Monday, July 13, 2015

Rounding Cape Scott

We spent weeks and weeks worrying about going around Cape Scott, reading and re-reading its description, asking other sailors advice and having people telling us we're crazy for wanting to go around the top of Vancouver Island. We spent weeks and weeks trying to decide if we should go over the Nawhitti Bar or under it through all of the reefs, watching the weather and waves, and formulating a plan. We were so anxious about getting it over with that we ended up rushing a bit through the Broughtons. So after all of this anticipation, the day finally came for us to stage our passage around Cape Scott. We left early from God's Pocket to get to our staging ground, Bull Harbor. The plan was to spend the night there, then get up and leave at 4:30 in the morning to hit the Nawhitti Bar when it was perfectly high-water slack. Just before we made the turn into Bull Harbor we caught our first glimpse of the bar. It was about an hour after low-water slack and it looked totally calm and placid. We stuck to plan and tied up to the dock at Bull Harbor. We couldn't really go on shore because we needed permission to do so, so we were going to have to just sit in the boat and wait which sounded like a really long, painful day of anxious waiting to us, given that it was only noon. Jason checked his tide charts again and looked at me and said, "technically we could go over right now if we hurried and we wanted to." True. We had just seen the bar and it looked totally flat and calm with no wind. Hmmmmm. And the weather had been really unstable and we knew that the day following our planned passage the winds were supposed to kick back up. What if they kicked up a day early and we got stuck or had a horrible passage because we waited? We knew everything was calm and glassy at that moment. What to do? We went for it. Against all our plans and advice, we went over the bar in the wrong tide, with a southeast wind blowing the wrong direction at the cape....and it was a non-event. No horrible waves or trauma. I'm not saying everyone should do this but we felt comfortable with it since Jason had studied the passage for so long and we had actually seen the totally placid conditions at the bar. We're so happy we went with our gut instinct, because the winds did hit a day earlier than forecast and it would not have been a fun passage. It was such a relief to be over the bar with no major trauma, now we just had to make it around wild and remote, Cape Scott, with a reputation for being rough and unpredictable. With its combination of remoteness, open exposure to the Pacific Ocean and a collision of currents, it can get nasty out there. We watched Cape Scott grow as we tacked closer and closer, beating to windward through 15-20 knots and growing waves. As we rounded the famous point it was exhilarating to all of our crew, though a bit nauseating for me. Here we tasted our first real ocean swells and, though they were small compared to what we experienced later, they didn't agree with my stomach. All the same, it was crazy to look out into the distance and know there was nothing but ocean between us and Russia, Japan and Australia. Given all of my obsessive provisioning we could have set a course for Hawaii without having to worry about going hungry, except for maybe that the cook might be too seasick to go below and prep food. It was wild to look towards land and see all the rolling, crashing waves on the shoreline. We were in real ocean. It felt like quite the accomplishment to make it around with no major trauma. I'm so proud of Jason for all of the planning and, throwing out of the planning, he did to make our passage a success. After 9 1/2 hours and 60 miles, we gingerly weaved our way through sea stacks surrounded by foaming waves into the safety and calm of Sea Otter Cove, where we caught out first glimpses of real, live sea otters, and tied up to a ginormously huge commercial fishing boat mooring ball. Exhausted, but still riding high on our accomplishment, we blissfully ate dinner in the cockpit as the sun sank low in the sky turning the cloud caps on the mountains a lovely pink. I still couldn't believe we were really on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Click here for photos.

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