A Summer Trip to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island's West Coast

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Here are the general routes out and back

This summer’s cruise was different from the last few years, as our “Buddy Boaters” were only taking two weeks’ vacation to cruise, and had decided to go with the TYC summer cruise in the Gulf Islands. We decided to visit Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We started our vacation a little earlier in July than usual, as Linda had a “can’t miss meeting” on July 26th. We left June 30th in the afternoon and got our cruise underway with a 3 ½ hour run up to Eagle Harbor and the TYC outstation, followed by a 5 hour run against the current to Port Ludlow the following day. We decided to only go as far as Sequim Bay the next day, as the wind would be against and the current with, creating some choppy conditions. The ebb gave us a 2 to 3 knot lift. The only downside of the morning’s run was traversing Bush Point at the same time as a 1,100 foot container ship and its wake. We took water over the bows all the way to the blinds and forward windows. Linda was mumbling about how she was going to wash the salt off. Linda called the John Wayne Marina in Sequim about moorage, but they were full up for the holiday weekend. We went around south of the marina and anchored a little after 11. The weather turned against us, and we spent the next two days anchored in Sequim Bay with gale conditions, winds 30 to 40 knots, out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On Tuesday July 5th, we were up at 4:30 to a calm Sequim Bay. The buoy report had 15-17 knots at the Dungeness Buoy from the west, but we had a big ebb tide. After coffee we got organized and raised anchor and motored out of Sequim Bay at 5:30. It was an easy first hour as that is how long it took to get to the end of the spit and make a left turn. We had wind against current for the whole trip with some washing machine areas that shook things up. We pounded so hard that the data plug from the back of the watermaker control came loose. We eventually made it to Pillar Point. We had decided on this anchorage based upon Elsie Hulsizer’s recommendation from her book. It felt like we were out in the open but a majority of the swell was blocked and there was some wind protection. Linda said it was like being parked along side of I-5. She called the Makah Marina at Neah Bay about moorage for tomorrow night, and they assigned us a slip, A-2. Well, two hours later the swell and current had made the anchorage very uncomfortable, so we made a decision to raise anchor and motor 8 miles to Sekiu and Clallam Bay. Linda called Olson’s Resort and after much discussion said he had room but we would have to leave by 7 AM to avoid the minus low tide. We got tied up to the dock, and walked over to the marina office to find out our moorage was only $42. We got back to the boat fired up the generator to heat up the boat and run the clothes dryer, since we got wet anchoring at Pillar Point. We were up a little before 6 for coffee and then it was time to leave, as we had only 2.8 feet of water under the keels and low tide was over 2 hours off. It was a pleasant motor up the strait with only 2 knots of wind and gentle swells. I only ran on one engine since the current was with us and SOG, (speed over ground,) was over 7 knots for a 15 mile trip. Linda called in to verify our slip assignment and they moved us to A-30 at the end of the dock close to the breakwater, which made for an easy out the following morning. We got Helios snug in her spot and the power on so we would have hot water for showers, and then it was time to walk up to the office. We discovered there are two offices, one commercial and one recreational, by going to the commercial first as we are moored in the commercial section, but being directed to the recreational office. The people in the office were friendly and it was only $42 a night with 50 amp service.

     

We got back to Helios and hooked up the hose to wash the salt off Helios. We were walking up to go to the store and pick up a pizza and met the owner operator of the environmental response unit. He was 71 and seemed to be 20 years younger. He liked to talk and was headed to the parking lot, so we visited along the way. It was a nice sunny day with very little wind as we walked around. He was also the backup Lutheran minister, and had run a day charter tour boat in Z-town in Mexico for 10 years, along with playing in a band in a Mexican restaurant for 4 years. He was leaving next week for a month with a couple of friends to motor around Vancouver Island counterclockwise. We left him in the parking lot and walked over to the grocery store picked up the few items we were looking for, and walked down to the wood fired pizza kitchen. We placed our order and then watched the young lady walk to the kitchen grab a handful of dough spread it out and apply sauces and meats, then place in the oven. We waited for it to cook and then took it down to Helios for an early dinner. We did notice that there were usually 4 or 5 eagles waiting for fish leftovers most of the day. We had a visitor around 5, the captain of the Barbara Foss, the rescue tug for Neah Bay. He had never been aboard a multihull and asked if he could have a tour. He lives in Poulsbo and is refurbishing a 40’ DeFever which he keeps at Liberty Bay Marina in Poulsbo. We visited for a while until he was called back to the Barbara Foss. We got to bed early as the next day was going to be a long one. We were up early for coffee and then untied and headed out. I called Canadian Customs just before we left and went through the checking in process using our Nexus cards over the phone. The only problem was that he requested that we stop by the Customs dock in Ucluelet, and then proceed if no one was there. We had planned on going to Effingham Island, so this added another 10 miles to the trip. We also decided to stay at a marina if possible since we were going to be in Ucluelet. The wind was from the SSE, behind us, and the current was ebbing most of the journey. It was 7 hours to cover just over 50 miles, through 4 to 5 foot swells and later 1 to 2 foot wind waves from a different direction, making for sloppy seas, to go along with the intermittent rain, which turned steady. We called Small Boat Haven Marina and they had room, although we found out this was side tied to a 42’ sloop. The rate was good at $.90 a foot without power, so we used the generator. Our plan was to head out to Turtle Bay the next day and anchor for 2 or 3 days, but the weather was rainy for the next few days. We napped, read and watched shows while running the heater to dry out the rain gear. We shifted marinas to Island West Marina the following day, and had to pay for two slips because of our size with only 15 amp service. The weather is forecasted to improve, so Turtle Bay is the next destination. The trip to Turtle Bay was only nine miles, so we left at seven in the morning when we had plenty of water underneath us. We took the conservative way in between Dodd and Chalk Islands to find 2 powerboats and one sailboat all anchored close to shore on the south end of the bay. Since the east wind is predicted to remain light we anchored in the north end so the trees would provide a windbreak from the predicted 15-20 west winds the next afternoon. We kicked back and spent time getting things put away. Turtle Bay probably has enough room for 20 or 30 boats at anchor, so with only four boats everyone had their privacy. We had some showers in the afternoon, and put off our dinghy exploration until the next day. We slept in until almost 8, as we were home for the next few days and awoke to bright sunshine and calm waters. The sailboat near us that had come in at sunset had left, probably on a passage while the rest of the neighbors remained the same. We took off to explore the anchorage a little after 11. We headed out the Northwest entrance but ran into fog in the channel and decided to come back into the bay and check out the shoreline. We circumnavigated the unnamed island that forms the protection on the southeast side of the bay coming in via the same channel as we did with Helios. The wind started to build, so we headed back to Helios and put the dinghy up. We spent the afternoon in the cockpit reading while the wind was blowing 10 to 20 knots. We are well protected and the wavelets might have been 6 inches. The wind died down by 9 and it was fairly calm by 11.

     

  

We were up at 6:30 to have coffee and check the forecast, which were southeast winds light in the morning, building 10-15 knots in the afternoon and early evening, with rain most of the day. We were planning on raising anchor the next day and motoring over to Effingham Bay to see if we can find a good anchorage for the west winds that being predicted for the next few days, but changed our minds and decided to leave Barkley early with the weather window. The plan was to let the northwest winds push us down the coast and down Juan de Fuca strait. At low tide, noon, we were listened to the Canadian weather forecast and their prediction of southeast winds 10-20 knot later tonight. Since we were anchored in the northwest corner of the bay, shifting anchorages was a comforting thought. We raised the anchor and checked out the southern end of the bay for areas that were available because of the two boats already anchored and decided upon the eastern shore midway, where two Ranger Tugs had been side tied together for the past couple of days but left this morning. We set the anchor in 28 feet with 125 feet of chain and I set the anchor with ½ throttles in reverse. The wind never came. We had light rain from time to time, but the wind was below 5 knots, usually 1-2 knots. The A/C breaker clicked off when I was charging the batteries, heating water and running both air conditioning units on reverse cycle to heat the inside. I did some calculations and need to keep the load under 40 amps. I started the port engine and let it charge the house bank. We watched some shows and then off to bed. We were up at 6:30 to calm winds and a high fog. I started both engines to charge the house bank, and will have to go out later and crawl down in the generator lazzarette take the sound cover off press the A/C breaker and then put everything together and back, as that is where we store the fenders. The plan was to move to Effingham Bay today which is only 3.5 nautical miles away, so less than an hour from anchor up to anchor down. After checking the weather forecast we decided to remain here in Turtle Bay and head for Neah Bay tomorrow. It appears we will have 2 or 3 days with primarily winds with a westerly component, which will make going down the coast to Neah Bay and down the strait to PA, Port Angeles, and a much smoother ride. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading. We were up at 5:30 for coffee and then it was time to get ready to leave. The anchor was up at 6:30 and we were moving out of Turtle Bay.

     

We wound our way between the islands, islets and rocks to Imperial Eagle Channel then out into the Pacific. We had no wind to speak of, and a little help from the southeastern swell. The swell was about 4 feet with occasional 5 to 6 footer. As we approached the western entrance to Juan de Fuca the fog descended and visibility was less than 300 feet at times. We got next to the outbound traffic lane went behind an outgoing freighter and crossed the outbound lane before 3 more came along. I checked out 30 miles and there was no inbound traffic, so I set a course directly for Neah Bay as we crossed the inbound lane. Linda called the marina and we got our same slip from a week ago. There were two guys cleaning their catch, but they quickly moved to the other side of the finger pier. They were father and son, Paul and Zach, from Grapeview, WA. Zach had just graduated valedictorian from North Mason High School, and wanted to go to the Coast Guard Academy, but he was allergic to walnuts, and the academy doesn’t accept anyone with food allergies, so he is off to the University of Idaho. They buy Canadian fishing licenses and fish the Canadian side. They were able to use Canadian limits and caught 8 ling cod apiece today along with two nice king salmon. They limited yesterday with one halibut, 2 kings, 2 silvers and 8 cod apiece. After the fish were cleaned and bagged, they washed down the boat, went to the boat ramp, hauled the boat and began their drive home. We had a quiet night sitting in the cockpit reading enjoying the sun. We had walked over to the store and bought salad stuff, to which we added some chicken. It was an early night as 5 o’clock comes early. Linda woke me at 5 and I got dressed made coffee and we were untied and on our way by 6. It was a 55 mile run from Neah Bay to PA, (Port Angeles) and we had a little adverse current to begin with, and less than 5 knots of wind. We motored along waiting for the wind to build so we could sail and it did about 5 miles from the tip of Ediz Hook, so the sails stayed tied. We had an easy end tie and the wind drifted us right up to the dock. The docks were new in 2008, and I don’t think I’ve seen this many 100+ foot yachts in one marina since Miami. There is a 140’ ketch, Kaori, moored next to us that was built by Palmer-Johnston in 1992, when it was their largest sailboat ever built.

     

 We walked over to the harbor office and paid for moorage, $42.50, with 50 amp service. Linda left for the Safeway store to find some wine, while I headed back to Helios. She returned shortly and we relaxed the rest of the afternoon, had dinner and planned on leaving a little later tomorrow. Well, it was a little disappointing that we couldn’t sleep in any later than 6, I guess after being up at sunrise for the past couple of days our bodies were ready to go. We had coffee then puttered a little and will leave around 7:30 for Cattle Pass and then on to Blind Bay on Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands. We drifted away from the dock and headed out of the marina towards Ediz Point at 7:30. The strait was like a lake and we had the current against us for the first half then helping the rest of the way. There wasn’t enough wind to raise the sails. We went through Cattle Pass at max flood and hit 11.6 knots SOG, (speed over ground), while the knotmeter was showing 7.2 knots through the water. We were anchor down and set by 1:30 in bright sunshine and light wind from the south. We both took showers and then kicked back and relaxed. It was a quiet afternoon with a few boats coming in to anchor and the ferry wake reaching us gently long after the ferry was out of sight. I put up our new sunshades and Linda read in the cockpit while I read in the swing seat. We came in around 8 and had salad for dinner then watched a couple of shows before going to bed. We slept in and then decided to go over to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island for a couple of days, as it is an easy anchorage with plenty of activity for people and boat watching. We just sat back and relaxed after anchoring. The next day we went on a dinghy ride around the anchorage, which always reminds me of a big bathtub that is about 30 to 40 feet deep with a sticky mud bottom. We motored around looking at boats, and an eagle that was looking for fish. We took some time taking photos of Helios, hoping we would get one that we could blow up and print when we got home. The next day we raised anchor for Sucia Island and Echo Bay. It was a nice surprise when we were just getting ready to drop anchor and I looked up to see a boat untying from a state mooring buoy. We, really Linda, got the lines ready to secure Helios to the buoy. She stood on the back steps and I backed Helios to the buoy so she could feed the line through the ring and then we walked forward as Helios drifted backward and tied off to the buoy. We ran a second line through to keep the buoy from sliding over to bump against one of the hulls. We lowered the dinghy and went to shore to pay for the buoy for three nights, at $15 a night. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, reading and watching the activity around us. Dinner was hamburgers and chips then we watched a movie before bed. I was up at 6, and Linda decided to stay in bed and read, since without me in bed she can set up a comfortable reading position. There is cloud cover and light wind from the south, so the water is flat. We had had between 50 and 60 boats in the bay last night and apparently a lot of them are on a joint cruise, Everett and Edmonds yacht clubs. They started leave and the bay emptied out with only 10 or 12 boats remaining. We watched the new arrivals come in most of the morning, and we decided to drop the dinghy and take a tour of the bay and surrounding inlets.

     

 We went through some cuts in the rocks and a slot between Sucia and Ewing islands to the north side of the island and Danger Reef. The tide was low enough that some of the higher rocks in the reef were exposed and there were seals and birds galore. I motored over to one end of the reef and shut the engine off and we drifted by taking pictures and arousing the curiosity of the younger seals, who would follow the dinghy as it drifted. We fired up the motor and came around the eastern tip of Ewing to find more seals on the rocks between Ewing Cove and Echo Bay. It looked like the adults had one rock and sent the younger seals to another; I guess the “teenage seals” were too disruptive.

     

 We went around to Snoring and Fossil Bays, which were full, and then back to Helios. Our trip was a little over 2 hours, so we had some snacks and read in the cockpit until almost 8, when we had a little salad then kicked back until time for bed.

     

 We planned on leaving for Deer Harbor around 10 the following day. Well, after I checked buoys and the marine forecast we made a decision to leave, immediately. There were gale warnings for the east entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca starting tonight, and small craft warnings tomorrow and Saturday. There was no wind and we motored out towards Rosario Strait and down the eastside of Orcas taking advantage of the ebb. We got a big boost from the ebb all the way past Smith Island, and then it switched to a flood through Bush Point. We traveled 66 miles according to the route on the charting program, but only 45 miles by the knotmeter, and this was done in 6 hours and 35 minutes. The knotmeter was showing speed through the water between 6.8 and 7.1 most of the trip. We were able to get our normal outside end spot at Port Ludlow and with help from Kelly and Linda from the Brownsville Yacht Club tied across the way in the reciprocal moorage, tied up to the dock fighting the wind blowing us off. We walked up and paid for one night’s moorage, as we will be on our way to Eagle Harbor tomorrow. We awoke to rain and flat calm grey skies. All the little weather apps predict the rain will stop between 10 & 11 this morning, so we are in no rush for our 27 mile run to Eagle Harbor. The rain stopped around 10:30 so I warmed up the engines while Linda got the power unhooked and her lines ready for cast off. We had current against us the whole trip, but did have the wind behind us, just not enough to sail. We were able to tie up east side end portion of the TYC outstation, with Claymore across and Laff’n Gecko behind, and they helped Linda with the lines. We got settled in and visited a little with our neighbors. There was no rain, but a steady breeze from the north. It was a relaxing evening. Since we were a day ahead of schedule we spent two nights at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, before leaving on Sunday for home. We were up a little before 7 on Sunday to bright sunshine and calm winds. We untied and motored out of Eagle Harbor and set the sails after crossing the ferry traffic lines at the north end of Colvos. The wind was from the north at 10 to 12 knots and we were able to jibe down Colvos with just the working sails at 5.5 to 6.0 knots against the light current. A little over halfway down the current picked up to 1.5 to 2.0 knots and the wind dropped below 10 knots, so we motor sailed to Commencement Bay where we dropped and flaked the sails. We motored over to Breakwater and our slip and were tied up by 1:40 with 500 miles of travel in our 3 week vacation. We also went over 10,000 miles traveled on the hulls of Helios during this vacation. We are planning to go back to Vancouver’s west coast after Linda retires and we can dawdle down from the northern tip to the south end.

Note: When I talk about watching shows or movies, I have used software to convert DVDs and transfer them to remote hard drives, 5 terabyte and 3 terabyte, for TV shows and movies, respectively. We have about 150 movies, and all the episodes of NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones, Numbers, etc.

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