Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 9

Day 15, Saturday 9/13/14

War Paint

So much sunlight! I had to constantly remind myself to put on the ‘war paint’.

The weather up here has been ridiculously great. It’s only rained once, blew hard twice, and no sign of fog. I awoke to another blue-bird day. After morning coffee, we loaded up Izak’s belongings into the dingy and dropped him off at the Aquila as Andy and I made our way to the farmers market in Ganges of Salt Sprint Island.

What an awesome market! They had the most beautiful fruits and vegetables I’d ever seen and art of all kinds. It definitely rivaled the Portland Saturday Market of my home town in quality, if not in size. Andy and I stocked up on supplies and ice, expecting to meet up with the crew of Aquila, but hadn’t seen hide or hair of them by the time we were finished. My parents would be leaving for Roche Harbor this morning, so we stopped by to say good-bye and pick up my orphaned gear on the way back to the boats.

Andy refilled our one pound propane bottles off a larger 20 pound bottle as I made a water run to the docks to top off our tanks. With only a couple hours of ebb tide left, we set sail and saluted the Aquila as it faded off into the distance, never having a chance to do last minute coordination. I believe they were north bound while we planned to continue our leisurely pace south.

Water Poaching

Poaching water at the Ganges dock.

Andy and I discussed our options and settled on Winter Cove at the northeast end of Saturna Island for an anchorage. This is one of the places we stopped at on our investigative trip earlier in the summer. We made our way there, alternating between motoring and sailing. Andy had overheard a report on the VHF of Orca whales spotted north of Pender Island. He went north around Prevost Island to see if he could spot them. I continued around the south side of Prevost Island, attempting to follow the wind.

As I made my way through Navy channel, I passed a slack tide line – an outline in the water. It appears as a ripple, outlined by logs, seaweed, and other flotsam. They signal the changing of the tide. I was in 80 feet of water and slack tide is an excellent time to fish. I dropped the sails and drifted as I dropped my homemade glow-in-the-dark jig into the water. Not 10 minutes later I brought up a nice sized lingcod; just big enough to feed two people. Andy and I continued to fish for a while, but caught nothing but Rockfish, which we released, as their populations are struggling.

Swan Family

This family of Swan’s came to visit the Aquila the night we all stayed in Ganges.

After dropping anchor in Winter Cove, we hiked around and discovered a sweet cache of elephant ear and wild mint along the trail. Elephant ear looks like a giant three-leaf clover, bigger even than wood sorel, and it gives off a pleasant vanilla-bean odor as the leaves dry. The natives would stuff them around the edges of their home as a natural potpourri.

The mint I diced up and rubbed into the lingcod fillets along with seasoning, lemon, and onion before I baked it on the barbeque in an aluminum foil tray. Not to be out done, Andy showed me how delicious beats can be when cubed, boiled, and buttered along with red potatoes. We baited our crab trap with the carcass, set it out for the night, and proceeded to feast like kings. The sunset was gorgeous. It was a very bro-mantic scene.

Day 16, Sunday 9/14/14


The bro-mance is palpable.

The next morning we lounged and eventually got around to making breakfast burritos with egg, cheese, and the remainder of last nights dinner. I am really hooked on beats now. Afterward, we went back to the park so that I could collect a couple bags of wild mint for drying and use throughout the rest of the year. We checked the crab pots we’d thrown out the night before. I came up empty handed, but Andy’s pot had three keepers! We cleaned and cooked them before leaving.

Andy is a dedicated football fan; not uncommon up here. We motored the short distance to the ferry dock on Saturna Island where a pub resides that would be showing the game. Unsure if we’d spend the night or not, we dropped anchor in Boot Cove to avoid paying the $20 overnight fee at the government dock. We watched the second game of the season as the Seahawks took on San Diego in 120 degree weather. The Seahawk defence melted in the heat and San Diego won. It was a painful game to watch. While lazily paying attention to the game, I updated the blog and got an updated weather forecast.

Two Goons

Two goons on Gladness. Stuffed and happy from the good eatin!

With the game over, bellies full, crab dinner on ice, and plenty of daylight left, we decided to push further south. Unknowingly, we caught the ebb tide perfectly and the cliffs of Saturna set off a perfect, local northern wind which we rode out of the southern mouth of Plumper sound. Camp Bay off south Pender Island is wide open to the south winds and shipping traffic wake off Boundry Pass, and I wouldn’t normally stay there, except the weather forecast was for a calm northerly and the distance was ideal for today.

After setting anchor and helping Andy raft up to me, we quickly began tearing into our fresh crab. As we ate, Andy broke the news that he was planning to head back home tomorrow. He was missing his daughter and fiancé and was looking forward to having a few days at home to ease back into the grind. We had set tentative plans earlier to sail to Portland Island, but I recovered from the shock of this news quickly, as I know how intense home sickness can be. That meant I’d be sailing the next five or six days alone.

Lingcod Fillet

Preparing the lingcod fillet with wild mint and other fixins!

About this time a huge wave from a tanker rolled in and broadsided us. It made the boats rock so violently, our standing rigging would have gotten tangled if we hadn’t been carefull to space out the masts. We hung out for a bit more and then separated for the night, Andy dropping his own anchor to make riding out future waves easier.

After we separated, I listened to the weather radio and studied my tide book and charts. There was a late morning ebb tide and a light northeastern wind predicted. Perfect conditions to sail to Portland Island. I think I’ll stay there one night before sailing back across Haro Strait to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island for check-in at the US border outpost. From there, I could sail south, around the outside of the San Juan Islands.


Here is a map of the locations mentioned in this post:

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3 Responses to “Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 9”
  1. Mom says:

    Nice post! I was wondering what you boys did and where you went after we left you at Ganges. You know I love details so reading this account is what I wanted to hear.
    What a great trip it was. The weather was so awesome. Boating in the San Juan’s is perfect in September. Maybe next year, do it again?????

    • Chris says:

      That’s what I’m thinking. I may have you guys trailer your boat further north so that we can pick up where we left off – across the Strait of Georgia from Nanaimo. That way we can just continue north and see stuff you haven’t seen. I’d probably catch you guys on the way back from my big trip. I can’t wait to get more boat time with you guys!

  2. sandi says:

    GREAT Story… Love it… you included lots of stuff about the Gulf Islands in this story. I am very interested in pre printing this in The Islands Marketplace.

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