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Old 15-04-2013, 10:06   #1
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Sailing BC Waters Engineless?

Hi Folks!

I'm looking for more specific accounts of those who've sailed, drifted, and/or rowed around parts of Vancouver Island, in a keelboat without an engine, to make a passage and not daysail. Any leads may, in some way, help to determine how probable, and practical, myself sailing, in this way, would be, but the smaller the boat, the better.

And if someone's going to state the calms are too unpredictable and the current will send such a boat out of control, that's appreciated, but details on how unpredictable the calms are, how the tidal currents move on a small scale, and how the hull profile and rowing setup effect versatileness, would be better. Same thing with moorages, anchorages, and marina setups. What circumstances would make that use of such places too hard?

Thanks!
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Old 15-04-2013, 10:18   #2
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

On the outside you would have wind and waves and not huge current effect. On the inside and south side you will be dictated by tidal streams and often little wind . If you are not in a hurry I would imagine it's plenty do-able. You will need to become an expert at preparation, tide and current tables and hopefully can find current charts based on "state of tide" for the areas you want to go so you can ride the back eddies.
If you want to know "how the current moves " etc, get the proper charts and books from BC and others and study them. Any cruising guides might help, as there are specific places that are challenging depending on "state of tide". Whirlpools 20 ft in diameter, overfalls dropping 3 ft or more etc.
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Old 15-04-2013, 10:27   #3
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

When I cruised San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound for a summer some years ago, seemed we had dead calms about half of the days, and on the other days maybe wind for half the day at most. Trawlers seem to outnumber sailboats by a huge margin, and I think the lack of good summer breeze has much to do with that. The currents however are a daily ritual.

Patience and planning will be required.
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Old 15-04-2013, 10:48   #4
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

Some places are set up for sail only voyages, the Salish sea is not. I think even Lynn and Larry used a tow to get into most marinas. Having sailed this coast for four years I would at least have a kicker.
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Old 15-04-2013, 11:05   #5
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

"And if someone's going to state the calms are too unpredictable and the current will send such a boat out of control, that's appreciated, but details on how unpredictable the calms are, how the tidal currents move on a small scale, and how the hull profile and rowing setup effect versatileness, would be better. Same thing with moorages, anchorages, and marina setups. What circumstances would make that use of such places too hard?"

Started sailing out of Bellingham, WA in 1972 - have covered every mile and anchorage from Shelton, WA/Allyn, WA to north of Cape Scott many times in many boats.

"details on how unpredictable the calms are, how the tidal currents move on a small scale"

Experiences:

Sailing in light winds in a 32' boat with friend on their 26' boat 30 meters to port - strongish currents and light winds in 100 meter wide channel. Very suddenly the 26' boat spun around and proceeded the opposite direction with backed sails. This continued for 30 seconds, they spun around again, and then proceeded to come sailing back past us.

Trying to motor (sailing would have been even tougher) thru a 200 meter wide channel (Cattle Pass) and making very little progress. Moved 50 meters toward center of channel and current almost vanished.

Sailing thru 400 meter wide channel (between Mayne and Galiano I think) with current pushing us - came around point with 45 degree course change - current suddenly pushed us toward center of channel and into path of BC Ferry. Tacked away from Ferry but current continued to set us into path of Ferry. Five annoyed horn blasts and we started the engine to move away.

Waiting to enter narrow fast pass (Dodd) - opposing wind/current - nasty wave action. Hove to for an hour - as our hove to boat moved a little the current carried us hundreds of meters various directions - sometimes in a circle.

Trying to enter narrow dock on the island (Victoria) - no current to within 10 meters of dock then a sudden 2 knot current at right angle to dock.

Strong easy sailing winds in Nootka Sound as we entered from the Ocean - rounded the point to enter the anchorage east of the small island and it was like someone shut the wind door - in a matter of 10 meters wind went from NW 15 to negative 0.

Took my dinghy 1.5 miles south of where the boat was anchored (West Sound on Orcas) in order to get cell reception - motor would not start on return trip and by then the sun had set. Tried to row back but current carried me 1/2 mile east of anchored boat - had to then row another 1/2 mile to get close to shore to work back-eddy so I could eventually row to the anchored boat.

Dozens of races where we had to anchor mid-channel for six hours waiting for the current to change so we could continue without the motor. This points out what I think is the biggest problem with no motor/rowing:

The tides/currents change every three to four hours (Slack/ebb/slack/flood twice a day) so the window of opportunity is often very short and you can not make many miles AND at the end of the window you need to be someplace you can drop anchor. Often, especially after an ebb, you cannot get into the anchorage because of the last of the ebb pushing you out.

Winds are very localized and special local knowledge is essential. When we race we know that 100 meters difference in location, relative to a hill or point, can make a huge difference in both wind power and direction.

