Monday, October 15, 2018

Trip Statistics! Part Two - Engine Usage

Hey everyone, Dave here again, back for part 2 of my posts covering statistics from our trip. Part 1 focused on how much distance we covered. This post will focus on how much we used our engine.

Total Engine Hours: 306.50

We started the trip with 509 engine hours and ended the trip with 815.5, putting a total of 306.5 hours on our engine during the trip. The previous owners installed this engine brand new in 2009 and it had 390 hours on it when we bought it in September 2016. So, that's an average of around 55 hours per year for the 7 years before we owned this boat. In our first 19 months of ownership, we put another 119 hours on it, 65 of which was during our July 2017 trip to Nanaimo and Princess Louisa Inlet and back. That leaves 54 hours of various weekends throughout the rest of the year. Anyway, my point is we used our engine more in 3.5 months than the last 4 to 5 years combined! Having a reliable engine made this trip so much more enjoyable, especially because we depended on it so much.

Average Engine Hours per Day Underway: 3.98

Taking the 306.5 engine hours we used and dividing it by the 77 days underway (as discussed in part one) results in an average motoring time of about 4 hours every day. That's a lot of motoring when you stop and think about it. I didn't write down the engine hours every day, so I don't have a "top ten" list as I did in part one, but generally, most days involved at least a couple hours of motoring. There was generally close to an hour at the start of each day as we pulled up the anchor, secured the anchor, motored out of the anchorage, got the sails up, etc. Similarly, there was generally close to another hour at the end of each day as we dropped sails, motored into an anchorage, found a good spot to drop anchor, set the anchor on the sea floor (by motoring in reverse until the chain is tight), etc. In between, we often motored for a bit when the wind died.

Some days we used the engine relatively little, like during our first overnight passage when we went 146 miles from Sitka to Bob's Bay we used only 2.9 hours. This was mainly due to the attitude that we didn't have a specific destination we had to get to, we just wanted to see how far south we could make it in one overnight. On the other end of the spectrum, our second overnight (162 miles from Sgaang Gwaay to the northern tip of Vancouver Island) included 22.2 hours of motoring. This was because we got excited at the idea that we could do the passage in one overnight instead of two after the first evening when we had pretty good winds, so we motored all night in order to keep the pace high after the wind died. We've found how much we motor is really often about attitude and expectation of how fast and far you want to go that day.

Total Fuel Consumed: 98.49 US Gallons

We carried 5 jerry cans of diesel to supplement our fuel tank (a 6 gallon can, a 5.3 gallon can, and three 5 gallon cans). We theoretically have a 40 gallon fuel tank based on this boat's specifications and measuring the outside dimensions of it, but when our fuel gauge says our tank is half full (or is it half empty?) and we refuel we can usually fit around 10 gallons in there, so that would suggest we have a 20 gallon tank. I don't know if our gauge is inaccurate (on the cautious side), or our tank has thick walls or something, but my point is our tank is somewhere between 20-40 gallons. During our trip, we found this was plenty of fuel to carry, and most sailors we talked to actually got by just fine with less. A 20-25 gallon tank with 2-3 jerry cans was pretty typical from the conversations I remember.

We refueled 8 times throughout the trip: Kingston (on our first day as we headed north), Port Hardy, Shearwater, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Juneau, Prince Rupert, and Winter Harbour. Every time we pulled up to the fuel dock, we still had at least one full jerry can and could usually only fit another 10 gallons or so into our tank. We didn't bother refueling at Prince Rupert on our way north since we knew fuel would be cheaper in Alaska. In hindsight, we probably could have made it from Port Hardy to Ketchikan without refueling in Shearwater. We topped off our tank with 4-5 gallons there for peace of mind, even though we still had 5 full jerry cans and that was the most expensive diesel we bought throughout our entire trip.

I can say with confidence that Washington State fuel docks in Seattle's suburbs (such as Kingston, Des Moines, Bremerton, Brownsville, Port Orchard, and Oak Harbor) are the cheapest places throughout the whole inside passage to refuel. We found fuel was over $4 per US gallon throughout B.C.; Shearwater was the most expensive at around $4.50 USD per US gallon. Alaska was typically $3 to $4 per gallon. Juneau, at $2.96 per gallon, was the only place outside Washington State where we found diesel for under $3 per gallon.

It was also interesting to see how each government dyed their diesel different colors. Marine diesel in Washington State is dyed pink; in B.C. it's dyed green, and in Alaska it's dyed blue. It made our racor glass interesting mixes of colors as I'd check it throughout our trip. Even right now, looking at my racor it's got a green tint to it and I have to remind myself that it's ok that it's not pink. Anyway... I digress...

Average Fuel Efficiency: 0.32 US gallons per hour

98.49 gallons used divided by 306.5 engine hours equals 0.32 gallons per hour. This statistic I'm actually a bit surprised by. I've found that we typically burn about 0.5 gallons per hour when cruising at full speed. I think this 0.32 gallons per hour accounts for a lot of time spent idling slowly as we look for a good spot to drop the anchor, set the anchor, pull up the anchor, go slowly through narrow anchorage entrances, etc.

Average Fuel Consumed per Day Underway: 1.28 US Gallons

Dividing our 98.49 gallons by our 77 days underway equates to an average of 1.28 gallons used per day underway. Looking at statistics like this is when I really start to appreciate having a sailboat. Sure, we may go half the speed of a motorboat, but I don't think there's a single motorboat out there that could get to Alaska and back burning less than 100 gallons and cover 30+ miles per day on under 2 gallons per day.

Miles per US gallon: 28.43

Dividing our 2800 miles traveled by the 98.49 gallons used results in a miles per gallon figure of 28.43. So, it's about the equivalent of a small car or a hybrid SUV. Not bad considering we're driving something more like the equivalent of an RV; well ok actually more like an old van that's been converted into a plug-in hybrid and has solar panels strapped to the roof. Sailors like us are basically the hippie van-dwellers of the sea when you think about it.

Estimated Percentage of Time Motoring: 44% - 49%

This statistic requires a bit more judgment. I didn't keep a strict log of time spent underway, but I estimate our velocity-made-good was around 4.5 knots generally. Taking our 2800 miles traveled divided by 4.5 equals 622.22, so we can estimate that we were underway for around 620 hours. This equals about 8 hours per day (620 / 77 = 8.05) which sounds about right. So, dividing the 306.5 engine hours by the estimated 620 hours underway gives a figure of 0.49435. Rounding that to 2 significant digits tells us that we motored 49% of the time. If I adjust my velocity-made-good estimate down to 4 knots, that'd mean we were underway 700 hours (9 hours a day on average) and thus motored 44% of the time. Regardless, it's safe to conclude that we motored just under half of the time we were underway.

This is much different than the typical wisdom tossed around the local cruising community that "if you do the inside passage, you'll have to motor 80% to 90% of the time." Often, that's followed by "so you might as well do it in a motorboat." That wisdom is often due to people trying to do this trip later in the summer when winds are lighter. It's also spoken mostly by motorboaters that purposely go later in the summer when the winds are lighter so the seas are flatter. We followed much of the advice that Marilyn Johnson gives in her book Taken By the Wind (which we only bought due to the recommendation of Patrick and Natalie of S/V Violet Hour at a cruiser's meeting in October 2017). It was really useful to have that book before and during the trip in order to try and align our schedule as much as possible to maximize the amount of sailing we did. She basically says to leave early in the spring because the best weather for sailing in Alaska is in May and June, and by July it's time to start heading south. By heading north in the spring, we were able to ride more wind than we would have if we left in the summer.

We could have gotten that motoring percentage down even further if we had been more religious about maximizing sailing and minimizing motoring time, but we tried to balance that with not basing our destinations only on which way the wind is blowing (or if it's blowing at all). Like I said earlier, how much a boat motors is really often about attitude and expectation of how fast and far they want to go that day. But overall, we think the typical wisdom that everyone has to motor 80% to 90% of the time is a huge exaggeration. It's definitely possible to sail most of the time with some reasonable effort.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Trip Statistics! Part One - Distances Traveled

Hey everyone, Dave here. Now that the trip is behind us and we've settled back into the rat race, I've had some time to compile some trip statistics. This first post in (hopefully) a series will focus on the amount of distance we covered.

Total Distance Traveled: 2,800 nautical miles

This is not the actual distance that we traveled through the water, but rather the shortest distance required to get from point A to point B, according to Navionics web-based auto routing tool (which we found really helpful for route planning before the trip by the way). Our actual distance was actually much longer due to tacking and jibing, but I didn't have an accurate way to record that. For example, the blue line in the image below shows what Navionics determined is the shortest route to get from Port Hardy to Allison Harbour, and that route is 21.6 nautical miles. Our actual route was more like the longer black line, in order to sail given the wind conditions. We have an odometer on board that I think tracks distance using a little paddlewheel in the water, but I've found it's not accurate. Anyway, if you add up all these shortest possible point-to-point routes throughout our entire trip, the total comes to 2,800 nautical miles.



Total Days Underway: 77 

Our trip was 110 days long (nearly 16 weeks / 3.5 months) and we spent 77 of those days traveling to a new destination. That works out to 7 days underway for every 3 days not underway. We knew from our pre-trip route planning that we had lots of distance to cover, so we needed to either make progress on any given day or have a good reason to not make forward progress on a given day. Most of the 30% of days not underway was in a town buying groceries, doing laundry, doing chores/projects, or packing as much tourism into one day that we could. In hindsight, it made the trip feel rushed. I know 3.5 months sounds like a long time, but we wish we had more. Seattle to Alaska is a lot of distance to cover in a boat that travels at a jogger's pace. Our typical velocity-made-good was around 4-4.5 knots, or 12:00 minutes per mile. Our hull speed is 7.25 knots, or 7:12 minutes per mile. If we were to do it again, ideally we'd find a way to get 6 months (April - September) to do this trip.

Average Miles Traveled per Day Underway: 36.36 / Median Miles per Day:  31

Simply taking the 2800 miles covered divided by the 77 days underway results in an average day of 36.36 miles. Thanks to the magic of Microsoft Excel, I can also tell you the median day was 31 miles. For reference, going from Shilshole to Port Townsend's Boat Haven Marina is 32 miles, Shilshole to Tacoma's Foss Waterway is 29 miles, and Shilshole to Blake Island is only 10 miles. So basically, our typical day all summer was the equivalent of going from Shilshole to Port Townsend. Some much shorter, but also some much longer.

Top Ten Longest Days:

10) Culpepper Lagoon to Khutze Inlet: Day 26 - May 23rd, 54 miles
We had to leave Culpepper Lagoon at the high-tide slack current (or else the entrance would have been too shallow). This happened to occur at 8:47 am on the day we wanted to leave, so we had to get our butts up and underway much earlier than we typically did. This meant we were on well on our way by 9 am, compared to our usual day when we'd still be sitting around enjoying coffee at that point. We figured we might as well keep going until the evening and cover lots of distance this day. We thought this would have been one of our longest days of the trip, but it turned out this was just barely long enough to make it in the top ten.

9) Bunsby Islands to Friendly Cove: Day 102 - August 7th, 58 miles
This was near the end of our trip when we were ready to be home and just rushing past the West Coast of Vancouver Island trying to cover as much distance as possible in order to get home by our self-imposed goal of August 15th. We left Bunsby Islands (just east of Brooks Peninsula) and found good winds coming from our back so we put out the sails and decided to see just how far we could make it that day. Our goal that morning was to make it to Port Landford, near the entrance to Esperanza Inlet, which would have been a solid 32-mile day. However, we found ourselves sailing by the entrance to Esperanza Inlet early in the afternoon and decided we had enough daylight to keep going. We ended up tucking into Friendly Cove, at the entrance to Nootka Sound, just before the sunset.

8) Tracy Arm Out & Back: Day 56 - June 22nd, 60 miles
One feature of Tracy Arm is that the only place nearby to anchor is right at the entrance in a little nook that's come to be known as Tracy Cove. So, if you want to see the glaciers at the head of Tracy Arm, you need to go out and back on the same day. This is no big deal for motor boats that can easily travel 10+ knots; but for us sailboats that cruise at 4-7 knots, with a preference sail quietly which tends to be at the slower end of that range, 60 miles is a long intense day. Add the fact that this day was entirely in a narrow passage with little wind and more and more (and bigger and bigger) chunks of floating ice as you go deeper in, this was a pretty stressful day of mostly motoring. We did our best to sail as much as possible that day, but it ended up being around 1/3 of the time underway. The closer we got to the glaciers, the harder it was to sail and the more stressful it was to avoid chunks of ice. This stress combined with a tight schedule meant we basically got close enough to the glacier to get a picture then immediately turned around to get back to Tracy Cove at full speed. Our glacier experience anchoring in Thomas Bay and kayaking up to Baird Glacier was much more pleasant.

7) Port San Juan to Port Angeles: Day 108 - August 13th, 61 miles
Like #9, this was during the "get home asap" phase at the end of the trip. We decided that Port San Juan was just barely close enough to Port Angeles that we could do it in one day (rather than stopping at Sooke along the way). So, we left early in the morning and went in a straight line to Port Angeles in order to ensure we got there in time to check in with US Customs before they closed at 8pm. We were lucky to see some orcas from the J-pod of southern resident orcas swim near us along the way. We realized it was them when we saw the plane that took this photo circle overhead.

6) Octopus Islands to Matilpi: Day 9 - May 6th, 63 miles
This was a long day that we actually planned to be this long. During our pre-trip route planning, I realized that if we timed our exit of Octopus Islands to hit the 9:23 am slack through Okisollo Channel, then we could ride the favorable ebb current all the way through Johnstone Strait. This allowed us to cover lots of distance this day while also having time to attempt to sail in the light winds we had that day. One fun memory I have is drifting sideways through Current Passage in light winds and flat seas, getting pushed 3 knots by the current. I had to be sideways in order to keep the sails full, which gave me just enough speed in the right direction to keep me in the middle of the channel. There were a handful of motorboats going by that probably thought I was crazy. Thankfully I live in the modern age with good GPS telling me my actual course and speed over the ground in real-time. I don't think I'd have the confidence to do stunts like that before GPS. 

5) Larsen Harbour to Queen Charlotte: Day 85 - July 21st, 65 miles
This was the shortest route we could find to get to Haida Gwaii without doing an overnight passage across Hecate Strait. We spent the previous day leaving Prince Rupert and staging ourselves at Larsen Harbour. We left early in the morning and got across the strait just in time to see the sunset from Queen Charlotte City. 

4) Bob's Bay to Nichols Bay: Day 78 - July 14th, 74 miles
During this phase of the trip (after Sitka), we found ourselves behind our planned schedule so we were focused on catching back up so we'd have plenty of time to enjoy Haida Gwaii. This day was right after we did our first overnight (#2 below). Rather than doing two overnights in a row, we decided to pull into Bob's Bay and get a solid night of sleep. The next morning went around the north end of Dall Island and had a lovely day of sailing southeast from Telvak Strait. We decided mid-day that we could make it all the way to Nichols Bay, which was a good staging point for getting to Prince Rupert. We barely made it, pulling into Nichols Bay after dark. It was one of only two times we found ourselves dropping anchor in the dark. 

3) Nichols Bay to Russell Arm: Day 81 - July 17th, 86 miles
This was the next day underway after #4 above. We decided it wasn't worth spending an extra day heading further east along the Alaskan border to make the passage to Prince Rupert shorter, so we just went in a straight line from Nichols Bay (at the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island) to Russell Arm (a small anchorage just across the bay from Prince Rupert). We spent the entire day motoring because we couldn't afford to waste any time going slow sailing. This was the second of only two times when we anchored in the dark. We pulled into Price Rupert's customs dock at 11pm and woke up the Customs officer on the other end of the phone. He asked the least amount of questions we've ever experienced when checking in. I'm pretty sure he just wanted to go back to bed. Once done with Customs we went across the bay to Russell Arm to avoid paying for a marina that night. 

2) 1st Overnight Passage - Sitka to Bob's Bay: Day 76-77 - July 12-13, 146 miles
We were already behind schedule when we were ready to leave Sitka, then some nasty weather forced us to stay an additional day. So, we decided to spend that bad weather day prepping easy meals so that we could do overnight shifts and make up some ground. We left Sitka with winds coming from the northwest so we headed due south. The image below is a good visualization of our route. The blue line represents the 146 miles it would have been if we motored directly there. We choose to sail downwind around 100 miles to the purple pin, at which point we found ourselves pretty far offshore and decided it'd be a good time to jibe back towards land. 70 miles of eastward sailing latter we found ourselves heading right towards Bob's Bay. It took us around 36 hours to cover this 146 miles due to our desire to go directly downwind, the slowest direction to sail (but much more pleasant than sailing upwind).


Combining #2-4, we covered 306 miles in 4 days, bringing us back from being behind schedule to one-day ahead of schedule. 

