Chatterbox & other falls

Princess Louisa Inlet - British Columbia 2010

We decided to return to Princess Louisa Inlet this summer, as we had not been there since the summer of 1998, and this is where I proposed to Linda, on one knee in the cockpit of Fjaera. We had used one of Linda's vacation weeks to take the kids and grandkids to Disneyworld this spring, and it was only going to be a two week trip. You will notice in the picture above the small white lumps are anchored boats, with Helios being the second from left. Chatterbox Falls are approximately 120 feet high, while the mountains that surround the inlet are over 5,000 feet.

My good friend Doug Redford found time in his busy retirement schedule to join me on Tuesday June 29th. We had a plan of going to Poulsbo in Liberty Bay for Tuesday night. We were going to move Helios north during the week and our wives would join us in Bellingham Friday evening. We stopped at the fuel dock to top off the tanks and were headed out a little after ten on Tuesday morning. The wind was gusting to 4 knots but settled in at 1-2 knots, which meant that we motored to Poulsbo and guest moorage at the Poulsbo Yacht Club. The trip was a little less than 30 miles and we had the current with us most of the way, so the travel time was about four hours. We stayed on the boat having dinner and watching some DVDs on the 22 inch monitor. We were in bed by 9:30 but both of us were reading until almost midnight, so we didn't rise and shine until 7:30 Wednesday morning. We planned on stopping at the Port of Everett marina and using reciprocal privileges for the night's moorage. We left PYC and headed out of Liberty Bay with the sail covers off looking for wind. We rode the current through Agate Passage, which is between the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island on the north. We motored out into Puget Sound and raised the sails. The wind never reached double digits, but it was enjoyable to have the quiet movement through the water. We ran out of wind at Mukilteo and furled the sails, only to have the wind come up in the 12 knot range when we were 3 miles from the marina. We went in and tied up to the guest moorage and checked in with the office using a reciprocal agreement. There were three restaurants overlooking the marina, and we decided that we would avail ourselves to the Woodfire and their preparation of beef. We were up at six to get an early start on our trip, whether it was 45 miles to Anacortes or 60 miles to Bellingham. We headed up Saratoga Passage on the east side of Whidbey Island and through the Swinomish Channel to Anacortes and then to Bellingham. The weather was misty and spitting rain most of the morning, with clearing in the afternoon. The folks at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham found us a nice side tie spot in the inner marina. The afternoon and evening were spent reading either books or sailing magazines and discussion of same. We were up late Friday since we weren't going anywhere and the girls arrival time would be later in the afternoon. We washed Helios and even made the beds, so she would look good for the Admiral's inspection. We had a surprise visitor in the early afternoon. Doug called from the dock saying someone wanted to talk. When I got to the cockpit there was Sig who had bought Fjaera in October 2006. We spent about an hour talking in the cockpit about his travels in Puget Sound and now the San Juans. He lives alone on Fjaera and plans on a lot more sailing before he sells Fjaera and returns to the farm in Iowa. He anchors her out in the bay and shown by the picture below. Linda and Nyla arrived as Sig was getting in his dinghy to return to Fjaera. We spent the afternoon talking and catching up on family news. Doug and I used the car to go downtown to Pacific Marine Supply. It is quite a store with stuff that has been on the shelf for over 50 years and various used equipment inside and outside. We picked up a few things and returned in time to walk over to Anthony's Homeport for dinner outside on their patio over looking the marina. Doug and Nyla spent the night and headed out to drive Linda's car home Saturday morning.

    Custom's Dock Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island

Linda and I left Bellingham around 10 and motored over to Fjaera's anchorage and took a couple of pictures and then pointed our bows towards Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. We were hoping the TYC outstation dock would have an open spot, but no such luck. We headed back out of Deer Harbor and over to Stuart Island and Reid Harbor. The harbor was only about 1/3 full and it was fairly easy to find a good anchorage spot. We had a quiet sunny afternoon watching the boats come in and anchor. By the time the sun had dropped below the treeline the harbor was about 2/3 full. We were up and moving Sunday morning and motored across Boundary Passage and the Canadian Custom's Dock in Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island in the Gulf Islands. The check in process is now handled by telephone and we were checked in and cleared and on our way in 15-20 minutes. We headed to one of our favorite anchorages, Montague Harbour. There was no wind to sail so it was quick trip of 23 miles and we had the anchor set by  two in the afternoon. The weather was predicted to degrade with strong winds out of the south by evening, so we thought that we would do our touring of the anchorage in the dinghy while it was fairly calm. We went over to the store/marina for a little ice cream and then back in the dinghy to see the other boats in the anchorage, which included a 120 foot Westport. We ran the generator after dinner and showers so we could run the dryer to dry the towels and washcloths. There was a little technical difficulty in getting the monitor to work with the laptop so we decided to go to bed and read, it is vacation after all. We had thought about leaving Montague head through Active Pass into the Strait of Georgia on Monday morning, but the weather forecast in the morning was for 25-30 out of the northwest, ( the direction we are heading,) and the skies were grey. We decided there were two options, stay or move north through Dodd Narrows and anchor in Nanaimo. We decided to travel to Nanaimo and the slack current for the Dodd Narrows would be around 5. We raised anchor and left Montague at noon and motored up between the Gulf Islands. We arrived at Dodd Narrows a little before 4 and let a couple powerboats go passed us and then headed into the narrows against the current of 2.5 knots. Dodd Narrows only allows one boat at a time and you have to be on the look out for commercial traffic, especially tugs towing a raft of logs. After traveling 34 miles we were anchored in the Nanaimo anchorage by 5, with light winds from the NW in the 5-7 knot range. The wind prediction is for 15-20 from midnight to dawn and then 5-15 until late in the afternoon. We were up, anchor raised and motoring out of Nanaimo a little before 9. The wind was 8-9 knots when we were out of the harbour and continued to build to the 20+ knot range and coming from the NNW, which was about 5 degrees off the direction we were headed.  We motored over behind one of the little islets and raised the head sail, to give us a little stability. We had to drop down 50 degrees off our heading but the ride was smoother, although at one point we had "green water" hitting the windshield. As we moved across the Strait of Georgia the wind moved to the west and lightened, so by the time we were at the bottom of Texada Island the wind was at 3 knots. We furled the head sail and motored to Pender Harbour.

John Henry's Fuel Dock - Pender Harbour     Fisherman's Resort & Marina - Pender Harbour

We motored directly to John Henry's Fuel dock, which is directly behind Fisherman's Resort & Marina. In the picture above the piece of dock in the bottom left corner is the end of the dock of Fisherman's outside dock. We topped off the fuel tank and tied up to Fisherman's dock. Linda suggested a couple of nights to rest up from the Strait of Georgia crossing and prepare for the 45 mile run up the Reaches to Malibu Rapids and Princess Louisa Inlet. We washed the salt off Helios and straightened things that got bounced about during the crossing. We walked over to the store for some baguettes and garlic butter to go with our steaks for dinner and while we were there decided to have dessert first, a dish of ice cream. The next day we walked the docks talking with the other  cruisers and finding out where everyone is planning on going. The boat behind us is leaving around sunrise to head to northern Desolation Sound and the Yuculta Rapids arriving near slack current. The boat in front is headed to Gorge Harbour, where we were during last year's trip. We were thinking about leaving around 10, but when they were going to dock a boat coming in, we decided it was time to leave, 9:30. We had been told it was a 45 mile trip from the marina and we planned on taking 6-7 hours. They don’t publish a current chart for the Malibu Rapids, what they publish is the tide tables for Inner Malibu and Outer Malibu. One must do a little calculation to find the best time to go through. We arrived early, 4, and high tide on the outside was 5:07, while on the inside it was 5:42. The rapids didn’t look to bad when we arrived, no white water, so we motored through and saw assisting current in the 3 knot range. We had planned on anchoring and stern tying, rather than tying up to the dock by the falls. The dock only allows boats under 55' and there is no drinking water or electricity. We dropped anchor and took our stern line over to one of the rings attached to the rocks. We lowered the dinghy and grabbed the camera to get some pictures during the blue sky afternoon.

Reaches on the way up  Headed towards the Falls 

The first picture is looking up one of the three Reaches that you travel to get to Malibu Rapids and the second is looking towards the head of Princess Louisa Inlet, with MacDonald Island on the left. The third picture shows the head of the Inlet with Chatterbox Falls and the small white lumps next to the shoreline are anchored boats. The mountains around the Inlet are in the 5,000 - 8,000 foot range and the Inlet is deep with some narrow shelves along the shoreline where you can anchor. There is not much for your anchor to hold on too, so let out a lot of chain and use a stern tie. The second day we decided to try out our new inflatable tandem kayak from Walker Bay. We were able to get in and out without either one of us getting wet. It paddles easily through the water and doesn't require a lot of effort to keep it moving. I think we will get more use when we sail in warmer waters.


The pictures above from left to right. This is looking down the Inlet to Malibu Rapids. The middle photo shows the massive size of the mountains and how close they are and how small Chatterbox looks from a distance. The photo on the right of Chatterbox shows the volume of water coming over the 120' drop. If you anchor below the Falls be prepared to have a constant mist.


