Back Down To Vancouver Island

After an uneventful crossing to Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island, I was able to get my dental situation stabilized by the local dentist as a stop gap until we bet back to Bainbridge. No luck salmon fishing but our friends Bill & Diana on Sea Fever caught a nice chinook that they invited us to share with them. Very delicious. Diana is a dedicated fisher, out every morning at dawn in their tricked sport dinghy with Bill making the venture happen logistically. I think they were a little surprised when we took off after my dentist appointment for Port McNeil in a 25-30 northerly but it was a glorious sail down easily hitting 9 & 10 knots with just the jib rolled out.
Canada Day (july 1}can be really fun at these small towns, we’ve hit a few over the years, but Port McNeil was a little more low key than we’ve seen in the past. The community event was in the shopping center parking lot & only attended by a handful of people. Oh well, there’s always Gus’s Pub, our old standby with free wifi and a Laundromat next door.
We were able to sail most of the way down to the Broughtons–first stop Pierre’s Echo Bay-one of those floating villages that the power boaters love Usually a hot spot with lots of boats, a “happy hour” and shrimp or some other specialty dinner every night. But only two boats at the whole place which felt weird to us so we anchored out which may also seem implausible to those of you who have been there but a sumer local, Billy, (no relation to Billy Proctor) rowed out to show us just how to do it with a stern line to the Park Dock (condemned). And, we did finally got to visit Billy Proctor’s museum a short hike from Echo Bay. He’s a local legend, fisherman, logger who embodies the resourcefulness and spirit of the Rain Coast. His museum is an eclectic collection of flotsum and jetsom of the area. My favorite artifact is a gas powered skil saw. How handy would that be? The guy is 80+ and going strong and what a hoot. We had a great time laughing with hi on the front porch of his place.
We went on the the Birdwell Group to one of our favorite places stern tied to an eyelet with white shell beach and plenty of bottom fish for dinner. Then on up Tribune Channel to Kwatsi Bay for the Fourth of July celebration. This is another of the floating towns that’s part of a quasi summer circuit that many boaters who don’t like to anchor or be alone follow. But again only two or three boats. The north winds have been blowing so hard for so long down the Johnstone Strait that many people gave up plans of venturing up to this area. Bummer for these small businesses who count on the revenue the boaters bring. In the end, we decided to head on to Cracroft inlet for our own July 4 celebration hopefully with crab and lots of wildlife.

Echo Bay

Echo Bay

Carmanah on the Rocks
Next day, leaving the anchorage at 0500, an hour past high tide, we inadvertently ran up onto the rocks motoring at about 6 knots. All attempts to heel the boat with dinghies pulling on spinnaker halyards and kedging with the anchor windlass failed. The current was too strong. Abandoned ship at 8:00 as it was unsafe to be near the boat which was on the verge of falling off the rock at any moment. She was lying at 90 degrees. Waited out the tide then returned when the water was up to the hull again. Thankfully, she floated before the water level went over the coaming which would have probably sunk the boat. The 2.5 knot flood tide was working in our favor but also risked sliding the boat around before there was enough water to full float her so I held her against the current with a borrowed work boat until she started bobbing then Lyle from Lagoon Cove with his big outboard pulled on the spinnaker haulyard. She popped out, The keel had been resting on the main part of the rocks but the hull was only supported at one point just above the waterline. That’s what kept her from falling. Mike(s), I remember having endless discussions about whether or not to remove the 3.5″ layer of microballon fairing when we had Carmanah in the shed. Glad we didn’t. I’ll have a about a week of extra work in the yard but everything seems intact.
The details from Donna:

Very tough day at Cracroft Inlet

Very tough day at Cracroft Inlet

The incredibly supportive Lagoon Cove staff-Lyle, Heidi, and owner  Jean (center)

The incredibly supportive Lagoon Cove staff-Lyle, Heidi, and owner Jean (center) being presented w/ PMYC burgee.

