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Spring Sailing Trip to Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia


model sailboat

model sailboat

model sailboat

model sailboat

model sailboat

model sailboat

model sailboat


And now for the full story:

The trip begins with a sail out to San Juan Island for the annual T37 San Juan Regatta which is held on a beautiful small lake surrounded by trees and meadows in an idyllic island setting. My friends Chris Brain and Catharine Brain loan me their mooring buoy so I can tie up just off their beach at the entrance to Roche Harbor. What could be better! On the morning of the regatta, Chris drives me over to the sailing lake where the other T37 skippers have started to gather. We unload my T37 and one of Chris's T37s from the back of the car. What fun to see everyone. Lots of catching up with everyone's news, meeting a few new skippers who have just completed their boats, sharing new rigging ideas - but we have to interrupt the social time to get the racing started. It is too fine a wind to miss!

The wind is playful and fun, a bald eagle gildes overhead, the wind comes down the lake in gusts making the boats heel and zip along. Everyone is having a great time. Race after race is sailed. Carl Buchan, an Olympic Gold Medal winning sailor, is hard to beat, but it is fun to try. He has his T37 tuned just right for the conditions. Peter Shorrett, whose father Larry Shorrett started this regatta, is also doing really well. Larry and Peter have always been big boat sailors and racers. Larry got Peter and Peter's brother in law Jonathan McKee, another Olympic Gold Medal sailor, excited about racing the T37s and then the rest of the family, Bates and Charlie McKee and even their mother all got T37s.

Here we are jockeying for position before a start as a gust comes down the lake! Bright colors, fast boats, sunlight and wind, what fun!

radio control sailboat racing

The boats are off on the first leg of the race. Skippers are intent on their boats. A moment's inattention will place you at the back of the fleet! The black sail is my boat and is in a good position at this point, although I expect that the white sail ahead and to the left and clearly in the lead is Carl Buchan's boat. Allan Van Ness, long time Commodore of the Pacific Northwest Model Yacht Club, is way off to the right (yellow main) and possibly looking pretty good, especially if the wind shifts to give him a lift as he tacks back towards the mark. The upwind mark is in the center of the picture.

rc sailboat racing

Here Carl looks off to the right where his boat is crossing the finish line as other boats come down the final leg.

rc model sailboat races

We raced 22 races and only stopped because it was time to adjourn for the dinner barbecue hosted by Peter and Chris at Chris and Catharine's beautiful waterfront home. More fun, more visiting with great folks and fellow sailors, and more salmon than we can eat! All these great, fun and interesting people have been brought together by their enthusiasm for the T37 and their love of sailing. There could not be a nicer group of people in the world! Over the years we have all gotten to know each other well as good friends! This is always one of the best of the Pacific Northwest Model Yacht Club's annual events!

rc sailboat party rc sailboat awards

The next morning I realize I don't have any charts on my 34 foot boat for my voyage North! My daughters Robyn and Laine have moved all of the charts for northern waters to my 24 foot cold molded cedar sloop when they sailed north to Desolation Sound! You can't sail without charts - what to do? Chris and Catharine come to my rescue by pulling out all of their charts! I spend an hour photographing all of the charts that I need with my phone, storing the images in the phone to use later. Now I am all set, as long as my phone doesn't slip overboard!

My faithful dog and I bid farewell to our hosts Chris and Catharine and row out to my San Juan sloop where we hoist the sails and cast off the mooring buoy. We are off for high adventures and heading North!

I am just about to cross the line between Canada and the US. Ahead, the high island of Saltspring, one of the Canadian Gulf Islands, rises above the two lower islands in the foreground. I'm off. Business concerns and everything else are soon forgotten, except for the good feelings of friendship and camraderie at the T37 regatta I have just sailed in.

rc sailing

First mate and companion settles down for the passage. rc sailboat fun

Making progress North, I have left the Gulf Islands, sailed in a slant acrross the Straits of Georgia, and I'm now approaching the passage inside Thomanby Island between Thomanby Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Just above Thormanby Island is the big island of Texada. I will see Texada, but when I get up to Texada, I will head east into Agamemnon Channel which leads up to Jervis Inlet, a deep fiord that plunges inwards right into the heart of the BC Coastal Range of mountains.