1) 2nd Overnight Passage - Sgaang Gwaay to North Harbour: Day 96-97 - Aug. 1-2, 162 miles
The longest day of them all was one we were anticipating the entire trip: heading south from Haida Gwaii to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. We knew from the beginning of our route planning that there'd be no way to avoid doing an overnight passage here. Really our overnight passage from Sitka was just a practice run for this journey. We thought maybe this would require two nights since it took 36 hours to cover 146 miles south of Sitka. With that in mind, we decided to leave mid-day so that we'd arrive mid-day two days later. It also gave us lots of buffer time. If we were faster than expected, then we'd arrive in the morning. If we were slower than expected, then we'd arrive in the evening. So, we left our anchorage at Etches Point, spent the morning getting a tour of Sgaang Gwaay, and headed out around 2pm. Luckily, we had some good wind coming from just the right direction that afternoon and evening and realized if we kept up this pace we'd make it in one day. That was enough motivation for us to keep the pace up all night (which required motoring overnight). We arrived at North Harbour (an anchorage just outside of the small town of Winter Harbour) by the next evening and breathed a big sigh of relief that this tough passage was behind us.

Overall, we found that 50 miles per day was about our comfort limit. Anything beyond that left us very drained at the end of the day and/or required us to motor a lot to keep the pace up. Ideally, we'd do 10-40 mile days, but there's no way we would have made it to Alaska and back at that pace in the 16 weeks we had.

Up next, I plan on posting statistics about engine hours, fuel consumption, and how much time we actually sailed vs. motored. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Coming Home!

August 1 - 2:

We started our journey south from Haida Gwaii in the afternoon. Dave had played with the whisker pole the previous day so deployment and gybing would be easier for wing-on-wing sailing (sailing straight downwind with the mainsail and foresail pulled out to opposite directions). It worked well until winds died in the night, and we had to motor the rest of the way.  

Motoring during a night shift is boring. At least when we’re sailing, we can focus our attention to sail trim and wind angle and away from the cold and exhaustion. I shouldn’t complain—not enough wind is much better than too much wind!      

We rounded Cape Scott around midday on August 4th, thankful the passage took only one overnight. We pulled into Quatsino Sound, turned north into Forward Inlet, and dropped the hook in North Harbour just before dark.  

A whale waving us off, SGang Gwaay in the distance

Wing-on-wing


Sunset at sea

Sunset at sea
Landfall! (kinda)
Triangle Island, first island we saw off Cape Scott

North Harbour in the fog

August 3 - 4      

Winter Harbour (originally known as Oyagamla) is just three miles up the inlet from our anchorage, so we headed there once awake. Historically, the town was used by four Kwakwaka’wakw tribes as a winter village, hence the anglicized translation. Now, with only 6 (!) year-round residents, Winter Harbour caters entirely to fishermen. Most visitors arrive by road from the east side of Vancouver Island and use the boat ramp to launch kayaks or fishing skiffs.

We tied to the visitor dock at Outpost Marina. We read about a small general store, a laundry machine, and showers on land, and we were excited. Due to the isolation of the town, the general store was limited and expensive. However, the cashier was friendly, thanking us for bringing our own bags and remarking “every sailboat who comes through here always brings their own. No one else does.” Yay for sailors and avoiding plastic bags!

We shared the visitor dock with another couple, Ron and Kirsten, and their beautiful 40 ft. Pacific Seacraft named Just Lucky. They are Shilshole liveaboards as well, though they headed north about a year before we did and wintered in Petersburg. At times, we felt we rushed through this trip and didn’t get to know places intimately enough. We were fascinated with their experience of staying a season and becoming a local.  

They invited us over for drinks the night of August 6th. Like everyone we’ve met on this trip, Ron and Kirstin are warm, delightful people. They dream of going off-shore to a place “where the temperature is warmer than my age” as Ron puts it, and they seem to have the will and the boat to do so.       

We had our first engine issue of our trip here in Winter Harbour, but fortunately, it was minor. Dave cleaned the sea water strainer, and one of the bolts that holds the cap on for a watertight seal broke when he was put it all back together. Without that bolt, salt water leaked into the engine compartment whenever the valve allowing seawater into the cooling system was open (neccessary to prevent the engine from overheating). Ron brainstormed options with Dave, and together they came up with a bailing wire jerry-rig to get us back to Seattle. We called Dave’s dad on our SAT phone, and he told us the jerry-rig was what he would have done too. He’s our go-to guy when anything breaks, so we felt confident it would work. Still, we monitored the engine temperature, the strainer, and the bilge regularly. Update: This solution got us home!

When I woke up in the middle of the night to use the head, I panicked—Our anchor light isn’t on! What if someone hits us?! I rushed to turn it on and fell back to sleep. This was the first dock we stayed at since Prince Rupert, and apparently, I was still in anchorage mode! 

The village of Winter Harbour; Just Lucky in foreground 
Kirsten on Just Lucky; Ron in cockpit


Lots of otters on the west coast!


August 4 - 5
We finished boat projects in the morning of the 5th, so we left Winter Harbour late in the day. We aimed to make our way south if even just a short distance. We first anchored in Gooding Cove, but it was far too rolly to spend the night—at least to me. I remember we rolled gunwale to gunwale, but Dave says I’m exaggerating.

We pulled anchor an hour later and headed out further south. Once we rounded Kwakiutl Point, we were beating into big winds and white, sideways seas—but once we turned east into Brooks Bay, we were surfing! Building crests would pick up our transom and carry us at over each hallowing trough. 

We reached 10 knots at one point! As fun as it was, we were on high alert, making sure to avoid rocks and kelp beds closer to shore.

As we reached Scouler Entrance, the seas and winds had calmed. We anchored in Klaskino Inlet, in a small basin behind Anchorage Island. Despite the rough conditions in Brooks Bay, the basin was perfectly calm. Highly recommended anchorage.

Sunset at Scouler Entrance

Dave taking down the sail; his beard has gotten so bushy!

