May 23, 2006

Up Jervis Inlet to Egmont, the Skookumchuck Rapids and Princess Louisa

See the pictures for this part of our voyage at

Hello Everyone!

We're back from from Princess Louisa and it was well worth visiting. It's a beautiful Fjord with peaks rising to over 8000 feet and with spectacular waterfalls all around. At the head of the bay is the largest of them all, Chatterbox Falls. It was good to be there early in the season while the falls were at their fullest.

We left Pender Harbour on May 18th and had a quiet motor up Agamemnon Channel to Egmont. We docked at the Egmont Marina Resort which is located partway up the Jervis Inlet near the Skookumchuck Rapids.

The Backeddy Marine Pub at the marina is famous for it's Skookumchuck burger. It's huge! We split one. It's very tasty and we recommend it highly. It's probably the best burger we've had in Canada.

We then hiked about 4 miles (each way) from the marina to Skookumchuck Rapids. The path through the park was lovely, winding through the cedar and pine trees, lush ferns and mushrooms.

The rapids join the Sechelt Inlet to the Jervis Inlet and the sea. A whole lot of water passes through them on every tide. These are claimed to be the wildest navigable rapids in the world. On a peak day, the currents in the rapids exceed 16 knots, With 8 foot overfalls.

At peak current, the rapids are used by white water kayakers even surfers! see

At slack, you might see a tug with barges or log booms going through. Some pretty large vessels also traverse at slack.

The decommissioned 323 foot, Canadian Navel Destroyer, HMCS Chaudiere, was sunk for wreck diving in the Sechelt inlet, so it traversed the rapids to meet its fate. We don't know if that was the largest vessel to traverse the rapids, but we wonder how they got her through!

The rapids are also a popular site for expert SCUBA divers to do a "drift" dive. Too cold for us!

In the language of the local First Nation's tribe, Skookum means "big" or "strong" and chuck means "body of water" - it lives up to it's name. I guess that applies to the burger too, only with a different kind of chuck - ground chuck that is.

We visited on a day when the ebb through the rapids was a wimpy 12.5 knots at peak with 4 foot overfalls. We took lots of pictures and put the best on the website.

It was most interesting and we were glad that we didn't have to pass through those rapids. The pictures do not express how powerful the rapids looked in person. We could see how much deeper the whirlpools were from the surrounding water. We know how they are able to nudge the boat one way or the other when the flow is almost slack. So these would not have given a nudge but a mighty shove.

On the 19th we were joined in Egmont by Jim and Marilyn Ming on their Valiant 40, Coyote Moon. We buddy boated with them the next few days.

Both boats left the Saturday May 20th for the 31 nautical mile trip up Jervis Inlet to Malibu Rapids, the gateway to Princess Louisa Inlet. We planned our trip to traverse Malibu Rapids during the period with the smallest tidal differences to avoid any problems. We were rewarded with a delightfully boring passage through. We were in awe though as we watched a large motor yacht, we think it was between 120 and 150 feet follow us through the rapids.

We were looking forward to our trip up Jarvis Inlet, hoping for that warm clear weather that we had the previous week. The weather turned on the 20th however and our passage up Jervis was marked by fog and rain showers. It wasn't entirely disappointing. The fog, mist and low clouds around the cliffs looked like something out of a movie. We could picture a crew on their boat venturing into this scene on some important quest. We entered Princess Louisa with clouds unfortunately blocking the view.

We continued inside Princess Louisa for the 4 nautical miles up to the head of the Inlet to the park docks at the base of Chatterbox Falls. We were fortunate as the only space left that we'd fit into was right up front, facing the falls. Many of the other boaters were on the dock helping tie up the newly arriving boats. There was not an obvious space for Coyote Moon but some of the other boats retied closer together making room. Very nice of them.

In clearing weather, we hiked up the short trail to the base of the falls. It encouraged us to climb further but there was no route to do that.

Sunday dawned much brighter and only partly cloudy unveiling the magnificence of the valley. Picture Yosemite Valley, but much narrower and just as tall, with dozens of waterfalls cascading down the sides, uncrowded with only a few visitors in boats in the sea covering the valley floor, and you may get a sense for the majesty of Princess Louisa Inlet.

All in all it was a beautiful place. There's not a lot of places to hike though as the only other trail is a rock scramble up a slippery path to an abandoned trappers cabin up the side of the fjord.

So 24 hours in Princess Louisa was sufficient for us. John Mills, the owner of the Egmont Marina Resort commented before we left that "Princess Louisa is the kind of place where two hours is too long and two weeks isn't long enough". We agree.

We left on the high slack on Sunday the 21st with Coyote Moon and made our way back to the Garden Bay Hotel and Resort in Pender Harbour. Underway the weather first turned great! We were back to shorts and T-shirts - then it started to turn cold and rainy.

Just as we were pulling into Pender, it got really gusty and rainy. Jim and Marilyn saw 30+ knot winds on the nose right before they pulled in. We were a mile and 10 minutes ahead and didn't see anything nearly that bad.

