170910, 0208 UTC, Carina Almost Home, 48°59 N / 123°39'W
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We are now in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada after making our way south over 1,000 miles along the classic route of the inside passage from Sitka AK through British Columbia, Canada. Except for a very few rare moments, this has been a motor boat trip into southerly winds with long days of monotonous hand steering watching for traffic and huge, potentially-damaging flotsam, in the cockpit under all weather conditions, for up to 16 hours per day. We spent many days in fog or rain seeing nothing but grey, with a handful of glorious clear days when every mountain, cascade and glacier sparkled. We understand this is unusual and that the summer weather in Alaska and northern BC has been nasty this year, even while the southern coast enjoyed continuous sunshine, record-breaking heat and devastating fires. There was one amazing sunny warm week in early August in "southeast" and we truly enjoyed it, though we have spent most of the last two months in fleece, gloves, jackets and hats - not what we expected. Our journey pales in comparison to friends Jay and Danica aboard s/v Alkahest, a 42' Tartan. They will eventually be traveling the inside passage but first, they have to finish the NORTHWEST PASSAGE sailing east to west. We believe they are now in Nome. We can't imagine the conditions they have endured and are so looking forward to catching up with them once they safely reach Seattle.
The first gale of our trip was on 30 July and then things seemed to keep getting worse weather-wise; long days of strong wind on the nose, rain and cold air. We lost count of the number of gale warnings. At times the the wind and current conspired to stop Carina dead where our GPS registered almost no boat speed. Thinking we had missed the season, we have pushed hard every single day for three weeks since leaving Prince Rupert until we reached the southern Gulf Islands yesterday. Thankfully for most of this push, we had the camaraderie of Amante, a catamaran we met while waiting out a gale to cross exposed Dixon Entrance between AK and BC. At Quadra Island, we also caught up with Sidewinder, good friends from many southsea adventures. That being said, weather and current gods smiled on us as we rounded Cape Caution, crossed Queen Charlotte Strait and started down the Johnstone Strait, a place you do not traverse under adverse conditions. The weather improved dramatically once we rounded Chatham Point into Discovery Channel from Johnstone Strait on Labor Day weekend, where the sun suddenly turned warm and the hull stopped sweating inside.
The upside of this trip were the breathtaking views of mists, cascades and glaciers, and pristine isolated and uncrowded anchorages visited by wildlife - bears, eagles, loons, kingfisher, porpoises, orcas and humpbacks. There is no place like the Pacific NW - Alaska and British Columbia - where we learned to love cruising. Another compensation was the good company of new and old friends we met or hope yet to meet along the way - Randy & Gayle, John, Martina & Larry, Kristy & John, Joel & Alice, John, Chuck, David Dorothy Wade Kevin Rusty & Rascal, Melanie & Ed, Dan Linda Lamby Gus & Shelby, Naomi & John, David & Suzi, Gary & Maggie, Terry & Mary, Jim & Sharon, Darlene & Floyd of The Great Northern Boaters Net, Roger & Pearl, Ross & Karen, Chuck, Jim & Jan - and countless friendly helpful people in the various ports and anchorages. In the Johnstone Strait we serendipitously spotted Lyric of the Port Madison Yacht Club, with Tad & Joyce aboard, whose circumnavigation in the late 90s helped inspire us to cruise the wider world. It was wonderful to see them - we circled each other taking photos and catching up - and the chance encounter made us realize we were really getting close to home.
On Wednesday, we stopped in Comox on Vancouver Island to buy some fuel and food. While we were off the boat provisioning, a local sailboat smashed into Carina's forward bow section and destroyed our lifelines, stanchions and teak toe rail. The two men aboard the other sailboat left a note of apology and contact information and promised payment for the repair. All well and good, but we'll still have to stop in Port Townsend to get an estimate and try to schedule a time for the work to be done. This incident is particularly ironic as we have sailed over 41,000 nautical miles on our journey and the only serious mishap happened so close to home.
We still expect to reach our home port of Kingston WA mid-September, weather and currents depending. We know it will be a bittersweet experience; the exhilarating end of a tremendous adventure of exploring tropical islands and distant countries with the pleasure of meeting and knowing diverse peoples, tempered by the reality and hard work of reintegration into the US.
Thank you to all of you who followed our adventures, those who helped make our journey happen, and those who gave us encouragement along the way. Fifteen years ago, Joyce and Tad urged us to dispense with the material possessions and trappings (such a descriptive word!) we had acquired, because when we returned from cruising we would be different people with altered values. Their words were prophetic and true.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake
Clam Bay, Kuper Island, British Columbia, Canada
p.s. When we acquire internet access we will update our website's photo-journals from this incomparably beautiful and wild cruising ground.