Gingerly winding south – with Puffins and Shearwaters

We slipped away from our G’Sung Gwaii tour after completing our visit to the beach site with all its story-filled poles and headed south. The wind forecast was 15-25 kts from the northwest and we generally wanted to go southeast. So we unrolled our genoa jib and pushed it out with a whisker pole so it would catch the wind. Off we ran (to use a sailing term meaning the wind is abaft the beam, i.e.from the rear generally).


Here is a link to a higher resolution image.

An hour or so later, as we were coming abeam of Cape St. James at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii we turned more toward the southeast and the wind started to build so that the true wind was often above 20 kts. We rolled in some of the jib to reduce the amount of sail and to slow the boat as the boat speed was jutting into the 8-9 kt range. We also got out our stash of candied ginger which is a needed ‘medicine’ when stomachs start to quail to the rocking and bouncing that Cat’s Cradle was subjecting us to. Wave heights seemed to be in the 1-2 m range, with some much larger.

IMG_5658Leslie now had five layers on and was driving the boat up and over and down and around the waves which were quartering us on our aft port side. In this situation, the port hull lifts as the wave arrives and then after the crest passes that hull, the boat makes a quick turn to port as the second hull comes over the crest and then the boat more-or-less resumes it original course. Think of it as Cat’s Cradle sashaying along. When Leslie saw that she had hit 11.1 kts at one point, she called for more reefing and, as sunset was approaching, we rolled in more jib, proceeding with a little handkerchief up there still pulling us along at 6-7 kts.IMG_5626

Whales visited, birds flew and swam, and a big ship came down on us.  It finally turned westward and passed behind us, likely starting toward China.  Slowly the sun went down., but the wind remained strong. We noticed that our highest gust so far was 32 kts true (25 kts apparent).

By sunrise each of us had had several 2-hour watches during which we viewed the stars appearing and the clouds darkening, We noted the wind and boat speed and watched for other vessels (we saw two). The autopilot turned the steering wheel this way and that way in small or large amounts, either quickly or slowly.  The GPS noted that, though everything looked the same around us, we surely were progressing back from our two weeks on Haida Gwaii to Vancouver Island and mainland Canada.


IMG_5664IMG_5714With dawn came more birds and dolphins and as we approached our goal, we viewed occasional and then rafts of sea otters. About 10 nm from Bull Harbor, the wind dropped to 10 knots.  With an adverse current jetting across the Nawhitti Bar, we turned the motor on and dodged the bar by carefully crossing through a huge kelp-infested reef. We tucked into serene Bull Harbor where it took two days of cleaning the boat, resting and reading, and walking the rock- strewn Roller Bay to get ourselves back into travel mode.  Here we are at Roller Bay looking back at the horizon over which we had so recently come.

Stats: distance traveled = 174 nm, time = 28 hrs, ave speed 6 kts, ave wind speed ~15-20 kts NW, max wind speed 32 kts true, 25 kts apparent, seas = 1-3 m, engine hours = 3

Here is a map of our path where we experienced Gwaii Haanas – Place of Beauty – on Haida Gwaii.

Here is a link to a higher resolution image.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Val and Leslie, You are such brave sailors. Your adventures terrify me! How do you build up to weathering winds and waves so bravely!! Kudos to you both. Looking forward to your return to our island. Laura

  2. Hi Val and Leslie,

    What an exciting adventure you two are having, fulfilling a long-time dream of exploring Haida Gwai. Thanks for sharing it with us in such detail. We’re glad you survived the lost engine, the broken depth finder, the 6-foot waves, the huge cargo vessel, and those strong winds. And all the wildlife you are seeing is amazing: whales, puffins, otters, Dolphins, shearwaters, and eagles, oh my! The picture of the bear with a fish in her mouth is priceless. You two look so happy in Roller Bay in the sunshine after all the excitement of your stressful crossing. We’re looking forward to your next installment.

    We’re now in Port Townsend, heading for San Juan Island this coming Sunday (Aug 6).

    Love, Carol and Dave

  3. Wow….you guys are amazing….such a wonderful adventure you are having…memories for a lifetime….when will your book be published? I want a signed copy!!!

    While you are bundled in 5 layers, Don and I toodle around in our skivvies trying to stay cool!!! (Our new home has no shutters, but we do have curtains in our bedrooms!!! ) Anyway we are busy with lots of projects and that is just what we like!

    The kids went off to Santa Cruz for a week of much needed vacation….I feed fish and cat and put lights on and off; bring in mail and water on the days allowed. Don is working in his fabulous garage and I am digging in the backyard dirt. Life is good!!

    Safe travels…, Janie and Don

Leave a Reply

Close Menu