British Columbia the Inside Passage

Hitting the Strait

Thursday, May 30, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

The calm after the storm, Gorge Harbour, Cortes Island.

They say sailing is 99% boredom and 1%excitement.  At times, the same can be said about cruising, and that would aptly describe the last four days.

It rained Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while southeasterly winds continued to blow outside the anchorage.  Apart from taking Sally to shore, we spent most of our time stuck inside the boat and, sooner or later, it gets difficult to fill the hours.  In other words . . . boredom takes over.

But this morning the sun was out, the wind had abated and it was time to leave!  Our destination: Westview, a town along the mainland, for a night in the marina to take care of a few boat jobs and do some provisioning.  For two people who hate being tied up, we couldn’t think of anything nicer to do.  After several days of cold and rain, Cambria needed a good airing out . . . and so did we! 

There was only one other boat in the anchorage overnight and they left at seven this morning, leaving us alone . . . at last.  In hindsight, we should have seized the opportunity to have the place to ourselves rather than move on.  But the draw of hot showers proved to be too strong and we upped anchor at eight o’clock. 

There wasn’t much wind and it was coming from directly behind us, so we pulled out the jib and motor-sailed up the west coast of Texada Island.  The conditions built as the morning progressed, but we never saw anything more than 15 knots* from the southeast (behind) with similar conditions reported closer to our destination: 15 knots easterly.  No worries. 

We reached the top of Texada Island and could see Powell River (Westview) five miles to our east.  At this stage, everything was still good.  The conditions were freshening a bit, along with the sea state, but we’d expected that because of the currents.  Now.  Just because you expect something doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re prepared for it.  And we weren’t.  Worse still.  We got more than we’d bargained for.  A lot more. 

Now for the “excitement”.  The minute we headed up to make our easting, we got hammered.  We had hardened up the headsail before making the turn, but there was too much wind.  It was blowing well over 25 knots, not the 15 we had expected, and we were still motor-sailing under a full jib.  That’s when things got a little ugly.  Heading up to ease the pressure so we could furl the headsail was no easy task with the sea state and took longer than it should have, so we were trying to bring the sail in under a heavy load.  In the meantime a sheet got caught in the spinnaker pole and the retrieval line jammed in its block, blowing it out.  And somewhere along the way, David lost most of the skin on the knuckles of one hand and was leaving a trail of blood on the boat.  Ahhh!  The joys of sailing in the Strait of Georgia!

One way or another, he eventually got the headsail furled in and we adjusted our course for Westview.  It wasn’t long before we took the first greenie over the bow and up to the dodger.  The boat had slowed from 7.5 knots down to 4.5 knots and we were looking at an hour of bashing and crashing to make the marina . . . assuming we could even enter under the current conditions.  So we did the only sensible thing and fell off to make way for Gorge Harbour to the north.  It was an easy decision:  One we wished we would have made 30 minutes earlier.

With three to four foot seas at a three second interval just off our stern quarter, it turned out to be a long day.  But without jack-lines rigged, it was too dangerous to go out and change the block for our retrieval line, so we couldn’t sail to help smooth out some of the motion.  And, of course, we didn’t have the bag off the main, so raising it was out of the question as well.  David did his best to keep us moving along with the wave train but, at times, they were coming at us from all directions:  There’s a reason they liken the Strait of Georgia to a washing machine, and this was it.

Fifty nautical miles and eight hours after leaving Jedediah Island, we pulled into the comfort of Gorge Harbour, where it was still blowing 20 knots, and dropped the anchor.  We won’t find the facilities that Westview has here, but they do have hot showers and, at the moment, that sounds like a slice of heaven. 

*All readings are listed as true wind speeds, not apparent. 

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