Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 15 - Plans Change - Von Donop to Ford Cove

Thursday, July 28, 2011.
Very calm night.  Woke to clouds and cool temperatures.  Our last lazy morning here in Desolation Sound.  We pulled up anchor at 0945 and started the long motor out of Von Donop towards our next intended stop Rebecca Spit.  As we were motoring down Sutil Channel I listed to the VHF weather radio and the forecast for Friday and the northern Strait of Georgia was not too good – NW winds 15-20 knots for Friday and SE winds 15-20 knots for Saturday.  This was a change from what we heard yesterday.  The discussion was now about should we or should we not change our cruising plans.  Currently northern Georgia Strait was like a lake with only light and variable winds - cruising down the Strait would be easy.  However tomorrow we might be in heavy following seas slogging down the Strait.  My concern was that it was a bit late to start such a cruise (1100) and I had lost the best part of the ebb.  For most of today's journey we would be fighting a flood.  However the lure of calm cruising versus slogging was just too great.  It was decided we would take advantage of the calm seas and go down the Strait today.  Just before the Subtle Islands I turned the MV Independence to course 175 degrees and headed down Plunger Passage. So much for Rebecca Spit and another day in paradise. 
We motored past Marina Island keeping it port and a good distance from its shallow and rocky shores.  I then set course to pass just west of Mittlenatch Island.  Just past Mittlenach Island we spied a large pod of orca.  They were spy hopping, breaching, flapping their fins and just swimming around.  Was this a good omen on our decision to go down the Strait?  We didn’t change course but watched them as long as we could.  We cruised right by the Sentry Shoal weather buoy on our way down the Strait.  As far as you could see the Strait was calm, this was a good day to tackle "the Monster."

The decision now is where to stay tonight?  The mooring options on this side of the Strait are very limited.  The choices are Ford Cove on Hornby Island, Comox, Tribune Bay, or maybe Deep Bay in Baynes Sound.  All of these possible spots are many hours away and I have no experience with any of them.  I felt bad for the dogs since they hadn’t been to the beach since about 0700. It was going to be a long day for them.  Georgia Strait from Mittlenach Island to Cape Lazo is open and boring, and I don't like it.  I poured over the cruising guides I had, and accessed the Internet about where to stay tonight.  We tried calling Ford Cove via cell phone and VHF all to no avail.  Cruising guides all warn of crossing the Comox bar because of shoal water.  One guide said, "finding the range markers during the day is difficult, but align yourself with Powell River pulp mill and the mountains above Comox and you'll be in the channel."  This didn't sound too reassuring to me.  Also the thought of staying at a marina in a city didn't sound too inviting.  Anchoring in Tribune Bay was an option, but it is completely open to the SE and what if those SE winds came early?  So, we decided on Ford Cove.

As I looked at the chart, another option was anchoring just behind Shingle Spit on Hornby Island.  As we motored by I studied it hard but it didn't look like a lot of shelter.  I also didn't know what kind of bottom it was and would hate to find myself dragging in the middle of the night.  So I nixed that idea. We finally made Ford Cove at 1845 finding an open spot on the outside of the breakwater float.  The little harbor was packed - not only at the docks but even in the limited anchoring area.  We found out later that there was a music festival in town so that’s why the docks were so packed.  I was a bit concerned being on the outside of the breakwater that we would be too rocked by the forthcoming NW winds of 15-20 kts that were supposed to blow around midnight.  So I tied up the boat really well.  The crew took the dogs to the beach while I made a simple supper of grilled Bavarian Smokies and home fried potatoes.  I was very leery of being here – for now its okay, but we’ll see what the winds will bring.  I nervously enjoyed my evening whiskey ration, going through in my mind of different options if it got too rough tonight.

Just before midnight as forecast the NW winds came roaring through at about 15 or so knots.  We were somewhat in the lee of Hornby Island and so the waves were less than a foot, but as they crashed against the hull it sounded to me as if I was inside of a washing machine - "ka ploosh, ka ploosh" went the waves against the hull..  I got up and checked all the lines and moved the Zipper farther aft of the boat as it was rocking pretty good.  This made things quieter.  All the other lines looked good so I returned back to my berth.  As the night wore on the winds abated until around 0500 they were calm.

Stats: Ending engine hours: 6158.0, elapsed engine hours: 9.7, 50.3 nm, average speed 5.6 kts., 9:02 hrs motoring.

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