I like the tree growing out of the cliff on the picture on the left. In the middle is Helios stern tied, and there is a rock about the size of the one seen on shore, between Helios and the shore. The picture on the right shows how crowded one of the shelves can get with everybody stern tied. 

 We were thinking about leaving on Sunday but since the weather was gorgeous we decided to leave on Monday. It was a poor decision on our part. The wind came up Sunday evening blowing across the head of the Inlet and we started to get a little fetch around 11. I got dressed and slept in the salon getting up to check our position from time to time. At about 2 in morning I heard the anchor chain dragging and saw that we were drifting backwards towards a large rock. I got Linda up and we untied the stern tie and left it, while raising the anchor. We motored out into the Inlet using the chartplotter and radar and saw gusts of 22 knots. The currents would be slack enough for us to get through Malibu Rapids around 4:30 - 5:00 A.M. We made three trips from the head of the Inlet to a little past MacDonald Island.

We finally had enough daylight to make the passage and slow enough water to let us out into Queen's Reach, where we found the wind gusting on our nose. We headed down the Reach in 2-3 waves and 20-25 knots of wind and before we reached the corner to enter Princess Royal Reach we saw gusts of 35 knots. The wind funneled up the Reaches but as we traversed Princess Royal and entered Prince of Wales Reach the wind speed dropped to 10-15 knots and the waves got smaller. We went down Agamemnon Channel towards the Strait of Georgia and we were hailed on the VHF by a powerboat coming up the channel warning us about the wind and waves in "The Strait". We continued on our way and saw plenty of white water in the short section we traveled on the Strait of Georgia. Pender Harbour had plenty of wind and a telephone call to Fisherman's let us know that there was no room for us. We called Garden Bay Marina and were told they had room at the end of A dock for us. This was the marina we stayed at in 2003 after fighting 20+ knot winds with Fjaera for over 50 miles. Although there was no electricity we were fine with the batteries well charged after motoring for 50+ miles against the wind and it was a clear day, so the solar panels were charging at over 20 amps. We put the dinghy in the water and took a tour of Pender Harbour and while on our travels saw Salty Dawg a 40' Manta. We left one of our boatcards in the cockpit. The winds are 45 knots out in the Strait of Georgia and we decided that if the winds don't abate for tomorrow we will spend another night in Pender Harbour. We listened to the weather report the next morning and decided it would be good traveling weather with the wind behind us. We left mid-morning because the passages from the Strait of Georgia to the Gulf Islands won't be slack until 6 to 7 in the evening. We got out into the Strait and couldn't find enough wind to sail. We decided to motor down to Active Pass and then anchor in Montague Harbour. We got about 12 knots of wind an hour out of Active Pass and put the head sail up, but furled in preparation to go through Active Pass. It was a very pretty evening, as shown by the photo below.

We left Montague and headed towards the San Juan Islands with the end goal being Echo Bay on Sucia Island. As we entered between the Finger Islands the pictures below show what we saw. The boat involved is the Tacoma Sea Scouts sailboat, Odyssey. When we took the dinghy for a tour and talked with folks who watched it happen. They said that they raised anchor and motored themselves aground. Well, somebody needs to take a closer look at charts it appears. They were able to float free at high tide and the Hawaiian Chieftain allowed them to tie alongside and motored them over to Friday Harbor. We found a nice anchorage spot and dropped the dinghy in the water and toured Echo Bay. The Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain were anchored in the middle of the bay and some of the crew and passengers were doing some high diving from the spars into the bay. You can see the Lady Washington leaving below, while the Hawaiian Chieftain waited for Odyssey to float free.


 The next day we traveled to Mud Bay on Lopez Island in preparation of crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca the next day. The weather report suggested that we should leave fairly early and get across before wind and waves built. We raised anchor and headed out into Rosario Strait with the wind on our nose, and it continued on our nose as we made our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We found fog just before arriving at Port Townsend. We continued down Admiralty Inlet to Puget Sound and Port Ludlow, where we anchored as shown in the photo below.

Helios at anchor in Port Ludlow

We lowered the dinghy after anchoring and motored to the back of anchorage to look at a possible anchorage that we didn't think we would be comfortable with because of limited swing room. We then went over to the marina to check out the reciprocal moorage and the store to see if there was anything we really needed. It was a quiet night and I think we both slept better knowing that there were no more "Straits or Reaches" to cross or traverse. The next morning we took our time and motored over to Liberty Bay and Poulsbo. We decided against using the reciprocal moorage and dropped anchor in 12' of water. The wind wouldn't cooperate coming or going from Poulsbo and we never got the sail covers off. We were tied up in our slip by 5 on Sunday and were home 30 minutes later. It was a great trip, but we felt pushed at times and think that next year we will just sail around in the San Juans and maybe Gulf Islands.