This day has a lovely ending. Carmanah is tied up securely in Lagoon Cove, a picturesque wilderness marina. It’s got fuel, ice, some fishing gear and clothing, but no store or restaurant. There are hiking trails and horseshoe pits, and a great shop in a big old wooden building. Jean Barber is the owner, and her house is surrounded by a big lawn and pretty gardens. Jean is is the vibrant, almost 80-year-old owner of the marina; she has taken the helm since her husband died 2 years ago, but knows she’ll need to sell it soon. The managers, Lyle and Heidi, keep everything going smoothly in the meantime, and Jean’s granddaughter, Larissa, helps them with everything, from running the till to killing crabs.

Tonight he sky is pink, and it’s the first day it hasn’t blown 35-40 in Johnstone Strait. It’s been hot here today, although not as hot as Seattle. There was the usual Happy Hour on the upper dock–Jean and Lyle provided crab for everyone, and we all brought something to share. There are 9 or 10 boats here tonight–many more than the past couple of weeks, as people were finally able to get North through Johnstone Strait.

We are here tonight because of the kindness of Lyle and Jean and many other people, and their willingness to drop everything to come to the aid of fellow mariners. This day ends well, but let me tell you how it began..

We were anchored last night in Cracroft Inlet, just around the corner from Lagoon Cove. We’d come quite a way, following Tribune Channel, which was new to us, and had a chance to sail for several hours. Finally it hit us on the nose and we motored to Cracroft. Choppy even in the anchorage, but not bad, and we had the thrill of watching a mother grizzly and her 2 babies feeding on the beach.

Decided to leave at 5:00 a.m. the next morning and stop part way in Pt. Harvey or Forward Harbor in order to time the various rapids–Green Point, Whirlpool, Dent. No problem! We rolled out of bed, fired up, got the anchor up easily, and, Donna at the helm, started motoring out of the Inlet. No coffee yet, but we’ve been here many times; the chart plotter is on and I’m glancing at it now and then–there’s a rock on the left, but we’ll miss it, I’m curving to the right, and then……crunch–the most sickening sound a boater could ever hear. And we stop. It’s an hour after high tide and going out fast. John is instantly in problem-solving mode–we get the boom out, John jumps in the dinghy with the halyard and tries to heel the boat–the tide is going out so swiftly. Nothing’s working.

John goes down to the power boat anchored beyond us, wakes him up to ask for help–we’re hoping he’ll bring his big boat to help pull us off. He comes in his dinghy and helps pull, but it’s not enough. And the tide is a river going out. The boat is heeling more and more–John keeps pulling, and I crawl around inside trying to secure things and gather important items. Lucy senses this is a serious moment, and curls up on her rapidly tilting bed.

For a while there was hope–the boat was heeled as if we were beating into a 40-knot headwind with too much sail up–tough but manageable. I was crawling around inside gathering important items and closing ports and hatches. But then I was walking on the BACK of the settee–not good.

John buzzed up in the dinghy and told us to get off the boat–right then she slipped down the rock a bit more, pinning the inflatable under the lifelines. John was able to get it out by letting some air out, but as a final outrage, the outboard motor was submerged. Lucy and I jumped in and then over to Gillian and David’s dinghy, and they took us to their boat, Carousel, an oasis of peace and kindness in the midst of the developing catastrophe. We are eternally grateful for their empathy and help.

By then Lyle from Lagoon Cove was there to help. He’s a sailor and immediately grasped not only the situation with the boat, but also the emotions we were experiencing. His help and humor were just what we needed.
He took us back to Lagoon Cove where we were enfolded by his wife, Heidi, and Jean, who flitted around making sandwiches and offering anything we needed.

It was only 8:00 a.m.–low tide would be at 10:30. If you ever think time goes too fast, try waiting for the tide to go out and then back in while your boat–your home–your dream is hanging at 90 degrees up in the air. I spent the time in a daze, beating myself up for not doing my usual chart study before starting to leave, wondering if John could ever trust me again, but mostly sitting there in a fog. Many people from the boats came to chat and comfort us, telling about their mishaps. Their kindness helped us through the day.

