Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Malaspina Galleries

We have been staying at the docks in Nanaimo for several days, hoping that a very strong and persistent northwest wind will die down, allowing us to make headway in a northerly direction. Yesterday Linnea, a friend we made in Mexico who is a Nanaimo resident, entertained us by taking us across to Gabriola Island, the furthest north of the Gulf Islands. The last stop on our explorations were the rock formations called the Malaspina Galleries. The photo above shows the Captain just at the entrance to the Galleries.

The Galleries proper are sculpted limestone, so eroded by wave action that they overhang, looking like waves themselves. They were observed by the very first Spanish explorers to visit these islands. Their expedition in 1792 was led by Galiano and Valdez. The Galleries were named after Malaspina, the commander who had ordered their journey. Jose Cardero, who was the ship's artist, sketched the rock formation. Later, back in Spain, his sketches were reworked and much exaggerated for a report on the expedition, hence the black and white image above.

In the 1920's E.J. Hughes, a young local artist, won a commission to paint murals for a new resort in Nanaimo called the Malaspina Hotel. The scene of the Spanish viewing and sketching the Galleries was one of the subjects chosen. That mural has recently been heroically restored and installed at the Nanaimo convention center. Last evening at sunset it was easy to understand how these rock galleries, in their wild and beautiful location, continue to capture the imagination.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Up Close

Several weeks now of mostly warm, sunny weather. Much of our time spent on the deck or in the kayaks, in the protected waters of the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands.

Mid-June brought super low tides, exposing sea critters like these starfish. Indigo managed to find an uncharted rock in Blind Bay on Shaw Island, and held tight for an hour or so until the tide came back in. The first time she has run aground.

The season of the wild roses is almost past, but now is the very fleeting flowering of Ocean Spray. These clusters of tiny flowers are white for only two days or so, then they turn brownish. Maybe that's the reason for the name - what could be more fleeting than the white spray blowing off a wave on a windy day?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coming Unraveled

No matter how meticulously maintained, every new boat will eventually show its age. The teak will get dull gray, the hull scuffed and dirty. And the pristine, perfectly ordered wiring, hidden for the early life of the boat behind cushions and panels, will have to be exposed and reworked. After five years, Indigo has come to that point. In Mexico several months ago our inverter, which converted power from the batteries into regular 120 volt "plug in" electricity, failed. Now we are having a replacement installed, and the Captain and the energetic and good-natured guys at the boatyard in Anacortes have spent hours teasing out the secrets of how the boat is wired.

A project like this turns ordinarily shipshape Indigo into a disaster area. Innumerable access panels are unscrewed and much of the floor is lifted. Buckets of tools and parts are scattered everywhere; one or two male humans are squeezed or contorted into small spaces as they troubleshoot and eventually complete installing the new inverter. Success! Gradually order is restored, the floor and many panels put back into place. The boatyard guys go home, and we sit down to a late dinner. But what's this - now the stereo doesn't work! A project for tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sailing in Circles

For the past month we have been sailing in circles, but not entirely aimlessly. Instead we have been stopping here and there in the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands, in Sidney on Vancouver Island and Port Townsend at the mouth of Puget Sound, with the express purpose of visiting with family and friends. The choice protected anchorages are relatively unpopulated during this early summertime - places like Garrison Bay on San Juan Island (shown above, with "Indigo" in the center of the photo) offer great hiking on shore and good kayaking amongst the islands and passages. The weather has been unusually warm and sunny, and there have been plenty of good days for "messing around in boats"

After a brief stop for boatwork in Anacortes, we will straighten out our act, and resume expeditionary mode by heading resolutely north and then around the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The moment we left the harbor in Nanaimo, we noticed that the water sounded different than it did in Mexico. For one thing, the water in the Sea of Cortez is quite saline, hence a bit "thicker". But more important is the current. While there are only mild currents in the Sea of Cortez, the waters around Vancouver Island burble and swirl with strong currents, especially during the new moon and the full moon. Prudent, sensible sailors (like us) plan passages to take advantage of favorable currents. Even so, there are still moments like the one photographed above, when whirlpools and tide rips push and pull the boat first one way, then another. Fortunately, 'Indigo' is large enough and has enough engine power to buck most currents.

We really experience the currents viscerally in the kayaks. We figure we can paddle at a speed of five to seven knots, at least for a short burst, so crossing or paddling against a current of 2 knots is OK for a short distance, but it can be exciting, and the moving water is always noisy. A bonus is that the plants and animals that live where the current is strong are much more varied, more plentiful and more interesting - kelp, anenomes, starfish.

Around some tiny offshore rocks this past week we encountered Harlequin Ducks bobbing in the swirling tidal streams. These birds love fast moving water: they breed and raise their young in the rapids in mountain rivers. Once the females are on the nest, the males come down to the coast, so this time of year we see them in large groups. You know - "the guys" - hanging out at the beach, riding the rapids.