Valerie Hannan and Roger Kemble

Cruising the North Georgia Straits to Desolation Sound and Toba Inlet.


Ranger 22, racer / camper.

Go to First sailing day 2009.

Leaving, early, Nanaimo Saturday, July 26, 2008.
Heading North across the Straits as far as the wind will take us before dark: eventually to Toba Inlet.

Nanaimo Boat Basin,
Dock "C".
Friday afternoon, July 25:
Victualling up.

Agua Flor is cramped for two. Solo is comfy. I have cruised the Southern Gulf Islands alone: hospitable friends and family, on the way, helped. Thanqxz!

Just about everything depends on the weather, though: On those cruises I had fun in strong wind storms and interesting swells. Agua Flor seems to bob like a cork in most summer swells. But on those southerly cruises, no rain.

No friends to offer comfort on this trip. My friend Bogue has a place on Hernando but he's away tending his vine yard in Provence: time to tread the grapes, yunno!

North up Newcastle Channel.
Early Saturday morning, July 26:
Cameron Island Tower is in the back ground.
I'm standing watching out for
the notorious Oregon Rock.

Talking of victualling up: I loaded the gas tanks and was horrified at the price. I don't own a car but I was aware oil was going out of sight. Marine gas at the Petrocan wharf in the boat basin cost me C$1.579/litre- that translate to C$6.95/gal US. I'm surprised rioters aren't in the streets!

So . . .

Unfortunately the 2008 cruise was marred by bad weather. Hey, what is this talk about global warming? 2008, the last week of July was bitter cold with heavy rains: our boom tent helped . . . but!

So this summer Valerie and I headed off to test our limits: yup, everything depends on the weather.

Well, this is a most inauspicious start. The battery is dead. Just last week I was using it: something's up with it as I find out coming home. We'll find a place to charge-up on the way.

Anyway we're coming on the cardinal marker near the dive site in Departure Bay: no big ferries to avoid at this early hour!

Then on to Stevens Point, east, clear cardinal marker on the outer approach to Departure Bay.

Valerie, at the tiller.

No fooling the strong wind warning was serious. We decide to rig the medium gennie and keep the motor going. Valerie is doing well keeping Agua flor from yawing in the, so we are told later, four foot swell. Valerie has "sea-sick" patches and seems to hold her own.

Luckily I've never had that affliction. I'm from the sea faring coast of Yorkshire. I've been sailing since god knows when. We faced some pretty hectic weather, way back, in the Royal Navy: winter in the Moray Firth or beating the Atlantic off Lands End, UK. Off-shore racing along the north Yorkshire coast made for a good apprenticeship. Anyway, for Valerie, the patches evidently work!

Valerie, at the tiller,
again, looking ahead.
We're leaving North Nanaimo's
residential behind.

We have our eyes on the southern tip of Lasquiti Island and further on Texada. Rain hasn't yet started but visibility isn't that good. We can position by GPS and we are doing about 6 knots: not bad. Shall we over night in Secret Cove, on the Sechelt Peninsula? Or keep going: looks like the latter. Crossing the Straits in little Agua Flor with a "strong wind warning" hanging over us sounds scary but we're doing okay.

Leaving Nanaimo behind, we are in good spirits. The gloomy weather does not deter only in so far as limited visibility makes it hard to see where we are going: we're headed for the southern tip of Texada and can barely see it in the gloom. A strong southerly wind is pushing us. A heavy swell is keeping Valerie busy at the tiller. We come on Upwood Point well before noon and decide to proceed north.

Gloomy eh!
This is the southern most tip of Texada:
Upwood Point.

Texada and Lasquiti Islands are separated by the, quite wide, Sabine Channel but its hard to distinguish the two. Am I going on too much about the poor visibility? The murk kept rising and falling: sometime we can see, sometimes not. Well I suppose I am going on 'cos it was quite real out there.

Texada is being ripped apart by lime stone mining, for cement I guess, but the southern tip is mercifully a large provincial park. So, through the gloom we see texture and what we imagine as greenery. But we're moving ahead pretty rapidly and are beginning to thinq of Pender Harbour.

By late afternoon we are way past thinquing of Pender Harbour. We can see the plume of Powell River's pulp mill. Checking the Sailing Directions, Vananda's Sturt Bay sound like a good place to moor. Maybe we can charge the battery there: it's the week end . . . ummmmm.

A lime stone quarry on Texada east.

By the way, we are referencing marine literature constantly: Sailing Directions Vol 1, 16th add. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), A Dream Speaker Cruising guide, Vol 2 (Anne & Laurence Yeadon-Jones) and Cruising guide to BC Vol 2. (Bill Wolferstan)

Oh yes and talking navigation aids . . . can someone please define, passage, strait, channel and sound: what is the difference as charts describe them?

Coming on Sturt Bay a humpback whale surfaced close off our starboard quarter: the sighting was brief but exciting. Lots of seals came to keep us company: inquisitive little dears.

Okay, so we settle for Sturt Bay Boat Club Marina: a good choice. We stay two nights. Valerie's penchant for walking was satisfied. The Texada Inn puts on good meals and showers: Dan, the host/cook/owner, made us very welcome.

Malaspina Channel:
this is where we saw the humpback.

He charged our battery, and made his truck available for carting to and from the dock. The weather was bright and reasonably cool.

Valerie places the charged battery goes back in Agua Flor.

Sturt Bay is a little way down the hill from the pretty little village of Vananda: not too far though. We explored the town: Valerie, the walker, more than me. The price of real estate amazed: not unlike the rest of BC, a modest house C$450,000! And there were a number of quite large mansions that must have cost more.

The marina is well protected from all points, by a rip-rap breakwater to the east. Westview, on the mainland is visible about 4 miles, across Malaspina Strait, to the north east.

arriving Sturt Bay late afternoon.

As the day wore on the marina became quite crowded and the wharfinger and his pretty wife were most amenable. He told us the humpback lives in the strait, so he's quite familiar with it.

The weather held out . . .

We need milk and other goodies. So early Monday we motor across the Strait to Westview. Oh no, carelessly I had left the chart in plastic-rain-sleeve on top of the cabin hatch: the wind catches it and away it goes forever. Good job another is available in Westview. We need that chart. While Valerie is "driving" I sit in my "office" which is essentially the cabin companion way. There, comfortably, my feet are planted in the cabin, my head above able to see everything: but there goes the damn chart!

No so gloomy this day:
a very pretty little village.

Monday we're still headed north: past the plume of pulp mill smog, through the delightfully narrow passage between the Copeland Islands and Malaspina Peninsular. We're nearly there. The main sail was reefed down all the way from Westview to Galley Bay as the wind howls fiercely: sunshine and all boats are headed north.

Later Monday the weather deteriorated!

And as we rounded Malaspina Peninsular rain or no rain we were absolutely bowled over . . I mean wow! DESOLATION SOUND. The clouds briefly parted to show snow covered pinnacles: layer upon layer: deep purples and blues . . like wow again.

Boat Club Marina:
the little boat sits nicely
at the dock in Sturt Bay.

Two days and we arrive: good sailing eh! Rain is now upon us. We plan to moor in Galley Bay, the tip of Gifford Peninsular, protected from the southerlies which are coming on pretty hard now.

With high peaks surrounding one would expect the wind to be somewhat mute: but oh no, not in Desolation Sound. Captain Vancouver thought so, too, in 1792.

Valerie very kindly
doing the heavy lifting this pretty,
pale faced little old man cannot.

There isn't much apparent traffic moving in among the islands and fjords and for good reason: the wind! In most sheltered bays boats, power and sail, are rafting with land lines keeping them from swinging. Sometimes as many as eight or ten raft together.

As we move out of Galley Bay I nearly foul an anchored land line: not that I didn't see it. The wind was so strong it wouldn't let Agua Flor's bow turn to head into it: a narrow escape. Tenedos Bay over on the other side was much more sheltered with, as expected, dozens more land lines and rafting. Power boats are much in the ascendancy all over the Sounds and channels.

That night we over night in Tenedos Bay, reasonably sheltered, to the north east of the sound: we slept well.

After all that heavy lifting . . .

Okay, darn, this is where my camera gives up: no more pics but I'll do my best to verbalise the drama of Homfray Channel, Toba Inlet and Waddington Channel.

But first a bit on the Copelands: this necklace of islands look intriguing on the chart. This is a chain of islands just north of Lund, actually a provincial park. It's a destination I have stowed away for the future. There appear to be many secluded anchorages and judging by the size of anchored boats, lots of clearances. There are also lots of boats, of course!

