Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 6
Day 9, Sunday 9/7/14I left Nanaimo around 8 am, heading to Silva Bay on the southeast end of Gabriola Island. The morning was warm and clear. A blue-bird sky without a breath of wind. I was hoping to catch a light northern wind to sail-troll my way to the next destination.
The channel around Protection Island that separates Nanaimo harbor from the Strait of Georgia was almost blocked off with a huge log raft being towed by a tug. Cautiously making my way around him, I headed out into the strait, hunting for wind. I set the engine at half throttle, hooked up the auto-pilot, and sat up on the bow, watching for logs and flotsam that may have escaped the log boom. Not 15 minutes later, I crashed into a hug log! Despite my watchful eye, this monster was floating about a foot below the surface and I never saw it till it hit me.
The log rolled under the boat and glanced off the keel, thankfully missing the prop and rudder. I vainly scrambled to throttle down the engine and take evasive action. I put the engine in neutral and opened my bilge hatch, looking for any water coming in. I leaned way over the gunnel to see if I could spot any damage… no harm, no foul. I kicked the engine back on and continued at quarter throttle, in case any more land mines were floating around out there. In October I’ll have the boat hauled to remove the defunct inboard and I can fix any damage at that time.I was hunting wind without any luck the whole way to Silva Bay. Every time I thought I felt a light, steady breeze I’d throttle down my engine and it would dissipate. The Strait of Georgia was like glass, a stark contrast to the white-capped, five foot rollers of two days ago.
As I approached the Flat Top Islands I started to worry about whether or not I’d make it to Silva Bay. The depths between the islands is dangerously shallow and I was arriving at dead low-tide. I began to sweat bullets as I worked my way around Shipyard Rock and the depth sounder hit a low of 12 feet. It would take just one underwater spire to reach up and snag my keel to ruin the trip… well, on second thought, maybe not at idle.
Entering Silva Bay, I was taken aback by how crowded it was. Nearly the entire bay was full of boats at anchor. Having some yay-hoo drag across my ground tackle in a crowded anchorage is one of my worst fears. I picked a spot along the edge of the bay where no one else was anchored and let out a four-to-one scope; the smallest scope that I’m comfortable with.Silva Bay turned out to be quite the oasis with a liquor store, ice, grocery store, restaurant, laundry, and free internet. But I walked a ways down the road and didn’t see anything else worth noting. After stocking up with ice and beer, I headed back out to my boat and passed my parents as they were heading into the marina. Later that evening I had my father give me a hair cut on the swim step and I brushed the hair into the water. It made cheap entertainment for the other dock dwellers.
All day the wind was flat calm, and it made Silva Bay appear picturesque and safe. But just as I headed back to my boat for the night, the wind began to build, and build, up to 20 mph gusts. I spent a fairly sleepless night keeping an eye on the boats anchored near me. I knew I wouldn’t drag, but in an anchorage this crowded, carnage was bound to happen. I woke up about every half hour to poke my head out the hatch and make sure everyone was still in the same spot.
At one point the sound of an engine and the unmistakable sound of chain being fed out of a windlass caused me to sit bolt upright. A power boat was dropping his anchor right on top of mine! More than likely he had started to drag anchor in the middle of the night and he was trying to re-anchor where it was less crowded. I was thankful I had installed my electric fog horn before leaving on this trip. I laid on the fog horn and really let him have it! The horn also caused everyone on the nearby boats to wake up and come out, giving the offending boat the stink-eye too. He got the message in short order and moved deeper out into the bay.
Day 10, Monday 9/8/14After a fitful night, I woke up late. If I couldn’t get quality sleep, I’d have to settle for quantity. Checking the clock, I realized I’d have to get my butt in gear if I was going to make slack tide in Gabriola Pass.
My father and I had discussed potential anchorages the night before and we had a short list of candidates. As I passed Dog-Fish Bay between Kendall Island and Valdes Island, it looked like a sweet little anchorage, but too exposed to the northern wind that had kept me up last night. With as worthless as the weather radio has been on this trip, I wanted to get some place more protected.
The Waggoner guide had a small blurb about a park on Valdes Island called Wakes Park, just inside Gabriola Passage. As soon as I poked through the pass I spotted it on the port side. There was a single boat at the dock but as I approached, they left. I snagged the dock and it didn’t take me long to realize I had discovered one hell of a gem.
The dock at Wakes Park is only big enough for two boats. One side is clearly designated for RCMP and BC Parks use. There is an octagonal dingy dock at the end of the main dock. Anchorage is super sketchy, options for a stern line are limited, and the tide change is well over 10 feet. It’s a very exclusive spot.The dock leads up to trails composed of several miles of old logging roads and easy, flat hiking. As far as I can tell Valdes Island must be almost completely undeveloped. With the exception of a couple (pickup truck) campers, we didn’t see a single house on our walk.
My father and I trolled the pass for salmon, but never managed to get a strike. As a booby prize for our efforts, I pried a couple oysters off the rock. My mother refrained from eating them in case we came down with paralytic shellfish poisoning. She decided to let us be the guinea pigs.
We spotted several raccoons on the island, and I swear I heard one or two come down the dock at night. Keep this in mind if you come here!
Here is a map of the locations mentioned in this article: