Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aborted Barkley Sound trip still fabulous

We're just back from our eight day vacation aboard Aeolus where we attempted to reach Barkley Sound. A long story short is that consecutive days of gale winds prevented us from going past Sooke and so we turned tail and enjoyed the always blissful Gulf Islands.

Entering Victoria was a real highlight, having vacationed in and around there so many times. We even got a slip right in front of the Empress Hotel, complete with street performers. The journey out Cattle Pass was smooth and fast, hitting 10 knots SOG with the ebb. Nearing the Discovery Islands a 20 knot SW wind hit the strong ebb and the seas became rather rough. Unfortunately, it made all of us a bit seasick, much to our surprise. Seems our time down in CA away from Aeolus had robbed us of our sealegs and we paid the price. Hadn't even taken any real preventative measures as we hadn't expected it to be rough on the way to Victoria. Oh well.

Just an appreciative word on Canadian Customs operations. It is incredible how pleasant and brief and painless our entries into Canada are. We are in their system now and invariably their polite agents ask only a few required questions and not more than 2 minutes later you are walking away with a smile on your face. One of a multitude of reasons we so happily return to Canada for our sailing vacations.

Funny and painful story about our first night there in Victoria. After we had moored at our slip, and while we were out being tourists in town, two big fat super wide fake tug boats pulled in on either side of each other and blocked our exit!! When I returned and saw this, I was quite unhappy. Neither owner was around. The space between their boats was maybe 9-10 feet, and we have a 10 foot beam. No go. I couldn't believe it. We had planned a 3 am departure in order to catch the right currents at Race Rocks. I left notes on both boats hoping to contact them and arrange something. No luck. What are the chances two of these behemoth fat floating buoys would pull in alongside each other??? We were SOL.

We had to wait until 9am the next morning before the people started moving out. This was an omen it turned out. We headed out to Race Rocks to hit it at the end of the ebb near slack. Rounding Race Rocks was a real highlight of the trip. Deservedly notorious, that darned point had high winds every day we were nearby. The morning we passed west things were fairly calm with only 15-20 west wind and 2-3 foot seas. All things considered, that's nothing for Race Rocks. Views were extraordinary. Unbelievable really. The forecast was for 35 knot winds and the current was turning to a strong flood, so we were done for the day. Making progress west against 35 knots and 4 knots of current is not practical. That afternoon and night the wind was indeed 35 knots and even tore through our fairly protected anchorage in Campbell Cove near Beechey Head. An anchorage I would recommend, by the way. Great views and access to places.

We woke at 4am or so the next morning to try and catch the winds at a calm point just to get past Sooke and further west. I knew from my study that the winds consistently die down as you get further west, barring a frontal system. 35 knots at Race Rocks means 30 knots at Sheringham point, and 10 knots at Pachena point. No luck. At 4am the wind was still 25 knots and forecast again to raise to 35. Just snotty conditions out there. All the long range forecasts called for more of the same. We enjoyed the day at the large and wonderful E. Sook Regional Park. Great beaches and great hiking. Really worth the trip. This shot is of us at Beechey Head, looking out over the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It was foggy, and very windy. This hike is fantastic should you find yourself in the area.

The next morning we got up early again and had the same result. Winds blowing snot and no sign of relief. At this point, having already explored the nearby area, we decided to head back to the Gulf Islands as we only had a few days of vacation. Heading east, the Race Rocks area was again only somewhat rough. Anything less than supreme violence and you feel you cheated the odds. We got there precisely, and I mean precisely, at slack at 6:20 am, and the strong west wind only helped push us right along to where we wanted to go. Seas were moderate and I'd estimate at 2-4 feet, conservatively.

We headed on a beautiful broad reach right over to Oak Bay Marina where we docked, took showers, and headed into town for a delicious lunch at an italian deli. Oak Bay was very convenient, and though lacking the grandeur of Victoria, it is otherwise easier. The little village a few blocks from the harbor is upscale and packed full of bakeries and tasty places. We were in heaven.

We left Oak Bay and headed to Sidney Spit for the night. The wind turns the corner and comes up from the SW there and we had a great sail all the way up. We grabbed a mooring buoy in the park and it blew hard all afternoon and evening. Good 20-25 knots and there is a lot of fetch from that direction at Sidney. Amy took the boys in the dinghy to shore, a long 1/2 mile row. On the way back, it was quite rough and I was a bit concerned for them. She made it fine, but had had quite an adventure and was dead tired. This shot doesn't do the wind justice, and I felt voyeuristic while my poor wife struggled against the wind and seas, but I knew in retrospect she'd like a picture.

The next day we went back west but this time into Saanich Inlet and down to Tod Inlet. What a wonderful discovery. Tod Inlet is the closest thing to Desolation Sound we have ever found down south here. It is narrow and forested and hot and sunny and sheltered. While there, we had nothing but blue skies. The water temperature was in the mid-60's! The next day we hiked up to Durrance Lake, which is a whole different story, and then came back and Amy and Elliott took turns jumpin off of Aeolus into Tod Inlet. It was heaven. This shot is of Owen and I on the public dock in Tod Inlet.

Leaving Tod Inlet we headed around the corner to our favorite Gulf Island spot of Portland Island. It is a much larger version of our favorite San Juan Island spot of Jones Island. Great trails, great beaches, great ecology and not many people around.

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