It took us nearly the entire day to get to Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island. Far from being just a customs checkpoint, Bedwell is a very nice destination in its own right. Nonetheless, our first order of business was getting right with the Canadian government. We were surprised to find the customs office completely deserted. We called the posted number on weathered telephone outside the entrance, identified ourselves and our vessel and were given a number, which the customs official told us to write down on a piece of paper and tape to our window--very official. After customs, Jen headed to Poets’ Cove Resort for a heavenly massage. (Carrying 20 extra pounds in the front is rough on a back.) Jake sat on a bench reading and taking in the scene. Close to sunset, a long bagpipe player came out to the dock and played. Rowdy (some even falling down drunk) wedding guests spilled out into a courtyard for more cocktails. After Jen’s massage, we had a fish and chips and mussels dinner at the Poets‘ Cove pub.
Sunday: Sunday morning, Jen fixed a veggie scramble for breakfast and we headed out for our next destination. Along the way to James Bay on Prevost Island, we tried our hand at a little fishing. Jake rigged our rod in expert fashion, and we let fly in about 150 feet of water, hoping to attract a humpies and if we were lucky, maybe even a king. Despite the tasty-looking green squid on the end of our line, we had not a single nibble. (Steve had advised us that humpies are very keen on pink lures.) After an hour and a half of so of trolling, we gave up. Not long after, we arrived in James Bay. There we packed up some sandwiches and went for a short hike. We found a great spot for lunch on a cliff overlooking the bay and the islands. After lunch and a little more exploration, we headed out to Montague Harbor on Galliano Island. By the time we arrived in late afternoon, it was already nearly full. We managed to find one of the last available mooring buoys. After tying up, we dinghy-ed over to a monstrous steel work boat that an elderly couple have converted into a floating bakery. After placing our order for breakfast, we headed to land for a walk around the island. Our hike took us to a beaufiul white Carribean-esque beach with sparkling green water. Unforuntely, the water temperature bore no resemblance to the bath water in the Carribean. After a bit more wandering we headed back to the boat, relaxed a bit, and waited for the park ranger to motor by, so we could paid our mooring fee. After, we headed in to the marina where we had a dinner of salmon pate and crab cakes.
Monday: We got up early to go collect our order--cinnamon rolls and blueberry scones--from the bakery boat. After breakfast, we headed out in a nice breeze to Wallace Island. It was in Wallace’s Princess Cove that we got our first experience with a stern tie. Princess Cove is one of several in the Gulf Islands that are very tight quarters, so instead of just anchoring, boats tie their stern to ring (if you can find one) or a tree on shore. There was a pretty stiff breeze in the cove, so after dropping anchor, Jen tried keep the boat from being blown sideways. Meanwhile, Jake jumped into the dinghy and motored to shore with 400 feet of polypropelene line, one end tied on the boat. On shore, he wrapped it around a metal stake, then motored back to the boat and tied on the other end. Success.
After congratulating ourselves, we took the dinghy to shore and hiked to Connover Cove (we decided it was too treacherous to anchor in Connover Cove), and took in the views from the end of Wallace and. After returning to the boat, we headed out again, this time bound for Pirates’ Cove on Decourcy Island. We had great wind in the afternoon and were able to sail most of the way. Entering Pirates’ Cove is delicate business. A hidden reef extends across a portion of the entrance. To get in, you line up an arrow and an “X” (much like you might see on a treasure map) and then hang a 90-degree turn about 20 feet from shore. The cove is relatively small and narrow with some exposed rocks on one side. Feeling like experts, we did another successful stern tie. After getting settled, we motored to shore and took a hike around the cove. The point of entrance has a big sign and a wooden chest full of the various treasures and trash that people have left behind. Around the other side of the island from a rocky shore, we had a great view of Ruxton channel and Ruxton Island beyond. Upon our return to the boat, we grilled some burgers, watched a movie and turned in. We woke up around 2am to beeping that proved to be our depth alarm going off. It turned out that as the tide went out, our boat was getting closer to a hidden rock. We got within 1 foot if it, but never actually touched it. Still, Jake was up multiple times to check things out. Another boat was not so lucky. They had neglected to do a stern tie and slipped onto the rocks in the middle of the night.
Tuesday: We left Pirates’ Cove after a breakfast of our left-over baked goods. Almost immediately upon pulling out of our protected cove, we hit some strong winds--28 knot winds at one point. We sailed for a full 2 1/2 hours, almost all the way to Telegraph Cove. The cove is home to two marinas. We choose the more cute of the two, which ended up being a good choice. We heard later that the other marina, which had a pub and liquor store, was so loud that at least one boat had moved to our marina, even after paying.
