4th – 17th July 2016 (continued)
In the last episode you journeyed with us as we travelled from Salt Spring Island to Jedediah Island. And now our honeymoon sailing adventure continues…
A Pender pie-fest…or no country for old chickens.
Theros cut through the sunlit-sparkling water from Jedediah Island along the Malaspina Strait to Pender Harbour in the Garden Bay Marine Provincial Park on the aptly-named Sunshine Coast. It was a perfect day for sailing and Brett and I took delight in drinking in the spectacular scenery, marvelling at the majestic boats moored around the bay and opulent houses clinging to the steep, rocky and forest-clad slopes.
We found dock space at the Pilothouse Marina for two nights so that we could be close to Isabelle, Tim, Arabella and new found friends Dude and Laurie. They happily regaled us of tales from their quirky and colourful community around the marina. We thought the “People of Pender Harbour” would make a good, reality TV show!
Pender Harbour lies in the shadow of the imposing Mount Daniel. I’m always fascinated by the sacred spiritual significance and local legends of mountains wherever I travel to in the world. I’ve managed to do a spot of mountain climbing along the way. From scaling Mount Snowdon in Wales on a balmy, midsummer’s night, learning the basics of abseiling in the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye in wintry March conditions to climbing Mounts Kenya and Longanot in Kenya, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah (sadly, owing to altitude sickness, I couldn’t reach the summit of the latter) and more recently, Mount Tarvurvur, a live volcano in Papua New Guinea. Anyway I digress a little, here, in Garden Bay, the local Sechelt people call Mount Daniel Kwiss Chiam, which has particular ceremonial and ritual significance. It is possible to hike the mountain trail, so note to self, one day soon I’ll be back to walk up to the summit and look out over the bay.
Living aboard Theros affords me plenty of learning opportunities about boating lifestyles. Firstly, popping to the shops is not necessarily as easy as it was back home in Battersea or Long Itchington. Depending on where we anchor, moor or dock, going grocery shopping often involves a mini-expedition by dinghy across a stretch of water. From the Pilothouse Marina, our nearest supermarket was the IGA in Madeira Park across the bay, a few minutes dinghy ride and a walk around a school field away. I’m gradually getting used to hopping in and out of a dinghy and tying her up. I haven’t fallen in the water once (yet…but it is only a matter of time and Brett is waiting for that moment, because he will laugh and laugh…)
There are perks. On a hot day, its lovely to zip along and feel the breeze from the water. Brett and I stopped in a local cafe for some ice cream to get out of the searing July sun for a while before loading up the dinghy with shopping bags. The only downer I can see is, if we get back to the boat and realise we’ve forgotten something!
Secondly, boaters are happy to help each other out and exchange skills, time and sometimes spare boat parts, to get jobs done. Perhaps it is part of an unwritten mariners’ code. Brett and Tim did a fair exchange of work, with Brett assisting Tim to finish off a fence around their decking and in return, Tim helped Brett to mark up our new anchor chain with black and white plastic tags to denote measures of depth, so we can count how many feet of chain we let out or haul in.
Meanwhile, us girls (Arabella, Laurie and I) joined Isabelle to make five, large chicken pies for a spontaneous deck party using Isabelle’s family recipe from Montreal (the secrets of which, I have sworn never to divulge). Just to rub it in, I have to say, it is probably the best chicken pie I have ever eaten. Apparently Isabelle and Tim bought the chickens from a local school initiative. Having put on a chicken pie party a few days before for neighbours, and now we were having another one, I’m sure the combined effects of both must have pretty much decimated the chicken population for miles around. I guess the ‘People of Pender Harbour’ have conspired to make it a place where the chickens never grow old.
Who’s watching who on anchor watch?
All too soon we bade farewell to our friends and headed out, once again into the Malaspina Strait, closely following the coastline to Jervis Inlet to a place called Vancouver Cove for a night, (not to be confused with Vancouver city). I can’t find Vancouver Cove on Googlemaps but it is there on the nautical paper charts, so I have just marked up Jervis Inlet instead (see above).
We were in fjord country, the forest clad mountains towered over us as we sailed past steep, cliffs, under dramatic cloud formations, where we seemed to be alone, except for the elements and the local wildlife. Captain Clibbery was in his element!
Apparently there used to be a native camp on the shores of Vancouver Cove and further around the shoreline was a small base for the lumber industry. All was quiet on this afternoon though, and we took some time to find a suitable anchor spot as the waters ran incredibly deep and we also had to be mindful of the currents coming in from the sea as well as going out from the river estuary ahead of us. The strains of “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius, kept running through my head, while we dropped the hook. I imagined that the scenery here would be somewhat similar to the fjords of Scandinavia, one of our destinations for future sailing adventures, no doubt.
My reverie was broken by the slap, slap, clapping sound resembling an ungainly swimmer belly-flopping into the water echoing around the cove, or that’s what it seemed like. I peered through our binoculars and saw a group of seals gambolling boisterously. What were they doing? Were they playing, fighting, fishing or courting? According to the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat:
“Pacific harbour seals, or Phoca Vitulina Richardsi populations were severely depleted by over-hunting during commercial harvests in 1879-1914 and 1962-1968, but have made a dramatic recovery since being protected in 1970. There are currently about 105,000 harbour seals on the British Columbia coast, which is likely similar to pre-exploitation levels that occurred in the 1880s”.
