2005 May 6: Circumnavigation of Strait of Georgia

ADAGIO berthed at Sportsmans Club Marina in Garden Bay, BCOn May 6 we cleared Customs into Canada in Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island. Continuing north in the Trincomali Channel, we transited Porlier Pass at slack water and berthed at the Silva Bay Resort and Marina on the SE corner of Gabriola Island. This is a bay popular with Vancouver sailors. The next morning we headed back out into the Strait of Georgia, making good time towards Seymour Narrows where Ripple Rock was blasted to smithereens in 1958.

I inadvertently drove the boat into an area of tide rips south of Campbell River, where the north flowing current meets the south flowing current passing inside Vancouver Island, at spring tides. Whitecaps a couple of meters high slapped the boat around, heeling her from side to side, and spilling the contents of all our cabinet tops onto the floor. Books, cruising guides, a pitcher of water, limes, lemons, binoculars, all went flying. In our five years of cruising the boat has never been tossed around so violently as she was by those “rips”. I certainly learned my lesson. We had altered course to allow a large tug and tow to pass us to starboard. We should have fallen in behind him as he skirted the tide rips.

The contrary current was unfavorable for making it to the Narrows by slack tide, so we berthed at Discovery Harbour Marina at Campbell River, and passed through the Seymour Narrows at noon the next day. At 1300 hours, about 7 miles north of the Narrows, we hit a log and lost our starboard engine. After many hours of diligently standing look out, all it took was a few minutes of being distracted by some novel and very useful displays on the computer screen of predicted current speeds in the waters near our prospective anchorage for the evening. Crash! Crash! Bummer.

Steve turned the boat around and headed back towards the Narrows. Slack tide had come and gone, so we anchored in Plumper Bay until the next slack tide at 1800 hours. The water was flat as we passed through the Narrows, and Steve carefully and with great concentration, maneuvered ADAGIO alongside the dock at the marina in Campbell River. The next morning we had a diver inspect the prop. Steve contacted Yanmar, MaxProp, and haul out facilities in the area. After much discussion he decided we should take ADAGIO to Vancouver for haul out at a facility in the Fraser River.

On May 10, in calm conditions and with a favorable current, we crossed the top of the Strait of Georgia and entered the Malaspina Strait between Texada Island and mainland BC. We managed to travel 56 nm that day, with one engine, against a moderate headwind, and berthed in Garden Bay at the end of the dock at the Sportsmans Club.

The next morning we realized we could make it to the mouth of the Fraser River at slack tide, but when we arrived there, the tide was ebbing strongly, and we later learned that in May there is no flood tide in the Fraser due to snow melting from the mountains. Heavy traffic of tugs with tows and large ships in the River made the river a dangerous place for a sailboat with limited maneuverability. ADAGIO was unable to turn to port with only the port engine, unless in flat water and good water flow across the rudders. We bailed out and went in to Vancouver Harbour to dock at the Coal Harbour Marina where we had stayed last autumn. We were very fortunate that they had an outside tie for us, because anchoring is not permitted in the Harbour, and we could not have maneuvered into the other marinas.

The next day we learned that ADAGIO’s mast height was too high to make it under the two bridges on the way up the North Arm of the Fraser River where another shipyard was located. Steve phoned Point Hope Shipyard in Victoria on Vancouver Island, where ADAGIO had been hauled out the previous November, and they agreed to accept us as an emergency repair. So it was back to lovely Silva Bay at Gabriola Island where we anchored and departed early the next morning to catch the favorable current all the way south to Victoria.

We departed Silva Bay at first light and arrived at the Porlier Pass at exactly slack tide. There was virtually no current in the pass which connects the Strait of Georgia to the Trincomali Channel. Inside the pass are the placid waters between the Gulf Islands. Today there was virtually no wind, the currents were with us, and after 8 hours of motoring on silky silver water under a silky silver sky, between rounded hills of islands to port and starboard, we made it safely to Victoria Harbour on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island.

We had phoned ahead to advise the harbormaster that we would be needing an end tie that was easy to maneuver into with just one engine. When we arrived in this busy harbour, you could have believed that all the ships, floatplanes, kayakers, ferry boats, tall ships and tiny tourist boats had been alerted to our arrival, because during the fifteen minutes or so that it took us to enter the harbour and tie up, all the hustle and bustle miraculously had ceased. Soon after we had berthed ADAGIO, four whale watching boats roared out, three float planes were landing or taking off, and a ferry boat from Seattle arrived, followed by kayakers and sport fishing boats. We live blessed lives.

We celebrated with a cook’s night out at our favorite Canoe Brew Pub and Restaurant. Then a stroll along the waterfront to enjoy the busking musicians, jugglers, marimba players and steel drums.

We had inadvertently circumnavigated the Strait of Georgia, and breathed a sigh of relief that the weather and sea conditions had been mild. During the weekend we unwound by doing a little touring along the Vancouver Island coast by car, and welcomed our friends Joe and Kathy when they arrived aboard their sailing cat KATIEKAT. When it was time to leave the dock to motor under the bascule bridge and into the shipyard at Point Hope, we were happy to have men on the dock to handle our lines and fend us off. Steve expertly maneuvered our floating tennis court onto the small floating dock at the entrance to the dry dock, and the yard staff carefully positioned ADAGIO directly above two large wooden beams on which her keels rested as the dry dock rose out of the water, Archimedes fashion.

On May 18 Steve ordered from Chicago parts for an engineer in Sidney to use to repair our sail drive and install it back onto the starboard engine on Friday. We re-launched ADAGIO on Saturday.

So to make a short tale long, there it is in all the gory detail. We are fortunate on many counts: We hit the log relatively close to repair facilities. The weather has cooperated. We were able to make good time from one berth or anchorage to the next under half power. The anchorages and marinas have not yet filled with other cruising boats, so we could safely berth or anchor with limited maneuverability.

It had taken us a month to get from Bainbridge Island, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, around the Strait of Georgia and back again, but the season was still early. Meanwhile, the weather north of Vancouver Island where we had hoped to be by that time had been pretty stormy, while our weather in the Strait of Georgia region was mild. Victoria is a fun little town to be marooned in.

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