Monday, August 24, 2009

Friday Harbor to Comox, BC with the Justis boys

I'm just back from a trip so wonderful it certainly surpasses any attempt to render it in words. My close friend Cleve and his two boys Galen (5) and Daniel (3) joined me and my two boys for a week of voyaging north into Canada. It was a men's trip. Or, given the age of the men, a boys trip. Our wives thought we were crazy to go on an extended boat trip with four boys under the age of 8, but Cleve and I are the sorts that value adventure together so highly and for our boys that we'll pay just about any price.

The trip took us from our home port here in Friday Harbor to Comox, BC on Vancouver Island, via the Gulf Islands and Lasqueti Island in the Straits of Georgia. Besides being an incredibly good time of swimming and playing with our boys, it included some of the finest and most enjoyable sailing I have ever experienced.

There are so many stories to tell, and so many places to highlight, that I am sure to leave out great things. For now, I'm just going to load a bunch of pictures, and as I find time I will update with text. Suffice to say for now that the sailing highlight was being able to sail all the way from Nanaimo up the Straits of Georgia to Comox, with an overnight stop at False Bay on Lasqueti Island, in 20-25 knot SE winds on single tacks both days doing a broad reach. It was unbelievably good luck and Aeolus took the white capped 3 foot seas in stride and had such a gentle smooth motion.

Our trip was:
Friday Harbor to Montague Harbor
Montague to DeCourcy Island
DeCourcy Island another night
DeCourcy Island to Newcastle Island/Nanaimo
Newcastle to Lasqueti Island
Lasqueti to Comox. We traveled seven days and around 110 miles or so.

Here is a google map showing this area between Friday Harbor and Comox. You can zoom in and out and move around.
This sunset shot is from Montague Harbor, which is a zoo of boats and much too busy for my liking. The north side of the park has a nice beach where we swam happily in the hot sun, and the peninsula has a nice walk on it, but being surrounded by so many other boats is a real drag. Reminds me of Sucia, which I dislike for the same reason. Feels a bit trashed.

View Larger Map

This shot of the boys and the boat shot below were taken at DeCourcy Island and Pirates Cove. Now that is a place we love. We prefer to anchor on the south side at bay across from the cove proper. The swimming off the rocks at Pirates Cove is just fantastic, with steep drop offs that allow diving and warm water. The boys found endless amusement by pouring water down the eroded sandstone and creating waterfalls. Elliott swam and jumped in constantly, like a river otter.

After DeCourcy Island we shot up through Dodd Narrows where a funny thing happened. We timed our arrival for slack turning to flood but when we go there it was still ebbing pretty strongly. As we got into the throat of the narrows the sea was moving pretty well and we estimated the current at about 3 knots. There were some whirlpools and the usual turbulence. At the very narrowest mouth of the narrows, my boat speed slowed to about 1 knot. Because Cleve and I have so much experience on the water in kayaks and him in windsurfing, we are both very comfortable with the dynamics of water. I had excellent steerage because I had massive amounts of water passing over my rudder. And, I was making progress. If I had come to a stop or feared being pushed back, I could have executed a turn in the narrows safely because I had it to myself. We were very lucky to not be sharing the space with anyone.

When we finally powered through and thanks again to my diesel and 3 blade prop, I saw a whole phalanx of boats heading to the narrows and thought it was odd. What did they know that I didn't? Weren't they going to hit the oncoming flood?

Cleve and I raised sail once into Northumberland channel as there was a good 20 knot wind blowing into the area. We sailed close hauled on a few tacks and pretty soon were aimed right at Nanaimo. Heaven.

Later that night, I checked the tide book again, and guess what: we hit Dodd Narrows an hour early because I had checked the tides for the day before. So we were going against the last of a strong ebb an hour before slack. Oh well, it was fun.

This photo of Cleve steering is from when we raised sail right outside the narrows. He was such a happy man behind the wheel. His sailing experience is light, but he is an avid windsurfer and it helps him tremendously. Look at that smile on his face...

After a night at Newcastle island and some nice exploring, we headed out in the morning for Lasqueti. Our sail that day was incredible as we raised sail, and on one tack, sailed right up the straits to Lasqueti. We might have gybed once, but only at the end. This photo is from our anchorage in False Bay, which was beautiful and uncrowded. We rowed over to the village once anchored and stretched our legs. It was great to pick blackberries and get some land time after a good long sail. It's about 27 miles or so from Nanaimo to Lasqueti. We sailed at between 5 and 6 knots that day.

The photo of the lighthouse is of Sisters Islets just off Lasqueti Island on the day we departed False Bay for Comox. It is one of the main weather stations in Georgia Strait and is a beautiful little desolate place. That weather station reported 40 knot winds the night we stayed in False Bay, a known lee shore in these Qualicum winds. Fortunately, despite the howling wind that started late at night, it came into the anchorage and just off the main angle of entry and we were spared the full force of the wave train. The dominant SE winds of the day seemed to deflect enough of the Westerly Qualicum winds and the combination hit False Bay a little to the side. As it was I stayed up until about 1 am listening for anchor drag or trouble. The wind started at about 10pm and died down sometime after 1am. In the morning, it was back to 25 knots SE and we continued our downwind sail up the Straits.

This second shot of Cleve sailing was on this crossing from Lasqueti to Comox. It was another perfect sail. The seas built in the strong wind and we had to very actively steer the boat to hold our broad reaching angle. The seas would want to push our stern off to a beam reach, of course, and we were surfing a lot too. These pictures don't look like much, but notice the white cap over his shoulder.

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