Jeff supervises and installs electronics for Sea Wide Marine in Newport Beach, CA. Sea Wide frequently works closely with Offshore West in the commissioning of our new boats.
During the last week of June, I had the privilege of joining Michael Kaplan aboard North Star II, his Offshore 62 Flushdeck. We traveled the length of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, cruising from Sidney to Port Hardy. His new captain, Dewey Jack, was also aboard. North Star II was sold and commissioned in the spring of 2008. She was then immediately shipped to Ft. Lauderdale, where she spent 12 months exploring the East Coast, cruising to Maine and back.
In April of 2009, Michael shipped her to Sidney, BC. Originally, he had wanted the new Furuno NavNet 3D equipment (full-time 3D chart rendering and instant, seamless chart handling with no lag or loading time), but it was not going to be available in time to meet the departure date for Florida, so he installed a single Navnet vx2 system. After the boat arrived in Sidney, we removed the vx2 system and installed a dual NavNet 3D package (for those readers who like tech talk, this package included both 12kW and 6 kW digital radars, dual processors, dual GPS antennas, a digital fish finder, and Sirius satellite weather, all part of an integrated network utilizing Ethernet technology and interfaced to both his AIS system and computer). Then, to bring them up to speed on the operation of the new systems, Michael invited me to accompany him and Captain Dewey on their BC voyage. I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, but I would be seeing it on a very comfortable, spacious, and beautifully equipped Offshore (and I should know about the “beautifully equipped” part).
The most memorable event of our first day underway was near Lasqueti Island on the northern end of the Strait of Georgia. A Navy skiff came alongside asking us to make a 90 degree turn to the left and travel 2 miles before continuing on our original course. In the distance we could see several Navy vessels. The largest was a destroyer from which we could see a tow line. We surmised they must be conducting some type of towed array sonar tests. No argument, we turned.
We overnighted in April Point because we intended to transit through the Seymour Narrows on a slack tide at 7 AM the following morning. We awoke to a somewhat daunting solid fog and basically zero visibility. Due to currents of up to 15 knots, everyone, even commercial traffic, tries to transit on a slack tide. Needless to say, between the zero visibility and the generous serving of local traffic, our attention to the radars, AIS, and chart plotters was unwavering. Michael, who was at the helm, and I both have aviation in our backgrounds. After we were clear of the narrows, I commented that he was now IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) certified. Having had our eyes glued to the monitors for the last hour, we all had a good laugh.
Of course, the fog then burned off almost immediately, and rest of the day was absolutely gorgeous as we made our way to Port McNeill. You just plain have to see this region with your own eyes to appreciate the awesome scenery. You are traveling through fjords with cliffs and forest on each side. Every turn brings something new, and you’re afraid to leave the helm in fear of missing something. The other thing that’s really neat is that it’s all basically protected from the open ocean weather. You can travel for days without getting any saltwater on the windshield. That evening, we anchored out at Port McNeill.
Our last day underway took us to Port Hardy, which has a lot of commercial fishing boats and a couple canneries. These are resilient, hardy folks, so the name is appropriate. And, if you want to see bald eagles, this is the place for it as they are everywhere. For me, Port Hardy was the end of the line. I wish I could have continued on, but it was time to get back to that little thing called a job. Since I left her, North Star II has traveled as far north as Juneau (her home port) and Glacier Bay and is now making her way to Marina Del Rey, CA, where she will spend the winter before heading south on her next voyage. It has been an epic first adventure, and as Michael said, “After 5000 miles on the East Coast and a summer in Alaska, North Star II is performing better the ever.”
The Northwest really is a great cruising area, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. If you haven’t been there before, it’s easy to be intimidated by the navigation, currents, weather, etc., but with a little planning, there is nothing to be afraid of. Take your time, watch your charts, and have fun. We saw five or six other Offshores on the trip, which only reinforced my belief that Offshore owners use their boats as much or more than any other group of owners. I personally enjoyed the navigation. It was great experience to be able to see and use all of the electronics I install in a “real world” situation. To say the least, it was a very different experience than navigating a test run to Catalina. I certainly look forward to having another such opportunity and would again like to thank Michael for being such a fun and gracious host.