In 2015, after shipment of His Idea to British Columbia from Florida, we made a few short trips to the Gulf and San Juan Islands to reintroduce ourselves to cruising on the west coast. The rocky coastline, large tides and swift currents, and relative frequency of fog create different cruising conditions from the waters of eastern North America and the Caribbean. Following further short excursions earlier this year we felt ready to tackle an extended cruise up the coast, beyond where we had been before, to the Discovery Islands, Blackfish Sound, and the Broughton Archipelago.
Essentially this area covers the islands and channels between Vancouver Island and the mainland from Campbell River to Port McNeill/Port Hardy. It has a history of long First Nations habitation, early twentieth century settlement to take advantage of its forestry and fishing resources (although often on a small and/or remote scale), and abundant fish and wildlife. The latter resource now fosters the sport-fishing and eco-tourism industries, which in turn are helping to sustain the remaining small communities and outposts that are spread around the region. With a labyrinth of calm channels, numerous protected anchorages, both rustic and high-end marinas and resorts, great opportunities for viewing wildlife, and spectacular scenery, this region is an outstanding cruiser’s destination.
To get there from Georgia Strait, potential challenges for the mariner include the swiftest currents and most dangerous tidal rapids anywhere, fog any time of year, and the chance for rough seas, particularly when transiting 65 mile long Johnstone Strait. Although we encountered some fog in Johnstone Strait, both northbound and southbound we were blessed with very little wind and calm seas throughout this area, and generally excellent cruising conditions.
Ironically it was in Georgia Strait that we encountered our roughest weather, as well as our first serious mechanical breakdown with His Idea. While heading south for Point Roberts from our overnight stop at Jedediah Island (located west of the south end of Texada Island), we were being bounced around in 3-4’ moderate seas. To shorten the duration of the rough passage we decided to head towards Nanaimo to duck in at Gabriola Passage and continue south in the protected waters behind the northern Gulf Islands. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision, because about 5 miles off Nanaimo we lost power to the port engine. Upon shut down and inspection it became apparent that a high-pressure fuel line had ruptured and was spewing diesel fuel around the engine compartment – not a good thing. Except at very slow speeds His Idea handles well with only one engine and we were able to plow through the swells and limp into Nanaimo harbour. To make a long story short, after waiting for repairs and the now gale force winds to abate, we returned to Point Roberts in good form, albeit four days late.
Despite our challenges near the end of the journey, this trip lived up to all our cruising expectations, and we will definitely return to the area again. This was also an excellent learning experience for us, as we will be retracing much of this route during the excursion to Southwest Alaska (Glacier Bay) we are planning for 2017.
We hope you enjoy the following pictures and commentary…..