Harwood Island,
between Texada and Savary.
On the way home I clipped
Agua Flor's keel.

Sail north up Homfray, binoculars are always ready. Valerie sees bald eagles with her eyes that I cannot see with binocs. Logging on East Redonda, apparently on inaccessible mountain sides and select locations, appears to be by helicopter. How the hell else could they get the stuff out? There's a big resort half way up: we do not stop.

The Yeadon's report Wilderness Marina ahead, behind Doubt Island, on Toba Inlet: showers available. We head there. Actually, we didn't need the Yeadons, small weather beaten signs, "moorage", with an arrow, were nailed to trees up the channel.

On our way again.
Passing Sayward to port:
weather deteriorating.

Oh yes showers: hot and good water pressure. All provided by an small, private hydro dam up the mountain hand made by a homesteading couple years ago. I cannot imagine what it must be like in winter.

At this point Valerie decides she has roughed it enough. I do not blame her: good on you. Valerie, for making it this far.

Still I'm sorry for the weather and my sailing companion. I'd like one day to come back to sail up to the glacier at the Eastern end of Toba. The water colour is a sort of turquoise green around Wilderness Marina in a way it drains off the melting ice: Another day perhaps.

The weather is atrocious and cramped quarters, especially in the rain, makes for strained relationships. She, we, have done magnificently. So, off she goes by water taxi and I continue solo for the remaining, challenging leg of the voyage: I've got to get Agua flor back to dock "C". I over-night at Wilderness and, up at the crack of dawn, head for the entrance to Waddington Channel.

WOW! Desolation Sound:
mountain peaks upon mountain peak.
Overcast belies the drama:
behind those clouds are pointy peaks galore.
Much more than we expected!

The Sun is barely up as I head for Waddington: I perceive the entrance without doubt. Discerning profiles is difficult at the best of times, but in the gloomy mist enshrouded early morning the shapes of the coast is, errr, sort of illusive. The entrance is narrow at the north end. Aha, no rain yet.

Yes, I surprise myself. I seem unable to visualise and transform scale from a chart into reality. What I perceive as narrow usually turns out to be quite wide. The Copelands Channel is a good case in point. On the chart the channel seems to be impassable. Yet boats pass with ease. Likewise seeing a coast line on the chart does not reflect my sensibilities of sailing from head land to head land: the chart coast lines invariably appears to be "head-land-and-bay-less."

The Rock: Ray rock,
early morning,
heading out of Tenedos.

Magnificent Waddington is breath taking in the early morning. Lots of fish farms. Feeling its natural enclosure somehow I reminisce on Saanich Inlet: the two compare.

The sound and reaches is a maze: quite possible to get lost in, especially with the press of natural beauty distracting: Mink Island, Melville and all the little islands. Fish farming is big time in this area. The unobtrusive netted enclosures are marked by their numerous white net bouys hugging the shore: no fear of bumping into them as I dream of some maybe, maybe sunshine. Huh, I would not eat farm fish if I was paid. Then as the murk comes and goes there is Kinghorn Island straight ahead . . that's where I'm sailing.

O900 hrs come around and Agua Flor is pointing west to the Copelands again.

Rounding the point, the, wow, wind hits with a vengeance, so does to opposing swell. I'm in no mood to wrestle with this all day so I make for Lund and shelter. Now here we have a most delightfully crowded little harbour to spend a relaxing day: last time I visited by auto, 1979, how things grow.

Nancy's Bakery is the new attraction: no, the small crowded harbour is more than a bakery: a warm, cosy breakfast makes up for nature's battering at sea. So I stay the night rafting three deep and crowded. Another boat come next to me. Hey, I need to get away early: like 0630 hrs. So with a bit of manoeuvring we settle for a rafting pecking order.

North up Homfray channel.
Logging and fish farming all over:
this isn't isolation.

The night was rough. I'm in harbour and I'm safe: at least. But, wow, the rain comes thundering down on my boom tent so intensely I thought it was going to collapse. This is when the little butane cooking stove comes in handy: it warms the cabin, who cares about the rain. Agua Flor's sleeping arrangements are not exactly five star but I seem to sleep well and despite my intention to brek at Nancy's I'm off early.

