Saturday, October 17, 2009

The 5th Installment: North to Nanaimo...

We’ll start this post out with an image rendered from a photograph I took on Newcastle Island off the waterfront of the British Columbia, Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo. It set the mood of the eagles and both CHAK CHAK and AQUILA are of eagle names.

As mentioned in the last installment the day after the birthday party was a day of goodbyes, farewells and departures. Clementine who had begun this adventure as part of the AQUILA crew was heading back to NE Washington and the beginning of her ‘Running Start’ education program. She was riding with our friend Mary who had come over and spent a couple of days cruising around with us. And thus it was Catherine & I steered our vessel away from Orcas Island and our flotilla of friendship vessels traveling with Richard who was single handing CHAK CHAK. Parting company, especially teenage daughter company, can bring on a touch of melancholy and the weather turning dark and rainy fit the mood. As it happened our late morning rounding Jones Island, another of the marine park islands, there was an available buoy. The tide would not be with us for a few hours and it proved to be a good time to tie off, take a rest, have lunch and brew a pot of steaming coffee pour in a liberal dose of Irish cream (we call it the milk of the sacred Irish cow). By the turn of the tide the rain had passed and the nap seemed to help the mood of the boat.

Our destination for the day was Reed Harbor on Stuart Island. This allowed me to steer a course along the souwestern side of Spieden Island. Spieden Island is not like other islands in the San Juan’s. While there are a few structures there is no permanent population although it is not a State Park. Back in the ‘70’s a group of wealthy investors stocked the island with exotic animals and tried to rename it ‘Safari Island’. They brought in bighorn or mouflon sheep from Corsica, and Sika deer from Asia, and fallow deer from Europe," They stocked it with hundreds of imported grazing animals and nearly 2,000 game birds from all over the world. Then those same investors charged hunters for the chance to bag everything from African Guinea fowl to Spanish goat, but environmentalists cried "unsportsmanlike conduct" and the safari quickly disappeared, though many of the animals have adapted and remain. Here is a link to view the mouflon sheep of Spieden Island:
The end of our day’s journey found both AQUILA & CHAK CHAK in Reed Harbor seeking either a mooring or a place to anchor overnight. Luck would have it we were scoping out the anchorage and circling a float dock when one of the folks on the dock hailed us. “We can move the boats a bit and make an opening here,” they told us indicating a space on the float dock. And that’s how we came to meet the Silva Bay Yacht Club. They had two member vessels depart just before our arrival and moments after hailing us they helped secure both CHAK CHAK & AQUILA onto the float where they still had four of their club boats moored. I can tell you this about the Silva Bay Yacht Club – they are great folk! If you look closely toward the left side of image #3 you’ll see the end of a picnic table. Our new Canadian friends had a small feast in progress, complete with wine and brews. We brought out a decanter of mead and a bowl of olives and almonds and fit right into their evening happy hour. When the commodore of the S.B.Y.C. saw that AQUILA was flying the flag of commodore he asked for the details and learned about the Rickey Point Sail Club of Lake Roosevelt. He was delighted to meet another commodore under way and soon presented me a burgee of the S.B.Y.C. (which is still hanging below decks on AQUILA’S bulkhead).
It’s a well known fact to boaters that not only does food and beverages taste better when savored on a boat but with reasonable effort at trimming a berth one sleeps better as well. Indeed, at home I am a 6 hour a night man. Especially during fire season. But get me on the boat, piloting out in the fresh air, dawn to dusk and I can ‘saw logs’ with the best of ‘em for ten+ hours a night. So it was no surprise that when the twilight turned to dark the float dock and surrounding anchored vessels all settled into their quiet night routines. In the morning, after a shore side hike, we parted company with our S.B.Y.C. friends but not before Catherine gifted them all with Stonerose fossils and brochures of our area. They were delighted. Our new destination was Bedwell Harbour or Poets Cove on South Pender Island to clear into Canada. Oh, yeah, and all that extra booze I mentioned in the last posting. It vanished overnight…
There is another historic lighthouse to be mentioned on this trip – the Turn Point Lighthouse on the northern tip of Stuart Island.
Turn Point marks the meeting of Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and is known for it’s tide rips. Anytime a substantial wind sets up against the flow of the tide conditions can get rough. On the day of our crossing there was, unfortunately, no wind. So we motored along across the tide rips.