After getting settled, we walked over to the inter-island ferry dock and took a ferry to Chemainus. We had heard that the logging operation and fishing boats there made it a hazardous port for pleasure boats. On the ferry ride over, the captain invited us up to join him on the bridge. I guess we were looking more interested than the usual ferry passengers in the operations of the ferry. He told us a bit about the history of the ferry. It was originally built in Arizona and served as a passenger ferry on Lake Powell for many years. When Coast Guard regulations changed, rather than updating the ferry, Arizona, sold it to BC for $200,000. it had to be cut in four pieces to be transported. The captain also explained that about 5 years ago, Chemainus forced the fishing boats and other unsightly work boats to relocated from its downtown wharf to the docks south of town in hopes of attracting more tourists. Chemainus is a reincarnated town. It nearly died with the decline of the logging industry. In an effort to save the town, city leaders commissioned around 30 murals, depicting the town’s history, to be painted all over the buildings in the downtown area. The guide book calls it the “little town that could.” Upon arrival, we did a short walking tour of some of the murals. They are quite impressive. After a brief exploration, we headed to a Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian food restaurant for tasty lunch. Then, it was off to the 49th Parallel grocery store for some extra provisions before catching the ferry back to Telegraph Cove. On our walk back to the marina from the ferry, we stopped by a little honor-system store on the corner. There we picked up some homemade bumbleberry jam, some frozen salmon (we still haven’t caught any of our own) and some fresh-from-the garden lettuce.
Upon our return to the marina, we realized that we’d been boxed in. The marinas here are just long parallell docks, shaped like narrow “U”s. The two boats behind us were planning on leaving after 10, and we knew we’d want to get out by at least 9. After some shuffling, we ended up on the end of a dock. For dinner, we had a pizza delivered to our boat from the marina restaurant--such luxury.
Wednesday: We got up early, had a breakfast of toasted bagels and got underway by 8am. Our destination: Butchart Gardens and Tod Inlet. With the exception of day 1 (Anacortes to Bedwell via west side of San Juan Island), this was our longest day on the water. We were lucky enough to catch a bit of wind at the beginning of Sansum Narrows. As the name suggests, Sansum Narrows is a narrow passage. It has a very fjord-like feel, with steep green peaks on both sides. We sailed a good portion of the way through Sansum Narrows and then headed south into Saanich Inlet. Saanich Inlet is part of Vancouver Island and more populated than some of the areas we’ve been. In many places, the shores of the Saanich Peninsula were lined with houses, which got bigger the closer we got to Brentwood Bay near the end of the inlet. Rather than staying in Brentwood Bay, we hung a right into bright green Tod Inlet, a a stretch of calm water that ends near an entrance to Butchart Gardens. We went up a little past the entrance to the gardens around a bend and found a beautiful spot to anchor with wooded banks on both sides.
After making sure we were stuck, we jumped in the dinghy and headed to the gardens. We must have hit them at high tide for tour buses. When we first arrived the garden was teeming with a very international crowd. After a while, the crowds thinned. We smelled the roses, soaked up the sunflowers, dallied with the dahlias, photographed the fuchsia and wandered through the Japanese garden and sunken garden for a few hours before heading back to the boat. Back on board, we relaxed and read for a while on deck, then grilled BBQ chicken, corn and mushrooms for dinner. After dinner we tried to plot our next stop. This proved to be a difficult task. Our dilemma is trying to fit in Saturna Island while also hitting Ganges Harbor for the Saturday market and trying to make sure the currents are running in our favor. We went to sleep without making any decisions.
Thursday: We got up in the morning, had a leisurely pancake breakfast and took the dinghy to shore for a little hike. The hike, along Tod Inlet, turned out to be fantastic: weaving through huge ferns and mossy trees. The area truly looking like a rain forest (although not tropical). We hiked for an hour, Jen even walked across a log (hard to do, 7+ months pregnant). The hike also went through the ruins of the Cement Factory - and the workers' houses. The workers' trash was pretty interesting: old shoes, beer bottles, and ceramic
plates - all from the turn of the century.
Back at the boat, we pulled up the anchor--waved goodbye to the Tod Inlet otters--and took off, headed north. No good wind this day; We motored all the way to Portland Island. It
used to be owned by Princess Margaret, and is now a Marine Park. The anchorage was small and packed with boats. The first time we anchored, we were too close to another sailboat, so we pulled up anchor and moved back a bit. We anchored in a spot marked by our GPS as 1' deep. So much for trusting the charts (in reality, we had 15' of water beneath us).
We took the dinghy to shore and began hiking to a white beach we noticed on our way in (called "White Shell Beach"). The hike to the beach was relatively easy. The landscape was nothing like a rain forest around Tod Inlet. This was much more of a bushy isle. The beach was spectacular: white sand and shells leading to turquoise water. It was just like the Caribbean, until you stick your toe in the frigid water. Nonetheless, we did stick our toes in the water, as offshore we watched a seal turning flips and splashing around in the water. It probably felt balmy to him. As we were playing on the beach, and older man with a British accent came out of the brush (away from the trail) and looked lost. He left his walking group and got disoriented. We gave him our map, and sent him in the right direction. Later, as we left the beach, we came upon him again, this time in much thicker brush. He had lost his way again! We walked him to the trail head and made sure he knew where to go this time.
