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Roberta,Ken And The Pups Cruise The World On A Relatively Small Boat

GSSR#9 - Nanaimo to Port Hardy

Greetings all!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 334 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 4,942 nm
Tomorrow's goal: 65 nm

Due to high winds, we decided to spend an extra day at Nanaimo. A very wise decision! Instead, we decided to spend the afternoon hanging out at "The Dinghy Dock Pub." To get there we took a little ferry called "The Protection Connection". It was the kind of "hang out" that is my kind of place. The food was just OK, but the ambiance was perfect. Casual. Noisy. Fun. The wind even decided to drop and people were sitting outside wearing t-shirts.

Our original goal had been to anchor out at Lasquetti Island and then run to Campbell River, but because of the lost day, we decided to make the long run to Campbell River, 85nm (10 hours), in one long burst.

The weather report warned of gale force winds, but they never came. The water was as smooth as I've seen it. I can't think of anything to say about our 85 mile run to Campbell River, other than that it was amazingly non-eventful.

At Campbell River we tied to a dock at April Point. During the summer April Point is a tourist lodge, with great docks, a great restaurant, spa, nice hotel, friendly staff, etc. But, it doesn't open until May 1st. We just tied up late, and woke up early for departure. I couldn't find anyone to pay. If anyone from April Point reads my blog, email me and I'll call you to arrange payment.


Because the resort was closed, we were forced into "barbecue mode". Don't worry. We did not suffer.

Our goal for the next morning was to pass through Seymour Narrows. Our passage through Dodd Narrows a few days ago was just the warm-up. Seymour Narrows is the big leagues.

Wikipedia descibes Seymour Narrows like this:


"...Seymour Narrows is a 5 km (3 mile) section of the Discovery Passage in British Columbia known for strong tidal currents.[...] For most of the length of the narrows, the channel is about 750 meters wide. Through this narrow channel, currents can reach 15 kn. Seymour Narrows was described by Captain George Vancouver as "one of the vilest stretches of water in the world." Even after Ripple Rock was removed, it remains a challenging route. In March 1981, the Star Philippine, a freighter ran aground in the narrows. [...] possibly the largest [flow] regularly attained in natural water channels on Earth (the current speed is about 8 m/s, the nominal depth about 100 m). [...] Ripple Rock was a submerged twin-peak mountain that lay just nine feet beneath the surface of Seymour Narrows. It was a serious hazard to shipping, sinking 119 vessels and taking 114 lives. The gunboat USS Saranac was one of the rock's first recorded victims. On April 5, 1958, after twenty-seven months of tunneling and engineering work, Ripple Rock was blown up with 1,375 tons of Nitramex 2H explosive making it the largest commercial, non-nuclear blast in North America. ..."


Needless to say, I was feeling a bit intimidated by "Seymour Narrows." However, as with most things, the trick is in the preperation. We studied the charts to figure out when the best possible time to go through was. There were two elements to plan:

1) Getting through Seymour Narrows when the tidal current is at slack
2) Once through Seymour Narrows, we had a long run to make along Johnstone Strait and wanted the current pushing us, not holding us back.

My Nobeltec chart software made this easy to figure out. Within minutes, I was able to figure out that I needed to clear Seymour Narrows at 7am, and this would give me a following current on the other side

Here's a video showing us going through Seymour Narrows. If the video doesn't appear below, it can be watched by clicking here:


Note: The second half of this video is for boat-geeks only. It shows the use of the monitoring system here on Sans Souci.


Johnstone Strait stretches for 100 nm between Seymour Narrows, and our next major stopping off point, Port Hardy. I had been warned that it could be nasty in a northwest wind, and as Murphy's Law would have it, we not only had a northwest wind, but a 25-30 knot projection, complete the words "Gale Force Warning In Effect." I've never been this far north, so I phoned a few friends who know this area, all of whom assured me that I'd be fine.


To our great surprise, Johnstone Strait was unseasonably calm. We never saw wind over 10 knots. We did however see some fog, but it didn't last long. There was about one hour when we were in dense fog, running on totally calm seas. It felt "mysterious." We happened to have some rock music blaring in the pilot house, and for some reason I was reminded of the guys running up the river in Apocalypse Now.

Currents tend to last only about six hours, and then reverse themselves. While the current was running, we had a great time. It was amusing seeing speeds over 13 knots appear, while running only 1300 rpm. We knew the good times couldn't last forever, and that at the end of the first 50 miles we'd need to find a place to wait for the current to turn the right direction again, or, be happy with running at 6 knot speed (because of the current running against us).

We opted to make it a short day, and look for an anchorage. Roberta did the advance planning for our trip, and did an exceptional job. She had found a lovely anchorage called "Port Neville". However, when I was laying out the route, I noticed that the British Columbia Coast Pilot suggested it not be attempted by persons without local knowledge. This prompted me to really study the chart in Nobeltec, plus look at other references. My bottom line was that it was possible, but difficult. I'd be navigating a very tight channel, with lots of rocks to steer around, a very shallow bottom, and a bit of a current. Possible, but not my style. The Coast Pilot suggested Port Harvey as an alternate destination, which had a nice wide channel leading to it, plus further investigation showed a new marina opening in a few days. This sounded promising.


