Cruisin’ to Haida Gwaii – Part II

July 24

So, we decided to give Seymour Narrows and Ripple Rock a miss on Saturday evening to spend Sunday in Gowland Harbour.  We spent the day recommissioning the water maker – what a pain in the ass, (actually the head, the back and the hands).


The high, slack tide at Seymour Narrows was 06:14 on Monday, so we decided to go then.  The forecast was for continued north-west winds, up to thirty-five knots, for the foreseeable future so we got up at 04:00 and hit the narrows at 06:30.  We were both quite surprised by the relatively calm conditions and enjoyed a pretty nice run, up Discovery Passage with a 20-knot wind on our bow and running with the current.  Once we got around Chatham Point and into Johnstone Strait, though, things began to pick up.  When we came past Mayne Channel they got downright interesting!

With the wind still on the nose but exceeding thirty knots and waves in the neighbourhood of BIG – by my estimation – and close together, there were many moments where the bow seemed to be pointed straight up and when she came down, she was snorkelling.  The sound emanating from below was just a little disconcerting, so I gave Wendi the helm and went to track it down.  Thankfully, it was nothing; just the prop angrily chopping through the frothy seawater as we churned our way northward.

Given the high winds in the forecast and Environment Canada’s slightly less than stellar forecasting track record, I had taken a few extra moments, while planning the day’s route, to scope out a few little “hidie holes” to duck into, just in case.  When things began to get real rough, we were only a few miles away from one of them – Knox Bay.  I decided then that that was our next stop, even if it was just for lunch.

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As we approached Knox Bay, the current was strong and in our favour but the waves were coming out of the bay, hitting our starboard bow at about a 30° angle. At times the GPS was giving our speed over ground at over seven knots but it felt like we were standing still against those waves.  The rudder felt as if there was no pressure against it and as we pounded our way through the entrance into the bay, I wondered just how much protection it could possibly give.  Once we got into it though, and the water was under sixty metres deep, it calmed right down and other than a few gusts around twelve to fifteen knots, the wind was also calm.  I said to Wendi, “It’s hard to believe what we just came through.”. We stood and looked out to the strait and we could see whitecaps but it certainly didn’t look like it did when we were in the middle of it.

Later he said…

Well it’s only another four hours up to Blenkinsop Bay and it looks pretty calm out there now, so we should just go.  And go, they did… and that four hours turned into nine.

How does that happen, you say?  Well… we weighed anchor at 12:45 and got back out into the strait.  It was indeed nice.  Still, a ten to fifteen-knot breeze on the nose, but the sun was out and it was a real nice day.  It didn’t even feel like the same day anymore.

An hour later, as we were approaching Helmken Island and the traffic separation zone, we began to get bogged down by the current.  I had the old girl wide open and was barely making way.  Two fish boats were slowly catching up from behind.  It was like we were stuck in a time warp, we kept looking over our shoulders at these two boats.  They were definitely getting closer but so slowly, it was funny.

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To the right is a screen shot of the area and our tracks – the dark, fat, squiggly line is our tracks.

We were caught in this current for just over an hour and a half.  Once we finally cleared Ripple Shoal, I had more room to maneuver so we put some canvas up and once we did that, we took off at over 5 knots.  A few tacks later and we were completely out of the current and then the wind started to build.

Now the issue was the need to reef.  The sailing was good but the wind was still on the nose and in this narrow strait, it leads to way too much tacking, so I called Wendi up from below and rather than messing around with reefs, we dropped the sails.  That was a damned good decision too because no sooner were the sails on deck when we rounded the next bend in the strait and were met with a thirty-knot wind and six-foot waves – AGAIN!  This gale was even worse than the last one!  The wind built quickly to nearly forty knots.  Our original planned anchorage wasn’t far ahead – Blenkinsop Bay, here we come!  If that wasn’t going to work, Port Neville was right next door and there is a free dock there.

As we neared Blenkinsop, we could see a tug right near the entrance to the bay.  It turned out that he was headed into the bay and he was towing a log boom.  Not only that, but there was another tug waiting for him to get in and get situated, so that he could go in.  He too, had a boom in tow.  So much for Blenkinsop!  Onward through the turmoil, we churned our way to Neville.  I chanted, “Running from the devil, we seek refuge in Port Neville!”.  Soon we were turning into the protection of Port Neville, only to find the dock full.  I took my poor, tired old mare out of gear and drifted in disappointment, as I scoured the inlet for a decent place to drop the hook.  As I listened to the wind howling through the rigging, I decided I wasn’t satisfied with the landscape or the seabed in Port Neville so we decided that “only two hours ahead” there was a good looking anchorage at Misty Islets, so onward we trudged.

We dropped the hook at 21:45 that night in the Misty Islets and had a couple of beer while we unwound from the wild ride we had on July 24th.

July 25



We woke up Tuesday morning, late, but with no real plans to go anywhere.  I was more inclined to just hang out in this beautiful little spot and drink beer all day, than to get into another fight with Johnstone Strait.  We thought it was probably a good idea to base our plans on the weather though, so I checked the forecast and going sooner, rather than later, looked like the sensible thing to do.  I once again scoped out a couple of “hidie holes” ahead and Wendi got on the radio and got a report on current conditions in the strait, from a boat in the area, and away we went.


This day was a much quieter day than yesterday.  The sun shone and the wind blew, but only in the ten to fifteen knot range – we even did a little sailing.

After a while, though, the wind tapered off completely and we had to wake up Green Garth again.  At 19:30 we motored into Port McNeill and dropped the hook in front of the marina.  We then proceeded to drink to Wendi’s fifty-fifth!


Port McNeill is the last taste of civilization for us, until May or maybe June 2018.  Once we leave here, we will be headed out Queen Charlotte Strait, across Queen Charlotte Sound and around Cape St James, on Moresby Island and up the west side of Haida Gwaii.  It will be at least three hundred and fifty miles between our last anchorage at the end of Queen Charlotte Strait and our first anchorage on Haida Gwaii.  The Outpost is, of course, our ultimate destination and once there, we will be there until mid to late May 2018.

While we’re here in Port McNeill, Wendi will be topping up the provisions and I will be taking care of a couple of small but important projects – installing our SSB radio and completing the installation of the radar.

July 28th

We’re pretty much ready to pull the hook in the morning now.  Only a couple of surprises befell us here.  One, I finally got fed up with the old dinghy motor and bit the bullet and picked up a brand new 8 HP Mercury.  Two, as we were working away at our preparations today, Wendi remembered that I have to renew my driver’s license before my birthday, in less than three weeks.  Luckily, the local insurance agent is open tomorrow and can take care of that for me.  Whew! That was close.

Well, unless something happens that we can’t leave, or have to come back, we will not likely be in any sort of position of contact for a week or two, at least.  I am still working on getting the SSB radio up and running and once that is working, I should (crossing fingers) have access to email.  Short of that, at the end of August, we will arrive at The Outpost and will again have internet access.

So, until then…

© Sailing Infidels 2017

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