Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Anchorages: Crease Island Cove

Recently on a late afternoon I was walking my dogs in the woods above my house, I heard a great horned owl hooting in the distance.  Immediately my mind flashed to a memory when I was anchored at Crease Island Cove up in BC's Queen Charlotte Strait area.  The owl's hoots made me shiver with the haunting memory of that night.

Quiet before the storm.  Looking SW.
We very much enjoy the Crease Island Cove anchorage.  It was late August and thunderstorms were predicted for the Queen Charlotte Strait area.  There was an eerie stillness in the air, and conditions were very warm and humid which is unusual.  The normal late afternoon winds were absent.  You could tell a thunderstorm was brewing as the weather radio had warned.  Gale to Storm force gusty winds were expected as well as lightning and heavy rain.  As a result the anchorage was unusually crowded with boats.  The depths of this anchorage are shallow, only about 15-20' over a mud and kelp bottom.  The anchorage will comfortably hold about 10 boats, but there were more than that this evening.  The thunderstorms were forecast to come from the west, and the cove provides good shelter from the southwest all the way through to the northeast.  Only from the south is the anchorage open.  The island's trees and low hills provide protection.  So I felt safe.

Click on image to enlarge
Crease Island is only one island in a huge archipelago of islands that block the west entrance to Knight Inlet.  The collection of islands are known as the "Indian Group."  You've got Swanson Island to the far west on Blackfish Sound to Village Island at the eastern end.  To the north is Knight Inlet and to the south is Johnstone Strait.  There are over 50 islands of varying size in the area, which makes the Indian Group very scenic.  The abandoned Kwakiutl Indian village of Mamalilaculla, on Village Island is a great stop to learn more about the rich native history of these islands.  Often there is a watchman at Mamalilaculla who will tell you about the village and it's history.

I double checked my anchor setting and made careful mental note of objects on shore that would tell me if I had dragged anchor.  I also made note of the boats around me and how they were anchored.  There were two fish boats (trollers) anchored west of me, a 40' Chris Craft southwest of me, and a couple of small sailboats anchored north of me.  To the east of of me there were many other cruising boats but they didn't worry me.  The Chris Craft worried me, because I noticed he just dropped his anchor without setting it; he used a Danforth anchor; and he had no chain rode, just rope.

Initially this evening the mosquitoes were numerous and nasty and all of a sudden they just disappeared.  I knew I hadn't killed them all, but it was strange that they all disappeared.  Did they know something I didn't?  As we went to bed around 2130, the waters were glassy calm and the air was very still.  At about 2330 I noticed the boat quickly swing about at anchor and a light rain hitting the cabin roof.  Suddenly a gust hit the boat, I heard the anchor line strain, and now a torrent of rain hit the boat.  What was calm was now very noisy.  This had all come so suddenly, the forecast thunder storm was now upon us.  The wind roared through the trees, the rain pounded the water and the boat, and lightning lit up the anchorage.  Incredibly there were one foot waves in this sheltered anchorage.  I looked out the windows to see the Chris Craft moving east as if he was under power but he wasn't, he was dragging anchor.  Fortunately he dragged just behind me.  Folks in the small sailboats had their motors going and were checking their anchors.  I was still holding fine.  Lightning lit up the anchorage repeatedly to give you a quick look at the chaos about.  The Chris Craft now had his motor going and you could hear yelling in the distance over the roar of the wind and thunder between him and a couple of boats.  I was safe.  The wind and rain continued for about 45 minutes and then started to calm down and I returned to my bunk.

