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Five days in the middle of the Salish sea.

This trip really saw An Aod Oolichan come into its own. Going into tiny bays and anchorages, breaching to drop off camping gear, carrying more than five days of drinking and cooking water and doing nice long passages under sail.

One of the many little bays on the south side of Thormanby

Our plan was to set out from Halfmoon Bay and explore Thormanby and then the Jedidiah marine park and the Simpson marine park Islands nestled between Texeda and Lasquiti in the middle of Georgia Strait a little more than 40 nautical miles north of Vancouver. No matter where you come from there is a crossing of at least 10 to 15 miles to get there. That relative remoteness is what attracts me to this place.

right as the front of the ferry

Wednesday August 23 was busy at the Horseshoe bay ferry terminal. After getting the boat ready for travel and hitched to the car we were at the ferry at noon… and were the first car not to make it on the 4:15 pm ferry. So we had to wait until six to cross over to Langdale. This setback our launch to 7pm when we arrived at Coopers Green boat launch. By the time the boat was rigged and the car and trailer was parked in a legal overnight spot it was 8pm which is also sunset.

So with my GPS in hand and a nice still night we motored out 2 miles out to Thormanby to arrive and navigate our beaching in total darkness.


We were off and the next four days would allow us to explore the middle section of Georgia Straight and some of the northern Gulf Islands.


In the morning I was happy to see that my new 4kg Rocna Vulcan anchor had found a way to nestle itself in the large beach pebble. Definately one of the harder substrates for an anchor to be effective in. If I’d set just a little further out their was good mud and sand.


The boat settled down on the pebbles perfectly, I felt lucky as a little further out there was a bit of a minefield of boulders on the beach and the drying out would have been a little more fraught. Fortunately the morning was very calm and this particular bay is nice and sheltered. The anchor buddy really was handy in this kind of anchoring context, allowing us to quickly bring the boat to shore if needed.

Nice hike out to Walter Mathers memorial lake

We then set out in a nice NW breeze with two reefs in the main to go towards our next destination of Jedediah Island.


About two thirds of the way there, the wind started to lighten up and we were able to shake out the reef and and get from the north end of Thormanby to Lasquiti on one tack.


Arriving into the channel to our anchorage there was a big junk anchored right at the entrance and for a moment I thought we were going to get a close visit of China Cloud.


It was however a 45 foot steel junk built in east Sooke. It was on it’s maiden journey to get its mainsail being made in Quadra.


The tides aligned perfectly and our arrival was at high tide.


This was a wonderful setup for making dinner.

The next day on our walk through Jedediah we met the local feral sheep


This amazing south facing bay has what appears to be decades and decades of winter storm driftwood.


Day 3 there was a southeasterly we did a nice day sail out to Jervis island with a fast down wind sail under full sail.


The sail back up was upwind and felt much more comfortable under two reefs.

Day 4 we hiked up to mount Gibraltar with a full view of the whole southern strait obscured by forest fire smoke,


and a close encounter with the goats of the island


After the hike we set out in 12-14 knots with a nice NW wind to push us out Sabine Channel into the strait and back to Thormanby


The final treat was a close encounter with a humpback whale just off of Bertha Island on the south west tip of Thormanby.

One last night of camping before we pulled the boat up on Sunday and drove back to Vancouver.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

Caledonia Yawl project: Labour Day weekend (Part 2)

For the next four days we did little day trips around Protection Island and out to Kanaka Bay on Saysutchun.


The boat stayed comfortably at anchor in Brownie bay at the north east end of the camping area on nice sand between two sandstone rock groins. The tides were nice and big and so the boat would lay on the sand each morning for a few hours. This is how I was able to go and walk out to the anchor and see exactly how it lay. It is fishermans with folding flukes which allows it to pack up into a nice small package aboard. I also have a Fortress FX-7 4lbs anchor but I find it much more involved to take apart and so my tendency is to keep it as the backup as it is quite cumbersome on a small boat when it is put together. I’ve been eyeing the Mantus M2 8lbs anchor as it looks to be quick to take apart and would stow away nicely. It is just a little expensive and not that easy to source in Canada.

The boat in the morning at anchor looking back towards the camping area of Saysutchun. Note that there is a no anchoring area that protects eel grass for half the channel between Saysutchun and Protection island. I’m anchored further out where there is mostly just sand and less eel grass.


Each morning, I could not help but go out to take pictures of the boat at sunrise as it was such a nice light.


This one really captures the feeling of a languishing summer morning.

I also took the time to recharge the ePropulsion battery with my solar panels. On the way over we had only motored a little to get out of English bay and then near the end to do the last few miles to the Saysutchun dock. So it only took a few hours to top off the battery.


In the next part the voyage back to Vancouver.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Labour day weekend sailing to Saysutchun across the Salish Sea (part 1)

This long weekend trip was touch and go as I watched the weather window. The plan was to take the 19.5′ Caledonia Yawl An Aod Oolichan across Georgia Strait from Vancouver to Nanaimo a distance of 30 nautical miles with the whole distance in an open stretch of sea with quite a bit of fetch if the winds really pick up.

Windy forecast for the departure day

After a little bit of light winds in English bay because the the land-shadow, true to the forecast the SE breeze did settle in all day at about 12-15 knots.

Once past Point Grey the wind was strong enough that as a precaution i put in one reef in the main and we cruised along comfortably at 5.5 knots and quickly saw the city fade into the horizon.


Laden with food, camping gear and two of my siblings as crew we really felt the boat hold a steady movement.


It was a warm day and the boat is quite dry, but there was still an occasional wave that came broadside and a good splash on the front quarter.


By mid-day we were on a healthy broad reach, we’d shaken out the reef and were still doing good speed in the middle of the strait feeling good that we’d arrive in Saysutchun before sunset.


The south easterly held all the way past entrance island to the norther tip of Galiano by the Malaspina galleries and then it started to shut down.

Vancouver is now out of sight

We started up the electric motor with Protection and Saysutchun islands in sight.


Our welcome party (who had taken BC Ferries) was already there waiting at the campsite.


Once unloaded I took it back out to anchor at Brownie Bay as we camped on the island for the next five days.