In the summer of 2011 we spent an unprecedented 50 days aboard our boat sailing from Anacortes, as usual, to Desolation Sound and beyond. An awesome trip.
Sonja was inspired to do a beautiful write-up. Enjoy:
Round, glossy welcoming eyes of the seals adds to the genial air about us. Glaucous-winged and California gulls garrulously congregate and scavenge. Occasional sightings of regal eagles inspire us as they chirp to one another, actively fishing, rearing their young. A glimpse isn't enough of the harbor porpoises undulating beside us. Won't you shiny beings display more than just a dorsal fin? I guess that's just their way.
The transformation from searing red rock high desert to the genial evergreen/marine environment refreshes us. The change involves busy, energetic days to free time, vigorous activity to mellow hikes, being land based to joining to ocean for some grand adventures. My whole being hasn't fully caught up with the vastness which spreads itself before me.
On many mornings, at each anchorage, merry melodies bring in each day. For you birding enthusiasts, at Clam Bay, the chorus consisted of chestnut-backed chicadees, Pacific Northwest flycatchers, song sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, spotted towhees, American Robins, American goldfinches, bald eagles, osprey, red-breasted nuthatch, and the dazzling singers, Swainson's and varied thrush. We spotted a barred owl on Prevost Island. In addition, flocks of Canada Geese entertain us swimming near our boat at routine intervals, adults, juvenile, goslings and all. Winter wrens, yellow-rumped warblers, black-throated gray warblers, MacGillavry's warblers and others serenade us while walking through the woods.
Departing from Ruxton Passage, we knew little of the endurance required of us for the long afternoon/evening. Tacking our way through Gabriola Passage proved exhilarating enough. Our aim for the night’s anchorage was Sylva Bay. One glimpse of the Strait of Georgia completely altered our course. The aqua-marine expanse, breeze filled and limitless, was like a large, lucid pool awaiting the plunge. The strait evokes adventurous passages from the Gulf Islands to the mainland. So, we inclined towards the enticement, setting off beyond Saturnia Islet and the shoals and rock outcrops. A light southeast wind propelled us along. We braced ourselves, knowing that with a light and variable wind forecast, this plunge involved the risk of becoming becalmed. Thankfully, the puffs persisted for several hours, and it wasn't until 5 pm that the seas began flattening, taking on that classic undesirable glossy sheen. Our heading had been in the general direction between Howe Sound and Sechelt Inlet. With the current gradually shifting from flooding to ebbing, and several miles to go before completing the crossing, we were bereft of any other plan short of motoring Jan kept the motor in low throttle, and we powered towards Sechelt. With the current gradually shifting from flooding to ebbing, and several miles to go before completing the crossing, we were bereft of any other plan short of motoring. Jan kept toe motor in low throttle, and we powered towards Sechelt. Already 9:30 pm, the northern sun was setting, creating a long luminous, blazing band between us and the horizon water line. We spotted some masts to starboard, discovering possible moorage for the night. Cautiously Skypilot sailed past the breakwaters, and a row of pilings, to what appeared to be a private marina. Upscale apartments and homes faced the oceanfront exuding an aura of order and finery. At this point, tired from the lengthy traverse, and with the oncoming gloaming, Jan decided on chancing a tie up to the marina’s emergency dock. Having access to land necessitated a stroll to limber up our stiffness and to relieve Meekah. Not one person did we encounter, especially in the darkening, dank, ferny woods where in a trail network led out of the gated community.
Bjorn, Jan and I returned to Skypilot, set up our berths for the night’s slumber, and settled in after 10pm. The watch alarm was set for 5:45am, so we could capitalize on the flood cycle. The last thing we needed was an interrupted dream time. Meekah’s sudden burst from her bunk, up beyond the first weather board and out of the cabin, rent us out of a peaceful sleep. Jan managed to retrieve her, and below she went. Bjorn placed the second weather board, insurance against another thrustful escape. We would drift towards dreams, only to be yanked back into wakefulness by Meekah’s periodic barking and whining. “What is going on?! It’s a freak show!” proclaimed Jan. After what seemed like the fifth interruption, Jan popped his head out of the forehatch to discover a most telling sight. A band of sleek, shiny river otters were sinuously slinking back and forth on the dock, going about their surreptitious business. When at least their splashy entrance into the water could be heard, Meekah entered into the sleep breathing rhythm, as the crew thankfully did, too We better had, for it wasn’t long before the alarm would sound!
At 6am we released the dock lines from the quiet dock and were welcomed with a steady breeze, puffing us all the way to Smuggler’s Cove. Evergreen forests of Douglas fir, western red cedar and red barked madrone trees clothe the hummocks of rocky land. Bright granite outcrops and mini-cliffs line the curvy shores and countless little coves and nooks. The setting can be likened to a sparkly alpine lake on a mild sunny summer afternoon. As is customary, I ardently set off on every meter of marine park trail (a total of about 4 km0. It’s a gift to be capable of ambling about, imbibing the surprises around every bend: a bald eagle chirping, scanning the waters for a midday catch, fresh water ponds filled with a variety of aquatic life, a magnificently attractive madrone tree dominating a promontory overlooking the sea. After w all limbered up from the hike, swimming was in order. The warm water beckoned us, as Bjorn, Meekah and I stroked through the comfortable (no longer shockingly frigid as it is further south, (closer to the Strait of Juan de Fuca). Smuggler’s Cove definitely ranks as one of our favorite anchorages! The last time we anchored here, a belted kingfisher inspired me to create a drawing centered around him. I wonder if the kingfisher flitting about us now, vocalizing as it travels from perch to perch is related to the subject of my sketch?!
We started out sailing to Pender Harbor, where communicating with my family from a payphone would be possible. The wind totally peetered out, so motoring was in order. A few breezes in the large harbor got us to the marina facility. I was relieved to personally wish Tate a fortuitous birthday, and exchange vital words with Mama as well. Minimal stocking up was needed, and we took care of the rest (like conversing with a couple of old sea-faring men, one who built the large 60ft sailboat in the 1970's, aboard which he currently lived.
That glaring warm afternoon we made our way up to Blind Bay, at the mouth of the Jervis Inlet. Immediately upon anchoring, I tested the water and whoah!, truly lukewarm
it was, the warmest yet. Unwaveringly, I plunged in, swimming buoyantly from the boat to some blocky granite outcrops on the shore. We all swam that evening and couldn't get over the benign water temperature.We only contended with about 5 mosquitoes, and again slept amazingly well and solid. Something about that gentle rock knocks us out every time!
During the following rainy day, I managed to eke out a swift walk on some roads. Thereafter, we crammed into our tight, but dry cozy cabin, reading, log booking, playing with turtles, drawing and other projects. Between the showers, Bjorn and I slipped into the bay's big balmy bath, no regrets! Later, the clouds parted a bit towards sundown, making way for a most magnificient scene. Western red cedars and douglas fir glowed in the last golden rays, reflecting their grace in the bay. Amethyst and lavender stroked the clouds and mist rose from the hiltops and the sea. Suddenly a fantastic set of shadows appeared onto the tranpiring mist rising from the hilltop. With the pinkish sunsen clouds as a backdrop, shadowy outlines of pointy evergreens were cast upon the moving, misty vapor. It was as if a giant stamped the rising vapor with a tree outline. Such a phenomenon none of us had ever beheld!
We spent much of the afternoon exploring little Musket Island, another gem of a park in Canada's Marine Park system. With Meekah we all circumnavigated the islet along the granite slopes and cliffs ringing the land at the intertidal qone. Scrambling up and down the bands of beautiful lichena and barnacle covered stone fueled the climber in us. Meekah proved to traverse readily from ledge to ledge. Along way she consumed more clam shells and crab debris than we desired, with consequences in tow, as you'll soon find out.
An early rising was on the agenda, as the forecast called for lighter winds. We snuggled into our sleeping bags; after 3 seconds, Jan's relaxed snooze breathing could be heard, but not so for Bjorn and me. We busied ourselves wacking mosquitoes right and left. They were particularly loud and irascible. Finally, we placed the weatherboards in the companion way, and dozed off after 10pm. At 3:50am, 2 hours prior to the time the alarm was set, Meekah began to lightly whimper. Were there critters and beasts causing Meekah's vocalizations? Oh no, it most certainly was the days over-foraging along the shores! In one end and out the other. I volunteered to take her on shore.
Rowing through the placid, dark water, I marveled at the incipient twilight at such and early hour. The few remaining stars were quickly losing their sparkle and songbirds gradually began the morning's symphony. On shore, I hesitated entering the still black woods, and luckily Meekah relieved herself immediately without us needing to penetrate the uninviting coal dark forest. I couldn't sink back to sleep once on the boat again. Oddly enough, 15 minutes before the alarm wake up call, I finally slipped into a funny dream. We were visiting my parents. My mother and I stood in the halway and I bid her good night, stating how tired I was. Just as I was about to enter the bedroom, beep beep beep resounded the boat cabin.
Early starts always pays off, for fairly smooth seas and a steady kind breeze moved us along. Northwest was our heading from whence the wind came, hence, much tacking was required. Slowly but surely, we gained some miles, but half way up to Vananda (Texada Island) conditions turned calm. Rather than resorting to burning gas, captain Jan encouraged us to burn calories by paddling. Bjorn's style involved rapid spurts of energy; for Jan and me paddling became meditative. On occasion our eyes closed as we focused on man-powering our 4000lb vessel. All told, the hours of paddling were equivalent to one hour of motoring. Thank God the wind freshened in the afternoon, and we arrived at the Vananda dock just before dinner time.
A phone call, walk with Meekah and a few purchases comprised our brief stay, and eager to progress towards Desolation Sound, we again woke early (5:45am).
We embarked punctually towards our goal on an overcast, chilly morning. To our surprise, beyond the port bow offshore of Harwood Island, appeared a whale of huge proportions. The Inside Passage is mainly known for its orcas and porpoises, but this shiny, blackish whale was another species. The whale's dorsal fin size paled in comparison to it's massive body, and its tail fluke tilted upwards as the whale rounded into the water. I awoke Bjorn, and again the creature appeared,now further away, creating huge fountains and spray. With binoculars Jan noticed long bicolored fins. We were blessed with none other than a humpback whale sighting! "Morgen Stunde haben Gold im Munde."
That evening after a day of puffs and small breezes we landed in the southern most bay of the Copeland Islands, another marine park boasting a cluster of undeveloped islets. Rocky shores lure the climber to test the granite holds and steps. The diversity of attractive mosses and lichens blanketing the slopes and hilltops piques the botanist's interest. The myriad of coves and gunkholes invite passage from sea kayakers and dinghie rowers.
The following morning, enroute to Desolation Sound, we spotted a pictograph panel of reddish pigment depicting a large fish and swirly designs. The resources available to the First Nations`along the B.C. coast were varied and plentiful. Copious amounts of seafood, berries, lumber and other edibles provided most of their needs.
We rounded Sarah Point and before us lay the salient peaks, forested mountains, channels, straits and islands of Desolation Sound. A most stately scene indeed!
First stop in this world class destination was Refuge Cove, the only supplier of fuel and food for miles. Here our trip came to a complete standstill. Like a rock climber jamming up a favorable crack route suddenly facing a sheer, blank wall above, we ran out of safe passage for now. The clouds loosed substantial rain showers upon us, day after day. Anchoring near amenities of store, restroom, doggy runs and plenty of action makes waiting out the incessant precipitation bearable. By the 5th day, however, antsiness set in. Do we need to prepare ourselves for 35 more days of this, as Noah and crew did?
In Jan's early 30's, while on a solo sailing trip, he met a German resident of Refuge Cove, Reinholdt. Formerly running a hamburger stand, he branched out to beekeeping selling the finest raw honey and a variety of used books in his book nook. Jan remembers his tales of cougars and wolves on the rampage. One late summer evening out of the open door of Reinholdt's cabin mirthful chatter could be heard. A mellow meeting soon turned into a terrifying episode. Quick as a flash of lightning, a mountain lion leaped into the cabin after Reinholdt's Dachshund. His immediate reaction was to shut the door, during which he reached for a his firearm. Little Dachshund was about to become dinner, when his owner intervened with a quick blast of the gun, doing away with unfortunate predator.
Another aquaintance of Jan's named Jan, told of a pack of wolves formerly residing on W. Redonda Island On a walk in the woods, he noticed a few wolves stalking from behind. H figured they were after his dog. His course of action was no action. Jan held his dog close while huddled on a high cedar stump for hours. The wolves finally decided to seek a meal elsewhere several hours later, and by the wee hours of the morning Jan could return home. Supposedly wolves are rare now, and if sighted at all, only singly. One can't help but feel a bit unnerved and mystfied while walking in the dank, verdant forest of banana slugs and frogs, ferns and secretive stalkers! Who knows which eyes observe from behind the tangles of mossy fallen trunks and branches?
