March 11, 2011 Philip Inlet to Fancy Cove

Last night we were shaken out of bed at 1am by a wind squall.  I checked the boat’s position at anchor and tuned into the radio to get a weather report.  Suddenly, a voice crackled through the static:

“A strong earthquake has taken place in the Pacific Basin near Japan.  It is believed that a low-level tsunami has been generated… Areas along the central BC coast are affected… Begin evacuating marinas, low-lying areas, and remote inlets immediately.”

Needless to say, Kelsey and I were instantly wide awake!!!  Tsunami!  Here we were, in a remote, low-lying inlet on the central BC coast…  The entrance to Philip Inlet, I found upon entering, was way shallower than charted, and also charted incorrectly with a few rocky surprises.  I didn’t want to hazard running the boat aground in a squall in the black of night, in a tight rocky channel.  I also figured that the amount of water that could shoot through the entrance to the inlet during a tsunami would more likely give us a quick “elevator ride” in the anchorage, and not a devastating wall of water.  Ahh… the choices.  In the end, I decided to risk staying put and facing a potential surge.  A strange satisfaction came over me that if the shit really did hit the fan, a tsunami would be just about the classiest way to end my sailing career!  Nothing ever did happen to us, though, but I sure lost a lot of sleep!  We’re out of touch with the rest of the world, no FM radio signals or anything, so we’ll just have to see what really did happen when we reach civilization.

This morning was pouring rain, and after the loss of sleep during the night, we napped through the first daylight hours.  The wood stove sat cold after going out during the night, but it was nice and toasty under the covers!  Forecast: winds SE 30-40 kts, Rain.  Stoically, Kelsey and I rose up and donned our foul weather gear.  We set up the main with a double reef and sailed from Philip Inlet and out into Fitz Hugh Sound.  I found another rock in the uncharted entrance, and my heart almost came out of my mouth when the depth sounder indicated 5 feet, 4 inches deep, and I saw a big white rock slide under the boat in the murky brown water.  Our keep draws 5 feet, so we only had 4 inches to spare!  Once again, this confirmed my good decision to stay put last night.  This morning the tsunami alert was still in effect, so we called our sail the  “morning evacuation” of Philip Inlet, and we made for the 1,000 plus foot deep waters of Fitz Hugh Sound.  All day long we had a wonderful following wind and sea.  The rain even stopped, and we sailed the day under a low gray sky, filtered sunlight hitting snow-blasted mountain peaks all around.  Fitz Hugh Sound gave the aura of a polar landscape as we hissed along at 5-6 knots.  We never did get the 40 knot winds that were expected.  Are the Canadians just over-reactionary about weather events?  Tsunamis, 40 knot gales–all of this we never saw!  I was very thankful for our present conditions, and “Privateer” balanced nicely downwind with full jib and double-reefed main.  We sailed straight up the middle of the sound, and near the end of the run we could look back way off, and see where the day’s sail began, at the base of some distant mountains.  It was beautiful.  At the top end of Fitz Hugh, before turning off into Lama Passage–almost as a gift–we were joined by a dozen of dolphins for an hour or so.  It is incredible to sit on the bowsprit platform and watch them swim just 2 feet below you!  I like to think that some of these dolphins are the same ones that greeted “Silent Partner” into Fitz Hugh Sound back in 2003.

In Lama Pass we quickly doused all sail as we tucked into Fancy Cove for the night tonight.  The rain has started up again as the first blue puffs of smoke came out our stack, and we’re warming up down below after another bout of luck with perfect timing!

**note: we didn’t learn about the terrible Japan tsunami until we reached Shearwater several days later.

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