Places We Go – Desolation Sound


Places We Go – Desolation Sound & Surrounding Area 

July 22, 2008


Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”.  One of the coldest summers we ever spent was last summer in Ventura, California.  The reason?  As the temperatures heat up inland, heat rises, creating a vacuum leaving a place to pull the cooler air off the ocean, thus the cold temperatures on the coast(s) as that cooler air rushes into the empty space.   We are in Port McNeil at present.  The northwesterly winds are blowing big time, leaving us chilled, at times – much like the experience of the west coast of the USA, only this time British Columbia.  I spoke with a WIFI technical support person living inland in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.  He was enjoying sunny and very warm temperatures, thus our chilly and windy temperatures.  Of course just a few miles to the east, in the Broughton Archipeligo, if we were sitting in a “proper to the wind” anchorage, it would probably seem like summer. 


We just spent three weeks in the channels and anchorages off the main waterways of British Columbia, meaning the Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Strait.   Just barely off these major waterways you can find calm and serene spots to while away time.   We listen to Environment Canada weather, on our VHF radio, several times daily, getting the weather information for the area that we are presently enjoying and the areas we are considering as future places of travel.   For the last three weeks we heard nothing but NW’ly gale forces in Johnstone Strait, as we sat at anchor in protected NW’ly anchorages, catching the sun and water warm enough to take a swim! Then one day they started forecasting no wind, it lasted for two days and allowed us our 64 mile trip into Port McNeil.


A quick rundown of where we’ve been:


Campbell River, Rebecca Spit, Von Donop Inlet, Gorge Harbor, Grace Harbor, Melanie Cove, Squirrel Cove, Refuge Cove, Walsh Cove, Octopus Island Marine Park, Shoal Bay, Blind Channel Resort and Port McNeil.  This traveling was from June 28, 2008 through July 24, 2008.  We have gone a little over 230 miles.  The shortest cruise was 4 miles and the longest was 64 miles,  but most were in the low twenties or teens.  The best meal was at Squirrel Cove – The Cove Restaurant. 


Our first anchorage, with friends, was at a place called Rebecca Spit.  This is just off Quadra Island.  We had heard it was the perfect place to celebrate July 1 – Canada Day.  It turned out to be perfect.  There were plenty of boats that came for the event.  At the end of the day there was a fire works display.  We anchored out in the deeper water, as we normally do.  It was interesting to see a large boat, similar to ours pull into a middle of a full anchorage, a bit closer to shore than we would, and anchor.  The next morning it did appear to be room , but the timing and wind and all the circumstances left that boat on the only shoal spot in the area and sadly he was seriously aground.  We watched for hours as the boat lay down as the tide continued to go out, and were quite relieved to see it come up and sit when the tide came in,  inwhat appeared to be “normal”, with no apparent damage.   It is very important to know exactly where your boat is, what the tide changes are, and are you anchored in such away to accommodate the change.


We embarked guests, JT and Linda, in Campbell River the end of June.  They traveled with us for two weeks.  For the most part the weather was idyllic.  Of course it was based on picking anchorages that protected us from the weather.  No one  minded an anchorage that left us in a perfect summer situation – mosquitoes included!  J   A little spray if going ashore and at the end of the day burning a mosquito coil was all we needed to fight off the pesky bugs.  Many of the anchorages we visited lately are quite popular and deep.  That means that boats need to “stern-tie” in order to allow more boaters into the area to enjoy all the benefits of a calm anchorage as it is too deep to anchor properly and there is little room to swing.  “Stern-tie means we take a line from the swim platform to shore, and wrap it around a tree or rock, and then bring the line back to the cleat on the swim platform.   It starts with the anchor being set forward in such a manner as the bow is facing out into the anchorage and the stern-tie then brings the boat into the correct position.   That way boats are secure with no swing room, in the more shallow areas of the anchorage.   With the more extreme tides it is important to know the extreme low and high tides so that you don’t find yourself pulled into the shore or set almost adrift . Unfortunately, I lost some really good pictures of one stern-tie .  I have one other that gives an idea of how it works.  Notice the second line going to another boat.


These pictures were taken at Walsh Cove, off of West Redonda Island.  The anchorage was perfection, and though the guide books don’t give it much space, several boaters knew that this is an idyllic spot on earth.   The anchorage offered a swimming hole, steep granite walls with pictographs, and calm waters.  Unfortunately, I lost the pictures of the pictographs, but I did get the ones of the regal eagle that watched us putt-putt by in our little dinghy.


The voyaging has been an absolute treat.  Flat and beautiful with vistas beyond the ability of my camera to reproduce.  Along with the idyllic voyaging conditions we have been enjoying the social aspects of the lifestyle.  While we were in Refuge Cove, dropping off our friends after their two week voyage, we met people that had known the original owners of DESERT VENTURE.  They were quite happy to meet us and visit with us.  We hope to visit with them again.  Another boat invited us to go along with them to their next destination.  And then among all the those nice folks we hope to catch up with before too long, we received an email from dear friend boaters we met in Mexico.   We called them and arranged to meet them in Walsh Cove.  Of course it was another party waiting upon our arrival!  Viva grande fiesta!!  We loved seeing Mike and Maureen again, and meeting Dean on M/V NALU!   As we always say, the waterfront is a small world.  We cruised with them to another nice anchorage and spent another day with them, and then stayed for another couple days finishing up a couple projects.


We have been enthralled with the eagles this season.   Though not as profuse as in SE Alaska, plenty abound, if you listen for the distinctive cheep, and keep an eye on the skies.   While guests were aboard we were stern-tied/anchored in Grace Harbor.  This is a wonderful and popular place in Desolation Sound.   JT and Linda went out for a dinghy ride and heard a lot of “cheep-cheeping” and spotted a nest with an eagle parent.  The other parent was watching the area.   We went out in the dinghy intent on finding the nest and hoping to hear the “cheep-cheeping” of the chicks, but no luck. (I think the parents kept them quiet.  You have heard the phrase, “I don’t want to hear a peep out of you”, right?) However, we could see the nest and the eagle parent there.  And then, we realized that the other parent was “stalking” us.   We were putt-putting along rather slowly looking up, almost directly, at the nest.   As we coasted by from tree to tree, the eagle stayed right with us.   At first we were just watching it fly from tree to tree, then we realized it was staying right abreast, but way overhead of us.   Oh, to have had my camera, as it is probably the closest we had ever been to an eagle.


Back at Walsh Cove,  we enjoyed idyllic conditions.  Our friends were wading in natural pool, and Dean swam later the first day.  Early in the evening, though, we noticed a red tide, so swimming and watermaking was out.   We had been watching an eagle hang out on the bluff, overlooking the cove.   Guide books spoke of pictographs on the rock walls, and so after dinner we took a cruise to check out the wall.   I got really good pictures of the three pictographs, but lost them in the download. L We will be back in the fall and try again.  Meanwhile, the pictures of the wall came out great, as did the eagle that was quite tolerant of our taking its picture.  The wall looks as if someone polishes it daily.  It was so colorful.  I can imagine all sorts of faces staring back at me.  Some of them don’t look that pleasant, but I don’t think it is me, that brought on the “look”.  Maybe the red tide? J


Each place we go to is special in its own way.  Each requires that we read the charts checking for rocks and other hazards, the tides and currents,  the prevailing winds, and make sure we have all the makings of a fun time on board.  There seems to always be another boat in the anchorage.  If you want company all you have to do is invite them to your boat for a beverage or snack.   Most of the boaters, coming from different locals, careers, and backgrounds do have a lot in common.  They are out there doing the same thing – enjoying their boat, loving the scenery and remoteness of the area, loving the quiet and the calm and meeting new friends on occasion.  


When we go to the dock, we meet many boaters quick.  Without exception they want to know where were we last, what was it like, and where are we going next.  Most will try to sort out how we can meet again.  It is a great comraderie.  Men are constantly talking about the weather, boat mechanics, fishing, crabbing, and prawning.   The women talk of the weather, where to find the grocery, laundry, hair salon, and cute stores.  There is always a mad dash to clean up the boat, as it hasn’t seen a bath in days.  Then it is off to the grocery store, laundry, boat parts store, liquor agency, and whatever sundry must be acquired before they can head out again.   We try to not be at the docks long.   There is so much to see and do away from the docks and so it is generally rush, rush, rush.   You will get to rest when you get back out on the hook. Ahhhh, now where did I leave off in my book?

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