 August 6 - 8

The winds were still blowing strong from the south, and we didn’t want to beat around Brooks Peninsula into that. Brooks Peninsula is no joke: it’s known to knock down even the most seaworthy cruising boats. The next day would be slightly calmer, so we stayed in Klaskino Inlet an extra day.

By waiting an extra day, we were able to enjoy the peninsula like we would any other coast. Thousands of seabirds and even a couple whales converged at Solander, the island just off the coast of the peninsula. Further south, we anchored in Bunsby Islands and took the kayak around the maze of coves. We heard some rustling and stick cracking in nearby trees. A black bear casually meandered out of the bushes and started for some salal berries near shore. He looked over at us indifferently and began eating. Very cool. After several minutes, we kayaked on.

The next evening, we made it to Yuquot/Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound. The anchorage was uneventful simply because we anchored late in the evening and left early(ish) the next morning. After reading about the place later though, we’re hoping to return and spend more time there in the future.


Solander Island

Bunsby

Bunsby
And even more Bunsby!

 Thank you for not eating us, Black Bear.

August 9 -11

Our next destination was Hot Spring Cove, a popular anchorage just north of Tofino in Clayoquot Sound. And popular it was! Heading north up the inlet, we saw a horde of tourists in the pools and on the surrounding rocks. Several tour boats rafted up to the dock. After seeing so few people in the last several weeks, this was a shock to our systems. What did we get ourselves into?

Fortunately, the tour boats left by 6, and the hot springs became less crowded. The campers and overnight boaters—much fewer in numbers—hesitantly poked their heads out their tents and cabins and made their way to the springs.

We decided to wait until 9pm to give others a chance to soak. After tying up our kayak to the near-empty visitors' dock, we walked the beautiful 2 km. rainforest trail. A boardwalk lined the full length of the trail, the planks carved with boat names that have visited the springs over the years. BC Parks plans to redo the boardwalk this fall, so we’re thankful we saw it before it changes.

We arrived at the springs after dark and found our way down the rock path into the water. At this extreme high tide, only two of the four pools were uncovered. Tall rock walls hugged the pools on both sides, creating a cozy ravine feeling. The Milky Way shone down through the opening. Another camper lit tealights and spread them around the rocks for an intimate effect. The hot water poured down the rocks on the shore in like a sulfuric shower while cold saltwater flooded in through from the ocean. It was perfect.

We squeezed into the pools with about 8 others. Although we couldn’t see them well, we felt a kinship for sharing such a place together. Every time the surf flooded in, everyone would laugh and slide and try not to land in one other’s laps. Sea weed would wrap around our arms and legs. We would try to hold a conversation in the short time before the next wave would hit. Apparently, this tide is a rare experience—another reason we’re thankful we came when we did.


  • Dave and I walked slowly through the rainforest until we reached our kayak and an open, cosmic night sky. As Dave moved his paddle through the water, glitter swirled around our kayak in a Starry Night phosphorescent display. Billions of stars illuminated the way above us and below us. It was magic. A beautiful culmination of our voyage.

Carved plats
View from springs

Next day around low tide: Dave and I had the springs all to ourselves

Next day around low tide: Dave and I had the springs all to ourselves



 August 11 – 15

To us, our trip ended in Hot Spring Cove. At this point, we were excited to see family (and our cat, Uma!) and anxious to get back in the swing of things before work started up again. We know we rushed through this area but promised ourselves we would explore it more when we circumnavigate Vancouver Island in a couple years.

The next few days went as followed: we anchored in a small bight outside Tofino, a small nook in Dodger Channel (Barkley Sound), and behind Woods Nose in Port San Juan (Strait of San Juan). The skies were heavy with smoke from the BC wildfires, but we were able to see three (!) pods of orcas swim by. We entered the US in Port Angeles on August 13, cleared customs, and anchored for the night. Our last night was spent at Port Ludlow, one of our favorite places.

On August 15th, we finally sailed home.  The seas were flat and winds just right to fly the spinnaker. Outside the breakwater of our home marina, we took a bit longer than usual to snuff the spinnaker and put up fenders. We knew that as soon as we docked, our trip would be over, our dream fulfilled.
Our family smiled and yelled for us at the end of our dock and followed us down to our slip. Tears welled up. Long hugs ensued. We did it. And De Novo was a champ.

So smokey in the Strait of Juan de Fuca!

Gorgeous wooden boat in Port Ludlow
Coming home to Shilshole!

Up Next: Reflection, stats, our favorite places, favorite gear, etc. Thank you to everyone who reads our blog! J

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Haida Gwaii!


When Dave and I first started talking about this trip years ago, we didn’t have charts; instead, I’d stare at Google Maps. I’d trace my finger across the screen, finding possible passages to transit and coves to anchor along the way. This was a time when I still considered Vancouver Island distant shores.

When I zoomed out, I noticed a large archipelago even farther north than Vancouver Island and farther offshore. Haida Gwaii. A world so cloaked in mystery for me that I often dreamt about it. No amount of research could demystify it. 

As tourists, we tend to exoticize places. I imagine First Nation and Native American communities have had scores of outsiders laud their cultures without joining them in their struggles to retain them. Enough visitors have claimed transformative experiences on aboriginal lands without helping those who live there fight for them. And as a tourist and a dreamer, I see that behavior in myself.

But there is something powerful in visiting a place so loved, so cherished, so protected by its inhabitants. And we have never visited a place as revered as Haida Gwaii, especially Gwaii Haanas, the federally and tribally protected southern half of the island chain. I hope I can write about it with the respect it deserves.

All Gwaii Haanas brochures and videos end with the tagline, “When you have reached the edge of your world, ours begins.” The Haida believe that by entering Gwaii Haanas, one enters another world--a place teeming with spirit and soul.

Archeological evidence places the first human inhabitants on the islands at least 12,500 years ago. In this abundant, balanced ecosystem, the Haida developed sophisticated cultures that thrived for millennia.

European contact ushered in a Haida dark age. Historians believe there were around 20,000 Haida on Haida Gwaii when Europeans first “discovered” the islands in the 1700s. With the introduction of diseases to which the Haida had no immunity, the population dramatically fell. By the late 1800s, there were fewer than 600 Haida left on Haida Gwaii. Subsequent English-only residential schools and government bans on potlaches divided the Haida from their cultural history and way of life.

Contact also brought a devastating fur trade. The sea otter was nearly hunted to local extinction, causing a natural imbalance from which the islands have still not fully recovered. Later, large-scale clear-cut logging further challenged the balance.

I suppose you could say the same story about countless groups of aboriginal peoples around the world, all throughout all North America, but this one has a happy ending…well, relatively speaking.

In 1985, logging was at a productive high in Haida Gwaii, often clearcutting full swaths of islands. As stewards of the land, Haida communities finally took a stand. Many Haida stood arm and arm at the logging roads on Lyell Island and would not budge until they could reach an agreement with the Canadian government. This ultimately led to the creation of the Gwaii Haanas National Park. The Haida Nation and the Canadian government now protect and manage Gwaii Haanas together.
This decision marked the end of the Haida dark age. 

With the land protected, the Haida Nation could thrive once more. Oral histories that survived repression are now written down and taught to the youngest generation. Elders educate children in both English and Haida languages in school. Renewed potlaches, traditional crafts, and a ceremonial pole demonstrate a returning renaissance. And with a permit process, orientation training, and watchman program, stewards can ensure travelers to Gwaii Haanas treat the area with the respect it deserves.


July 22 - 23

Before heading south into Gwaii Haanas, we needed to stop in Skidegate Channel and attend a Gwaii Haanas orientation at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate. We arrived the night of July 21st and anchored in Bearskin Bay. The 22nd was a Sunday and the cultural center would not be open, so we paddled to the wharf in Queen Charlotte City and explored town instead.

We walked from Queen Charlotte to Skidegate so we would know exactly how long it would take the next morning. Over an hour. Granted, we stopped every few feet to pick thimbleberries and salmonberries so we may have walked much slower than normal. J That night, we weighed anchor and redropped close to a boat ramp, halfway to Skidegate. We thought we were so clever anchoring so close, but we later learned we could have anchored immediately in front of the cultural center and kayaked strait to orientation.

The next morning, we paddled to shore, tied our kayak to a tree, and walked to the center. The orientation took about an hour and a half and provided enough time to ask questions. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the center’s museum, a fantastic display of cultural and natural artifacts. Highly recommended.

Queen Charlotte Wharf 

Art in Queen Charlotte City

Torch relay handoff for 2010 Vancouver Olympics

We finally saw a whale up close!

Our Novi


Haida Cultural Center

Haida Cultural Center 


July 24

The next morning, the tide was high enough that we could cross the sandbar at the Skidegate Channel entrance and cut miles off our passage. We sailed into Cumshewa Inlet, aiming for Beattie Anchorage south of Renner Point. We read Beattie was a secure overnight spot in one of our cruising guides. However, when we arrived, logs were tied across it. We located one opening and aimed straight for it. As we were about 500 feet from it, a small skiff sped out of it right at us. He turned abeam to us at the last minute and explained apologetically that we couldn't enter there. He had cables and other obstacles strewn across the bay. Good thing he saw us in time! We made a note to contact the cruising guide that suggested the bay so they can update it in their next edition.

Instead, we anchored in Gordon Cove at the end of Gillatt Arm. As soon as we saw it, we wondered if we’d be better off among the cables and logs back at Beattie! 20-25 knots blew through the valleys and over the mountains from the west and circled around in this small cove. Without another option though, we settled in and put out a long scope. Fortunately, our Mantus anchor held us tight all night.

Cumshewa Inlet

July 25

We were eager to get to K’uuna Llnagaay (also known as Skedans), our first watchmen site. Historically watchmen lived at the edge of a village and watched for invaders. Today’s watchmen invite visitors, educate them on the history of the sites, and ensure artifacts aren’t desecrated. It is customary to call each site’s watchman on channel 06 and request permission to come ashore.

At K’uuna Llangaay, Carol Duck (or just Duck) greeted us and passengers from another boat, Island Bay, on the beach. Duck was a fantastic watchman. Her ancestors had lived there, so she felt connected to the land. Every time she missed her family in Skidegate, she would touch the earth or the poles here and feel the presence of her ancestors. Because the same big stones that line the path today were used in keeping the thatched roofs down in storms, she would touch the stones as she passed them because her ancestors “would’ve touched the same stones.” She revered her ancestors’ strength and resilience but mourned for the devastation they must have felt when all but a few died of smallpox. Duck wove warmth, gravity, and humor into her tour and generally seemed happy to be there.
Carol Duck, next to a humongous Alder. I've never seen an Alder this big!

 Crest from the 1890s

Crest, now

Killer whale mortuary pole, then
(When an important person to the community passes, their bones are placed in the bentwood box on the top.) 


Killer whale mortuary pole, now

longhouse pit

Sculpin crest, then

Sculpin crest, now

Life begins anew: spruce grows over cedar house pole 

Memorial poles were erected when loved ones couldn't access remains (e.g., they were lost at sea). Each ring represented a potlach the honored were a part of in his or her life.
The passengers of Island Bay show scale.
Some poles were buried up to 10 ft. in the ground to keep them from toppling. 

Eagle mortuary pole, now nurse log

Duck's young cousin Tyler was visiting for a few days and played the drum that evening. He sang the song played at the protest encampments of 1985, a song that has become an anthem for the Haida Nation. And like Duck, he had a wry sense of humor:

“Tyler, I noticed you rubbing your drum before you started. Why?” Another visitor asked.

