Gulf Islands after Labour Day

Although we are blessed with the wonder and beauty of the Gulf Islands, the Strait of Georgia and the various routes to Desolation Sound, the crowded anchorages in the height of the summer months can be un peu trop! Two years ago, we sailed up to the island of Cortes and into the Malaspina Inlet. The water was warm, the sun was shining, it was August. And there were 20 boats too many in each anchorage. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it did seem rather busy and the more boats there are, the less room there is to anchor. 3:1 overnight scope is not my style. We did see some beautiful sunsets and shared some wonderful times and occasionally met some fantastic people.

This year, I decided that I would strike out on my own for a shorter 10 day trip to the Gulf Islands only this time in late September.

March - Oct 2015 973Coming across the strait on a rainy Thursday, I glimpsed what I thought was a tug and tow, but it turned out to be the HMCS Chicoutimi. I had never seen a sub underway before, let alone crossing ahead of me.  I tried to get some quality snapshots while steering and navigating, but with wet, cold hands on an iPhone, the challenge proved to be too great and thought it better to just get into Silva Bay before it got dark. When it did get dark, I was treated to a Lunar Eclipse.March - Oct 2015 1025

A sunny day following, I headed west through the Gabriola passage. No other boats behind me, ahead of me, approaching me. Into the Gulf Islands at last, with beautiful blue skies, a warm sunny day and just a breath of wind. Enough to take me to Clam Bay.

March - Oct 2015 1012Clam Bay is a catch all anchorage like Silva Bay who have just traversed the Strait of Georgia or who are about to traverse it. On arrival, there was one other sailboat. All told that windless night there were four sailboats including myself.

The following day — under motor and sail (mostly motor), I arrived in Montague Harbour and tied up to a public mooring ball for $12, a very reasonable fee.  Although nearly all public moorings were vacant, the private moorings were populous (nothing compared to Brentwood Bay, but I’ll get into that later).

I topped up at the fuel dock the next day only to discover it was the last day that it was open for the season. I was pushing to get as far south as I could before I had to turn back and visit friends in Sidney and on Salt Spring.

I am one of those sailors who would prefer to do anything other than motor. I would much prefer to sail in the lightest of breezes than put on my engine and motor my way to freedom. However, there are a lot of currents, traffic and navigational hazards in the pacific northwest that do not lend themselves to my schedule and when I am sailing to a schedule, I will use the iron genny. In the following days, I was forced to put up with the sound of the engine as I navigated around separation schemes, numerous ferry routes and strong currents with no wind. In this instance however I was “Under Sail

The fog in South Pender was so thick in places that visibility was no more than a hundred or so feet.

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Finally I was able to depart making Brentwood Bay my destination. This has to be the most crowded mooring field I have seen. Boats are often not more than 20 feet apart, some even closer, which is too close for (my) comfort. Now I wish I had taken some pictures!

One (of many) of a sailor’s frustrations when under sail is the wash of other vessels. Anyone who has taken their boat out to watch the fireworks in English Bay can attest to this. On this cruise, I don’t recall ever having noticed the wash of another vessel save for the ferries that passed me.

Having picked up my first mate in Brentwood Bay, we pressed on to Salt Spring, arriving in the glow of the sunset and still waters of Ganges Habour. “Salt Spring Sunset” .

The return to Vancouver saw us at our last stopover in Conover Cove. The boathouse there is quite extraordinary as it has the name of each visiting boat carved on a piece of wood, adorning every available bit of space.

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We cleared Porlier Pass the next morning and crossed the Strait in good time. Back to English Bay. Back to False Creek for the beginning of the end of the cruising season!

1 thought on “Gulf Islands after Labour Day”

  1. Vaughan,

    Congrats and all good wishes on your sailing enterprises. I am sure that you will do well. Much enjoyed your blog description of your cruise. Some years ago I bare boat chartered out of Oak Bay with my brother and wives for a week and had a fabulous time around the Gulf Islands. You took me back !

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