Helios and Focused - Princess Louisa Inlet

We got an early start on our vacation to British Columbia and Princess Louisa Inlet, when Linda decided to use a vacation day on Friday. I had all the clothes and food loaded on Helios, so Linda just needed her travel bag when she got home Thursday afternoon. Brian dropped us off at the marina, so he could borrow the Yukon for Paxton’s soccer tournament, during our vacation. We were underway a little before 4:00 for Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island and the TYC outstation. We didn’t have any help from the wind, so it was 3 hours of motoring to the outstation, where we were the only boat. We texted Joe and Cheryl to let them know there was plenty of room, and they said their goal was to be going under the 11th street Bridge at noon tomorrow, Friday, because the tide would be low enough they wouldn’t have to have the bridge raised. We had a quiet night. We were up early on Friday to get some projects done, which included washing Helios, to get all the dust and dirt from the construction going on around Breakwater. Joe and Cheryl arrived aboard Focused about 3:30 in the afternoon. We sat in the cockpit of Focused and discussed our trip, one more time. We had “Buddy Boated” last year in the Gulf Islands, and made the decision shortly after our return that we would take three weeks to travel to Princess Louisa Inlet and back. It had been fun doing the planning for this trip. Focused had received a watermaker and single side band radio as part of the preparation. The weather appears to be on our side as we travel north, but here in the Pacific Northwest that means nice weather equals no or north wind. We spent a long day going to our outstation in Coronet Bay near Deception Pass, and once again we were the only two boats there. Helios got her fuel tank topped off. We only fired up one BBQ and that was the one on Focused, and then ate dinner in the salon, as it was a little cool with the wind coming down from the Pacific through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Joe & Cheryl in the cockpit of FocusedThere was an early start to use some of the ebb current through Deception Pass, but it also made the travel up Rosario Strait slower. We started in fog and ½ mile visibility, but by the time Focused going through Deception Passwe were crossing Boundary Passage on our way to Bedwell Harbour, (Canadian spelling,) it was bright sunshine and blue sky. The clearing through customs was quick and easy, and in a short amount of time Helios and Focused were going north along the west coast of North Pender Island to Otter Bay. We were trying to find new moorings and anchorages on this trip for Joe and Cheryl. After pushing hard for a couple of days the decision was made to spend two nights in Otter Bay before continuing north. Joe and I were busy with projects while the girls enjoyed the lounge chairs and the pool. Our next stop was Ladysmith, where we were able to get moorage at the Ladysmith Marine Society marina. We walked uphill to the main street and then walked down the main street to the 49th Parallel grocery store. The main advantage of this store is that for sailors staying at the local marinas, they will take you and your groceries back to the marina in their king cab pickup. The next day saw us decide to go to Nanaimo in hopes that the wind from the northwest would lighten the following day. The reason for Nanaimo was that the slacks in the Dodd Narrows and Gabriola Passage were at noon, which would make for a long day crossing the Strait of Georgia to Pender Harbour. We had spent a couple of days in Nanaimo last year, as it was our northern terminus of the trip, so we were only spending one night. We arrived early in the afternoon, and walked over to the Mexican Restaurant, Penny’s Palapa, on the docks, and then the girls went window shopping while Joe and I walked over to the marine store, to see if there was anything that we desperately needed. I found a CF card for Vancouver Island, which would be an update for the 5 year old one I had. The advantage of buying the chart in Canada was that it was a little over $100 cheaper, than the major U.S. marine stores. Since we had a late lunch or early dinner, we snacked in Helios’ cockpit with cheese, wine and crackers before taking an evening stroll of the docks looking at the various boats. The next morning saw us leaving Nanaimo and hugging the coastline to Ballenas Island, before making a right turn and crossing to the southern tip of Texada Island, and then on to Pender Harbour, and Fisherman’s Resort & Marina for two nights. The Canadian and U.S. Navies were practicing with their torpedoes in area “Whiskey Golf”, which was the reason we had to take the roundabout route. The wind was from the northwest, which meant, on the nose, so we didn’t get any sailing done during the crossing, as it was to light to sail most of the way across. Helios was put in an end tie, with Focused right across the finger pier, as we tied up at Fisherman’s. We walked over to the Garden Bay Restaurant for dinner. Upon our return we set up our chairs on the dock and visited until the evening hoard of bugs descended, and we packed it up for the night. The following day required one high on the list priority project, when Linda discovered the freezer/reefer were not working. A little research resulted in reconnecting the power leads to the refrigeration unit. A little later in the trip I performed a more permanent solution to the problem. We lowered the dinghy and gave Joe and Cheryl a tour of Pender Harbour. They were amazed with all the nooks and crannies of the various coves that make up Pender Harbour. I think that Pender Harbour is my favorite moorage south of Desolation Sound. Linda and I had described and shown pictures of the travel up “The Reaches”, Prince of Wales Reach, Princess Royal Reach, Queens Reach, to the Malibu Rapids and Princess Louisa Inlet, but Joe and Cheryl were in awe as we made our way up the 45 miles to the Princess.


We had wind behind us, but because of the necessity of getting through Malibu Rapids we didn’t sail. We went through the rapids about 1 hour before slack with the current on ebb and about 3 knots against us. Helios went first and then I called Focused to let them know it was fine and to stay center of channel. We motored down to MacDonald Island and took the two open mooring buoys. My friend Bryan and I had tied up to these buoys in 1997 when I came here for the first time, and since then Linda and I had always anchored near Chatterbox Falls. The last time we were here a wind came up that tried to blow us up on the rocks on shore, so the mooring buoys were a great choice. We dropped the dinghy in the water and the four of us took our cameras down to get some pictures and show Joe and Cheryl the Princess. We were sure how long we were staying, but at least three or four days. As we approached Focused and Helios we decided to have a little wine and snacks in the cockpit, so the dinghy stopped at Focused to pick up a bottle of wine and then tied up at Helios. We each cooked dinner on our boats. The next day saw the kayaks hit the water for a little paddling, before returning and deciding the heat could be escaped by bobbing. Linda and I introduced Joe and Cheryl to “Bobbing”, where you where your kayak lifejacket and float letting the 75 degree water cool your core temperature. It turned out that we bobbed every day.


It was like, “Groundhog Day” with each day being a lot like the previous one. We had arrived Saturday afternoon, and we didn’t leave until Wednesday morning. Joe had purchased a Globalstar satellite phone and was able to reserve moorage at Garden Bay Marina in Pender Harbour, while we were in Princess Louisa Inlet, since cell phones and VHF radios do you no good. We had a nice walk around the loop trail near Chatterbox Falls one day. We took the dinghy over to the dock and tied up, then walked up to the falls. Chatterbox Falls in August is probably at its lowest output of the year, but it is still impressive, with its 122 feet in height. On our way back we took the dinghy up close to the rock wall where the gulls have their nests, and they put up quite the ruckus, until we motored away. Linda and Cheryl were worried about being “bombed” with all the birds flying overhead. We had decided to leave Wednesday morning for Pender Harbour, with slack being at 8:30. There was a little wind on the nose for the entire trip, and that along with the flood, made the trip a little longer than the one going up. The dock and moorage at Garden Bay Marina provides fewer amenities, but a much calmer moorage, with no wakes. We had decided to only spend one night and crossover the Strait of Georgia to Gabriola Passage and down to Clam Bay for an anchorage. The weather gods decided that we would have wind on the nose for our crossing, and it looked a little lumpy in Clam Bay so we continued on to Montague to drop anchor. The crews of Helios and Focused were both tired so we stayed aboard had dinner. We were underway the following morning at 8:30 for Tod Inlet and a nice secluded anchorage. We had a little assist from the ebb, and were able to have our anchors down by early afternoon. We had a little mist or light rain, which was appreciated, as it washed some of the salt off the decks. We had decided to spend two nights here, so there was no rush to head to Butchart Gardens. Linda and I put on our foulweather jackets and took the dinghy over to Focused later in the afternoon for a little wine and snacks. We discussed the remainder of our trip and secured moorage for all the remaining nights. The following day brought high clouds, but no rain, as we took the dinghy over to the dinghy dock that Butchart has, and entered through the “backdoor” and the Japanese Gardens.


 We spent over two hours walking through Butchart Gardens, with hundreds of pictures taken by the photographers, Linda & Cheryl. When we got back to the dinghy we headed over to Brentwood Marina to have a late lunch/early dinner before going back to Helios and Focused in Tod Inlet. The next day was a short trip up Saanich Inlet around the top and down to Sidney. The only available spot for Helios was a side tie on the end of H dock, which is as far as you can get from the marina office. Focused was tucked into a slip among bareboat charters. I dropped the dinghy in the water and motored over to the office to check in, rather than walk the ½ mile one way. We were spending two nights in Sidney before crossing over in to U.S. waters. Joe had asked a few locals about restaurants and Beacons was the most referred, so we headed over there for dinner, and it was excellent. Joe and Cheryl joined us in the dinghy back to Helios, where we discussed the activities for tomorrow. The following day we explored the town of Sidney. Joe found an out of print cruising guide of Desolation Sound. This was Civic Day in Canada so some of the stores were closed, including the Marine Exchange store, which Joe and I spend over an hour trying to find. We went back to the marina, decided to have dinner on our respective boats, and then meet on Helios, which we did. Joe and Cheryl decided to walk back to Focused just after sunset, as the temperature cooled down rather quickly. We were leaving Sidney marina at almost noon, since the trip across Haro Strait was a short one, and we couldn’t check in to Roche Harbor, (U.S. spelling,) until after 1. Joe and Cheryl have Nexus cards so they cleared into the U.S. via a telephone call, while Helios had a short wait to get a space at the Customs dock, before clearing in with no problems. Focused was in the first slip on H dock and Helios directly ahead tied to the promenade between H & I docks. As we were getting power and water Mark Helling and Ed Vander Pool walked over to say hi, and later Patrick James. We had a quick lunch and then met Joe and Cheryl to walk through the shops. Joe and I were able to see what we needed to see quickly and returned to Focused to chat a while in the cockpit. The girls returned from shopping and we visited for a time, before going back to Helios for dinner and agreeing to meet after dinner to walk the docks. The next day Joe and Cheryl were taking the bus from Roche Harbor to Friday Harbor, while we awaited the arrival of Kelsey at noon on Kenmore Air. Kelsey was spending the return to Tacoma with us, rather than go to Tigard, Oregon for a soccer tournament Paxton was playing, (BTW- his team won.) Kelsey didn’t want to go to Friday Harbor, so it was shopping once again. We had dinner on Helios then met Joe and Cheryl for a walk on the docks to see the boats we didn’t see the evening before. The next day we headed out with a weather forecast that wasn’t to promising. We had originally intended to work our way to Lopez Pass and then down Rosario Strait to Deception Pass. The problem was fog had reduced visibility to 200 yards in Juan de Fuca and the wind was blowing 15-20 knots. We decided to go through Thatcher Pass, cross over Rosario Strait and use the Swinomish Channel to get to the TYC Outstation at Coronet Bay near Deception Pass through the backdoor. Our plan worked well and Helios topped off her fuel tank before tying up to the outstation dock. We both fired up the BBQs to cook steaks, and then we played Wizard in the cockpit until time to watch a show before bed. The trip from Deception Pass to Kingston via Saratoga Passage was uneventful. We had decided last night to leave by 7 for Kingston, where we have slip reservations, to allow time for shopping. The fog had moved in and visibility was ¼ to ½ mile, with light winds that blew us away from the docks. Focused led off with Helios following. The fog was fairly thick until we reached Penn Cove and then it started to lift. After we had Focused and Helios tied up to a 90 foot side tie, it was time to walk up to the marina office to pay, and then see what the town had to offer. We walked uphill to the shopping center and then back down to the marina. We had talked to some locals about restaurants, and had made reservations at the Main Street Ale House, before walking back to the boats. The dinner was good and we passed on dessert, so we could walk across the street to the ice cream store. The next morning we walked up to the Farmer’s Market on the park grounds next to the marina, before leaving for Port Orchard at noon. During the night we had a lightning and thunder storm, which I slept through, but Linda got up to watch. Port Orchard Marina had a convention of steam powered boats, which were giving rides. We walked over to Amy’s on The Bay for an early dinner, and then the girls played Wizard while Joe and I walked the dock looking at the steam powered boats. Sunday morning saw us getting ready to head for Tacoma and the end of our trip. Joe was taking garbage up and texted me that there was a one day Car Show going on downtown. We spent 2 hours and couldn’t see all the cars. We helped Focused away from the docks and followed about 20 minutes later. There was a light southerly wind, so no sailing on the way home. We were tied up to our slip in Breakwater by 3:30 with 6,124 miles showing, which means we had almost 600 miles on our three week trip. This was probably the best weather we have had cruising in British Columbia, and look forward to next year’s trip. We’ve decide to “Buddy Boat” to Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands.