The Hard Voyage North
(continued)

Uncharted Regions

As Maggie progressed further northward, the charts contained less and less information. Important depth readings, or the proper approaches to anchorages were often entirely missing. The coastline, which further south had been dotted with villages, became mostly wilderness. It was mid-August--after more than two weeks at sea-when Maggie made Bull Harbor, where Ron wrote the following entry in his log, "Here we are at the jump off to infinity." His description was appropriate, for as one travels northward along the British Columbian coastline, the continuous run of channels and waterways is broken at Bull Harbor. Beyond, wind and rain lashed the open seas of the pacific, the next leg of the journey--less dangerous for its open seas and deep water, but not without its own three-story-high perils.

Maggie stood well out to sea, avoiding the thrashing bedlam where the Pacific’s 30 foot rollers crashed onto Hannah Reef. Even so, the ocean proved kinder than the inner channels he had just traveled and recharted. One evening, for instance, a brilliant moon illuminated the coastline and the wind rose from a favorable angle and Ron settled the yacht onto a long port reach. In near perfect conditions for maximum speed, Maggie drove forward at ten to twelve knots, sometimes surfing along the breaking seas--"the wind sharp, the moon huge, the waves restless."

Further north, however, as he returned to the inland passage of the British Columbia coastline, navigation was all the more tedious and threatening, especially at night. Whereas today’s yachtsman in these waters might always have several lighted buoys or markers constantly in sight to guide him, Ron had to feel his way along, running through blackness and tide rips. It was a nerve-wrenching affair, comparing the dark silhouettes of land to the chart when possible, and guessing at the point where dark sea met shoreline.

"These reaches and passages are long, narrow passes, wild and deep and straight," he wrote. "The sharp, unmapped scarps march in column on either side, some of them glacier-chilled and frosted with snow, most of them ragged with slides and mighty with cliffs."

In fact, the coastline now provided no shelter at all, and Maggie was literally forced to press on without a break. Anchoring was impossible as the beachless shoreline fell away as steeply as the mountains rose.



The Magician’s Log





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