Harrison Lake, BC Cruise Report

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Harrison Lake, BC Cruise Report

Postby jeffd » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:42 am

I have been wanting to sail Harrison Lake, BC for a while. I heard the summer heating pattern creates a very nice consistent 10-15+ knot southerly wind, starting about noon and lasting till sunset. And the lake is very long - the route I drew was 33 miles! I was hoping to spend a few days up there, but the best I could do this summer was to do it in one marathon day. So I left home (Renton) about 7am on a Thursday morning (Aug 9, 2012), drove through the I-405 morning traffic, made a few stops, including 15 minutes at the Canadian border (Sumas), and finally made it to the Harrison Lake pubic boat ramp at 11:20am (I don't drive very fast - 20 year old tow vehicle and 20 year old trailer. Mapquest estimates 3.5 hours driving). It was very nice - sunny, and warm. Not too much wind yet - at least at the dock. I paid my launch fee ($20 Canadian), rigged the boat and prepared to launch. The attendant warned me of the overhead power lines nearby. The parking lot is pretty big. The launch has two lanes and a dock. It wasn't very busy on a Thursday - not sure what it's like on a weekend.

Here's the track of my cruise on a Map: The run northward is to the west of Echo Island (the southern island) and then up the east side of Long Island, all the way to the north, where I dropped the spinnaker, and beat up the west side of Long Island (the Island to the north - the long one!). After reaching the south end of Long Island, I decided it was time to motor - so I could pull the boat out before dark. I motored around the east side of Echo Island, and back to the dock.

Harrison Lake Cruise Track:

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After motoring away from the dock, I could feel the southerly wind on my back. So off goes the motor, and up goes the main and the spinnaker. The knot meter on the GPS quickly jumps to 4.5 knots. A warm, spinnaker run - now this is living! Here's a view looking back, south, towards the dock and the town of Harrison Lake, and the mountains in the background.

Harrison Lake, sailing north, looking south

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And here is a view looking north - with more spectacular mountains. The water was clear and blue, and cold! As I headed north, the wind was building, and the knot meter was heading up into the 5's. And it was warm - in the low 80's. Now this is my kind of sailing!

Views to the north

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As you can see, the scenery was spectacular, and the sailing was great - well, at least it was great in this direction! There was evidence of development and logging here and there, but much of the shoreline and area was undeveloped. I did see some active logging on Long Island as I passed on the east side. I saw a few waterfalls in the distance too. At 4:45 pm, starting to see whitecaps. While surfing downwind at 5.4 kts I saw peaks of 5.8 kts.

Running north

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As I approached the north end of Long Island, I decided it was time to end my long run. I saved the track of the run only, to capture the statistics - 15.2 NM run, 3 hr 42 minutes, average speed 4.2 knots, maximum speed 5.7 knots. It was a spectacular spinnaker run - its been a while since I've had a good long run like that! (the ones that come to mind are Princess Louisa Inlet, and Alberni Inlent) But all good spinnaker runs must come to and end, so I took the chute down, put up the jib and prepared for the beat up the west side of Long Island. As I rounded the north end of Long Island, I noticed a Navaid, and a very nice little bay, labeled Snug Cove on the chart. No development, so it might be a nice overnight anchorage. Here's a view to the south, before I rounded the top of Long Island:

View to the South, near Long Island

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By this time, whitecaps were forming. Time for a reef! No photos on the beat - I had my hands full sailing the boat upwind. The winds were strong, with some shifts and gusts, but the sailing was great. As I was beating down the west side, I did see more development on the mainland shore, and a few cabins on Long Island. I purposely sailed a bit close to the large bay on the west side, about halfway down - I wanted to check out the bay, as a possible overnight anchorage on a future trip. There was a small powerboat beached on the beach, with a group of people camping on the beach, but I did not see any cabins or houses or signs of development. Good! This might be a good place to spend the night on another trip. The Fish 'n Map chart names the bay Long Island Bay, and shows depths of 5-20 feet - and it looked pretty sheltered in there. Alas, I had to continue beating to the south. Wish I could have taken some photos, but the wind was strong enough that I didn't want to let go of the helm and the mainsheet for very long. There was quite a bit of chop, kind of wet, splashy sailing - I guess it's payback time for a great run.

After reaching the south end of Long Island around 6:30 pm, I did some quick calculations - lets see, the GPS says 12 miles to the dock, and so if I motor at 5.5 knots, I can make it back in time to pull out before dark. So I take the sails down and motor full speed back to the dock. I decide to motor down the east side of Echo Island - since I already sailed up the west side, and the east side is a bit shorter. The dock attendant mentioned there is a nice waterfall "Rainbow Falls" up the bay to the east of Long Island, but I'll have to save that for another trip. I crank the 8hp Honda to full, and it delivers 6.1 knots on the GPS. Good! At this rate, I'll be at the dock by 8pm.

Motoring back, cutting inside Echo Island

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I'm racing to get back to the dock before dark, but I am lucky to catch a bit of the sunset, as I am racing back to the dock at full speed. The wind is still blowing pretty strong. I am glad I have an autopilot. I can set the autopilot to steer a compass heading, then I can duck inside, and avoid the spray. I just have to glance outside every once in a while to make sure I'm not going to hit something!


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Even after sunset, the views are spectacular. The colors come alive!

After Sunset, looking north

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Here's a shot of the marina, as I motor by, heading for the boat ramp. Yes, I slowed down a bit as I motored by - no wake!

Harrison Lake Marina

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Here's a shot of the boat ramp - 2 lanes, fairly long dock, and even a gas dock for those gas hungry powerboats. I think I used maybe 1 gallon of gas today. I made it back to the dock by 8:15 pm.

Harrison Lake Boat Ramp, from the water

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No one at the dock when I pulled up. As I was motoring, I was de-rigging, so all that was left to do was to drop the mast, stow everything, and tie things up. I did get out before dark, but just barely, and it was getting dark fast. I managed to get everything buttoned up and left Harrison Lake around 9pm. The border wait was very short. I got a bit of gas for the van in Everett. I was home by 1am.

Total Trip: 33.8 Nautical Miles, Duration: 7 hours 56 minutes. 1.9 hours motoring. Average Speed 4.3 knots

The map above does not show the whole lake. It just shows the part I sailed. Here is a Google Earth map, showing my track, and the whole lake. As you can see, I sailed less than half of the lake. There is a whole lot more lake to explore. At the far north end of the lake, there is a canal that leads to Little Harrison Lake and Port Douglas. Someday, I'd like to sail and motor all the way up there.

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