Ship's Log
Thursday, July 13, 2000
Port Browning to Ganges Harbour

It's All Okay Up North

    I woke today in Port Browning.

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The ship’s barometer began to fall. The weather was beginning to change. I went on shore to make calls, take a shower and have a bite to eat in the café. This place even has a swimming pool for a Loony (that’s a Canadian buck). 20000714_02.jpg (34802 bytes)After breakfast, I noticed the wind beginning to pick up. There was a small craft warning in the Straits of Georgia to the Northeast and in the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the South with winds gusting to 30 knots by late afternoon. Although the winds in Plumber Sound and Swanson Channel weren’t supposed to get above 15 knots, I wanted to get to Ganges Harbor before late afternoon. I fired up the engine and headed out of the bay into Plumber Sound. The wind began to howl from the south as I rounded Razor Point. I unfurled my working jib and ran downwind at 5 knots with only the headsail. Downwind is really where you need to be at the helm. I don’t know what I would do without this autopilot. When sailing into to wind or across the wind, you can adjust the sails and lock the rudder to "balance" the boat. As the wind catches the headsail, it pushes the bow away from the wind, as it pushes on the mainsail, the bow heads up. Once you find the spot that the rudder needs to be in and get the sails adjusted, you are balanced. I love doing this because you can make the boat a foil in the wind that will change directions as the wind shifts without any movement of the helm. But sailing downwind is different. As the wind pushes the sail, it tugs on different parts of the boat. And when you add waves pushing against the transom, it makes for a pretty wild ride. But, with Leroy, (my automatic wheel pilot) I am free to navigate, cook, and all the other stuff. I watched boat pass me in the opposite direction, beating against the waves and healed way over. It is easy to forget how much it is blowing when you are traveling with the wind and waves. I sat under my dodger waiting for the threatening rain and watched my dingy-in-tow surf the waves almost catching me.

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I love to surf my boat. When the swells are large enough, you can catch them right at the widest part of the boat and ride them until they speed past you. I have got up to 8 knots doing this. I love surfing, but I know from experience that after a day of surfing, you usually have to turn back into the wind at some point. So be prepared, make sure everything is secure below, especially in the galley, and don’t put too many sails in the air until you are sure it is safe. I reached the north end of Navy Channel and rounded Stanley Point into Swanson Channel. The wind shifted and for a minute is was calm and I floated by some nice older folks out for a leisurely sail. They sailed right next to me and introduced themselves. I kept thinking "Are we in danger?" Seeing them put things in perspective. They tacked away and I headed southwest toward Ganges Harbour. The wind must have wound around North Pender Island and I was now heading right into the southern brothers of the whitecaps I was surfing all morning. By leaving just the jib up, I could maintain speed, but I noticed that the waves and wind were pushing me away from my destination. So in order to sail up wind more efficiently I raised the main sail and began to really crash through the waves. I tacked back and forth into the southerly until I could clear the rocks off of Liddell Point to the northwest and tacked one last time toward Captains Passage. 

As I made my way, hoping I calculated right and I would clear the rocks, I turned to see one of the giant BC Ferry ships heading for my path. It is so hard to judge those boats, because they are so massive and they move so fast. When in doubt, I always assume they will pass in front of me. So, I was forced to tack once more away from my destination to let the ferry pass. My new heading put my path behind this boat I had been watching slowly chug north all day. As I got closer I realized that it was a professional fishing boat and it was dragging several hundred feet of nets behind it. So I quickly turned away from the wind to try and pass in front of the fishing boat while still avoiding the ferry—which I did. But turning so quickly without adjusting my sails forced the boat the lean over more than it had all day. I heard a crash from below. I ran below to check, it was just the CD’s. by the time I returned on deck, my boat had jibed and was spinning out of control. Fortunately, I was clear of any other vessels and free to spin all I needed to. Of course all of this malarkey had put me where I was about a half hour earlier. So, I set a course and headed once again to Liddell Point. Then, off my port side I heard something. I turned to see 10 or more Orcas feeding about 30 feet away. Then another 10 off the starboard side. They seemed to be playing, slapping their tails on the water and jumping. I found myself laughing out loud. Ah, yes. It’s all clear now.20000714_05.jpg (39538 bytes)

I entered Captains Passage with the wind behind me. I sailed wing and wing until I arrived at Ganges Harbor. I went to the first dock I saw. There was a Coast Guard office at the head. As I approached it a guy came out to great me. I asked where I could tie up for the night. He said, "Well that there is a government float." "Well where should I move to." I asked. He laughed and explained that the government puts them there for me to use. I laughed and said that in the U.S. if you were on a government float you would be greeted with a gun. Then I asked about customs, and he said that they didn’t have customs in the town of Ganges. But I was welcome to use his phone I wanted to call them. I decided to wait until I retied my mooring lines. The wind was still howling from the south and now the late afternoon gusts were beating down. Once I settled in, I went to a phone booth and looked up the number for customs. I called and at first the customs agent said, "You aren’t supposed to be there." Then I asked why they only had customs in cities and a couple of towns. And he said, "You’re right, we really should. You aren’t a drug dealer are you?" We laughed and he asked me some questions and that was it. I’m in. The theme so far is, "In Canada, it’s all okay (eh)..." I am supposed to meet a friend in a couple of days somewhere. It seemed so easy to plan at home, but the wind has a tendency to erode the plan like prehistoric sandstone and bring a new reality to light. I hope my land-based compadres will understand. It’s a wind thing.

It's a small world after all. It's a small small world.

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