Shearwater to Bottleneck Cove to Bishop Cove

Ivory Island light station at the corner of Seaforth Channel and Finlayson Channel
May 27-28, 2015

The route north from Shearwater takes you west towards the mouth of Seaforth Channel, and as the name implies, it leads to the sea.  The first sheltered waters after leaving Shearwater are 15 or so miles away, and Seaforth has a reputation.

Ivory Island is the choice point.  If you don't like what you're experiencing, tuck into the channel that leaves Ivory Island Light to port, and work your way up through the protected Reid Channel. It is actually quite an attractive passage, but requires some close navigational attention (and tidal awareness).  If the seas are tame, leave Ivory Island to starboard and swing north in a wide arc into Finlayson Channel. This particular morning, Odin was elsewhere and we enjoyed a favorable tide that brought us to the mouth of Finlayson on kindly seas -- glassy, even, with but a hint of ocean swell.

We passed by Klemtu, a Tsimshian First Nations village that has fuel, provisions, and is served by BC Ferries.  Klemtu is creating a niche for itself as an outdoor recreation destination (kayaking and sport fishing, laced with an agreeable exposure to First Nation culture). There is a Tsimshian Big House here that can be toured for a fee.
Sailing on a broad reach northbound on Finlayson Channel
We chose Bottleneck Cove as our destination for the night, and the weather grew more pleasant as the day wore on, to the point that our last hour or so was entirely sail-powered and exhilarating. Ripple's drifter, a parachute-style sail a bit like a spinnaker, but with a head and tack that that attach where the jib would normally fly, will drive the boat at 5 knots or better downwind or on a reach. We sailed on the upper margin of safety for the sail, the wind growing through the afternoon, but the groaning surge of the boat in that wind was intoxicating. Tacking or jibing the drifter is a dicey affair, but we needed to do so but once.

Bedlam at anchor in Bottleneck Cove as we entered
We pulled into the narrow neck of the cove just before 1700, and found Bedlam at anchor, as well as another sailboat and a Ranger Tug.  Bottleneck is a large anchorage, but long and narrow, and it seemed utterly impervious to weather 'out there'.  There is nothing like sleeping securely on the hook!

Sneaking past Bedlam in Bottleneck Cove at 0430.
We were mostly last to arrive and first to leave every anchorage.
We left Bottleneck early -- 0430 -- knowing we had a long day ahead of us.  Finlayson Channel funnels into Hiekish Narrows a few miles north of Bottleneck Cove, transitions into Grahm Reach and then Fraser reach. The only place along this interval to anchor was Butedale, a quirky, more or less abandoned town that seems always on the threshold of redevelopment. A single caretaker lives there, reportedly eager to have you stop.  It was way too early in our day to do so, so we pressed on.

sunrise near the top of Finlayson Channel

Making breakfast in the cabin
We had to decide in the afternoon whether to try to get over to Hartley Bay, or detour slightly and spend the night at Bishop's Cove. The attraction of the latter - a hotsprings - won out, and we ventured up into Ursula Channel to Bishop's Cove. Anchorage is difficult in this cove, the shores being steep-to, and it was with some trepidation that we turned in, hoping to find one of the two mooring balls still available. Only one of the balls was occupied, so we snagged the other and dinghied into the hotsprings. It was deeeeelish, a sensual treat after motoring 55 miles over 13 hours. That works out to 2,000,000 revolutions of our trusty Yanmar one-lunger.

We met Peter and Connie, a couple from Victoria who had sailed all over the pacific in several boats over many years, and who knew the fellow in Victoria from whom I purchased the majority of the charts for the trip.  Small world.


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