Words by Les and Kel Rohlf
Photos by Kel Rohlf (unless otherwise indicated)
What do they say about “red sky at night?”
Being able to stay at marinas on the way back through British Columbia waters has been refreshing. We checked our log book and apparently we’ve spent more days at marinas than anchorages on this trip. We stayed at our last marina in Canada last night in Lund. I woke up at 5am to a night sky sparkling with stars, and spied a couple familiar constellations: Ursa Major, the great bear and Orion, the protector. I sat for about 20 minutes savoring the quiet, still morning. Not long enough to see the sunrise, but I did hear a rooster crow and listened to the wake of a cruising boat lap against the breaker wall, and gently rock our boat. I climbed back into the boat and then the berth to sleep in.
We slept in until 8:00am. The only place open this morning at Lund was the grocery store, the gas dock and the garbage collector. Yesterday was Labor Day, so we celebrated by taking showers and doing laundry. All the cute shops and the local bakery closed by 4pm, it seemed. On our journey, Les has been on the hunt for the ultimate cinnamon roll. We were disappointed that we missed the famed delicacy in Lund. They are closed on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and we are heading south to keep our plan of getting to Everett, Washington by the weekend.
On the way to Lund we had williwaw weather and wonderful weather. I enjoyed both. (Williwaw weather, as a reminder, is what Alaskan locals call a windy stint of weather.) We weathered the wind in Growler’s Cove for a day and a half. I didn’t mind. I baked a cake, took a nap and caught up on some reading.
The day we left the cove, was calm and eerily foggy, but the navigator and logistics specialist got us to our next safe haven. By the time we anchored it had turned into a lovely sunny afternoon. I didn’t mind. I listened to a sea lion exhale, watched the clouds shape shift and read some poetry. In the evening, we ate leftovers and watched the sun set over Thurston Bay. Our two neighbors tooled around in their dinghy’s either checking their crab pots or taking their dog to shore. The golden retriever sat in the dinghy waiting for his driver. They would approach the rocky shore and the dog jumped off. The driver puddled along the shore, and after a bit the dog came out of the woods and jumped back in, to ride back to their boat. It was a delightful pre-dinner show.
I’ve noticed that I really enjoy a good balance of rainy, windy days and calm, sunny days. A few days in port mixed with a few days at anchor is my sweet spot as a boater. I notice Les is really at ease when we’re either place, too. But I suspect he enjoys the solitary times at anchor more. I like the ports for walking, exploring and of course, finding or shopping for treasures. In Port Mc Neill, we found a discount clothing store, so I added comfy flannel pj bottoms and a cozy, soft hoody to my wardrobe. I’ve found in our travels a good place to find art supplies and trinkets is at the local pharmacy. It reminds me of a general store with everything you might need or want as a sojourner on these paths. I found glue sticks, index cards, a pencil, travel size notebooks and cute note paper.
In Lund, as I said most of the shops were closed. The grocery store had trinkets and souvenir clothes, but I really wanted a sweater from the bakery/bookstore/boutique, which alas was closed. So it seemed no cinnamon roll for Les, nor a boutique sweater for Kel.
While I was at the laundromat Monday night, Les ordered and picked up dinner at the only open restaurant. We could have dined in, but the dryer was taking forever, so we ordered take out. The only thing on the menu for take out was fish and chips with coleslaw. We didn’t mind.
Laundromats often double as a free library and clothing exchanges. People leave their used magazines or books for the next person. They leave clothes behind, sometimes by mistake and other times there is a pile that the laundromat or somebody leaves for you to browse through and take if you want. The only thing in the take away box was a stray sock and a single baby bootie…and a gently used, oversized Kismet brand sweater. I took this as fate, and added it to my wardrobe.
Friday, September 3, 2021
Port McNeill to Growler Cove
What do they say about “red sky at morning?”
