Expedition Around North America
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Leg 10 :
Sitka (Alaska) - Vancouver (Canada)
(14 -24 October, 2008 )
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Leg 10
Sitka (Alaska) - Vancouver (Canada)
(14 - 24 October, 2008 )

October 23rd and 24th, 2008
(time onboard = UTC – 7)
Maritime Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver, BC

23h00 local time

The weather is calm and should stay that way until we arrive in Vancouver. We sail the main part of the Johnstone Strait at night. It is sad because resident Orcas live there. Unfortunately we can’t reduce our speed, we have to keep going towards the “Seymour Narrows” and its violent currents. When we approach, our speed increases a lot, the elements play with us. In the narrowest part, we have up to 7 knots of current, then we’re quick to reach the Georgia Strait. It’s a beautiful day. A gentle breeze from the North-East pushes us towards our destination. We dare to think we will be on time in Vancouver. Before noon, many blows are in sight. Orcas are paying us a visit. They come next to us, they are very curious. The night goes on, very comfortable. Discussions are a lot about being on time or not. The elements stay with us. In the middle of the day, on Friday, a light wind starts to blow against us, but we almost reached our target now. Soon we can see sail boats from the “Blue Water Cruising Association” sailing to welcome us. It’s 3h15pm when we reach “Atkinson Point”, the appointment was at three. We’re enjoying this wonderful moment. It’s such a warm welcome committee. It’s 5PM when we dock “Southern Star” at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
That’s the end of the 10th leg of the expedition. We have sailed 9535 nautical mille from Tromsø.

Were onboard from Sitka to Vancouver :

Background, from left to right :

Olivier Pitras (France)
Laurent Cérésoli (France)
Peggy Vaugelade (France)
Michel Tréguier (France)
Odile Tréguier (France)
Philippe Loison (France)
Bernard Dousset (France)
Pierre Gamet (France)

In front, from left to right :

Lydie Pacteau (France)
Vincent Berthet (France)
Vonne Blanchet (France)
Jean Fribourg (France)
Jeanne Cossard (France)


Orca in the Georgia Strait
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)

 


The Sitka-Vancouver Crew
Photo Aventure Voyages Vancouver
(Click to enlarge)

October 22nd, 2008
(time onboard = UTC – 7)
Broughton Strait, Vancouver Island.
50°33’N – 126°51’W

23:00 local time

When we wake up, the wind is still blowing hard in the Queen Charlotte Strait. The crew goes for a walk around the area. We’re in the starting blocks, ready to go as soon as possible. Finally the wind rotation announcing the end of the gale arrives in the middle of the afternoon. We set sail immediately and make our way towards the channels that mark the separation between Vancouver Island and the continent. Showers and wind are still there but a lot less violent than yesterday. After a few hours, the wind becomes a gentle breeze and we sail in calm waters. The night is dark and the straits are narrow but the crew is well trained now for that kind of navigation. Everything is so much easier with good weather. At the end of the evening, we’re in the South of Pearse Islands at a short distance from Beaver Cove. Our gain is correct but we’re far from Vancouver. The ideal would be to arrive at 3 PM at Atkinson Point on Friday to honor the appointment we have with sailboats from the Bluewater Cruising Association of Vancouver. We do our best to go on and win mile after mile on the route.

Potatoes-Photo Vincent Berthet
Potatoes...
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)

October 21st, 2008
(time onboard = UTC – 7)
Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
50°434N – 127°29’W
22h00 local time

Two hours before dawn, South of Fitz Hugh Sound, we reach the open sea. The sky is partly clear and the moon allows us to see every islets and rocks.
At sunrise, the wind starts to blow gently from the South-East announcing the gale to come. We’re making here an interesting bet with the elements. On the one hand, if the gale starts when we are in front of the Gordon Channel between Vancouver island and the continent, we’ll have to make a big U turn to seek shelter. On the other hand if we can reach the first islands of the Hecate Strait, we’ll be able to cast anchor somewhere waiting for better conditions. It's worth trying it, we are already late to reach Vancouver on time.
It starts to blow gale force here. We stopped right away. It’s 8 AM. The current again is not as predicted due to weather conditions. We change our plans and point our bow to Browning Passage between Balaklava and Nigei Islands towards the Goletas channel where we hope to find some favorable current. The passage is very narrow and for a while we sail in calm waters. A heavy rain falls again. In the Goletas channel current does not play for us but the chopy sea is less rough. At noon, the wind increases to storm. We stay in a strip of half mile along Vancouver Island so that we may tack. On the way to the shore we tack at the very last limit of breakers to take advantage of this relatively comfortable area. Everywhere else the water looks like devil's skin. Then, slowly, very slowly we keep moving tack after tack. “Southern Star" makes a fantastic job on each sharp and steep wave. We decide to stop in Port Hardy if we can reach this shelter. We need 6 hours to sail the 6 milles to the bay. While inside, the winds drops suddently, it’s actually a good shelter.
In the harbor couple of gusts sing in the mast while over there in the sky, clouds dance on a crazy tempo. We find a float onto which tie up. It’s 6h20 PM. We made it and we are ready for a good rest.

