Monday, August 18, 2014

Desolation Sound

Once I was back in the Seattle area I quickly started linking up with old friends.

I was very happy when good buddy LT Phil Kunze was assigned as the Commanding Officer of 87-foot patrol boat USCGC SWORDFISH in 2012. After two years of regular trips between Bainbridge Island and Port Angeles (only an hour and a half) visiting with Phil & Andi, eating lots of cinnamon rolls, and shooting lots of guns, his tour came to an end with his Change of Command ceremony on August 5th. It was a nice affair; Phil and his crew were recognized for two years of hard work in front of gathered family and friends. And the best part - I didn't have to salute anyone.

I then went to a Seattle Mariners vs Atlanta Braves game with Raf. Raf and I shared a windowless office the equivalant size of a broom closet for 3 years at the MSST. And we're still friends, so that says a lot. Raf is a rabid baseball fan and the Braves are his favorite team, despite being from New York and despite living in Seattle for the past three years (I've yet to satisfactorily figure that one out).  Sad for him, the Mariners won. We caught up at our favorite Seattle pub after the game and I was able to meet his new girlfriend.

Back on Bainbridge Island, I ran into a number of my former Scouts: Jake, Dave, Mitch, Will, Scott and many fellow Assistant Scoutmasters. We swapped stories, mine from Alaska and theirs from a "high adventure" camp in Florida known as BSA SeaBase. The boys went sailing and snorkeling for a week thru the Florida Keys.

Not to be outdone by a bunch of teenagers, I shipped aboard Sailing Vessel PETRA, a 33 ft sloop owned by my former landlord Rick. He wanted to head north into Canadian waters and needed an extra hand to increase safety while crossing straits.

We started our voyage from Port Townsend, WA in the fog common to Pacific Northwest waters in the summer. It was eerie to be motoring along and hear the foghorns of much larger ships without being able to see more than a hundred yards or so. But more concerning were the smaller boats that we were able to see on radar yet for some reason decided not to make proper fog signals. They ghosted past without a sound, white sails barely visible in the gloom.

We anchored up the first night in the San Juan Islands. Day Two had us clearing Canadian customs in Bedwell Harbor and then continuing to Ganges Harbor on Saltspring Island. Ganges is a busy little place - lots of boats were taking advantage of the many artsy shops, supply stores, and restaurants that were within walking distance of the docks. We were able to hear the live music from the bars out in our slip. In Ganges we pressed our final crewman, Rick's son Will, fresh off a seaplane straight from Boy Scout summer camp.

Crowded Ganges Harbor
After Ganges we had to make a substantial crossing of the Strait of Georgia. We were fortunate to have great conditions for sailing and had a "sporty" run in 2-3 ft seas under sunny skies with 15-18 kts of wind.

Captain Rick at the helm under sail across the Straits of Georgia
Once across the Strait of Georgia, we motored north along the eastern shore, known as British Columbia's "Sunshine Coast." It certainly lived up to its name with fair and sunny weather. On Day Five we finally entered Desolation Sound, rounding Sarah Point in dramatic fashion and revealing the hidden mountain vistas in all their glory.

Entering Desolation Sound
Desolation Sound is infamous in Northwest cruising circles for great scenery, cozy anchorages, and (due to some quick in the tides and water depth) the warmest saltwater north of Mexico. The reputation is well deserved and spot-on. Some of the anchorages were so tight that we had to use a technique known as a "stern-tie" to shore to keep the boat from swinging too much at anchor. And the water was 72*F, making for a delightful and refreshing swim. We even enjoyed some fresh seafood - a bucket of clams for steaming and a pot full of "squat lobsters" - alien looking creatures that had about a dime sized dollop of tasty meat in their little tails.

We found great spots to drop the anchor in Tenedos Bay and Roscoe Bay. Roscoe Bay was guarded by a bar that was completely uncovered at low tides. Before we ventured in, Will and I launched an oceanographic voyage in the little dingy, checking water depth the old-school way with a leadline.

Roscoe Bay anchorage
Our favorite location was Teakerne Arm. We weren't lucky enough to snag the primo spot by the waterfall but we enjoyed the sight nonetheless and were able to make the hike up to a beautiful (and fairly warm) freshwater lake for fantastic swimming.

The best real estate in Teakerne Arm
But our consolation cove was still pretty nice. PETRA is green hull in foreground. Note stern tie. 
At the end of eight terrific days onboard PETRA, Rick dropped me off on Cortes Island. From there I was able to link a variety of Canadian public transportation together to make my way back to Seattle. From there I'm off for some more backpacking and climbing in North Cascades National Park.

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