Sailing the British Columbia Gulf Islands 2006.

Roger Kemble's Ranger 22, racer / camper.

In sailing sequence leaving Nanaimo Monday, July 17, 2006.
1 Nanaimo - Vancouver Island: 2 Ganges - Saltspring Island: 3 Goldstream Marina - Langford, Victoria: 4 Montague Harbour - Galiano Island: 5 Retreat Cove - Galiano Island: 6 Telegraph Harbour - Thetis Island: 7 Herring Bay - Ruxton Island: 8 Degnan Bay - Gabriola Island.
Returning to Nanaimo Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer squalls! Is it my imagination or are they intensifying? I've been caught in a few these last few years but this last July beat them all. Quite scary, and it only lasted about twenty minutes.

Leaving Nanaimo for a couple of weeks.

Suffice it to say, off Hudson Rock entrance to Departure Bay, Nanaimo, Agua Flor broached. Gale-force squall shredding my spinnaker: maybe fortunately, for had it not given we may have flooded beyond recovery. Of course I let her rip until I gained sheltered Departure Bay. But that's another story . . .

So, beautiful sunshine, I'm off to Victoria thru the southern Gulf Islands to visit friends and family. I expect to be at sea for two weeks.

Monday July 17 Environment Canada called for a small craft warning: wind southerly 25k. I had hope for a northerly so I could spinnaker down the straits to Active Pass. Active is the only narrows in the southern islands I haven't run. With no spinnaker and an in-my-face wind that scotched that: another day.

So I headed for Dodds early. Slack was around 0930 hrs. I got there 0830 hrs.

The proverbial tug towing barge or boom is ubiquitous in Northumberland channel. This one is headed to the booming grounds on the south shores of Gabriola. There is the big BC ferry to Duke Point too, the Gabriola ferry and the Seaspan truck transporters to watch out for . . it can get tricky.

Surprisingly, the flood coming at me was still quite hectic. With a new 6hp outboard Agua Flor inched ahead.

The Dodds Narrows legend brings shudders to sailors: It needn't! Other boaters, especially the masters of the universe in their plastic tubs with smoked windows are the imminent danger. Canadian boaters are supposed to carry a safe boaters card issued by the Coast Guard and certifying knowledge of the rules of the road . . . don't count on them! American sailors obviously don't!

The actual narrows itself is about 40 m wide at the northern entrance. The current tends to be very strong on the eastern side.

Keeping well to the west, there is plenty of depth close to the shore. The eddies, at flood, project well out into Northumberland straits and can be scary for first attempters. Continuing south the narrows widen, the current is a little less daunting.

Approaching Dodds Narrows that dreaded passage between Mudge and Vancouver island.

The usual swirls and eddies caused the tiller to wrestle a bit, nevertheless, we made it.

And, just ahead of Round Island, believe it or not, despite Enviro Canada, a good following wind, no SCW, from the north. To be fair to EC high winds in the Straits are often muted by the islands. And it is often said weather on the BC coast is hard to predict which begs the question: why bother . . .

Soooooo . . . with big gennie on spinnaker pole we goose-winged down Stuart and Trincomali Channels past Porlier Pass and Reid Island, enjoying a good wind and bright Sun shine. There's a clearing on the west side of Galiano I wanted to explore which turned out to be, disappointingly, a botched earth moving project to make way for summer cottages. Ummmm, I thought I'll over-night in Retreat Cove on the way home and check it out.

Sailing the southern Straits of Georgia Gulf Islands these last four years makes me conclude they are a preferably cruised by powerboats. The wind can be capricious. While a gale is blowing in the Straits the islands can shield most of the impact often to the extent there is no wind at all: wind wraps around islands, it comes from everywhere. As a general rule it abates late afternoon and picks up as dark descends.

That Monday was ideal. There is a big chunk of water triangulated by Tree island, Yellow Point and Pilkey Point on Thetis. Somehow the ring of loneliness at sea is amplified there. I've experienced this many times. It is my favourite sailing space in the Gulf Islands.

Coming up on Porlier Pass and, to the right, Reid Island.
The wind is picking up.

Anyway, I'm heading for Ganges Harbour, on Salt Spring Island, to meet my eldest daughter, Juliet. She owns half the Island and has a very comfortable place with quail in the garden: my god, mother quail has a brood of eighteen.

And Ganges Harbour is equally crowded. I've been here before but I'm not quite sure where to tie up. I try the commercial dock and have to raft three deep: not cool! After looking around, the visitors dock has an empty spot so I tie up and forget Agua Flor for a few days.

Yes, forget sailing for a few days. Did you check this link to read about sailing the Gulf Islands? Good, you are on the right link but sailing the Gulf Islands is as much about places to visit as the water and wind between: keep on reading.


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Cruising Desolation Sound BC: 2008