Posted by: Ann | July 3, 2020

Stuck at Home

We are so sad not to be cruising on our American Tug m/v Fifth Element this summer.  The COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from being able to cruise Canadian waters.


Posted by: Ann | October 9, 2019

10-6-19, Sunday- Sidney to Anacortes

Last day of our cruise

Heavy morning fog

The sun was breaking through in Sidney, but I worried about the fog laying out over the water. We got an 8am start, eating breakfast on the boat, but as we headed across the Haro Strait, the fog thickened.

Just after 9am we crossed back into the US and shortly thereafter Jon started the convenient iPhone based customs app. We received a call back and then clearance into the US with the plan to proceed directly to Anacortes. By then, however, we could hardly see anything.

No matter! We might lose our favorable current, but it really was unsafe to continue without radar (recall it died way back in Wrangle, AK). Jon called Roche Harbour to see if we could get some free time at the dock and they confirmed we could have two hours, probably because it is off-season.

We cautiously crept into Roche Harbour. I was disappointed that our ATug horn didn’t work at all- the compressor makes a whooshing sound, but you could tell it didn’t make any external noise. We pulled into the widely open visitors dock around 10am and proceeded to enjoy the fresh doughnuts and a late brunch at the Limekiln cafe.

The fog took a awhile to lift so we walked to the main road and back. The grounds were relatively empty although I did notice some people playing tennis. It finally lifted enough for us to see the neighboring shore by 11am, so we were able to resume our journey.

We had an uneventful trip back to Anacortes. It was a little difficult getting into our slip at Cap Sante due to the wind, but we were safely docked by 3:15pm.

Our trip to Alaska and back is complete!

Jon was craving the Baker’s Bowl (New England clam chowder in a sourdough bowl), so of course we had dinner at Anthony’s.

Fifth Element at the Roche Harbour visitors dock

Roche Harbour in the fog


Old friends at Cap Sante marina in Anacortes

Posted by: Ann | October 9, 2019

10-5-19, Saturday- Victoria to Sidney

We enjoy another “Pig Roast”

Morning rain, afternoon clearing

Our aim was an early start to catch the tide today. The steamship Starbucks opened 15 minutes late, but we were underway by 7:45. An interesting sight was the Douglas Monroe US Coast Guard Cutter docked in the outer harbour.

We heard on the VHF that Off the Grid was in trouble again. We noticed in the Grenville Channel that their AIS transmits an incorrect length and Victoria Harbour Traffic Control called them on it. All boats 30 meters or longer are required to participate in the Victoria Traffic system. Off the Grid is transmitting 37 meters; their captain had to assure them that they were actually about 27 meters or 88.5 feet. More calls to Off the Grid came from concerned captains of tugs and tankers to make sure he saw them. He moves very fast and said he planned to be down to the Columbia river by this evening.

We did catch a favorable tide and at times saw over 9kts speed. We arrived at Port of Sidney marina around 11am. We had lunch on the boat then went down to use the WIFI at Starbucks, although the marina WIFI does seem to be improved.

The main reason we are here is to attend a party at the home of our Sidney friends Chris and Dave. We had a wonderful evening with them and two other couples enjoying a delicious feast with foods reminiscent of the Echo Bay Pig Roast. We talked late into the night trading cruising stories and highlights of our respective journeys.

Downtown Sidney from the water

Posted by: Ann | October 7, 2019

10-4-19 Friday- Victoria

Intermittent rain showers

The forecast today was exactly the same as yesterday, but it was definitely cooler and rainier today. Today might have been a better day for the museum, but we had to worry about moving Fifth Element into a better position to leave at 7:30 tomorrow. We thought we might have to move to the wharf docks to the north.

We had to wait until the harbour authority opened and got organized, but eventually we were allowed to move to the end of D dock. It was actually one of the winter season reserved spots, but the occupants were out for a few days.

By then the WIF had completely wedged and it was time for lunch anyway, so we went back to Murchies. Can’t get enough of those black current scones. I actually bought a mix that they sell, but I doubt I’ll be able to make them as fluffy as the originals.

After lunch I ran out of energy in the gloomy weather and napped for awhile. I rallied for a late ice cream at Flavoris. Along the way we were assailed by ear splitting police motorcycle sirens as they momentarily blocked all the intersections to facilitate a cycling event- something to do with cancer fundraising.

I tried to identify historic buildings for Wikipedia commons, but there are so many it was hard to tell which needed photos. I gave up and we walked along Wharf street then down to the waterfront to check out the current state of the wharf docks. Just south of the docks, we discovered the food truck Red Fish, Blue Fish and noted that there were a lot of people eating there.

It was still too early for dinner, so we went for a long walk around the Empress Hotel and onto the main drag, Douglass Street, which is a good place to find transit and drugstores. We made our way back to Red Fish, Blue Fish and were not disappointed. The grilled salmon on the very good buns was one of the nicest and biggest pieces we’ve had in Canada and they were only $12.50. Even the coleslaw was good, and the young man taking our order was very friendly.