Beyond the Merry Island lighthouse to the West lie the snow-covered peaks of Vancouver Island on the far side of the Salish Sea.

sailboat cruising

The Merry Island Lighthouse with the Canadian Mapleleaf flag flying brightly.

sailboat model

On my cell phone chart, do you see Merry Island and the light flashing every 15 seconds, 18 meters tall, and visible for 16 miles? (or is it 16 meters tall and visible for 18 miles - I should know this since I have a 100 ton Coast Guard Masters License for sail and mechanical vessels).

sailboat chart

Here is the smaller scale chart showing the passage inside Texada and up to the start of the Agamemnon Channel at the top of the chart, where you can see Agamemnon Channel just to the west and north of Pender Harbor, between Daniel Point and Fearney Point. At the bottom right corner of the chart you can see Thormanby Island and the passage between Thormanby and the mainland where I sailed through.

model sailing

Some splendid views looking to the East inland on the mainland of BC reveal the soaring mountains of the Coastal Range!

rc sailing

Interesting clouds, hmm, perhaps a shift in the weather is coming!

model sailboats

Now I am entering Agamemnon Channel. Hoping for wind. I have just heard the forecast. There is lots of wind forecast with a big front due to come through from the northeast late in the afternoon! Gale warnings with gusts up to 40 knots! No sign of it, except those puffballs of clouds high up in the sky which I saw earlier, but which are gone now.

Agamemnon Channel

Jervis Inlet will dog-leg up into the towering peaks ahead - a natural fiord carved by glaciers reaching 40 miles inland into the heart of the mountains! Now I am reaching the juncture where the Agamemnon Channel comes into Jervis Inlet. The current is starting to run strongly pushing me into Jervis Inlet so I will be carried up Jervis Inlet on the flood tide. Still light winds, but there is enough wind to sail now so the engine is cut. This is nice! No sign of the gale force winds forecast for later in the day!

sailboat cruise Jervis Inlet

rc sailing

There is almost no place to anchor overnight in the entire length of Jervis Inlet because of the depth of the fiord and the steepness of its sides so I am hoping to reach the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet by the time of slack tide in the late afternoon. The reversing falls at the entrance to Princess Louisa will be impassable except for 15 minutes at slack tide after which the water starts to rush out the narrow entrance with such great speed and turbulence that a cruising boat can not get in through the rapids. The wind has gotten stronger as I wind up into the mountains. My cell phone charts are working well, and it looks like I will be able to make the slack at the entrance to Princess Louisa if all continues to go well.

This chart is upside down so as you scroll down the chart you are heading north towards the head of Jervis Inlet and towards the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet at Malibu Rapids. Agamemnon Channel is right at the center of the chart at this top edge between Nelson Island and Sechelt Peninsula.

model sailboat

The mountains are soaring higher and higher with 3000 foot peaks on every side. Massive granite monoliths plunge in shining rock faces straight down into the depths of Jervis Inlet. The scenery is totally awesome.

jervis inlet

Now as I sail into Queens Reach, the weather is definitely undergoing a rapid change. A wall of clouds moves in from the South. Absolutely expecting some wind now and it is already blowing much harder. The wind is still astern so I am flying along with all sails set!

radio control sailing trip

As I approach the last stretch, I am searching with binoculars for the narrow entrance to Malibu Rapids. The wind is blowing hard now, but until I reach the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet I will keep pressing ahead so I don't miss the slack at the entrance. Stormy skies astern! Sudden gusts sweep down from the snowy mountain peaks.

sailboat cruise

Stormy skies ahead. Still the wind continues to come from the South and continues to increase. I roll the jibsail up to reef it part way as the wind ratchets up.

