transiting the Inside Passage  aboard "room Seven"

Day 1

10 June 2012: La Conner, Washington


After months of planning and preparation, we are on our way north for an Inside Passage adventure of our own! We set off from La Conner, WA this afternoon at 1330 and cleared customs at Sidney, BC around 7 hours later for a total first-day run of 53 nm. The sun was out, and so were a LOT of pleasure boats! More boats on the water within 30 minutes of Anacortes than we'd see in an entire weekend on PWS.


The boat, "Room Seven", is a 1978 Universal trawler-style that has been extend to 43 feet. She has twin Perkins 6-cyl diesels and seems to run best at around 1800 RPM. We spent much of our trip playing with the new Garmin 7212 chartplotters and GHC10 auto-pilot. I can tell already that we'll have the AP engaged pretty much, well, all the time. It's easy to input course corrections, and steers a straighter course than I've managed to.


Tomorrow we're pulling out of Sidney ~1030 with the goal of reaching the Dodd Narrows approach ~1400 for a projected ~1426 slack passage through the narrows. We'd like to reach Pender Harbor for the night, but will have to see how the route planning goes.


We have a full three weeks scheduled for the trip, which after 1,348 nm should have us in Whittier, AK on July 1st. It's a great feeling to have "taken one small step for man" and finally be on our way north! We may have some web-access glitches as we navigate the Byzantine wi-fi setups along the BC coast, but I'll post progress reports as often as I can, and will work on more photos once I feel confident to turn the con over to one of my first mates for more than a few minutes at a stretch.

Day 2

11 June 2012: Sidney, British Columbia


Underway at 1000 from the scenic and immaculately-maintained Sidney Harbor Marina. They power-sweep the walkways every morning, and there are hanging flower baskets from every lamp post. Maybe Whittier harbor could pick up a few tips?


At 1145 entered Trincomali Channel at NW tip of Prevost Island, with the goal of reaching Dodd Narrows at slack water for the first of what will be many "shoot the rapids" adventures on this trip. Flat calm, blue sky, bright sunshine. Reached the narrows about 2 hours before low slack, and watched a pair of sailboats motor through southbound. A boat about our size transited northbound a half-mile ahead of us, so I felt better knowing he made it through against the diminished (but still significant) current.


Passed Nanaimo and braided our way through a fleet of tankers and container ships lying anchored offshore. Here is a bow-on view you hope NEVER to see from a boat our size while underway.


By 1900 we were anchored in one of the coves hidden inside Pender Harbor, one of the prettiest and best-protected natural harbors I've ever seen. My first time anchoring with an all-chain rode, and for a moment I forgot the chain would just keep on spooling out, unlike my nylon rode on the old boat that stops feeding once the chain is on the bottom. Not the first (or last) lesson to come, I'm sure!


Day 3

12 June 2012: Pender Harbor, British Columbia


Triple-checked the tide and current tables for Dent Rapids, and concluded that an "oh-dark-thirty" departure would be required for us to arrive at slack. Underway from Pender Harbor at 0540, steaming N in Malaspina Strait in foggy, flat-calm seas.


Reached Lewis Channel at 1115 in increasing fog, so used the radar/chart overlay on the Garmin 7212 plotter. Lots of high-end fishing lodges nestled in these narrow channels, and the traffic from a half-dozen aluminum day boats showed as a swarm of blue dots on the radar.


Arrived at Harbott Point, on the S end of Lewis Island, just 10 minutes past slack current at 1310. The sailing directions describe currents in the narrows as flowing up to 9 knots, with eddies, whirlpools, and even an over-fall aptly-named Devil's Hole.


Garmin's current chart showed 2 knots, and I watched our SOG pick up from 8.2 to almost 11. Fun to watch the auto-pilot cope with the swirling currents, doing its best to keep us straight. I left it engaged until just before the second set of narrows, where I could see logs "underway" in our direction. One big cedar, laying sideways, hit a back-eddy just as our boat got swatted toward it by the current. Full left rudder, and still we plowed straight. Uh-oh! Full right throttle, and the boat same around smartly with at least 6 feet to spare...


After the excitement of the Yacultas, the next several hours passed serenely. Headed NW in Chancellor Channel, a fast boat came up behind us. I steered 15 degrees port to signal that I expected him to pass to my starboard, but he hung back, then buzzed ahead. Da cops!


In about 30 seconds, they had launched their Zodiac and pulled alongside for a visit. A very nice RCMP Marine officer made a graceful transit onto our swim-step and explained he was making a routine check of our vessel documentation and safety equipment. Julie asked him if they were still called "Mounties" and he grinningly told her that his division was referred to as the "Water Buffalos".


He copied down our passport and USCG vessel doc info, and asked us to show him our fire extinguishers, life jackets, flare kit, etc. We received an A-plus on our exam (felt good). He wished us fair seas and a good voyage, then stepped back aboard the inflatable and went back to the patrol boat. What a cool job, eh?


Anchored in Forward Harbor at 1715 with a sailboat and 4 other trawlers; a popular boat in these waters, so we felt right at home!