We walked back to the boat and I still didn’t have 10,000 steps, so I did a loop around the causeway to take pictures of the parliament building which is nicely lit at night. I was delighted to see a fluffy Siamese cat sitting on the bow of SMAUG when I returned.

Banana trees in the Empress Hotel gardens

Red Fish Blue Fish- the best seafood deal in Victoria

First Mate on s/v Smaug

Posted by: Ann | October 5, 2019

10-3-19, Thursday- Victoria

Morning showers then mostly sunny

We spent the day at the BC Museum and visiting with friends. Highlights at the museum were the IMAX theater movies The Great Bear Rainforest and Apollo 11. We also saw the Maya exhibit as well as revisited the Natural and Human history wings.

In between movies we had lunch at Murchies and coffee at the museum’s Sequoia cafe. The cafe is on the side of the museum that has a nice outdoor natural plant garden and some historic buildings. There is also totem pole park including a tribal lodge house; it looks like they are restoring the poles one by one.

Our friends Blaine and Barbara picked us up at the marina and took us to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel for dinner. The building has been relatively recently restored and is very elegant beautiful wood paneling throughout. The dining room has a beautiful view of the bay.

The Empress Hotel- our view every morning from the Causeway marina

Old mooring rings- art and history co-exist everywhere in Victoria

Partly cloudy

This morning I looked out to see if there was another deer imitating a mountain goat, but the steep cliffs behind the Poet’s Cove marina were empty. The harbour seals were taking full advantage of the floating breakwater as we left at 9am.

Our route to Victoria included:

• Boundary Pass across Swanson Channel, SW (I can see America from here!)

• Provost Passage

• Sidney Channel

• Haro Strait behind Discovery Island

• Baynes Cannel

• Major Channel

• Juan de Fuca Strait into Victoria Harbour

We saw the huge cruise ship Norwegian Bliss on the outer Victoria Harbour around 1pm. We quickly checked her schedule and were happy to learn she was leaving at 2pm southbound on a repositioning cruise for the remainder of the season. Her stops will take her to San Francisco and Los Angeles before taking up the winter schedule.

There was plenty of room on the Causeway docks in front of the Empress Hotel, but looks were deceiving. The harbour authority is now on the winter schedule and only one side each of C and D floats is first-come, first served. Several more boats are expected on Friday for the weekend, but they managed to fit us onto the head of D dock. Jon worried that we would need to be able to get out and leave early in two days, and they said they did the best they could to accommodate everyone.

We spent the early afternoon at two favorite spots- Murchies (the fluffiest black current scones in the world, yum!) and Starbucks for real mochas. We’d run out of our mocha chocolate over a month ago and have been using unsweetened Fry’s- just not the same. Jon was able to scarf down a Flavoris ice cream cone as well.

It began getting chilly and rainy so we spent a quiet afternoon reading on the boat. It seems overly quiet with no troubadours or buskers putting on shows along the causeway.

Deer or Mountain Goat

Harbour Seals at Poet’s Cove

Fifth Element on D dock next to the wooden s/v SMAUG

Jon eating the mini Flavoris fondue dipped cone

My favorite chemical symbol

via Pender Canal


After of breakfast of TJ Bean’s cinnamon rolls, we enjoyed a walk through the campground and around the Gray Peninsula. It’s one of the few trails extensive enough to let you enjoy local birds and the smell of the cedar forest. In addition to the gulls and cormorants, I spotted robin, thrush, flicker, junco, chickadee spotted towhee, great blue heron and a sparrow unknown to me. There were also more than 50 surf scoters in the harbour.

We dropped the mooring ball at 11am and headed for Pender Canal. This route is new to us; Anomaly and her tall mast cannot make it under the bridge connecting North and South Pender Islands. We traveled past Active pass along the Navy Channel then through Plumper Sound.

We turned west at Razor point towards Port Browning, turning south to enter the canal. The Pender Canal is quite narrow and makes for an exciting careful transit.

Shortly after exiting the south end of Pender canal, we arrived at Poet’s Cove just after 1pm. It’s quite a posh resort and spa and a wedding was starting at 2pm. They had part of the courtyard roped off for a reception, but otherwise we almost had the place to ourselves. We tried the pub for coffee and snacks and asked the waitress about hiking trails. She directed us to a lookout and the Enchanted Forest.

We walked up the steep drive out of the resort but couldn’t find the trail the the lookout. We did find the Enchanted Forest. We went along the trail marked waterfall and lookout, but the waterfall was dry and the lookout blocked by trees. I was glad to see another green forest trail, but I probably wouldn’t go there again since to find the entrance you had to walk along the highway in an area of rockslides that had no margin.

We enjoyed our dinner in the pub in front of the fireplace. My tempura battered calamari tacos were very good as well.

The Bridge connecting North and South Pender Islands

Looking down the cliff at Poet’s Cove marina

Poet’s Cove Resort & Spa

Posted by: Ann | October 5, 2019

9-30-19, Monday- Nanaimo to Montague Harbour

via Ganges on Salt Spring Island

Sunny but chilly

The weather is holding, but rain for a solid week is supposed to start in two day.s. We were up early for an 8am sunny walk on Newcastle Island along the Shoreline trail. I love this island which feels so tranquil a stones throw from busy Nanaimo. There is a LOT of not so wild animal scat on the lawn- deer, goose, raccoon (in the middle of the dock ramp!)- so you need to keep a lookout.

The level of maintenance continues to be very good with new bull rails on the dock and manicured trails. A note to mariners is that the restroom has two showers and is heated despite the late date.

We raised anchor at 9:20 and dodged the float planes leaving Nanaimo. We were through Dodd Narrows on the ebb several hours early and saw 13 knots going through, 5.5 more than our normal speed. The eddies grabbed Fifth Element but Jon kept things under our control.

We proceeded along Stuart and then Trincomali Channels around Salt Spring Island and reached Ganges Harbour around 2:30. The Ganges harbour authority didn’t answer by radio, but we reached them by phone. You can stay on the Breakwater dock for 2 hours free, but only until 4pm, so we only got 1.5 hours.

We really didn’t need much more. We walked up to TJ Beans on the main road to collect 6 cinnamon rolls that Jon had ordered that morning. He ate one on the spot with our afternoon coffee; I tried one of the “famous” old fashioned donuts which was good, but very sugary and a little heavy.

We were on our way again by 4pm which made a boat waiting for our spot very happy. I don’t think we would be able to get close to the dock in high season. The Breakwater day space is very small, but one of the other 3 city managed docks might have room.

We’d intended to anchor in Montague Harbour, but it is so clogged with mooring balls , we took one of them instead as we arrived at 5pm.

Note to mariners: after we went up to the top of the ramp and paid, we realized we could have anchored off the beach on the north side of Gray Peninsula and Parker Island. In fact, a boat that had been on a mooring ball, picked up and moved over to that bay. The day use time limit is a a bit confusing: the mooring balls say 5pm; the dock says 6pm, but in any case, you can use the mooring ball during the day and if winds permit, anchor for the night on the other side.

I was disappointed that the Orca Networks float was not in the harbour. On our last visit, we realized at the last minute that a little float with a banner was a notice for very fast free wifi. This time, we could see both a free and pay network, but it was very unreliable and wouldn’t maintain the connection. Yet another location promising WIFI that turned out to be unusable.

South point of the Gray Peninsula

Rocky bottom must mean warm waters for swimming off the Gray Peninsula

Fifth Element on mooring ball #17 in Montague Harbour

Posted by: Ann | October 1, 2019

9-29-19, Sunday- Pender Harbour to Nanaimo

Breezy, partly cloudy

The winds were supposed to be dropping off today, but it was still high at the Sisters Island auto reporting weather station off Lasqueti Island, so we waited for the 10am weather report. We didn’t want to repeat our last uncomfortable trip across the Strait of Georgia when the winds were actually worse than predicted.

I guess we could have gone to the Madiera Park docks after all; we could have gone to the Euspiria coffee shop this morning. Finally it seemed the winds were dropping, so we departed Pender Harbour. It was a good decision as the seas were only slightly rippled. We were protected in the lee of the mainland for the first few hours.

Since it was Sunday, we were able to cut across the Whisky Gulch military target area. Jon spotted some whales which I hoped weren’t going to be here when military exercises are underway. I was just trying to pinpoint their location for the WhaleWatch report when the engine died.

The two fuel tanks, starboard and port, have a connection between them with the purpose of leveling out the fuel so the boat doesn’t list to one side. However, this makes it very difficult to tell how much fuel is remaining. The sightglass is also about 4” off the bottom of the tank which makes it even more difficult. In addition, we really have no idea how low the level can be before it starts sucking in air.

Jon intentionally had the valves set so that the one side would run dry, but this boat didn’t give him enough time to switch to the other tank before the engine died. (he’s been able to switch it on Anomaly as soon as the engine started to lag). It took him several tries to get Fifth Element to start again.

After that experience I insisted he buy a bit more fuel. There may be enough left to finish the trip, but I didn’t care to chance it. Conveniently, there are several marinas with fuel along the Newcastle Island passage to Nanaimo. We stopped at the Gas N Go and took on 120 liters. We anchored just off Newcastle Island at 3:15.

While waiting for dinner time, I wasted a lot of time going down one of those internet ratholes when I discovered the Wiki Loves Monuments project (more on that in another post). It’s nice to be in more regular cell contact, but it can be a curse as well.

We had a nice dinner of our favorite salmon burgers at the Dinghy Dock which was practically empty. We lingered to watch another lovely sunset.

Entering Newcastle Island Passage

Sunset from the Dinghy Dock on Protection Island

Posted by: yachtanomaly | October 1, 2019

Enjoying the fire in the Poets Cove pub

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