Circumnavigating Lopez Island

Sipping wine while watching the birds in Watmough Bay.

Sipping wine while watching the birds in Watmough Bay.

Last weekend found me with perfect weather and nothing better to do than circumnavigate Lopez Island. Along the way I met Alan of, ran aground, hit a log, lost my hat overboard, rescued a lost dog, and had a great time.


Winds were forecast on Friday at 12 mph from the southwest and a slack tide. I have a healthy scepticism this time of year that the weather will behave anything like the forecasts. This turned out to be an excellent example of the different between *average* wind speed and *actual* wind speed. I took the channel between Burrows and Alan Island out of Flounder Bay. As I poked my nose into Rosario Strait, there was hardly a breath of wind. Half way across, the wind began to pick up, so I raised my sails and shut down my engine. As I neared Lopez Island, the wind began to climb into the high teens, making for an uncomfortable beat to windward while I contemplated removing my Genoa (120% jib sail) and replacing it with my storm jib (70% jib sail).

View Lopez Island Circumnavigation in a larger map

During the trip I constantly tested the boat to see how tightly I could sail into the wind, while watching the recently migrated turkey vultures float on the thermals and flirt with one another. As I was nearing my destination, the wind began to get gusty and confused, coming rapid fire from multiple directions. I began to lower my sails. I got the jib down without incident but as I attempted to lower the main, a gust blew my favourite hat overboard. I attempted to turn the boat around while shouting encouragement to my hat to tread water as best it could. As I neared my goal, the half lowered main caught a gust and sent me in the perfectly wrong direction. After taking time to get the rest of the main down, I lost sight of my poor hat. It was an old hat, covered with well earned stains of bottom paint and epoxy. I mourned its loss, but I fantasize that it will wash up on shore someday and continue its adventures on another head.

Mooring Ball with Kelp

This mooring ball had several varieties of kelp growing on it, including Alaria, which tastes great when cooked.

Pulling into Watmough Bay, I set up for a cozy night. As I played the guitar in the cockpit, I watched a noisy stand-off between a peregrine falcon and a small mob of Canadian geese, who all chose Watmough Cliff as a nesting sight. They were not at all please to share it with one another, despite the two hundred feet of vertical distance between their nests. As dark descended, I retired to the cabin to play video games while the wind turbine happily hummed away and provided free power.


I pulled out of the bay Saturday morning with light, but steady 7 mph winds coming from the west. It was perfect weather for running the Genoa and I sailed from the east side of Lopez, around the southern tip, and into Cattle Pass to ride the noon flood tide. Cattle Pass can be a nasty piece of water if you take the current wrong. I have yet to make that mistake, and so had a lovely ride while waving to the stellar sea lions sunning themselves on a rock. After I got back to the mainland, I learned that I had missed a pod of Orcas that followed my route about an hour later. I sure would have liked to have seen them.

Alan and Adam

Alan, Adam, and Adam’s son lounge in my cabin after dinner.

I pulled into Fisherman’s Bay and hooked up with Alan and his dog Chloe of I hadn’t seen him, or his boat Sookie, since July of last year. We had a grand time showing off our boats to one another. I have to say that Sookie is looking much better with new bottom paint. The topside is gorgeous as ever (to me, Alan is his own worst critic). I also got to meet Alan’s friend Adam and see his new boat. I cooked dinner for all of us from a fat Tuna steak (caught off Vancouver Island) and some Alaria kelp that I had pulled off the mooring buoy in Watmough Bay.

I’m not one to seek approval from others, and when I do indulge myself, I pay more attention to actions than words. This weekend was particularly flattering for the number of people I caught staring at my boat, a dreamlike look on their face. And I saw more than one pair of eyes light up when telling them of my plans to sail the Inside Passage or that my wind turbine has no problem keeping my batteries charged while running my laptop.


Seaweeds to eat

Above is sugar kelp, edible but not very tasty. Middle and below is Alaria, one of my favorite seaweeds to eat.

Sunday morning I poked my head out of the cockpit to find Chloe snuggled up with my flotation pillow. She had gone exploring the night before and came back very put-off that her owner wasn’t where she left him. Thankfully Adam was close by and offered to take her home.

After a coffee and a guitar session, I lazily putted out of the bay at idle. Basking in the sunshine, I was startled to feel Solace give a lurch as she ran aground in the soft mud. I quickly put the engine in neutral and sat on the boom to get a birds eye view of the situation. I had gently ploughed my fin keel into the soft mud, but didn’t have any problem reversing back into the channel. The only damage done was to my pride. I can now say I have run aground. A first for me.

Gift of Sirah

Alan gave me this bottle of Sirah in July and I held on to it this whole time, so that I could drink it with him.

Not an hour later, I had my tiller lashed so that I could cook some breakfast. Since my full attention couldn’t be directed at navigation, I had the engine still turned down to idle. I heard a huge *thunk*, popped out of the cabin as fast as lightning, and turned the tiller hard to starboard, heading toward deeper water. It turned out I had hit a log. I watched it bounce off the hull a second time, narrowly missing my outboard. As I gazed around at the square miles of open water, I couldn’t see any other logs or debris. Apparently I won the log lottery by hitting the only piece of flotsam in sight. Another first for me.

As the day wore on, there was a slight breeze, but nothing worth raising the sail over. It seemed as though July decided to stop by for the day, just to tease everyone with its warm sun and no breeze. I motored back to my home port, never pushing the engine above quarter throttle. Days like this have to be savored, like wine and chocolate. If fact, I did savor the day with wine, chocolate, and a leisurely pace. I briefly paused by Alan Island to see if I could catch a fish for dinner, but by that point the tide was running too fast to make jigging very practical.

Hello summer! It’s wonderful to see you again. I hope you stick around for a while.

Related posts:

Adventures in Alaska
Making Blackberry Wine
Boat Office
5 Responses to “Circumnavigating Lopez Island”
  1. Thanks for mentioning us in your trip. Keep these posts up! Glad I found your blog, you really live up to the e’sufficiency’ in your title. Very inspiring. Thanks for the meal too. Your a good man.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Adam! It was great meeting you and your second mate. I’m envious of your boat. I can’t wait to see what adventures you take the Rota Roca on!

  2. Chris –
    It sounds like a perfect weekend, well except for the running aground and log! It sounds like both of those events were very minor and it’s great to get those kinds of “firsts” behind you! I plead the fifth about Mark and I being newbies or experts in that department. 🙂
    Katie and Mark

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