Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Sunshine Coast: B.C.'s Boating Nirvana

This is the last of three posts about boating along the Sunshine Coast and fjords of British Columbia north of Vancouver. Read the first post here and second post here.

After several days slowing down to the pace of sea and sky, completely out of cell range, it was time to leave beautiful Princess Louisa Inlet and head back to Pender Harbour. At least I had one more night on board Aeolus before returning to regular life and work.

We got up early to pass through Malibu Rapids at slack tide. After Mark untied from the mooring buoy, it was peaceful and calm as we set off back down the inlet. 

I felt a tug in my heart as we left this little slice of heaven, where the sea fingers deep into B.C.'s majestic Coast Range. I also felt grateful for these moments of beauty and stillness in such a spectacular place.

Skipper Mark expertly navigated Aeolus, a 1930s-vintage wooden sailboat, back out into larger Jervis Inlet. The glacier-laden mountains we'd seen on the way up, enshrouded in afternoon clouds, were bright and prominent above us in the powder blue morning sky.

Leaving our little cove early morning.
Passing through calm Malibu Rapids at slack tide.

For the next 8 or so hours, we motored at a leisurely pace 40+ miles back down Jervis Inlet past forested and rocky mountains. I napped a bit, read a bit, and although I didn't remember to bring a sketch pad and pencils, I tried my (unpracticed) hand at sketching along the way.

On the front deck of Aeolus
Trees will grow anywhere they can. Shoreline cliff.

At one point in the Princess Royal Reach of Jervis Inlet, Mark, who has a geology degree, pointed to a sheer rock cliff along the shoreline. 

"I wonder if that was a collapse as a result of the 1700 Cascadia Subduction Zone quake, " he said. In case you're not sure, that would be not only a Big One, but a megaquake up to possibly a magnitude 9.2. I'm just glad it didn't happen as we passed. :)

Our destination for the night was Hardy Island Marine Provincial Park,  which lies past the mouth of Jervis Inlet adjacent to Malaspina Strait and Nelson Island. It's shown on the map below in French as Ile Hardy.

Carte simplifiée baie Jervis.svg
By Arct - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 As we emerged from the mountains into lower hills near the park, we passed through some small passages and islands. Out here the air was noticeably warmer. (The only time I wore a jacket in five days was the first morning of the trip, before and shortly after sunrise.)

After we anchored in a lovely, tranquil cove between some islands, a couple rowed over to us in their dinghy.

"Is that the Aeolus?" 

Ah, it's a small world here in the Pacific Northwest if you've been around a few decades. Anne and John were old Port Townsend acquaintances of Mark and his father, and had sailed on Aeolus years ago.

"I recognized her right away. She has such classic, clean lines" said John.
They invited us over to their newer, larger sailboat (shown in the photo at the top of this post) for happy hour. This cool, laid back couple told us about the five years they took off from work in the 1990s and sailed the South Pacific. I love hearing epic adventurers' tales.

Since I expressed interest, they insisted I try out one of their SUPs (standup paddleboards). I was definitely a wimp on my first try, with shaky legs when I stood up. Their sweet golden lab Lily was much more relaxed on the board than me.

John and Lily
Another night sleeping on deck under the stars was idyllic, with even more shooting stars streaking across the sky than the night before as I drifted to sleep. In the bluebird warm morning, Mark and I explored the small island nearby before heading back to drop me off. (Mark was continuing his journey for a few more weeks.)

Looks and feels like serenity
Within a couple hours we were back where I started the prior week in Pender Harbour. Sigh. I was glad for the flush toilet, excellent tacos from the Flavour Saver food truck at John Henry's Resort and Marina, and a cold drink. 

But I was a bit wistful that this splendid sojourn was over. It definitely met and exceeded any expectations I had about boating this beautiful part of the world, within a half day drive (and a BC ferry ride) from home in Seattle.

I hope you've enjoyed coming along with me as I relived the trip. Special thanks to Skipper Mark for letting me join him for part of his 6-week sailing trip. He was a generous host and skillful skipper.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.
When You Go
I hope you're fortunate to have an opportunity to boat up the Sunshine Coast and beyond like I did, in your own boat, with friends, or perhaps via a charter service. Late July/early-mid August is peak season for boating there, with the mildest weather.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Crown Jewel of BC's Fjords: Princess Louisa Inlet

This is the second of three posts about a recent sailboat trip up the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia north of Vancouver. Read the first post and see a map of our journey here and check out the third post here.
After a long day sailing and motoring almost 50 miles up Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet, we crossed the narrow threshold into a place of tranquility and dramatic beauty. I felt a sense of reverence as we cruised onward.

Princess Louisa Inlet, tucked deep into the Coast Range of BC, deserves all the superlatives thrown its way. Magical, majestic, sublime, and so on. 

