Back to Vancouver Island

I got derailed on my Vancouver Island story with a couple of other stories I thought were worth sharing, but now I’m back to the chronicle of my adventures in sailing. Since my last post, I was up at the CITW brewing some beer, and I started binge-watching Alone, A History Channel reality TV show. The premise of the show is to put ten guys  out in the wilderness with just a few basic items, and the one who lasts the longest wins $500,000. (Yes ladies, it is a sexist show. The contestants were all males, at least at the time of the filming.) The contestants film themselves and therefore are truly alone, without cameramen or producers to give them a Snickers bar if they get hungry. They each have a satellite phone they can use to pack it in, or tap out, as they call it. It’s an interesting show and interesting premise, but most interesting to me was the wilderness area chosen by the producers. The area is around Winter Harbour, in Quatsino Sound, at the NW end of Vancouver Island. I haven’t watched the whole first season yet, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty good. The contestants range from the pasty overweight white males who probably are also part of right-wing militias or Civil war re-enactors (and Trump supporters) to younger, more athletic types, to a good old boy from Georgia who recites poetry occasionally. The show emphasizes that there are 200 wolves, 7000 black bears, and 1000 cougars on the island, and the guys I’ve stereotyped as right wing survivalists are true to another stereotype I have of right wingers. They are all scared shitless of animals in the wild, especially wolves and bears. One guy packs it in when a bear is outside his shelter in the middle of the first night, and another taps out when he hears wolves in the distance. But I digress, the point is that we sailed (motored, actually) right through the area where this series was made.

capescottWe left Port Hardy on July 4th, and with the wind on our nose, motored all the way to Bull Harbour, a well-protected bay on Hope Island. A pod of Dahl porpoises played with us for quite a while which was the only thing that broke the monotony of a otherwise dreary day.


As you can see, there was no wind in Bull Harbour.

The next morning we left early to catch the low slack tide at the Nawhitti Bar. The is a shallow area in the channel that can get really rough with opposing winds and currents. We had a relatively easy passage through the bar with no problems. The rest of the trip to the Winter Harbor area was uneventful, with winds of 3-7 knots from the south and east. More motoring.

Normally at this time of the year, there is a Pacific high pressure area that parks itself west of the Queen Charlotte Islands and produces consistent 20-30 knot NW winds down the coast of Vancouver Island. The winds we were experiencing were either non-existent or gale force from the south or east. And even though we were there in July, summer had not yet come to the Island. For the most part, it was cold, wet and dreary, just like the weather on Alone. I guess we were a bit early. Oh well. We were having a grand time nonetheless.

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Navigating New York

As many of you know, Megan and I recently spent a bit more than a week in New York City. The proximate cause was Megan’s niece’s wedding, but we’d often talked about taking a trip to New York and making like tourists. Here was the perfect excuse to do just that. Thank you Lynden and Brendan! (BTW, you two put on a wonderful wedding!)

If you’re going to get around New York quickly and at reasonable cost, you have to use the subway system. Megan and I have been on subways in various cities around the world, and usually get the hang of them fairly quickly. First you have to find the right line to your destination. Got it. Google Maps makes that easy. The next think to know is what direction you’re going because any given stop has trains going in both directions. In NY, the station directions are marked with the name of the station at the end of the line. Well, I don’t know whether the direction we’re going is to Jamaica St. or Coney Island (where is Coney Island, anyway?) I think there will be a map of the line in the station, right? I thought wrong. OK, we need a paper map. Got it. But then you have to figure out where you are in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s a pretty big place. OK, we’re getting this all figured out. Then when you get to your stop and emerge from the depths to street level Manhattan, which way do you go? Google Maps will know, right? Well, kinda. I think the maps were designed more with cars than people in mind. In a car, you know immediately, from that nagging female Google voice if you’re going in the wrong direction. On foot, you can (and we did) often walk a block or more before your location on the screen and the direction you’re going catches up with you. Another thing is that I think with all the tall buildings in Manhattan, the GPS signal often is weak or lost, so Google Maps estimates your position and thinks you’re in the middle of some building well off the street.

After a couple of days, we’re starting to feel like natives, making multiple trips to Manhattan and back. Then one night, going back to Brooklyn, we caught the F train toward Coney Island, planning to get off on Bergen St. The train was marked Express, but that just means it goes faster, right? Wrong. The train went faster by skipping several stops, including Bergen St. We got off as soon as we could, and then looked around to catch the F train in the opposite direction. In a very unmale-like fashion, I asked a fellow passenger on the platform. He very courteously told me that trains 2 or 3 on the adjacent platform went to Bergen St. Great! We wouldn’t have to walk up to street level, cross the street and go down the other side to the F train. Train #2 came by shortly, we got on , and got off at Bergen St. a few stops later. We got off and went up to street level, and yes, it was Bergen St., but it was a Bergen St. with which we were unfamiliar. After some discussion (which did not enhance marital bliss), we ended up walking about 12 blocks and eventually found our place.