This is good news for the recovery of seal populations. The males tend to be the ones to do the water slapping, as well as bubble blowing and rolling around! (Well, boys will be boys I guess…)
I peered around, surveying the rest of the semi-circular shore line and spotted another species of note, a majestic and solitary bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, swooping low over the water and landing in the uppermost branches of a fir tree. Wow, what an incredible sight to behold. The bald eagle is Canada’s largest bird of prey, weighing in between 2.7 and 4 kg for males and a whopping 4.5 to 6.8 kg for females, averaging a wingspan of over two meters and living between 25 and 40 years. The eagle totem, as a native symbol of great significance, can mean “The master of skies”.
“He is believed to be the creature with the closest relationship with the creator. By soaring great heights, he can travel between the physical world and the spiritual world. He is said to be a messenger to the creator”.
Yes, just as I experienced several power animal messengers, while walking along el Camino de Santiago last year, I somehow feel the presence of the Divine, God, Universal Energy or Great Spirit, when I am this close to the magnificence of nature.
Detecting a distinct chill and dampness in the air, we decided to heat through Isabelle’s chicken pie that she gave us and we huddled up in blankets in the cockpit to savour every morsel, while we looked up at the stars. It was important to pay attention to the anchor in deep waters and currents such as these, to make sure Theros didn’t slip. Our anchor watch had begun, but I wondered, who was still watching us, while we looked on?
A right royal to-do
Although we rose early to haul anchor and be on our way to Princess Louisa Inlet, we had to wait for the slack to get through the rapids at Malibu. Contrary to the exotic beach image this name conjures up in the mind, Malibu over here is a place where the rapids and whirlpools can be treacherous in the mouth of Princess Louisa Inlet. At one time the lodge on the shore line was a sumptuous holiday retreat for the well-to-do. Nowadays it is an activity centre for youth, who can try their hand at different water sports and other thrills and spills. I wouldn’t want to take the plunge into the chilly depths right now though!
There are two theories about the right Royal name. One is that it was named after Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and another that the Princess Louisa in question was actually Queen Victoria’s mother, who was born Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. I wonder why so many places in the world are named after Royalty and yet their original names are more meaningful. The Sechelt Nation called the inlet Suivoolot or “sunny and warm”, which I like better.
Waiting for the slack is never a waste of time. Instead, we sailed up and down Jervis Inlet, admiring the stunning scenery, including the mist covered slopes, icy waterfalls decorating the cliffs in silver threads and observing the wooden, lodge-style homes, perched, precariously on the rocky ledges. Sadly we noticed one or two had suffered recent fires, which must have been devastating.
Slack time came round and we slipped through the narrow opening to the Inlet, carefully negotiating the rocks and being mindful of the no wake zone (unlike some of the powerboats going by). Princess Louisa Inlet is quite long and it probably took us a good 40 mins or so to sail to the end, racing another sailboat to the dock. Both boats managed to snap up the two remaining spots on the dock amidst the jostling powerboats. The place was heaving already!
Straight away we disembarked in order to explore the shoreline of the inlet more closely. We strolled through the forest towards Chatterbox Falls and stood for a while to admire the sheer force of nature, feeling the spray on our faces. It was a truly magnificent sight, yet Brett explained that this waterfall together with the others along the inlet, are even more impressive in the spring when the ice melt and heavier rains greatly increase the volume of water flow.
Brett and I soaked up the afternoon sunshine in the cockpit for a few hours until the sun dipped its rays behind the mountains. Ahhhh this is the life! All of a sudden our peace and tranquillity was well and truly shattered, several times over, by a bunch of inconsiderate power boaters, who set their generators going and blasted their poor taste in music out for the rest of the evening and long into the night, all of which drowned out the sound of the waterfall. We couldn’t believe it. If the park ranger had been there they wouldn’t have got away with it. We made a mental note to ourselves that if ever we were to return to Princess Louisa Inlet we would use one of the mooring buoys at MacDonald Island instead.
Meanwhile, we dreamt up several ways we could take our revenge, all hypothetical, you understand…I’m beginning to realise that there is quite a large cultural gap between sail boaters (stick boat people) and power boaters. (Although, I suppose I mustn’t make sweeping generalisations as not all sail boaters or power boaters are the same…) I’m wondering whether this is true in other parts of the world too.
Steady Eddy homeward bound
Early next morning, and resisting the strong temptation to blast out Meatloaf’s “Bat out of hell” at top volume from our cockpit speakers, we left the dock to gently motor back towards Malibu to make the slack and Theros slipped through the eddies in a genteel fashion.
I thought all would be plain sailing when we reached Jervis Inlet again, but no, a sudden gust of wind blew the storm jib partially out from its furler, the rest got caught up in one of the sheets, one of its battens pinged out (I managed to catch it before it bounced overboard) and the engine died at the same time! Captain Clibbery was not phased by this sudden turn of events and gave me the helm to keep Theros on course, while he went into ‘A Team mode’ and constructed a temporary fuel tank system with an old heater and some tubing. This Heath Robinson-style of contraption enabled us to get underway smoothly, untangle the storm jib and reach Egmont before sunset with a combination of motoring and sail.
We were elated to reach Egmont without running out of fuel and promptly docked at Back Eddy Marina. We belted up the gangway to make it to the Back Eddy pub to order some lovely fish and chips before the kitchen closed. The following day we returned to Pender Harbour to spend a relaxing day afternoon in the sunshine with our friends and we cooked up a roast beef and corn on the cob dinner to give the chickens a break.
At 6.00 am we hauled anchor and set off on a 16 hour sail all the way up Gabriola’s Passage.. ooh err… I mean Gabriola Passage to Salt Spring Island. Although the hours were long, we enjoyed perfect weather and no problems. Hurray! Theros brought us home under a spectacular sunset to arrive at our mooring next to the Sea Horse at 9.45pm and we collapsed into bed!
Stay tuned for another episode coming to a screen near you shortly…
Peace, love and light,