Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 5

Day 7, Friday 9/5/14

Nanaimo Sculpture

A sculpture in Nanaimo of an Orca, made from scrap metal.

The day we reached Nanaimo, the winds were blowing 15 to 25 miles per hour out of the Northwest. Crossing to Lesqueti would be a hard beat to weather, heading due north. There was a flood tide for most the day, but with the wind and tide fighting one another, the crossing would be 25 miles of bouncing from wave to wave in boxy seas.

Just getting the 6 miles from Dodd Narrows to Nanaimo in those conditions yesterday made me feel pretty beat up. A quick check of the weather forecast showed the same conditions for the next five days. That night I did some serious soul searching and decided not to make the crossing. Izak had just arrived on the ferry to spend a week with us, and Andy and Izak were pumped to make it to Lesqueti, so telling them I was bailing was not going to go over well.

When I broke the news to them, they were clearly disappointed, but played cool once they realized they wouldn’t be able to change my mind. They headed out the next morning, despite whitecaps visible when looking out over the Strait. Izak is a much better sailor than I am, so I wasn’t worried. But Andy’s Albin only has a half keel. I doubted the boats ability to sail to weather effectively, and in these choppy conditions, I didn’t think motoring would be too comfortable in a displacement hull.

I spent the morning getting some much needed supplies in Nanaimo. Ice for the ice box, a new backup fuel filter, salmon trolling gear, fresh vegetables, and liquor. It dawned on me that Nanaimo is such a busy port, a dirtbag like me could tie up, charge their batteries for a couple hours, take on water, and then motor off without anyone knowing or caring.

Island within an island.

Two goons, Andy and Izak, chilling on New Castle Island. We were actually sitting on an island in the middle of a lake on Newcastle, so it was an island within an island. Cool!

When not running errands, I monitored channel 69 on the VHF for any updates from Izak and Andy. I never heard them, but I did hear plenty of fisherman describing rough weather and five foot rollers with whitecaps. I left the port of Nanaimo and motored ten minutes to New Castle Island. After dropping anchor I radioed out to see if Andy could pick me up. He answered back that he and Izak were already docked up at New Castle making lunch!
Once they poked their nose into the Strait, they decided to *not* be heroes and sailed on back. They’ll try again tomorrow, but if the forecast holds, they’ll abort the mission and we’ll all begin a leisurely down-wind sail back to the States.

I quickly met up with them and we hiked the fascinating New Castle Island, complete with sandstone quarry and ice cream parlor. The entire island is a park, with great facilities and great anchorage, and decent protection against the dominant northwest wind.


Day 8, Saturday 9/6/14

Mom and Dad sailing

I took my parents sailing. It was my mothers first time!

It’s really eye opening to see the various boating styles and budgets out here. There is a definite spectrum when it comes to boaters. I would say that my parents are on one end, with a fancy boat and a budget that includes lots of gas and marina moorage. I would be on the opposite end of the spectrum, where I sail as much as possible to avoid gas usage, moor up as little as possible, and carefully plan out my stores to avoid needing to buy food or dine out.

I’ve met several boaters on this trip that clearly fill in the spectrum between us. Of course, this is not a judgment. As the saying goes: whatever floats your boat. No matter what your budget, there is a boat and a boating style that fits it.

Andy and Izak were gone when I woke up. The sun is well up and it’s still dead calm, so I think their game plan was the right one. My parents and I will begin to leisurely work our way back south. My mission from here on is to scope out new gunkholes and modern resources I can use for a longer, low budget trip next summer. I was running some numbers and I figure I could leave June through September next year and start looking for work again in October.

So far, the best long-term gunkholes I’ve found are:

  • New Castle Island outside Nanaimo
  • Clam Bay between Thetis and Kuper Islands
  • Whaler Bay of Galiano Island

All provide excellent anchorage with stores and internet a short dingy ride and walk away. The dock at Whaler Bay provides moorage for around $100 per month, and is an excellent candidate for a long-term stay.

As it turned out, my parents wanted another day to explore New Castle Island. While they hiked, I took my dingy to a coffee shop at the Port in order to update the blog. That evening we went for a sail; my mothers first! She loved it, and both my parents loved the lack of engine noise. My father and I also got a chance to play with my fishing tackle and try different setups while the auto-pilot steered us out into the Strait. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to snag a salmon on the way to Silva Bay tomorrow.



Here is a map of the locations I mentioned in this article:

Related posts:

Boat Curtains
Man Overboard!
Routine is Heaven and Hell
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