How Was That Vancouver Island Circumnav?

That’s the question we have been asked several times since we sailed home in mid August. There are so many answers – it was fun, hard work, boring at times, exceptionally beautiful. And importantly, it answered some lingering questions about how we use Yohelah in retirement. Will we do the full circumnavigation again? No, I don’t think so. We’ll certainly do parts again, but not the entire loop in one summer

What was the most fun? Exploring new places! Rob and I definitely have this wanderlust in common and there was plenty to see in our thousand plus mile journey. Western Vancouver Island contains five great sounds, twenty or so inlets that carve waterways deep into the island, and more anchorages than we’ll have time to explore in years of travel.

Why was there hard work? Yohelah is a big and heavy boat. We’ve had time this summer to assess the challenges of boat handling with our aging selves. And the weather, while very predictable, can cause unpleasant sea state for the many hours required in the North Pacific. We waited 5 days for winds to settle so we could leave Quatsino Sound and travel around the Brooks Peninsula. And still it was like being in a washing machine on extreme clean cycle for the 50 miles around.

What could possibly be boring? In many of the anchorages the forest grows thick right up to the shoreline, or the mountains come straight up out of the sea. There were several days when getting off the boat and stretching our legs wasn’t an option. And as you would expect in such a remote location, the other travelers were literally few and far between. Our first eleven days were a hard delivery north up the inside of the island, which also became more of a boring chore than a pleasure trip for sure.

What was so beautiful? This is the Pacific NW, where the waterfalls and the tiny bays and the mountains and the whole rugged rocky coastline provide beautiful vistas around every corner. Our cameras got a daily workout capturing all of the interesting and delightful scenery. In the two rivers that we explored this year we found spectacular canyons and falls and swimming pools.

What did we learn this summer? That we have so much to explore in the Salish Sea. But also that this big heavy boat is getting harder to manage as we age. We have struggled to figure out whether to take Yohelah offshore again, considering the Caribbean and the Med most recently. But what we ended up agreeing on is that we’ll keep here here and start adding options to make her easier to sail. We’re starting with power winches – we can refit our primaries and run the halyard for the main to the port side jib winch. The mainsail weighs nearly 100 pounds, and it takes all I have to hoist it now. We’re also considering a roller furler boom for that main, or at a minimum taking the sail cover off and building a stackpack to hold the sail.

We’re also going to add some rigging to more easily lock the main down with a preventer. Our current preventer system is not nimble, but very stable on long downwind offshore passages. We have some ideas on changes using the blocks we have for our running backs.

We are going to finish the rigging for the new drifter that Hasse built for us a few years ago. We had engaged the new rigger at Toss Rigging to help us with a strop to tack it to the bowsprit and what he gave us required that we remove the wires attached to the bowsprit – what the heck! So we’ll continue getting that sorted out so we have a lightweight downwind sail that’s easier to rig than our big asymmetrical spinnaker.

And we’re making it easier to hop into a kayak and go explore when we get to a spot with no beach or walking trails. We’re trading in our Feathercraft folding kayaks for some inflatables that are easier to put together. Our original skin kayaks were 13′ long so we could sail with them put together on deck. But those little boats are hard to get in and out of from the side of Yohelah, so we need something bigger and more stable. Rob bought a used 16′ Feathercraft a few years ago and I took it out for a spin and loved it. But still it takes hours to put together and there is nowhere on deck to stow it while we’re sailing. Our friend Heidi recommends Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks, and we’re going to REI to look at one today. This new gen of inflatables includes some rigid frame pieces, so it’s a compromise to give a better kayak experience without the complex assembly of the Feathercraft. There are two nearly new ones on Craigslist that we hopefully will drive up to North Vancouver and buy later this month.

So Yohelah is destined to remain in the Salish Sea. We’ll slowly work to bring back her shine and restore the interior and exterior finishes. She’s in a great spot in the slip we own at the Poulsbo Yacht Club. And we’ll work to make sure we get her out of that slip as often as possible. And we’ll make other trips to the inside and outside of Vancouver Island, just likely not both in the same summer again.

19-JunPYCBlind Bay, Shaw Island67.5San Juan Islands
21-JunBlind BayMontague Harbor32.3Gulf Islands
22-JunMontagueNanaimo YC32.1Strait of Georgia
23-JunNanaimoFord’s Cove42.4Strait of Georgia
24-JunFord’s CoveCampbell River46.0Strait of Georgia
26-JunCampbell RiverCharles Bay, Blind Channel34.0Johnstone Strait
27-JunCharles Bay, Blind ChannelBlenkinsop Bay27.0Johnstone Strait
28-JunBlenkinsop BayPort McNeil48.3Johnstone Strait
29-JunPort McNeillBull Harbor45.9Johnstone Strait
30-JunBull HarborWinter Harbor61.1Cape Scott
02-JulWinter HarborJulan Cove22.4Quatsino Sound
03-JulJulan CoveCoal Harbor9.8Quatsino Sound
04-JulCoal HarborMarble River4.3Quatsino Sound
05-JulMarble RiverRumble Beach / Port Alice14.3Quatsino Sound
06-JulRumble BeachWinter Harbor29.7Quatsino Sound
07-JulWinter HarborBunsby Islands42.1Brooks Peninsula
09-JulBunsby IslandsDixie Cove21.5Kyoquot Sound
10-JulDixie CoveBlue Lips Cove4.7Kyoquot Sound
11-JulRugged Point Day StopBlue Lips Cove10.6Kyoquot Sound
13-JulBlue Lips CoveNuchatlitz Marine Park27.8Esperanza Inlet
14-JulNuchatlitz Marine ParkQueen’s Inlet5.5Esperanza Inlet
15-JulQueen’s InletZeballos16.9Esperanza Inlet
16-JulZeballosTahsis17.0Tahsis Inlet
18-JulTahsisBodega Bay15.1Nootka Sound
20-JulBodega BayFriendly Cove10.1Nootka Sound
21-JulFriendly CoveHesquiat Harbor28.6Estevan Point
23-JulHesquiat HarborQuait Bay36.9Clayoquot Sound
24-JulQuait BayUcluelet39.6Barkley Sound
30-JulUclueletBroken Group12.6Barkley Sound
02-AugBroken GroupLucky Creek8.5Barkley Sound
03-AugLucky CreekBroken Group8.5Barkley Sound
04-AugBroken GroupVictoria Inner Harabor94.5Strait of Jan de Fuca
08-AugVictoriaWescott Bay21.5Haro Strait
09-AugWescott BayDeer Harbor12.1San Juan Islands
11-AugDeer HarborWatmaugh Bay16.4San Juan Islands
12-AugWatmaugh BayPort Madison56.7Strait of Jan de Fuca
13-AugPort MadisonPYC10.0Home