Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day trip to Salt Spring Island and environs

We're just back from a much needed voyage to Salt Spring Island for a get away. Between boat projects and some health issues, we had been stuck at the dock for too much recently and we are not happy campers without some real adventure in our regular diet. So off with the lines and despite lingering excuses not to go, we set forth upon the seas and cast our lot with the wind. We had never sailed into Ganges Harbor and knew from visits by land that it would be fun and beautiful. Sure enough.

We left at the start of the flood but once again were disappointed by the lack of help going north. There are so many eddies and funny currents that you really need a good current chart or deep perosnal experience to play them expertly. We did alright, and motored into a headwind all the way to Bedwell Harbor, South Pender Island to clear Canadian customs. This tanker is typical of the traffic you cross in Boundary Pass going over the border. No sooner had we tied up at Bedwell than Owen starts to pee as I took a picture. It wasn't planned that way! As always, clearing customs was quick, polite and simple. God I love Canada. The resort there at Poet's Cove imported some mega million tons of white sand for the beach and they let low life sailing scum like us enjoy it without a suit and tie. It was nice to stretch the legs. It is about 2.5 hours from FH to Bedwell on Aeolus.

From there we shot off to Ganges for the night and dropped anchor at about 7pm. There is tons of room to anchor and despite many mooring balls near to town, there is still room to swing among them. Despite the hour, we jumped into the dinghy and rowed to shore for a little terrestrial exploration.

I have to add that the weather has been extraordinary for days and days, and this night was also sublime. As close to a warm summer night as we ever get around here. There is a Rotary sponsored dinghy dock downtown at Ganges and above it is a park and the main market. Perfect. We met some acquaintances from Friday Harbor there who have two girls the same ages as our boys and that was the evening. The kids ran and frolicked while the parents did the "Damn I like BC and it is so much nicer and better than Washington and I've got half a mind to find work here..." talk. It always happens. All the quality of life and more that we have in the States, plus universal health care and no national tendency toward militaristic fascism. Oh well.

The next day we went over for brunch and happened upon the Salt Spring Inn. On the way I got this picture of Elliott in front of the mermaid at the Rotary dinghy dock. He called her the "freaky lady". I can't recommend this restaurant highly enough. We had great meals, really friendly service, cheap prices and a nice atmosphere. The food was very high quality, not cheap. Fresh. Meals were like $6 Canadian, and would have easily been $10 in Friday Harbor and been half as good with bad service. Yet another reason to like BC is that even their tourist towns are nicer than ours. Amy, tea lover, was pleased that her tea came with a clever little tea pot. The British in British Columbia makes her very happy to have tea in BC. Yet another reason to like it here. I tell you, the list goes on.

Anyway, we had a great morning and then left Ganges for a tremendous sail toward our next stop at Portland Island. While Amy and Owen slept, I raised sail and had a rare opportunity for a long sail with many tacks. The wind, as always, was on the nose, but at least there was wind. We had probably 10-15 knots, and with full sail that moved us along at about 5 knots close hauled. I was so very happy to sail those three or so miles tacking back and forth on this exquisitely beautiful day. We were not alone. At one point I counted 22 other sailboats within sight of our position with sails up.

The highlight of the sail was needing to navigate around some closely spaced islands under sail and against a strong current. On one tack I was able to skim past a rocky headland with maybe a few boat lengths to spare, while heeled over and loving every second. Beautiful day, beautiful sandstone islands. Truly incredible experiences. On the approach to Portland Island Elliott jumped into the dinghy we were towing behind and enjoyed a nice roller coaster ride.

Portland Island was all she always is. We anchored in Royal Cove and immediately jumped into the dinghy to go to nearby Arbutus Point to our favorite beach. This soft sandy beach is our favorite beach anywhere in the Salish Sea. It is just so friendly and beautiful and interesting and quiet. You can swim and play in the soft sand, and the uplands have great trails and forest.

Today was a very low tide, and we caught the end of the ebb south after a morning walk to Princess Cover on Portland. We left Royal Cove at 11:30 and arrived at Friday Harbor at 3pm having motored the whole time. Once again, the wind was on the nose and we did not have time to sail those tacks home. The currents near the south side of Spieden were once again incredible. We knew from experience that despite the strengthening flood, there would be an eddy here that we could ride and sure enough, we did 8 knots for quite a while. Nowhere else in the San Juans has quite the tumultuous current that the Cactus Islands behind Spieden possess. Just crazy water that never seems to stop.

A perfect trip and we needed and enjoyed every second of it. The boys were great and had a blast and Amy and I nourished our spirits.

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