Friday, March 21, 2008

Shiriri Saga #8 Winter navigation.

We anchored overnight in Burgoyne Bay. It was a quiet night, except for strange noises from Edith who was tied up alongside. We poked our heads outside into the cool still air and found she was rocking and bumping against Shiriri as she objected to a big otter lolling around in her bilges while eating his crab supper. The next morning we woke in the chilly after cabin, got the oil stove lit and as we drank our morning tea, we discussed our plan of action for the day. There was now a dense fog all around Shiriri and we had planned to spend all the short hours of winter daylight threading our way north to Nanaimo for a visit with our daughter Elaine. The radio said it would clear by noon but that would leave too little time for the complicated passage among the Islands. We decided to leave right away and use our new radar for the first time.

The first part was easy, the shores were precipitous and painted clearly on the radar screen. But what were those evenly spaced bright echoes spread straight across the channel? Just before panic stations set in we remembered the electrical transmission lines hidden high overhead in the fog with their big orange aircraft warning balls spaced along them. We motored north through the fog for several hours with our Isuzu diesel chugged cheerfully below in the after cabin. As it pushed us along it also charged our batteries and spewed out lots of glorious dry warmth to chase the condensation away.

Eventually the fog lifted and we found ourselves still on schedule for our passage through Dodds Narrows, a narrow and turbulent passage that would lead us eventually to a safe anchorage behind Newcastle Island in Nanaimo Harbour. The strong tidal currents meant that it was wise to time our passage for slack water when the tides paused briefly from their rushing back and forth. Here we were, leading this free life on our boat and being more focused and more careful about our time, speed and distance traveled than we ever would have been in our old land life that was already fading rapidly into the past. The Shiriris was now our name and navigation was our game.
We spent several days at Nanaimo with Elaine, and Gwyn came up for a visit as well. We used our second dinghy, Rosie the red inflatable to zoom back and forth between our anchorage and Nanaimo. The four HP outboard pushed a full load of passengers slowly across the harbour but with just one it could be coaxed to put Rosie up on plane and zoom along just like a more powerful inflatable.
Finally we motored south again through Dodds Narrows in a cold pelting rain. We took turns steering and warming up over the oil stove. There was so much flotsam in the form of drifting logs that keeping a sharp lookout was tiring. At dusk we anchored in a long narrow north facing cove on Wallace Island secure with a VHF weather forecast of no northerly wind. What a night! It was pitchy black and blowing like stink for most of the night, sometimes right into the bay and even more hair raisingly across the narrow headland. This blew Shiriri`s stern very close to the rocky shore. We found a new use for the radar: we could use it to tell if our anchor was dragging. The new spotlight illuminated the rocky shore just behind our stern.

We survived the night, and next morning moved just down the way to a more sheltered bay. There was a major South-easter forecast and being so tightly anchored in a narrow bay we had discovered could be hair raising.

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