As it turned out, there are TWO Bergen St. stations in the same general vicinity! There ought to be a law against that sort of thing. And looking back on it now, I can’t retrace the route we took, so I guess I’m still confused.

But we did become familiar enough with the subways to get to Manhattan to see Hamilton (which was absolutely fabulous), the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Fiddler on the Roof, the Metropolitan Museum, the Neue Galerie, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Jewish Museum, and I had a huge plate of pastrami on rye. We were tourists indeed, and we lived to tell the tale.

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Ray Wylie Hubbard, revisited

Back in January 2006, I was skiing with Caroline and Megan (I only had one Megan in my life at that time) at Stevens Pass. I decided to cut across a bend on the easy groomed trail we were on, and found myself in deep powder. Being the lousy intermediate skier that I am, I buried my right tip in the snow and snagged an unseen rock or branch that was lurking beneath the snow. My ski stopped suddenly, and I was launched forward into a face-plant. By the time my lovely daughters quit laughing at me, I realized that something was very wrong. I had broken my ankle.

24 hours after my ski patrol toboggan ride down the mountain, I was at home with my foot in a cast, watching TV, and wondering what I was going to do for the next 6-8 weeks of no load bearing on that foot. I discovered the Sopranos on HBO and binge-watched (before binge-watching was fashionable) the first two seasons in just a few days. Then I managed to rent another season from the local (now long gone) video store. What next? I read a book or two, and then decided enough was enough. I was going to go on a road trip.

A good friend of mine was dying in Jackson, MS, and I wanted to see him before he shed his mortal coil. I had acquaintances in New Orleans, and I figured that while was in the area, I do some disaster tourism five months after Katrina. And on the way there, I could easily plan my route to go through Austin, TX and see some of my favorite musicians. I checked out the schedules of a few of them and saw that RWH was playing at the Old Quarter Cafe in Galveston in the time frame that I’d be in the area.

After a week or so of cross-country driving, I was in Austin. I saw Ruthie Foster and Eliza Gilkyson, among others, and then went to Galveston. I found the venue, but it wasn’t open yet. I hung around until Wrecks Ball (look him up, he’s an old friend of Townes Van Zandt) showed up and opened up the place. He told me the show was sold out, but I played the injured-fan-from-Seattle card. He relented and let me in. The Old Quarter was a pretty small venue at the time, so I managed to get up close and personal to RWH, and chatted with him between sets. He even autographed one of my crutches.

I carried on with my trip to New Orleans. It was shocking. At that time, there were still appliances and furniture from gutted houses on the streets and lots filled with flooded cars. (I have pictures from that trip somewhere, but I couldn’t find them) Then it was on to Jackson, where I spent a couple of days with my old friend Mark. (He died a month later).

A month later, I was back home again, and finally got rid of the cast. Life went back to normal, or as normal as it ever gets for me.

Fast-forward 10+ years. RWH played at the Tractor last night, and even though he was showing his age, his voice was great, and he put on a fabulous show. He played a lot of old stuff, some new stuff, and kept us well-entertained with his between-song chatter. He closed the show with one of my favorites, The Messenger.

And true groupie that I am, I approached him after the show, and got a photo with him.


Life is good.

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Alert Bay and Port Hardy

We spent a couple of nights in Alert Bay, which gave us a chance to visit the U’Mista Cultural Society’s collection of Potlatch masks. The Potlatch was an enduring native ceremony wherein individuals would give away or even destroy a lot of their possessions. To the white man, this was such an alien custom that it threatened the assimilation of the natives. From Wikipedia – “a worse than useless custom” that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to ‘civilized values’ of accumulation. Something had to be done, so in the late 1800’s the practice was outlawed. But the practice persisted. Finally in 1921, the Potlatch masks that were an integral part of the ceremony were confiscated in a raid and were sent to various museums and collections in Canada and the USA. Thereafter Potlatches were driven underground. Finally in the 1980’s, a more enlightened government funded the construction of the museum and returned most of the masks. The masks are on display, but are not just museum pieces. They are still used periodically in Potlatches held in the facility.


It’s a fascinating history and a fascinating collection. It’s well worth the $10 admission fee.

On the way back from the museum we saw a few guys working on what looked like an old wooden canoe. We walked over and struck up a conversation.


They were good guys! The one in the red t-shirt seemed to be the one in charge. They had paddled this boat for hundreds if not thousands of miles over the years. It was indeed hand-hewn in the traditional fashion.


We even ended up giving them a hand with their project of the day.


