A Travellerspoint blog

Princess Louisa Inlet

sunny 78 °F

Nanaimo Marina: 49 11.314 N 123 56.834 W
Pender Harbour: 49 37.914 N 124 01.616 W
Princess Louisa Inlet: 50 12.064 N 123 46.027 W
Egmont: 49 56.451 N 123 56.344 W

As Olaf said to Bjorn, we’re all Norwegian now! Carol had read that the Princess Louisa Inlet is only true fjord in North America. If true, it was done once and it was done exactly right, end of discussion. If Norway has anything better to offer, that’s where I want my ashes sent.

The trip here was interesting if for nothing other than the place names:

  • Agamemnon Reach, brother to Menelaus, married to Helen who was abducted by Paris. Pretty much the entire Iliad.
  • Exiting the Agamemnon, we passed through Jervis inlet to enter the Prince of Wales Reach.
  • About 2/3’s of the way there the Prince of Wales Reach became the Royal Princess Reach.
  • Finally, at the end of the Royal Princess Reach, a left-hand turn took the us onto Queen’s Reach which brought us to the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet.
  • Princess Louisa Inlet.
  • The sole discordant note of the place names: Malibu Rapids. It sounds like a skateboard park for teenagers.

We both awoke early, about, 530. Having a long trip in front of us and nothing better to do, we were underway at 0610. The dock master had put us on a long dock, bow in with little room to maneuver. The solution was simple: walk the boat back to the end of the dock, i.e. me on the dock holding two mooring lines and Carol on the helm. At the end of the dock, I jumped onto the boat and we were in a position to make some moves in reverse, getting the bow properly oriented to exit Pender Harbour.

By 0650 we were in the Agamemnon channel; by 0840 we had entered the Prince of Wales reach. The data showed that we should have fighting an ebbing tide, e.g. the water was moving in the opposite direction of our route of travel. I expected to make about 5.0 knots against the current; we averaged about 6.5 knots which put us several hours ahead of schedule foe the right tide at Malibu Rapids.


At about 1030 I felt something familiar but could not quite identify it. Then it hit me: a breeze, not to be confused with actual wind, but air movement none the less. We were making great time, too good in fact, so sailing seemed like a good way to delay our arrival time. Well, that lasted about 30 minutes before the sails were safely returned to their furled storage positions. On our boat I estimated that we needed at least 7 knots to move the boat; on this bigger and heavier vessel it probably requires about 10 knots. For the two days that we have been underway the surface of the water has not been disturbed by any air movement.

Every part of the 360o view along the several reaches was simply majestic. The problem was that I was tethered to the console, looking down or across the bow to try to rationalize the chart plotter to the actual landscape. There was little of stopping to smell the flowers.


Along the way we checked out designated anchoring spots, of which there are few; this was mostly for me to get close to the shoreline so that I could better understand what bottom contours should look like. It’s beginning to make some sense to me but we’re still in the book learning phase; we have not yet started our practical application of the book learning.


Were on station to enter Malibu Rapids by about 1420, which my tide tables said was the maximum flow. We nosed toward the channel to check out the current and to get a look at what the charts indicated was some complicated geography. When we got close, I didn’t even have to move the helm; the current was so strong that it pushed the bow aside in the direction we wanted to go.

I had researched the tides for Malibu Rapids on the internet and we carried those tables with us on the boat. Along the route to the rapids the chart plotter showed a tide station. So, I checked that out too. The tide station put low tide at 1648; my tables had the tide turning from ebbing to flooding at 1813. What to believe? (after note: the only explanation that fits: the tide stations were reporting standard time not Daylight Savings Time. Throw in the extra hour and everything works.)


We put the boat in the middle of the Queens Reach, shut off the motor and waited a couple of hours. At about 1700 we cranked everything up to check out that data point. The good news was that the tide was ebbing so we could see what was going on at the exit point. We have some experience of reading currents. When fast water meets slower or still water the surface gets very choppy. The 1648 estimate was wrong. So, assuming that the 1813 was when the water would start flowing the other way, it seemed that there would be a short period of slack water, no current. We came back to the rapids entrance at 1740. If the current was not dead still, it was attenuated, so in we went on a boating slalom course. Fortunately for us, the tricky bit was less than ½-mile.


The farmer was wrong; you really can get here from there. It took maybe 30-minutes to get the end of the fjord. Nice surprise! There are several mooring balls here, many of which we empty. So, we moored, and Carol’s comment was that we could sleep well without worrying anchors holding. There is no fee for using these mooring balls; the only restriction is an honor system limiting the stay to 72-hours. This may not be the end of the civilized world but there cannot be much happening to the east of us until Calgary.

There are three larger boats on mooring balls; maybe ten smaller boats tied to a pier. Since we were moving on a Sunday, I expected to see a lot of boat traffic heading the other way. Not so.

Life on the boat is going well, so far. I continue to try to concuss myself by bashing my head against solid parts of the boat; no sense has been knocked in yet. Carol has found spaces and places to store her treasures and our food. I don’t know if it is possible to actually settle in on a charter boat as opposed to an owner’s boat. But we are fairly comfortable and somewhat organized.

