Across Cape Caution and up the Central Coast

Well my friends were North of Cape Caution (this is a bit of land that sticks out, above the top of Vancouver Island and so is exposed to the full Pacific swells. It can get pretty nasty.

HOWEVER, my current map card didn’t go up that far and my replacement one was sat in lagoon cove 40nm to the South, after taking a month to get shipped up there. Only one thing to do – haul arse south (the way I’d already came), get the map card and then head North again as fast as possible. So that is what we did!

Retracing my steps was pretty annoying, along with the fact that the need to make miles and not much wind resulted in a loooooot of motoring. To add to the excitement, there was a massive thunderstorm that we got caught in, and a lightning bolt when to ground a few hundred feet away from the boat when I was anchoring. Something about having a 50′ metal pole stuck up in the air on your boat concentrates the mind, it has to be said…. I’d dropped Emma off in Port Hardy (something about needing to get a job and be a productive member of society or some rubbish) and picked up a pal from Ottawa, Emilie who hasn’t much sailing experience so this was probably a bit of an eye-opener for her on the second day.

There were some compensations though, like these Pacific White Sided Dolphins that swam along with the boat for a bit

And it was always nice to see James and Angela again!

Once leaving Lagoon Cove, we beelined all the way up to Allison Harbour, just South of Cape Caution. This was a 60nm day! Helped by current in our favour. Again though, a looooong day of motoring. Blah.

All the way up to Allison we were chased by rain squalls and confused skies – very turneresque! And by blind luck, we avoided being rained on.

After Allison Harbour we left to time crossing Slingsby Channel (which is a channel where 100s of miles of channels drain into the ocean through a narrow pass) at flood tide (if you cross at ebb the water firehosing into the strait hits the west swells and Very Bad Things Happen) and we crossed around Cape Caution at slack tide with no wind. It was like a bowling green. Boring but safe!

The first thing we saw once around Cape Caution and in the Wild Untouched North was…. 4 dudes on jetskis?! In the middle of nowhere, really going for it. It may be the first time I’ve SEEN a jetski in BC and I have no idea where they came from or where they were going. Very surreal.

A way cuter thing to spot was a couple of sea otters! I haven’t seen these guys since I went around Cape Scott with Emma two years ago and they are one of my favourite animals.

Not great picture/video sadly but… I tried.

Crossed rivers inlet (another kinda sketchy place in the wrong conditions) fine and pulled into Fury Cove. Which is a lovely little bay but it was PACKED – unsurprisingly as it tends to be a stopping point for people going past cape caution in both directions. Anyway, at this point I was too tired to really appreciate it after 3 long days of motoring and the porta-bote was not out, so I had a long nap while Emilie looked sadly from the deck at all the people and dogs running around on the white sand beaches.

The next day we were maybe going to try to reach Bella Bella (a small first nations place where my friends were) but in the end we ended up anchoring in Codville Lagoon. This wasn’t actually a lagoon, but had a narrow entrance and most of the best spots were already taken so I kind of anchored awkwardly on a rock spire rising out of deep water, set the anchor alarm and hoped it would remain calm… which it did. It was made slightly more exciting by a wire coming loose on the engine and shorting out the starter, causing sparks to fly everywhere and the starter to remain on, whirring away. Luckily I realised in time and killed all the power and redid all the electrical lines.  That night I retightened the bolts holding the motor mounts.

The next day it was finally off to Bella Bella to meet the others. Except just outside, I heard this hissing sound, opened up the lasserette and was greeted by a huge bellow of smoke! Were we on fire?

No, as it turned out. A hose had popped off the hot water heater and steam was shooting everywhere, accompanied by gallons of water. We stopped and drifted for a bit while I got everything reattached and then slowly motored to bella bella, where we fuelled up, met the others and got water. Kyla on Vesi, a Yamaha 33, Sam on Gladrial a Crown 28 and Jac and John on Fernweh, a Hunter Cherubini 37 (the big brother to my boat).

We then headed to Shearwater just down the road and my engine overheat alarm came on – what the heck? We all ended up rafting up to a huge steel barge and I went below to try to figure it out

So the first thing I noticed was that I had no more coolant – it had all boiled away. Yikes. I refilled that and discovered that when I redid the engine mounts the night before I had folded a hose up and out the way – restricting the coolant flow. This also explained the hose popping off the hot water tank – the pressure was too great. I fixed everything, changed the oil for good measure and gave it a trial run. All seemed to work fine – bullet dodged!

I went into shearwater to try to repair my outboard that was spewing gas everywhere. However the part I needed was 250 dollars (!) for a small plastic/metal bit, so I disassembled the engine, got the part out and repaired it with a bunch of epoxy. That should hold it.

I also replaced my Canadian flag which had definitely seen better days.

In the evening we left Shearwater for one of the most enjoyable sails I think I’ve ever had. Four sailboats with young crews, all around the same age/size – the race was on! The weather also cooperated with a steady warm 10 knot breeze from in front, meaning lots of fun tacking was had

Finishing up drifting downwind into the bay. A perfect end to a perfect evening.

The next day it was an earl(ish) start in order to get to the next location – Lady Trutch Passage. Unfortunately this would mean going up Seaforth Channel which opened to the Pacific swells and there was a fairly stiff breeze from right on the nose.

We set out anyway and it was good sailing for a while on fairly flat water

Until we hit seaforth channel and 5/6 foot swells. The wind increased to 20-25 knots and although we still made progress, it was slow and uncomfortable.

Eventually, we made it up the channel and down the passage and the seas calmed right now. We anchored in this nice narrow stretch, rafted all 3 other boats onto my anchor, had dinner and went to sleep…

Only to be woken up at 4am by a series of thuds.

Popping out on deck I saw Jac was already up and looking slightly alarmed – apparently we had anchored in the middle of some tidal rapids that were now running at 3/4 knots. Worse, there was a ton of logs and debris coming down towards us. Worst, the outside boat was catching more of the current, meaning the whole raft would swing round till it hit the anchor rode and then jerked back violently straight. Gulp. Jac/John, Kyla and I spent a worried few hours till sunrise watching stuff fly by and bounce off the boats at 3/4 knots and tried to keep the anchor chain clear (Sam popped his head up, did a classic Gaelic shrug and then disappeared to get some sleep). Eventually the current slowed down, the sun came up and we all went to get some rest. At least the phosphorescence off the anchor chain was pretty! Not the best anchorage we’ve had, but full marks to my 45lb mantus that held us all safe through it all.

We all needed some rest after that so we headed to Oliver Cove, just a few miles away (pausing to watch a couple of humpbacks). It was a nice anchorage and we spent the next two days there, fishing, crabbing and generally relaxing.

Caught a nice size rock cod

a 4lb ling cod (sorry about shitty ‘fish photo’ pose)

and a bunch of smaller fish that went back. Fish and chips yum yum!

I also looked over the other boats and got some great ideas, especially from Fernwehs Pushpit/Solar arch arrangement which I am going to try to duplicate. Watch This Space.

After Oliver Cove, everyone else was heading further North while it was time for us to head South as I had to get back in time to prepare the boat to go to San Francisco (gulp)



  1. Nice post. Glad to see you out and adventuring. Your years of prep are paying off. Have fun out there. Excellent coast line.

  2. Matt, I sure am impressed by your adventurous spirit! I just wish you didn’t need so many lucky escapes! I enjoy the reading …

  3. Love seeing the updates on what you catch, and some great videos this time!

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