Caledonia Yawl project: Labour day long weekend, sailing back across the Salish Sea (part 3)

As you can imagine, once you’ve crossed the straight of Georgia and it went so well there is both a sense of accomplishment and trepidation as now I have to do it one more time. Even though I’ve done it dozens of times on different sailboats of various sizes from 21′ to 130′ this 19.5′ Caledonia yawl is by far the smallest one. Without a keel and with only oars and a 1276Wh battery the prospect of making it across in a reasonable time does make me a little anxious.

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The evening before looked like this and so with a forecast of light to moderate north westerlies building in the late afternoon, I felt somewhat confident of the prospect of a good crossing.

The boat was anchored in Brownie bay with a big low tide at 8am which I knew would dry out the boat and so we would be able to carry out all our stuff directly from the group camp site to the boat and not have to bring the boar around to the marine park dock.

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We then waited for the tide to float the boat and with only a few inches of water we were able to walk it out to deeper waters at 11am while our families set off to catch the BC Ferry from Departure bay to Horseshoe bay. I had a new crew for the sail home with my friend Patrice and my brother-in-law Lucas. We set off with a solid 10-12 knot NW breeze and lots of sunscreen with zinc oxide.

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The boat was a bit lighter than on the way back and for an hour we were making great time averaging just over five knots.

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But soon as we went past entrance island and it’s beautiful lighthouse we saw that the light part of the forecast was really going to take over. We started to motor-sail to keep the boat moving at at least 3 knots and set up the solar panels to recharge the battery as we went along. This worked quite well as we moved them around to stay in the sun.

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The MPPT charger is a bit hard to read as it’s refresh rate seems to match the shutter speed of the digital camera but you can see it was stepping up an input of 19.2V to 48V for an input of 1.8 Amps. This was with just two panels out. We then managed to find a spot for a third 50W panel on deck. My plan is eventually to have all the panels lay flat on an inflatable paddle board that I tow behind the boat so that all four 50W panels can get shade-free sunlight with minimal resistance from the paddle board.

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Nevertheless with 25 nautical miles to go and very little wind, it was still a question if the 1276Wh battery would take us far enough to catch a breeze or we would be left rowing at the end of the crossing. We kept optimizing the motor output to keep it around 250W-300W which seems to move the boat easily over 3knots and then would feather it back if we caught a little bit of breeze.

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As we approached the shipping lane to the NW of Point Grey we caught the thermal sea breeze that helped to pull us towards English bay. There were a few moments of doing some time on distance calculations to figure out what the best course was as we had to navigate one freighter and one tug with barge while crossing the shipping lanes. I was very happy to have a handheld VHF radio and a full sized Davis collapsible radar reflector hauled up on a flag pole to the top of the mizzen mast. Which hopefully made this little wood dinghy much more visible on the water.

As the sun set the sea breeze started to slacken and we eeked out every last ray of sunshine to charge the battery by holding the panels up to near vertical until there was no free energy left to harvest.

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After 9 hours on the water with most of it motoring it was amazing how relaxed and comfortable the crossing had been. The electric motor was so quiet that we did not feel like it had been a tiring day at all.

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That said, the motor readout was letting us know that at the current rate we had just 40 minutes of run-time left and there was still over three miles to go from the bell buoy at the entrance to Burrard Inlet.

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It was fun to have a visit from the Jericho Sailing Centre’s rescue boat as they did their evening sweep of the bay. We switched on the portable running lights and let them know we would be alright making it back to the club under our own steam.

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A beautiful twilight lingered long enough for us to enjoy the return to familiar waters.

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As we got within sight of the Jericho Sailing Centre we had just 20 minutes of run-time on the battery left. It felt like such a fun accomplishment to stretch the capacity for the 1276Wh battery to more than 7 hours of run-time to do this 30 nautical mile crossing.

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Luckily the centre has great lights in the compound which made taking all the gear out and putting the boat to bed a relatively easy task.

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