February 10th, 2017

AVANTI at Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island BC, 2016


The trip started out to go to Haida Gwaii, the original and correct name for the former Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, but weather happened and adjustments were made.  So we sailed to Bella Bella and a few points beyond.

Joe won’t mind us stopping for the night.

Entrance to Elizabeth Lake

We revisited the beautiful Joe’s Bay at the mouth of the great tidal lake Elizabeth Lake.  There, the tide goes out and the lake falls into the sea, then the tide comes in and the sea falls into the lake.

In Iceland with Chris.

June 30th, 2016


Chris met me at the gate having arrived earlier and spending a long night sleeping in the Keflavic International Airport and  make that heavy on the “International”.  What an influx of people from all over the world!  It seems everyone wants to visit Iceland and for good reason.  Icelanders are some of the nicest, friendliest, helpful and beautiful people in the world.   Our rental car was waiting and down east we went.  It’s 405 miles or 653 Km from the airport to Breiðdalsvík (Brad-dols-vic) on the east coast of Iceland.  It took us no less than 8 1/2 hours.

Breiðdalsvík is where Chris left the NORTHERN REACH two years ago.  His dear friends Helga and Ingo took good care of her and had her on a trailer and ready for work in their beautiful shop.  The atmosphere was that of one long huge family reunion with people coming to welcome Chris home (his Iceland home anyway).  It was such a privilege to witness it all.  Their warm feelings for Chris spilled over to me and made me feel as welcome as ever I have been.

Chris’ reunion with NORTHERN REACH was quick and simple with a touch of sentimentality.  How could he not have deep feelings for something he has put so much hard work into and trusted with his life for so many long sea miles?  Then, out came the work list and the fun began.  Chris had two years to think over every detail he wanted to change, add and make better.

Follow Chris on his Facebook page at Chris Duff.

Captain Tommy to help Ocean Rower Chris Duff prepare for next leg of Atlantic Crossing

June 12th, 2016
...thy oceans are so wide and my boat is so small

…thy oceans are so wide and my boat is so small

Chris in Port Angeles Harbor for test row.

Chris in Port Angeles Harbor for test row.

I will be leaving Port Angeles for Iceland on Wednesday June 15 to assist Chris Duff prepare for the next leg of his great rowing adventure.  Chris has already rowed from Scotland to Iceland.  It’s an honor to be a participating contributor to this man’s great adventure.  My job is to be… “Road Manager”, that is I get to drive him to  his boat.  It’s like being a non-performing part of a high school band by virtue of having a car back in the sixties. I should add “Tool Manager” to my title as well since I’ll be handing him tool as he works on the boat.

Actually, Chris and I became friends before the launch of ArcticSoloSail.  I read his books on kayaking.  And you should too!  Follow this wonderful adventure on face book by friending  Chris Duff.  Chris tells his own story far better than me.  (visit his web page at     There is a link to his facebook page there too.)


I’ll be posting pictures and blogs along the way about the NORTHERN REACH and Iceland here too.

Dances with Whales

June 10th, 2016


Perhaps I should call this “Dances With Whales, West Coast Style” since I have already used that title in my blogs about the CAP’N LEM and the Belugas’, but to have had such an experience twice in a lifetime must be revisited. The morning they came to the CAP”N LEM was much like this one, quiet, still and magnificent. I was alone then but this time I had Tim along.

Off in the distance they blow. It was our first sighting of Humpback whales. Tim saw them first. It happened just after we passed Ivory Island Light Station and had entered the Seaforth Channel heading north. Tim had the camera and I had the binoculars, the auto pilot had the helm. Tim, “it’s coming this way!” and come this way he did, right straight for AVANTI off the starboard beam. Just a second before collision, he sounded and passed under the keel. Then he exploded into the air on the port side as though he meant to fly! All I could do is howler over and over, “Did you see that! Did you See that! Did you see that!” …to which Tim replied “See it! I think I got a picture of it.” And get a picture of it he did, When the whale breeched and crashing back into the sea, Tim had the good presents of mind to point the camera and click the shutter. A whalefish is a bit big for hook and line but Tim always the Fisherman, caught this one with his camera.


