Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gale Warnings in Hecate Strait, Chatham Sound

June 9, Day 38.

It started raining around 4am--light and intermittent at first. I wasn't in a hurry to hit the water since I didn't have a long day, and I was hoping to ride the ebbing tide that would begin around 8:30 this morning.

I had shared the beach last night with Sue Dandridge and Robin Clark, who were rowing a tandem "Merry Wherry" rowboat named "Barbara Goss" from Ketchikan to Puget Sound. It was a wonderful evening of camaraderie, and their vessel and rowing set up fascinated me.

Anyway, this morning I left Robin and Sue as they took the ebbing tide north and I took the ebb north. (The tides met at the bay we camped at. The tide coming in from the west went around the north end of Pitt Island and the south end, and they meet somewhere near the middle on the east side of the island. That's how it works for some islands. Others flood north and ebb south,m or vice versa; and a few flood the same direction they ebb. Boggles the mind.)

It was nice having both current and light wind going my direction. It wasn't a strong current, but I could paddle ~4.5mph. As the morning wore on, the rain intensified and the wind blew 10-15 knots, and it got colder. By the time I got to camp, I was feeling a little chilled and the rain was coming down steadily. The camp didn't have a lot of room above high tide, but it looked like enough.

I got the tarp up, then set the tent up under the tarp. Then I tried to lessen the incline of the gravel beach where I wanted to pitch the tent. That done, it was time to start hauling all the gear from the boat, which by now was high and dry. I can usually do that in 3 trips--4 including hauling the boat. My intestines weren't very happy today and that was part of the reason I was cold and tired. Anyway, I munched some gorp, changed my clothes and crawled into the tent for a nap.I felt much better after a nap, but I would have felt even better if this pouring rain would let up. The forecaster said the low pressure center had stalled 200 miles west of the Queen Charlottes, so the storm and gale warnings remained.

I'm not sure what to plan for tomorrow morning. Should I ignore the forecaster because the forecasts apply to the coast and not to the interior channels I've been travelling? That's pretty much what I've done so far, and it's worked fine. On the other had, I'm about to cross Ogden Passage which is open to the west and Hecate Strait. It may be windier there. And at the same place, it's open to the east where the Skeena River dumps in, and the Skeena has been flooding for days now. In fact, I've heard that landslides and washouts have isolated Prince Rupert for days now. So I have no idea what the currents are going to be like now that the Skeena is flooding and therefore I don't know what the wave/swell condition will be. And, of course, there's always the shipping traffic headed to and from Rupert.

The forecaster's outlook for Monday, the following day, doesn't sound much better. I'm at the last known campsite before Ogden which is 6-7 miles north of here. If I decide the conditions are too dangerous for me to cross, I may have to paddle those miles back to this camp. And the tides are high and rising about 1 foot/night. The highest tides of the month will be here in a few days. I know I could spend 2 nights here, but by the third night, there may not be room at the top of the beach for a tent. There is a camp about 16 miles north which shouldn't be a difficult paddle assuming I can get across Ogden.

The high tide came about 9:00pm and completely flooded the area under the tarp. The stakes under water hold, but I'm worried a paddle propping the tarp may fall and float away. I stay awake listening for a splash, but all I hear is rain.

I stay up and try to get the weather update at 9:30, but by 9:45 they still haven't updated so I decide to wake up early and make my decision then. Meanwhile, a BC ferry passes outside the bay, and its wake comes within 7 feet of the tent which is already backed up to the bush.

June 10, Day 39.

I didn't sleep well last night. Maybe it was the nap I took yesterday.

I woke up early--3:45--and I could hear the wind blowing in the trees. OK, I'll lay over. It's been raining pretty hard most of the night, and it's still raining. I tune in the weather on the VHF and find there's not much change, but maybe a small lull in the wind before it picks up to 25-35 knots in the afternoon.

I sleep in and then have an oatmeal breakfast in my kitchen (under the tarp) which has been washed clean last night. (I did have all my gear packed away so no harm was done.) I did find a paddle had fallen down over night, and I felt pretty stupid for not having secured them.

I scout around my small beach and find a new location for the tarp and decide, in a pinch, I could probably do 2 more nights here. I see one spot that may, just may, be dry in tomorrow nights tide. I leave the tent where it is, thinking it should just get by for tonight, but it will be close.

I cook a warm lunch and some brownies, have coffee and more or less make the best of the place. The rain has lightened as the day has gone on. There are actually periods of 2-5 minutes when it stops raining altogether. It looks to the east--the mainland--that there is a mix of clouds and blue sky. But I'm to the west where the weather comes from. I think I'm looking at the inland rain shadow from the mountains here on the coast.

Unless something changes dramatically in the weather forecast, I think I'm going to give it a try early tomorrow morning.

Prince Rupert is a 2 day paddle from here, but I don't know how long its going to take to get there.

June 11, Day 40

I woke up to the sound of rain on the tent fly this morning. I thought maybe it was finishing up yesterday, but I guess not. Last night, as I went to bed, the wind was roaring through the treetops. I guess a cold front was passing through. This morning the wind in the bay is calm, and there doesn't appear to be much chop in Grenville.

The tide came to within a few vertical inches of the tent last night, and this morning I've got a long mudflat to cross to get out to the water. Boat loading is done just at slack tide.

Paddling the last bit of Grenville, I stay to the shore since the tide will be against me. I get a good push from the eddy current and I've got a couple large shallow bays that form reverse currents before coming to Ogden Passage, so I make good time. The wind is up some--maybe 12-12 knots--but its from the south so its also pushing me.

The strange current dance I was expecting in Ogden never materialized. It's as if the ocean flood tide and the Skeena outflow cancelled each other and I skipped across easily. From there, it was island hopping. I was making such good time with the current that I decided to stretch my expected 17 mile day into a 27 mile day. If the Skeena flow keeps pushing me and the forecasted winds of 25-35 knots doesn't materialize, I can make camp by noonish.
And that's what happened. The winds never got higher than 15 knots and the current pushed me the whole way. 27 miles from 6am to noon including 2 shore breaks. Must be a PR for me.

The rain stopped soon after I left camp this morning, but it was overcast. Late in the morning I saw some blue sky and I got some sun at camp this afternoon, but it's clouded over again and looks like rain. But it was sure nice to get some sun this afternoon. It's been cool all day. Around 9am it was 50 F--same temp as the water.

I should be in Prince Rupert mid-day tomorrow. It's a 12 mile paddle and a lot of it will be along the industrialized waterfront.

On, it's starting to rain...

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