Johnstone Strait is famous for its strong westerly winds with swift currents and turbulent waters that can create potentially dangerous seas when wind-against-current conditions exist making it an unpleasant experience for recreational boaters. Many boaters heading north try to take to avoid the strait (approximately 59 nautical miles (nm), 110 kilometres (km) long) as mush as possible by travelling through the channels located in Discovery Islands and only travel the 12 nm (22 km) between Sunderland Channel and Havannah Channel than face the full 59 nm length. We ended up travelling most of the channel only avoiding the section between Discovery Channel and Sunderland Channel.
We left for Johnstone Strait from Douglas Bay (nice and quiet anchorage) in Forward Harbour early in the morning on September 9th. The anchor was on board by 6:50 am and we slowly made our way through Sunderland Channel towards the strait. While we were pulling the anchor in, a black bear came along the shoreline and walked down the beach for a while until disappearing back into the woods. We discovered the bear only by the noise he was making on the shore. It was still too dark to be able to make him out clearly, but it was a bear.
The weather forecast predicted a northwesterly of 15 knots, increasing to 20 knots so we made sure that when we planned our trip we had several bays and inlets to tuck into in case conditions deteriorated in the strait. This is a common practice for us; our trips aren’t always planned from point A to point B but we always have several back-up anchorages in case of weather issues.
After travelling for almost 8 hours and approximately 26 nm, we decided to make Port Harvey our stop for the night. We ended up sailing most of the way with all three sails raised with 2 reefs in the mainsail. Once anchored, we took the dinghy over to the Port Harvey Marine Resort but as we are slowly finding out in our travels, it is the end of the season for boating (really? Maybe nice weather boating) and other than having a few supplies in their store, the ‘resort’ was closing down. We did get some useful information from the owner in that we were anchored potentially close to an oyster bed that dries out completely (charts can be sometimes misleading and local knowledge is invaluable!!) and he suggested resetting our anchor 200 yards west to avoid having a nasty surprise at low tide in the morning. The only thing we did not like about our anchorage was the amount of private logging going on within the area of the bay including dumping of garbage and equipment along the one shoreline.
On the other hand, Port Harvey is a quiet inlet that can provide shelter and good anchorage from the strong winds in Johnstone Strait. It is also an opportunity for boaters to avoid transiting the rest of Johnstone Strait by heading north via several channels. We decided to continue our luck and left Port Harvey on September 10th heading north via Johnstone Strait to Alert Bay. This time though the weather forecast was predicting light winds and the Fanny Island buoy (located mid-way through Johnstone Strait) reported calm winds when the day before the buoy reported up to 19 knot winds! We did raise the sails for about three hours until the wind died completely and we had to continue on to Alert Bay by motoring.
Despite the potential problems of strong winds and current, we had a great sail and experience, and enjoyed our first introduction to the strait. ~Sophia & Rob