[No photo here, but the background of this blog page is approximately the scenery for the first few hours of the day].
Staring out into yet another day of foggy, smoky grayness, we wondered whether WX’s forecast for a Strong Wind Warning in Queen Charlotte Strait was going to amount to anything (or, as with the trip over, amount to something more!). Backing away from the dock at Echo Bay and nosing into the zero visibility and zero wind in Fife Sound for another morning on fog watch, I wondered how Fife Sound got its name. Fifes are shrill little flutes, and I figured that on a dead-calm morning like this, someone playing one on one promontory could probably be heard from the other promontory clear across the channel. You know what’s coming: “The fife sound could be heard all over Fife Sound”. And of course, the end of Fife Sound is marked by Duff Islet and Duff Point. Which presumably is where we might be expected to get off our collective duffs and start getting some sailing in. Right?
As it happened, Duff Point was where one spotty bar of cell data coverage kicked back in, enabling me to check the online version of Walbran’s BC Coast Names, and learn that the reality is much more prosaic: Captain Vancouver named it after James Duff, Second Earl of Fife. Bummer, but that’s expected. Another bummer: the pea-soup fog and no wind continued on until we were mostly across the Strait, which made it a splendid morning to catch up on reading (appropriately in my case, a couple of back issues of Gray Magazine), punctuated by listening to radio traffic on Channel 16, heavily featuring the voice of the Victoria Coast Guard.
If you’ve sailed in this area over the last few years, you probably miss (as I do) the particular pleasure of listening to one of the Comox Coast Guard Radio ops, who over the clipped sound of VHF 16, always had that cool, steady, classic vodka-and-cigarettes “late night radio” feel to his voice. Turns out that voice has a name: Ed Tickner, and although he retired a few years back, he made a visit to Comox Coast Guard Radio on the day Comox Coast Guard Radio went off the air last year and gave the final broadcast. How appropriate!
When the fog finally lifted, the wind came up as well, and having been able to make a straight-line course most of the way to the Masterman Islets just outside Port Hardy, we figured we had a few hours to kill…and there was a 6-8 knot breeze on our nose. Up went the sails, and we proceeded to do about 3 to 4 knots, close hauled, until the wind came up to 12 knots outside the entrance to Port Hardy, allowing us to zoom along at 7 knots and practice the particular 2-person dance of efficiently tacking a cutter rig with running backstays short-handed (the steps are: person 1 heads to windward side, dumps running backstay and loads yankee sheet; person 2 does the ‘two-finger salute’ to have the autopilot tack, while sliding leeward to dump the yankee sheet off the winch and loading the running backstay onto the winch and, in our case, adjusting the main traveller to put a bit of twist into the upper part of the main to keep it from luffing). While we’d have loved to keep this up for a few hours, we were getting close enough to the entrance to Port Hardy to pull the whole thing down, dock, and prepare to return back to Vancouver tomorrow after an excellent long weekend’s trip!