After being sprung from the boat yard, we had hoped to spend Easter weekend in Princess Louisa Inlet, a beautiful place at the top of Jervis Inlet on the Sunshine Coast. According to our calculations, we would have exactly 10 days from when we would leave the boat yard until we had to be back in Sidney for the next stage of our plans. Four days to travel the 108 nautical miles from Sidney to Princess Louisa, plus four days back should have left us with two days to explore Princess Louisa – perfect!
Unfortunately, the realities of the boat yard kicked in, and we lost two of those days waiting for parts to arrive at the yard – and eight days just wasn’t going to been enough time. Add that to the lousy wet weather, and it didn’t make sense to make the full trip. Instead, we went for Plan B: go visit our friends in Pender Harbour and hopefully take them out for a day of sailing.
As it turned out, we made excellent time to the Sunshine Coast. With an early morning slack tide at Porlier Pass (the gap between Galiano and Valdes Islands), and a strong East wind, we were able to sail the full 52 miles from Montague Harbour to Bargain Bay in Pender Harbour. The strong winds made for a bouncy ride, and we were skirting a big storm cloud the whole trip, but overall it was a great day of sailing. We weren’t the only ones on the water either – as we crossed Georgia Strait, we encountered the leaders of the Southern Straights Yacht Race, an annual sailing race hosted by the West Vancouver Yacht Club (Mike has raced in it several times on our friend’s boat, Hana Mari).
We got to Bargain Bay on Friday night, and on Saturday we were able to take our friends out sailing. The winds had died, however, so our ‘sail’ turned into more of a slow drift, followed by a fair bit of motoring. Regardless, we made it over to Jedediah Island, and anchored just outside of Home Bay (not something we’d have been able to do if there was any wind). Our friends hadn’t been to the island before (or at least not in very many years!) so it was a fun few hours of exploring the deserted island (except for the sheep, of course!).
The wind returned on Sunday as we headed back out into Malaspina Strait. A storm was coming in for Easter Monday, so we decided to take a quick sail down to Smuggler’s Cove and wait out the bad weather there. We arrived mid-afternoon, and had the entire anchorage to ourselves. We’ve been coming here for years, and this was the first time we’ve ever seen it so empty, especially on what was technically a holiday weekend!
If you happen to be on the Sunshine Coast, you can access Smuggler’s Cove by land – the park access is just off of the Sunshine Coast Highway. From the parking lot, the trail brings you in on a wooden boardwalk that goes over a small wetland before reaching the forest. The loop trail then runs along the east side of the anchorage, and takes you to the water’s edge on Welcome Passage. It’s a relatively easy trail, and a great way to spend a sunny day! (Not shown here is the not-so-sunny Monday, during which we didn’t even leave the boat!)
When the storm had cleared, it was time to make tracks back to Sidney. We had a great sail across the straight to Nanaimo, and spent a night at Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) Marine Park. This is another great park for a day trip – catch the water taxi from downtown Nanaimo, and then spend the day hiking the trails or playing on one of the beaches. The park also features a big campsite – just in case you feel the need to spend a few nights sleeping right next to the ocean!
Our next stop was Wallace Island – it’s a favourite spot, so we can’t help but stop by almost every time we pass. The Island was pretty quiet, so we were able to visit with the local wildlife. River otters, a mink, eagles, turkey vultures, and a heron – these are the people in the Wallace Island neighbourhood!
After two nights at Wallace Island, we spent a night at Sidney Island Marine Park before heading into Port Sidney Marina on Saturday. We were able to get out for a quick kayak on Saturday morning before leaving the park – the winds were calm when we set out, but picked up as we were paddling, making for a great workout to get back to the boat.
The purpose in returning to Sidney was to pick up Mike’s mom, Cindy, who was joining us for a week of sailing. We spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday provisioning and preparing, and set out from Sidney on Sunday afternoon. Cindy wanted to see the Gulf Islands, so we decided to take her to a number of our favourite anchorages. She got lucky with weather on her visit – forecasts called for 6 days of solid rain, but we actually ended up with sunny periods almost every day of the trip!
Our route with Cindy went as follows – a night at Russell Island; sailing around Salt Spring Island counter-clockwise to Wallace Island; Montague Harbour; Ganges (for showers and provisioning!); Winter Cove, Saturna Island; Sidney Spit; and then Victoria. It was a quick week, but gave a pretty good review of the Southern Gulf Islands. April is still early enough in the season that most of the anchorages were pretty empty, although we definitely notice an increase in boats compared to when we stopped at some of these places back in January!
As you can see, we had a very busy April. May hasn’t been much different – but that’s a topic for a different blog post!