Cruisin’ to Haida Gwaii – Part I

Saturday, July 22
With the Fraser River just a memory and the Strait of Georgia in our rearview mirror, we awoke to grey skies and drizzle here in Gowland Harbour.  Gowland Harbour is a very quiet and protected little harbour just across Discovery Passage and to the north of Campbell River.

Seymour Narrows is six miles north of us and we cannot traverse the rapids there until slack tide tonight just before six o’clock.  It’s the high slack at that time, which will give us an ebbing tide to ride north to our next anchorage.  Since we have to wait all day, it gives me a chance to catch up with the blog and do a little fishing and maybe have fresh salmon for an early dinner before leaving at 17:00.

Departing Richmond:
We left Richmond at 08:15 on Thursday, July 20th. It was not without just a wee bit of drama.  When we splashed, on June 27th, we were put on a small – too small for Cosmic Debris, in my opinion – finger at the end of B Dock, right across from Steve & Trudy, on “Fleeting Time”, a Hunter forty-five(ish).

Steve & Trudy are a nice enough couple who live from September to May in Mazatlan and spend their summers living aboard “Fleeting Time” at Shelter Island Marina.

Steve is a very helpful type guy. The day we splashed, he helped out with hand-lining our boat over to our slip at the end of B Dock, which is right there beside the travel lift dock.  That’s another story and one I’ll leave out – back to the departure:

Day One:
I wanted to be down at the mouth of the river at low tide – 09:38, to be exact.  Starting from about ten miles up the river and running with the current meant we should leave around 08:15. It also meant that at this time, the current was running really hard.  To make matters worse, the night before, a power boat had come in and tied up to the travel lift dock, limiting our space.

Wendi and I were almost ready to go when Pat showed up to see us off and help untie.  We had seen Steve and Trudy the night before and Steve offered to help untie as well.  The issue was that damned current.  Without help from these guys on the dock, we’d never have had time to untie and back out, like normal, before being washed downstream and slamming into that powerboat.  Unfortunately, when they untied us, (without anyone directing them to do so), I wasn’t completely ready.  I was still getting my computer in place and hadn’t had a chance to even open my chart plotter program.  I looked up and saw Pat untying the stern line and Steve with the already untied bow line in his hand and barely able to keep us from getting washed away with the flow, so as soon as I saw Pat had the stern line freed I had no choice but to stick it in reverse and gun it.

We cleared the power boat and Wendi got busy immediately retrieving the dock lines that were now trailing in the water as we continued backing down the river.  I was hesitant to get too far away from the docks, as I knew from memory that there is deeper water there and still didn’t have my program open so had no chart, no GPS and no depth sounder.  I also couldn’t see if Wendi was finished with the lines and didn’t want to start going forward too soon and end up with a dock line wrapped around my prop.  We were getting closer and closer to the boats on A dock as we drifted backward down the river and I waited until I could wait no more, then I put her in forward and eased into the throttle.  It seemed to take forever for the effect of the prop to overcome the flow of the river, but when it finally did and we started to make way upstream, I turned the wheel to starboard, we waved at Pat & Steve in the distance and turned a full 180° to navigate the small channel between Lion & Lulu Islands.  By the time we were at the narrowest part, I had my chart plotter up and running and we were both heaving big sighs of relief.

We reached the mouth of the river on time and caught the rising tidal flow and a fifteen-knot wind from the south-east to give us a really nice downwind sail with a following sea for just about five hours.  The rest of the twelve-hour trip was spent motoring.  We had made plans to meet our friend Lloyd (Wind Drift) at False Bay on Lasqueti Island but he heard tell of some rain in the forecast and bailed on us.  We arrived at False Bay at 20:20 on Thursday evening and weighed anchor at 10:00 o’clock Friday morning.

Day Two:
It was ten and a half hours underway to get to Gowland Harbour.  We could have made it a little quicker if we’d have motored more but we’d rather sacrifice a knot or two of speed for the peace, the quiet and the sheer joy of sailing.  The winds were weaker but the tide was favourable.  We timed our trip perfectly to coincide with the meeting of the tides at Mittlenatch Island.  Mittlenatch is the midway point where the tidal flow from the north meets the flow from the south.  We rode the rising tide north from Lasqueti Island and arrived at Mittlenatch right at high slack, then rode the receding tide north from Mittlenatch to our anchorage.  As we entered Discovery Passage, we dropped the sails and motored the remaining few miles at ten to twelve knots, speed over ground – not bad for a boat with a maximum speed of seven and a half knots.

Our basic plan at this point is to get to Port McNeill and spend a few days there to maybe do some diving with “Sun Fun Divers” and see if I can get a Volvo mechanic to come down to do some fine tuning on “Green Garth – The Steamin’ Seaman”.  We seem to be burning a little too much fuel.  Inside of that plan, the weather will, of course, play a pivotal role in the timing of departures and arrivals.  We have a sou’easter blowing now, but that is supposed to change to a nor’wester this afternoon and kick up to around thirty-five knots.  That, combined with our countering, ebbing tide could create a very uncomfortable trip.

So I’ll sign off for now, I have to get a line in the water and get that dinghy back on deck.

Until next time…

© Ron Morrison 2017

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