Destination: Desolation 2017
I knew going in to this trip that it would be the hardest and possibly least enjoyable year that we would spend on this annual trip to Desolation Sound.
But I promise, I'm not looking for pity here. We spent this month on a yacht in some of the most gorgeous landscapes of all of North America (IMO) for crying out loud. #firstworldproblems for sure.
But from my perspective... please read on.
Last year's trip, Apple was only three months old and very easy to transport yet still sleeping most of the day. And while Totes was a very active three year old, my brother and sister-in-law were along with us to help entertain and keep an eye on him.
This year we now had a very active and reckless 15-month old that likes to run along the docks and narrow walkways of the boat and look over the edge into the water without any sense of how top-heavy she still is. No fear and no sense of danger or awareness of how gravity works. It was unnerving to say the least and we had several near heart-attack moments of being a step too far way from her. While relaxing should be the main word to describe such a trip, it was anything but for me for those reasons.
But that's not to say that I didn't get to relax and enjoy my surrounding and wonderful company. I just know that in future trips, I'll be able to let my guard down a little more each time until she is finally old enough that I can trust her to be on her own, with me lagging a few feet behind rather than always at arms reach.
Totes, on the other hand... wow. What a kid. This trip will forever bring to memory the endless echo of his voice saying, "Can I come on your boat?"
We were day three into the trip and met a wonderful family at the marina in Secret Cove, B.C. Totes was the first to spot them, a boat across the dock from us with three young girls, and he bee-lined to them. Us parents got around to introductions a few hours later after the kids formed an immediate bond. We were thrilled to learn we were heading in the same direction so we got to enjoy each other's company for almost a full week together. And since they also a PNW Family, we have already made plans to see each other again.
And now of course, the photos.
Departure to Arrival:
Our voyage from Seattle through the San Juan and Gulf Islands and up the Sunshine Coast
We departed Seattle on a Thursday morning with our first stop planned for Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island.
We were surprised to find a large number of vessels waiting to clear as well and with commercial traffic in full swing, they had us all move into the large locks. This was our first test of handling the boat in the large locks with just the four of us. We had verbally prepped Totes for the job we needed his help with. Apple was strapped into her umbrella stroller on the back deck while Totes and I stood by to tie up to the wall. Totes was also in charge of helping me keep Apple entertained while I handled the stern line so I had previously set up some bubbles for him. The process was surprisingly smooth, we were in and out in no time and on our way north! Since we got a later start than normal, we cruised around 20 knots for most of the time, faster than we normally would.
It was just after we cleared the locks that I realized I had left my camera at home. I just switched over to the Fujifilm XT2 at the beginning of this year in favor of a lighter body that I could easily stow in my diaper bag. I love being able to wirelessly connect my camera to my phone to easily upload and share photos. My iPhone camera is also getting really old so the photo snob in me hates to take photos with it. My husband offered to turn around but I knew that would take way too long so we continued on. He then had the idea to coordinate someone to pick up the camera from our house and drop it off at Kenmore Air in Lake Union on their next morning seaplane flight. Not only was it easy, it only cost us a $25 delivery fee and we met the seaplane about 100 feet from our slip in the marina at Friday Harbor. Reunited and happy!
It was a quick overnight stop for us as we've been to Friday Harbor many times. If you haven't, however, Friday Harbor is a wonderful place to visit, especially great for families, and spend a few days exploring the port town and area. The waterfront was recently renovated and we enjoyed a nice dinner at the new Downriggers Restaurant, then stopped by the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co. for a scoop of strawberry in a waffle cone for Totes and blackberry for Apple. I'm a sucker for caramel flavors!
We departed for Ganges on Salt Spring Island, B.C. early the next morning, Friday, where I had prearranged moorage to stay two nights, departing Sunday for the Sunshine Coast. Ganges is one of our favorite destination in the islands and I really wanted to catch the Saturday farmer's market since I had heard such good things about it. However, after studying the weather patterns and seeing a big storm coming through later Saturday evening into the next day, we made a quick decision to leave a day early to cross the Strait of Georgia while we had a window that the winds were still calm. We jetted through the farmer's market Saturday morning after stocking up on groceries from Thrifty Foods and I wish we could have had more time! The market seemed to go on for miles and I even got a little overwhelmed trying to push a stroller through the crowd while making sure Totes was walking close to me. I'll definitely be trying to make that happen again on a future visit.
Ganges Marina on Saltspring Island in BC Canada
We departed Ganges around 11:30 am and headed north. As we neared Portier Pass between Galiano and Valdes Islands, we realized our timing in approaching Dodd Narrows was off and we would have to stall an additional two hours before we could enter. The tide was ebbing out of Portier Pass at 9.5 knots and although we knew it was crazy to go through with that much current, my husband made a split second decision and full-throttled the boat through it. Our top speed reached almost 40 knots and the boat rattled like a car crossing over a cobblestone street. But we popped out into the Strait of Georgia in one piece!
Our crossing in the strait was smooth and went quickly. We tucked in to Secret Cove and anchored Saturday night where we stayed very protected from the storm just outside the cove.
After two nights there, we departed early Monday morning for Desolation Sound. First stop, Mink Island.
Mink Island, British Columbia
Our third year back to the Desolation Sound area and I can definitely say that Mink Island is my favorite place to be up here. I love the variety of this small little island, the protected cove that is great for boats of all sizes to anchor, the drop-dead gorgeous views of Desolation Sound and the surrounding mountains, and the clean, warm waters for swimming. We spent the first three nights here and were joined by friends from Seattle for two of those. We came back several times during our weeks up in Desolation and were fortunate enough during one of those visits to overlap time with a family friend and the island's owner, Andy. He gave us a tour of his home and property, including the saltwater filled hot-tub that was built into the cliff on the waterfront and is heated by a wood-burning furnace. A sleep-shack was built just above it out of native Mink Island timber with views of the, stars, bay and beyond.
Several of the mornings we were here, we took the dinghy to shore at low-tide and dug for clams in the shallow water and sandy bottom. By far the best clams I've ever eaten! We swam in the warm waters every day and hiked along the rocks and beaches, collecting sea shells and watching the small crabs scatter when we came near. It's simply magical here and I am so excited to go back.
Saturday Evening Dinghy Concert in Prideaux Haven
We stumbled upon this event by chance after being in the right place at the right time.
Prideaux Haven is the quintessential Desolation Sound anchorage so we spent many days here, as we have in years past. We love Laura Cove for its tranquility, warm, clean waters and its epic rope swing. Melanie Cove is more secluded and even more quiet, probably the most of them all. Although both coves are just off to the side of Prideaux, they are considered part of the area and only a short dinghy ride from the it. We happened to be anchored in Prideaux for the night while waiting for friends coming up the Sunshine Coast to join us that evening.
The concert was held in Prideaux, being the largest area for boaters to gather, on an 80 foot motoryacht, Pres Du Soleil. Nearby boats brought their dinghy's near the yacht's stern and all tied together to form one large, floatilla. Last year, it was estimated that more than 600 people on 165+ dinghies attended and I'm sure this year was even bigger as it was now their fifth year holding the concert. The musicians gathered on the yacht's swim-step and accompanied by professional sound equipment, all present in the area were able to sit back and enjoy the performance.
I was a little nervous at the thought of wrangling our two small children in our little dinghy for the duration of the two hour concert but there was enough commotion and people around to keep them entertained. And I brought snacks, of course. It started around 5pm and wrapped just after 7pm, just in time for us to get the kiddos back to the boat and ready for bed.
We heard a rumor that the following evening, a firework show was being held in Pendrell Sound by a local yacht club but mechanical problems held us up for the day and we were unable to get up there in time.
About half way through our trip to Desolation Sound, a haze spread across the sky. We learned from friends back home and then on the news of a large amount of wildfires that had swept through nearby areas of British Columbia near Vancouver and the US boarder. While the winds pushed most of the smoke south (Seattle's air quality was deemed hazardous for several days), we still had some of it creep up our way and stayed for well over a week, which you can see in most of my pictures.
Refueling at Refuge Cove
I lost count how many times we popped back over to Refuge Cove during the several weeks we were up in Desolation Sound. Refueling In Search of Sunrise, stocking up in groceries from the General Store, buying everyone in the family and all our friends a pair of Native Shoes, grabbing lunch at the Cafe, or picking up friends on Kenmore Air, there was always a reason to come back. It reminds me of an old western movie with all the wood construction and I just love that almost all the areas here are built on docks or stilts.
I am a huge fan of Native Shoes and bought Totes his first pair over two years ago. Apple now fits into them and they've held up so well that she has already got a lot of good use out of them. I was looking forward to getting him a pair but even more so, getting myself a pair! When we stern-tie the boat to shore, I have to jump from a paddleboard in the water, onto a rocky cliff and act part mountain goat as I scale up the side to find a strong enough tree to rap the rope around. Many times at low tide, the cliffside is littered with old oyster shells that are super sharp. Nothing beats a pair of Natives for this purpose! Wet to dry and lots of grip, they are the way to go.
I made a point to head into the Gallery at Refuge Cove on our first visit to buy myself a pair. The shop owner, Sandie, has always been so helpful in years past. I just love visiting year and year and seeing a familiar face at this intimate place. Upon my arrival and description of what I was looking for, she pulled out every option in my size while I chased Apple up and down the walkways. I ended up settling on the Jefferson style in their classic Native blue and just love them. They fit my long, narrow feet the best.
A few days later we were back with our friends and all popped in to get the three girls a pair of their own. Because they were getting some, Totes decided he had to have some too. He got his favorite color, green. A week later, Papa went in for the red ;)
We made it a point to grab burgers from the Cove Cafe every chance we could get and I'm still dreaming about them! So good! As well as stowing a few cinnamon rolls away for the next morning's breakfast. Sitting on the wood plank deck of the cafe with a burger, glass of local beer and stunning views of the cove and Desolation Sound beyond with our friends while Totes and Apple played along the decks was about as heavenly as it gets to me.
Day Trips to Teakerne Arm
A highlight and must see for most that have been to Desolation, we somehow skipped over it the first two trips up here. After we left last year without having been, I told my husband that it was the top destination for me when we returned the next year.
And then, again, we almost skipped it.
We had the first two weeks of our trip planned and marina's reserved about two months in advance of our departure. For those last two weeks of our time in Desolation, we planned to just see where the days took us. But as friends confirmed their arrivals, it didn't seem that we would have the flexibility to venture into the area of Teakerne Arm.
Upon chatting with some fellow boaters one day at Refuge Cove, we learned that a wildfire had swept through the area the night before and badly burned the mountains near the mouth of the waterfall. So again, we thought against heading up that direction. But at the last minute, we, along with another boat of friends, made the early morning decision to drive up for just a day trip.
Having never seen the waterfall and areas before other than in pictures, I'm not sure the extent of damage the wildfire caused. The presence of the fire was clear and the side walls near the waterfall were charred black. But it was stunning nonetheless. Even the smallest waterfall gives me a sense of awe and it was immediately apparent that Apple felt the same way.
The steep, plunging cliffs around the mouth of the waterfall and the rest of the bay leave very little ground to anchor to. We were able to find a spot pretty close that we dropped anchor is a little under 100 feet of depth and stern-tied to the cliff. Not confident in our holding, we only planned to spend a few hours here. We took the dinghy over to the bottom of the waterfall where we were able to jump off onto a small rocky shore and walk up into the base. The waterfall is lake-fed and at this time of year the lake was very warm so the falls felt like a warm shower. A little too powerful of a stream for the kids so we held back while Papa went in but we were able to play in a small pool of water at the base.
There is a hike from a nearby dock up to the top of the waterfall and the lake but more experienced travelers warned us that it involved scaling the side of the cliff for a small portion of the trail and it wasn't recommended for kids so we obviously passed. Something to look forward to on a future visit!
A great spot for our annual Desolation Sound Family Photo!
We were so enamored by this place that a few days later when a new group of friends joined us in Desolation Sound, we made the time for another day trip back to let them see it first hand as well.
Giving our Sea-Legs a break at Gorge Harbour
Located on Cortez Island just a few miles northwest of the Desolation Sound Marine Park, Gorge Harbour is one of the only true resorts up here on the islands. You'll find a few more to the west on Quadra Island and definitely on Vancouver Island, but we have always stayed closer to Desolation Sound so Gorge Harbour is a natural place for us to give our sea-legs a break and refresh on land.
The marina is updated with cement docks and ample power/water.
A very nice restaurant is the first building you'll come across as you walk up the hill, across beautiful, manicured grounds. Beyond that is a general store, offices, rooms that are available to book a massage with therapists on hand daily, a pavilion with regularly scheduled movie nights for the kids, the campground, RV parking and cottages for rent, a playground for the kids with sand volleyball court and last but definitely not least, a very clean and well maintained pool overlooking the harbour.
Since this is our third year visiting the area, I didn't take as many pictures of the landscape as I have in years past since I already have many, which you can see in my Destination: Desolation 2016 post.
It was here that Totes decided we were second rate and ran off with his friends every chance he could get.
I stood on the dock with my mouth gaping open about to protest as he yelled over his shoulder while walking away, "Bye Mom! I'm going to play with my friends!"
I purposefully reserved moorage for us to be in the area for the local farmer's market on Saturday. If you haven't caught on from my story and previous posts, I have a thing for farmer's markets and shopping local! But I was very disappointed as it turned out to mostly be a craft fair more than farmer's market with less than a dozen vendors. It was still fun to see the local crafts though.
Additionally to our time at the resort, on one of most memorable days we took the dinghy a short ride over to nearby Mansons Landing to join another family of friends at Lake Hague. White, Caribbean-like sandy beaches welcomed us at first sight. The waters were warm and the kids had a blast playing in the shallow water. Umbrellas and beach blankets were set up all along the water's edge; clearly this a very popular spot for vacationers to the island.
Exploring new areas via TT Benture
Our dinghy/skiff, whatever it's called, was nicknamed "Benture" last year when Totes discovered the use of the VHF radio. He would go out for a dinghy ride with Papa and they would radio back to the boat (where I was hanging back while Apple slept usually): "ISOS, ISOS... this is Benture, over". Totes gets such a kick out of doing this.
The name 'benture' came from his juvenile and adorable pronunciation of the word "adventure" and came from us asking him if he was ready to take the dinghy out for a little exploration ride.
We would ask; "Totes, do you want to go on an adventure?"
to which he would reply, "Yeah! Let's go on a benture!"
and the name stuck.
Roscoe Bay was a really fun spot to explore because of the means by entering the bay. At low tide, the water level drops below the sandbar its entrance, creating a land-locked bay. We entered at flood, close to high-tide and hiked up to the lake and back in the short window before the tide went out again. Lots of room in the bay for larger boats, so protected and great land access with the lake a short walk up an old logging path so we'll definitely bring In Search of Sunrise here next year to spend a night or two.
In Tenedos Bay, we took the dinghy to shore and hiked to Lake Unwin, an easy walk with young kids.
And all the rest of the fun in between...