We were planning to make at least Port Neville or get beyond Greene Point Rapids if the weather held. There are gale warnings up for strong southeast winds with a front due to arrive tonight. My hope was that we’d have a morning of light winds in Johnstone Strait, so that we could make some time and be in a protected location in advance of the highest winds tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the southeast winds had already begun by the time we pulled out of Port McNeill at 7:30 am. With the eastbound flood tide just beginning, the southeast winds created a messy chop. As the morning continued, so did the opposing winds, and the waves in Johnstone Strait continued to build. Not wanting to continue for four or more hours in those conditions, we pulled off the strait into Growler Cove. The opening of the cove faces west, so we anchored in 25 feet near the head of the cove for best relief from the very strong southeast winds expected tonight and tomorrow.
We had Growler Cove to ourselves all day, relaxing and catching up on a few items (and a nap) while the winds built on Johnstone Strait. It was breezy in the anchorage, but only enough wave action to gurgle against the hull. We may end up staying here tomorrow if the Gale Warning continues for Johnstone. If the wind lets up a little, we may try to make some progress once the ebb tide begins in the afternoon and we’re not dealing with strong winds opposing the tide.
Saturday, September 4
Friday night was raucous with wind, rain, and noise from our front hatch canvas rain cover rattling in the winds. Note to self – don’t put up the rain cover when strong winds are expected. The wind didn’t seem to abate during the day on Saturday, so we stayed put.
A sailboat entered the cove later in the afternoon and became our only neighbor. The wind died about 7:00 pm and became calm as night fell.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Growler Cove to Thurston Bay
The water in Growler Cove was still when we awoke. Motoring toward the exit into Johnstone Strait, we could see thick fog except for the north side of the strait. As we turned eastward into the strait, we started scanning radar and AIS for any conflicts. I had about half a mile of visibility, with a clear view along the northern shore, so we continued at a slow cruise speed. A large fishing boat passed in the opposite direction, followed by the Alaska State Ferry Kennecott, both of which we saw only at their nearest point of less than half a mile. The Kennecott was the only vessel other than mine from which I heard a foghorn today.
The fog was patchy for the next several miles, and we entered a thick section that lasted 8 or 10 miles until we popped out just past Port Harvey. The thick fog is spooky, since you can’t see very far, but also frustrating, as it’s challenging maintaining a straight course with little visual aid. This is a situation where a course maintained via autopilot would allow you to focus on watching radar, AIS, and the water ahead for things like logs or kayaks. Especially when traveling slowly, I always seem to be 20 degrees from my intended course or in the process of over-correcting.
There was some light fog as we approached Race Passage, but became clearer throughout the day. We arrived at Race Passage just after slack current in Johnstone Strait, so Race Passage was a little more placid than when we went through westbound on June 14. We caught up with Sybille and Bo on SYBO just after Ripple Point and chatted with them on the radio before they turned up Discovery Passage and we continued east into Nodales Channel.
We’ve anchored in the northeast corner of Thurston Bay Marine Park behind Block Island in 45 feet. It’s a calm, gorgeous afternoon. Our plan is to stay in Lund tomorrow night before striking back across the Strait of Georgia on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Monday, September 6, 2021
Thurston Bay to Lund
With low slack, turning to flood at Dent Rapids forecast for 10:33am, we left Thurston Bay at 8:30am to give us plenty of time to cover the 11-12 miles. A big fog bank sat at the intersection of the Nadales and Cordero channels. We fell third in line behind a sailboat and a large cruiser as we approached Dent. We maintained our spacing on the other two boats via radar, and the fog lifted during the last few miles prior to the first rapid.
The big cruiser went through a few minutes early, the sailboat hit Dent at slack, and we followed him by a few minutes in very calm water. The open water northwest of the rapids was pretty swirly as we waited for slack, but the main flow of water was smooth during our transit. The sailboat was going pretty slow and would likely be a little late for Gillard, so we accelerated and passed him in the bay between Dent and Gillard. We went through Gillard at slack time and Yuculta a few minutes early without incident. It was interesting to see the numerous resorts and fishing lodges in this area.
After fixing lunch, we ran on plane the rest of the way to Lund and arrived here about 1:30pm Shower, laundry, and someone else’s cooking were this afternoon’s agenda. Horror of Horrors – Nancy’s Bakery will be closed tomorrow – no cinnamon rolls for me.
[Jesus] told them, “You have a saying that goes, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.’ You find it easy enough to forecast the weather—why can’t you read the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:2-3 The Message)