Nanaimo thru Dodds Narrows to Conover Cove

We’ve been to Nanaimo enough times to make it feel like home. We know the anchorage off Newcastle Island and the town itself.

The sail down from Tribune Bay on Hornby Island is one of those sails I’m not particularly proud of, but reality takes precedence over sailing.

We pulled anchor late, about 8.30am, and motored out of the protected bay. The wind was light from the west so we set the 135% and the main (It would pick up, so we did not set the 170%).

We sailed on a very pleasurable close reach for an hour or so averaging about four and a half knots. We’d reach Nanaimo before six.

The wind then died… Not that unexpected. Jennifer’s wind app predicted 7 knots from the southwest, Environment Canada predicted 10-20 building to 15-25. We can sail in Environment Canada’s predicted weather, reefing as the wind builds. The waves in the Strait of Georgia would be the question, if those winds did in fact show up. I hadn’t thought too much about the waves, but the direction would be the real determining factor, as we would learn.

After motoring for about an hour the winds did return, and Environment Canada was the correct forecaster this time.

The wind showed up at about 15 knots, which is on the edge of reefing. We close hauled, and had a good time, however, two things were against us: course made good to Nanaimo was probably around two knots because we were tacking to windward – we wouldn’t get there until after nine at this rate – and the waves were building, which makes the trip uncomfortable, and decreases our progress even more.

About 1 pm, we did the arithmetic and decided we’d motor the rest of the way.

The engine now starts reliably and easily after we bleed the air from the fuel lines. It is just part of the routine.

We motored, taking the waves on the port bow, and then ducked behind the islands east of Vancouver Island hiding from the increasingly tall, short chop.

Around six pm, the waves started to lay down and the wind dropped. We watched a traditional sloop on a beam reach start out across the strait.

The anchorage at Newcastle Island was crowded but after a few false starts we anchored safely in thick mud.

Getting south along the east side of Vancouver Island without sailing in the strait requires going through Dodd’s Narrows. We traverse narrows all the time without any problems, and had no problems this time either. It’s all a matter of going through at slack water – either high or low tide.

Narrows, like Dodd’s, are remarkably short. Somehow in my mind’s eye, I always see them as long runs. Typically, like Dodd’s, they are short, a hundred yards or two: the entire event is over in a couple of minutes. Dodd’s doesn’t have a very fast flow, less than seven knots. The crazy ones have flows of twelve or more.

On this trip we have generally traversed rapids and narrows virtually alone. It is the end of the summer and everyone is heading south, whether to the states or to Vancouver.

The activity reminds me of going to a concert: We decide on our own to pull anchor and start on our way. As we get underway we notice other boats have done the same or are in the process. The crowd grows as we get closer.

The powerboats in easy narrows like Dodd’s don’t wait for full slack but power through – in other narrows even at slack there is enough current to twist any boat sideways and every one waits.

A boat or two will make a securité announcement – yep, it is french, just like the actual phrase the Mayday comes from the French “m’aider”, a shortened version of ‘‘veneer m’aider’’ (meaning ‘‘come and help me’’) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayday – then we all single file through. The security call is something like, ‘‘This is the sailing vessel Caro Babbo. We will be traversing Dodd’s Narrows from the north in approximately five minutes. Any opposing or concerned traffic please contact us on channel 16. Caro Babbo standing by on 16.’’

In the upper rapid by Quadra Island, we have twice been passed by powerboats mid-rapids and each time the other boat has slewed sideways less than half a boat length from us. It is unnerving and seems dangerous.

On the trip from Nanaimo to Conover Cove, Environment Canada and our wind app agreed there would be no wind and they were right.

The ‘‘Store’’ where boats leave drift wood with their name on it. Very Gilligan’s Island and quite cool.
The ‘‘Store’’ where boats leave drift wood with their name on it. Very Gilligan’s Island and quite cool.

We motored down to Conover Cove, which is many people’s favorite spot. People name their boats after Conover Cove. We found the dock nearly empty. By 1 pm we were the only people on the dock. By nine pm it was full.

Full dock in Conover Bay
Full dock in Conover Bay

Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

2 thoughts on “Nanaimo thru Dodds Narrows to Conover Cove”

  1. So once again, almost cut off by a hot-rodder in the narrows.

    Its so reassuring that there are some few power boat drivers
    (I won’t dignify them with the term “skipper”) who are just
    as rabid as a few automobile drivers.

    I so miss being on board! Good winds for the remainder
    of this season’s journey.

    1. Erwin, a tour boat operator in Shearwater, who is also a sailor, told Jennifer that he thought paint ball guns were sadly underused in such situations by sailors.

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