Trip to Barkley Sound Day 1

Posted 4 years, 1 month ago


I'm breaking this trip report up into one post per day.  This first one has no photos as nothing photo-worthy happened on day 1, and in fact much of what happened that day is probably best forgotten.  More on that later.  If you stick with the subsequent posts, I promise eagles, whales, fish caught and fishing observations, anchoring mishaps and critical safety equipment failures, and even a tale of execution-style murder.  And many photos.


Sometime in the future, I like to think I might circumnavigate Vancouver Island.  I’ve spent the past year making preparations for this long-term goal.  The boat is ready for it.  The question is “am I ready” (current answer being not quite), and who can I recruit to join me?  I’ve never sailed in the ocean or strayed further east of Victoria on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Which brings us to this year’s “stretch cruise” to Barkley Sound.  I scoped this out as an exploratory trip with a relatively short duration of 10 – 14 days.  The problem is there are few places to seek refuge along the strait, and Canadian Customs is an additional complexity as it is only offered in Victoria and Ucluelet.  With the uncertainty of the ocean and weather conditions, I allowed up to four days to get there and back including a weather contingency day. This would give us enough time to sample some anchorages in the Broken Group Islands, a protected marine park and sanctuary in the center of the sound, along with visiting the coastal hamlets of Bamfield and Ucluelet.

I was delighted to find willing crew to join me in this journey:  my two favorite septuagenarians and a good friend with a long history sailing, ready to hand, reef, and steer the boat in any condition.

I set expectations that this is a trip with no specific calendar other than a max two-week duration, and that I viewed our chances of getting to Barkley Sound as being weather-dependent and not a sure thing at all.  I compared it to summitting Rainier, something many have as a goal and need to take several runs at before hitting the weather window required to succeed.

Day 1:  Seattle to Victoria

We set out at first light, about 4:45 AM to catch the northbound ebb from Puget Sound.  All went well, maybe a little too well, as the ebb was still on when we hit the notorious “Point Wilson Ebb” tide rips right at the entrance to the strait.  When all of the water gushing out of Puget Sound takes a hard left turn at Pt. Wilson, you can get a real pounding washing-machine experience, especially when the prevailing westerly wind in the strait is in opposition to the current.  I’ve been through it before and knew it was a rough ride, but I also know it has a limited duration of maybe an hour or so to get through it.  We had an hour or two that were a bit ugly with the boat going up one steep wave, down it, up the next one, and them the slam and shudder as it whacked down, burying the bow and sending dozens of gallons of seawater rushing back the decks.  In addition to being uncomfortable, these rips check your momentum and can drop your speed in half momentarily.  We got through it and sure enough the middle part of the strait was not so bad, but then as I have experienced in the past, once you get within 15 miles of Victoria you can hit confused seas again.  It was all too much for one of the crew who experienced ye olde mal de mar with explosive consequences.

We took quite a bit of water through the mast.  I discovered that CSR had done a pretty piss poor job of taping it when they reinstalled it this winter.  I accept responsibility for not checking their work as I knew from prior experience this is a difficult task.  They had started with a bead of sealant and then laid self-amalgamating mast boot tape on top of it, working upward.  The tape slipped off the sealant and contracted upwards, leaving about ½” gap for water to enter.  Maybe it took a while for it to slip upwards, or maybe some mast pressure from bending while sailing broke the tape to sealant bond.  Whatever.  What I know is the best seal is all tape, no sealant.  The tape sticks to nothing but itself, so sealant doesn’t belong.  And you need to start low, right at the deck, and use more tape in overlapping layers.  OK, I should have checked their work.  I know the last time CSR had the mast off, I had to re-tape it three times before getting a good seal, so I should have known better.  We also took some water in the vberth through the dorade vent, which was getting hammered by bucketloads of water each time the bow was covered up in a wave in the tide rips at Point Wilson.

We got into Victoria around 2:00 in the afternoon and tied up at the customs dock to clear Canadian customs.  Canadian customs docks are often unmanned with a simple phone which connects directly to a customs office who knows where.  In this case, there was a sign stating “phone out of order, call 1-888-CANPASS.  So I did, waited on hold 10 minutes, and spoke with a friendly Canadian whose most challenging question was where the heck were we?  Which customs dock in Victoria?  I suppose they have separate facilities for the cruise ship passengers.  For the first time ever, I had quite a few veggies that made it through without needing to be tossed, including potatoes which I've never successfully brought over the border in the past.  The secret is they need to be in commercial packaging including the point of origin, not loose in a produce bag.

After customs we tied up at the fuel dock to fill the diesel tank.  The fuel guy asked if we were going to Hawaii in the upcoming Vic-Maui race.  Ah shucks, thanks for giving us credit but we are just going to Barkley Sound.  At the dock we did end up near Gemini's Dream, the second ever all-woman Vic-Maui race team, as they went through their pre-race prep work.  They withdrew partway to Hawaii as they had equipment failures with their furling mainsail.  Furling mainsails...I've never understood the appeal.  

There was some talk from the seasick septuagenarian about simply taking a floatplane from Victoria to meet us at Ucluelet, but we pointed out that (a) Ucluelet is on the far side of Barkley Sound, which will take us more time to get there to reunite and (b) it is uncertain if the boat will even get there!  I still viewed the whole trip as maybe 50/50 odds on actually making it to Barkley Sound vs. turning tail and activating Plan B which was to join my cousin who would soon be cruising in the San Juan Islands.

It was at this point I discovered the bilge pump was not working.  Oh and the bilge has about a foot of water in it.  Not good.  A little investigation revealed the problem was with the automatic float switch, not the pump itself.  I redid the wiring to bypass the float switch, which means I need to actively monitor the bilge and run it from the breaker switch on the DC panel as needed.  Not a disaster, but a bit disturbing to lose the safety of an automatic switch.

Considering the rough crossing, we discarded the ill-conceived notion of blasting onward through Race Passage to Sooke and just tied up in front of the Empress Hotel.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Il Terrazo where everyone restored their strength before an early night for an early departure to Sooke the next morning.  I hesitated to post that link to Il Terrazo's website as it features one of the hallmarks of a truly atrocious website:  a carousel of images never displayed at more than 400 pixels wide using multiple images downloaded to the browser, each of which is over 3,000 (!) pixels wide.  I shudder at the waste.  You could probably heat a family of four's home for a day on the wasted processing this website generates every year as it forces every visitor to download almost 10x the image data needed.  Here endeth the web development side rant.  They did have one of the best creme brulee desserts I've ever had.  The hard shell must have been 1/8" thick:  shards of shrapnel flew across the table due to the force required to tap my spoon through it.

Even though it would only be about 15 miles to Sooke, it would take us through Race Passage and we wanted the current with us through that chokepoint.  So an early departure it would be once again. Onwards to Sooke tomorrow!


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