We've been here in Pender since, waiting for the rain and winds to abate. 30 knots from the South East was forecast for the last two days - and that would be no fun as that's on our nose as we head to False Creek in Vancouver, our next stop.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th, the winds are forecast to ease. We're planning to leave early tomorrow morning to make the 46 nautical mile passage to False Creek.

That's the news as we snuggle on board Raptor Dance, keeping warm on a rainy and cold day.

Bill and Mary

May 17, 2006

What a Difference a Year Makes!

In May 2005 when we arrived in Canada it was cold and rainy. We didn't see the sun until late July.

This year - it's been dry since we got here. The last few days it's been so warm and sunny that we're even wearing shorts!

Tomorrow we leave the Garden Bay Hotel and Marina in Pender Harbour for Egmont on our way to Princess Louisa. We'll be in Egmont for 2 nights then off to Princess Louisa.

NOTE - for the next 6 days or so we will have NO connectivity. No Internet (shudder), No Cell Phones, Nada! When we're in Princess Louisa itself, our Iridium most likely won't work due to the high surrounding mountains. We'll try our Winlink SSB, but it might not be able to get out either.

Yesterday, the weather was fantastic for our 5 hour passage from Gibson's Landing to Pender. We had light and variable winds, but we were actually able to sail for about an hour! With the engine off! Hooray!

It was so warm that we were in shorts. It was a lovely passage. We need more days like this so we can get the moss off the sails (yes, we had a few tinges of green on an edge that hadn't seen the light of day for more than 6 months).

We will give you all a full report on Princess Louisa when we emerge.

Warmest Regards to all!
Bill and Mary

May 15, 2006

Changes to our Website and Web log

We just wanted to let you know about some of the changes we've made to our website and web log (Blog).

1. We've added news feeds
We now send out an RSS Feed of the information we post on our web log. If you use My Yahoo or My AOL you don't need to do anything technical other than click on the appropriate button below to add our feed to one of your news pages. If you have something else that processes RSS you can click the leftmost button below and walk through the dialog to add us to your news reader!

Subscribe to the Raptor Dance RSS Feed Add Raptor Dance feed to My Yahoo Add Raptor Dance feed to My AOL

We've also put these buttons on the Blog and on our homepage.

If you prefer an ATOM feed, you can use the URL

2. We have segregated our content

We've got a pretty broad audience who read our stuff. We also have folks who are on limited bandwidth connections via Sailmail, Winlink and Satellite Phones. So we'll keep our emails pretty much general interest, non-technical and text only. We'll continue to post pictures on our website.

What we have added (based on lot's of requests) is a more technical look at "how we did it". Electronics, boat gear, gadgets and generally technoid stuff we'll post only on our web log (with links from our website). You can just check our web log at if you're interested - but I recommend signing up for the news feed so you'll find out about things new on the Blog when they're posted.

3. Ads?

Yes, we've put some ads on the site. Who knows, if enough folks click on the links we might make a few bucks. We'll keep then innocuous. If they bother you, let me (Bill) know. If you see something interesting to you. Please visit the advertiser.

4. Indices

We've added some additional indices to make past articles easier to find (e.g. Recipes, Web Log Contents, Recommendations, etc.). We've updated the quick links on our homepage and also the table of contents of the BLOG.

5. Position Reporter

We've added a new mapping resource so you can find us. It's called "Position Reporter" and it's linked into the position reports we file. Click on the "Find our Current Position on Position Reporter" link on our homepage to access this map. It uses Google maps so you can zoom, pan, see the view of where we are from satellite photos, and lots more.

Our latest position is shown by a blue balloon. Prior locations are shown in green. If you move your mouse over on of the balloons, you should get a popup of the date and time we were there. If you click on the balloon, you should get a popup with more information on the location.

If you want to know how we do all this, see "About Position Reporting" link in our homepage Quick Links.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to make our stuff more usable - drop me an email!

AIS Update - Nobeltec's AIS 100 Receiver with VNS 8.1.2000

I thought you might be interested in our experiences so far with Nobeltec's Visual Navigation Suite 8.1.2000 (the latest patch level) and their Single Channel AIS 100 Receiver.

Installation was pretty easy - running the cable to our antenna arch was fun of course. The 4' Shakespeare VHF Antenna we're using is now occupying the last of our 6 mounts. Hmmm - this confirms that I'm a technoid geek if I've used all 6 mounts (2 GPSs, a CARD, Iridium antenna and Sirius Satellite Radio antenna take up the other 5 mounts).

Connections to the unit were 12V, the VHF Antenna and a serial port to the computer. Fortunately I have a permanently installed USB hub with unused ports and an extra serial to USB adapter on board. The Serial Port on the AIS 100 outputs NMEA-0183 formatted sentences at 38.5 kbps, so we really could not multiplex into our 4.8 kbps NMEA multiplexer system.

Firing everything up - It worked out of the box. See for a screen shot.

We're up in Gibson's Landing, across Howe Sound from Vancouver today and I've counted 34 targets that I'm tracking. It's really interesting as you have a lot of information about many of the vessels - e.g. destination, cargo, etc.

Overall, the system works OK.... Mostly....

VNS 8.1.2000 Crashes a lot - it seems to suffer from memory problems and freezes up every few hours and requires restarting. So far Nobeltec support hasn't answered my emails. I'll try calling them later (you really don't want to try to reach them on Monday mornings). I've already followed some of their advice to no avail.

The basic problem with this current set up is that VNS and the AIS 100 don't show all the targets! Also, targets that should remain visible disappear from time to time. The disappearing targets are often closer to us than other targets that remain and often within physical line of site. So, I don't think it's a problem with VHF reception. Some of the disappearing targets are quite close and a possible collision hazard. My theory is that this is due to the fact that the AIS 100 is a single channel receiver, the disappearing target ships' transponders have switched to the other AIS Channel. To try to continue displaying these targets, I have raised the AIS/ARPA Timeout value in VNS to 600 seconds (10 minutes). This didn't seem to noticeably change behavior.

If you have other thoughts about what might be going on, drop me a note!

I'm thinking that single channel AIS receivers may be of much less value than believed (I played with using the worthless word, but I'm still think it has some value). We'll most certainly upgrade to a 2 channel receiver when prices come down.

Princess Louisa Bound

Hi Everyone!

We’re on our way to Princess Louisa! We should arrive there on Saturday May 20th.

Princess Louisa Inlet is reported to have the most fantastic scenery in the entire Pacific Northwest, it’s a must not miss. It’s reachable only by boat or float plane. The water in the inlet is over 1,000 feet deep and is surrounded by 5,000 to 8,000 foot mountains, carved by ancient glaciers.

Earle Stanley Gardiner wrote in his Log of a Landlubber:
“There is a calm tranquility which stretches from the smooth surface of the reflecting waters straight up to infinity. The deep calm of eternal silence is only disturbed by the muffled roar of throbbing waterfall as they plunge down from sheer cliffs. There is no scenery in the world that can beat it. Not that I’ve seen the rest of the world, I don’t need to. I’ve seen Princess Louisa Inlet.”

We’ll have our reports and photos when we get back out around the 24th or so.

For more info about Princess Louisa see:

Today, May 15th, we’re back at the Gibson’s Landing Marina across Howe Sound from the city of Vancouver.

Yesterday, we left Ganges at 8:55 AM heading for Porlier Pass. We had an adverse current of over 2 knots so we had to increase our normal engine RPMs from 2250 to 2500 to make the pass at the 11:47 AM slack tide.

Porlier Pass is one of the more boisterous passes – particularly during Spring Tides (around the time of the full and new moons). For example, at 8:12 AM the tide would have been 5.5 knots on our nose. At 2:56 PM the tide would have been 8.6 Knots on our tail!

Up here, there appears to be a pecking order for passes. Up to fairly boisterous, their called “Passes”. The really hairy ones are called “Rapids”. Passes can have whirlpools and currents exceeding 9 knots. Rapids can also have overfalls, big standing waves and currents up to 14+ knots – they’re generally much more turbulent than Passes. These are our observations, I haven’t found specific definitions of the difference.

We traversed quite a few rapids last year and many passes. It turns our they’re really no big deal – as long as you traverse them at or close to slack current. The allowable timing varies – some rapids have a navigable window of as little as 15 minutes.

On Saturday (May 20th), we’ll be heading through Malibu Rapids, which guards the entrance to Princess Louisa. The tricky part of this one is timing your arrival as it’s 32 miles from the nearest safe place to spend the night – Egmont Marina. This is also a pretty hairy set of rapids – e.g. the sailing instructions say “Wait until the surf created by the overfall subsides entirely” before proceeding through. The rapids also have a dogleg turn in the middle, it’s narrow and you can’t see the other end when you start through – so a call on the radio announcing your intentions is a really good idea.

OK, back to our yesterday’s passage: Our timing was pretty good, we were going to arrive at the pass a few minutes early – but then the RCMP came by in a fast Zodiac and picked us to do a “Customs Check”. This is the first time we’ve been boarded in the 5+ years we’ve owned Raptor Dance. As we had been in Canada since March 24th and had our paperwork (and flags) in order, the check only took 10 minutes. The RCMP members (apparently they’re not called “officers”, at least on our copy of the “Custom Check Sheet” they left with us.

We still got to Porlier Pass within a few minutes of slack, so all was well.

We then forereached across the Straights of Georgia motor sailing with 20 knot headwinds arriving in Gibson’s Landing at 3:35 PM.

We’ll be here until tomorrow morning, then up to Pender Harbour for 2 nights, the Egmont for 2 nights then up to Princess Louisa.

I’ll wrap up for now, but I’ll send another message in a little while on what else we’ve been up to since we got back to cruising.

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary