sunset on Whaletown Bay

A bloody long row — Discovery Islands, Day 3

Sunday July 19: day 3 of our voyage, sunny and even hotter, but eventually successful!

Once again, our objective was Cortez Island across Sutil Channel. The forecast was also a repeat, 10 to 15 Kts of wind out of the northwest, supposedly with an ebb (northerly flow) until 14:40. After our unsuccessful attempt to cross the day before, we had a much clearer picture of the challenge, and a revised strategy. We’ll set out a bit earlier, and if and when the wind dies (the northwester blocked by Read Island), we’ll get out the oars and row around Viner Point and hopefully into clear air beyond. And, armed with our knowledge of the back-eddy south of Read, we’ll not let ourselves be swept south like we did on our previous, innocent attack.


our anchorage in Drew Harbour, inside Rebecca Spit


the view from Rebecca Spit in the morning, our crossing beckons

The day broke warm and clear, we brewed coffee and breakfasted onboard, used the park facilities on the Spit, and stowed the clothesline and ground tackle. We didn’t manage to get off any earlier (best laid plans awry already), we left the beach just after 10:00. The breeze freshened and we made good time beating out to the Bretons, bearing off at 11:20 to reach across Hoskyn Channel.


crossing Hoskyn Channel, once again


closing on Viner Point

As we approached the wind shadow of Read Island the pressure slowly eased, just as expected, although it did carry us just past Viner Point this time. At noon, half a mile east of the point and 4 NM into the crossing, the breeze disappeared completely.

Oars out, sail down, foils up, 1.5 NM to the Subtle Islands, the sea is a mirror, and man it’s hot! Chris took a spell on the oars, we sipped water every 10 or 20 strokes, the temp climbed and the world was in slow motion.

“Are you sure we’re moving? and not being drawn south?”

“Yes, it’s ok, watch that point against the far island, see it slide away ever so slowly?. And, according to Navionics, we’re holding our course at 1.3 Kts over the ground.” “What about now?” “Yes, still moving, our ranges are all good, damn it’s hot!”

We closed on the indent between the Subtles, and in crystal waters spied sand between the thick eelgrass of the cove. Selecting a clear spot we dropped our hook into a billow of white sand in about 3 feet of water, I stripped and jumped in, icy cold bone-jarring relief. Slowly cooling my core and strolling waist-deep around our little boat it felt like I was in paradise. Keith dropped anchor and swam, we chatted, set up some towels for shade, ate lunch, and took in our surroundings. We have crossed! New worlds await!


a lunch stop and swim in the Subtle Islands

The Subtle Islands are privately held, with a man-made causeway connecting the two Islands across the shallows separating them. Small 4-wheelers with uniformed staff and luggage-piled trailers zoomed back and forth across the causeway, guests arriving? departing? chambermaids and gardeners? Somewhat surreal! So much for our paradise, someone already owns it! (And, it’s said they’re not friendly. Lucky they were a bit too far away to see we’re naked. We hope…)

Another unexpected phenomena, cell phones that have been silently sleeping while in the bays suddenly spring to life when you’re in the big channels. Distant towers provide excellent coverage in the middle of Sutil, and texts arrived while we rested and ate: ding ding! Chris phoned home, and then her brother on Cortez to arrange a rendezvous.

“We’ll be coming in at Whaletown, but not sure when. It’s a bit of a row yet, and very hot!”


looking north, behind Subtle Islands, through Plunger Passage and up Sutil Channel

Another 1.5 NM to the entrance of Whaletown Bay to the south, and no sign of Derek and Lacy. We horizoned them by oar when we left Viner, “Let’s just hope they’re working their way across, and get going.” The heat had set a haze across the Channel, no sails in site, and once round the point our feelings of vastness and wildness and wonder returned. Bending on the sticks became rhythmic, I discarded my PFD and shirt for ventilation, my skin became wet and cool, I gained boat length after boat length, I settled into a joy of work and motion. It seemed to go forever, and I didn’t mind at all. Wow, it’s hot…


no wind meant many miles of rowing on the hottest day of our voyage


shade is hard to find on a little boat at sea

About halfway down, the radio crackled “Is that you guys along the shore?” A small spec of dark crystallized from the blue, and LIBERTY appeared slowly, oars flashing. The Pirates are together again!


Chris is relieved to know where LIBERTY is, and to be near landfall

Then, a kayaker paddled alongside to chat, and then, a big motor cruiser called over, “that’s the way to travel!” and then a little tickle of air, and hey, we’re at the entrance, and hey, we’re sailing!! Not a breath of wind in every direction except in here, and we’re heeled over and hauling ass into harbour like it belongs to us. We all do donuts of glee, 3 little marauders, bluffing our way into the bay.


ZEPHYR about to dock, and LIBERTY 53 close behind


happy scampers all!

We commandeer the Government Wharf, claiming land as we see, and Chris’ brother strolls down the gangplank with a supply of the Coldest Beer To Be Had, and a slab of the creamiest cold-smoked tuna To Be Seen. We be wharf rats, hiding beneath the gangway from the heat, our feet in water so clear, so cool, a breeze through the oily scented piles… Stoves set up, supper shared, sailing stories and rowing tales told, sun was dipping quickly now…


under the wharf


the Whaletown post office serves all residents of Cortez Island


Cortez Island Public Library, open on Fridays


Library hours: Friday 10:00 to 3:30


evening sail in Whaletown Bay

Anchored off, in the shallows behind the wharf up against the trees, we slept so soundly we must’ve been smiling, all night the milky way above hardly seen through such tightly closed and slightly burnt eyes.


we anchored in the shallows of the bay behind the gov’y dock

Some lessons learned about rowing LUNA:

  1. my nine-foot oars are just long enough to effectively row this boat, and I think another six inches might even be better. Of course this is a problem, the length desired does not fit in the boat’s sole of only 8’3″ long;
  2. I sit on top of the stack of sleeping thwarts, with a boat cushion too, to set me at the correct height for the oarlocks, almost 6 inches higher than the seat tops;
  3. the most important modification yet to do is add a riser for my feet, I’d say your stroke power is halved if you don’t have something to push against;
  4. breakdown oars fit, and are convenient when stored (mine fit inside the seat lockers), but not so when needed;
  5. the transition to rowing is much simpler, faster, thereby safer, if the oars are stowed in their locks, secured to the combing or gunwale;
  6. the risk of problems re-boarding over oars so stowed has yet to be fully evaluated, capsize testing required;
  7. these oars, Sawyer composite two-piece (purchased through Gig Harbor Boatworks), are very light. The shafts are perhaps about 1.5″ diameter, and the blades are an ovoid shape, with a fair amount of surface area, more like a sliding-seat oar but with a small-diameter shaft. So, when you first apply pressure, the shafts bend alarmingly, and it feels like all your effort is going to waste. However, once you get the boat moving, they seem quite responsive, not so bendy, and as time goes by you appreciate their lightness very much. The more I use them, the more I like them!
  8. ultimately (and pointed out by others more experienced than I), a SCAMP may be a better motor-and-sail boat than a sail-and-oar boat, but more testing and time is required (and very much desired!). I will resist the motor for as long as I can.


Day 3 Navionics track
Start Time: 2015-07-19, 10:14 AM
End Time: 2015-07-19, 4:42 PM
Distance: 8.1 NM
Total Time: 4H 55′
Average Speed: 1.8 kts
Max Speed: 5.1 kts

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