Monday, August 4, 2014

The Strait of Georgia

Let us resume our voyage to Desolation Sound. On June twenty-third, this year, we left Silva Bay on Gabriola Island, headed for Halfmoon Bay on the Sechelt Peninsula, on the mainland of British Columbia. This meant crossing the fabled Strait of Georgia.

For small boats, the San Juan Islands in the US and the Canadian Gulf Islands to the north, form a safe archipelago of protected waters. Though the islands, reefs and shoals offer the mariner a plethora of challenges, the winds, in summer, are likely to be light and variable.
After traversing the maze of islands off the southeast shore of Vancouver Island, eighty nautical miles north to Nanaimo, our protected paradise gave way to the vagaries of weather and tide, in the open waters of the Strait of Georgia.

Silva Bay, on the south end of Gabriola Island, marked our last night on the west shore of the Salish Sea. From there, we would chart a course east and north, to a landfall in Halfmoon Bay, on the Sechet Peninsula, mainland British Columbia, Canada.
The day we left, the potential threat of the large open body of water was tempered by a calm and smooth Strait of Georgia, to the east. The day would prove a challenge, regardless - our GPS was sporadically reliable and eventually failed completely. This might present few problems on a calm day under clear skies, where the distant shore was visible, but navigation is complicated in this area by a large geometric rectangle marked on local charts with an imposing WF, which proves to be a Naval torpedo test area. Some days the area is restricted to traffic, others it is not. On this day, it was. Though the chart might suggest there is a large fence surrounding the restriction, there is nary an empirical indication the boundary exists.

Our mate, Paul, an area resident, told us the restriction was strictly enforced and we'd be best advised to stay clear. Then, he and the others motored off, in their own boats and left us to our own devices. We did the best we could with our little outboard engine, by taking a heading off our departing friends and dead-reckoning our way into the Strait.

Aside from having to motor most of the way (you know how Doryman despises motors), it was a succesfull crossing of a potential challenging body of water - With an overnight stay in Halfmoon Bay - a wonderfully friendly place (unfortunately plagued with large mosquitoes).

In counterpoint, consider our return two weeks later, over the same stretch of water... A day that started with clouds, rain and fifteen knots of wind and deteriorated to thick fog with rain and twenty five knots of wind.
On that day, we traveled blind. Our GPS had failed and there were no landmarks visible. We made the crossing in the old-fashioned way, by dead-reckoning.

The hazards of such a system of navigation were evident to Captain Vancouver, who, in the log describing his exploration of this treacherous inland body of water, was despondent of his endeavor to the point of naming our beautiful and remote destination, Desolation.

Next installment, Desolation Sound and the Sunshine Coast.

1 comment:

K. MacMillan said...


Did you take pictures of a Thomas Gillmer "Blue Moon" at Mystery Bay State Park, Marrowstone Island, WA yesterday?

If yes, I'd like to connect with you somehow. She's mine now, built for my dad in '89, by John Swain, in MD. I discovered she was for sale over two years ago, and bought her.

I grew up sailing in upstate NY (Lake Ontario & Finger Lakes) on dad's Thistle # 686, a mahogany beauty. I moved to PT about 6 months ago.