I'm looking, south, for Harwood Island: it is barely visible. Here comes the rain: lightly at first. There's a shoal south of the island well marked on the chart. But in my haste to round for Blubber Bay, north on Texada I . . . errr . . . nip Agua Flor's keel: not badly so I proceed with care. Sin embargo, that nip caused Agua Flor to lurch slightly that dislodged the battery teminals: as I found out later.

Now we're back to 4' swells and strong winds and we're about to cross the Georgia Straits.

By the way, I'm referring to "we" as in Agua Flor and I now.

Yes, sailing by myself again and I am quite exhilarated. My boat is familiar, the wind is behind me: no prob!

Aha obligingly the wind has come around and I'm being pushed by a northerly: now that is serendipity eh! Still, swell and rain persist: but no complaints, this wind is fine. Visibility is deteriorating though.

We find Texada and continue hugging it's westerly coast. The other side is clouded in: so is Hornby. We keep close expecting to see Lasquiti way in the distance. As soon as I see it I'm heading across to French Creek. Yet, its pretty well impossible to see anything so I resort to compass chart and dead reckoning. Of course the rain is persistently drizzling and my poncho gets in the way: GPS says 5.5/6.3 knots steady. So we'll get somewhere.

Shower and ice on Wilderness marine,
Toba Inlet.
Then head south down Waddington channel:
there's the entrance.

Texada keeps on and on: past more lime stone quarries. Am I doing things right? Where's Lasquiti? Nothing is visible ahead and I'm beginning to wonder. At last Lasquiti on the starboard bow. Was I asleep or just not paying attention: neither, the clouds lifted but I still cannot see the other side.

I don't want to make a big deal of this dead-reckoning thing: we are not crossing the Pacific. North Texada to French Creek SSE is about 30 miles. Still, I was tired and hungry and in no mood to traipse along Oceanside looking for French Creek.

Well, at least I know where we are. I don't want to over shoot Lasquiti: it will mean doubling back.

French Creek, Qualicum are shrouded in clouds. Crossing too far south is not cool. So I set a compass course, dead reckoning, 145 degrees magnetic, hopefully. Still I cannot see Vancouver Island, nor for that matter Hornby.

A couple of hours on . . .

Humph, we see land! I must have done something right. Out of the fog just ahead I see the red roof of the French Creek coast guard building. And I'm using a chart that the rain has turned to mush: literally in tatters but it served its purpose... phew!

Hey, I'm almost turned to mush too . . .

French Creek is well marked. Roge and Matt are there to welcome me. We have been in contact on cell. But I decide to head for home before dark.

Very charming string of Islands:
The Copelands.

The rain has let up now. In fact there is a glimmer of evening Sun. So I motor home past Amanda and Arthur and we're in cell contact as we pass their home on Bayshore in North Nanaimo. I've only been away for six days but it feels like an age.

Coming on Stevens Point cardinal marker the light is failing: I switch on my navigation lights: oh no, no go. The battery is dead again. On that we motor down Newcastle Channel and glide gracefully into the boat basin, just before the Sun sets, tie up, and go home: four minute walk from dock "C".

Hey, wait a minute. There's a Dutch flag moored on dock "B." And we thinq we've come along way!

Ummmmmm . . the battery is dead again (something is up but I'm not going to sweat it this week). The charger is dysfunctional, I sat on my reading glasses and I'm wiped . . . and . . . and . . . my camera has conked-out: evidently the sensor has given up: not worth repairing so the sales lady says . . . errrr . . we'll see. Worry later . . .

Yunno though, quietly, I feel a sense of accomplishment. We took little Agua Flor were some larger boats are loath to sail. We weathered strong winds, 4' swells, lousy, rainy, over-caste weather and made it to our destination. Desolation Sound is, even over-caste, magnificent. Thanqu Valerie for your company: you are very brave.

What an experience! Did we do it for the challenge, the experience or just enjoyment? All of the above: of course! I've had it on my mind for a couple of years so there is more to it than whimsy. Most of mountainous British Columbia is inaccessible: the sea makes it less so.

We cruised Desolation Sound! We are ecstatic . . .

Click here to contact Roger

August 2008
Click to contact Roger

Free counter and web stats

Go to Sailing the southern route.