Canada sun

August 3, 2008 Underway, Principe Channel N 53 degrees, 15.039 minutes W 129 degrees, 42.824 minutes

Dear friends and family:

It seemed to happen magically: as we crossed the border from Alaska back into B.C., the sun came out, much as it does in the winter, when we cross the border from Oregon into California, traveling south on I-5 for holiday celebrations with family. We've been told by about 10 different people, in 10 different places, that this has been the coldest, rainiest, windiest summer Alaska has had in years. One person said 57 years. Our Aussie friends who are cruising in Prince William Sound have said that they are hearing the same.

Sunny but cold, Principe Channel

I don't know whether this is true or not, but I'll bet the sun is actually shining in Alaska, now that we've left. I'd really like to see some of those places in the sun, but that will be for another trip.

We waited in Craig (Alaska) in the rain and wind for three days, until the weather report turned promising. Even so, our first day south from Craig saw gusts of 40 knots. As though in farewell, a humpback whale breached (jumped out of the water) about 1/4 miles from the boat. Just once, so no chance to get a picture.

We were traveling (by happenstance) with two other sailboats, Osprey (of Seattle) and Volo (of Sydney, Australia). We traded weather information by VHF radio as we worked our way south. We ended up that first night in an anchorage with Volo. Max and Sandy came over for dinner, with their contribution being a wonderful fish curry and a nice bottle of wine. We contributed the curry toppings, the rice, and another bottle of wine. We conversed until late in the evening, learning about their trip from Australia, across the Pacific via French Polynesia and Hawaii. Volo is a very elegant aluminum sailboat, which Max designed and built. The boat has a retractable keel, so they can get into much tighter places than Sequioa.

Osprey, Dunbar Inlet The next night we ended up in a harbor with Osprey. Steve and Elsie came over for pre-dinner snacks, and that evolved into dinner: halibut chowder. They've been up here many times, and Elsie has written a book about their adventures on the west coast of Vancouver Island. These evenings with other sailors have been a rarity for us on this trip. Partly, that's because we are often the only boat in an anchorage. Then, too, most of the pleasure craft we see are motor boats, typically the tug or trawler type. They seem less sociable than sailors -- maybe it's some sort of boat-class prejudice? On our part? On their part? It's too bad, because socializing with other boaters is one of the most enjoyable parts of cruising.

We finally rounded the south end of Prince of Wales Island (right at the Alaska/Canada border) and spent the night anchored in Nichols Cove. The trees looked quite beaten up by weather, and there was a wrecked hull tossed up on the rocks in one of the little side-coves. We had a calm evening.

Early morning departure from Nichols Cove, heading across Dixon Entrance.  If you look carefully, you can see the B.C. mountains in the distance.
Dixon Entrance, open to the ocean, is the somewhat feared stretch of water that everyone traveling between Alaska and Canada has to cross. It can -- and often does -- have high winds and big seas. For anyone southbound, the only possible destination is Prince Rupert, the designated port of entry for Canada (about 70 miles from Nichols Cove). That was a long day for us, although the winds were calm, and the sun did come out (hurray!) Prince Rupert is tucked back into the fog and clouds, and offers less than satisfactory choices for overnight moorage. The Prince Rupert Yacht and Rowing Club, where we stayed on the way north, was full up. They take reservations, months ahead, for these prime summer months, and they were full up, thank you very much. (Their docks are kind of flimsy in our estimation, so it wasn't an ideal place to stay, although closer to downtown.) 1/2 mile further away is Rushbrooke Harbor, packed to the gills with fishing boats and charter boats (locked in their usual political war of words). The only way to get in there was to raft on, and then climb over the neighbor's boat to reach the dock. At low tide (it always seems to be low tide) the access ramp (getting you from the floating dock onto terra firma) was at a 45 degree angle. It was scarier than a roller coaster ride. Even worse when you're carrying groceries. We debated doing laundry, but it would have involved a trip across the neighbor's boat, that 45 degree ramp, a $6 cab ride (assuming you could timely summon a cab) and then reverse the whole process. We decided to push off instead.
Fog overlying Grenville Channel
We're going south down an outer channel. We won't miss the cruise ships which ply the straight, narrow inland channels. In fact, this morning, as we left Newcombe Harbour (Pitt Island) in the brilliant sunshine, you could see, back over the top of Pitt Island, that there was a layer of fog sitting atop Grenville Channel (route of the cruise ships). We felt a bit smug. Everything looks more interesting in the sun. We passed a group of islands called "Tangent," "Sine," "Cosine" and "Azimuth." Nearby was Logarithm Point. I'd say someone on Captain Vancouver's ship was getting fed up with his midshipman studies.
This sunny weather puts us in a quandary. We have a northwest wind, so we can sail -- or at least motorsail -- and that's a rare commodity this summer. Should we keep going, to enjoy the sail, and make miles south (lessening further risk of bad weather), or should we stop and explore some of these intriguing inlets?

Best wishes to all!

Craig & Barbara Johnston S/V Sequoia

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Look at that sunshine streaming through the windows!