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RCYC Broughton Islands Flotilla Trip, July 23 to August 14, 2016
After much anticipation and preparation, we departed Ladner harbour with 3 boats: "Minty", "Noteworthy", and "Pasatiempo". Within 15 minutes we had rendezvoused with "La Sirena Gorda" at Westham Island Marina. This was to be the theme throughout, gaining more and more boats. In total 14 boats were to join in with the Flotilla at various points along the way. It was a record year for RCYC boats in the Broughtons and points further north.
Wind was light on the trip north. The first stop was Pender Harbour at our reciprocal Garden Bay. Ice creams were enjoyed at John Henry’s a short walk away. "Gulf Return" and "Hot Toddy" joined the flotilla, bringing the boat count up to six.
After a 7 hour run we hit the Yucultas and Dent Rapids exactly at slack water, with a parade of boats passing though. Dent Island lived up to its reputation, costing about $150 to tie up, dinner at $110 per person. However, the quality of facility and amenities were appreciated, with the hot tub overlooking the rapids, first class gym and great leather sofa lounge. Most boats actually had their power plugged in by the marina staff, before the skipper had even stepped onto the float. "Kirie" met us at Dent, for a total of 7 boats.
The third day was another aggressive push to get well beyond Desolation Sound. We hit Green Point Rapids with a few knots of current with us, and the same at Whirlpool Rapids. Winds were threatening on Johnston Strait, but by hugging the shoreline and with favourable currents (current flowing with the northerly winds) it was reasonably comfortable. We arrived at Chatham Channel at slack, as planned, and passed through the Blow Hole into Lagoon Cove. It took a while to get our slips, as 10 boats arrived at once. "Moonstar" and "Shell’s Diamond" were there to meet us. This was the location of the first scuba dive, where Chris and Mike caught an Alaskan King Crab. Austin put on a crab feast that was enjoyed by all.
Potts Lagoon was our first anchorage. Everyone did a handsome job of anchoring and we were well distributed in the basin. Weather was perfect with a light breeze and blue sky sunshine, making for a pretty anchorage. It was a bit of a shakedown as some learned about which switches to set or not set to conserve batteries, for start up in the morning.
We had our first fog at Blackfish Pass. It was expected to be good practice, but we had a large container barge meet us mid channel, which saw us scooting out of the way – “Wow that looks like something big on the radar, hey it seems to be closing fast, holy *@%$ .…”
Port McNeil is ideally configured for boaters with everything within an easy walk from the floats. This time we stayed at North Island Marina, who have been promoting their facility at the boat shows. Perks included: fueling in berth with group volume discount, very attentive dock staff for tying and untying, a great party float with pre-heated charcoal mega barbecue (made great steaks) and a van. "Sea Jay" was there to meet us, bringing the boat count up to 10. Rene provided a trip to Telegraph Cove with the van. Rene and Kate’s friend Garth acted as dive-master with a side dive trip to Blackfish Sound on "La Sirena Gorda", resulting in some monstrous scallops to be shared at the happy hour. We were joined by many locals that were friends of various boats. We all left full of fuel, full of water and full of IGA groceries.
Booker Lagoon was supposed to follow Port McNeil. But, a well predicted 35 knot storm on Queen Charlotte Strait saw us holed up and strapped-to-the-docks for two days. "Kirie", "Moonstar", "Shell’s Diamond" and "La Sirena Gorda" did brave the post storm conditions and spent a night or two in the lagoon. Although their timings of slack water for entrance and exit were somewhat casual, in a couple of cases, resulting in a wild ride, not to be repeated.
The more conservative boats enjoyed Sointula. Due to the winds, docking was exciting, with boats held out until an on-the-dock team was ready to catch them. There was a daily march to the bakery and to the coffee shop, both a couple of kilometers from the marina. Bikes were provided and our not-so-shy members got rides from the friendly islanders. We got to know the Chilean baker quite well; Chris and Donna placed a custom bread order for the entire group. "Kirie" hosted happy hour, with all of us fitting onto their boat.
