June 29, 2009
I hope you are well. Hyo and I are in Bella Bella (N52 9.48 W128 8.66), which is a little island on the central coast of B.C. We will be here for several weeks as Hyo is working at the hospital and I am putting together a course for Bamfield this fall. So far our trip has been amazing with lots of wildlife (whales etc.) and lots of tasty fish. Currently there are 5-8 bald eagles sitting in the tree outside. They are don't seem to have any reservation about swooping past you to land on a tree 20 meters away. I have often seen the yellows of there eyes and the classic picture of one carrying a fish in its claws.
We have had fair winds and decent weather most of the way. When there have been storms we have been safely tucked away in sheltered anchorages, which of course is the general game plan (2 days ago there was 4 meter waves and 45 knot winds hitting a place we crossed). However, we have been playing a bit of a game with the weather and, for the most part, we have been winning. In the summer, the winds typically come from the northwest along with the fair weather. This is because a high pressure system sits more or less stationary about 500 miles off shore and sets up regular northwesterlies. This is great for sunshine and stable weather, but unfortunately when you are trying to travel in a general northwesterly direction the wind is in your face. Any sailing progress to windward becomes a lot of work, basically meaning you zig-zag your way toward the place you are heading, sailing many miles to go a short distance. While beating to windward, as it's called, picture the boat heeled over 20 degrees pounding into each wave causing spray to fly up covering you and the boat, for hours and hours. Also the dishes and everything else in the boat gets rattled, bashed, and threatens to fly across the boat with each tack (change of direction). Somehow it does not seem very warm and sunny with 35 kph apparent wind in your face filled with 12 degree saltwater. So the game is to wait for the occasional low-pressure system to roll in. With the low pressure comes unstable weather (rain) and southeasterly winds, which is great because they push us directly to where we are heading. The only catch is that, the center of the low pressure is usually gale or storm-force winds which kicks up a real fuss on the ocean causing big waves and general adverse conditions. So the trick is to try to head out before the storm hits, get as far as you can before the big winds and waves hit and hope the path of the low does not change direction before you can get tucked into shelter for the worst of it. Necessarily, we spend a lot of time listening to the weatherman on the radio. Environment Canada puts out marine weather forecasts 4 times a day, we listen to each one and then usually cuss at their lies. So for now we will play this game until the end of summer when we get to turn around and head South. Then we get to change the rules of the game and get to actually wait for nice fair weather and the norwesterlies to carry us downwind in the sunshine.
A few weeks ago, I also crewed on a very cool race boat for a 2-week long international yacht race around Vancouver Island. We sailed well over 1,000 km against some very good sailors in some expensive boats. A few of the boats even had professionally-paid sailing crews. The boat I was on came in third over all. It was a great experience. You can view a video online. The footage is of our offshore legs, which happened to have very little wind and therefore was not very dramatic. However, this meant that we had up the large light wind sails. When flying these sails it takes at least 5 people to keep them in control. We did loose control over them 3 times in the race. Basically the 38-foot boat tips over and starts dragging through the water sideways until you can get the flogging sail down and regain steerage. Very exciting. Unfortunately, we did not get that on video because, as you might imagine, we were too busy. The sail that we take down in the video had a dimension of 1750 square feet. Our condo in Calgary was 1250! It was fun! We did see some cool wildlife including several brown albatross, many whales, and a fairly large shark looking up at us over the transom.
All the best