For example, onshore winds lift off the surface at a distance 7 times the height of the obstacle. So, when trying to sail into a cove or anchorage it is common to lose the wind at some considerable distance from the entrance.

When sailing near islands (like almost all the time) the wind is best well away from shore but that is also where the current is often the strongest.

But, winds parallel to shore are frequently strengthened and bend as they approach shore.

Many times I have been sailing along with a big/light Code 0 up and rounded a point into a channel with a different orientation to the wind and had the Code 0 nearly destroyed by the shifted and strengthened wind.

Sailing NNE in Boundry Pass south of S Pender and then heading NW into Thumper Pass is a classic example on a NW wind - light and easy in Boundry and whistling down Thumper at 25 knots on the nose.

Sudden Calms:

Almost went aground on the shoals between Skipjack and Orcas Island - sailing nicely on a NW wind with the Code 0 - got into the tide rip on those shoals, pushed too close to Orcas by the current and the wind lifted off the water because of the high Orcas hills - I was very glad I had a motor.

Another huge obstacle to motorless sailing would be entering/departing anchorage. The best anchorages, at least in my opinion after many thousands of nights on the hook, are surrounded by hills / land masses which prevent swells/boat wakes from disturbing the anchorage. For example Fossil Bay on Succia, Ganges, Selby Cove, James Bay, Bedwell, Prevost, Reid harbors. Most of those locations have lots of anchored boats, many have mooring balls, and very flukey and fickle winds with currents moving all about.

Getting a motorless boat thu that maze and adverse sailing would be a challenge even if there were not the idiots in their dinghies getting in your way. So - how do you enter/exit those types of harbor/anchorage ?

I do a lot of single handed sailing in our forty foot sloop and frequently sail onto and off the hook/mooring ball but only in open anchorages where I have room to maneuver.

Another question - I set the anchor by motoring in reverse against the anchor at 3000 RPM - with my 18" Maxprop that is about the equivalent of a 30 - 35 knot wind. Once set that way - I sleep soundly. How does a motorless boat set their anchor? Just dropping it is not very reassuring and in a calm
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Old 15-04-2013, 15:56   #6
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

For whatever reason - the web site did not include the last several paragraphs of my original post:

I suspect you will need a small tug at times to help.

We use a very small and light 2 HP Suzuki (21 pounds and can easily be picked up one handed)and a 10' Portebote (folding dinghy). That combination can easily tow our 23,000 pound 40' cruiser or when tied along side push into anchorages if there is not much wind and just a little current.

I've sailed all over the US and much of Canada and can't think of an area (Salish Sea / anywhere inside the West Coast or anywhere on the East Coast of Vancouver Island) that would be more challenging for a motorless sail boat.

If you can accomplish your goal you will join a select group of skilled and elite sailors.

Feel free to ask more questions here or PM me for more details - I've done hundreds of races around the San Juan Islands, Gulf Island, Straits of Georgia/Juan de Fucca where no motor was mandatory for days at a time.

Eventually I quit racing 'cause the lack of wind and excess of currents was just too annoying. My cruiser has several big light sails and I always sail if I can make at least 2 knots towards my destination. My detailed sailing records show I sail less than 50% of the time when north of the Straits of Juan de Fucca.
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Old 15-04-2013, 16:13   #7
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

TAcomaSailor:

Thanks for that extremely well done post. My long ago brief experience in sailing those waters (in a Catalina 22 with a small and not very reliable o/b) was in complete agreement with your observations.

I hope that the OP was paying attention!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 15-04-2013, 17:50   #8
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

How many seasons do you plan to make it around Vancouver Island? It would be extremely tough to sail the Johnstone Strait westerly to get to the top of Vancouver Is. If you went the clockwise direction, then you'd be beating into it on the outside. Anything can be done in a boat without a main engine, but you need a lot of time.
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Old 16-04-2013, 12:48   #9
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

TacomaSailor,

Those are really good examples of the planning and skill required, thank you. I'll keep in touch. From consulting multiple folks from the CHS and other parts of DFO, and mutiple editions of the CHS "Sailing Directions", I've gotten a fair share of info, but it's not enough, especially regarding tidal currents. Tidal Currents of Puget Sound is the most comprehensive current atlas I've seen, and I think even that was based on like a physical miniature model of the Sound, and not actual observations, nor a good enough understanding of how the wind and freshwater runoff effect them.

Anchoring under sail alone, which I've experienced like 8 times on sloops around the Sound, similar to the way described in Jay Fitzgerald's book, works many times. How effective it is depends on a bunch of things, (ground composition, wave exposure, entrances, swing area, number of other traffic of various securities that will be around, ways to forecast the weather, shore tie abilities, ground tackle, ways to check for drag, ways to set it, anchor watching, ways to sail out of it, etc). I hope with the right planning and recognizing what the boat and crews' abilities are, there's a probable enough way to get by. Without a good speed, yes, that can really fault it, and in some areas it's inadequate over time. In other areas dropping a hook or doing things like mooring to kelp, can be fine when the crew would feel like sailing out of it (which can sometimes be at like 2 am). Sometimes it's better to just anchor in very exposed areas, depending on the understanding of the weather, forcasting resources, and what kind of waves can build in the area.

I've been aboard many times when folks sail or row in and out of slips in marinas on boats at least 27'. Practice just for that goes a long way, and there's a few tricks out there I know of, but sometimes crew won't do it and planning and timing are key. Or sometimes the boat setup just won't do.

Circumnavigation of the whole island totally engineless has not been one of my high priorities. I'm going for 2 years to sail some parts around the island, and a year of planning and more practice before those 2 years.
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Old 16-04-2013, 14:20   #10
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

Lots of very good advice and examples given here. I sailed my Colvin gaff schooner for ten years with no engine. Had a couple of tough spots, but who hasn't in ten years of sailing. Going thru the San Juans I used the current tables more than sail power. Anchoring under sail is done by sailing downwind, dropping the hook where you want it, dousing the jib and let the rode take the strain and spin you around. Do that and you won't worry about the set. Also makes you pay close attention to the condition of your rode!! In my schooner, the fisherman staysail was working sail, for, as others have mentioned, winds in the Salish Sea tend to be flukey, especially in high summer [both days hehe]. Learn to use the current tables, learn to recognize and use back eddies, keep your eyes peeled and keep your anchor ready to drop. Even if it is a bit hair raising at times, it keeps you knowing you're alive. And there have been far, far more days when I wouldn't trade it for anything. Go have fun.
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Old 16-04-2013, 15:37   #11
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

Quote:
Originally Posted by limpyweta View Post
.....
Circumnavigation of the whole island totally engineless has not been one of my high priorities. I'm going for 2 years to sail some parts around the island, and a year of planning and more practice before those 2 years.
If you are more planning junkholing visits of the San Juans, Gulf Islands and maybe some of the outside like Barkely sound and you have a lots of time to get to the places you want, then go for it. The whole area was discovered and charted by whitemen under sale and oars. Having a small outboard on your tender will save a lot of time at the end of some days.
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Old 16-04-2013, 15:51   #12
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

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The whole area was discovered and charted by whitemen under sale and oars.
Well, let's not forget the first nations people like the Haida who had it all explored in ocean going canoes much earlier, and possible explorations by Chinese ships long before a white man ever laid eyes on the coast.

At any rate, with a bit of care, time, and planning you can certainly do the trip under sail only.
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Old 16-04-2013, 17:42   #13
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Re: Sailing BC Waters Engineless?

If you haven't already seen this I think it's well worth a look if your thinking about sailing engineless anywhere, especially around BC. A great site with lots of insight to sailing engineless and living on a minuscule budget in the SE Alaskan area.

TriloBoat Talk

I managed engineless for a few years around cook straight in NZ, similar in some ways, but probably more wind and less current. Very Frustrating and very rewarding at the same time. Your seamanship skills and patience will be tested to the limit at times. But in return you will gain very useful skills and phobias (of the useful safety type) that will remain with you for life.

I caved in and ended up with a 3.5 hp Tohatsu outboard on my 26 footer. Most of the time it lived on my inflatable dinghy, but it could also go on the stern of the yacht where it worked better for propulsion. It was handy for those flat calms where you were stuck a mile or so from a nice anchorage, and for maneuvering around tight marinas, but reduced the satisfaction and enjoyment.

I should have spent more time perfecting the Yuloh. The experiments I did were very promising. Maybe a small electric engine would also have worked?

Fair winds.
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Old 16-04-2013, 17:54   #14
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Re: Sailing BC Waters Engineless?

Part of your advance planning will be to anchor against adverse tidal currents and learn to work the back eddies by hugging the beach line in certain areas.

Make sure you have extra line scope for deep water holding and if you get a chance, review passage plan with an old Log-tow captain, who are masters of this back-eddy knowledge.
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Old 16-04-2013, 18:34   #15
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Re: sailing BC waters engineless?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astrid View Post
Well, let's not forget the first nations people like the Haida who had it all explored in ocean going canoes much earlier, and possible explorations by Chinese ships long before a white man ever laid eyes on the coast.

At any rate, with a bit of care, time, and planning you can certainly do the trip under sail only.
I think you missed my refernce to whitemen doing the charting. As opposed to the Haidia and other tribes who used canoes and lived there for hundreds of years before Vancouver, Cook, etc showed up.
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