|A happy start|
We left Friday Harbor on Friday night and made our way up to Prevost Harbor on Stuart. The wind was light and the sun was setting as we made the trip, and we arrived just in time to anchor in what is called nautical twilight. There where hordes of boats in the main anchorage, but we chose to be alone up by the county dock. It is a nice place to be, with good shore access and nice views, and I've never known why more boats don't use that location instead of the often crowded spot near the State Park dock. We were quickly asleep and excited for our jump across the border the next day.
Seeking to be at the customs dock at Bedwell as close to their opening as possible meant that we were underway at about 7:30. Not early, but not sleeping in either. The trip across Boundary Pass was benign, as usual, and we were sad to not see our usual friends the porpoises or Orcas. I learned at the customs phone that they no longer call into Victoria, but are instead routed to a center near Toronto! Some bureaucrat must have decided that was cheaper, but let me tell you that the guy in Toronto had no idea where I was and what it was like. He asked where I departed from and I said Stuart Island, and he had to ask if that was in the US or not. Oh well.
We chose to go a slightly longer route over to Sansum Narrows before heading north because we find it so beautiful. It adds a handful of miles to the journey north, but if you catch the currents right you can make some of that back. There was little wind this day, and what there was was NW and of no help to us. So we motored along enjoying the sights and contemplating our good fortune.
Our good fortune. Is is that, or is it that we are just in a shrinking minority of people who believe that a trip like this is the right, normal and outrageously wonderful thing to do?
|Southern Gulf Islands|
The rest of the day up to Dodd Narrows was casually spent speculating about whether we would stop at DeCourcy or catch the 3:30 slack at Dodd and push on through. There were the usual pros and cons, but in the end we hit Dodd Narrows at precisely slack and went right on up to the top of Gabriola to Pilot Bay. The winds were forecast to build from the NW and Taylor Bay is more exposed, so we tucked around to Pilot and were glad we did. No sooner had we dropped the hook than we jumped in the dinghy and walked across the ishthmus to Taylor Bay and the soft white sand beaches that make it sublime. The water was a balmy 70+ degrees and we swam to our hearts content along with the few other lucky souls to be there.
That night the wind did come up and blew 20+ knots outside the bay entrance. In the morning, we knew we weren't going to motor into the 3 foot chop and so decided to sail across the Straits of Georgia to get into the lee of the Thornamby Islands and see from there whether we could make it to Jedidiah. So we put a reef in the main and raised sail before weighing anchor, and then were off. Right outside the bay we soon experienced some pretty rough seas. Average waves were 2-3 and there were plenty that were pushing 4 feet. We were taking them close hauled and so it was pretty smooth going. Any wave within reason that hits Aeolus on the beam will roll right under her with hardly a notice.
|Canada or Bahamas? Canada! Lovely Taylor Bay at the top of Gabriola Island|
Soon enough we were across to the Thornamby Islands and the seas had reduced to moderate levels. We pondered seeking an anchorage right there as we were pretty wiped out, but decided that we would much rather be at Jedidiah and that pushing on was the right thing to do. Good choice. Because we were now at an angle that put us dead downwind from Jedidiah, we chose to motor the few miles there rather than tack back and forth quite a bit. Amy's stomach was still tender and there was no need to exacerbate it.
We arrived at Jedidiah and dropped anchor in Whiterock Bay. We were the only boat there and once again couldn't believe our good luck. Jedidiah is certainly one of our favorite places in the Salish Sea. Returning there feels like returning home, and we have both added it to the list of places where we want our ashes scattered! We walked over to Home Bay and admired the peace and views. There was a large herd of sheep nearby, as reminder of the farming past. I'm torn between liking them as a bit of history and wanting them gone for ecological restoration.
|Old Palmer house at Home Bay Jedidiah|
Whenever I've gone on a trip I always need a few days to shed the detritus of my job life and home life and enter the clarity of space you enter on a long voyage. For me this happened while at Home Bay. I sat there and consciously identified the noise in my mind, and then wished it well and let it drift away. Those old friends will return, but they are not needed or helpful in this place that is so utterly different than the environment that spawns them. Those patterns of thought are like a winter coat that is not needed in summer, or a language from one place when you are visiting another.
|Panorama of Home Bay. No better place to homestead or live in my view. And the place that grounded me into this trip.|
I came to inhabit the new patterns of thought that slowed down and deepened.
Our stay at Jedidiah was too brief as we only had the afternoon, but we did have a highlight of the foraging sort as we caught our very first crabs! We caught two good size red crabs, and let them go as we were seeking dungeness.
The next day started out with still a strong NW wind. We remembered how exposed the anchorage is on the southern side of Savary and decided that we would rather take our chances with heading to Mitlenatch Island a bit further north. It had the added advantage of being a bird sanctuary and a place I have always wanted to visit. Once we got out from the lee of Jervis island, we were motoring into the chop and swell of 16 knots all along the Texada shoreline. Or at least we thought we would. But after a few hours of this, the wind and seas died down and the norther Straits turned into a glassy lake. The odd thing is that while it was still pretty rough, we had contemplated changing plans and doing a beam reach over to Hornby and up Baynes Sound and leaving the boat in Comox instead of Campbell River. I even called and made sure they had space. But once we made the decision to push on, with the prospect of bouncing into a headwind and seas for 5 more hours, the wind and seas died down to nothing.
I was reminded of the Goethe quote about being bold and finding magic in it. Nice when that happens.
Mitlenatch Islands turned out to be the highlight of the trip, which is saying something given the other amazing places we had visited. It is a tiny thing, and windswept, and so happens to host the largest colony of nesting birds anywhere in the Straits of Georgia. We found Camp Bay empty and first dropped anchor precariously near the outside of the bay in a strong current and choppy seas, as our chartplotter indicated rocky shallows further in. There was probably 3 knots of current pumping by us, and though slightly sheltered by some rocks, still too exposed to NW wind and waves. But we went to shore with her there and trusted our Mantus anchor to do what it does, which is to grab hold and not let go.
|Aeolus in Camp Bay, Mitlenatch Island. Exposed to SE, but sheltered from NW. Views north.|
Once we had anchored we noticed that there was a group of 14 California Sea Lions clustered together and swimming right near us and an adjacent rock. It was a strange sight because they were thick as thieves but not going anywhere. When we got in our dinghy to go to shore we were serenaded by the hordes of Glaucous winged gulls and Black Oystercatchers that inhabit the island. The Oystercatchers are among my favorite birds, both for their beauty and their ecology.
On shore we were greeted by the four friendly volunteer stewards whose week it was to stay in the primitive shelter and perform the necessary tasks associated with bird monitoring, visitor education and some habitat restoration. Lucky souls. We were greeted by a "Welcome to paradise!" And they were right. We got a tour of their shelter area, and then walked out to a "Gull Blind" to see nesting birds and some small chicks. The birds were quite close, some within 10 feet. The views from the blind out to the BC mainland mountains was incredible too.
We learned from the volunteers that it was indeed possible and preferable to be anchored closer in, and that our chartplotter was wrong. Darn Navionics. So we went back to Aeolus and came in closer where we were much more sheltered from the wind and waves. We dropped anchor in about 16 feet of water and had just enough room for a 3:1 scope and no stern line. The wind was really blowing by now, with a steady 20 knots and gusts of 25.
Soon after moving, we had an experience that ranked up with the greatest wildlife sightings we have ever had. An adult male Stellar Sea Lion began hauling himself out of the water onto a nearby rocky isle. It moved very deliberately and slowly up the steep and rugged side of the rock, and seemed to weigh each move with considerable gravity. The island was maybe 15 feet high, and it took him over 10 minutes to slowly work his way to the top. This was all happening about 100 feet from Aeolus.
When he got on top, he then arched his head back and yawned, showing his teeth and tongue, and seemed for all the world to survey his kingdom like a lion on the Serengeti, king of all he saw. We watched him with binoculars for a long time, and watched him shake and stretch and look regal beyond belief. To witness this truly wild and massive animal in such a remote and rugged setting, and to see him display behavior that was right out of a National Geographic documentary, was just overwhelming in impact. Eventually, he disappeared down the other side and was gone back to his watery world. We will never forget him and that moment.
|The king of all he sees|
|Can you imagine seeing this live in front of you? He alone, with those mountains behind?|
We left Mitlenatch sadly and yet excited to be heading to Campbell River. The max ebb at CR was a 11:30 but we knew we had to be at the Discovery Harbor Marina by 10:30. My trip last year past Cape Mudge had taught me to respect the power of the currents in that area but when we got there the ebb was not producing any waves despite the contrary wind and our SOG hit 9 knots once in the channel to town. We had our slip and were tied up before we knew it and were ready to begin our travels back to Bainbridge for the week.
These travels are a story unto themselves, but suffice to say we took a bus from CR to Victoria, a cab to Sidney, the WSF to Friday Harbor, the 10 pm ferry off Friday Harbor to Anacortes for a 12am arrival , and then drove to Seattle to catch the last boat to Bainbridge at 2am. We didn't get to sleep until 3am. For me, this meant I had been up on anchor watch since 1am the prior day, and so awake for about 26 hours straight with some high intensity travel in between. I was fine, but groggy.
And that is a quick summary of an amazing trip that saw strong winds, an amazing sail, and incredible wildlife. Once again the Straits of Georgia do not disappoint for challenge or rewards.
Now we go through the motions back here in syphilization and await our return to Aeolus to begin our big journey around Van Isle. What adventures await?