I phoned Port Harvey, and spoke with the owner, George Cambridge. He said they were literally one day from installing his docks. He offered to let me tie along side the barge holding his soon-to-open pub and
store. I asked him if he was absolutely positive his pub could handle a 120 ton boat should the wind come up, and he suggested that I might enjoy a night at anchor.

Port Harvey has a few different places to anchor, but none seemed large enough to give Sans Souci the open space we like to have for anchoring. The best we could find was in front of the Port Harvey marina, which  unfortunately, was surrounded by crab traps. I called George, who guided me to a workable location. Because of the gale warning, I was seeking a location where I could drop plenty of chain, and prepare for a serious wind-attack.

Soon after anchoring, we were visited by a frenchman from a sailboat we passed on the way in: "Pierre". Pierre's english was at the same level as my french. Thus, we had a very interesting conversation, mostly held with me speaking bad french, with Pierre responding in his borderline english. Incredibly, Pierre mentioned that he had just crossed the Pacific ALONE. Pierre said he had made a 4,200 passage from Raietea, in French Polynesia, to Victoria Canada non-stop.

I have heard of sailors single-handing across the Pacific alone, but couldn't believe my luck to actually have one standing before me. My first thought was to say "What the ^#%& were you thinking?" but since I didn't know the french word for ^#%& I sufficed by saying "How did you handle it when you wanted to sleep?". Pierre said that he had two different devices to wake him up; an alarm on his AIS system that would wake him up if any other boats came close, as well as an alarm on his radar. I asked "Wasn't it tough to be at sea for 32 days alone?" His response: "After the first week it is easy. You fall into a rhythm, and time passes quickly." I asked: "What speed did you average?" "6 knots." I mentioned we were going to Japan, but felt one-upped. I doubt he was impressed. Pierre's blog is at: http://yachtkea.over-blog.com. It's in french, but at least you can see the pictures. As much as I liked Pierre, I noticed that in typical sailboat style, he did not put on an anchor light, despite being anchored in the center of the channel. He also mentioned that his sailboat AIS was "receive only". He certainly has my respect, but I worry for his safety.


No sooner had Pierre shoved off, when George, from the new Port Harvey Marina dropped by. We exchanged souvenir t-shirts, and had a very nice visit. George and his wife are putting in a new marina, that should be open within a week or so. The very spot I was anchored will soon be home to twin 300 foot docks. Port Harvey was a great stop. Protection from all directions, beautiful scenery, nice people, and most importantly, a way to break up the run up Johnstone Strait, so that you never have to buck the current. George is promising, in time for the season, a pub, coffee shop, ice cream shop, moorage, laundry, showers, hiking trails, and wireless internet. He has a blog going, at: http://portharvey.blogspot.com. Check it out.

The gale never happened. Sans Souci had the calmest night I can remember at anchor, followed by as smooth a run as can be imagined, all the way to Port Hardy, nearly at the tip of Vancouver Island.

One thing worth noting from the run north...

We crossed a fishing boat going against the current. Whereas I was running the center of the channel, he was pressed against the side. At first I thought "What a strange and risky way to go." After thinking about it a bit, I'm fairly certain I understand what he was up to. The current was running around 4 knots in the center of the channel. My guess is that it was running much slower close to the edges. He was picking up a couple knots of speed by hiugging the shore! (Or, so goes my theory).

We are now in Port Hardy, near the tip of Vancouver Island. Port Hardy is the largest town on Northern Vancoucer Island, and feels bigger than its population of only 5,000 would indicate. Our tour yesterday was a bit depressing. The region has been hit hard by the recession, softness in the fishing industry, loss of the mining industry and softness in logging. It felt a bit like a ghost town, with empty shopping centers and hotels. It was a reminder that the current economic problems are global.

Port Hardy is our last stopping point before crossing Queen Charlotte Sound tomorrow morning. Here's an article from Northwest Yachting describing what we're in for:


My project for the next few hours is to do the detailed planning for the crossing.

And, on a completely different topic:

The flu has been much in the news the past few days. We have a home in Mexico where our son does catering. He said the government has canceled all events, restaurants are shutting down and everyone is wearing masks. We had friends who were to be staying at our home next week, who canceled their trip, out of fear. One of the readers of my blog sent this document, from the CDC talking about Flu Pandemics.

And.. back to boating...

My last blog entry ended with a question from "Bruce" who was trying to understand the issues associated with semi-displacement and full-displacement boats.

It triggered a response by Nordhavn's President Dan Streech, and a new question from Bruce.