Another role bifurcation: on the boat I do most of the top side stuff; Carol does most of the below deck stuff.

I was listening the weather report on the VHF radio, no hearing aids in. I was having a very hard time; the sound volume was there but I could not understand the words. Bingo! The weather is given in both English and French and I had tuned in to the French portion.

I had thought that the running rigging for the furling main would be the same as what we had on our boat. Mostly true. There is some sort of a looped line for taking the main in and out. Not complicated, just different, and there is no apparent benefit from that difference that I can see.

So, here we are, trapped in paradise. When asked where we live, I usually make mention of the mountains. In truth, part of the height comes from the Appalachian Mountain being on a plateau. Here, I think that we would be laughed at. These mountains rise 5,000 feet from the water’s edge. It is a literal statement that we are moored in the shadow of a snow-covered mountain. It would be an interesting compare and contrast exercise; the Bahamas and this fjord, two incredibly beautiful places that share little of what makes each of them so beautiful; maybe it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

As Texas Slim once said: this is not my first rodeo. To wit, I turned on the computer this morning and the battery level was 50%, seemingly not possible because I always have plugged in when I use it. Our phones and Kindles also didn’t charge overnight. My first thought was that I might not have seated the plug into the socket properly. Different combinations of adaptors, cords and devices. No power from the single DC outlet. Joshua Slocum did pretty well without all of this stuff; I could but chose not to do so.

Out came the screwdriver; in a minute or two I had opened the electrical panel, which is more complicated than ours was. It wasn’t too difficult to locate the two wires going to the socket. One of those wires had an inline fuse in a moisture proof holder. Opened it up, voila, mystery solved. The fuse’s filament was burned out with no replacements on board. Carol, being Carol, hailed a passing dinghy from a very big boat, Single Malt. The two guys in the dinghy took me to their boat, rummaged around a bit, and gave me two replacement fuses, and then took me back to our boat. It only took a couple of minutes to re-open the panel and to put the new fuse into the holder. All is now good, maybe at least for a while.

Carol and I loaded the dinghy with its motor and went for a walk about on the maintained trails. It was almost impossible to take a picture due to the pervasive mist in the air. This boat and ours both have/had 8 Hp motors weighing about 80-lbs, or so. It was not a big deal. We had visited the Olympic peninsula in Washington last trip. Blind-folded and turned loose I could not have told the difference between the two.


The weather, so far, has been wonderful, if not sunny. The barometer is reading 31.5 inHg, a high pressure that usually means clear skies and cooler weather. We have been very comfortable and appreciate what we have been given.


Things were so nice that Carol wanted dinner in the cockpit; it was a good dinner, Carol having put some effort into it. On the mainland, the food would probably been called pedestrian at best. In this tableau, who cares about the food; the view, hard to absorb that we were sitting there with this as the background motif for a meal. I have done more things and been in more places than most people. With my experience there is always the possibility of becoming jaded: been there, done that. I hope that I will always be able recognize and to appreciate the gifts being served to we two.

Teddy Roosevelt created the National Park Service about a century ago. I am not a big fan of big government. However, preserving the pristine beauty of these places for all that can reach them seems to me important. I would go to the barricades to prevent them from being sold to the highest bidder.


The falls are called Chatterbox Falls, the name’s etymology nowhere mentioned and probably forgotten. One way to describe the falls is that there may be a dozen smaller falls on the mountain face, that come together as one. Each white trace on the rock face is an individual stream. All told there may have been 20 separate streams around the inlet.

The trip back from the inlet was almost a disaster. New boat, to us anyways, so fuel consumption and the vagaries of the fuel gauge were not known to us. The gauge seemed to go from 1/2 to 1/4 in about 15 minutes. It didn't stay there very long seeming to be in a hurry to get to 1/8. So there we sat, waiting for the right tide to get through Malibu Rapids and not enough fuel to make it to the nearest fuel dock. By the way, no VHF and no cell signal. We were majorly f_______d! As the saying goes: God watches out for idiots and small children. When things were looking really bad a miracle occurred: a glimmer of a breeze. Off went the motor and out went the sails. It was slow going at first, maybe 3 knots or so, and we had to keep tacking from one side of the reach to the other. Out tacks started off embarrassingly bad; we dropped almost all of our speed until we got the sails re-trimmed and the new course corrected. We got a little better at tacking and the breeze got a little brisker. All of a sudden we were running 4.5 to 6.5 knots, almost motor cruising speed. A very dark day turned out to be a wonderful experience: sailing and having fun doing it.

It is ironic to me that the two best pure sailing events we have had, this one included, were when we were out of all other options save sailing. The other event was in the Bahamas at Devil's Cay.

We made the marina in Egmont with plenty of daylight and moored there. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we are heading north for Desolation Sound. We will have to be smarted about fuel usage but the best miles per gallon will be under sail.

Posted by sailziveli 18:59 Archived in Canada Tagged boats sea canada cruising sailboats salish

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