Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fantastic Labor Day at Tumbo Island

Tumbo Island is in the Canadian National Park system and lies just east of Saturna Island in the Straits of Georgia. It's not unknown, but it's not Salt Spring either. It has become our new favorite place to go for a long US weekend because it has a perfect assortment of the things we love: a good sail to get there, incredible views, great hiking, great birds and critters, great beaches, wilderness feel, and fewer people than the US islands over the holiday weekends.

Being just north of the border you might expect it to be popular, and yet it is quite remote because it lies a good distance from either the main US or Canadian towns. It's a long haul from Bellingham and a long haul from Sidney or Victoria or such. As a result, and despite the magnificence of the place, it is often fairly deserted. It turned out that the Labor Day weekend for Canadians overlaps with that for the US, and so instead of the Canadians disappearing on Sunday afternoon as we see at Memorial Day, they all stayed around with the few Americans for another day of bliss in this amazing spot.
The eastern shore of Tumbo at low tide

At 6 knots it takes about 5 hours of travel from Friday Harbor to Bedwell for customs, and then east to Tumbo. That time will soon be cut almost in half for us when the whole family has their Nexus cards, but for this trip we made an almost sentimental return to Bedwell for clearance through. It is 18 miles direct from Tumbo to Friday Harbor and with the ebb on our stern we averaged 7.5 knots on the way back and did it in less than 3 hours.Having the current with you is not a mere convenience for this trip, as it passes through some of the strongest tidal areas in the Salish Sea and you don't want that against you, or against a strong contrary wind. That is, unless you are in the mood for challenge, which we sometimes are.

We arrived at Tumbo on Saturday afternoon, were quickly anchored near Cabbage Island in the main anchorage, and were soon ashore. The anchorage is easy so long as you don't go in too deep as it shallows far from the head of the bay. There are a good number of mooring balls, but also plenty of room to swing for numerous boats. We counted 23 boats in the anchorage on this weekend, which was a lot by Tumbo standards. However, so few people walk more than 50 feet that you can have all of Tumbo or even Cabbage to yourself if you just round a corner and walk a few steps. There are reefs along both sides of the entrance as well, but easy to navigate with modern electronics.

The sunsets from Tumbo are the best we ever see in the Salish Sea. This is looking NW. 
We played frisbee on the soft white sand, explored around the tidepools avoiding the jellyfish, and just lazed around in the sun. It's amazing how a great day can be enjoyed in wilderness doing nothing more than this. That night we were regaled by the sounds of some partying going on, but couldn't mind it much given the holiday. The stars were absolutely incredible, and the bioluminescence was going crazy. I took one of our paddles and swooshed it through the water and a million little lights traced the course. And in the sky the milky way and thousands of other distinct stars formed our ceiling. It was quite an experience.

On Sunday we nearly circumnavigated the shoreline of Tumbo by foot. There is a trail from the anchorage to the main part of the island and marsh, and having done this, we headed out around the east side of Tumbo along the shoreline as it was low tide and the walking is easy on sandstone ledges. We made it all the way around the West side to within about a half mile from the tip, and then went cross country back to where we started. It was about 5 miles of gorgeous walking on a bright sunny day. Paradise. And there was not another soul on the island, despite all the boats at anchor!

More time on the beach playing and lounging and another calm night of stars and barking seals ended this second day. And on Monday we rose early and rode the ebb current all the way back to Friday Harbor. The route through President Channel is both fast and scenic with the ebb from the north. Another great long weekend on Tumbo!

Along the Western shore of Tumbo looking SW over East Point of Saturna. Grassy slopes with Garry Oak! 

No comments: