Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 4

Day 5, Wednesday, 9/3/14

TNT Beer

My last name is Troutner, and ‘TNT’ is an inside joke for when two of my family get together. It seemed appropriate to drink plenty of this beer on a rainy day.

Has it really been five days? My typical alarm clock schedule has faded and I feel like we’re all getting into a travelling routine. However, I’m trying my darndest to be present in each moment. Yesterday it rained cats and dogs, and at night the wind blew fiercely at 17 mph from the northwest. We decided to hunker down and make it a movie day. We also made good use of the pub at Thetis Marina.

Because there was a lot of inactivity and crummy weather, I caught myself falling into the consciousness of just letting time pass, the kind of passivity of mind that I rely on to help the work day pass. That is the mentality I am trying to escape by being out here. There is always something to keep my mind occupied out here, even if it’s just watching the rain on the water or the seagulls foraging along the sea shore. I mentally kicked myself the couple of times I caught myself ‘just waiting’. I hate that feeling. I hate that I experience so much of it in my working life, and I hate how much of their lives people waste in that mental state in modern society.

The weather yesterday was a sharp reminder too that fall is coming, and nasty weather with it. The summer weather makes it easy to imagine living on a hook full time, but weeks of relentless rain and high winds are on the way. Every sailor worth his salt knows the value of a safe, snug moorage in the winter.

Pirate Cove

Stern tied next to my parents boat at Pirate Cove.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about switching jobs, to try and apply for a telecommuting job focused on programming or software testing. They are extremely competitive, but if I could land one, I would only need a reliable internet connection. That means I’d be free to bounce from port town to port town. I could see new places and explore new sailing grounds. Hopefully I could escape that mentality of ‘just waiting’ that seems inherent in any cubical job.

Failing that, I’m on track to be debt free by mid-summer of next year, so long as I can keep the paychecks rolling in. But I don’t think I have it in me to watch another summer go by while I ‘just wait’ to collect enough paychecks. At this point I’m giving serious thought to making next summer my Ketchikan summer – sailing north with Ketchikan, Alaska as my designated target, though under no obligation to actually get there. I won’t be debt free, but by not paying off one of my credit cards, I’ll have money for a cruising kitty and safety net to cover me until I can find another job in the fall. At which point I can hopefully pay it off.

We are nearly half-way to our destination and I’ve used approximately 1 gallon of gas. I’ve hardly made a dent in my food stores. One of my goals this trip was to see how practical it was to live a frugal summer on the hook. Again, this trip has surpassed all expectation.

Day 6, Thursday, 9/4/14

Yesterday I had a beautiful up-wind sail to Pirate’s Cove Marine Park on De Courcy Island. I tacked back and forth from Clam Bay to the mouth of Pylades Channel. I had lined up my tack perfectly for the mouth of Pylades Channel, but as I drew closer, the wind shifted direction and I had to backtrack. Trying to make my way up the channel, the wind and current was hitting me dead on the nose, so I fired up the engine and motored in from there.

Here is another time-lapse I shot on the way to Clam Bay:

Many people compare Pirates Cove to Sucia Island in terms of the volume of boats visiting as well as quality of hiking trails and natural views. I have to agree. The island has a spectacular natural beauty, and although it is much smaller than Sucia, the stern ties provided every forty feet allow boats to really pack into its tiny, protected cove.

This morning Andy, my father, and I did a little vertical jigging before heading out. I caught a baby sole and a baby greenling. At one point, I was floating right next to a bait ball with shiners jumping in and out of the water and something harassing them from below. I dropped my lure into the water and something struck it hard on the way down!

Kelp Greenling

A baby greenling I caught and threw back.

The fish had a good fight in it, so I was hopeful that it was a lingcod or a good sized greenling. When I got it into the boat, I saw it was a rockfish. Its eyes bulged and the swim bladder was trying to pop out of its mouth, sure signs that it had come from deep down and probably wouldn’t survive if I threw it back. I decided to keep it. The old boy must have chased after the bait ball, coming up out of the deep water without equalizing his pressure. I must have met him half-way down and brought him the rest of the way.

After wrapping up the fishing expedition, I set sail for Dodd Narrows. I was again sailing up wind, but the current was in my favor. We had a hard cut-off time to make it through the narrows as it’s one of those places in the Gulf that a sailboat needs to shoot for slack or not at all. Finally, about a mile away and only 30 minutes to make it through the pass, I dropped my jib and motor sailed against the fierce winds blasting out of the pass. With only a half mile to go, my engine sputtered and died!

Thankfully, my parents were only slightly ahead of me. I radioed them to standby. The only thing that ever seems to go wrong with my engine is the fuel filter gets clogged up. I had a spare and got it changed quickly. However, the engine still wouldn’t start. I was pretty sure I had flooded it in my excitement to get it going again, and it just needed time to breathe, but time was something I didn’t have.

Baby Sole

This is the baby sole that I caught.

I pulled out my stern line, tossed the end to my father, and fed out a hundred feet before tying it off. As his boat drifted away in neutral, he became so focused on trying to tie a bowline knot that he didn’t notice the rope begin to tighten. At the same time the rope began to stretch tight, his fingers got caught in the half-done knot. Luckily the rope was wet and it all slipped out without an incident, but the close call with losing or breaking a finger really shook him up.

At the same time that he was trying to tie his knot, a bee flew down my mom’s shirt. She was dancing around the fly bridge whooping and hollering and I was so engrossed watching her and trying to figure out what she was doing that I didn’t have a chance to warn my father about the tightening rope. With the bee gone, fingers intact, and no more time to waste, he tied the other end to the cleat and towed me through the Narrows.


A rock fish that came up from too deep, too fast. Notice the bulging eyes.

We made it through the narrows with no time to spare. The water was just starting to think about heading against us and it was a nail-biting experience getting towed. At one point my boat kicked up a huge three foot wake behind me, threatening to swamp my outboard and sending the dingy I was towing on a roller coaster ride. A half-mile past the narrows, I gave the engine another go and it fired right up. The wind was still blowing fierce and two foot rollers were coming down Northumberland Channel as I motor sailed my way to Nanaimo.

After so much adventure, getting beat up by the rollers on the way in, and dealing with a stressful and crowded marina at Nanaimo, I wasn’t in the best of moods. The hustle and bustle of the city made me want to head back out and drop anchor. Andy had already been in town for a few hours and had scoped out a sweet little Irish pub. I practically ran there for a much needed burger and beer. I suppose that cities do have their advantages. With a belly full and body exhausted, I went to bed about 7 PM.

Here is a map with the locations I mentioned in this post:

Related posts:

Hope Island Marine State Park
Sailing Hibernation
2 Responses to “Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 4”
  1. Chris –
    Another installment of a great adventure! Was the rockfish (looks like a copper rockfish?) tasty at least? I’m sure you made great use of it. It sounds like a great chapter of the trip and glad your pops still has all his fingers! (Scary!)
    – Katie

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