Rainer helped them hoist the pole structure that I think was to be used as supports for a tarp cover so they could work on the boat in crappy weather. I did my bit by snapping a few photos to preserve the moment for prosterity.

The next day we set off for Port Hardy, about 30 nautical miles away. We ended up motoring all the way there because the favorable forecast winds didn’t arrive until we were a couple of miles from our destination. We didn’t realize it then, but this was becoming the modus operandi of the trip.

We spent a couple of nights at the dock in Port Hardy, replenishing our food and beer supplies. We had a good evening swapping lies with a couple of well-traveled dock-mates. One was a guy from New Zealand who looked a bit like Richard Branson. He was a relatively young (younger than me) guy, but had sailed all over the world and had a bunch of stories to tell. One of the things I liked about both these guys was that they didn’t embellish their stories with their vast knowledge of sailing, even though they had that in abundance. The stories were mostly about how badly they’d screwed up at times.

We were having a good time until the scariest incident of the whole trip happened. I went down below to get my camera, and going down the companion way stairs backwards (the way you’re supposed to, like climbing down a ladder), I thought I was on the cabin floor and let go of the handrails. Unfortunately I was on the last step, but soon was on the floor after falling straight back striking the settee bench with the left side of my back. It knocked the wind out of me, and paralyzed me for a few seconds. I thought I had really done myself some serious damage. I managed to get my breath back, and struggled to get to my feet. Since I was moving and talking, I knew I hadn’t severed my spinal chord, but the pain was excruciating. As the evening progressed, the pain lessened a bit, but when I went to turn in for the night, it must have taken me a half hour to get into bed. The next day I was still in a lot of pain, but fortunately had a supply of Percocet that I got from my doctor before I left in case I had a kidney stone attack. I didn’t need them for kidney stones, but they helped me through a couple of really rough days with my back. The only problem was the most common side effect of opioids. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up. I won’t bore you with the gruesome details.

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Refuge Cove to Alert Bay

Boating through Desolation Sound is always a bit of a challenge due to the narrow channels and the strong tidal currents. We wanted to get from Refuge Cove to Johnstone Strait and then on to points north. We chose to go through Hole in the Wall, which is the passage between Maurelle and Sonora Islands. It’s not a dangerous passage if it’s timed right, but if you get it wrong, currents up to nine knots will stop any progress and run an unwary boater into the rocks. (At full throttle, Rinpoche will only do about 8 knots) So the trick is to go through these channels at or near slack current. We had three sources for the timing of the currents. Rainer had a paper Canadian tide and current book and an Ipad with navigational software, and I had the software on the Raymarine chartplotter. These can be a bit confusing at times, but once we got the times from all sources to agree within a few minutes, we left to get to Hole in the Wall at about 10:30. Here’s the route we took:

refuge to billy goat

Refuge Cove is in the lower right corner and Billy Goat Bay is on Helmcken Island at the upper left. Our timing for Hole in the Wall was good. We encountered a bunch of swirling currents, but nothing we couldn’t easily handle. The Hole in the Wall is wider than it’s name would suggest.P1060020

You get a little bit of an idea of the swirling waters in this picture.

Once we got into Johnstone Strait, we managed to put up the sails and sail for a few hours in relatively light winds.


I’m sure you sailors out there will criticize my sail trim, but at least I got the telltales flying!

We spent the night anchored in Billy Goat Bay, but unfortunately we didn’t see any.

The next day we sailed (mostly) the 50 nautical miles to Alert Bay. And did we ever sail! At first the winds were on our butt and relatively light, so we put up the gennaker. But we brought it down within minutes as the winds soon rose above 15 knots. And they kept rising! So we put a reef in the main. We saw winds of over 30 knots, and ended up running downwind with two reefs in the main and the genoa partially furled. We still hit speeds through the water in excess of 10 knots! The water was rough, and it was a cold dreary day, but what a blast! And we even learned a few things. I had never put a reef in the main while the sails were loaded, but we gave it a try and it worked just fine. Twice.


Alert Bay is primarily a native community, known mostly for its Potlatch Museum and a large community of native artists. As much as the cruise ships can be annoying, I’m sure the locals do well when the ships anchor and send over their shore launches full of tourists with pockets full of cash.


More on Alert Bay in my next post.

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Seattle to CITW

I hadn’t been to the Cabin In The Woods for about three months, and it was about time to go. I had a few things on my to-do list, but brewing a batch of beer wasn’t one of them. It was 90° in the shade when I got here, and that’s too hot for beer brewing in my non-airconditioned Brewhaus. (Not so much for my comfort as for the comfort of the fermenting brew. Most ales like a fermentation temperature about 65°) High on my list was cutting down a few trees that made the mistake of growing too close to the cabin. For that sin, they will serve their time in the fireplace during the winter of 2017-18. The other thing was to load up the snowmobiles and take them back to civilization for long overdue service.