Our lives at home in Moab, like most families, are scholastically, professionally, recreationally and socially full, for which we thank God. The cranking wheels of life certainly slow down out here on the boat. Rainy spells especially coerce us to pull out the colored pencils, the novels, boat projects and games. Bjorn reflects the wonderful characteristic of savoring every moment of his vacation, whatever the conditions. Watching Bjorn immersed in Lego play, turtle adventures, writing in his log book or reading inspires us to follow suit. Thankfully, every time Bjorn returns home and reunites with his buddies, they pick up right where they left off.
Adverse weather does carry with it the benefit of becoming acquainted with many colorful people. Most noteworthy are Carolyn and Winston Bushnell, natives of Vancouver Island. Winston, an accomplished steel boat builder, helped construct the sturdy seaworthy Brent/Swain sailboats. From his Northwest Passage voyage on a 27’ Brent/Swain sailboat sprouted a book written and illustrated by his sailing mate Lee. Carolyn and Winston raised 3 children and for 6 years of their childhood instructed them through homeschooling while sailing around the world. Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand, navigating from Japan to the Aleutians: not a bad geography lesson!
A full week of precipitation, with minimal breaks in between, left us feeling quite amphibious. We about had enough of the clammy, dank, dampness, when finally glorious sun beams rained down upon the bay.
We detected a breeze, up I plucked the anchor and off to Melanie Cove we sailed. Thank you Refuge Cove for the refuge offered during the unrelenting rains.
After some super light wind sailing the conditions turned calm; we motored for a while. We’re not accustomed to several hours of engine roar, mostly utilizing wind and current to power us. We couldn’t resist getting underway, however, even if the wind lacked promise. Motoring felt like driving, but louder. Suddenly, Captain Jan questioned cruising in the Pacific Northwest—pointless without wind and aggravating in inclement weather. Talk of bicycle tours, sea kayaking or backpacking ensued, disillusioned as we were with motorized recreation. Before the negative theme could gain a foothold, a lovely breeze began filling in the channel, and we joyfully cruised into our anchorage, as the day’s dismay was whisked away by the wind.
Further redemption followed on our adventurous hike to Unwin Lake. Oh, these large fresh water gems totally revive our every cell! We earned a great plunge after hiking on the circuitous, swampy and hilly route. Diving from low rocky ledges into the quiet, relatively warm waters made for the best bathing ever.
Next day, an awesome blow powered us into Roscoe Bay, a springboard for excellent hikes and swimming. A large lily pad fringed lake can be reached within minutes, alluring to the swimmers and kayakers. The whole Nicolaisen family reached the summit of Llannover Mountain, covered with shore pines, western hemlock and Douglas fir. Fair views of the islands and mountains of Vancouver Island to the south and west could be had. From sea level to 634 m (2100 ft) is a good, stout hike.
We discovered another fun route on the following day, offering a glimpse of Mink Island and the mouth of Hoomphray Channel. Squeezing an outing in was advantageous in light of the darkening, moistening skies. Sure enough, after 5pm another bout of rain showers faced us.
To our delight, upon awakening, sun shafts shone through the clouds with the bonus of steady wind. Immediately we prepared for sail off, following the trimaran Wisp. John and Sonja (yes, just like my spelling), an amicable, interesting pair we conversed with the previous day, exited Roscoe Bay lithely and effortlessly on their 27 ft Hughes trimaran. Running a solar energy business brings in the bread, as well as maintaining their acreage on Orcas Island.
Encountering kindred sailors over the years has always inspired us and enhanced our travels. Under certain circumstances John and Sonja resort to paddling when winds are insufficient, a rare tendency out in the cruising grounds. Both of our vessels are in the non-yacht class, boasting no official head, galley, entertainment center and spaciousness.
How befitting, sailing with fellow comrades! And the scenery, worthy of awe! Buttresses of black varnished granite 1000 ft high stand watch over the many arms and inlets amid the evergreens. Torrents of waterfalls, from which powerful cascades could be heard, leap from ledge to ledge through the densely forested slopes. Our aim was to reach the Hole in the Rock rapid at slack. (Consulting the current and tide atlas is critical to any successful navigation around these maze of channels.)
The Northwest entrance to the Hole in the Rock, flanked by elevated cliffs and forested slopes had 2 sentinels on duty: one bald eagle to port perched on a large Douglas fir limb, and another directly opposite on a rocky ledge. Very inviting country indeed!
Waiatt Bay proves a lovely anchorage, offering plenty of hiking, fresh water lakes and creeks and an occasional sighting of mink. John, Sonja and our family covered all of the trails, making for awesome exploring and swimming. I’ll never forget the teal hue of our plunges in Andrews Lake.
Next destination decided upon was Heriot Bay on Quadra Island, reasons being food, phone and dinghy repair. (Watch out for those Oysters, gashers of skin and inflatable crafts!)
Negotiating Surge Narrows at slack required a prompt 6:20 am arrival. To our dismay, with 3 miles to go, we realized we needed to be at the Narrows in 4 minutes—impossible with a 5 knot speed! By the time we reached the spot, the tide had turned, already picking up velocity with each minute that passed. A good wind astern and this speedy current whooshed our boat alongside the rocky ledges, cliffs and verdant woods. Had we arrived any later, passage would have bordered on perilous, as the current was soon to reach 7 knots. The consistent wind propelled us beautifully past islets and rocky outcrops (some with harbor seal colonies) to Heriot Bay.
Conversing long with Mama truly filled in the puzzle piece that was missing. I’m so thankful for our everlasting bond. Our dinner designed to sate our protein craving was on the menu: ground beef,
White basmati rice and veggies. Sailing fare is a joy to plan for. Well stocked with a variety of grains and legumes, oats, nuts and dried fruit and much more, keeps the crew fueled. At port restocking was a costly affair; the males on board—big man Jan and sprouting boy Bjorn—increasingly require heaps of food for their voracious appetites!
Sonja and I engaged in personal exchanges as we strolled through the neighborhoods of Heriot Bay. Fine person indeed to become friends with!
Onwards to Von Donop Inlet we embarked. What a blessed process, exploring, swimming, returning to the mother ship, then preparing our daily bread. Last, but not least, we wriggle into our sleeping bags, and literally get rocked to sleep by the boat’s gentle sway. How grateful we are for the graciousness and guidance bestowed upon us by the Master Provider. Like the Canada geese swimming by who ensure nourishment and direction for their goslings, so is a giving, strong hand extended to us reliably and faithfully.
A superb sail it was from Von Donop Inlet, around the NW tip of Cortes, to Refuge Cove. On a downwind course along Lewis Channel we cruised adjacent to a tugboat with a huge log boom in tow. What a massive width of momentum! It’s one thing to see the log boom unit from afar, yet altogether another spectacle to be a mere 75ft beside it. The patience and determination of a tug boat captain must be as vast as the sea itself. He or she can claim chunks of ocean to themselves, as displacement around them is critical for safe travel. Admirable it is how they finally park the gigantic boom smoothly and adeptly along the shorelines.
We departed from Refuge Cove after one night of solid rest heading to Tenedos Bay in Desolation Sound. An intermittent, fickle wind mostly powered us along. Initially a reefed main was even required, which we shook out shortly thereafter as the wind died. A light breeze returned and a pleasant sail our destination seemed to be in the works. Not so!
Bjorn warned us of a strong gust ahead. (One can ascertain wind strength by studying the water surface.) Skypilot was sailing slowly, sails trimmed for close hauled. Upon entering the gust the wind direction instantaneously changed, suddenly blasting up on the sails from the starboard beam, knocking us about 50 degrees over! Yikes, it felt like capsizing was imminent, but Captain Jan pushed the tiller hard over, heading up into the wind, and up she came. However, the severe heeling allowed several gallons of ocean to be scooped into the cockpit locker and unfortunately, into the cabin. No damage was incurred, aside from moistened charts, and a drenching of our shoes, cushions, and sole.
Compounding the saturation issue was Meekah’s accidental plunge before we left Refuge Cove. Rain observed on the higher peaks earlier descended upon us, so efforts to air dry the mess were futile. All’s well that ends well, and thank God for Skypilot righting us in the nick of time!
Looking forward to the delightful prospect of slumber, little did we know what lie ahead. A few weeks back in Roscoe Bay, upon encountering a baby harbor seal while on a dingy ride, Meekah went bonkers.
Instinctually she was unable to resist a magnetic pull towards the creature. Something innate, a longing and yearning to interact with what she perceived as kin, elicited from her whining and over excitement. Well, a rerun of that incident did we face in Tenedos Bay. Exacerbating her interruptions of our sleep was the sultry warmth, mosquitoes and the fact that I bonked my eyebrow on the deck beam as I turned over in my berth. No other time on this trip did I long for home. The following day dawned gloriously through remaining cloud and fog patches; the night’s discomforts were completely washed away by the contrasting beauty. The blessed events of the day included a couple of short steep hikes, culminating in stupendous overlooks.
Two years ago, Jan, Bjorn and I hiked up to Bold Head. This time, Sonja and John joined us. I was sure to include binoculars in my pack, as I recalled some lovely sightings of black-throated gray warblers among the madrones and shorepines. Sure enough, not 5 minutes after reaching the top, those striking warblers displayed themselves while gleaning insects in Manzanita shrubbery. Wow, how migratory birds hone in on the exact same breeding grounds year after year is cause for wonderment and awe.
The next morning we motivated to leave for the Malaspina Inlet, and John noticed that baby seal, lifeless on the rocky shore. The evening before, when Meekah was crazed by the sight of the seal, it kept attempting, so it appeared, to suckle our rubber dingy. We surmised it was starvation mode. To be witness to the death of such an endearing creature stirred mixed emotions. At least the turkey vultures and bald eagles get a free meal out of it.
Spending my birthday in the marine island wonder world has been a gift in and of itself. Back at the Copeland Islands, we had departed from John and Sonja in Cortes Bay. Ade to our new friends! The highlight for the birthday girl was pseudo snorkeling in the intertidal zone (mask, fins, not snorkel). I received a fine marine field guide from Bjorn and Jan, which greatly piqued my interest in the variety of ocean species. I discovered calcareous tube worms, striking white tubes with a red magenta fringe, tide pool sculpins, ochre sea stars (in peach, purple plum) and more. Becoming better acquainted with the many species along the intertidal zone surely heightens my appreciation of this colorful world, and my desire for its preservation.
The mostly downwind sail to Vananda became increasingly choppy with 4 ft waves at times. I’ve been delighted to be free of queasiness on most of this trip, but got the big test on the rocky crossing. Sure enough, all the signs set in: fatigue, overall nausea and lack of motivation. Upon entering flatter seas near Vananda, as is usually the case, all symptoms vanished and we looked forward to a walk to the Western Painted Turtle Study Area. There awaited us yet another warm lake to dive into, cooling ourselves off on the sticky, muggy afternoon. Some tame green frogs, which allowed Bjorn to pet them briefly, flashed us a happy gaze and an emerald smile.
Next morning at 6:30 am we caught light NW winds in the Malaspina Strait, which would take us to the Harmony Islands. After a few hours of early morning sailing splendor, we were becalmed. The seas were turbulent, however, and the bothersome swells flogged the sails. Off in the distance boats with full sails up could be seen; must be good wind ahead, we thought. Yes, indeed it was from the SE, along with waves of even higher amplitude than in the calms (up to 5 ft). How pleased we were with Skypilot’s performance and sea worthiness! The tension and keen focus required of the Nicolaisens while on the white-capped, turgid seas, made entering the gentler 1 ft chop of Jervis Inlet a huge relief. The steadier motion of the vessel and the smaller waves ameliorated a worked crew.
As we closed in on the Freil Waterfall, its rushing and plunging resounded across the bay. From the Harmony Islands one can behold a classic scene of the inlet along B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Densely forested slopes and ravines (Sasquatch territory indeed!) jut up from sea level to high salient ridges and peaks. Exploration was limited to a short circumnavigation of one of the islets, and a brief ascent to one of the lower plunge pools of the 1500 ft high waterfall, (which involved climbing up wet mossy boulders, decaying stumps and eroding stones).
The following morning, before moving on to Pender Harbor for restocking, I attempted a walk up a logging road with Meekah. Jan and Bjorn stayed behind on Skypilot, as the temporary tie up to a loggers’ float deemed it necessary. We certainly trod upon the road with trepidation. Guess why. Well, after I sighted the first massive pile of fresh bear scat, I realized grizzly country couldn’t be too far off. We walked through a corridor of ripe thimbleberries, whose seeds were present in the poop. Then another pile presented itself. The turning point was a large bear print in the mud. Okay, never mind a potentially great hike up through the hills to a lake on a nicely passable logging road!
In Garden Bay, at Pender Harbor, while dining on curried tofu and veggies with basmati rice, Bjorn exclaimed, “Whoa, that thing has 5 stinking spreaders on the main mast!” Indeed, a gigantic sailing vessel glided forth dominating the bay. All activity halted momentarily, and all eyes beheld the dazzling spectacle of Tamsen, the massive yacht designed by a world renowned Italian in the boating world. We paled and shrunk in Tamsen’s presence—a mere block and tackle for the mainsail costs more than our whole boat! 17 ft long, the proportions of Tamsen confounded sea faring onlookers. The mainsail boom itself was like a tree trunk, at least 50 ft long with an impressive girth, compared to Skypilot’s 12 ft boom.
After dinner we dingied over to the giant’s dock and marveled at its flashiness and size. Of great interest was the crew, decked out in proper attire, on their way to the dockside pub. Our sailing experience in contrast to this crew was like tenting instead of lounging in a penthouse.
That night, images of the enormous ship flitted in and out of my dreams; so impressed was I of a sailboat with 5 spreaders on a mast over 250 ft high!
The following few days involved transit to Secret Cove (mostly private), then to our beloved Jedediah Island. Barely was motoring necessary, and again we glided into Deep Bay and dropped anchor, along with a stern tie. The waters gleamed greenish blue, as we remembered, transparent to the bottom, filled with surprises of marine life awaiting our observations.
First, we retraced our steps from a previous year, following a flagged route towards the twin summits. The southern spread of the Strait of Georgia rippled in all directions around us, except for the other picturesque islands and rocky bluffs nearby. A very fine scene indeed!
We awoke to a very low tide, inviting intertidal study. Too chilly for swimming, Bjorn came up with the idea of rowing around with our dingy (Ruddy) to points of interest, and holding the diving mask just on the water surface. The effect was aquarium-like, and spotting various unknown species amused us for some time. A lovely orange-reddish splotched, smooth sea star, called leather star, clung to a vertical rock surface, as did a mottled star, tangerine with slender longer arms and white patterning. An ochre star, plum-purple, just above the water line was devouring a sizable kelp crab as we rowed along the sheer stone wall. Shiner perch, gobies, ronquils and tide pool sculpins caught our eager eyes. We’re sure putting my birthday present (marine field guide) to good use!
Well, the approaching schedules of the big world of responsibility dictate crossing the Strait of Georgia, and as efficiently as possible. Thank God for the needed NW wind, which allowed us to be on a either beam reach or broad reach, fast points of sail for Skypilot. We hooked up to a mooring buoy with a sunshiny afternoon lying before us on Newcastle Island, a popular provincial park.
Our larder was bereft of bread, so Jan and Bjorn rowed across Nanaimo Harbor to a store. Meekah and I explored the network of trails through the woods, along the shoreline and to a lake. The day wound down with a family stroll in the campground, where we met Dale, a 70 year old traveler who spends summers rowing through the San Juan and Gulf Islands. A sprightly, amiable fellow, he inspired us with the vim and energy of his pursuits. The park’s pay phone was out of order, and Dale kindly allowed me to phone my parents with his cell. The call meant the world to them, as occasionally checking in is the least I can do while mostly separated from modern forms of communication. We wished Dale well on his solo sojourn, and headed for those cozy, alluring sleeping bags awaiting us on the Mother Ship.
The following day’s marine forecast called for a strong wind warning (up to 25 knots). Verily did we sail upwind, mostly close-hauled with some slapping gusts of 20 knots. Bjorn and Jan managed the tiller and handling of the sail trim. I stood in the companion way, the upper third of my body popping out of the cabin. Sky Pilot blasted through the chop, creating splash after splash of ocean spray, at times aimed directly at my face! The sea glimmered in the sun, several bright white sails flashed around us, and raucous glaucous gulls played on the wind. The Nicolaisen crew flew high on Sky Pilot! Invigorating and refreshing as imbibing a cool glass of water on a scorching desert day are these rejuvenating sailing days! Or imagine the finest moments of taking flight in a dream, freely soaring up to the firmament; so it is to sail.
The final week of our journey brought us mixed tidings. Hints of crimson on the maples and the shorter days reminded us of what’s to come: autumn work and school schedules, house projects and reunions with friends and family. To carry on our family adventure will have to wait until next summer.
Outstanding highlights of the 7th week of our journey included revisiting Turn Point on Stuart Island (Jan’s favorite fabulous overlook). Bjorn, Meekah and I enjoyed a twilight hike to Ev Henry Point on Sucia Island as well. Some great sailing days were bestowed upon us on the last days, along with close ups of harbor porpoises, a huge salmon, and a swimming flock of common Murres. May the lines of our tales ignite in you, dear reader, the torch needed to set your own dreams into motion!