Back on the boat, we headed north: deciding whether to anchor in Otter Bay (closer) or go all the way down Navy Channel to Saturna. We decided to go for it, and make the run to Saturna. It took quite a while, but we got a little wind and motor-sailed our way with the
current to Lyall Harbour. There were only 2 other boats anchored in the harbor, so it felt like it was very private: cliffs on one side, and rocks and trees on the other. The bay was open to the west, so we got great sunset shots as we grilled the salmon we picked up in Telegraph Harbour.
Friday: Jake woke up at sunrise, and saw the shy turn pink over Saturna Island. Another beautiful day-- we got very lucky with the weather. We started in Lyall Harbor and set off early for Winter Cove. We'd heard it would be packed with boats. But, when we got there, we saw probably no more than 15 boats anchored. We took the first good looking anchorage, tested the anchor, then had a realization. We had just anchored near a sign that said CABLE; we may have just fastened our anchor to a big underwater power line! Not much we could do about it then, so we got in the dinghy and went to the beach. The beach here turned out to be a muddy shore. Jen stayed in the dinghy while Jake pulled her over the mud. The trail was well marked and went to Boat Passage, a small cut at the end of Saturna Island. It's an amazing cut, because it's about 20 feet wide, and water pours out (or in, depending on the tide) between Winter Cove and the Strait of Georgia. It looks more like a rushing river, than anything else. There were also what appeared to be hundreds of multi-colored starfish in Boat Passage, which took up many megabytes of camera photos. When we got back to the boat, we had a moment of truth in pulling up the anchor. Jake pulled it up slowly, just in case it was holding a power cable. Turns out, we missed the power cable, and just brought up
We set sail south to go to Breezy Bay on Saturna. We picked up a mooring buoy, went ashore, and walked to the Saturna Island Vineyards. It is a winery with a vista looking out at the Strait of Georgia. After a good lunch (and a sour glass of Chardonnay), we got back on the boat. We headed north - with great wind - and sailed all the way to Ganges, the largest town in the Gulf Islands. Ganges Marina put us in a bizarre slip, next to the gas dock, into
which Jen expertly maneuvered. We set off to explore Ganges, and found it to be exactly what a friend named it: The Friday Harbor of the Gulf Islands. We got massages (Jen's back had really been hurting!) and went to dinner. It drizzled a little at dinner, but the food was spectacular. Then, a walk home along the Ganges waterfront, and to sleep.
Saturday: The day began in Ganges, on Salt Spring Island. We stayed here to get to the "famous" Saturday Morning Market. So, off we went to the market. It had a lot of ceramics and wood carvings. Salt Spring Island is famous for its cheese -- so we got some blue cheese. Jen went straight for the fudge, buying some chocolate. After the market, we wandered around Ganges for a couple for hours. We had to be off the dock by 11a. So, at 10:58, we set off. Jen masterfully pulled us out of a difficult space. We began to motor, but the wind picked up, so we sailed to Otter Bay on North Pender Island. We anchored between a white sand beach and a marina, and had lunch: Salt Spring Cheese and Salt Spring Baguette.
When we set off again, we realized that the wind would be coming right at us for the rest of the day! No more sailing, just motoring - all the way to Friday Harbor (25 miles away). As we passed Bedwell Harbor, we saw salmon jumping out of the water. We even managed to get a few photos. Jen then spotted - what appears to have been - a spout from a Minke whale. She saw it several times. Very Cool. As we got closer to Friday Harbor, the wind waves grew to 2-3ft. We were happy to finally pull into Friday Harbor around 5:30p. We tied up next to the historic tall-ship, the Adventuress. Jake went to deal with US customs. Who knew you had to pay to get back into the USA? Seems a little outrageous, but, whatcha gonna do? 40 minutes later, got back on the boat and decided to look for anchorage in Friday Harbor. But, it was crowded with other boats, mooring buoys, crab pots, ferries, dighies, float planes, and underwater cables. So, we set off again, this time on a perfect beam reach. It may have been 7p, but it was a perfect sail north to Shaw Island. We found a little cove called Picnic Cove, anchored in 10ft of water, and began cooking dinner.
Sunday: Woke up at 5:30a to the sound of the depth alarm. When we went to bed, we thought the tide would go out 6 feet and the depth would drop to 3.5' below the keel. But, we drifted a tad north and over a rock or something, so the depth alarm went off at 1' of depth below the keel. Jake also noticed that we could see land anymore, because of pea soup fog. Jen woke up an hour later and we made an egg and veggie scramble. We discussed whether to try to get home in the fog and decided to go ahead. Once we got the radar working, we started off. It was so foggy, we could not see the top of the mast. At one point, a ferry came near, but we never saw it, we only heard it. We decided it would be dangerous to cross Rosario Strait because of all of the big shipping traffic, so we anchored in Lopez Sound while we waited for the fog to clear.
When it cleared, we took off to our final destination: Anacortes! About 1/4 of the way across Rosario, the fog socked us in again; a sign that we should not go home and instead stay on vacation. Alas, we made it back to Anacortes. After a long pump-out and diesel-up at the marina, we docked. An exciting end to a wonderful journey.