Morning after the storm at Crease Is. Cove. Looking NE.
About 0200 I got up because once again, not because of any storm or noise, rather it was just too quiet.  So quiet you could hear the water dripping off of the trees on shore.  I checked my anchor - all good.  I shone my spotlight about and I was still where I was supposed to be and there were no boats near me.  Except for the anchor lights of neighboring boats it was pitch black.  You could hear the the thunderstorm far off to the east and see purple, white, and magenta colors when the lightning lit up the clouds in the distance.  All was perfectly calm.  That's when I heard the hoot of a great horned owl on shore.  It was a melancholy huffing type of hoot.  The hairs on my neck immediately stood on end.  My imagination ran wild with native spirits running about in the woods.   I thought of the Thunder Bird, the suni qua (sp?), and more.  I quickly returned to the safety of my bunk and fell asleep listening to the dripping water and the hooting owl, only to wake later in the morning to again all quiet.  When I asked my family about the storm last night and they commented, "What storm?  What owl?"  I asked myself, "Was I dreaming?"  I looked for the Chris Craft and he was gone, in fact over half the boats anchored last night were gone.  Oh well, maybe I was dreaming.  If so what a dream.

We've returned to Crease Island Cove many times since that night.  It remains one of our most favorite anchorages on the BC Coast.  We very much enjoy cruising about and exploring the many small islands in our dinghy.  They're great for a nap, reading a book, or a picnic.  But, be careful there's black bears about.  I've got a great picture of my brother sitting on shore reading a book not knowing there was a black bear not more than 30' away from him.  He never knew until I told him later and showed him the picture.  Often times we have seen bears swimming from island to island, along with other animals - otters and raccoons.  We've seen orca and white-sided dolphins in Blackfish Sound and Knight Inlet.  There's great scuba diving too along these islands. (To learn more visit or Sunfun Divers on Facebook)  There's great salmon fishing nearby in Blackfish Sound.  Excellent prawning and crabbing nearby too.  Port McNeill is about 19 nautical miles away where you can stock up on provisions.  Or, you can easily wind your way through the islands to Echo Bay (~8 nm), just be careful of the currents and many shoals.  Being right at the southern tip of Queen Charlotte Strait and just by Johnstone Strait, Crease Island Cove is a great "jumping off" point for the trip home or for points further north.

Happy New Year!  May 2012 be a year filled with many safe and happy adventures.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Favorite Anchorages: Jedediah Island Area

In previous posts, I have provided information on crossing Georgia Strait.  In this post I'm going to describe a few anchorages that I have come to depend on when we cruise up or down Georgia Strait.  If the weather permits we try to break up the long "slog" of crossing Georgia Strait into two days, otherwise it makes for a very long day.  One of our favorite stops is the "Bull Passage" area.  Bull Passage is formed by Lasqueti (pronounced "Laz-kee-tee") Island to the west, and Bull and Jedediah Islands to the east.  This little archipelago is not only a convenient stop-over but beautiful and unique too.
Click on image to enlarge

Lasqueti Island has quite a few homes on it - some vacation homes, some permanent residents.  Jedediah and Bull Islands are a BC Provincial Marine Park.  These islands are great for gunkholing about in a dinghy or runabout.  If you are a photographer or artist you will have hours and hours of items to photograph, sketch, or paint.   The rock walls combined with the reddish arbutus trees and lighting are so beautiful.  On Jedediah Island you can even find small cactus growing in small nooks and cracks within the rocks.  I found these cacti by painful accident while sitting one day.  You can even find some hiking trails about.  There's plenty of wildlife too.  There are feral sheep on Jedediah Island left over from long ago homesteaders.  We have seen otters, seals, and whales in the area.  Sheer and Rabbit Islands have nesting colonies of sea birds.  There's good salmon fishing nearby too.  Oh, one downside about this archipelago - it's mosquito heaven.  On all the anchorages we have been bothered by these little voracious biting beasts.