"... Your answer to Bruce D regarding the theory of hull weight and displacement boat performance was right on. I might add that we will probably never use resin infusion on a Nordhavn hull. It is a little pointless on a displacement boat where we actually add weight in the form of ballast (at least 11,000 lbs on your boat) and carry large amounts of fuel (3,100 gallons which equals over 22,000 lbs on your boat). I doubt that a Marlow Explorer is “3 times stronger”- and I might ask “3 times stronger than what?” A Nordhavn hull is brutally strong and that is achieved by using a conventional hand laid hull lamination process and then adding an interior grid of foam stringers with heavy lamination over them. See THESE PHOTOS. Nordhavn does use resin infusion/vacuum bagging on some of the parts such as the flybridge overhead, but this is more for the purpose of reducing weight aloft rather than trying to reduce the overall weight of the boat. Best Regards, Dan..."
And, Bruce's newest email:

"...Thank you for your response, I really did not expect one. Both the 72’Marlow Explorer and the 72’ Aleutian series of the Grand Banks line have speeds capable in excess of 20 knots. I would assume that these are semi-displacement or Planing hulls. They have big horsepower, twin 1000’s or twin 1500’s. However, can they not run at hull speed using less power and less fuel providing similar fuel economy as a full displacement hull? If this is true, then the “get something, lose something” formula, the loss is the safety and ride of the full displacement hull. That being the case, you more than likely did not even look at the Grand Banks Aleutian or the Marlow. I would take it that you would not buy off on their claims that they are both capable of trans Atlantic passage, if they had sufficient fuel. Can one ever believe a salesman? I believe the Fleming is a full displacement hull, did you look at that boat or your past experience with the Nordhavn made your decision easier? Again, thanks for the response and keep that blog going, best thing over the internet that I receive! PS” My comments on the Lifeline and Master Volt batteries was to show one has a guarantee and the other only claims to have a guarantee. My interest in the boats lies in that I would like to make passage from Oregon to the Aleutians. Speed in only important to me to get out of harm’s way if needed and if I can accomplish both with the same boat. I guess that is too much to ask for...."

And, my response to Bruce:

We did not look at Fleming, Grand Banks Aleutian, or the Marlow, prior to purchasing Sans Souci. I am not certain which of these are semi-displacement or full-displacement hulls. However, I can absolutely tell you that when you hear about 20 knot speeds, and twin 1,000 hp engines, you are in the domain of planing or semi-displacement hulls. I have never personally owned a semi-displacement boat, and can only say that my understanding is that there are fundamental differences in the hull design. Running a semi-displacement boat slowly does not give it the same seaworthiness as a full-displacement hull. Personally, I would not attempt a passage of the Aleutians on anything but a serious, well constructed full-displacement boat. For the kind of cruising you are talking about, speed is certainly important, but it is at the bottom of the list of important issues. Seaworthiness is at the top. Redundancy and reliability also outweigh speed. An important component of seaworthiness is weight. On a full-displacement boat, weight is your friend. On a semi-displacement boat, weight is the enemy. When the waves are talller than your boat, you'd rather have my 120 tons on your team, than be bobbing like a cork. Lastly, although 10 knots may sound slow, we usually get there first. On this trip north, we always seem to be the boat who is passing by others. I don't think we've been passed once. You may have noticed reading my blog that we always seem to move faster than expected. I noticed when reading Kosmos' blog (a Nordhavn 43 that just circumnavigated) that they moved shockingly quickly. One day they would be in Australia, and the next I knew they were in Thailand. It seemed like they were someplace new every day! I hate to sound like a commercial for Nordhavn, but there is a reason Nordhavns have logged over 3 million sea miles. Ask the salesman for any of these boats for the names of owners who have crossed oceans. There is a difference between marketing claims and reality.

I'll close out today with this email from Bill Harrington, who is an Alaskan Commercial Fisherman who will be on Sans Souci as we cross the Aleutians. I've been keeping him updated on the great weather that has been following us up the coast. He has had somewhat less luck, and its a reminder that the calm seas might not stay that way as we work our way farther north:

"... Hi Ken. We just got in from Homer an hour ago after delivering a load of halibut. We were stuck up there a couple days by unfavorable weather. Got our a**es kicked on the way in there though. There were some injuries on two other boats on the way in to Homer. One guy got thrown against some machinery and stove himself up pretty good, and on another boat a shackle broke and a block came down and compound fractured a guy's arm. We just got your basic thrashing with no injuries. 35-40 knots and 25 foot seas. As you know, it's big tides right now and when they get against the wind it gets gnarly. We had to come home the Shelikof side of Kodiak and through Whale Pass. Heading straight for home would have been right into 30 knots of SE and we didn't need the exercise. It's all good though. Have fun and best regards. Bill... "

Thank you, Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

PS Nordhavn did a nice article on the GSSR. They interviewed the crews of all three boats, and "got it right". To see what they had to say, go to http://www.nordhavn.com and click on the GSSR logo.

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