2023 / #1 Seattle to Nanaimo

by | May 29, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Wed, May 24, 2023. Hooray, we are away from the dock. It has been a difficult winter and spring getting to this point, with much frustration over boat projects that just didn’t want to go right. But finally, everything works and we are off.

We had a nice current going with us to help speed us along. But in boating, as in much else in life, the gift in one hand is taken away by the other. In this case the current was facing an 8 knot breeze which raised a nasty chop. Before long we had salt spray on the windows and were rolling around a bit, concerned for our lunch. Ginger snaps were the order of the day. Our destination for the night was Kala Point. It’s a rather open anchorage near Port Townsend but in stable weather is a nice destination.

Today was dedicated to getting back our sea legs. Tomorrow we cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a 20 mile stretch of water that always has the potential for being unpleasant, especially if the actual conditions don’t match the forecast. An early start is essential since the wind usually increases in the afternoons. That means early to bed.

Friday, May 26. The weather has been insanely beautiful for this time of year: mild, sunny and calm. It feels like July. Yesterday we took advantage of the conditions to not only cross the strait but go all the way to Sidney, BC and pass through customs. In fact, customs was the only glitch. We called into the posted phone number and were put on hold for 40 minutes waiting for a customs officer to come on the line and go through the usual 3 minute ritual. As is our custom, we stayed the night at the Sidney Marina and walked up to the grocery store, both yesterday afternoon and then again this morning to pick up the freshest produce. We’re completely loaded and can go another two or three weeks before we need to re-provision.

Today we went to Royal Cove on Portland Island, a journey of about an hour. As we arrived the only boat in the cove was just leaving so we took our time finding exactly the right spot to drop our anchor. The cove is narrow and it’s considered good manners to stern tie to shore, to make more room for other boats, so that’s what we did. Unlike when other boaters are watching, the stern tying process went without a hitch and in no time we were securely moored.

Portland Island is a Marine Park with many well maintained hiking trails. We decided to take the loop trail around the outside of the island and check out the shoreline. We met a number of folks; some came by boat, some by kayak and some were just dropped off on the island to camp at one of the established camp sites. Everyone was loving the weather. As a first hike of the season, we decided later it might have been a bit long at 5 miles but we didn’t do any actual damage to ourselves and the hot shower at the end made it all worthwhile. There are many more hikes to come so it’s good we warmed up on a relatively easy one.

Saturday, May 27. Just before we left Royal Cove we had a bit of excitement. A park ranger arrived telling us there was a small fire at a nearby point and they were there to fight it. They think some hikers started an unauthorized campfire. We didn’t see any smoke from Royal Cove but we were glad they were really on top of things. The trail and surrounding land was very dry. We didn’t see a single slug on our hike yesterday.

We retrieved our stern tie line, pulled up the anchor and headed north. We stopped by Retreat Cove on Galiano Island on the way. It’s a very small cove with a public dock completely occupied by local boats rafted two deep and an even smaller anchoring area. We judged it not suitable for our boat and took a pass.

We got to Clam Bay about noon and there were at least 20 boats already anchored in the bay with more arriving all the time. Luckily it’s a large bay with plenty of room to anchor so we didn’t have any problem finding a spot. Being a warm, sunny Saturday probably had something to do with it as most of the boats seemed to be local. There was definitely a party atmosphere with someone flying a drone over the bay. At one point there was a group of inflatable dinghies meeting on the water. About 4:00, a dozen boats pulled up anchor and left the bay, headed in the same direction. Maybe it was a yacht club. I suppose most of these boat need to be back home tomorrow night, ready for work on Monday morning.

Clam Bay marked a milestone for us, of sorts. We got our Starlink satellite internet system working. Speeds are better than home with Speedtest showing 260 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds. Love it.

Sunday, May 28. The day started well. It was calm and we enjoyed watching the osprey circling around the bay. We were headed for Nanaimo and we were going to take a new route called False Narrows. The normal route, called Dodd Narrows is narrow, has strong current and lots of boat traffic. False Narrows has half the current and little traffic. It also has very tricky navigation, as it wanders between shallow reefs and sand banks, which is why we had never used it before. But there’s a first time for everything and we decided this was ours. As luck would have it, a small power boat passed us just before we entered and showed us the way. It was a bit disconcerting to see a barely submerged reef only 20 feet off our side as we went through. But the two ranges told us right where to turn for each leg. Of course, the anticipation was much worse than the event and we made it through without any issues. Thank goodness for chart plotters.

The harbor in Nanaimo is a busy place with kayaks, pleasure boats, water taxis and sea planes all using the same space. Dominating the harbor is Newcastle Island which is a park with hiking and camping on shore plus a small marina, mooring buoys and space to anchor for visiting boats. We chose to anchor and picked a nice spot well away from other boats. Good plan. By dinner time, later arrivals had filled the open space around us; so much for planning.

We decided a nice long hike would be just the thing so we lowered the dinghy and rowed through the chop to the dock. The perimeter trail makes for a nice hike, about 6.5 miles, pretty flat with good views and even shell beaches to explore. The trail also goes past two sandstone quarries from a hundred years ago with interesting information boards documenting the commercial history of the island. We were almost back to the dock, at about the 6 mile mark, when I tripped over a rock or root or something and took a face plant onto the path. It must have looked horrible, Karen certainly thought so, but there wasn’t much damage done — a couple of scrapes and bruises. I’ll be more careful next time, of course.

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Karen Johnson

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