May 30, 2022 Day 3: Henry Bay to Port McNeill 144 miles. 353 total miles.
We pulled anchor about 7:30 AM and did a quick drive into Comox to get some fuel. I think this has been the most expensive fuel we’ve gotten. When we first pulled into Comox it seemed like a small fishing town, and it probably is that. But when the kids and I left the fuel dock to go to the bathroom, there was a super nice park, a place for food trucks, and lots of people out walking. I got a little bit of Edmonds vibes from it. Granted a very small, remote fishing village version of Edmonds. Chris didn’t have a good spot to tie up the boat, so we didn’t get to play or explore, but I was very impressed.
In-between Comox and Campbell River our charts quit working, actually, they worked, they just went blank from that area until just before Bella Bella. (Bella Bella is still many many miles and maybe even a few days ahead.) It was actually the worst section for this to happen, but luckily our radar still worked and we downloaded charts on all our devices before we left home. We have actually really liked using the charts on the iPad, but we can’t sync our auto-pilot to our iPad, so it took a lot more work on Chris’ part to navigate us safely.
We stopped at Campbell River for more gas. Campbell River looked like a great town to get some supplies, grab some food, and stretch out. Sadly we did not have time for any of those things so we could time Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait. Seymour Narrows is a lot like Dodd’s Narrows, but I’d say its a more grand scale. It also gets strong tidal currents that can run up to 15 knots. (We drive our boat around 18-20 knots when we are cruising). We timed the narrows near slack and were able to fly through. I do think big boats and lots of traffic can make it even more challenging. Luckily for us we didn’t have much traffic. We did pass a tug boat hauling a big barge with what looked like saw dust through. If you are lucky, or plan better, then you can time Johnstone Strait so you ride the tides, it will give you a boost and help with the fuel economy. Sadly that didn’t work out for us and we got to go against the tides. Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait are one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so beautiful! Just before entering the narrows we did see 2 humpback whales. Since living in the PNW I’ve seen quite a few whales now, but every time I see one I still am mesmerized. Its been fun because this trip Ellen has seen them and really notices them. Its fun to share these moments with my kids. Ryan was even the first person to spot a third humpback whale. That’s always exciting when the kids are first to see a whale.
After Johnstone Strait and before Port McNeill we were able to come into a pod of Pacific White Sided Dolphins. In the PNW we see a lot of harbor porpoise, but they are kind of boring. They notice us and they disappear. The Pacific White Sided Dolphins are not shy and are ready to play! They came and rode the bow for a while and just swam along our boat. The kids were able to go out and watch them. I loved seeing the dolphins, but honestly, seeing how excited and how happy the kids were was a highlight of the trip. I hope when I was a kid, I got this excited so my parents could experience the joy I felt in that moment. If not, I hope they know how much I appreciated all the fun things we did. Some times it can just be really fun to be a parent.
Not only were the dolphins a lot of fun, but the scenery was so stunning. The water glass, the lighting perfect, and the surrounding area was mountains. The reflection on the water was magic. We were even able to see so many otters. Everything about that moment was pure bliss. Definitely a moment we will all treasure.
All that day I had a killer headache (lack of caffeine maybe? lack of sleep? lack of space?) and I had been holding my bladder for a bit so I could use a real toilet when we got into Port McNeill. We got into Port McNeill and it was cold and windy. The gas station didn’t have a bathroom, I was starving, most restaurants were closed or close to closing (at 6:30 PM). We needed to get some groceries. I was just over it in that moment. Isn’t it interesting how a lot of times (not always) one spouse will be feeling pretty lousy, and the other just hops in and takes over and makes everything better and more fun. Well that’s what happened and Chris went above and beyond. We got our groceries. We went to Subway and got food. AND Subway had a bathroom that I used twice! Chris took care of Ellen and helped order and I got to sit and sulk in peace. Chris even ran next door to a Chinese restaurant to get Ryan rice. I’m sorry I don’t have rave reviews about Port McNeill, I’m sure its lovely, I just wasn’t in a lovely mood in that moment. On the way back to our boat a Bald Eagle was perched on a lamp post just above us. We were able to get really close to it. There was even an otter on the dock near the boat. While we got gas at Port McNeill we also bout a reserve gas tank and 5 gallons extra of gas just in case. (We haven’t needed it yet, but we’ve been close!)
We were able to dock at the Port McNeill Marina that night. I made up the beds while Chris walked around with Ellen and he took out the trash. Then he made up his bed and me and the big kids went to bed early. Chris got Ellen to sleep and then he went to bed. He really came through when I was at a low and still made everything feel magic. He used to joke that we would end up hating each other after this trip, and while the trip is still young, so far he is wrong. I love him more. I love the kids more. And I’ve learned I just need a toilet to love a place!
I actually got amazing sleep that night and it was everything I needed to keep going strong on this trip.
Ryan’s Thoughts: We went through Johnstone Strait. I spotted whales and lost all my armor in Minecraft. Then some dolphins went with our boat!!! Then otters otters otters!
Lillian’s Thoughts: Today was an amazing day! First I had a nutella snack pack with breadstick things, then Ryan saw some whales. Then we saw dolphins go with our boat, I thought it would never happen! Then we ate at Subway, delicious! Then we saw an otter on the dock we were tied up to so now we have an otter friend!