There are several anchorages in this archipelago each one with it's own advantages and disadvantages and qualities.  On the chart you will see Long Harbour but I avoid it because it is shoal.  Occasionally on some neap tides I have seen boats anchored in Long Hbr, but I never have.  Many of the small bays and nooks in the area are too deep, shoal too quickly by shore, or are too shallow.  As a result, I have experience with six (6) different anchorages in the Bull Passage/Jedediah Island area.  They are in order of my preference when anchoring in this area.
MV Independence at anchor in Boho Bay.
  1. Boho Bay.  This is a scenic and popular anchorage.  Anchoring depths vary from 40' to 60' feet on a hard mud bottom.  Holding is good.  I've seen as many as 6-8 boats anchored here.  There are some stern tie rings on the Lasqueti Island side.  Many boats anchor near Boho Island.  I use this anchorage in any kind of weather - NW or SE winds on the Strait.  The downside to this anchorage is that it can be popular and there is a research facility at the head of Boho Bay that has pump noises, lights, and small boat traffic.
  2. "Sheep Anchorage."  This anchorage has the name "sheep anchorage" because late in the evening the feral sheep on Jedediah Island will come down to the shore to graze.  It's interesting to be in your boat and hear the bleating of sheep nearby.  Commonly we have enjoyed incredibly beautiful sunsets from this anchorage.  Anchorage depths vary from 20' to 40' over a mud and gravel bottom.  Holding is good.  Few boats use this anchorage.  Once we had two other boats with us anchored here.  I only use this anchorage in calm weather or if a SE wind is blowing.  NW winds will make this anchorage a bumpy one.  Remember the winds in Georgia Strait often start to blow after midnight.  So in the evening you settle down to a calm anchorage only to wake a few hours later thinking you are in a washing machine.  Another downside to this anchorage are wakes from passing boats as they cruise Bull Passage.
  3. "Paul Island Cut."  This is a small and often crowded anchorage.  A stern tie to shore is required.  There are stern tie rings available.  Depths are 20' - 40' feet.  Holding good to fair.  This anchorage can get crowded and I generally avoid it.  I compare it to staying in a "trailer park."  It is scenic though.  Good protection in any kind of weather, though I get nervous in winds because of the closeness of neighboring boats even when stern tied.
  4. "Little Boho Bay."  This anchorage is seldom used and I only use it if the other anchorages are full.  Anchoring depths are around 40' on a gravel and rock bottom.  Holding is fair.  I only use this anchorage in calm weather.  The downside is the holding and the small research facility nearby.  A salt water pump to feed the fish tanks is located here and you will hear its motor running for most of the time - although it does shut down late at night.
  5. "Rabbit Island."  This anchorage located at the eastern end of the channel between Bull and Jedediah Islands and west of "Rabbit Island" is rarely used because of where it is located.  You have to be careful navigating the channel between Bull and Jedediah Island or coming from the Strait.  So, chances are you may be the only boat anchored here.  It is very beautiful with the steep rock walls and arbutus trees surrounding you on two sides.  Anchoring depths are around 20-30' over a mud and gravel bottom.  Holding is good to fair.  I only use this anchorage if a NW wind is blowing or in calm weather.
  6. "Always Taken Anchorage."  This anchorage is a one-boat anchorage in a small nook just off of Lasqueti Island.  It is quite protected in any kind of weather.  Good holding on a hard mud bottom in depths 20-30'.  The downside to this anchorage is that it seems to be always taken with another boat, hence the name.  Caution needs to be taken because there is a rock right in the middle of the anchorage entrance.  Once, another boater had to anchor here too giving me a restless night of "are we going to bump."  As a result I rarely use this anchorage.
Bull Passage is about 20 nautical miles from Departure Bay, Nanaimo and about 45 nautical miles to Lund via Malaspina Strait.  Or, about 34 nm via Sabine Channel (west side of Texada Island) to Lund.  It's about 55 nautical miles to Campbell River.  Commonly when cruising down Georgia Strait we will leave our anchorage in this area to get to Nanaimo before Area WG (Whiskey Golf) becomes active (listen to VHF Weather Radio 3).  Or, many times you will notice that Georgia Strait winds die down in the late afternoon and evening, so you can do the short cruise from Nanaimo to these anchorages and then get a good start towards Desolation Sound the next day.  Whichever way you go, I hope you try this great area out.
Sunset from "Sheep Anchorage"
To read previous posts about Georgia Strait and this area see:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Favorite Eats: Navy Bean Stew - Boat Version

Cold days on the water call for something hot and hearty.  I really enjoy this boat version of Navy Bean Stew.  The whole idea of navy bean stew for me conjures up old sailing images of cruising New England's rocky shores, "Down East" boats, and places like Monhegan Island and Kittery.  It's simple and hearty fare of winter ingredients of mushrooms, beans, and greens.  Oh, and did I say bacon?  Everything tastes better with bacon.  The original version probably used salt pork, but I'll stick with bacon.  Let this stew slowly cook on your stove as you motor, under slow bell, to your anchorage and enjoy a winter's day cruising.  Nothing better than coming in to a warm cozy cabin, hot stew waiting, a good book, and family.  Or, you can do like me, just make the stew while sitting at the dock and puttering about your boat on a cold winter's day.

Now I call it a boat version, because although you make it from scratch you are using "victuals" found in your ship's larder.  The home version has fresh mushrooms, navy beans pre-soaked, and fresh greens like kale or spinach.  Sure you can pack some of these things down to your boat, but if you're like me, your larder is limited in size and you've got more canned food than fresh.  Sometimes the mood just strikes you for a meal that you have a hankerin' for, and you didn't leave the dock planning to make this meal; and you are too many miles away from any marina or store. Finally, you probably don't keep fresh ingredients on your boat in the winter months.

So let's get started... First, check your larder for the following ingredients:
  • Canned mushrooms, one large can or two small cans (If you have dried mushrooms like Shttakes, this is even better.  You'll want to soak enough to have about a good cup or more.)
  • Canned navy beans, one 15 oz. can
  • Canned spinach, one 15 oz. can (you can also use kale, fresh spinach, or bok choy about 2 cups)
  • Chicken broth, one can or 2 bullion cubes
  • Dried onions, 3 tablespoons (or 1 cup yellow onion diced)
  • Dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3 strips thick cut bacon, or some kielbasa sausage (you could use SPAM if needed, I have)
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup (or if you are truly gourmet, a squeeze of tomato paste from a tube)
  • Canned potatoes, one 15 oz. can (or 3 small Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn's chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Fresh water, about 1-2 cups
Chop your bacon into small 1/4" pieces, or thinly slice your sausage.  Next, heat a large pot over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil.  Add your bacon or sausage and fry until the edges just start to get crisp but not burnt.  Add your dried onions or fresh if you have it and saute' for about a minute.  You just want the dried onions to "wake up" and start to get soft.  Add your canned mushrooms along with the water in the cans.  Add the ketchup and dried thyme seasoning too.  Mix well.  Drain the can of potatoes and chop them if you want.  Reduce the heat to low and next add the chicken broth, potatoes and water.  If you are using bullion cubes you'll want to add more water, if not about a cup of water will do.  Season this mix with salt and black pepper to your liking.  Let the mix cook over low heat, covered, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes just start to get soft when poked with a fork. 

Drain the can of spinach, give the spinach a quick chop, and add to the pot - you can choose to add the entire can of spinach to the pot or just a portion.  Next you will want to thoroughly rinse the can of navy beans.  You don't want to add the bean liquid in the can to the stew.  If you do, it will make your delicious stew taste pretty "funky."  Once the beans are rinsed and drained, add them to the pot along with the vinegar, and let the stew slowly cook over low heat for about another 10 minutes.  Stir your stew occasionally during this time.  The potatoes will start to break down and thicken your stew.  If it gets too thick for your taste, add more water.  Just don't over cook your stew to the point where your beans start to break down.  The beans should always stay whole.

Finally ladle the hot stew into bowls top and serve with some crusty french bread.  If you're like me you'll add a bit of Louisiana style hot sauce to your stew to kick it up a notch.  A hot rum toddy goes good with it too.  Enjoy.

Variations: As a stew, you can always "fix 'er up" the way you want to.  I've added 1/2 cup of red or white wine right after adding the onions.  This will give it an even richer taste.  If you are a garlic lover, add fresh, dried, powder when you add the onions.  Do not use garlic salt, it will be too salty.  Do not use Bac-O's to get that bacon flavor - Ugh!  That will ruin it.

