Maybe Tomorrow: Desolation Sound BC Canada — posted by Brian

We’re just over two weeks into our trip to Desolation Sound and finally starting to feel in the groove. The last few weeks before leaving were such a busy rush it took time to wind down.


After spending almost a week exploring Princess Louisa we returned to Pender Harbor for provisioning and also to wait for an extremely important delivery from Fed Ex. Erin needed to get a pattern fitted for her wedding dress and our friends Petter and Octavia kindly offered to have the package delivered to the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Garden Bay. With a successful fitting and a fully provisioned boat we pointed the bow north and set the autopilot for a run to our destination- Desolation Sound.

There was little wind and what we did have was on the nose so we motored most of the way. Early in the afternoon we rounded Sarah Point and got our first glimpse of Desolation Sound laid out before us. Huge mountain peaks still now capped in mid July surrounded this portion of the Canadian wilderness. The water is littered with islands and coves to comfortably settle down for a stay. We made a brief stop in Grace Harbour before continuing on to Prideax Haven the next day. While in Prideax we got a taste of what makes this area so special. The water is warm! This is due mostly to the restricted tidal flow for the entire area which gives the summer sun enough time to heat it up. There are huge 15’ tidal swings in some places but not much water flows in or out. This of course has other ramifications and the discharge of black (sewage) is prohibited when in the coves and anchorages. So here we are at 50’ North in Canada and the water is over 70F! Unlike the 55F water of Puget Sound in Seattle this is definitely tolerable for a swim. We spent two days in Pridex Haven swimming and lounging in the sun.
The next morning we were off bright and early to Refuge Cove to meet our friend Joe who was flying in on a float plane from Seattle. After our rendezvous we learned that the plane had just made a quick stop in Prideax about 10 minutes prior. Apparently the plane taxies in the cove while dinghies from the anchored boats run over to pick up their newly arrived crew. What a way to travel! Most had come with hard to find items such as liquor and beer. We had made a special request for Ginger Beer as the drink of the trip so far was Dark and Stormy’s (Ginger Beer and Rum). Since ginger beer is non-alcoholic the customs guys had a few laughs at Joe’s expense. The trip to Refuge Cove was worth it though as there is a well stocked store and garbage drop off. It certainly was expensive though- our two hand baskets came to almost $180 CAD.
There was a brisk north-westerly blowing after leaving Refuge Cove and we had an awesome downwind sail reaching off to the east. As our course became more northerly we had a favorable wind shift and were able to run dead downwind with the poled out jib and main off to the other side. Sailing downwind in Delos in those types of conditions is pure joy. The boat is meant to sail downwind and comfortably! With the sails set up and the autopilot dialed in only small adjustments are needed. It just so happens that these adjustments coincide with one of us getting up to grab another coldie from down below.
As we neared our destination of the Gorges Islands Petter and Octavia on their Hunter 44 (Bella Marina) hailed us on the VHF. They had gone directly to the next spot to scope it out. The report was not favorable- crowded anchorages and unfavorable winds. After a quick consultation of the cruising guide we made a sharp gybe to starboard and began to sail up Pendrell Sound. After another hour or so of sailing we found ourselves in the head of the sound with only a few other boats. We stern tied in what could only be described as a forested steep walled canyon. In these canyons the cliffs surround you to heights of over a thousand feet at times. They are steep and heavily covered with trees and vegetation right down to the water line. The water is deep- so deep that our depth sounder couldn’t find the bottom and it reads to 600 ft! The only way to secure yourself in these canyons is by use of a stern tie. Basically, you let down your anchor and almost all of your chain. In our case this is about 300’. With the anchor and chain still hanging directly beneath the boat and not touching anything you begin to back towards the cliff. If things go well the anchor and chair will snag on the cliff deep below. You continue backing towards the cliff and hold the boat in position while someone rows out in a dinghy with a stern line. After tying the line to whatever is available (rock, tree, etc.) you double back and attached it to the boat. If things go well you end up less than a boat length away from the rocks with over 100’ of water under the keel. Here you remain precariously balanced held off the cliff by your anchor and chain deep below you on the cliff, with the stern line constantly pulling you towards the rocks to keep your anchor set. Not for the faint hearted or those without a working winlass. When fully deployed our chain and anchor weigh well over 500 lbs. Good luck getting that up by hand! Our first attempt in Grace was a little rough but our technique is definitely improving. Our afternoon entertainment was watching other boats come attempt a tie up with varying degrees of success.
The water in Pendrell is known to be warm reaching over 80F in August. Even now in July the temperature is well into the 70’s. It’s an amazing experience to dive off Delos, swim to share, and jump off the rope swing that some industrious boaters of seasons past had left in their wake. We spent the next few days swimming, floating, cliff jumping, and exploring the area by kayak. We gorged ourselves on feast after feast from our fresh provisions and played Simpson’s Clue well into the wee hours of the night. Bella Marina was rafted to our port side and we traded time between both boats depending on the activity. Due to our large and open cockpit we’d usually end up for afternoon cocktails and dinner on Delos.
It was during this time that we all began to feel in the groove. It was a time to relax and enjoy the sun. A time to read, lay in the hammock, or seek out some shade and take a nap. If you were feeling really industrious we had the kayaks and sailing dinghy for exploring. It was during this time that I noticed myself starting to let go. I stopped worrying about the next time I could check email or voice mail. I stopped worrying about all the little things that occupy the back of your mind like so much white noise- always there and preventing you from truly being in the moment. I found that as a rule everything slowed down during the course of the day. We finally had time to pull out our sourdough starter and make the most incredible bread. Anything not necessary to do was put off. Should we clean the boat? Maybe tomorrow. Should we check our messages on the sat phone? Maybe tomorrow. Should we pull up anchor or spend another night? Let’s decide tomorrow. Your priorities begin to change when your hardest decisions of the day is whether to pick up your book or just stare out at the incredible scenery, what to have for dinner, and whether to stay another day or continue on to the next place. Don’t get me wrong- this lifestyle is a lot of work. You are responsible for running and maintaining your own vessel, for fixing what breaks, preparing your own food, etc. The difference is that without all the other background noise the day to day things you need to do are welcomed. In our case we spent 3 nights in Pendral driven by the fact that Joe had to catch his sea plane on Tuesday afternoon. That’s the great thing about loose plans. If you find a place where you’re comfortable with something special to offer why not stay another day or two or …… ?