Weather window

Lucky Creek falls

A storm warning was in effect, with winds expected to reach 40-50 knots in the afternoon. More systems were on the way. The only obvious weather break coming up in the next few days was a several-hour window starting sometime after midnight, when winds would be 15 knots or less. We weren’t pressed for time yet, so had no reason to risk rough seas. But we did want to take advantage of the window if conditions looked good. We also wanted to avoid entering an anchorage in the dark. Since the run would be 10-12 hours, and we only had 7-8 hours of daylight, we’d have to leave or arrive in the dark, or both. If we have to navigate an anchorage at night, we’d rather leave from one that we’ve recently entered and are familiar with. Leaving between midnight and 2am would allow us to arrive well before dusk.

Here’s our log from the Ucluelet to Sidney, or you can display them on the live map view.

12/29/11: Red sky at morning …
Last night we recorded winds over 30-knots, but the seas are calm this morning. We’ve got another storm warning in effect though: Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

12/29/11: Seal show
A seal put on an energetic show just off the back deck. It leapt, jumped and splashed for ages.

12/29/11: Whiskey Dock
We tied off at a public dock, Whiskey Dock, to walk through town. A dramatic cedar commercial complex, overlooking the waterfront, is nearing completion in the background.

12/29/11: Ucluelet Aquarium
Part of that new complex is the Ucluelet Aquarium.

12/29/11: Driftwood flower
Near the north end of town, someone has built amazing varnished driftwood sculptures. This flower stands perhaps 10′ of the ground and is at least 5′ in diameter.

12/29/11: Driftwood octopus
Another spectacular sculpture, this one of an octopus.

12/29/11: Drill bit art
At the foot of a nearby driveway, three drill bits were mounted on each entry post. Ucluelet is full of unusual creations like this.

12/29/11: Small Craft Harbor
The Ucluelet Small Craft Harbor. We’re anchored on the other side of the buildings in the background.

12/29/11: Cynamoka House
We’d not had breakfast yet, and were hoping to find a nice coffee house. Cynamoka House and Guest Suites fit the bill.

12/29/11: Breakfast
Great coffee in a bottomless cup and delicious fresh-baked muffins hit the spot.

12/29/11: Barometer falling
The barometer fell 21 mb, from 1011 to 990, in the past 12 hours. Another big system is coming through.

12/29/11: Big winds
The winds were strong when we arrived, but really are building now. You can see the calm weather that we had this morning, sandwiched between big blows.

12/29/11: Boat movement at anchor
The chart plotter track shows where the winds have been coming while we’ve been anchored here. We’ve spent little time drifting around the anchor and most of the time blown hard to the northwest and southeast.

12/30/11: Sea lions
Sea lions seem to have taken over one of the Ucluelet docks. Perhaps thirty lounged there each time we passed, and we could hear them barking as we walked through town yesterday.

12/30/11: Exploding wave
Wave exploding against the shore at the Crow Islets. The barometer bottomed out at 990 last night, but still is at 992 this morning. A gale warning is in effect, with winds expected to be northwest 35 to 45. The winds are in the high 20s now with gusts into the 30s.

12/30/11: Surf
Surf crashing against Page Island, with wind blowing the wavetops off.

12/30/11: Wind-streaked waves
Wind-streaked waves as we head into Peacock Channel. We’ll have a brief weather window early tomorrow morning, with winds dropping to 15 knots sometime after midnight, but rising to 20-25 tomorrow morning and 30-40 tomorrow afternoon with more systems on the way later in the week. We thought hard about leaving then. But the window just seemed too small, and we weren’t pressed for time yet, so we had no reason to risk rough seas.

12/30/11: Ruins of Ecoole
In the 1920s and 1930s, Ecoole was a BC Packers Pilchard Reduction plant with a small supporting settlement. The site was abandoned in the 1940s and this is pretty much all that is left. Because the Vancouver Island’s west coast was populated so early and so heavily, it also suffered through many abandoned enterprises and communities as their resources waned or business moved elsewhere. Ruins are common in Barkley Sound and farther up the island’s west coast, much more than at other places along the BC shoreline.

12/30/11: Floathomes, Rainy Bay
We’re considering a run to Port Alberni tomorrow–while winds have been fierce throughout Barkley Sound, the highest wind speed in Port Alberni over the past 24 hours was 4 knots. Big outflow winds were blowing down-inlet when the weather was cold a week or so back, but the winter storms don’t seem to reach there. The cove at the head of Rainy Bay was a potential anchorage for the night With a string of a dozen or more floathomes along the west shore, however, and boats coming and going, it didn’t feel private enough.

12/30/11: Canadian flag
A Canadian flag is painted high on the cliff near the cut to Useless Bay. The inscription with it reads “1965 Whitehurst”. We’re not sure what this refers to–perhaps a tug name?

12/30/11: Rainy Bay
We considered anchoring in the northeast portion of Rainy Bay, but it felt pretty exposed and also not very private. Several small boats were about and a couple of fair-sized houses were ashore.

12/30/11: Effingham Bay
We’re back at Effingham Bay. The weather forecast worsened to storm warning 40-50 knots for this afternoon, but the weather window has increased. Winds are expected to drop to 15 before tomorrow morning, and instead of rising to 20-25 tomorrow morning, they’ll rise to 20 knots late tomorrow morning. We’ll keep an eye on the weather and if conditions look good, we’ll head out sometime early tomorrow morning.

12/30/11: Barometer back up
Conditions aren’t good yet though–the barometer was 992 when we left Ucluelet this morning and by 5pm was 1009. Gusts to nearly 50 knots in Imperial Eagle Channel heeled the boat over 4 degrees as we approached Effingham Island. 20-30-knot southwest winds are blowing through the anchorage, bringing 1-3′ waves. The boat is pulled back on the anchor a long way from where we set, but isn’t undulating much in the waves. With good holding, 8:1 scope on an all-chain rode, and tons of swing room, we’re safe and comfortable inside.

12/31/11, 3:00am: Pachena Point
We got up at midnight and checked the weather. Conditions definately were calming down out there. Winds were averaging 15 NW on the latest lighthouse weather reports. The seas were 10-12′ on our beam coming out of Barkley Sound, but not really a problem. And once we turned towards Juan de Fuca Strait, they’d be behind us. Even better.

12/31/11, 7:30am: Juan de Fuca Strait
We picked an excellent weather window. Seas now are near calm, with 10-20-knot winds on our sterm giving us a nice speed push. We’ll be into the Victoria area by noon.

12/31/11, 10:15am: Olympic Mountains
Snow-covered Olympic Mountains. We’re making excellent time–with a push from the current and the wind behind us, we’re doing almost 10 knots.

12/31/11: Race Rocks
Conditions here can be wicked when wind blows against a several-knot current. But the waters are calm now.

12/31/11: Coho
The Coho heading to Port Angeles from Victoria.

12/31/11: Pilot
Pilot boat returning to the Victoria Pilot Station.

12/31/11: Golfing
Golf with a view at the Victoria Golf Club.

12/31/11: Surf kayaker
A half dozen kayakers were surfing the waves off Cadbora Point.

12/31/11, 2:00pm: Sidney Spit
Smooth seas the rest of the way. We’re anchored at Sidney Spit and will take the dinghy across to Sidney for lunch at the Rumrunner Pub overlooking Haro Strait.

12/31/11: New Year’s Eve
We found Gray Matter moored at Sidney and spent New Year’s Eve with Mark Mohler, Christine Guo and friends. We had a cold dinghy ride back to Sidney Spit after–the winds had come up from the east and the water was quite choppy.


Previous log post for this trip: Christmas Cruise 2011: The Wild Pacific Coast

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