Here’s a short story about the Turn Island Lighthouse: In 1893 the first head keeper of Turn Point Lighthouse was Ed Durgan, who was aided by assistant keeper Peter Nicholai “PN” Christiansen, a Norwegian. Each of the keepers was given one side of the two-story duplex to house their families. For transportation, a sailboat was built and delivered to the station, where it was kept inside a boathouse.
During the evening of February 16, 1897, repeated blasts of a ship’s whistle brought Durgan and Christiansen rushing out into the frigid winter night to find that the tug Enterprise had run aground on rocks near the station. Equipped with pike poles, the keepers plunged into the water and managed to free the tug and direct it to a safe moorage. The captain appeared to be the only person on board, until several drunken crew members were found to be below deck.
The sober captain informed the keepers that other crew members were drifting aboard a barge that the captain cut lose before running aground near the light. The barge was soon located, and its occupants were safely brought ashore through the use of a breeches buoy. To add to the excitement of the evening, one of the intoxicated sailors on the tug brandished a butcher knife and threatened his comrades. With some help, the captain was able to subdue the knife wielder, who was placed in a straight-jacket and locked up in the station’s hen house. For their rescue efforts, the keepers received special citations.
Later that afternoon CHAK CHAK & AQUILA made their way into Customs and cleared into Canada. Our friend Richard received free lessons from a seaplane pilot regarding the use of red striped dock areas but there wasn’t much else to be had for our group at the overly developed, condo-style accommodations of Poets Cove so with the day still young we untied the lines and headed back out to open water and a freshening breeze singing “Oh Canada” all the way…
There are times on a sail boat when the crew will choose to lolly about, maybe traveling a few miles between anchorages, if they travel at all that day. There are other times when a long term objective is set and the crew determinedly drives the vessel to that point. AQUILA had been doing quite a bit of ‘lollying about’ and we were mid month in September. We were leaning toward the drive side of things in that Catherine and I wanted to get north of Nanaimo to a small marine park island called Jedediah but at the same time we recognized that this was Richard’s first time cruising in the Gulf Islands. And we didn’t want to totally rush him through them. It was the afternoon breeze that really set our evenings anchorage. We were just on our approach to the Channel Islands south of Saltspring Island when we were able to set sail and shutdown our reliable but somewhat noisy Yanmar diesel engine. It is always a joy to silent the motor and hoist sail. CHAK CHAK followed suit but soon found himself having to dodge the super ferries of the Canadian Gulf Islands (see image #4). As it worked we had a good run up through Captain's Passage, across Trincomali Channel and into Montague Harbour where there were several vacant mooring buoys. Twas the darkside of evening twilight when Catherine & I rowed over to CHAK CHAK for dinner, refreshments and a good evening of conversations.
Another early morning found us under way. Our destination today being Nanaimo but to do so we had to pass Dodd Narrows, the inner most of the Gulf Island passages into the Strait of Georgia. Dodd Narrows, for a sailboat, is nothing to trifle with. Slack water between flood and ebb tide lasts only a short while and while is may be a bit easier running the pass with the tide it can be a real whitewater experience with standing waves and whirlpools. Slack water for this kid, thank you very much…
Photograph #5 is a vessel we caught up with under way. I liked the lines of this Alaskan boat and all it’s trimmings.
The dinette of AQUILA easily mounts in the cockpit which, while motoring makes a good place for meals or the occasional Scrabble or card game. Remember, travel on a sailboat happens about the same speed as a slow bicycle ride. There's plenty of time to watch the scenery, read a book, consult the charts, catch a catnap, or indulge in a game. When the weather is nice it is delightful pastime.
The next image is one Richard took of AQUILA in Northumberland Channel just after successfully navigating Dodd Narrows. And that my friend brings us into the downtown waterfront of Nanaimo. Before closing this segment I will say that this waterfront city on Vancouver Island is one of my favorite civilized stops. What makes this area special is Newcastle Island and Protection Island which form a sheltered bay across from the city waterfront. Allowing one a great view of the city without being right in the middle of it's congested traffic and noise.
It is here that the infamous, floating Dinghy Dock Pub is located but that’s part of the next chapter…

Farewell for now…
Montague Harbour:
Dodd Narrows:

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