Sunday, July 12, 2009

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

We'd been planning a return to Portland Island for some weeks now. Paula had missed our trip there last fall and really wanted to go, but as the final hours ticked away before our put in time this morning, the weather was not going to cooperate. It fact, the reports were getting bleaker by the minute. A Small Craft Warning was posted for the afternoon in Haro Straight, and we certainly qualify as small craft.
So even though it looked lovely as we launched, we knew the weather was going to turn and the wind was going to come up.
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Bernie was also looking forward to going to Portland. He was thinking of camping out in the islands for a day or two, but he had forgotten his skirt and he didn't want to be out there with waves washing over him. With an ebbing tide current from the north and the expected winds coming from the south, conditions were going to look quite different from the flat calm we had at launch.
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In addition to Bernie and myself, Tracy, Louise and Paula rounded out our quintet. We decided to head in the direction of Portland Island and check out the conditions. We didn't really think we'd go across, but sometimes the weatherman is wrong. We certainly had our moments of doubt in him as we moved out of Roberts Bay into the more open Haro Strait.
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The herons, as usual, were insisting that I photograph them.
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It's a fixer-upper. Bring your own design ideas.
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We made it to the tip of Coal Island with little trouble. But here, things started going a little sideways.
From here, one would make the crossing to Portland, but the open water was already seeing the effects of the wind, so it was clearly a no-go for us. We thought about going around Coal, but as we poked our noses around the point, we could see that the wind along the exposed north side of Coal was also whipping up some waves.
Adding to the situation was the odd maneuver the ferry was making. We're close to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, so keeping an eye out for ferries is Rule #1 here, and this ferry would have normally turned towards us and sailed alongside Coal Island, past us and to the terminal. But it had turned in the opposite direction and was making a slow lazy loop. None of us had ever heard of a ferry doing this. I was monitoring ferry traffic on my VHF, but I didn't hear anything odd.
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After a quick discussion, we decided to head down the channel and forgo even a circumnavigation of Coal today. The winds were definitely coming up faster than forecast.
The other factor that hastened our discussion was that the ferry had finished its loop and was now heading towards us and its regular course. We did not want to be close to the rocky shore when its wake came in.
We turned into the channel, but Bernie and I stayed back a little. Bernie was fiddling with his new video camera when I called out, "Here it comes!"
"Here comes what?" he said.
"The ferry!"
"The ferry doesn't cross here," he said. "It'll be out over by--"
"Look up!" I shouted.
He looked up, and decided it was time move back a little.
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Moving down the channel, we met Alex Matthews and some friends enjoying the current. (His book Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters is on my Christmas list, you know. Hint hint.)
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After a quick chat with Alex and his friends, we pressed on. The waters were now teeming with pleasure craft. I haven't felt as close to being a potential speed bump as I was feeling today.
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Then we were into it. The winds came up and the waters were churning. Swells, currents, waves and boat wake were giving us a workout. Sometimes it felt like we were going in five directions at once.
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So it ended up being not at all the paddle we had planned, but it still was a paddle that we enjoyed. And my new SPOT worked like a charm. Three messages sent, three received - woo hoo!
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2009-07-12 Coal Island
Trip Length: 7.91
YTD: 166.80
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

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