Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island
In more warm sunshine and light airs, we left Victoria. With a forecast of one more nice day, followed by some gale force winds, we contemplated our options. But for today, our options were where to spend another beautiful night before the winds picked up. Working our way back up into the Gulf Islands, we contemplated our options. Passing Sidney Spit, we lost count of the boats at anchor.
The next option was Portland Island. Portland Island has two small anchorages. Both Princess Bay, on the southern tip, and Royal Cove on the north tip are small anchorages, and on Victoria Day weekend, the first "summer weekend", both were full beyond our liking in mid-afternoon. Carrying on, we settled on Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island.
We followed Swift Current into the harbour and anchored outside the crowded anchorage. Dinghying ashore, we enjoyed a walk, did some essential grocery and wine shopping, and enjoyed a final evening with Swift Current.
The best part about Montague Harbour is its protection. With two small entrances, and surrounded by 125' cliffs, it is an excellent spot to wait out a blow. And that's what we did. And a bonus is the provincial park on its shore. With moorings at $20/ night, an excellent dock for landing and great hiking trails, a great place to waste a day. And so we did. We hiked, wandered, walked through the paths of this well-kept park. We took a short dinghy expedition to the marina where we looked through the store, bought a few groceries, and another walk. And with that, the day was over. In the evening, our Dickeson BBQ again showed its worth, grilling salmon and veggies as the winds swirled arouns us. But tucked in, and in our newly enclosed cockpit, we enjoyed the sunset.
Port Bedwell, South Pender Island
Port Bedwell doesn't really exist. It is a large (1.7 nm long, 0.5 nm wide) harbour with a few homes, a mooring field for Beaumont Marine Park (part of the Gulf Islands National Park), and Poet's Cove Resort and Marina. We planned to only spend one night here, but found too much to keep us busy to leave.
We left Montague Harbour in mid-morning, motoring out into Navy Channel where we raised the sails for a quiet (10-15 kts) west breeze. Down into Plumper Sound where we rounded the southern tip of South Pender Island and up into Port Bedwell.
Safely tied to a mooring ball, we dinghied ashore to the Poet's Cove Resort and Marina. This place takes itself seriously! It is a beautiful resort with all the amenities. We wandered through the grounds, finally unable to resist the charms of the bar and its outdoor patio and the warm sunshine. On our return to Estelle, we explored the landing options for hiking in the park. Signs warned us away from the remains of an ancient midden, but we finally found what looked like a good spot for the next day's hike.
Next morning we landed on the park beach and did some careful adjusting of lines to assure ourselves that the dinghy would not only be there when we returned, but also floating. The reason we were concerned is the height of the tides... 10' to 14'. We didn't want to find the dinghy floating 200m from shore, or high and dry 200m from the waters edge.
The hike, to a lookout on Mt Norman was listed as strenuous. And not well marked should have been added. But after three hours and few mis-steps, we were heading back down to find the dinghy floating perfectly... in a few feet of (cold) water.
Van Isle Marina
We left Port Bedwell in mid-morning, heading for Van Isle Marina in Sidney, just north of Victoria. The reason... a sleep-over with Henry and Johann!!!
Leaving Port Bedwell in a calm morning and with less than 10 nm to go, we decided to do a bit of exploring. Passing north of Moresby Island, we cautiously entered Royal Cove on the north end of Portland Island.
Portland Island has an interesting history. First Nations people utilized Portland Island going back 3,000 years as is verified from the middens that can be found on the island. Subsequently the island ended up being inhabited by Kanaka (Hawaiian) immigrants and was utilized primarily for farming purposes. An eccentric owner in the 1920's was Frank "One Arm" Sutton, a retired British army officer. Frank Sutton acquired the island with funds he had won gambling on horse races within China. The plan was to raise & train thoroughbred race horses on the island. All evidence of the old horse racing track and a golf course have now vanished.
In 1958 the island was presented as a gift from the Province of British Columbia to Princess Margaret to commemorate her visit to the province. It was apparently expected that the princess would accept the island and immediately return it but apparently she had other ideas for the next 9 years! Princess Margaret finally returned the island to the province of British Columbia in 1967 to be used as a park and it became known as Princess Margaret Marine Park. The Canadian Government bought the island from the Province of British Columbia and it became known once again as Portland Island and became a portion of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada.
But today we just stuck our noses into Royal Cove where one boat was anchored with a stern tie to shore. There was room for three or four boats at max. Circling down to the south end anchorage, Princess Cove, we just passed by as we could see it was fully occupied. Rounding the southern tip, we anchored for lunch between Hood and Breckman Island where we watched the ferries coming and going from nearby Schwartz Bay.
After lunch, we continued our wandering trip through Stranger Passage and John Passage and into Tsehum Harbour, home of Van Isle Marina. In this small harbour there are three or four other marinas and a couple of yacht clubs, making it a busy spot.
Topping up with fuel we were soon settled in our berth and making ready for our visitors.
And our visitors arrived on schedule with an impressive array of gear for one night. All settled, playing in the dinghy became the favorite passtime.
For supper, we went into nearby Sidney. Back aboard, more dinghy play until bedtime.
And surprisingly, all was quiet until 0700 hrs next morning, when dinghy play resumed.
After breakfast and more dinghy play, we were off to the nearby Buchart Gardens for an enjoyable morning.
For lunch, we headed for nearby Zanzibar Cafe where we enjoyed a great lunch. When I went up to pay the bill, the waitress said it had been paid! Apparently, a patient of Sarah's had seen her and paid it for us! Very kind!
Back at the marina, we said goodby to our guests and headed back aboard for the night.
Stern Tie in Royal Cove
Plans for the balance of our cruise were the US San Juan Islands. But being the end of the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to postpone our arrival at US customs until the next day. So the plan was to return to Royal Cove on Portland Island for the night. Arriving, there was one boat already anchored, using a stern tie to shore. But with lots of room, we were soon settled, executing our first stern tie without too much confusion.
Stern ties are common in this area, and used for two reasons. First, in crowded anchorages, their use in crowded anchorages reduces swinging room. The second use is a bit unique to this area where water depths can be quite deep right up to shore. By droping the anchor on a steeply sloping bottom, the stern tie means the anchor will pull only "uphill" towards shore where it can dig in. In any offshore wind, the stern tie holds the boat where the anchor would otherwise trip in the deep water.
As part of the Gulf Islands National Park, there was a nice dinghy dock in the cove, where we tied the dinghy for a short walk on one of the trails.
A nice quiet night. Tomorrow, off to the US San Juan Islands!