The Canadian Gulf Islands are lovely, but a bit crowded even in early June, long before high cruising season really starts. We had a slow sail up the islands from Bedwell Harbour to Silva Bay, where we would jump across Georgia Strait the next day, pending good weather.
As it turned out we had a lovely NW 15-20 knots and had a swift close reach across the strait the next day, stopping over at Secret Cove near Texada Island for the night. The next day we powered in the windless air up to Garden Bay in Pender Harbour where we were to decide our next destination. Summer was in full bloom on the Sunshine Coast, as we enjoyed 85 degree days here, showers ashore and cold beer on the deck of the restaurant overlooking our anchorage. As we sat in the cockpit in the sunshine, we finally felt the hurrying pace we had to keep up in the months before leaving began to dissipate; we were slowing down to the pace of cruising.
After numerous ice-creams at Pender Harbour, it was time to wander up to Desolation Sound. It was a long day, but we were happy to be able to spend most of it sailing. Sailing through the islands of B.C. is not a very relaxing sport -- every 10 minutes the wind will shift, or began gusting or die completely. We were kept on our toes with numerous sail changes and configurations. It was good for us though -- not only to get used to the sailing abilities of Pelican but also as our only exercise recently had been walks to the store to get ice-creams.
In the warm waters of Squirrel Cove in Desolation, Michael dove off the boat to check our zincs and cool off. Everything checked out ok! We spent a day exploring the bay in the dinghy, marveling at the wonderfully clear water and visited the Cortez Craft Shop near the entrance. And we bought ice-creams.
Several nights later, we were docked at the government dock at Big Bay, waiting for slack at Yuculta and Dent rapids. During the evening max floods, we watched in awe as literally hundreds of Bald Eagles swarmed over the rapids, diving down to catch fish. The small islands off the rapids were covered in little white spots -- the shining heads of even more eagles. Truly an amazing sight!
Through the slack rapids early the next morning, we stopped at Blind Channel, a lovely (but not inexpensive) resort with docks, nice showers, a store, and an excellent German restaurant. We filled our water tanks with the fresh spring water here and took long warm showers as it had been raining for several days now -- not good for our cockpit sun shower which is our only showering system.
We spent the next week on a mission -- to find the perfect, secluded quiet cove we'd been craving for months. We traveled to Douglas Harbour, anchored with 12 other boats, sailed up Johnstone Strait, motored through Chatham Channel, and stopped at Lagoon Cove, anchoring far from the mass of boats tied up to the small marina docks. We took our small inflatable to the inner lagoon, where Michael spotted a small black fuzzy thing rummaging through the grass. As we got closer, we realized it was a LARGE black fuzzy thing, a black bear in fact munching in the grass. We watched him for about a half hour in our safe perch in the dinghy, hand on the outboard ready to zip away if need be. It wasn't necessary as he just lumbered away into the trees after a while.
The next day we motored in the windless calm once again, up Tribune channel to Kwatsi Bay, or "Glory Be Basin" as our guidebook had named it. Finally we'd reached our pinnacle! We anchored at the head of the large basin, surrounded by a bowl of granite thousands of feet tall, with green firs and cedars reaching right to the waters edge. All around us waterfalls roared down the rock. It was glorious! We saw only one other boat the entire time. At the head of the bay is a small dock owned by a family. We spoke with the woman owner who said they'd been living out there for 6 years. She recommended we take a small walk to the waterfall behind the trees just a short distance away. So we tied up the dinghy as carefully as we could away from the barnacle covered rocks and walked into the woods. In just five minutes we came across the roaring falls, snaking down vertical black rock and spreading out like a doily. With the air filled with mist and the echoes of hundreds of birds in the trees around us and brilliant green vegetation, the experience was stunning.
We spent four days in Kwatsi Bay, including one rainy day spent entirely in bed reading and eating popcorn. We love cruising!
With fresh groceries running low, we headed over to Port McNeill, a major town on the Northeast corner of Vancouver Island. On the way, we stopped at Echo Bay, spending a night on the docks as we needed warm showers badly. There was a small marine park nearby, and we dinghied over to explore. Entering the woods, we heard the eeriest squawking and chattering sounds, like the trees above us were filled with moaning ghostly dinosaurs. About us, we saw blue herons soaring through the trees and realized we'd come upon a heron rookery. Squinting, we could see the giant next way up in the trees. As our footsteps crackled, the herons above us were quiet. We found many freshly hatched light blue eggs scattered across the forest floor, and marveled that they had contained baby herons probably only a day or so ago! The juicy insides of the eggs were being devoured by tiny snails.
