Circumnavigating Vancouver Island Flotilla | Day 1 | Roche Harbor to Nanaimo

We’ve started another flotilla, and will be circumnavigating Vancouver Island over the next four weeks!

Anacortes at dusk from Airship, the night before starting our flotilla

Our group met on Sunday at Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands and headed for Nanaimo in the morning. The wildfire smoke has been pretty bad for the past few days, but today seemed like the worst so far. We left Roche Harbor by 7:00 a.m. and the sun was just a faint orange ball in the sky.

Leaving Roche Harbor

Here’s a shot of Billywig, the Elling 49, in the smoky landscape:

Normally the cruise up into the Gulf Islands is a scenic one, but today we all ran radar as if we were in thick fog.

We timed our arrival at Dodd Narrows to arrive just before slack, but we had a favorable current most of the way and were a bit early (about an hour). The current was running with us at about two knots and we had no trouble going through….well, except for the insane amount of traffic (pleasure boats, tugs and barges, etc.) going through at the same time. Once through Dodd the wind picked up from about 7-8 knots to 14-15 knots for the last five nautical miles or so into Nanaimo.

Here’s our view coming into Nanaimo:

Most of us are on H dock in the inside harbour, and two of our boats are on the outside finger with the 50 amp power. We left Roche Harbour with two boats — Ralph and Jeanette on Rhapsody, a Ranger Tug 29, and Jim and Joyce on Billywig, an Elling 48–and picked up our third of four boats here in Nanaimo–Vince and Linda on Doll Face, a Westcoast 46. We’ll meet our fourth boat in Port McNeill in a few days.

Billywig, after coming through Dodd Narrows, noticed a kind of banging sound on their hull, and thought they might have picked up something in their prop. They called a diver who showed up in Nanaimo and dove the boat earlier this afternoon. The diver came up with this small but complicated stick he removed from beneath their boat. Not nothing, for sure, but luckily, a relatively easy fix!

Keen readers might remember our last time through Canadian Customs, in Prince Rupert. The short version is that we were told we did everything wrong and we should allow extra time for future border crossings. The issue was basically whether or not we should have gone to a specific dock rather than anchoring in Prince Rupert Harbour.

When we called in this time, we expected the worst, but were quickly cleared through by phone. This time, we reported our destination simply as “Nanaimo” and were (again) given no additional instructions. So, we asked, “Is there any dock or place in particular we need to go in Nanaimo, or do you want to know where we’re tying up?” The officer responded no. Go figure.

We made a quick trip to the grocery store and liquor store to pick up fruit, veggies, wine and beer, and we all met at a Mexican cafe right on our dock here called Penny’s Palapa. We’ll head out around 6:00 a.m. tomorrow and make the long 75nm day up to Campbell River. The sooner we can (hopefully) get out of all this smoke, the better, and the forecast for the Strait of Georgia looks good tomorrow!