Passage to the Haida Gwaii

IMG_5714 (1280x853)We arrived in Queen Charlotte City feeling high, a bit giddy, and drop dead exhausted. We had sailed for 2 plus days, through two nights, crossing Queen Charlotte Sound and Hecate Strait and arriving in the Haida Gwaii. It may not sound like much to some, but to us, it was huge. We made a passage and it was hard and it was fun. We had dolphins playing on the bow (video to come), whales scaring the bajeezus out of us in the pitch dark with their spouting and checking out our boat at very close quarters, we had sun, we flew our beautiful asymm spinnaker for hours. Most of all, we did it together and we knew that Team Giddyup had moved up a notch in our new passion. We felt saltier and spent the night after our landfall basking in that feeling, with perma-grins below bleary eyes.

The first thing that happened up arrival was that we docked, and then had to move the boat again 5 minutes later (did I mention exhausted?). The second thing that happened was we headed to a pub with a group of cruisers already on the docks for burgers, beers and the Canucks beating Boston in Game 2 on a big screen.

The passage:
imageWe had a light Southerly wind window for a few days with low swell predictions and we jumped at it. We knew based on the light wind prediction that there was a good chance the wind would die at some point on the trip meaning that we would motor a substantial portion of the passage. Also, because the wind might completely die early in the trip we paralleled the coast of BC for the first 24 hours so that we could stop if we wanted. During the second day, with the light winds still with us, we headed away from land for the second night at which point we were committed, wind or no wind.

The trip was approximately 220 nautical miles from Millbrooks Cove to Queen Charlotte City and took us 2 days 8 hours making an average of about 4 knots. We sailed 36 hours and motored 20 hours with most of the motoring in the second half of the trip. We sailed for 22 hours straight in light and fluky winds at the start.

As mentioned previously, this trip was for practice. You can cross Hecate Strait in a single 40 mile run from Banks Island after going up far enough North along BC's coast.

What we gained:
IMG_5712 (1280x853)A lot of experience with our Hydrovane self-steering which had been working perfectly until we removed it from the stern and reinstalled it. Then, it kept having problems on one tack, was experiencing turbulence from the stern and/or main rudder, and we were panicking because we really need it to be working for our upcoming run to San Francisco. After lowering it a few inches it worked perfectly again (whew!) and steered for all sections of sailing except a few brief (< 1 hour) bits of sailing in between motoring toward the end when we used the autopilot.

More experience with sails slatting in light wind and lumpy seas. *sigh*. Well, at least we know how to secure the boat so that it bangs less than it might and also I think there is something to be said for having some time with those sounds under our belt. They may still be horrible but they are less scary just for being expected and familiar. We also have more experience fighting to move the boat in those conditions. We were determined to not motor early on so that we could get experience working with our light air sailing techniques in lumpy seas and light air.

More experience trying to sail when the swell was either on the beam or, most of the time, against us. First of all, this sucks in all kinds of ways and if possible we would like to avoid it. But since we can't avoid it all of the time, it was good to see how the boat moved, or didn't move, at various wind speeds coming from various directions when we were fighting the swell. The second half of the trip was in almost glassy seas and so it was much more like the light air sailing we are already accustomed to.

P1020074 (1280x960) After much discussion we decided that the best watch system for us was no formal system. Each of us went on watch with the goal of doing 3-4 hours. If we felt good, we did more. If it was the wee hours of the night and we were having a hard time staying awake, we cut it short. For us, this worked very well and we plan to keep it up for now. We are both the kind of people that are more likely to take on too much rather than too little so we know that when one of us says they are tired, they are very, very tired and need to be relieved. This also meant that the person sleeping didn't have to worry about waking themselves up and that made a big difference in my ability to rest. No alarms, no pressure. I knew Carol would wake me 15-30 minutes before he wanted to give up the watch, so I could just focus on resting. Because the sailing was not too taxing I would guess that most of our watches were in the 4.5 hour range which meant the off watch person often had time during their shift when they knew they couldn't sleep and would pitch in with cooking or dishes or weather or navigation.

Confidence. 2.5 days isn't much but it makes a 8 day run to San Francisco seem less unnerving.


  1. Congrats on a successful passage, guys! Enjoy your time in the Haida Gwaii -- and be sure to take lots of pics so we can see what we're missing. :)


  2. Congrats on that trip! But I am not all agreeing! A 2.5 days trip is harder on your body than a 7 and up day long passage. Your metabolism adapts itself to a set of rigid boundaries. Be 3 and 3 or 4 and 3, I really believe it is a question of responsibility to the rest of the crew to nurture our own body and be sure we will be fit and rest for any eventuality. It takes me 8 minutes to change into my PJ and 10 to get off them and back on deck. My subconscient knows that these 3h40 minutes are really for rehab and for battery charging.
    But, if it work for you... I did a couple of solo deliveries where I found myself dozing while standing at the wheel... and dreaming about Vito Dumas ( who did not sleep enough!)
    By the way, the Centurion 35 I wanted is still on the hard, here in New York...

  3. Congratulations on your safe passage and adding a few new notches to your belt! It is always a pleasure to conquer something new while traveling and adding pure excitement to the next time out there.

    Enjoy Haida Gwaii & look forward to seeing it through your eyes!

  4. Awesome. I second "take lots of pics". Haida Gwaii looks like heaven for cruising.

  5. Thanks everyone. I'm catching up on our blog comments. It's great to read what everyone has been saying while we've been offline.

    We took tons of pictures and video and I'm uploading them right now.



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