn (does anyone do this any more?) and talked with Prince Ruppert Vessel Traffic Control and hoped others were watching their radars. My radar reflector has been permanently raised for the duration of this trip, just under the babystay. Eventually the fog cleared and it turned into a beautiful day (with miserable evening). I can see that having radar on board certainly can give some peace of mind.... navigation is no longer a problem - it's the getting bumped by something bigger than me...

Codville Lagoon, September 6, 1998

I pulled in here yesterday into a cove in this sheltered lagoon because of storm warnings - so far, the barometer only dropped five millibars overnight and it is pouring, but no wind. I'm warm and snug, listening to bluegrass on CBC (they said there was a "chance of showers" in this area) and catching up on my reading - although there's this huge log that's been circulating around the lagoon that I check up on occasionally. Yesterday evening, after dropping anchor, I took a half-hour hike through some very deep woods up to a beautiful lake with, would you believe, a sandy beach - had my soap and shampoo with me, so I lathered up and went for a cold short cold skinny-dipping cold swim - icily refreshing! And to think this is Labor Day weekend, and there's absolutely no one around in these beautiful surroundings! I take it back about no wind - the boat is now spinning crazily, but this time I have lots of room and have lots of scope out (250 feet for an anchor depth of 25 ft) and I had backed down on the anchor at full power when I set it, so there!

September 8, Millbrook Cove

Yes, I ended up staying two nights and a day in Codville Lagoon while the rain poured and the wind whistled and the boat danced around with plenty of scope and room to dance.

Yesterday, sailed down from Codville Lagoon to Millbrook Cove just north of Point Caution on Queen Charlotte Strait. It was getting quite late and starting to get dark so I decided to take a shortcut through some reefs and rocks and islands to the anchorage... there was a nice 10 knot breeze and the motor was ticking over so everything went well until... the wind died, the currents got strong, and the motor started sputtering cooling water in rough spurts instead of a good stream... and the waves were breaking over rocks and reefs all around... and it was getting dark and the waters are too deep to drop an anchor... why do I do such dumb things? The motor got me out of this one, but I'm using up those nine lives pretty fast....

My fallback plan in that situation is to tie the bikeboat up alongside the mother boat and simply pedal like crazy (and maybe paddle at the same time) with the motherboat's autopilot doing the steering.

The cooling water sputtering was merely a partial blockage of the water exit passage which I easily cleared after dropping anchor in the cove - now that I know what it was, it will be no problem fixing such an occurrence on the fly in the future.

This morning, sailed out in a total foggy whiteout... the local charts don't match the GPS datums - off I would guess by as much as 100 metres! Fun amongst the reefs. For example, there's a tiny passage around a small island to get into the lagoon in Millbrook cove and, after the fact, the dotted line on the computer indicating the boat's path shows the boat going straight through the island!

Ended up having a lovely sunny daysail across Queen Charlotte Sound and around Cape Caution on some beautiful huge (but peaceful) ocean swells and on into Port Hardy - tied up just as it started raining again.

Enough boring travelogue - on to random cruising specifics -

There is a protocol for waving to other boats one passes - you wait until you are exactly abeam of the other boat. Everyone in Canada has a friendly wave, whereas in Alaska, the larger fishing boats seemed to rarely do so. Wave to a cruise ship, and you get 1000 waves back.

The temperature in British Columbia is noticeably warmer (although I did wake up to 50degF in the cabin this morning). I pulled out my red shorts and brushed off the mildew and hope to wear them again this summer.

Spring-loaded clothespins have many uses on board - they make great bookmarks (when travelling, I have two atlases and at least four guidebooks I continuously refer to and keep bookmarked), hold things up (e.g., spinnaker bag in main hatchway), keep food bags closed, keep temporary wiring neat, and serve their original purpose admirably.

I finally figured out that reading scary sea books isn't good for the psyche - on this trip I've read the Wreck of the Princess Sophia (a very major disaster in 1918 up in the Lynn Canal with no human survivors - only a dog), a book called How to Cope With Storms by Dietrich von Haeften, a book called N by E about a small sailboat shipwreck on the coast of Greenland, and of course Adlard Coles' Heavy Weather Sailing. Now that I've finished with those, it's time to move on to lighter fare... which I don't have on board. Being back in British Columbia and all these logs in the water I won't be reading much, anyway.

Here's a question for you techies: the spinning portion of the anemometer on the boat is merely a lightweight plastic assembly consisting of three spherical half-cups about 1" in diameter. Question: will air density affect the spinning rate? Specifically, will taking the boat up to Lake Tahoe or here in high-humidity or horizontal rain give readings which are different than "true" wind velocity? My reason for asking is that, despite some pretty high readings, the boat doesn't feel as hard-pressed as it does for these same readings on SF Bay (or maybe I'm becoming desensitized?).

Enough - don't worry, my next writeup will probably be the last you will have to endure.

Joe Siudzinski


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