Bruce Armstrong's 2003 Trip to Canada: A Tolman Skiff Standard Adventure
For those interested in distance boating/camping, this will be a quickie review of my
recent trip to the waters between Campbell River and Port Hardy; the northern half of
300mile long Vancouver Island. The road runs north along the island to Port Hardy
but the mainland is roadless with grizzlies and black bears common in the deep
inlets (Knight,Kingcome,Seymour) and all communites running on generator power.
Unlike my trip last year in the lower Vancouver Island area, this trip was all camping .
. . . no cabins or motels. The main waterways are Queen Charlotte Sound which
opens to the Pacific and Johnstone Strait which is a 60m long, narrow channel that
seperates the Island from the the mainland and is subject to wild weather shifts and
heavy ship travel heading southbound to Vancouver/Seattle.
The main challenge to a California boater is the 12' tides and violent currents running
throughout the area. Tides ebb and flood from the approximate center of Vancouver
Island at Seynour Narrows and Yucaltat Rapids, slack at both points lasting about 11
minutes. Neil Frazier (author of the small boating book about the Queen Charlottes)
is a real expert in the area and assured me that my hull/horsepower combo would
permit me to run anything in the area if I 1: used the kickout dirrection of the
whirlpools to propel me thru and 2: didn't look into the center of the whirlpools on
the way thru. On the last day we did run Yucaltat and Hole-in-the-Wall well after
slack and it was thrilling...no pictures, but i couldn't resist looking down into one of
the whirlpools....lots of floaters! No Nordic Tugs need apply!
We were on the water for eight days and covered about 520 miles....we tied up at
docks each night, not because we didn't want to anchor in remote spots (which are
both wonderful and numerous) but because we wanted to get off the boat and at least
walk up and down the dock....many spots appealing to private boaters are built on
floating docks with no access to land but at least you can streach....we left from
Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island and the place was swarming with salmon
fisherman.....up the Inlets and Island complexes on the mainland side outboard
powered boats gave way to bigger cruisers and sail boats, many on the way to/from
Alaska. By and large, the sail boat folks are more knowledgable and friendly than are
the cruiser couples, most of whom had pet dogs and potted plans aboard...RV types
and none would engage my wife in conversation....too busy with their warerobes and
planning the night's cocktail parties aboard....the men running these big boats were
interested in the fact that I'd built my boat and amazed that my wife would put up
with Tolman accomodations.......sail boat folks, however, were much more friendly
and seemed better water people as a hole...generalization, i know, but that's what it
We were in some bad water and well offshore once, mixing it with big cruise ships
and draggers......thoughts of dry suits and Yamaha reliability were apparently going
thru our minds at the same time, but we experienced absolutely no mechanical
problems. The two additions to the boat since last summer (color 182C Garmin gps
with local chip & the Floscan) made a huge difference in our confidence (not to
mention the spare 6Gal gas can under the seat) and all I've had to do upon returning
is to clean the boat and gear, call for the 100hour Yamaha service and change the oil
in the Dodge/Cummins.
Given the new gauges, I can say positively that the Tolman gets 5mpg overall.....no
fibbing......best situation on glassy, slack water: 4000rpms/4.25gph/24mph...and
this with a very heavy boat.....i found myself looking at the Floscan all the time since
the fuel usage went from 4gph to 5gph with a change from 20mph to 24mph......and
i wasn't in a hurry so i drove the boat by the Floscan without realizing it....the Yamaha
used NO oil but the oil did change color day to day....it was working. There is far less
crap in the water this late in the season than in the spring and I took no prop
hits....the plastic prop continues to amaze and it's good to know i had four spare
prop blade aboard in case I lost a blade.
Steve will put up a bunch of pictures tonight if he gets a chance...on the offsite
address. None of the titles went with the pictures so get in touch with me if you want
details or would like to see other pictures.....I took hundreds.....I'd promised to go
fishing but couldn't stop boating...new stuff around every corner, but next year we
are going to take a day off the water for every three days on....I was exhausted by the
time i got the boat on the trailer and headed south.....standing, even in smoothe
conditions, wears you down and we both were on guard all the time for
floaters.......the trip south was made easy by the torque of the Dodge.....I'm in love
with the thing.
Get to building because there's no place within reason, you can't go in a Tolman.