compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

In which we brave the Nahwitti Bar
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

September 8, 2006. Loquillillia Cove

Canada kinda grows on ya, eh? Land of skinny longitude lines, big tides and very friendly people. BC is also in the same time zone as Berkeley, which is nice. We left home at 4:30am for a flight to Seattle (no liquids or gels) then Seattle to Vancouver on an island hopper. Vancouver to Nanaimo was by ferry (complete with pictures of the Queen and charming crew). In Nanaimo we rented a car and drove all the way to Port Hardy on excellent roads which were remarkably clear of litter. There we met Snow Dragon II on the public dock by the government wharf nestled in amongst the big fishing boats. Elapsed time: 16 hours, door to companionway.

Snow Dragon IIPort Hardy is a large fish port at the very northern end of the road up Vancouver Island. Large of area, but small of population, Port Hardy has annexed the surrounding woods for miles around. The population, made up of fisherman, "First Nation" (natives from the many local "reserves") and sundry cheerful, healthy looking Canadians, seems harmonious. The latter staff the restaurants, stores and gas stations supporting the logging, fishing and tourist economy and all seeming to enjoy the warm, sunny late summer weather. Since we still had the car until 3:00pm the next day, we could us it for provisioning in the giant metropolis. Overwaitea is the large grocery store in town and they clearly cater to those provisioning for extended stays in logging camps, fishing boats or tourist camps: giant bins holding sweets, pancake mix, biscuit mix or nuts available by the pound line the shelves. The only disadvantage to Port Hardy is the twenty minute drive back to the "airport" to return the car. No problem, eh? I'll give you a ride back to town. Budget rental is closed and we climb back into the same car I had just returned for the drive all the way down to the government wharf to let me off at the ramp leading down to our dock.

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Cape Scott, BCIt's light until fairly late so we had still quite a bit of time to run a few more errands (in Snow Dragon this time) and, as the wind was up, to beat our way up Goletas channel triple reefed in fresh breezes. Snow Dragon II is a custom aluminum cutter with a fine enclosed pilot house designed by Dick Koopmans who (being Dutch) clearly understands cold water sailing. We anchored in Loquillila Cove at about 6:30 where we girded our metaphorical loins for the braving of the dread Nahwitti Bar in the morning. Girding was pasta with Italian sausage, spinach salad and a fine bottle of wine. Aided by guide books, charts and the wine, we debated our approach. Should we move up to Bull Harbor and wait for the high water slack in the early afternoon as recommended by the guide? High slack is reputed to last 12 minutes during which you charge out through the hopefully weakened swells breaking on the bar. Possibly it is better sneak around the kelp and skirt the shore to hide up under Cape Sutil keeping our eye on the Nahwitti Bar buoy and seize our moment to muscle through the flood earlier in the day and have more time to move down the wild west coast of Vancouver Island to suitable shelter. Our craft is strong, we are ready.

In the morning, a lone bald eagle perched upon a spruce on the protecting arm of the cove supervised our departure from the mirror calm waters of Loquillila Cove. Goletas Channel was nearly as flat. Ditto Cape Sutil. We motored out into the large, lazy, slow swells of the Pacific with nearly enough wind to stabilize the roll of the boat. A spectacular broaching hump back, cute little sea otter, birds and one lone fish boat witnessed our daring passage.

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