Saturday, June 1, 2013

Memorial Day trip to Tumbo Island, BC

This trip was significant in a number of ways, not least of which being that it was our first family trip since Aeolus was hauled out and had so much work performed. It is also one of only a few trips left before we head off around Vancouver Island. This meant we spent time reviewing equipment lists and making plans.
Cabbage Island looking Northwest

It was really a tale of two trips, as Saturday was warm and glorious, and Sunday and Monday were rainy and stormy. We got to Jones Island late on Friday night, and enjoyed a restful evening in the north cove. On Saturday we motored up to Bedwell Harbor and had an especially smooth time of clearing Canadian customs. The winds were calm, and we timed the current to catch the last of the ebb and start of the flood.

The building flood pushed us right through Boundary Pass and along the southern edge of lovely Saturna Island once we left Bedwell. By the time we reached the southeastern tip of Saturna, we were pumping along at over 9 knots! We rounded the reefs there and then head up the inside of Tumbo Island to turn into Reef Harbor. The views along this western edge of Tumbo are really wonderful. There are sandstone cliffs all along here, classic Gulf Islands geology, and the shapes and caves are always interesting.

Once into Reef Harbor we noticed that there were only a few other boats. All Canadian. One of the realities of Tumbo is that it is rather far away for anyone to get to. Of course the Americans stay away by the millions, but even the Canadians don't seem to make the trip out there in large numbers. It is far from Vancouver, Victoria, even Sidney and of course a haul from Bellingham or Friday Harbor. 19 miles from Friday Harbor directly, to be exact. Still, it is hard to believe so few visit because it is truly one of the greatest beauty spots in all the Salish Sea.

Saturday was glorious at Tumbo and Cabbage. The white sand beaches at Cabbage were hot with the sun, and we were no sooner anchored than we were playing and enjoying them. Our boys immediately became gophers and began digging holes and building castles. Amy and I walked the shoreline around the entire island, which takes all of maybe 30 minutes. The sun glistened off of everything and the sounds of nature filled the air.

Besides the location of Tumbo being extraordinary, sitting as it does on the edge of the Straits of Georgia, it is also fascinating in ecological ways. The tree diversity is really striking to me. I've written about this on this blog before, but Tumbo has the only groves of Aspen trees that I can recall seeing on any of the small islands in the Sea. Aspens are the closest things to water on land. The leaves move constantly, like water, and the sounds of the leave in any breeze are precisely like a stream. There are also the usual conifers and madrones, and even yew trees. There is a marsh in the middle that makes things interesting, and provides habitat for those critters.

We laid around in the sun for leisurely eons, and then played some frisbee on the soft sand beaches. Oh the joy of playing frisbee with the boys now. So much good fun, and on a beach where you can dive and roll and pull silly moves to try and catch and throw in hard ways.
Sunsets from Tumbo are exquisite, looking North over the Straits. 

The sunset Saturday night was mind blowing, just as it had been last Memorial Day at Tumbo. The views from Reef Harbor looking Northwest are somehow perfectly arranged to suggest both open ocean and an inland sea. Like all good art, it certainly surpasses my agility with language.

Sunday was a great day, albeit cool and drizzly. We explored here and there, walked around the marsh on Tumbo, and generally enjoyed vacation brain. One thing of interest was that there was a parks staff on the levy taking accurate measurements of the tidal basin of Reef Harbor for the sake of long term planning with ocean level rise. It was an especially low tide that day, and so they could do their survey work far out into the basin. One advantage the Gulf Islands have over the San Juans is that they have designated various parts of them as National Parks, which brings federal funding to their management. The rabid anti-government crowd in the San Juans would fight such declarations tooth and gun in those islands, despite the benefit to tourism and management this would bring.

Sunday we journeyed home. The forecast was for 10-20 knots SE, and we headed out expecting a good sail and were not disappointed. We timed our departure to catch the start of the ebb and were doing a good SOG by the time we reached the Southern tip of Texada. We raised sail there, and enjoyed a nice close reach right over toward Waldron Island in the States. Somewhere along the way the wind picked up to a solid 20, and Amy went forward and put a reef in the main. This made her happy and we only lost a half knot or so. We were able to sail all the way to Flattop Island before the wind died and we had to start the iron beast.

Before we knew it, we were at the Customs dock in Friday Harbor being treated to the excruciatingly slow and absurd process of clearing customs back into the States.

It was a wonderful weekend, filled with all the things we love: adventure, sailing, hiking, kayaking, leisure, family games, frisbee, great conversations, amazing food and togetherness. There is nothing greater than this.

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