“I need to ask the drum permission before I play,” he responded intently. “It needs to want to be played.”

“Really?”

“Haha. No. The hide was cold, and I rub it to warm it up.”



Ryan and Sarah, captains of Island Bay, kindly offered to drive us and our kayak back to the boat in their skiff so we wouldn’t have to kayak so far. How could we say no to that?

Having arrived back at the boat so quickly, we had plenty of time to reach our next destination in the light: Thurston Harbour on Talunkwan Island.

 
July 26

Thurston Harbour used to be a large logging center. After kayaking to shore, we hiked up the abandoned logging roads and found the forests that were once stripped were now healing. Stumps became nurse logs. The gravel roads were overgrown. Alder grew along the path, making way for later conifers. Further off the path, spruce, cedar, and even a little hemlock were already flourishing. 

Thurston Harbour under a golden sun

Abandoned home

Alder growing on earlier roads

Look carefully. Our new cervine friend is camouflaged.
Scale
Nurse logs and stumps draw new life

July 27:

We didn’t think we’d have time to go to both T’aanuu Llnagaay (Tanu) and Hik’yah GawGa (Windy Bay) watchmen sites in one day—especially since neither of them had secure anchorages to spend the night. We decided to skip Tanu. Windy Bay was the site of the 1985 resistance and victory, and we were eager to visit. It was also our first stop in Gwaii Haanas.

The anchorage is tricky. It’s not called Windy Bay for nothing. While the inner bay was much calmer, it was also much too shallow for our 6’5” draft. Instead, we anchored in the middle of the two bays, hugging the line between the two very different sea states.

Mary lived there in the summers with her young daughter Raven. Mary showed us the Legacy Pole, the pole erected in 2013 to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of cooperative management between the Haida Nation and the Canadian government, and explained the significance of each part. This was the first monumental pole raised in Haida Gwaii in 150 years, a sign of hope for the future. She also showed us the longhouse erected for political organizing in the 1980s. This place had power.

The big seas outside of the bay had power too, and a group of kayakers was marooned there for a few days. But of all the places in the world to be stuck, Windy Bay was not a bad one.

Amy, the guide of the kayak fleet, asked us to join her group on a trail. Raven led the pack, tromping through pinecones and rivers barefoot. The forests here were old growth, healthy. The trail led us to an enormous 900+-year-old spruce. This spruce was here at a peak of Haida civilization, during Haida wars, through the devastation of contact, and now peace. And because of the Gwaii Haanas agreement, it will be here until decays back into the earth.

The Legacy Pole

Six-beam house

Dave and a couple of tall kayakers tried to help a scared hummingbird escape the house in the picture above. This approach didn't work. After collaborating as a group, Mary suggested they place a trail of hummingbird feeders and food to the exit. When we returned from the hike, the hummingbird had found its way out. I think there's an analogy to life here somewhere. 

Windy Bay

Harvested cedar
Amy shows us more harvested cedar

Ethereal old-growth

Biiiig spruce
Taking a boatline back to camp

After a wonderful visit, we pulled anchor and headed out to Ramsey Island. It was the closest secure overnight anchorage to tomorrow’s stop: Gandll K’in Gwaay.yaay (also known as Hot Spring Island). We were warned that the mooring buoys aren’t all secure, so we tested one. We tied to it and reversed at full speed. This one was secure.


July 28:

While the buoy was secure, the bay was not. It was terribly rolly. The seas were still kicking outside, and they somehow made their way in. In the morning, we untied from the buoy and headed for the temporary anchorage between House Island and Hot Spring Island. If we were going to roll, we might as well do it close to the hot springs!

A beautiful trail through old growth forest led us to some of the most beautiful hot springs we had ever seen. Watchmen DeeDee and Eric clean them every day. Oh, and showers! They had showers! And a field of ripe salal. We were the only guests there, and DeeDee and Eric said we could stay as long as we wanted. We secretly wondered if that invitation would still stand if we stayed here for weeks. We sure wanted to.








After we were fully relaxed (and then some), we pulled anchor and headed to Ikeda Cove to spend the night.


July 29 - 30:

Much like Gordon Cove, Ikeda was gusty. Winds surged well into the 30s, and Novi would heel before swinging back against her snubber. But without swell, it was comfortable enough. We decided to stay for two nights and slept well during both.

We shared the anchorage with one other boat, a beautiful Dana 24 from Port Angeles named Ouzel. The owners, Chris and Lisa, stopped by Novi to chat. New to sailing, they had made it all the way to Haida Gwaii, a testament to their perseverance or the seaworthiness of the boat—or both. We think both.

They pointed out the treasures they found hidden onshore: remains of a mining operation, planks from an old railway, bathing pools, clear creek water.

Eager for more reserve water, we emptied a 5-gallon jug into our tanks and packed it into our kayak with our two Sawyer Minis (water purifiers) and 6 empty water bottles. The tide was high, so we waited for it to drop a foot or two to find the creek flow. This gave us plenty of time to harvest some tidal pickleweed for a poached egg and noodle soup that evening.

We found the above-waterline creek at the end of a marsh. We left our kayak as far upstream as the dropping tide allowed and secured our 5-gallon jug next to it. Then we started up the stream to tackle the laborious process of filtering. We would fill the 12 oz. Sawyer Mini pouches and filter them into a water bottle. We would repeat this process until the bottle was full and then again with each bottle. We would carry the bag of filled bottles back to the kayak and dump them in the water jug. With empty bottles and purifiers, we’d head up the creek to start the process again.

This process took nearly two hours, but the extra 5 gallons provided peace of mind for the dry days to come. We were then free to spend the afternoon exploring the forests and ruins. Ikeda Cove was full of secrets, and we only scratched the surface.

On our paddle back to Novi, we again ran into Chris and Lisa in their rowboat. They suggested we visit the west side of the cove near the bottleneck entrance. A small opening in the woods was marked with a hanging brown rope. Inside were three tombstones with faded Japanese carved into the front. What did they say? Who were buried here? I tell you, this cove is full of mysteries. We will need to tuck these questions away until we got to a place with Internet, perhaps weeks from now.

Open areas where buildings must have been. Foxglove and moss grow over.

Heading up the marsh in high tide

Heading down the marsh in low tide; what a difference a couple hours make!

railway

Rusted tank turned nurse log

Twisty cedar



Graves, so seemingly out of place
Do any Japanese reading friends know what this says? Or is it too faded?

Update: we still don't know who was buried here, but we learned the founder and owner of the mine was Arichika Ikeda. He died in 1939 and left the mine to his wife, Kaoru Ikeda. She was forced to relinquish the mine when she was taken to Slocum Internment Camp. After four years in captivity, she died. Neither of them are buried here.


July 31 – August 1:

We wanted the best weather window for heading south to Vancouver Island. This would be our first overnight on De Novo where we couldn’t simply tuck into shore if needed. Currently, the wind was 25-35 knots out there, so we decided to wait out weather in Louscoone Inlet. The cove between the two islands north of Etches Point provided a calm, glasslike anchorage.  

Listening to weather reports, we found that winds would lesson to 10-20 knots from the northwest on Wednesday, August 2nd. On Friday, August 4th, they would sweep around and start blowing from the south. We certainly didn’t want to beat to weather out there, so we hoped to reach Vancouver Island by Friday morning. Depending on the length of gybes and conditions, the nearly 200-mile crossing would take either one or two overnights. Wednesday, August 2nd, would be the best day to leave. 

We still had one more watchmen site to visit. Near the southern tip of the archipelago, SGang Gwaay was also the most anticipated. With the decision made to leave Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday morning became the time to visit SGang Gwaay.

We spent Tuesday gearing up for the overnight(s). We precooked and refrigerated meals so we wouldn’t have to handle the complications of cooking underway. We checked all hardware and rigging. Environment Canada forecasts are often wrong, and we wanted to be prepared for rough weather. We also added jerry cans and water jugs to tanks, just in case. We’ve found preparing for a long passage is much like preparing for the apocalypse.

I suppose “long passage” is relative. We have friends who have crossed oceans. And we’ve experienced longer passages with others before. But it’s just the two of us now, and we don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Scratch that. It’s not just the two of us. We have learned so much from others who transited these waters and wrote about them, we’re just a SAT phone text away from loved ones back home, and we have met some of the most wonderful friends along the way.

Speaking of which, we were happy to see Ouzel in the anchorage Tuesday morning. Lisa and Chris invited us over for dinner that night. We traded sea stories and exchanged favorite anchoring spots, tucking them away for future trips. At only 24 feet long, Ouzel was perfectly organized for cruising and storage. We could no use our boat's small size to justify keeping a messy boat!

Sailing up Louscoone Inlet
Lisa and Chris on SV Ouzel
Etches Point Cove

Etches Point Cove


August 2 - 3:

SGang Gwaay: the highlight of any Gwaii Haanas trip. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, sharing this title with the likes of the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge (but without the crowds). A must-see.
As we left Louscoone, we saw another familiar boat, Island Bay. Cliff, the SGang Gwaay watchman, offered to give a simultaneous tour to all three boats: Ouzel, Island Bay, and us. What a wonderful way to spend our last few hours in Gwaii Haanas, among friends!

With Island Bay, we anchored in the north cove between rocky islets. We read in our cruising books the east nook (known as Grays Cove) was too difficult to hook, but Ouzel seemed to do just fine there. Island Bay’s Ryan and Sarah offered to (once again) taxi us to shore in their Zodiac.

We walked a beautiful old-growth trail to meet Cliff, who then guided us to the site. On the way, we passed through ethereal rock ledges and caves. Remains of the dead (at least those who were without a mortuary pole) were placed in carved bentwood boxes in the ledges. Later, at the beginning of the smallpox era, when the dead far outweighed the living, remains were placed in the caves. 

There’s something about this place that inspires imagination. Walking among the poles and the house beams, one can easily visualize the earlier, vibrant village. Those living at SGang Gwaay, the Kunghit Haida, were known as the fiercest warriors of the Haida archipelago. They fought not only Europeans, but other Haida groups. But when Northern Haida fled smallpox-ravished lands further north, the Kunghit Haida gave them sanctuary, and all gathered at SGang Gwaay. When smallpox raged through SGang Gwaay in the 1880s, only bodies remained—hundreds of them; the few survivors fled north to Skidegate. The events of this plague gave the village another name: Wailing Island. Surging waves funneling air through a large hole in rock sounds like a wailing woman, mourning the loss of her home and people.      

Several poles and bentwood boxes have been sent to museums across Canada to preserve them. For the poles that remain, the watchmen simply let them decay back into the earth as nature intended. We’re told this is the Haida way.

Rock-sided path 

One of the several caves on the island; out of respect, visitors don't enter or get too close.

Fossil

Frontal house poles and mortuary poles

Spruce splitting a house corner post 

Remains of a house
Our watchman, Cliff, with a mortuary pole


Many musket balls have been found embedded in poles and around camp.
Corner post with hole for cross beam

Cross-beam and corner post, still standing after all these years

Fallen beams over house pit

Canoe runs untouched for over a century



Cliff with his handmade deerskin drum, nearly completed. He made the mallet from elderberry and leather.
He's clearly a hockey fan. :)

After saying goodbye to friends and Gwaii Haanas, we weighed anchor at around 1:30pm. We set a course for Winter Harbour, Vancouver Island, nearly 200 miles. Spoiler: we made it, and it only took one overnight. That story, along with the stories of our West Coast adventures will have to wait until next blog post. Thank you to everyone who reads our blog! J