Following a lovely night in Montague Harbour, we left the next morning of August 21st and headed over to Porlier Pass. We decided to catch the slack tide at Porlier Pass instead of going all the way to Dodd Narrows as the slack tide for Dodd Narrows would have been very late in the evening and we did not want to struggle through the narrows late at night or get into Nanaimo in the dark. In the end we should have gone with the second option as mother nature had a surprise in for us!
We left the morning of August 21st at a reasonable hour and motored to Porlier Pass as there was no wind. We travelled through the pass about an hour prior to slack with me (Sophia) at the tiller, I could feel the boat being pushed around a bit by the current but nothing that our little boat couldn’t handle. Once through, I convinced Rob that we should bring up the sails but in hindsight I have to agree that the wind was not in our favour and the current did not help as we were being pushed south while we were trying to head north. We ended up sailing in or around the same spot for about three hours before calling it quits, pulled in the sails, and turned the motor on. Within an hour of turning the motor on, the winds suddenly picked up and we started to encounter some crazy waves. Environment Canada was right on with the weather forecast; 25 to 30 knot winds starting late in the afternoon. Our boat speed reduced from 4 knots to 1 knot and the waves went from one to two feet in size, to six feet within a few minutes, which led to the boat hobby horsing. If you never experienced hobby horsing with your boat, it’s pretty surreal.
We quickly changed our minds and made the decision to head to Silva Bay and tuck in there for the night instead of going to Nanaimo. While we were struggling to get to the entrance, Rob had me take over the helm and told me to keep the bow pointed to land. My response “I can’t see anything, I can only see the bow!!” Our boat was crashing through the waves and every time we tried to get a bearing, the boat would crest over another wave so there was very little time for me to actually see over the bow to get a bearing. We were both very nervous but stayed calm throughout the whole ordeal. Our poor engine suffered a bit and we finally got to the Flat Top Islands after a few hours – the trip should have taken half an hour, not with these northwesterly winds and crazy waves though. As soon as we had the islands on our starboard, the waves calmed down. Of course, getting into Silva Bay is not that easy either as it has a shallow approach that you definitely need to be aware of and studying the charts are very important as even a chart plotter can be off a bit.
We anchored very quickly and settled in for the night to recoup from our first heavy weather experience. We didn’t leave the boat that night but occasionally though we’d stick our heads out through the companion way to see how the weather was doing and to make sure we weren’t getting to close to any of the other. At one point, we saw another sailboat clearly not following the charts as they were coming straight across into the bay and heading straight for a below surface rock. Several sailors jumped into their dingys and headed over to let the sailboat know that they were heading into danger. We later learned that strong northwesterly winds can create some serious weather on the Vancouver Island side while it is less aggressive when encountered on the mainland side.
The next morning we left Silva Bay with a bit of trepidation but still excited to keep on moving north. We crossed the Strait of Georgia towards Secret Cove, sailing most of the way until we got near the town of Sechelt where the wind died down and the motor had to go back on again.
Our anchoring experience at Secret Cove was not as easy or stress-free as the night before and after several attempts, we finally had the anchor down for the night. Rob and I agreed that we were still nervous from when we dragged our anchor in Sooke; but why were we able to anchor so quickly at Silva Bay?
The marina at Secret Cove is well stock, has a nice shower and access to fuel, unfortunately the restaurant was not open while we there.
On the morning of August 23rd after making sure the weather was still good to keep travelling north, we left pretty early and sailed slowly north towards Westview (Powell River). The weather just did not cooperate for our little boat and we battled northwesterly winds again. Our boat does not like to sail close-hauled and we finally put the motor on and motored the last 20 nm out of 40 nm. This was all a bit frustrating as we watch other boats sailing southbound while taking advantage of the northwesterly winds.
Docking at the Westview Harbour marina has not become any easier since we were there last in 2014 . The marina is very popular in the summer and to make it more interesting everyone is required to dock bow out at this marina. It was my turn at the helm and as we approached our spot, I had everything planned as I was the one that docked here in 2014. As soon as I (Sophia) started to manoeuvre into position to bring the boat around to have the bow out; that’s when it all it went south (or at least in my mind). A sailboat started to leave the same berth area as we were manouvering in so I had to reverse to allow this sailboat out. Did I tell you that a Westsail does not reverse very well? The sailboat (local) didn’t even acknowledge that we were there trying to dock or that we were coming into the same area. Several newly acquired swear words later, I finally manoeuvred the boat into place; aside from a little stress all the docking went much more smoothly than I expected. The last time I brought our boat into Westview marina, we came so close to a Canadian Coast Guard patrol boat that Rob could easily touch the their boat without much effort.
We really like Westview. It has a nice public marina, coffee shop, a marine store, a nice Mexican restaurant and a nice butcher shop that makes chorizo (Portuguese dry sausages that is awesome for a boat as it doesn’t require refrigeration) and boerewors (South African sausages). We enjoyed a nice breakfast the next morning while doing laundry and then stocked up on supplies. We left late that morning and motored most of the way up the coast to Lund, our next stop.
Lund is another one of those interesting towns we like. It is the northern terminus of Highway 101 on the mainland, with a small craft harbour, and is the last spot to get supplies before heading up into Desolation Sound. The harbour is also very busy during the summer months. We docked on the breaker (way cheaper) instead of at the marina and dinghied over to the shore and spent our evening exploring. Our friends Bill and Donna of s/v Alia had their boat, a 44 Spencer on the breaker as well but weren’t around; no matter as we were going to see them in Gorge Harbour.
The following morning, we headed towards Gorge Harbour as this was where the Bluewater Cruising Association was holding its rendezvous. As we left Lund we saw Bill and Donna coming off the ferry from Campbell River to pick up their sailboat and head for Gorge Harbour as well and join the rendezvous. We (mostly me) were determined to sail to Gorge Harbour; yeah right! Firstly we had difficultly putting up the sails, and after about an hour of sailing, to nowhere, we called it quits as we really wanted to get to Gorge Harbour early enough to snag a good anchor spot before the rest of the Bluewater Cruising Association members showed up with their boats. By this time, our friends on Alia caught up to us and we buddy motored till we got near the entrance to Gorge Harbour. Rob loves Gorge Harbour as it feels you are entering a secret pirate cove or bay as you have to enter through a narrow gorge before coming into this beautiful bay. In talking with s/v Alia on the vhf we learned they had steering problems and their solution to making it safely through the narrow gorge was to tie their dingy to the side of s/v Alia and use the dingy to steer the sailboat through!
Anchoring ended up being difficult for us. Gorge Harbour is pretty deep and not knowing the conditions near the shore line, we did not want to risk anchoring too close to shore and then possibly swing into the shallows as the winds were forecasted to shift in the next day or so. In the end after 2 tries and lots of sailor words (swearing), we finally did it. Again, why could we anchor in Silva Bay so quickly and easily, which is crowded to the max with permanent boats, while we were nervous as hell anchoring in Gorge Harbour? In the end, we had a good spot as our anchor held over the next few days while we waited out high wind conditions. We also learned to trust our anchoring techniques, the rules of letting proper scope out, and our Rocna anchor again.
More to come…~Sophia & Rob