If you want the home version of the stew, drop me a note and I will either post it or e-mail it to you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Anchoring Hand Signals

Recently while on a trip down to check the MV Independence, a boat neighbor at the dock stopped me and asked about anchoring.  He said that many times he and his wife get into this shouting match because she's up at the bow dropping the anchor and he's running the boat.  She's screaming at him to do something, but with her back turned, and the sounds of the engines, he only hears "Bob, mumph, blah, blah, @&#%!"  He said he watched us come in to a local anchorage once, and how without a word, you calmly walked to the bow, your wife took the helm, and viola' you were anchored.  Never a word was heard between you two.  Of course my wife gave me a dirty look and said, "why can't we do that!"  He went on to comment that even when you dock your boat, even in trying conditions, you seem to have everything arranged and nary a word is said, and when a word is said, it's calm not shouting.

I offered him to come aboard, and share with me a finger of my favorite Canadian Rye.  I explained that after 22 years of successful boating and 32 years of successful marriage, we have come to develop some routines.  Otherwise, we would not be so successful in either boating or marriage.  There was a time when we too did the shouting routine, but found it just didn't work.   We anchor out 90% of the time when we go boating, so we had to come up with something.  It had to be simple, clear, and effective.  The idea of anchoring hand signals was born.  We've been using them for over 15 years now and they work great.  Letting my wife work the helm also gives her some experience working the boat.  And by me doing the anchoring I sleep better at night.  I then demonstrated and discussed with him each of the anchoring hand signals that we had developed.

The first three hand signals - forward, neutral and reverse - are pretty basic.  When you want to have the boat move forward, the arm from elbow up is raised and pointed up.  The boat will stay in gear going forward - at dead slow - until the another hand signal is given. When the arm is pointed straight out away from you and not moving, the boat should be taken out of gear into neutral.  Again, the boat is kept out of gear until another hand signal is given.  When the arm from the elbow is pointed down, the boat is put in reverse - at dead slow.  Although not pictured, if I want the speed increased, I simply spin my wrist in whatever position my arm is in.  If I want the speed decreased, I wave my fingers together in unison - making a flapping motion, like doing a child's wave.  To signal okay that the right speed is set, I simply flatten my hand.

If the boat needs to be turned, my wife and I worked out that the hand is spun in the direction you want the wheel to be turned.  My wife found that to be easiest and less confusing than pointing the direction, or saying "turn to port or starboard."  So, the arm from the elbow is spun to the right to turn right or starboard, and the arm from the elbow on down is spun to the left to turn left or to port.  Again, the helmsman performs the action until another hand signal is given.  One spin of the arm means just turn a little, whereas continuously spinning the arm means hard to the direction indicated. To indicate that the correct direction has been obtained, the arm is swung forward and back from its current position.

As said above, all actions by the helmsman are continued until another hand signal is given.  So we came up with these last two hand signals to indicate the action is over.  Waving an extended arm slightly up and down signifies that the anchor is set and no further action is necessary.  Waving the arm back and forth to above your head and back to level indicates that there is a problem.  When there is a problem the helmsman takes the boat out of gear immediately, comes forward to the bow to talk,  discusses the issue, and what the next actions are.

Again, the above system of hand signals works great for the captain and crew of the MV Independence.  Rarely, do we ever get into a shouting match and the boat is always successfully anchored.  We even use these hand signals when navigating through shoal areas or times when you need someone at the bow.  At the start of each boating season we rehearse the hand signals to ensure they are still understood.  We've found that having a crew that is coordinating with the skipper makes for easier and happier boating.  In the end trust and respect are maintained. You might even want to discuss with your crew the above hand signals or develop your own. 

At the end of the evening my boat neighbor and I had consumed more than one finger of whiskey and had invented a few other hand signals that might not be appropriate, but they sure did generate some laughs.
At anchor in Cutter Cove on a windy day.