Walking through the misty woods under a gray sky we pondered how the B.C. coast is full of ghosts -- in every spot you stand you can sense the hundreds of other lives that have lived in that spot, both man and beast. Nature is unconquerable here. Many times you pass evidence that something has been built -- a melting moss-covered cabin, scattered eggshells, a barnacled shipwreck on the shore -- and realize how quickly nature takes it all back here. Lives come and go, in a never ending cycle, and the ghosts remain.
After reaching Port McNeill, we splurged and stayed two nights at the municipal docks, eating long anticipated cheeseburgers and stocking up on produce. Rain continued to fall, and now the weather forecast was for gale force winds throughout the northern Vancouver Island area. On our second afternoon Michael was looking out a hatch towards the fuel dock and exclaimed that he thought the boat there looked like an Amazon. I then noticed the bright orange roller furling cover and exclaimed that it was Diva who we had last seen hundreds of miles ago in Bremerton.
We decided to anchor out with them after that, to visit and save moorage funds, and spent that evening watching movies and eating fresh baked cookies onboard their very comfortable boat. In the dark, we rowed back to Pelican in flat calm waters. During the night the winds picked up and we woke up realizing the SE gales had arrived. Unfortunately, we were anchored in a SE exposed bay at Pt. McNeill and the waves had built to about 2 feet already and we began bouncing around. The weather report on the VHF did not cheer us up any -- a storm force warning had just been issued for the area. So much for saving $12 by anchoring out!
By noon the waves had built to 3-4 feet and Pelican was really jumping up and down. We had all 210' of chain out and as the winds grew to over 30 knots, the chain appeared to be stretched all the way out. We stared warily at the rock ledge just behind us. A good test for our new CQR we thought! Both of us could only lay on the settee as we'd get nauseous if we got up to walk around for too long. During the whole day, we kept in contact with Diva on the VHF who appeared to be barely moving at all. We reported to be holding in OK, although were considering moving into the docks if it got much worse. Knowing the large marina was full, a kind sailor at the dock on Windy Spirit offered for us to raft up beside him. We thanked him gratefully and kept his offer in mind.
Through the afternoon, the winds continued to grow, and our handheld windometer showed about 40-45 knots. The wind and rain would blow the spray across the deck of the boat and sting our eyes and faces if we looked into it. It was really howling! So we were especially shocked to see a brightly colored sail zipping across the water a couple of hundred of yards away. In just a minute the windsurfer zipped past our boat, around us, then zipped back across to the other side of the bay almost a mile away in no time. We laughed that what was miserable to us was pure joy to that guy!
Around 1700, the forecast called for continued gales through the night. Tired of eating crackers, and tired of hanging on just to use the head, we called up Windy Spirit on the VHF and told him we'd take up his offer for a raft-up. With the engine in forward and Michael clinging onto the foredeck, we cranked in that chain in no time. Pelican heeled over with no sail up on the short motor to the dock in the crazy wind. Finally we were tied safely up and very happy not to be bouncing around anymore. We went out for steaks to celebrate, and the wind died completely. We still had a very good night's sleep.
With July on the way, it was time to head South back to Puget Sound to get our final offshore preparations completed. We stopped at Alert Bay, the central First Nations town of the area with a fascinating museum describing the interesting history of the native peoples and their struggles with the new Canadian government in the early 1900s. Well worth a stop if you are in the area.
The next few days we traveled back down Johnstone Strait, through Seymore Narrows past Campell River, down the Strait of Georgia for a few nights off Lasqueti Island, then another night at Silva bay. We then checked back into the US at Port Roberts without a hitch. We spent a night at Echo Bay on Sucia Island -- with about 100 other boats! The NW summer cruising season was in full swing for sure.
24 hours later, after an interesting side trip through the Swinomish Channel past LaConner, we were anchored once again off Camano Island, Pelican with a bright yellow grin from all the miles she had traveled, and ourselves already looking forward to the next phase of our trip -- offshore to California.
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