John and Lyle went back to the boat around 3:00–you’ve seen how they got her off the rock.

So many horrible outcomes were possible–we were very lucky. Not only lucky, but John has worked so hard to make her seaworthy, and Carmanah herself is so very strong, a champion for sure.

I am overwhelmed by gratitude for kind people, and especially for John’s big strong forgiving heart.

11 thoughts on “Back Down To Vancouver Island

  1. mikeyh12015

    What an amazing stroke of good fortune and clear thinking when needed. I grieve that your home was so endangered, but grateful that her adventures will continue! And of course my dear friends are well. It would not have gone so well for captain or first mate if Lucy had been overly distressed. Mikey – (somewhere in the middle of England)

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Peggy Connolly

    OMG you guys- so sorry. I am so glad that you are all OK! Please remember that the boat will be fine- it is your lovely selves that want to make sure are good. We know that all too well and understand the weird emotional state. Donna- please don’t be too hard on yourself- It happens as you know very well! Even the most experienced sailors have this under their belts. Please let us know if you need us to come up or do anything!
    Call when you have a minute! Say thank you to all who kept you safe and sound. We really appreciate them,
    as we love our friends so much! Please take care- I hope we chat soon!

    Peg & Bob


  3. Jeff

    How cow!!! So glad you three are safe! I can only imagine the emotions and energy that were taking place during that time time. My heart still hasn’t stopped racing after reading this. Very happy to hear everyone is safe and Carmanah is doing well. On the positive side, your blog has now qualified to be adopted into a screenplay for a Hollywood movie. Terrific writing style that really showcased the day.


  4. Psboatguy

    All I can say is ‘Yes, I’m glad that we left the microballons on the boat!’. I’m glad that you guys are OK and that Lucy wasn’t too much affected by the whole thing.. That is some picture, of Carmanah laying over on her side but she is a strong boat for sure. You know what they say about boaters, there are two types, those that have run aground and those that are going to. Now you have that out of the way. Looking forward to more blogs and seeing you when you get back. Mike


  5. Langley Gace

    John and Donna, So glad to hear that you are OK and with a week of John’s magic in the yard the Carmanah will be right at rain. Cheers, Langley


  6. Marlene

    As you know, David is a former awardee of the Michael Gooden Seamanship Award (PMYC members know of it!) I feel your pain….and of course you know you’ve locked up your nomination for this prestigious award for this year!

    Seriously, glad all turned out well and especially that nobody hurt,
    — David and Marlene


  7. Luanne Croker

    So glad you are all safe!!! Amazing story. Best getting your home repaired. That is some pic😎😎


  8. John Adams

    Thought I would check this blog and see how you were doing on your trip. To my surprise the first photo I saw was the one of the boat at 90 degrees on the rock! I am so happy that all worked out ok for you guys. Maybe it’s good to get that out of the way and have it keep you always vigilante, which I know you already are and these things can still happen. I guess that’s partly why it is an adventure… I hope to see more photos like the one of Donna painting in the shade on the beach and the boat gently heeling in the breeze in the days ahead!


  9. Dale and Tina Ingalls

    So glad the story has a happy ending. Can only imagine the array of emotions that day. We love you guys – sending you fair winds (and sandy sea bottoms) for the rest of the trip!


  10. Richard Vancil

    John, Donna, Lucy, Carmanah–glad you are all ok. Bruises heal :-). Donna, it happens to all of us at some time. We were leaving Conover Bay years ago, well aware of the reef that runs parallel to Wallace Island. I had Sumurun, our C&C 37+ on slowest forward speed as I glanced at a paper chart. Smash. Stuck on the reef that I knew full well was there. Luckily, Coast Guard inflatable was nearby and we tossed them the main halyard and they healed us over and off. Weeks later we received a postcard/photo of us on the rock. The card read “OOPS!” and no more. No idea where it came from. We all have “oops” moments, some bigger than others, but “the only way out is through.” Wishing you a continuance of your wonderful trip. Richard Vancil



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