From Egmont to Scappoose
21 July 2023 | Boat: Bellingham; C&B: Scappoose
Barbara Johnston | Clear and very warm
As I write this we are on an Amtrak train, on our way from Bellingham to Portland. The dissonance between where we’ve been and where we are now is palpable. Despite the various crises we’ve had aboard Sequoia this summer, we did settle into a very pleasant and relaxed lifestyle, with a constantly changing view of gorgeous coastal scenery, varied wildlife, interesting people and a variety of ocean-going vessels and contraptions.
This is our mid-summer hiatus. We left Sequoia at an early hour this morning and expect to be home before dinnertime. But let me go back and tell you what we’ve been up to.
I last left you at Hardy Island, where we enjoyed a very pleasant anchorage with a resident seal who was constantly coming around to check on us and make sure we weren’t, secretly, throwing fish scraps overboard. Most of the boats were anchored in a cove adjacent to the Hardy Island Provincial Marine Park. We decided to anchor instead at an adjacent narrow inlet. The anchorage would only work if we also put a line on shore. On one side of the inlet was a steep cliff and several predecessor boats had left firmly anchored heavy line and sometimes chain arrangements hanging down the side of the cliff. Craig rowed over to the cliff wall and evaluated the available attachment points and selected the best. (Some of the boats we’ve seen have very athletic owners, crew members or even children, who will gladly scale steep walls to secure their shore line around the best looking tree trunk or other likely attachment point. We are, I’m afraid, without those assets, so we do our best with what we see. Some of Canada’s Provincial Parks have government-installed chains for attaching shore lines, but Hardy Bay is not so equipped.)
But I digress. One of the issues with a shore line is making it visible enough to be seen by other smaller boats who may be passing through the area. In this case we attached a couple of floating buoys to the floating line, making it – so we thought – very visible. But as we returned from a dinghy expedition into the park, we observed a small, motorized boat passing across our floating line. We stopped and talked to the fellow, and he said yes, he noticed a lurch, but apparently no ill effects.
From Hardy Island we backtracked just a bit to visit Egmont, home of impressive tidal rapids. Just getting TO or FROM Egmont requires careful consultation of the tide and current tables. And when we did arrive at our moorage, at BackEddy Marina, the current was flowing past the dock at 1.5 knots, docking was not easy, and required more than one try. While there we had a nice restaurant meal, but the highlight of that stop was our hike to see Skookumchuck Narrows and Sechelt Rapids. Regretfully it was not the right time for one of the extreme tidal flows which attracts the kayakers looking to surf the standing waves. Nevertheless, even at half that volume it was impressive. The trail turned out to be further away from the BackEddy Marina than we expected, and the trail itself was longer than we expected (or maybe we’re just older than the last time we hiked this trail, probably 15 years ago). It was a gorgeous hike, through dense groves of tall cedar trees with sunlight filtering through. We didn’t quite make it the last ¼ mile, as the trail became more and more rough with extended webs of tree roots and irregular rock fields. But it was definitely worth the effort.
When we got back to the trailhead, we must have looked pretty pathetic, because a car full of British tourists offered to give us a lift back to the BackEddy Marina. We protested not much at all, and three of the four Brits got out of the car and sat on logs while the fourth gave us the offered lift. He was, of course, a real charmer and we learned a bit about why he and his wife return to BC every summer (they have a daughter who lives in Whistler, but also there is the attraction of the gorgeous BC coastline.)
The next day we continued our journey southward, crossing tracks with ever more ferries and pleasure boats of every description. We wound up that night at Smugglers Cove, another BC Provincial Park near the south end of Texada Island. Smugglers Cove is a small, somewhat confined anchorage, and the Parks department has installed 38 shoreline attachment points. (The Waggoner’s cruising guide doubts whether it’s actually possible to fit 38 boats in there.) Fortunately for us there were only about 6 boats in there, all using a shore line tie. We watched all the different ways our fellow cruisers have fun. On one side of us there was a charter boat with four guys aboard. They all went swimming in the 66 degree water, then they all had a turn in the two kayaks. After dinner, they spent the hours until dark singing what sounded like sea chanteys and ballads. When we woke in the morning they were gone. Lots of folks had their kayaks and paddle boards out, and one woman rowed her kayak all around the anchorage with her Scotty dog standing alertly on the bow.
We crossed the Strait of Georgia that day in almost no wind at all. We still had soap suds in the polluted water tank and were hoping for a nice sail so that the suds would give the tank interior a good scrubbing. Not that day.
We were able to get space in the Nanaimo Boat Basin that Wednesday night, but they warned us that we might not be able to stay Thursday night, and CERTAINLY not Friday, because they were full up with reservations for the “Silly Boat Festival”. (I still have no idea what’s involved in being a “silly” boat”. Nanaimo has three successive weekend boating festivals: Dragonboat Racing, followed by “Silly”, followed by the famous Nanaimo Bathtub Races.) We were concerned about having a “place” in Nanaimo, because our daughter Laura was flying in on a float plane on Friday morning, to join us for an extended weekend. So, on Wednesday and Thursday we did a lot of boat chores (including more work on the offending water tank) and we stoked up with groceries and other supplies. We had a lovely dinner out at one of Nanaimo’s many fine eateries, and fortunately the Boat Basin was able to provide us the Thursday night moorage. Thursday was a street fair on Nanaimo’s main street which several people told us we “MUST SEE!” (I hate to say it, but it was like so many other street fairs – too many people, commercial food carts, clothing stands, pottery booths and kids’ activities). Watching the people was more fun than the booths.
We rode our bikes for many of our errands, including to a wonderful Middle Eastern deli, and enjoyed people watching along the waterfront promenade. Much to our amazement, Peter and Susan Gierga (Sauvie Island Yacht Club members) popped up. They had anchored their Penelope in the Newcastle Island anchorage and were dinghying over to the Boat Basin for their errands. We had them aboard for a drink and helped them get access to showers. It’s lovely to unexpectedly see familiar faces in a new environment.
On Friday Laura came in on her 10:15 am Kenmore Air floatplane. The marina was willing to accommodate us with a couple of extra hours of moorage so that we could time our passage through Dodd Narrows a bit better with the predicted tidal currents. That night we anchored at the north end of Thetis Island. This has been a favorite anchorage for many years – most recently when we had Ray and Alicia McCracken aboard and were approached in our anchorage by two adult and one baby orca (killer whales), and then later that evening experienced a drop-dead gorgeous blood-red sunset. There were no such momentous events this time, but it was a good spot for peace and relaxation. Relaxation included a game of Scrabble, which Laura won by an overwhelming score. (See photo at the top of this blog entry.)
The next day we sailed to the south end of the Gulf Islands and stayed for two nights at Otter Cove on North Pender Island. The first of those two days, we went ashore at the Gulf Islands National Park, spoke at length with a couple of rangers, and explored some of the historic buildings. The next day we returned and went to the Pender Island Museum, which had some lovely “old timey” exhibits including a pump organ that they allow you to play (and I did), a stereoscope with viewable cards you can view (and Laura did) and a wind up gramophone (which none of us tried). After that, Craig went off fishing while Laura and I did a five-mile hike out to the tip of Roes Island and then to Roes Lake and back. It was interesting talking to many of the people we met along the trail. Most of them, it seemed, were locals and several expressed surprise at seeing people from Portland and Seattle. There were lots of dogs on the trail, most very friendly, and some anxious for a swim in the lake.
Later that day we moved Sequoia onto the dock at the Otter Bay Marina, mostly so that we could all get a shower. I will say, though, that Otter Bay Marina seems like a very nice resort, with two swimming pools and well-maintained facilities. It’s worth returning to, I think.
On Monday we sailed (and yes I do mean SAILED) from Otter Bay to Bellingham. It was the first good wind we have seen in many weeks. Unfortunately, our route took us against strong tidal currents most of the way, so we really felt pushed and pulled by the conflicting forces of wind and current. All in all, though it was a gorgeous day for sailing and for arriving back in the States.
On Tuesday Laura helped us with lots of boat chores, and then we had a nice dinner aboard with Laura and Alex, a friend she invited. Alex was also able to take Laura to the Amtrak station after dinner to catch her train home.
36 hours later and we’re on the train to Portland – almost there, so my timing writing this blog is excellent! I’ll be home for 36 hours and then heading down the freeway to my chamber music workshop in Sacramento. I understand I’ll be heading into a ferocious heat wave, so very light clothing is the order of the day (except those times when our activity takes place in an OVER air conditioned room.) The workshop is one of my favorite activities of the year, and there are a number of friends I’m looking forward to seeing and playing with again.
In the meantime, Craig will be at home, doing some needed chores there, picking blueberries and also in his workshop machining some boatie-bits.
And two weeks hence, we’ll be back on the boat again.