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Thread: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

  1. #1
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    Default Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    At least I think it might be my last cruise in Fire-Drake, my 18’ sail and oar lug yawl. Or maybe just the last cruise of any length. That is because I entertain hopes of completing my new build of the CoPogy 18 (being documented here on the Forum) by some time next spring, and at that point I will have to sell Fire-Drake to make room for the new boat. I simply don’t have room to store both boats, much as I would like to.

    Last year (2020) I got out for a week in the southern Gulf Islands, near my home in Victoria, British Columbia, but this second year of the pandemic, I thought I would range a little further afield, to the area north of Desolation Sound known as the Discovery Islands.

    Last year, I hadn’t bothered to check the outboard until the night before I planned to leave on the trip and I couldn’t get it to start, so I left it behind and made it a true sail and oar cruise, adapting my days to shorten the distances.

    This year, I made sure the OB was in good operating condition beforehand. I went through my pre-trip checklist, loaded up the gear, hitched the trailer to our trusty old Toyota Matrix and hit the road for my friends’ place on Quadra Island, at the north end of the Strait of Georgia.

    I was actually taking a picture of the car. boat and trailer. The girl just happened to be there, honest.

    It was good to get caught up with them and compare notes on how the pandemic has treated us, and the behaviour during it on their low-population island full of self-described independent thinkers, compared to a bigger city.

    I launched the next morning at Heriot Bay, not very early, and headed northeast with no hard destination in mind. Right off the dock, I went to turn on my satellite tracker, an InReach, only to find that it wouldn’t start up. It had been fine a few days before when I re-activated the account and tested it, but no dice this time. I tried what InReach calls a “hard reset”, kind of the Ctrl-Alt-Del equivalent for the device, three times before I finally got the thing to respond to the keys and talk to the satellites, so I could turn on the tracking. It was a problem that would plague me for several days.

    The day was cloudy to start but calm, so I clamped my Yamaha 2.5 OB on to its gunwale mount and started motoring.


    Alongside Cortes Island and opposite the entrance to Calm Channel, enough of a breeze came up to convince me to stop and unship the motor and raise the sails. I sailed, not very fast, for about half an hour in waves and chop that were out of proportion to the strength of the wind, before the wind died altogether but left behind the slop. Back to the motor, I carried on up Deer Passage to Connis Point, where I turned the corner east into Pryce Channel.

    Connis Point

    There I found a nice afternoon inflow breeze that would carry me downwind to my intended anchorage.


    I got to the entrance to Waddington Channel between West and East Redonda Islands in no time at all, it seemed. I turned into the channel mouth out of the wind and dropped the sails to start the motor.

    Except the motor wouldn’t start. Instead of taking the outboard off its brackets and stowing it, as I usually do, I figured that since it was only a few miles and I would be downwind, I would just tilt the motor up so that it would be ready when I needed it. I realized however, when it wouldn’t start, that I had neglected to shut off the fuel valve and close the cap vent, with the result that the carburetor was thoroughly flooded. While yanking continuously on the cord to turn the motor over and clear out the excess fuel, the tidal current, which was making itself felt at the narrow entrance, started pushing me towards the rocks. I hurriedly shipped the oars and rowed furiously away from the rocks and into a back eddy. After another thousand pulls (give or take a few hundred) on the starter cord, the motor coughed reluctantly to life and, stumbling and hacking, kept running. I put it in gear and started motoring towards Walsh Cove Provincial Park anchorage, a mile in. The motor was running fine again by the time I got there.

    There were a number of other boats anchored but, with my shallow draft, I found a quiet spot inside of the bigger boats. I put the tent up as a sun awning and made supper.

    Wallace Cove anchorage

    Later, the wind reached into the anchorage, it clouded over and dropped a bit of rain, but nothing serious. In the middle of the night, the full moon was only partially obscured by the thinning clouds.


    Day 1 track
    Last edited by AJZimm; 12-16-2021 at 07:35 PM. Reason: add'l comment
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    NICE! Thanks Alex!

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    One of my not-very-firm objectives for this cruise was to poke my nose up Toba Inlet, if the weather gods smiled on me. Tim Yeadon and I had rowed by its mouth in 2016 on our way north and I was intrigued then by the view and by the allure of its mountains.

    The big inlets on the coast of British Columbia are basically drowned mountain valleys, carved out by glaciers in the last ice age, which flooded when that ice melted and the sea level rose. Many of them wind their way far inland from the rest of the coast, and, during the sunny high pressure systems that tend to prevail in summer here, the land at the heads of these inlets heats up and draws in cooler air from the ocean at the mouth. It’s classic sea breeze stuff, but magnified due to the length and narrowness of the inlets and their steep mountainous sides. Generally, the only variables are, what time does the wind pick up during the day, and just how strong does it get? The answer to the first is usually by noon, sometimes earlier, and the second is – pretty strong.

    Morning of the second day dawned cloudy and calm in the anchorage.


    Listening to the weather forecast, it wasn’t clear whether there would be wind in the Inlet or not. The only thing to do was go to have a look. I motored out of the park, turned left and headed back towards Pryce Channel, arriving there about 0830. The wind was already blowing about 8 knots in Pryce and the sun wasn’t even out. I knew it would be much stronger up Toba Inlet, and would get stronger if the day got sunny. I wasn’t about to start up the Inlet in these conditions, especially as the inlet has only one somewhat dodgy anchorage, apparently. I reluctantly turned south, prepared to make my cruise about the Desolation Sound area of these islands. Reluctantly, because Desolation Sound is so popular it tends to be crowded in summer. But, needs must.

    I motored south until Church Point, where a light following breeze allowed me to raise sail and carry on downwind for an hour or so, before the wind died away.


    It doesn’t look like it here, but I was actually having a good time:


    I considered anchoring in Roscoe Bay on West Redonda Island, and veered over to the mouth, but it appeared to be wall-to-wall boats already there, so I carried on across Homfray Channel to Eveleigh Anchorage. This anchorage is on the other side of a drying reef from the much-more-popular Prideaux Haven. Eveleigh is reasonably well protected from all but a strong southwest wind.

    I got the anchor down, close to shore and ate a late lunch in the sunshine. About an hour later, you guessed it, a stiff southwest wind got up and soon made the anchorage untenable. The anchor seemed to be holding OK but the pitching and bucketing around was extremely uncomfortable. Nothing for it but to up anchor and motor out and around to Prideaux Haven. It was, as I expected, already pretty crowded. I counted at least 2 dozen boats, and it was only mid-afternoon. Once again, Fire-Drake’s shallow draft came to the rescue and I tucked in close to shore inside the big boats. Even in this more sheltered spot, the wind was finding its way in. The afternoon’s entertainment was watching the backing, filling, gesticulating, shouting and revving of big diesel engines as more and more boats came in and tried to find a spot. The wind still found its way in the new anchorage, but I was much more sheltered from wave action.


    As I sat there, I reflected on rowing and sailing vs motoring. With the former, there is an automatic acceptance that your speed will be variable and your destination may not be that firm, depending on wind and current. When motoring at a constant speed, I find I start counting off distance covered and distance to go and start calculating ETAs. I seem to take on a reluctance to slow down, to stop and look at things. I find this to be strange and I don’t really understand it. I am the same person in the same boat. You’d like to think your behaviour and outlook are independent of your mode of travel, but with me, at least, it doesn’t seem that is the case. I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself to slow down my point of view when the motor is running, and actually experience my surroundings.


    Day 2 track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Alex,

    great to see another Fire Drake thread. Thanks for posting.

    As for "the same person in the same boat"--well, your observations seem to confirm my intuition that adding a motor changes the dynamic of cruising, or maybe the dynamic of being in the moment? I've found the same thing. I'm far more able to exist in "moment" mode when my options are limited to sailing, rowing, or staying put. I'm able to accept the limitations and settle in more easily.

    Looks like lovely cruising grounds!

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    The east side of Quadra Island is a compelling launch point.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Alex,

    great to see another Fire Drake thread. Thanks for posting.

    As for "the same person in the same boat"--well, your observations seem to confirm my intuition that adding a motor changes the dynamic of cruising, or maybe the dynamic of being in the moment? I've found the same thing. I'm far more able to exist in "moment" mode when my options are limited to sailing, rowing, or staying put. I'm able to accept the limitations and settle in more easily.

    Looks like lovely cruising grounds!

    Tom
    Tom, If I wasn't forced into motoring by limitations to the old bod, I'd still be rowing, and content with shorter distances or no distances at all. In the meantime, I'll have to pay attention more closely and be more mindful of where I am and what I am doing.

    As for the cruising grounds, they are indeed lovely. They are just a little off the beaten track, it seems, and therefore much less busy.


    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    The east side of Quadra Island is a compelling launch point.
    It is indeed Tim. Within a couple of hours you can find a spot where you pretty much have the place to yourself.
    Last edited by AJZimm; 12-17-2021 at 07:22 PM. Reason: grammar correction
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thanks for the trip. Too bad you'll have to give up the boat, though.
    I sold my old boat when I launched my new one. I have plenty of space to store boats, but felt there was no
    reason to have hang onto it.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.
    Skiing is the next best thing to having wings.

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Discovery islands are my home cruising grounds Alex. I think you might have enjoyed the channels through surge narrows and points north where there are quieter anchorages for small boats.
    What time of year were you there? / Jim

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    When motoring at a constant speed, I find I start counting off distance covered and distance to go and start calculating ETAs. I seem to take on a reluctance to slow down, to stop and look at things. I find this to be strange and I don’t really understand it. I am the same person in the same boat. You’d like to think your behavior and outlook are independent of your mode of travel, but with me, at least, it doesn’t seem that is the case. I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself to slow down my point of view when the motor is running, and actually experience my surroundings.
    It is as strange phenomenon, isn't it? Even having a motor on a boat, whether it is used it or not, changes the mentality. My current boat has an electric auxiliary with limited run time, so I'm forced to use it very sparingly which, as you point out, oddly makes for a more pleasant cruise.

    A parallel occurs, I think, if there are others aboard and I so much as suggest what time we will arrive at the next destination. All of a sudden, they're all watching the time and looking ahead. All interest is lost in the now and present.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thanks for sharing your cruise, I'm enjoying it.
    I have had several trailer boats (none now) and always sell one to buy the next. I too have only space for one, but I look on the change as an opportunity to try different ones. My trailer boats don't have engines, but I also don't cruise them. I did own two keel boats without engines, and cruised both. I loved the challenge of working only with wind and tide, but it also limited my cruising. Rendevous and raft-ups or cruising in company with powered boats were near impossible. Some cruises were cancelled by calms, or ended early at an inconvenient spot. I'm glad I did it, and I daydream of cruising an open boat or canoe. I'm also glad that my current boat has an engine.

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by chas View Post
    Discovery islands are my home cruising grounds Alex. I think you might have enjoyed the channels through surge narrows and points north where there are quieter anchorages for small boats.
    What time of year were you there? / Jim
    Jim, I heartily agree that the channels and islands north and west are well worth exploring. Tim and I rowed through there on our trip north five years ago. It was a challenge timing our departures and arrivals to be able to transit the rapids. On the other hand, waiting for slacks provided memorable serendipitous experiences, such as seeing the grizzly bear flipping over rocks on the beach by Green Point rapids. I detail that trip in the second last chapter of my book.

    We went through in July that year. This year’s trip in the Discoveries was the last week in August. I just didn't have the time set aside to go further north this time. Maybe next year.
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    As it usually does in summer in these parts, it calmed right down overnight. Listening to the forecast in the morning, it sounded like the generally lighter winds in Georgia Strait might result in light enough winds in Toba Inlet in a couple of days that I could venture into it. I decided to head further up Homfray Channel to Attwood Bay, which is about 3 miles short of the entrance to Toba Inlet. There I could make a decision the next morning.

    The morning was mostly clear, with a few lingering clouds, and calm, with a breeze that was enough to just ripple the water but not enough to move the boat with the sails.


    Looking north up Homfray Channel

    Homfray Channel was nearly devoid of boats. I motored all morning up the channel past the steep, tree-clad mountains, with glimpses up the creek valleys of the higher mountains of the mainland to the east, and only saw one other boat. This is such a contrast to the Desolation Sound anchorages just a few miles south and I am not sure why there isn’t more boat traffic. The guidebooks don’t spend a lot of time on this area, so, is that the reason - people mostly don’t actually like to go exploring on their own?


    Creek valley off Homfray Channel.

    I arrived at Attwood Bay about lunchtime and spent quite a bit of time trying to get the hook down just inside the point forming the south end of the bay. My thought was that it would be more protected there from the expected afternoon sea breeze. The bottom drops off pretty steeply there, steeper than the chart suggests. It was 40’ deep at low tide, just 3 boat lengths from the rocky beach, and the holding was not all that good. I eventually managed it and settled down to lunch and to survey the scene. There was another boat in the bay, a 40’ power boat, but the occupants were just motoring out of the bay in their zodiac.

    In an hour or two the wind started to come up and it swept right around the point. Scanning the bay with the binocs, I thought I could see a calmer patch in the north end of the bay, where there is a further indent in the shoreline. I hauled up the anchor and rowed over to find that, strangely, it was calmer, even though it is wide open to the channel. I settled in there and was less buffeted by waves. The occupant of the power boat came back from their fishing excursion, having caught a salmon for supper, and told me they had been up to the head of Toba Inlet the day before and had had a pretty rough ride, even in their 40’ boat, due to the afternoon winds.


    Evening in Attwood Bay

    In the evening, the wind dropped and it was very pleasant, staying shirtsleeve warm until the sun set.


    Day 3 track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Fascinating area.

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    I woke at 0500 to a calm morning and a perfectly clear sky with the waning moon low over East Redonda Island to the west. The forecast was much the same and the reported winds light. I figured I would have a calm morning at least, to get as far up the inlet as I could in that time.


    Morning in Attwood Bay

    I was underway by 0630, motoring towards Brettell Point at the entrance to the Inlet. There was breeze coming out of the bay. I concluded it was the night land breeze, coming over the hills behind the bay, from Toba Inlet behind them. And so it proved when I reached the point and turned up into the Inlet. Not much, maybe 1-2 knots, but, in the shadow of the mountains, and with the air temperature only 14 degrees C (57 F), it was cool enough that I had to layer up. Had I been rowing, it would have been just about right.


    The tide was in full ebb, knocking about 1½ knots off my speed over ground. The wind began to drop and a little further along I encountered some weird waves. They were extremely regular, like a boat wake, except there were no other boats about. It had to be an artifact of the tidal current combined with bottom and shoreline conditions. The longer I sail the more I encounter things I have never seen before.

    Toba Inlet takes a marked dogleg turn from the north-northeast to due east at Snout Point, opposite the only potential partially-sheltered anchorage in the Inlet, at Brem Bay.


    Brem Bay opposite Snout Point

    Along about there I broke out of the shade of the adjacent mountains into the sunshine and at the same time a magnificent view opened up to the rest of the Inlet. The water colour from this point east became more and more a milky turquoise from the glacial silt carried into the inlet by the river at its head.


    Looking up Toba Inlet east of Snout Point

    https://youtu.be/K8qH40Jb4SM
    Motoring up Toba Inlet, east of Snout Point
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Not too far past the point, there was a stark reminder of the hot dry summer we’d had, a dry waterfall:


    But, a little further along, about 3 nm east of the point and about halfway up the Inlet, I came to this spectacular waterfall, created by Racine Creek cascading into the sea:


    https://youtu.be/4Wnage9Ufqw

    One of the main things I had wanted to see in the Inlet was this waterfall, which is mentioned in the old guidebook I had read before I set out on the trip.
    Drifting in the boat alongside it with the motor off, in the sunshine and still air, nobody else in sight, the only sound being that made by the waterfall leaping and tumbling down the rock faces and shelves, it felt like one of those rare moments when time seems suspended. It truly was sublime.

    ********

    We mere mortals can only take so much sublime at any given moment, however, and the clock did finally tick to life again with the realization that I was probably living on borrowed time with respect to the weather. A nice clear day, with sun heating the mountainsides and the air rapidly warming, was a sure-fire recipe for strong afternoon inflow winds. Time to turn tail and skedaddle before they got too strong to motor against.


    Looking west past Snout Point on the left

    I found now, with the tide in my favour, that the same engine revs as on the way in gave me 5+ knots speed over ground as I headed back west. Rounding Snout Point again I saw a few boats heading into Toba Inlet, the first boats I had seen all day.

    The breeze did pick up as I motored the rest of the way out of the inlet, only to die away altogether, strangely, as I exited the mouth into the wider Pryce Channel, and remained calm, almost without a ripple . . .


    Looking across the north tip of East Redonda Island, with a view of a glacier-clad mountain east of Homfray Channel
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    . . . until I turned aside into Waddington Channel, where there was a north wind as I headed south to Walsh Cove again. The breeze persisted and curled around into the crowded anchorage, giving a little cooling relief. Lots more boats came in and there was much jockeying about to find suitable anchor spots, and soon all the shore-tie chains, with their bright yellow identifying tags, were in use. The Desolation Sound equivalent of a Mediterranean moor. I found a spot inside all of the other boats in a tiny cove that features a drying rock. It is shallow enough for Fire-Drake that I could set enough scope and still not swing into the rock.

    As the high sun slanted down into the water beside the boat, I noticed sparkles or flashes of light below the surface of the water. Looking closer, I could see that they were caused by a myriad of tiny fish, each flaring their gills, which caught the light I was seeing. I was fascinated, never having seen this before. Was this signalling behaviour? Or perhaps the random nature of the flashing is a way to confuse predators, who would find it difficult to focus on any individual fish. Just like many people who are not familiar with birds call all small yellow perching birds canaries, it was tempting for me, as one who is largely ignorant of most things piscine, to call these minnows, but I really don’t know what kind of fish they were. They seemed to be attracted to the shade of the boat, swimming in and out of it back into the sun.

    https://youtu.be/LEbJq3-59VA
    Shoal of small fish under the boat, flashing their gills

    In the late afternoon, a couple paddled over in their kayaks to say hello and ask if I was the small boat they had seen coming out of Toba Inlet in the late morning. They were one of the powerboats I has seen heading in as I was heading out.

    A few brief showers swept through after supper, but it cleared before sunset. As I sat under my tent attempting to read the book I had brought, my early morning start caught up with me, so I gave up and turned in early.


    Day 4 Track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Checking my pictures, Alex, turns out we were anchored in Carrington Bay during your day one leg. Sorry we missed you; I’ve been following your threads and would’ve enjoyed meeting Firedrake and yourself in the flesh.
    Your new boat should be ideal for exploring these waters at a more leisurely pace. / Jim

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by chas View Post
    Checking my pictures, Alex, turns out we were anchored in Carrington Bay during your day one leg. Sorry we missed you; I’ve been following your threads and would’ve enjoyed meeting Firedrake and yourself in the flesh.
    Your new boat should be ideal for exploring these waters at a more leisurely pace. / Jim
    Sorry to have missed you too, Jim.

    I've never been into Carrington Bay. What are the conditions like at the entrance to the lagoon? High water only?
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Early to bed, early to rise – I was awake and up well before dawn. After listening to the forecast, which now called for strong southeasterlies in the north part of Georgia Strait, I reckoned that it would be a good day to head the other way. Five years when Tim Yeadon and I had come through this area, we had spent a night in Big Bay on Stuart Island. I had good memories of it and decided to go have a look again.

    I checked the tide and current tables, as Big Bay is just on the other side of the Yuculta Rapids (pronounced “yuclataws” locally). I could only make it through them at slack, which was predicted to happen at 1330. Plenty of time to get there, and if I left early, I could do some sailing if any kind of wind came up.


    Looking north up Waddington Channel at sunrise

    The water was smooth and the sun was coming up as I turned north into Waddington Channel outside the anchorage. Into Pryce Channel and headed west, there was no recreational traffic at all, but saw the M.V. Aurora Explorer headed east.

    M.V. Aurora Explorer

    This vessel is a 135-foot landing craft type freighter owned by Marine Link Tours of Campbell River. They service a bunch of small commercial operations on the islands and up the remote inlets between north Vancouver Island and the mainland. In addition to delivering freight, they can also accommodate a dozen passengers in the summer season. It is a very popular cruise for people without their own boats, a way for them to view wonderful scenery and see some of the working life of the coast. I understand that their cruises are usually booked up a year in advance. One of their regular runs is through the Discovery Islands and includes a run up Toba Inlet to service the logging operations there. I was sure that was where they were headed this morning.

    It was a fine morning, calm and clear.


    Looking west in Pryce Channel.


    Still no other boat traffic, until a Canadian Navy ship, the Patrol Craft Training vessel 55, passed by on the north side of the channel, heading east. At the time, I didn’t know the name of the vessel but looked it up when I got home and found it was CFAV Orca, the namesake vessel of the class. These small ships are used to train junior officers and NCO’s. They are a replacement for the converted minesweepers that were used for that purpose eons ago in my Navy days. She was a fine sight, and for the trainees, what a terrific waters place to gain the necessary experience!


    CFAV Orca in Pryce Channel
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    The rest of the morning was beautifully sunny but not yet too hot. Looking back astern, I got the last views of the entrance to Toba Inlet:


    Looking ahead, Raza Island lay to the left and Ramsay Arm opened up to the
    right:


    Rounding Raza Island, I arrived at the south end of Raza Passage. I was way too early to cross over Calm Channel and up to the rapids, and there really isn’t any place close to the rapids to wait for slack. It was still flat calm so I unshipped the motor and got out the oars for some exercise. It was a very pleasant hour’s row across the passage and around the steep rocky point to the bay in front of Church House, an Indian Reserve which is no longer inhabited. I dropped the anchor off the beach and ate lunch. I didn’t go ashore but I could see that site was even more overgrown and the remaining buildings were even more fallen down than 5 years before, when I had last been there.


    Church House

    Then it was time to go.

    Motoring across Calm Channel I could see the opening of Bute Inlet to the right, the next major fjord-like mainland inlet north of Toba Inlet. It is even longer than Toba, and has a reputation for even stronger and more unpredictable winds but was, remarkably, calm today. The mouth does not have the same dramatic aspect, with the promise of high mountains, as the mouth of Toba but apparently it gets much more dramatic as you move farther in. One day I would like to venture up it, but not this trip.


    Mouth of Bute Inlet

    Coming around Harbott Point, which is at the start of the mile-long channel culminating in Yuculta Rapids, there were many boats ahead of me converging on the channel and heading for the rapids. This was quite a bit earlier than the predicted slack that I had looked up in the morning so I started to worry that I had mis-read the tables. I got them out and checked again. I had remembered correctly - these boats were just early. I arrived at narrowest part of the rapids, at the aptly-named Whirlpool Point, exactly at the predicted slack, to find that the current had already turned to flood against me. Running the motor hard I was able to power through against the rapidly increasing current but realized the boats ahead of me had got it right.

    At the public dock at Big Bay, it was quite warm. I had a shower at the general store at the head of the dock and sat in the shade of the large covered deck, eating an ice cream. Big Bay has four high-end lodges that offer fishing, wildlife viewing and eco-tours of the area. It also is location of the vacation home of one of British Columbia’s richest men, an estate that features a nine-hole golf course, naturally. However, these are all pretty much seasonal operations and the permanent year-round population is only 17 people, according to the women who ran the store.

    In such prime weather at the height of summer, I expected the public dock would be busy, but there were only four other boats. The water just off the dock looks deceptively calm and smooth in this picture, but there are strong currents that sweep through the bay and the rapids visible in the distance sounded like a waterfall.


    Looking west from public dock at Big Bay


    Day 5 Track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Francis Bay, south facing onto Raza Island, was my first anchorage in Accolade back in 2008.

    I would say Carrington lagoon is accessible by kayak at extreme hi tides only. The head of the bay is set up to receive kayak tour outfits now and is therefore much busier then when we first sheltered there over ten years ago. This the mouth of the lagoon at less than half-tide.
    BAA329C8-B603-4DEB-B7EA-1B9243B0B973.jpg
    There are great hikes from here and the lagoon is good for swimming, my two priorities when cruising around here. / Jim

    Adding a pic you can see not much room. The lagoon at Squirrel Cove is much the same regarding passage, just a bit deeper at high slack, and no bridge.

    B8DCBFE2-1A1B-4A7F-BF9F-6C52505A955C.jpg
    Last edited by chas; 12-20-2021 at 01:47 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thanks Jim.

    I guess the little bridge rules out any boats with a mast, even if they are shallow draft
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    I got up at 0530 next morning in order to be ready to leave in time to catch the morning slack in the Yuculta Rapids and head back south. It was misty, and as I listened to the forecast, which was not encouraging, the mist descended and thickened into fairly dense fog. I didn’t fancy my chances going through the rapids in a small wood boat, with an even smaller radar profile, among all the big high-speed powerboats that were sure to be making the passage at the same time, and that is assuming that they even had radar. I decided that another day at Big Bay wouldn’t be such a bad thing.


    Fire-Drake at the dock

    The fog and low cloud produced a steady rain, but rather than just sit on the general store’s covered deck and avoid it, I went for a walk. There is a nice little trail through the forest to a small lake on the other side of the hill behind the bay. It is mostly second-growth forest but it was very quiet, in a way that we don’t often get to experience. Not an external sound to be heard, just the soft rain providing a kind of white noise background as it fell on the needles of the conifers and the floor. Not much wildlife, only a couple of brown frogs and a pair of deer. No bears, fortunately, as I had left by bear spray behind in the boat.

    Back at the general store, I picked up a book from their “leave-a-book, take-a-book” shelf and started to read it. It was “The Lost Patrol”, about a fatal RCMP dogsled patrol in the winter of 1910-11, travelling the 500 miles from Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories to Dawson City, Yukon. The patrol consisted of 4 men and 15 dogs, with food for 30 days. It seems, like tragedies at sea, that they made a series of mistakes, which, combined with the weather, doomed them. The most serious mistake was dismissing their Dene guide after the first leg, trusting to the assertion that one of the constables knew the way on the last leg. He didn’t, they got lost, spent a lot of time looking for the right route, decided to turn back to Fort McPherson, but they ran out of food and starved to death in the brutal cold, 47 days after they set out, just 25 miles from help.

    With that cheery cautionary tale rolling around in my head, I listened to the latest forecast just before lunch and had another look at the weather. The fog was thinning and the forecast was just for rain and low cloud the rest of the day.


    The swallows liked the rain



    The view from the general store deck

    I ate lunch and got ready to head out and catch the afternoon slack at 1400. As with the day before, when I got to the rapids there were a bunch of large plastic powerboats speeding through. As usual *begin rant* they were powering close by at speed with zero awareness of the effect of their wakes on smaller boats (i.e. me). All these boats seemed to have been designed by a “stylist” not a naval architect, and they pretty much all appeared to me to look like partially-used bars of soap, wedge-shaped on the ends, with a plethora of tinted windows in shapes that resembled nothing so much as running shoe logos. These boats might be functional enough, I suppose, but they just don’t seem attractive to me *end rant*.

    Exiting the rapids into Calm Channel, I pointed the bow south. It was still calm, with a lot of drenching rain showers coming through, and I was glad I had struggled into the dry suit before I left.


    Looking south from exit of Yuculta Rapids

    My destination was Von Donop Inlet on Cortes Island, a long, skinny, well sheltered inlet that was about 16 miles away. I had last been there nearly 20 years ago, in the kayak, and had good memories of the place. I started to notice a lot of debris in the water, including whole trees with root balls. It wasn’t the usual stuff that floats off the beaches following a high tide. It finally dawned on me that here, just south of the entrance to Bute Inlet, I was looking at the aftermath of a recent back-country disaster that had made the news. In mid-December 2020, a chunk of mountain broke free and fell into glacial Elliott Lake, which feeds Elliot Creek, a tributary of the Southgate River that flows into the head of Bute Inlet. Nobody lives up there, fortunately, as the slide triggered a massive tsunami/debris flow that rampaged down the creek, into the river and out into the inlet. It scoured out the creek bed and carried away all sorts of debris, sediment and trees. What I was looking at were those trees that had reached tidewater and were still circulating back and forth. They may do this for years, as this area is close to the meeting point of the tides that meet from around the north and south sides of Vancouver Island.


    Flotsam from landslide


    What it meant for me is that I couldn’t let my mind go into auto-pilot mode but had to pay close attention to what was ahead of me to avoid running into all this flotsam. It seemed to be worst just opposite Hole-In-The-Wall rapids.

    The rain and drizzle quit around 1600 and it became bright enough to begin to evaporate the water in the boat. I pumped the bilge and sponged off all the surfaces and soon the boat was nearly dry. I looked forward to not setting up the tent in the rain.

    The weather gods heard me and laughed, of course, as it began to drizzle a fine rain again just as I approached the inlet. I came to anchor opposite my old kayak camp just before supper and got the tent up right away. The boat interior wasn’t quite as wet as before, and soon I had it sponged out again. I fought my way out of the dry suit. I am convinced that half the value of a drysuit in keeping you warm is the heat you generate as you put it on and take it off. Between that, and with the pasta on the stove to cook, it was quite comfortable under tent in the rain.

    The evening passed quietly, playing the harmonica, reading and thinking, helped along by just a wee dram of honey-based rum from one of the twenty-three (!) distilleries we have on Vancouver Island.


    Day 6 Track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    WOW! Thanks Alex! As a geology geek, that's amazing! Makes the pictures and landforms we see from the ancient Missoula Floods in Eastern Washington make a lot more sense.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    WOW! Thanks Alex! As a geology geek, that's amazing! Makes the pictures and landforms we see from the ancient Missoula Floods in Eastern Washington make a lot more sense.
    Hugh, I can't imagine what it would have been like to be be there in person (safely up the mountainside) and watch it happen.
    And this was a relatively small lake.
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Boggles the imagination, doesn't it! Here's a fun link to the NW floods and basalt flows. One thing this avoids is the acrimony over Bretz's theory of how the floods developed. Geology was just being recognized as a valid scientific field and "science" in general was really only being accepted by a small portion of the populace, and that was largely due to an almost universal (among scientists) belief that geology happened at...well...geologic time scales. This was really just after the Scopes Trial, which was, in actuality, a trial for all of science. Bretz's idea of a "Biblical Scale Flood" was not at all well received!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1BFb_uYlFQ
    Last edited by Hugh MacD; 12-21-2021 at 11:03 PM. Reason: OOPS! Forgot the link!

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thank you Hugh

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    The clear air overnight left everything covered with heavy dew in the morning, including the camera lens:


    Morning in Von Donop Inlet

    As I planned to make this my last day, and didn’t have that far to go to Heriot Bay, I dawdled over coffee and breakfast and didn’t get the anchor up until nearly nine o’clock. I rowed over to the entrance of the lagoon, thinking to have a look at it, but the inflow current in the shallow, drying entrance, was already strong enough that I wasn’t sure I would be able to get back out if I went in. Leaving it for another visit, I turned and began rowing out of the inlet.


    Exiting Von Donop

    Emerging from the mouth of the inlet, it was a beautiful calm morning, and rather than shatter the peace of it with the outboard, I carried on rowing at a leisurely pace. After nearly two hours, the wind began to fitfully come up, from the north-northwest. Finally, there was enough of it for me to stow the oars, ship the rig and raise the sails. It was very pleasant sailing for a while and I lazed along, lounging on the floorboards, eating lunch with my feet up on the thwart.


    South of Read Island


    The easy sailing gave way to livelier conditions, necessitating first one reef and a little later the second. It was exciting sailing and I was charging along at a brisk pace. As I came abreast of Viner Point at the southern tip of Read Island, the wind got stronger, gustier and backed a little more westerly. I got out my anemometer and found that it was a steady 15+ knots with frequent gusts of at least 20 knots. It was also now more nearly a direct headwind – I couldn’t hold the course for Heriot Bay.

    There is a limit to the conditions in which I can sail Fire-Drake to windward and this was pretty much it. If I hadn’t already texted my friends that I would soon be there, I probably would have turned and run downwind to another harbour. Instead, as it was only about three miles to the dock, I dropped the rig, clamped the outboard on and started it up. After a minute or two, the motor died and I discovered that somehow the fuel cock had shut itself off. Opening it up again, the motor restarted after a couple of pulls and I commenced bashing along. The waves were hitting ahead of the beam, occasionally slopping a bit into the boat, and the spray from their tops regularly doused my GoreTex jacket and pants. I was running the engine pretty hard, and making good time in spite of the sea state. Soon I was abreast the mooring field in the bay outside of the public docks. The wind had eased a little, but, although the loading ramp is protected somewhat from the waves, it is wide open to the wind from that direction. It was a challenge to get the boat on to the trailer with the crosswind and the chop, but we managed it in the end. I also managed to tear a calf muscle while jumping out of the boat at one point to prevent the stern from slewing around. I didn’t notice the tear at the time, but it plagued me for over a month afterwards.

    I was glad to enjoy my friends’ hospitality again overnight. It was a fitting end to a fine little cruise.


    Day 7 Track
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Great log, Alex Wonderful end for the summer. Thanks for sharing!

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thanks for posting. I have only been in that area once and that was on a transit from Port Hardy to Anacortes. I need to go back
    What's not on a boat costs nothing, weighs nothing, and can't break

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    Great log, Alex Wonderful end for the summer. Thanks for sharing!
    My pleasure. A small Xmas present to the forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    Thanks for posting. I have only been in that area once and that was on a transit from Port Hardy to Anacortes. I need to go back
    We all do - too many cruising grounds, too little time
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Thanks for sharing, that was an enjoyable read. Especially now that winter has set in... Every morning when I walk past my boat in the garage I think nice, warm sailing days are a long way away.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Alex, so great as always to read your trip reports. Did you, or have you ever used your sliding seat on a cruise? With my back problems this year, I seriously wonder about a sliding seat in our kind of sail and oar boat.
    Best,
    Eric

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jeff View Post
    Thanks for sharing, that was an enjoyable read. Especially now that winter has set in... Every morning when I walk past my boat in the garage I think nice, warm sailing days are a long way away.
    I know what you mean. Building another boat helps to visualize the nice days as you plan details for the boat while you are building.
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Fire-Drake’s Last Cruise

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Hvalsoe View Post
    Alex, so great as always to read your trip reports. Did you, or have you ever used your sliding seat on a cruise? With my back problems this year, I seriously wonder about a sliding seat in our kind of sail and oar boat.
    Best,
    Eric
    Eric,

    I did in fact build a kind of demountable half-sliding seat rig in the winter of 2018-19, I think. I say half-sliding because while it is mounted on top of the thwart and it allows my butt to slide back and forth, I left the stretchers in the same place so it doesn't get the same full range of motion as would a rowing scull.

    I have used it for extended periods on a number of trips now and it definitely is more efficient. It potentially allows me to go faster but usually I just do the same speed with less effort, as the big muscles in the legs are brought into play. I do find that after a long rowing bout, my hips and legs are a little sore. One day on my 2020 trip, I rowed for 5 hours straight and I calculated I had done the equivalent of 7,000 shallow knee bends. I was a little sore after that.

    I also find that in rough water, it is a little difficult to stay perched on top of the thing. I built it as low as I could to try to keep the geometry with respect to the oarlocks and oars nearly the same, but if the water gets rough I find I have to stow it and go back to the fixed thwart - it seems to be more stable.

    Here is the best picture I have of it, I think:


    The wheels are skateboard wheel bearings running on aluminum angle. The sliding seat base has strips of UHMW plastic on the sides to locate it side to side and there are stop blocks underneath to limit fore and aft. Not visible in the picture are a couple of sticks fit into notches that hold up the aft end of the base/platform. I spent a fair amount of time carving the wooden seat to fit the dimensions of my butt. The wheel bearings are essentially consumable items - I have had to replace them once already.
    Last edited by AJZimm; 12-22-2021 at 07:50 PM. Reason: spelling
    Alex

    "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
    - Vincent van Gogh

    http://www.alexzimmerman.ca

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