2013 Cruise Day 2: Deer Harbor

Posted by: pat 10 years, 3 months ago


I have a strategy for maximizing the probability of a smooth crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It basically boils down to getting the crossing done before noon.  Winds pick up in the afternoon.  I also take all NOAA weather forecasts calling for Small Craft Advisories (SCA) with several grains of salt.  I’ve been in the middle of the strait in a SCA plenty of times when the wind never got over 10 knots.  They just seem to be tremendously conservative when throwing the SCA forecast out there.  I take Gale warnings seriously, but unless there is some real world data from the Smith Island or Halibut Bank weather stations to corroborate the SCA, I take it as input but certainly not gospel.  When cruising with the family I like the straits to have 15 knots or less.  With anyone else who is up for some thrilling sailing, we are good to 25 knots.  More than that we try to avoid, but if it pipes up the boat can handle it.  Through good luck and employing the above strategy and guidelines, I can't remember the last "bad" strait crossing we've had as a family.

We set off from Point Hudson around 6:30 AM, just in time for max ebb and a renewal of my respect for the famous Point Wilson Rip.  There was no wind really, less than 5 knots, otherwise I would have gone way to the east or hugged the shore way to the west before heading north.  That rip is pretty healthy even with no wind.  The bow was getting buried in green water every other minute or so.  Cathy emerged from the vberth for some comfort, asserting that “THE VBERTH IS GOING *CRAZY*.”  I can only imagine how much air the girls were getting in their bunks.  We bulled our way through and were done with the rip in about half an hour thanks to the 3 knots of favorable current it provided, and it was all smooth motoring from there on.

After transiting Cattle Pass I was whipping up a batch of flapjacks in the galley when we were interrupted by the good folks from the Department of Homeland Security who just wanted to spend 10 minutes or so interrogating us in the rain.  I’ve had the pleasure of this on-the-water interrogation once before, but it was near Turn Point on Stuart Island, and area that actually is pretty near the border.  I’m not sure why they were patrolling between San Juan and Lopez Island.  It felt not unlike I imagine it would feel to be pulled over in your car by the Border Patrol while driving around Kirkland.  It is a little impressive how they effectively hold station about 5 feet off your stern, both boats in motion, and manage to be heard.  I just try to answer their rapid-fire questions as quickly and succinctly as possible.  My favorite was Q:Where do you reside?  A:Seattle  Q:Seattle Proper?

We make the uneventful journey to Deer Harbor, get our assigned slip and pull in.  This is the kind of joint where there are nice fit young marina employees waiting to catch your mooring lines.  Hmm….I need to go in there?  Next to that massive wide-beam American Tug?  This is gonna be tight.  Tight as in room for my outboard fender and room for yours, but not room for both!  Squeaky tight.  We made it and sure enough there is no air gap between any of our fenders.  I put this as the second-tightest slip partner we’ve ever encountered.

I have to say that the docking proficiency on this whole trip was has gone up a notch.  Kim and Elizabeth both understand their roles, proper use of cleats for leverage, and have a good situational awareness of when things go wrong what they can do to fix things.  This could be a biased perception due to the nature of this specific trip.  We rarely had much wind during docking on this trip, and we spent a lot of time anchoring.  Plus also, the prevalence of side tie linear rather than slips at BC marinas makes things a bit easier.  As long as you don’t have to parallel park in a tight spot.

Turns out this nice shiny American Tug we are hip-to-hip with is only 3 weeks old and on its inaugural cruise.  The owners don’t like the tight fit.  Out of concern over their wide beam, they had previously been assured by marina staff that no other boat would be moored next to them.  We are asked to move over one slip.  Upon acceding, we are told we have some beers coming.  Cool. 

Weather-wise it is a bit dreary at Deer Harbor on this visit.  Not the first time we’ve been here in the rain.  It is a good refuge from the weather destination.  I remember one year with my brother-in-law Troy, Nieces, and Elizabeth when we all went swimming in the pool on a cold rainy day.  I went ahead to the boat and fired up the diesel furnace to get the boat toasty warm for them.  A rare occasion of actually using the furnace in the summer.  This trip we don’t swim.  I took a nice walk with Elizabeth.  She told me more about her summer camp experience at Camp Orkila.  It was supposed to be  sailing session, but it turns out it was a longboat session.  They did a lot of rowing.  Rowing to Sucia, Patos, Matia on a 5 day boat trip.  It sounded different from what we expected, but a grand adventure nonetheless.

Kim is wroth with me over the fact that she asked to have Talking Rain provisioned as a full case from Costco, whereas I had only stocked a measly 6 bottles.  What is she supposed to drink…plain water!?  This complaint is about to become a meme of this cruise.  Deer Harbor lacks any kind of carbonated unsweetened beverage.  They do still stock ground beef from MacDonald Meats, a butcher on a residential street less than a mile from our house in Seattle.  I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere else.


I really like the Deer Harbor showers.  They can sometimes feel a little un-loved:  there is often maintenance equipment being stored in the shower room, and the light bulbs sometimes go without replacement for too long.  But they are totally functional, good hot water, and plenty of time… 6 minutes I think?  Maybe 7.  They are a little unusual in that they run on tokens, purchased at the marina office or store for $2.  Conceptually, this raises a concern that the incremental cost of getting just a little more water is another whole $2, but in reality I think we've all been just fine with the time provided by one token.  While I’ve never tried it, I am pretty sure Deer Harbor belongs on the special list of places where you can anchor and still utilize the pay showers.  I really like the sink, mirror, and counter space in the shower room, and they get extra class points for putting the showers in a completely separate room from the toilets.


Didn’t feel like cooking, so we ate from the store.  Their menu is a bit limited and the food is purely adequate.  I got a chicken wrap with some kind of chipotle mayo spread.  It was OK, and about what I expected based on prior visits.  I’ve never tried the restaurant that is down the road.  We checked it out on a walk once.  I recall it was on the spendy side of things, entrees in the $20 - $30 range.  Needs more research.  Do they have good reviews?  Do they have a kids menu or will they do a kids portion?

In Closing

After dinner I collect on the beer.  I am asked if I would like a lime.  I decline.  I am told it is Corona and therefore must be served with lime.  I accept.  They are from San Francisco.  They will keep the boat up here.  There are tax issues associated with these decisions.  Tomorrow they are planning to pick up a parks buoy at Stuart Island.  They have studied how to complete this task and plan to pick it up from the stern.  They are having a great time and envy us for having ready access to these beautiful cruising waters.  They bemoan the lack of interesting destinations in the Bay area.  Nice folks.  We wish them well!

The weather is supposed to clear up.  We make a further departure from the pro forma itinerary and plan to make the short hop to Poet’s Cove Resort at Bedwell Harbor.  Kim has never been there before.  It has a spa, and a pool.  We can clear customs.  I call and am a little surprised that they do indeed have space for us on a weekend night.  This is a place where I am accustomed to being shut out of on short notice.  I guess the rumors that marinas are having a tough time may be true.  I’m OK with extending the journey up because we have the time for it, and the weather forecast for the Strait of Georgia is all a big null for the next 4 days or so.  Our plan now is Poet’s Cove, then Nanaimo, and then across the Strait of Georgia.  Bing-bam-boom, program a route into OpenCPN, upload to chartplotter, call it a night.

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