According to the Princess Louisa International Society, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving this special place, it's the only true example of fjordland on the Pacific coast. I'm not sure exactly what they mean by "true fjordland," but it's certainly lovely.

We motored slowly up the gorge, traditionally named swiwelát (which means sunny and warm), toward the far end where there's a BC marine park dock for overnight mooring. Towering overhead are granite walls rising steeply a few thousand feet, with long thin waterfalls streaming down and surrounding slopes thick with evergreen forest.

"It's like we're in the mountains but at sea level, like we sailed uphill." commented Skipper Mark. Indeed, we were in the mountains at sea level, which south of Alaska takes a bit of mind bending to comprehend. 
Far end of Princess Louisa Inlet.
This late in the day, the sun had slipped behind the surrounding mountains, leaving the end of the inlet in shade. When a boat ahead of us turned around and headed back down inlet, Mark called out.

"Are there no spaces left at the dock?" Nope, they confirmed. So we also turned around and headed to a cove a mile or so back and tied up to a mooring buoy beside forest-covered MacDonald Island.

MacDonald Island

When we saw a dock across from the island with standup paddleboards, Mark thought maybe they were for rent from the marine park. But after getting settled for the night in the placid cove, we noticed cabins in the woods and kids talking and laughing. It's an outpost of the Malibu Club camp called Beyond Malibu, where teens take off for backpacking trips in the surrounding peaks.

Needless to say, a sense of solitude in wilderness was not our experience there. However, it was still wonderful and quiet in the late evening and early mornings.

After a tasty dinner on the back deck of Aeolus (I took charge of meals), we stayed up well after dark to see the Milky Way and a few shooting stars. Light pollution up there is minimal.  While I can pick out the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, Mark pointed out other constellations and even saw Andromeda.

Eating well on the sea: Smoked salmon, homemade pesto gnocchi, and fresh slaw.
I love the calm and quiet of early morning.  When I awoke before the sun crested the steep walls enclosing the inlet, the still water reflected like a huge mirror.

On this, our layover day, a rigorous hike up to the trapper's cabin above Chatterbox Falls was the plan. After breakfast, we motored up to the end of the inlet in the dinghy and tied up at the dock beside the overnighters, ranging from small cabin cruisers to sailboats to a few yachts.

Signed trails guided us through the woods to the base of Chatterbox Falls. At the trailhead, another sign tried to dissuade us from hiking the rugged trail up to the trapper's cabin (photo fail, so copy below), without telling us NOT to go.

This route is very challenging and potentially hazardous.
The route is very steep.
The trail surface is uneven and slippery.
The route is not marked or patrolled.
BC Parks does not recommend the use of this route.
So we charged on up. 

And it was indeed rough, very steep, hard to follow, and at times a mat of roots or just rock we had to scramble over. I didn't take photos because I was using my hands so much just to get up the trail. In 1.6 miles and just under 2 hours, we came to the collapsed old cabin beside a waterfall cascading over blocks of granite.

And the view back down to the inlet 1,700 feet below wasn't bad either (see the shot at the top of this post).

While getting down was faster than going up, it wasn't particularly easier. My right toe got numb and painful from the steep declines (some of which were negotiated by sliding down on my bum). 

We both decided to take a swim to cool off back at the cove in an aqua blue-green lagoon between some small islets. I had to be careful to avoid cutting my feet on the many barnacle-encrusted oyster and mussels shells blanketing the surface below.

Dinghy-level view heading back down inlet.
Slipping into the cool but not too cold saltwater was wonderfully refreshing. Unfortunately I couldn't stay in very long because of leg cramps. 

Our second night there, we both slept outside on deck to stargaze and hopefully see more shooting stars (the Perseid meteor shower was peaking a few days later).

As I lay on my back tucked cozy in my sleeping bag, the steep mountains encircling us close by felt like comfort. With the zillions of stars and gossamer Milky Way overhead and the soft summer evening air, it was a peak experience. In one of those seared-in-my-mind moments, I thought to myself: If my big toe didn't hurt, this would be bliss.

Despite the aching toe, it was blissful. I saw a half dozen meteors streak across the night sky in blazes of white before drifting off to sleep a very happy camper.  

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

Check back for the next and last post in this series: Our return back down the inlets, with an overnight at another beautiful marine park on Malaspina Strait.

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.
Aeolus moored in Princess Louisa Inlet
When You Go
Late July/early-mid August is peak season for boating up into the BC coast inlets, with the mildest weather. I'm told if you go to Princess Louisa Inlet earlier in the season or happen to be there right after a heavy rain, you'll see more waterfalls. I was on a friend's sailboat, but there are numerous tour operators who take charter boats up for the day to Princess Louisa.

Monday, August 13, 2018

B.C.'s Sunshine Coast: Sailing through Paradise

This is the first of three posts about a recent trip on a sailboat along the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Read the second post here and the third post here.