Gros temps / Stormy weather-Photo Vonne Blanchet
Stormy weather
Photo Vonne Blanchet
(Click to enlarge)

October 20, 2008
Fitz Hugh Sound, Inside Passage
51°46’,5N – 127°55’W

22:50 local time

We keep a good speed and reach rapidly other channels named McKay, Fraser, Graham, Heikish. We cross the road of a tug towing its heavily loaded barge. We exchange a few words by radio to fit our roads. Now the wind is milder and miles peacefully go on. The favorable current lasts far away past the forecasts, we won't complain! It’s a fair revenge against the hours passed stuck on the same spot. One could think that the whole Alaskan Gulf has filled itself during the south eastern gust of wind and that it’s now emptying at once! During the second part of the night, the moon rises and remains with us until dawn. We can sometime steer like by daylight. It’s pleasant to rise one’s head from time to time. The dawn is smiling. A few sun rays enlighten our universe, till now lead grey and wet. The Finlayson channel is wider and leads us to the « Milbanke Sound » where we sail for a while to the open sea before getting again into the « Seaforth Channel » and recover the calm of the inside channels. We cast anchor there during two hours to enjoy the sun and share a meal all together. In the « Lama Passage » the rolling carpet is still with us, it’s marvellous, we swiftly arrive to « Fisher Channel » which allows us to burst directly into the south in the continuity of the « Fitz Hugh Sound ». That unexpected succession of channels allows us to think over reaching the northern shore of Vancouver Island before the next gale which is forecast for the beginning of Tuesday afternoon.

Inside Passage, photo Vincent Berthet
Inside Passage, BC
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)

Sunday October 19, 2008
Wright Sound, Inside Passage
53°20,5’N – 129°33’W

22:20 local time

Our progression is amazingly slow. Gusts and whirlpools play with us in this darkness. We don't have a single glimpse of the coast which is just next to us, often only a quarter mille away. Currents are very different than expected. Official documents tell us that wind and atmospheric pressure can affect dramatically tides, this is what is happening for sure. When we entered the Greenville Channel, we fought for four hours to sail only four miles. Then we decided to stop and wait for better conditions. Six hours later, the wind calms down, we hit the road again. Soon we have a good speed and we can see the future with wider perspectives. It’s 10 PM when we reach the Wright Sound. With its 2 milles broad, it looks like a vast playground after this 45 miles long and narrow Greenville Channel.

Rain-Photo Vincent Berthet
Rain... More rain...
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)

October 18, 2008
(time onboard = UTC-7 )
Arthur Pass, Inside Passage of British Columbia
54°02’N – 130°14’W
22:35 local time

Showers disappear during the second part of the night and the sky clears up. Further South, Graham Island protects us from the swell. We sail on a flat sea. After the weather conditions during these past days, we’re enjoying our life. At dawn we enter “Brown Passage” between Stephens and Melville Islands. In the distance summits are snow capped. The navigation is beautiful but needs to be sharp. Reefs are numerous and the current isstrong in some places.
Finally we arrive in Prince Ruppert before noon. From the harbor we can not see the village except for some houses on top of the hill. Our clearance is done by telephone. We’re pleased to be back in Canada. We can keep heading South. The weather predictions are bad: gales from South-East sweep the region every thirty hours. When we leave the harbor the wind is already violent, the night falls. We sail between reefs to the “Malacca Passage” before entering “Arthur Pass” between Harmer and Helliott Islands.

Prince Ruppert-Photo Vincent Berthet
Prince Ruppert, BC
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)

October 16 and 17, 2008
(time onboard = UTC-8 )
Dixon Entrance, Canadian waters
54°32’N – 132°15’W
20:30 local time

During the night a few strong gusts mess up our anchorage, and the rain continues unabated. Around midnight the wind eases off a bit and we catch a few hours of sleep. By morning the bay is calm and we decide to take off. Outside the wind is still quite strong and the waves are huge. We hold our course, trying to make some headway and position ourselves for the upcoming wind shift. We only have a short 30-hour weather window to make it into the Canadian inside passage before the next storm sets in, which is predicted to bring even heavier seas.
Sandy Bay, Baranof Island, AK-Photo Vincent Berthet
Booby
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
Everything on board is wet, waves roll over the decks and the crew hunkers down for minimal service. A young booby settles on deck and hides from the wind behind the cockpit. Our whereabouts don't seem to disturb him, he's obviously fighting for survival. We reassure him by gently speaking to him and extending our welcome. During the next night the wind finally shifts and we can sail on a direct course to the south-east. The weather is unstable with squalls and variable winds, forcing us to frequent and tiring adjustments. By mid-day on Friday we leave Alaska and enter Dixon Entrance in Canadian waters, marking the boundary between the Alaskan archipelago and the Queen Charlotte islands. Our winged companion takes off. We're heading to Prince Rupert, where we will clear Canadian customs. It will be a long night with unstable weather and more squalls. But the wind has calmed down a bit and we can resume our normal activities: communal lunches, chats about the continuation of the trip.

October 14th and 15th 2008 (time onboard = UTC-8 )
Sandy Bay, Baranof Island, Alaska

56°28’N – 134°57’W
10 am local time

We’re leaving as planned from Sitka under a heavy rain.
The wind is contrary, quite strong. We start our tacking business hoping to be able to clear Baranof Island before the gale. During the night, the sea, the wind and the current decide for us: we will not make it and we have to stop on the west coast of the same Baranof island. Sandy Bay seems to be OK for this purpose. The sea is big, the visibility poor and the wind stronger every minute. We approach carefully, the radar is on. When we’re in the pass, the sea breaks everywhere on the rocks. After half mille we enter in calm waters and cast anchor in a tiny cove. It’s noon Wednesday.
We spent our afternoon in maintenance, then the gale comes with very strong gusts in the anchorage. The holding ground is good. The night falls, we hope we’ll have a comfortable night before leaving tomorrow when the wind will calm down.



Sandy Bay, Baranof Island, AK-Photo Vincent Berthet
Sandy Bay
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
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