Slow Boatin through B.C.

Its been a whirlwind since we left Friday Harbor for Roche Harbor on Saturday evening to meet the Slow Boat flotilla.  The leads (Sam, Laura and Kevin) have us heading to Alaska at a pretty quick clip.  The strategy is to move north to Juneau in approximately 5 weeks, and leisurely explore on our own on the way back south.  This ensures that we dont run out of time.  

After we were all safely tied up at our assigned slips in the Roche Harbor marina, we gathered for happy hour on the dock to meet our new friends for the month.  Eileen and Dan on Fortunate were celebrating Dans retirement.  Ralph, on Rhapsody, would be single handing his boat until his wife was able to meet him later in Juneau.  There are 2 lead boats – Sam on Safe Harbour and Laura and Kevin on Airship.  The group quickly fell into lively conversation, sharing stories and laughs about boating mishaps, triumphs and travel.  

Cassidy at Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor
The next few days were long.  The scenery is awe-inspiring…but at the same time it feels interminable.  I am restless.  Those that know me well dont expect to find me standing still.  I am generally buzzing around.  Walking, cleaning, hiking, running….I am constantly in motion.  Dougal quickly fell into the rhythm of the boat.  He is at ease.  He enjoys the countless hours on the boat, listening to his podcasts, messing with the the electronics, working on our videos.  I knew what I was in for…in theory.  Time passes so quickly when we are buried in work, shuttling kids from one activity to another, hustling through the chores of everyday life.  Cassidy grew up too quickly already.  The plan was to slow down.  I sincerely enjoy the views of the snow capped mountains and the soaring tree-covered hills from this unique vantage point.  But it is definitely an adjustment.  

Day One brought us across the Canadian border.  The passage required a little bit of planning.  Although not terribly technical, it is ideal to travel to our Silva Bay destination through the Gabriola Passage, 38 nautical miles from Roche Harbor, at slack tide.  We also had to account for a stopover in Bedwell Harbour to clear Canadian customs.  MV Cassidy was the slowest in the fleet so we would head out before everyone else.  We were on our way by 7:00 am, with coffee in hand, and arrived at Bedwell Harbour about an hour later.  It was a beautiful morning, so I was not disappointed that it took them some time to work their way through our passports and papers.  I pulled a chair out onto the deck to admire the view and soak up the sun.  

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  We took in the views as we hummed along.  When we arrived at Silva Bay, we were anxious to go exploring.  It had been a long day underway and we were happy to stretch our legs.  Sadly, there wasnt much to see here.  A recent fire had burned down the restaurant and store.  Beyond the harbor, there was a work yard and a few run down buildings.  The floatilla joined on the docks for another happy hour.  It was an early night, as we would be back underway by 6:00 a.m. the next morning.  

Floatplane in SIlva Bay

Day Two was another long day at 35 nautical miles, crossing the Strait of Georgia to Garden Bay in Pender Harbour.  The Strait of Georgia is known for unfavorable conditions, with the wind kicking up waves over the wide stretch between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.  The weather forecast was not great.  Certainly not unsafe, but we were not expecting a comfortable crossing.

After our 6 a.m. departure, we were almost immediately met by strong winds.  Our ultrasonic wind gauge reported gusts upward of 30 knots outside the harbor – greater than the 15-20 knots forecasted for the morning.  It was rough for about 2 hours but the seas were on the beam, which allows our stabilizers to buck out a lot of the roll.  Nothing like our first few hours leaving San Francisco, but the worst we had seen since entering through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Conditions significantly improved once we turned into the sheltered waters on the other side of the strait.  We arrived in the early afternoon and launched the dinghy for some exploring.  The bay is picturesque with homes dotting the shoreline and tree covered mountains in the background.

On shore, we found a playground at a local school.  Cassidy joined a group of girls on recess playing tag.  That is, until someone came over to warn the teach that a bear was in the bushes just beyond the playground.  The teacher corralled the kids and brought them back into their classroom.  The flotilla group rejoined for a hiked up the steep hill to the Grasshopper Pub for dinner with an incredible view of the bay.  The view was amazing….but somehow we left without any pics!

Cassidy put on a performance for us at the outdoor stage at Pender Harbour
Day Three took us the 48 nautical miles from Pender Harbour to Squirrel Cove.  There wasn’t much more than a ripple in the water the entire passage.  We even completed some of our homeschooling work on the way over.  When we arrived, the anchorage was almost empty.  It is a peaceful, well protected anchorage with 360 degree views of the National Park area.  

In the evening, we gathered on the Airship / Safe Harbour raft up for happy hour.  It was a pleasant 67 degrees so we decided to bring the party upstairs to the outdoor deck.  Dougal and Ralph stayed down below.  After a few minutes, we heard a bit of a scuffle.  We looked over the side to find Dougal in the water!  His sunglasses had fallen off his head and he decided to go in after it.  Of course this wont be a surprise to anyone who has known Dougal long enough!

Rendezvous on the deck of Safe Harbor at Squirrel Cove

Beachcombing at Squirrel Cove

The public dock at Squirrel Cove

Day 4 would be the most technical passage.  Sam modified the schedule slightly to take advantage of favorable tidal and weather conditions.  We would travel a total of 49 nautical miles to Forward Harbour, passing through 5 rapids.  The rapids are narrow passages that can have strong currents, whirlpools, and eddys due to the large volumes of water moving when the tides change between ebb and flood.  We learned about calculating the slack time at the different rapids using data published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.  The most challenging rapid we would transit this day was Dent Rapid, so the schedule for the day revolved around arriving at this rapid at slack current.
As the slowest boat in the fleet, we had to leave about an hour before the group to arrive at the rendezvous point before the rapids at the same time.  Sam explained that the conditions were about as favorable as one could hope for.  As promised, we bumped around a bit but it was nothing we couldnt handle.

Forward Harbour, where stopped for the night,  is not much more than a safe anchorage on our way to the next destination.  Strange to describe it this way after looking at the pictures below.  The little cove is beautiful and serene.  We enjoyed a quiet night on the anchor, catching up on homeschool work and blogs.

Top speed of 10.8 knots as massive currents pushed us through the rapids

Airship and Rhapsody circling around as we waited for the slack current before entering Yulculta Rapids

Expansive views in Forward Harbour

Relaxing on the hook after a day roaring through the rapids

Forward Harbour….not a bad place to anchor for the night

3 thoughts on “Slow Boatin through B.C.”

  1. What a beautiful place, mountains, water smooth as glass and a marvelous reflection on the water. It looks like a painting. Well deserved peace and quiet after the rapids.  Get used to the pace and enjoy every moment. Fun to go with the Flotilla and meet up in the evenings. Love Mom.

  2. Roberleigh Zimmermann

    Don’t know if first part of my message went through so i’ll just say that i’m learning alot and enjoying the experience through your eyes. Keep up the good work. Can’t wait for next chapter. Be safe. 


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