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That dinghy that looks like it's floating, upside down, is our dinghy lashed to the roof of Halcyon (note our antenna). A rough sea.

--Wanderer Photo

PASSAGE NORTH

----The Passage north from Washington through coastal British Columbia to Southeast Alaska is one of the finest wilderness voyages possible in a small boat. These tales record a few experiences to give a flavor of this marvelous trip to the north.

THE CROSSINGS (DRAGONS)

El, the Optimistic Twin, and Bill, the Conservative One


-----I wish Mom had made me twins. One an optimist, blissfully skipping through life with a cookie in one hand, a cuppa in the other, and a smile brightening the world. The other would be a conservative (no, not a pessimist -- they're no fun). Just a conservative -- someone who knows the odds and recognizes that caution is sometimes required in life, and that careful anticipation or prediction of consequences can prevent unpleasant experiences. But she didn't, so we each married our twin. El is the aggressive mutual fund investor in her IRA. Bill is conservative in his. For 15 years, we've competed in our investing styles. Guess who is far ahead in returns? Yep, El. Says something about optimism, eh?

-----It is difficult to be a conservative optimist. It's like trying to predict weather -- one twin always looks for the sunshine -- "Yep, that patch of blue is as big as a Dutchman's britches," El joyfully reports.

-----Bills's reply? "So what's a Dutchman's pants got to do with whether we head out to sea? Have you heard the latest weather report?"

---- A Crossing is a boat passage over open water, with no sheltered cove or point closeby to hide from swells, waves, or sudden storm. A Crossing always brings out the character traits in each twin. A prudent boater always treats a Crossing with respect -- memories of white-knuckles clutching the wheel, stuff flying everywhere, and salt spray dashing against the pilothouse glass stay fixed in long-term memory. For Bill, a crossing is "A Dragon." For El, the other twin, she remembers unnecessary worry, calm seas, gulls flitting and dolphins jumping. She calls them "an adventure."

----On this trip, by small boat, up the Pacific coast from Washington to Alaska, there are three major Crossings. The first is the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. In the lee of Vancouver Island lie the Gulf Islands, some of the finest cruising water we have plied in the Pacific Northwest. Most northbound cruising boats follow the east coast of Vancouver Island, delighting in the Gulf Islands. About Nanaimo, you run out of islands and the best cruising water lies across the Strait to the east. That more-sheltered west coast of British Columbia beckons like a rainbow, and the pot at the end of the Rainbow is Princess Louisa Inlet. This gorgeous area, resembling a flooded Yosemite Yalley, is marvelous bait -- but it's across the Strait, and that can be a wicked body of open water. So what do you do?

----Of course. You cross.

----We hunkered into Mark Bay, in Nanaimo, on the protected east side of Vancouver Island. To the east was the crossing of the Stait of Georgia. We had scurried northerly hoping to catch the predicted lull between two frontal lows, and thus find calm water for the Crossing. Before turning in, we listened to the weather on the boat's VHF radio -- "outlook: morning winds diminishing to light and variable, with an increase to moderate in the afternoon." The optimist falls joyfully to sleep. The conservative twists and turns, knowing the earliest departure will give the most hours of calm water -- and the predicted rise of the wind will oppose the ebbing current in the Straits and could make things rough. Wind and water in opposition make the fury of a lover's argument seem tame.


----At 0-dark-thirty, the conservative is up, making coffee, and checking the water in the anchorage for the slightest ripple. At first light, the optimist is enjoying that most wonderful time of day and the conservative is pulling anchor.

--

The Sleeping Dragon - Strait of Georgia--- -------Breakfast in Smuggler Cove


----We found the dragon sleeping and had a smooth easy cruise to aptly named Welcome Passage where we shared a breakfast, hook down, in Smuggler Cove. The optimist was smug, the conservative respectfully thankful.


----The next Crossing on the route north is Queen Charlotte Strait -- here one hugs the easterly shore but must leave the shelter of the islands of Desolation Sound and venture far out into the ocean to round Cape Caution. The reward beyond this Crossing is the remote beauty of the Discovery Coast -- the fabled Raincoast - and some of the most beautiful scenery in all of BC's 15,000 miles of coastline.


----The challenge of this Crossing requires a careful consideration of many variables -- a challenge for the conservative twin. First, the wind must be low. Second, the tide must be at slack low or flooding. Major inlets pour rivers of brackish meltwater from mountain ice and snow into the sea along this coast during an ebbing tide. When that surface flow smashes headlong into ocean swells and opposing wind, the confused seas can heap upward tens of feet into a seething, breaking maelstrom of white destruction. The bottom off Cape Caution is littered with wrecks -- from native dugouts to steel freighters.

-Happy in the Broughtons


----So, we happily cruised through the Broughten Islands as low after low hit the Cape with swells and wind. Gradually the conservative twin sneaked closer to the Cape as the frontal systems seemed to weaken, hoping for a fair-weather break to sneak around the Cape. All the while the optimistic side was enjoying the raw beauty of the land and the people, blissfully listening to the weather VHF only to see when the rain might stop so as to better appreciate the marvelous mountain scenery. (The conservative side said, "But, buddy, rain isn't critical -- wind, tide and swell height are the important variables.")


----After plotting in the lat/long for every possible safety cove that might give cover should the sea become rough off the Cape, the conservative one turned on the weather VHF. There looked to be a brief lull between the low pressure fronts --- maybe the slightest chance to sneak around the Cape before the next front approached from the Gulf of Alaska. A quick look at the tides showed the flood tide would reach slack just as the low pressure might slide easterly.


----We were at Sullivan Bay, the last fuel stop below Cape Caution. We quickly filled the tanks and pushed off for the ocean. In a few hours, we were rounding Cape Caution with a rising wind aft. We ducked in behind Egg Island and headed for delightful Fury Cove.

-Cape Caution - Another Sleeping Dragon

Fury Cove, Anchorage in the Rain

----The last Crossing en route to Alaska is The Dixon. This Dragon has tossed many a cruiser and given them lasting nightmares. We have now made this passage many times. Read about it by clicking on the hyperlink.

(04 - 07)

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