The trip across Queen Charlotte Strait was patiently timed for dead calm conditions. But a fog came up, putting our afore-mention well-practiced [NOT!!] Radar skills to work. We actually encountered three large vessels on our course, one of which appeared to be unattended, as it would have passed right through our group. Magically "La Sirena Gorda" sprang out of the fog from Booker Lagoon, to follow in behind us on the way up Wells Passage.
At Sullivan Bay, the total boats together peaked at 12 With "Lone Wolf" and "Aquileia" joining. Impressive how Don and Lynn had outfitted their new boat so quickly for long range cruising. The one hole golf tournament was won by Ed Thornton on "Hot Toddy". The first night had happy hour under the white tent, meeting all of the other boaters - mostly from Puget Sound. The second night was a classic RCYC line up of lawn chairs and appy tables down both sides of the dock - between the boats. A 19 knot tour of Drury Inlet and Actaeon Sound was put on by "Noteworthy". This included a stop at the tiny shop in Jennis Bay. The surprising highlight was the fascinated audience that formed to watch Donna do laundry in Ken & ML’s blue plastic portable machine. It could have been the urgent need for such services at that point in the trip, and possibly the $11 per load that the marina was charging that lead to the interest.
Turnbull Cove was a short run to an idyllic fully enclosed anchorage. Surrounded by evergreens on steep hills with an 8 to 30 m depth, this is the ultimate storm hole. However, we had sunny weather and launched all of the water toys. Traps were set and a couple fished from their anchored boats. Steve and Rene hiked over to Hyaskin Lake. The highlight was the arrival of "Golden Days", a short jaunt over from Burly Cove, where they had seen bears. It was good to catch up with Pat and Bernie, as they had been out since June and had been as far as Kitimat.
Up early, a three hour trip brought us to Kwatsi, the wildest and most remote of the stops. En Route we passed two pods of white sided dolphins. Kwatsi has lots of good filtered and treated water; so, all filled their tanks. However, no power. Wifi from 8am to 10 am and 3pm to 5pm curbed the more internet-addicted amongst us. RCYC took over the entire marina and the pot luck dinner was a feast. Anca says we were by far the most enthusiastic group. We proved this by dancing on the party float from 7 pm to 9 pm. We actually had three DJs: John, ML and Kate, who took turns blasting out the tunes on John’s wifi speaker. John topped the charts, following up on last year’s Feckin Irish Whiskey, with a tune to match: “where … is Alice?”. Dancing below a 4000 foot mountain with rock cliffs and swirling mist was a surreal experience. Desert was an improbable barbecue of gluten free smores, that was prepared by the gourmet chef Sharon. Ken helped by pre-flighting the barbecue with an aggressive flame-on.
The second day at Kwatsi saw "Aquileia" rejoin the group. There was a walk to the falls. The highlight was a large pod of white sided dolphins that entered the bay several times and came right up the boats. Floating in a kayak or dinghy amongst the leaping dolphins was more than exciting. Many watched the Olympics opening using Austin’s satellite TV. Two bears foraged on the nearby beach, well into the evening.
Considering the number of boats, mechanical issues were limited: "Hot Toddy" bought new batteries, "Moonstar" dealt with fuel in the bilge, "Noteworthy" had a new genset fail and "Gulf Return" was chasing down some outboard switches.
The weather was good on average. Other than the three windy days at Port McNeil and Sointula, winds were light. Most days were misty with clouds burning off in the afternoon. Temperatures typically ranged from 8 degrees at night to about 20 degrees in the afternoon. There was very little rain – the occasional short / light shower. We had overnight dousings at Kwatsi and at Laura Bay that cleaned the boats. Fog was prevalent around Queen Charlotte Strait.
After Kwatsi and full of water, most were looking to charge up batteries, after three days off the grid. A two hour run took us to Laura Bay, where we stern tied in the tight anchorage. Unfortunately, Sharon fell down their fly bridge ladder, breaking ribs. So, ML provided first aid and it resulted in a resting afternoon. Five boats stern tied, 1 anchored free swinging and 2 rafted. "Aquileia" and "Golden Days" were within hailing range nearby. It was a sunny and calm picturesque anchorage.
Arrived at Echo Bay early and there was lots of room. Steve and Rene headed off on a hike on the old logging roads. Others tried salmon fishing. Nice to have a store and power to recharge the batteries. Although garbage was starting to build up at this point. "Golden Days", "Aquileia" and "Lone Wolf" rejoined the group, totalling 12 boats from RCYC. Pat had bragging rights, having caught a 60 pound halibut. "Moonstar" hosted a tour over to Billy Proctor’s Museum. Billy has added two small buildings: one with a collection of the Echo Bay school items and another of a hand faller’s cabin. Pierre did great job of roasting the prime rib dinner. We all celebrated Rene and Kate’s 28th anniversary. After some consideration and discussion, Sharon and Iz decided they would go to McNeil for x-rays. So, they headed off on Tuesday morning with "Gulf Return" accompanying and Rene and Kate to help Iz with the boat handling; both boats planning to rejoin at Port Harvey. The last day at Echo Bay involved a dinghy excursion to Yvonne Maximchuck’s SeaRose Studio and a joint dinner on the dock, with Ken from Chemainus providing the salmon and Chris and Donna providing crab.
There was a general down-sizing of the group, with many heading off fishing and on their separate itineraries. The next stop was to Port Harvey, via Knight inlet – "Hot Toddy", "La Sirena Gorda", "Noteworthy", "Minty" and "Pasatiempo". It was a somber run through the Broughton Islands Park and down Knight Inlet, with low hanging cloud and calm seas. "La Sirena Gorda" had a full trap of prawns, which set the menu for dinner. We had heard tantalizing rumours about the baking, which was confirmed with: large pizza for dinner and fresh baked cinnamon buns and croissants for breakfast. On the second day at Port Harvey the sun came out and "Kirie" and "Gulf Return" rejoined the flotilla, after the medical excursion to McNeil. Steve and Chris went diving at the Broken Islands; with John, Ed and Donna as boat captains. Conditions were good with great visibility, slack tide and many fish. So much so, that John, Ed, Phil and Chris came back with their rods catching lots of Ling Cod, which resulted in a fish feast on the dock - amidst Irish tunes from John’s boom box. As the sun set, the moon was up with several adjacent planets – the clear night sky coinciding with the Perseid meteor shower.
An early start caught the favourable tides down Johnstone straight. "Sea Jay" stayed on at Port Harvey. Had our third fog adventure, this time being quite practiced and performed well as a group. We were about an hour ahead of, slack at both Current Passage and Seymour Narrows, giving us a push all the way, arriving in Campbell River at 2 pm. All fueled up and took advantage of the adjacent shopping. This was the hottest day at 27 degrees. We had a last supper at the marina pub, where further flotilla dispersion decisions were made. On Saturday:
"Pasatiempo" extended their reservation to leave their boat and fly back to Vancouver.
"Noteworthy" headed direct to Ladner at dawn, a 12 hour 110 nautical mile run.
"Minty" and "Hot Toddy" headed to John Henry’s at Pender Harbour for a couple of days.
"Kirie" and "La Sirena Gorda" headed to Powell River to visit family, then to Sargeant Bay.
Much of the above to avoid travelling on Sunday, when stormy conditions were predicted. With the exception of Chris and Donna, whom headed back north, the residual flotilla rejoined and crossed the southern Georgia Strait on Monday, August 15th with mirror flat conditions. And…. that was the end of the three week odyssey. In all 14 RCYC boats participated.
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