If whales could fly this one would have


To Bella Bella and beyond

June 5th, 2016
Lake Elizabeth Falls on Joe's Bay

Lake Elizabeth Falls on Joe’s Bay

The quietness of the night at anchor in Joe’s Bay was broken by the whistle of the tea kettle for morning coffee.  Even that was quickly silenced.  Every noise, the spoon sturring  coffee in the cup, a creaking of the cabin sole was drumbeat loud in such stark silence.  On deck, I sat still as the waveless water around me, drinking in the morning and my coffee.  Then Tim  move in the quarter berth, arose, and the day began.

A boat such as AVANTI fits well in Joe’s Bay.  Boat noises don’t seem to be too out of place in the rising sun.  The engine and the clank of the anchor chain over the bow roller as Tim hoist it home signals to the forest, “We’ll be leaving now”.  Anchor home and free of the bottom we creep slowly up to Lake Elizabeth Falls, the only communication of seawater into and out of the not quite landlocked lake.  AVANTI’s deep draft keeps us on our toes and this is as close as we can get, then we left.

The truth at first light holds through to mid-day and we fish our way up Fitz Hugh Sound toward Bella Bella.

Harlequin Bay to Joe’s Bay

June 1st, 2016

A gray morning greets us.  We time our departure on low tide just incase we the channel is a little too skinny.  If we are going to get stuck it best be on a rising tide.  Tim proves yet again his versatility as a shipmate guiding Avanti through the twist and turns to deep water with hand signals from the bowsprit.

Deep water and north we go.  The goal for the day.  Joe’s Bay.  By noon, the gray gives way to sunshine but no wind.  Tim fishes past Safety Cove on Calvert Island then we cross Fitz Hugh Sound  and thread our way to Joe’s Bay.  I wonder about Joe and how he happened to this spot of earth.  He must have come by water, the forest being so thick.  Was it the floating foam from the waterfalls where Lake Elizabeth spills into the salt chuck?  Was he hunting for safe anchorage from a storm?  Or was he just like me wanting to be someplace so pristine, so empty of mankind, as to make him feel the first ever to this place?  The only hint we find we’re not the first… a wooden sign on a tree on the south shore proclaiming this place for evermore to “JOE’S BAY”.

We anchor for the night.

Port Hardy and Beyond

May 31st, 2016

Slugging out the Johnstone against the wind but with the current we came into Port Harding late and in darkness. AVANTI felt her way toward the back of the harbor for an anchorage, then bump, a log, bump bump, more logs. We had sailed right into an open log pen as invisible in the night as a Klingon Starship. AVANTI backed and pushed and bumped her way free and we found our anchorage for the night.

Next morning we fueled, watered and started out for some Canadian fishing. Tim’s the fisherman, but to just describe Tim as a fisherman isn’t enough. I search for just the right phrase. Tim is the fisherman who fishes just for the fish of it. His knowledge and respect for fish set him in a class to himself. Me, I just drive the boat and watch and learn. Not long and it’s salmon for dinner!

It’s a might skinny channel into Harlequin Bay on Hurst Island. (50° 50’ 34”N 127° 34’ 33” W) but it’s just the sort of place that draws me like a magnate. Tim takes station on the bowsprit and pilots us . It’s the kind of place a shore bound sailor visits in his mind when the days work is done, but the clock drags.


Tim with fish

Tim with fish

Harlequin Bay resized

Harlequin Bay on Hurst Island BC

Up the Johnstone

December 12th, 2012
Moon Venus and maybe Mercury

Moon Venus and maybe Mercury

The wind was still strong down the Strait in the breaking dawn. Our early start on the slack tide helped make the turn Chatham Point. The oncoming gust made the ride just as lively, but the light of day changes everything. Tim took first watch and kept close to shore to lessen the drag of the head wind. We persevered onward trusting the topography around the strait to afford us protection from the lumpy waters.

There are places on the Johnstone Strait where the current is squeezed between peninsulas jutting out from the Canadian Mainland and others where the water is stuffed among islands only to fall out the other side in its unrelenting pursuit of the moon and sun. The earth turns and the sea rushes to and fro in answer to the invisible lover’s call we know as gravity. It is on this slosh AVANTI rides westward, now faster with the ebb then slower with the flood.

Forward is what we want. The surface of the water is but the bottom of the sky. It is here we move at the grace of the nature world. Even the air is subject to the love of gravity and falls down the slopping mountains in williwaws to either help us or halt us in our progress forward.

Keep the water out and the boat will float, let the water in, the boat will sink. Oh how grateful I become for the simple laws of gravity keeping the water in its place and sky in its place and me right in between, right where I belong. It is a good thing to know where I belong.

Everyone has a Johnstone Strait story

November 12th, 2012

Up the anchor and underway for the Hole In The Wall. Timing is everything and my timing was off by an hour. At least the error was on the right side and only required waiting an additional hour for the slackening water to allow us through. A valuable lesson was learned early. The current tables of on the Inside Passage were not to be ignored. To cruise these latitudes in a small vessel demands an attunement with nature land travel never requires.

Having passed between Quadra and Sanora Islands, AVANTI joined the north flowing current of Johnstone Strait. We set our watches for a nights steaming hoping to ride the outward bound current as far as possible. There is current, then there is wind and when wind and current run strong in opposite directions water goes mad. Rounding Chatham Point we ran right into the teeth of a 40+ wind that stacked the tiderip onto itself in rolling waves with very short steep faces that tossed AVANTI like so much flotsam. From down below came the crashes and bangs of things being flung from what we thought to be very secure stowage for these seemingly protected waters. The sky was darkening early in the shadows of cloud and mountain and all fun had been washed overboard with the first three waves.

After thirty minutes of traveling up and down farther than we had traveled forward, I told Tim to brace himself, we were turning around. I watched for a lull which never came, then put the rudder hard over. We made the turn taking only one sea on the beam and then quickly gave up all our hard won progress. Acceptance is the only appropriate emotion with which to meet the sea.

We met two fishing boats coming north in what could only be interpreted as a race. As they closed in on the turn at Chatham Point , the large took the inside between the light and the rocks, (a mighty skinny channel I must add). Tim and I watched expecting a crash of hull against rock that never came. Local knowledge won the race. There are many captains willing to do things I’d never do.

I use every available source of information when on the water. I listen to weather reports and radio traffic. I watch the radar and scan the horizon. I check the plotter every thirty seconds. I read and reread the Coast Pilots and the cruising guides. Then I take that knowledge and blend it together to come to a course of action tempered with good seamanship. My mantra is this “situational awareness, keep your situational awareness”. Around the corner from Chatham Point Light is Otter Cove. We anchored and listened to the wind howling ashore. The Johnstone strait would be best taken in the light of day.

To Hole In The Wall

November 5th, 2012



The passage of mankind over the water leaves its mark as surely as it does on the land. Trash thoughtlessly discarded, bilges slops, plastics, cigarette butt; it’s all there. The oceans vastness can handle only so much before it pukes it back on the land. But, if one is careful though, and travels slowly in a small vessel, the impact can be so small as to take but a moment to erase the foot print on the water.

By motor sailing, that is running engine at just above an idle, a little extra lift is added to the light airs across the sails, AVANTI makes a scant 4 knots in a motor sail toward Desolation Sound. A beautiful cool night passed uneventfully. The bow cut the water, the stern stitched it closed again. The sound of the tea kettle whistling pulled away the deep sleep. The steady upright keel confirmed there was no wind, but then none was expected. It was morning and time for my watch.

I had given the watch to Tim at midnight with Texada Island to port and a track line on the GPS. Six hours later, I relieved him with Cortes Island to port. It had been a good run even though the currents dragged down the speed over the ground. My watch would see slack water, then a turn to north. The days goal was to reach Hole In The Wall, anchor and wait for the slack water that would allow us through the tight squeeze into northern Vancouver Island waters. I chose this route for its sheer beauty and remoteness. Seymour Narrows had more traffic and less interesting terrain. We would save that passage for another day.

AVANTI’s tender most times is my wonderful and old Easy Rider Beluga kayak. It looks a little odd hanging from the davits a full 5 feet wider than the boat but what function. I believe the kayak to be far superior to the dinghy as a ship’s boat. I’ve been in seas in it that would have swamped an open boat and felt completely safe.

We anchored AVANTI near shore to wait the turn of the tide. Tim went fishing and came back with a lingcod and a rockfish. Supper!

Ready for cleaning

Ready for cleaning