Cutting down fairly large trees wasn’t something I felt really comfortable with, especially by myself. I could just see a tree creating an open-air skylight in the CITW or Brewhaus roof. In general terms, I knew how to cut a notch in the trunk and then cut from the opposite side to make the tree fall in the direction of the notch. But having never done this before, I wasn’t really confident. So I did what any self-respecting lumberjack-wannabe would do – I watched a YouTube video. In less than five minutes, I was an expert.

Here are the results:



This one of the four trees I cut down. I’ll let them lie for a few weeks before splitting and stacking them. (Hey Pete – you wanna come down here and give me a hand?)


The remaining trees are still on the ground. Cutting them down and bucking up one of them was about enough for one day for this old man.

I was tempted to prop up my camera and make a video of my lumberjacking skills, but I realized that if things went wrong, the video could end up going viral for all the wrong reasons. And if things went really wrong, that video could include my last breath. So preferring anonymity to infamy, I just went ahead and started cutting. The trees fell without drama. Maybe there are some lumberjack genes in my Canadian heritage.

The next project was to drag the trailer out the bush and load the sleds up. Surprisingly enough, there was air in the tires after at least three years of just sitting there. Loading the sleds in non-winter conditions is always a pain in the butt. They don’t work worth a damn in gravel. I backed the trailer up close to the garage and managed to drive one of them on. The other one had to be winched on, but otherwise all went well.


The sleds had not been serviced for at least three years, and last season they were starting to show it. With some luck, we’ll have a great winter of snow this year, and put many miles on these beasts.

Ps. For those of you expecting another round Vancouver Island post, stay tuned. There are a lot more to come.

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Nanaimo to Refuge Cove

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned I’d read 4-1/2 books on this trip. Actually it was 5-1/2, but the half book I read was The Wanderer, by Sterling Hayden. It was the latest selection of the Men’s Book Club, and even though  I missed the last meeting (due to this trip), I felt an obligation to finish the book. But it wasn’t really an obligation at all – it was a pleasure! You might recognize the name Sterling Hayden even if you can’t put a face on him. He was an actor in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s, appearing in dozens of movies. The ones I remember him for are Dr. Strangelove, and The Godfather.

Before reading the book, I had no idea of his background and early life. He dropped out of school when he was 16, went fishing and sailing, and by the age of 22 was an accomplished enough sailor to be given the job of taking a ship from Boston to Tahiti. During WWII he woked for the OSS, running guns to the Yugoslav partisans. And then he became a Hollywood actor, got married, had four kids, got divorced, got custody of the kids, and defying court orders, he fell off the face of the earth in 1959 and sailed (with the kids and others), from San Francisco to Tahiti on his 90′ wooden sailboat, The Wanderer. (I left out a whole bunch of stuff because my run-on sentence had run on long enough.) It’s a great well-written story I highly recommend.

But back to our wandering travels. We bid Ilse adieu, and left Nainamo for our next stop in Tribune Bay on Hornby Island. We sailed for a couple of hours, but motored most of the way. Tribune Bay is a gorgeous bay with good shelter from all directions except the south. We had northerly winds (on the nose of course) so we weren’t too worried. There were even people swimming on the beach and from one of the boats anchored nearby. So of course, Rainer had to have a dip.


I used old age, and the wisdom that comes with old age, as the excuse for not joining him.

The next day we went to Refuge Cove, via Powell River and Lund. I’ve always liked Powell River for their innovative use of old concrete ships that were half-sunk to act as a breakwater for the huge pulp mill that Powell River is more famous for.


I never did find out what the story was behind these particular ships. They’re all ferro-cement, which was thought to be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to build ships during WWII. For a variety of reasons, they didn’t work out very well, and a dozen or so of them ended up in Powell River.

The next stop after Powell River was Lund. It is kinda the end of the line before getting into Desolation Sound. I had stopped there a couple of times on previous trips, and thought I knew where it was. We just kept on motoring, with me thinking Lund was around the next point. After we had motored for far too long, I stopped to figure out exactly where we were. Depending on the level of detail on the boat’s chartplotter, place names are not always shown. It turned out that Lund was indeed around one of the previous points (about 4 miles behind us), but unless you look back, you’ll never see it when you’re travelling north. Oh well, there are worse things than an extra hour on the water on a gorgeous sunny day.

The final stop for the day was Refuge Cove. They’ve got a funky little store (with a good beer selection) and a drive-thru (boat-thru?) garbage barge run by a derelict from the sixties who seems to have caught the entrepreneurial bug late in life. We supported his venture by paying him $5 to get rid of a small bag of trash.

In two days, we’d gone 91 nautical miles, with about 30 of those miles under sail.We didn’t know it then, but that day was the last hot day we’d see for the next month.


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