Our trip from Sitka to Prince Rupert Canada was all about timing and when it came to time, we treated it with military precision. The 280nm run south from Sitka went to plan perfectly and the weather was, in the main, lovely. The reason time, and timing our arrival at both Dixon Entrance and Prince Rupert was so important has to do with the twenty six foot tides and 6kts currents that generate in this part of the world. The idea of trying to dock Pendana in a 6kt current doesn’t even bare thinking about to be quiet frank.
We arrived at Dixon Entrance at the end of an outgoing tide at around 5:00am and now needed to cover the 115nms that lay ahead in nine hours to make slack water for our arrival in Prince Rupert. That meant our average speed to achieve this needed to be around 11.5kts. I figured, that considering the tide would turn and start to flood (rise) then we would get a serious kick along and our boat speed would increase the closer we got to Prince Rupert, which is precisely what happened! With six hours to run it was decision time, either abandon our attempt to make the 3pm slack water at Prince Rupert or slow down now and wait for the next slack water at 9pm. What we did was continue in the hope that incoming tide would pick up and as such enable us to make slack water. I am glad to say we made it and arrived in Prince Rupert at 2:55pm!
After clearing customs at the Lightering Dock, we were all tied up at the lovely, new, Cow Bay Marina at 3:55pm. Phew, that was close as any more than an hour either side of slack water in this part of the world means one has to deal with some serious currents. There is nothing I hate more than current, so timing is everything in the Pacific North West!
Just a word on clearing customs here in Prince Rupert. You have two choices; either tie up at Prince Rupert Yacht Club (Cow Bay Marina in the process of being approved) and call customs or tie up at the customs Lightering Dock. We chose the Lightering Dock but were given the wrong coordinates by customs and, as such, had to call the local authorities for directions, which I might add, wasted valuable time. Anyway below is a screen grab from Google Earth showing the Lightering Docks location for any who come this way.
Once tied up at the Lightering Dock Canadian Customs were quick to arrive and clear us into Canada. I had heard that Canadian Customs were pretty hard core but as we had followed all the requirements and were not bringing in any food we shouldn’t etc we cleared in no time and found the custom folks here to be first class.
Tides and currents in Prince Rupert are notorious. The (up to) twenty-six foot tides deliver staggering currents up to 6kts in Prince Rupert Harbour with the norm around 4kts so timing arrival in this part of the world is imperative. Even entering the channel to Prince Rupert saw Pendana’s bow get pushed twenty degrees off course simply by the effect of current as the water flowed into the narrow channel.
Below two images show what a sixteen foot tide looks like! That’s one hell of a lot of water that moves into and out of Prince Rupert.
I made a reservation with Marty Bowles, the Cow Bay Marina Manager about six months earlier when this brand new marina was not even finished. Marty to his word had a great spot for us on arrival and was ready when we pulled in with two other guys to help with the lines.
Cow Bay Marina is without any doubt the best marina in town and to be perfectly honest makes the Prince Rupert Yacht Club look decidedly old and run down. With easy access to town, excellent power options, friendly staff, a marina manager who knows what it takes to keep boaties happy, rubbish bins on the dock instead of a half mile away, picture postcard views and free 4G Wi-Fi there really isn’t anything one could ask for. Give Marty a call when you are in the area and try out the new Cow Bay Marina as it really is a great place to stop for a few days.
While we were in Prince Rupert we had heard a lot of good things about Cow Bay Café, a place where a reservation was always required so we made a booking and gave it a shot. Wow… if you are ever in this part of the world then make sure you have a meal at the Cow Bay Café as it was truly superb and very reasonably priced. An authentic Italian inspired menu made me feel like we were back in Milan!
On the other end of the spectrum is a place called Smiles Café. Smiles Café established in 1934 is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, one of the worst places I have been to in living memory. Prince Rupert has abundant fresh fish but this place seems to think that the re heated frozen variety is the way to go. Honestly, disgraceful in every respect. All four meals we ordered were, in a word, pathetic. Sorry, I don’t usually get on my high horse but if I save just one person from eating here then I have done my job.
A few fellow Nordhavn owners heading south after the N2AK rally in Petersburg, came and went during our stay in Prince Rupert! Always good to see a few Nordhavns about!
Neil and Margery on Windflight were lovely and not only did they give me lots of tips on where to go as we headed south but also a tour of N68 Windflight which was amazing. I must say that the N68 looks more like a ninety-footer than a sixty-eight. They are massive boats, no doubt about it! While with Neil and Margery I also raised my concern regarding currents in these parts to which Neil simply said, “On your planned route you only need to be concerned with Seymour Narrows”. He also went onto say that I would get used to seeing my bow being pushed around by the currents in time. Oh great!
Strangely enough, Neil and Margery were the previous owners of N62 Windflight which is now owned by the most amusing Rowley and Bernadette from Australia and is berthed in Bunderberg, Australia. N6236 Windlfight has since been renamed Bee. I understand from Rowley and Bernadette that they are planning to leave on an around the world trip in the near future so watch out guys, more Aussies, with current phobias coming your way!
As is custom we hired a car and drove to a town called Smithers along Highway 16. Little did we know that the highway we were on was famous for all the wrong reasons and is known in these parts as The Highway of Tears!
The Highway of Tears is famous for a series of unsolved murders and disappearances of young women along the 720 km (450 mi) section of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada from 1969 until 2011. Police list the number of Highway 16 victims at nineteen, but estimates by aboriginal organizations range into the forties or fifties. The drive to Smithers was very beautiful and the town itself charming.
We also went to the North Pacific Cannery which was pretty amazing. To see how they used to process fish fifty or so years ago in comparison with how they do it today was incredible.
With the lighting just right I thought a few photos of Prince Rupert and the lovely Cow Bay Marina was called for. Photography is all about lighting!
As most would know fishing on Pendana is banned (even the ‘F’ word shall not be spoken aboard the good ship Pendana), but being given fresh fish isn’t. In the photo below you can see Abi and I in the process of preparing a lovely fresh Salmon for dinner kindly given to us by Marty Bowles who is the Marina Manager at Cow Bay Marina. Thanks Marty it was sensational!
For now our plan is to sit tight as Abi and Claire need to fly to San Francisco shortly. When we booked the flights (which sell out very quickly in this part of the world) we decided to depart Prince Rupert for San Fran, as such, we are here in Prince Rupert a little longer than we would have otherwise chosen. That being said, however, I can tell you there are worst places to be tied up and while Prince Rupert is a small town there is enough to keep us busy and engaged. Once Claire returns from San Fran we will run the famous Inside Passage as we head south, stopping along the way until we reach Vancouver where, if all goes to plan, we will collect Abi as she returns from San Francisco!
Hang on a second, the photo above doesn’t do its size justice, try the two below and yes, that is Pendana in front of Vive La Vie. Always someone with a bigger boat!
For now we will enjoy a few days of R&R and further exploration of what is truly a lovely little spot. It certainly makes a nice change from being at anchor for most of the past seven weeks.