model sailing trip

Just as I pick out the beacon at the entrance to Princess Louisa, a super dark and massive cloud sweeps over the mountain top ahead. Far up the reach I can see new waves forming with spray whipping over the surface. I have only a very few minutes before it will hit. First I get the jib reefing line onto a winch - there is already too much force to roll the jib in by hand. The jib is flogging wildly as I roll it all in and secure the reefing line. Next the mainsail. I pull in the second reef and secure the tack up at the mast amd just as I leap back to the wheel, the wind strikes in a 180 degree wind shift in a wall of wind that heels the boat over 60 degrees on its side. Wow. Very cool. Glad I saw it coming. Still way too much sail up as the boat goes flying off across the reach, spray flying. 10 minutes until slack. 5 minutes until slack and I turn and head into the rapids still sailing at hull speed with just the double reefed mainsail. Lots of control with this much speed! Past the beacon, cut to the left, cut the the right past the small island and cut back to the left and we are in!

Princess Louisa Inlet

Totally exhilarating with the stupendous, monolithic scenery, the wild, blasting wind of the front coming through and the successful entry through the narrows of Malibu Rapids under sail! What more can a person want from life!

rc sailing on cruise

Waterfalls everywhere plunge down cliff faces all around Princess Louisa as I sail up the Inlet towards Chatterbox Falls.

Princess Louisa waterfall

Huge jets of water spray out hundreds of feet into the air!

waterfalls BC

Smaller cascades abound, rushing down cliff faces from the snow fields high above. A sun break lights up the vivid spring greens against the granite rock faces.

Princess Louisa waterfalls

Now, as I approach the head of the Inlet, I can see the racing torrent rushing down the gorge above Chatterbox Falls. On every side the Inlet is surrounded by massive granite walls and towering summits covered in snow.

waterfall Princess Louisa

Zooming in with my camera, I watch as spray flies up in a mist from the dashing water of the torrent in the gorge plunging downwards!

rc model sailing in BC

Difficult anchoring conditions in the depths of the fiord as the blasts of wind come down in chaotic bursts from every side, so instead of risking the precarious holding ground in these conditions I tie up at the dock where there is lots of room this early in the sailing season. The first mate takes a stretch. Chatterbox Falls cascades down in the back left corner.

Princess Louisa dock

Time for a hike!

Princess Louisa fiord

A steep climb up through dense forests brings us up to a lookout and another waterfall.

princess louisa trail

Far off in the distance below, I can glimpse the entrance at Malibu Rapids and beyond the rapids, the waters of Jervis Inlet.

princess louisa and Malibu rapids

The sound of water rushing down rock faces resounds everywhere.

rc sailing princess louisa

Western Red Cedar limbs hang out over granite rock faces in non-ending spray as a cold mist blows outwards.

princess louisa and rc sailing

Down at the dock again, I have a splendid time sailing my T37 all around the head of the Inlet. Let's put a Go-Pro camera on board the T37 and sail up towards Chatterbox Falls. This is the same video that this page begins with above. What I think is neat is that the rock I am standing on at the start of the video at low tide is the very same rock that the T37 valiantly beats up to against the current of the stream and slips around before heading back downwind to check out the geese and young goslings. Yes, the tidal range is as much as 10 and sometimes even 12 and 14 feet here.

Time to head for home. I am sure there are lots of orders waiting and model boats to make. Shipping pond yachts and rc model sailboats all over the world keeps us very busy year round so it is hard to get away for very long at a time. I am sure that back at the shop Terry is doing a great job, but there are some things that only I can do, and Terrry is often waiting for me to catch up with her so she can get orders out. With over 15 different sailing models and over 50 different products, we are always trying to keep ahead!

I head out through Malibu Rapids at the slack at high tide so I will have an ebb tide all of the way out Jervis Inlet. Around the first bend of Jervis Inlet, I see some puffs of vapor and grab the binoculars! Sure enough, a pod of Orca whales is heading right towards me. What a treat to see these beautiful creatures in such an isolated and splendid spot!

orca whales jervis inlet

rc model pond boat

orca whales BC

And then we split company, and I am headed home full of wonderful memories. Bon Voyage!

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