When my friend Mark invited friends and family to join him during a six-week sailing sabbatical in the Salish Sea, I jumped at the chancea bucket list opportunity must be seized. 

We decided I would join him at Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, B.C., and sail up into Princess Louisa Inlet, which several people had told Mark was a must-see. It's the deepest fjord in BC and sounded like a perfect destination.

On a Friday morning, I left Seattle around 6:30 a.m. and breezed through the border crossing just east of Blaine, Washington, with absolutely no waiting line. This is rare along the I-5 corridor.

After taking the ferry from Horseshoe Bay across Howe Sound, it was a scenic drive up the increasingly developed but still relatively rural Sunshine Coast (Highway 101). By mid-afternoon I arrived at John Henry's Resort & Marina on Hospital Bay in Pender Harbour and was immediately charmed by this cozy and picturesque little cove.

It didn't take me long to find Mark. After three weeks of sailing/cruising already, he looked tanned and relaxed. I found myself unwinding pretty quickly too.

Dinner at Cafe at John Henry's (attached to the marina's grocery store/gift shop) was excellent. Beforehand we started with (nonalcoholic) drinks on the deck. My glass of iced chamomile tea, which is generally a pretty bland drink, was artfully crafted by the bartender with a lemon twist and a hint of pink.

Rice, housemade hummus, and roast/fresh veggie bowl, Cafe at John Henry's
My first night on the boat I was quickly lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking on the water. Both Mark and I awoke just before the alarm was set to go off at 5 a.m. An early start was the plan for our long journey (48 miles) up Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet.

Our route, starting from near Irvine's Landing. Map from Princess Louisa International Society website
I love the promise of early morning, when the new day is slowly emerging. I also love going places I've never been before. By 6:15 we set off motoring towards the Malaspina Strait with anticipation for the day ahead.

For you sailors, we were traveling on Mark's ~ 40-foot-long wooden sailboat Aeolus, which was built in the 1930s. It's a lovely old boatnot fancy but equipped with a modern electronic navigation system.                          

After we cleared Pender Harbour, Aeolus made a U-turn into Agamemnon Channel en route to Jervis Inlet. While the sun had already risen, it hadn't fully crested many of the hills and ridges, so we passed in and out of shade for a while.

Ahead, jagged peaks of the 800-mile-long Coast Range of BC looked dramatic on the distant skyline. Later in the day we were on the other side of that pointy peak in the middle of the photo below.

An hour or so into our cruise, a BC ferry passed in front of us where we merged into Jervis Inlet. Years ago I took that ferry heading southbound, and I remember being thrilled at the juxtaposition of mountains and sea together.

Dead ahead at the northern end of the first long reach (Prince of Wales) were some impressively craggy peaks. On the left are the Marlborough Heights, and the pointed peak on the right is Mt. Churchill. With stunning high granite walls, these are a destination for climbers.

And so we continued past mountainsides blanketed in evergreen forests, evidence of past clearcuts very visible in places. We curved around the Marlborough Heights into the Princess Royal Reach, the longest reach. 

Midday we crossed over to the western side of the reach to see a pictograph painted on a rockface about 20 feet above the tideline. Apparently there are many along the inlet and nearby channels. Centuries before loggers, trappers, and boaters began flocking to this area, the Sechelt Indian Band (shíshálh Nation) called these waters their home.

With the wind picking up and plenty of time to reach our destination, Mark decided to try sailing with the jib (front) and mizzen (back) sails. It was an especially peaceful 4 hours with just the sound of wind catching in the sails and light waves slapping against the hull.

"This ship is rat-infested." I turned around quickly to see Mark holding up two cute stuffed rats. I think his daughter Lena had something to do with these little guys. The skipper is not without humor. :)

One thing that struck me as we cruised past rugged high peaks is how evident it is that their glaciers have receded. It's obvious where they used to extend farther downslope. When I've traveled around the Coast Range in years past, the glaciers were much more prominent. It's hard to observe this change because the overall health of the mountain and coastal ecosystem is partially dependent on seasonal glacial melt.

But I digress.

Mark timed our arrival at the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet to coincide with slack tide around 5:45 p.m. Water can run so fast through the very narrow entrance that British Captain George Vancouver's expedition here in the 1790s noted this as a river running into Jervis Inlet instead of an entrance into another inlet.

Entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet, the small gap shown above.
Aeolus passed easily through the gap, past the Malibu compound (a longtime Young Life camp for teenagers). And then we entered what felt and looked like an enchanted cathedral of mountains and sea...

Check back for the next post about Princess Louisa Inlet. (Too many photos to cram into one post.)

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.
When You Go
Late July/early-mid August is peak season for boating along the Sunshine Coast and up into the inlets, with the mildest weather. While I was on a private boat, there are many tours and groups that take people up this way. Thankfully no big cruise ships yet (I don't think).