Chapter 34: Cruising the Salish Sea

The time had finally arrived for our two-week, 400 nautical mile round trip vacation on the Salish Sea with our yacht club family.  We had been looking forward to this trip with great anticipation for months. It was our first real taste of what the crusing life, that we long to have, will be like.  We relished every minute of it!!!!


Day one, bright and early July 28th, we left Everett and followed our yacht club friends through the Swinomish Channel to reconvene with the rest of our group at Stuart Island.  The cruise was pleasant with calm seas.  We are getting used to the motion of the boat as we find our groove in keeping preoccupied on long cruising days.  The kids colored or slept while listening to Adventures in Odyssey.  I baked and cooked in the kitchen a while.  I still think it’s the coolest thing ever to continue functioning as we normally do while cruising to far away places.


During the golden hour we reached our destination for the first night. Stuart Island is one of the farthest northwest San Juan Islands before entering Canadian waters.  We hip-tied to our two other friend’s boats and all gathered for a pleasant evening on the floating community dock at Reed Harbor. The friendly chatter amongst other boaters makes this such a fun neighborly environment of which I feel very blessed to be apart of.  After we put the children to bed, us adults stayed and chatted on the dock while the full red moon rose high, reflecting perfectly in the stillness of the water.  I found out what Bioluminescence was.  It was so cool to see the water glow blue when swished around and agitated.

Day two, we awoke early, crossed into Canadian waters and checked into Canada at Bedwell Harbor, Pender Island.  From there we snaked our way through a tiny river, through Beaumont Marine Park, and around Pender Island to Trincomali Channel.  The kids settled down and enjoyed the constant cruise.  The water and weather were calm, even the wind was warm!  We enjoyed being outside on the top deck, taking turns driving, following in the wake of our cruising buddies.

Just before crossing through the infamous Dodd Narrows, our friend’s boat had some problems.  We anchored in the bay for about 90 minutes and let the dad’s put their heads together to trouble shoot the problem.  We moms and kids seized the opportunity and jumped in the water to cool off.  The problem turned out to not be serious, so we continued onto Nanaimo to top off with water and gas and anchor for the night in front of Newcastle Island Park.  Since we could not bring fresh fruits and veggies into Canada my friend Kristine and I hopped in their dingy and went grocery shopping in town.  It was fun. 🙂

Day three, we crossed the Strait of Georgia.  Whiskey Golf, an active torpedo range in the middle of the Strait, was open for civilian traffic.  The crossing was wonderful. The weather was beautiful with a soft breeze and calm following sea.  Ryan tried to explain to the kids the difference between the rhythmic swells in big, deep water vs the fast beat of the waves atop one another in the shallower Puget Sound.  The kids enjoyed the bow of our boat. I love how well they get along!  Their world had been limited to our boat for three days, yet they were not stir-crazy nor at each others throats.  They joyfully sang “Nick-nack-patty-wack-give-a-dog-a-bone” in as many goofy ways they possibly could, cracking up at the silliness of themselves.  Their imaginations are limitless.

By early afternoon we pulled into Smuggler’s Cove and anchored our five club boats together…then it was playtime!!  The kids swam behind the boats the rest of the afternoon!  My friend, Amanda, and I explored all around the cove in our kayaks.  The water was so clear!  During low tide, we stealthily paddled our way into various sheltered bays throughout the cove.  It was so quiet, so peaceful.  I felt privileged to peek at another “planet” while gliding just inches above a treasure trove of broken clam shells, tiny hermit crabs and a myriad of purple starfish.  They were everywhere among the rock formations!

Day four, we separated from our group to refuel with gas and water. Rounding the corner from Secret Cove, Malaspina Straight greeted us with very rough 3-5 foot following seas and gusty winds. Gradually it grew calmer when we entered Agamemnon Channel. Providentially, we met up with our friends on Wishing Well and followed them the rest of the way through the Reaches to Chatterbox Falls and the rest of our group.  We cruised about 12 knots to try to make Malibu Rapids around slack tide.  Late afternoon, we finally reached our destination for this trip. In four days, we had cruised roughly 200 nautical miles from our home port in Everett, WA.  Such an incredible trip!!

Waggoner Cruising Guide 2014 Edition says this about Chatterbox Falls, Princess Louisa Inlet:

“It is a ‘holy grail’ for cruising people from all over the world.  Entered through Malibu Rapids, the Inlet is surrounded by 3,000 foot high mountains that plunge almost vertically into 600 foot depths below.  Entering Princess Louisa Inlet is like entering a great cathedral.  The author Earl Stanly Gardner wrote that no one could see Princess Louisa Inlet and remain an atheist.  It is one of the most awesome destinations on the coast.  What words can describe this place?  All the superlatives have been used on lesser subjects.”  


Chatterbox Falls

Ryan actually turned his phone off for three days because we had absolutely no cell service.  It was blissful!!  Four long days of travel were well worth the journey to this destination!  During our stay next to the Falls, we relaxed. The kids swam. We enjoyed fast dingy rides through the calm Inlet at sunset. We toured the Malibu Young Life Camp facility and enjoyed ice cream. We enjoyed the short hike to the base of Chatterbox Falls.  The weather cooled when the clouds rolled in. It was time to leave this gorgeous place. Days four, five and six are wonderful memories.  I look forward to returning to this breathtaking place again someday.


Princess Louisa Inlet

Day seven, we left Princess Louisa Inlet and headed to Pender Harbor on the Sunshine Coast, about 40 nautical miles away. We stopped at Madeira Park Marina to pump-out our black water tank.  Come to find out, this is the only pump-out station in all of Pender Harbor…and they only pumped out two boats each day costing $10 for the service.  They also charged $2 to dispose of one small bag of garbage.  We have learned many interesting things on this trip.


Day eight, we decided to stay and enjoy the quiet bay at Pender Harbor and did some housekeeping.  Ryan, Joy, Felicity and Caleb joined me to do laundry.  After a 20 minute dingy ride, we found one washer/dryer which, luckily, were ready to accept our dirty clothes! While we waited for the laundry to be done, we browsed the local shop, split a salad for lunch and enjoyed ice cream cones while being serenaded by a pianist and singer.  My kids were content, our clothes were getting clean, our tummies were full, beautiful music filled the atmosphere, my heart was happy!  While we were away doing laundry, Arianna went fishing with Mrs. Amanda and Mr. Bob.  Unfortunately they didn’t catch anything, but they did have a fun time together.  The kids swam the rest of the afternoon closing out our eighth day.

Day nine, we crossed the Straight of Georgia for the second time.  Calm seas and a light breeze ushered us across to Silva Bay, a protected marina on the northeast corner of Gabriola Island.  From there we headed to Pirates Cove.  Seizing the opportunity to go on a treasure hunt, we began our very first geo-cache which took us around the entire island.  What a fun way to hike!  We were on a mission, following certain clues, searching high and low for canisters with little trinket treasures. Geo-chasing made walking through the trails so much more entertaining and interesting!!

Keeping our boats anchored in Pirates Cove, we all loaded into two ‘super dinghies’ and zipped our way nine nautical miles around the point, across a straight, to Ladysmith.  We enjoyed the quaint marina. We strolled through a small marine museum which paid tribute to mariners of long ago from the Vancouver region.  Later, the kids enjoyed playing in fresh water at a nice splash pad nearby.  We headed home in the evening sun after a wonderful meal at the local British Pub, Fox and Hound.

Day ten we rendezvous with our boat friends in Otter Bay for our last night in Canadian waters.  We enjoyed a potluck dinner together, table tennis, bouche ball and wonderful conversations.

Day eleven, early in the morning we pulled up our anchor and found a stow-away. A starfish attached itself to our anchor chain!  Always looking for fun ways to learn, the kids scrutinized it for quite a while before setting it free again to its watery home.  We crossed U.S. waters and checked into Customs at Roche Harbor.  Welcome back to our home country! We anchored in the bay, ate lunch, then dinged to the dock and walked around the bustling quaint marina village of Roche Harbor.

That evening we joined our group in Garrison Bay and became one of the five “spokes” making our boats into a “wagon wheel”. Our sterns faced center with our bows pointing away.  This allowed every boat to be ‘by itself’, yet still rafted together. We chatted with each other while sitting on our “back porch” so to speak and watched the kids kayak and swim. Among the most memorable, Ryan held hands with Joy as they jumped off our top deck into the cold water. That night my friend Amanda taught me how to make sushi. Artistry and yumminess came together into a deliciously beautiful roll! 🙂  When dinner was over we all jumped into our dinghies and zoomed our way out of Garrison Bay to Haro Straight where we enjoyed a magnificent sunset with our amazing friends.  These wonderful people, whom we’ve now vacationed with for two weeks, have become so dear to me.  When we joined the Everett Yacht Club last year, we became apart of a bigger family of people who love boating and adventures out on the water.  My heart is so thankful for friends who have become dear, like family.


Everett Yacht Club Wagon Wheel in Garrison Bay

Day twelve, our family enjoyed touring the British camp at Garrison Bay where we learned about the “Pig War” that took place in the late 1800’s.

According to the treaty verbiage, the water boundary between the two nations (Canada and the U.S.) was run along the 49th parallel to the middle of the Strait of Georgia and then south through the middle of the channel, then out the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the sea.  This left the San Juan Islands in dispute.” 

“By July 1874…peace had finally come to the 49th parallel, and San Juan Island would be long remembered for the “war” in which the only casualty was a pig.”

~National Historical Park, San Juan Island

When the visitor center was closed, we spontaneously decided to get lost hiking the switchbacks up to the top of Young Hill…in flip flops.  Hot, tired and sweaty, with not much water left, our kids encouraged each other, “Taisey’s don’t complain and don’t give up!”  On the way down Felicity noticed a scab on her ankle ripped off and started bleeding pretty heavily.  Unfortunately someone had previously taken our tiny first aid kit out of the backpack I carried.  Thinking fast, Arianna gladly offered to have Ryan cut the back of her tee-shirt to make a bandage for her sister’s ankle.  Both girls wore the bandage and shirt like a badge of honor.

When the sun set and the stars were out, Ryan zipped away with Joy, Arianna and Caleb back to the British Camp to meet up with our friends.  They were all going on a Snipe Hunt!  Armed with flashlights, plastic bags and pumping adrenaline, Mr. Bob, a former Boy Scout leader, led six brave youngsters and their dads through trails in search of the infamously shy Snipe creature.  My kids came back full of excitement that one Snipe ran right behind them…and that Mr. Bob even caught one!!!  But it gave such a struggle in the bag that Mr. Bob just could not keep it contained long enough for the kids to see it.  The exciting eventful evening unfortunately came to a sad conclusion when Mr. Bob missed his step and fell into a hole on the trail, breaking his ankle. 😦

Day thirteen, we all spent the morning helping Mr. Bob and Mrs. Brenda tidy up their boat and load up their dingy to head to an urgent care on mainland to help Mr. Bob’s poor, swollen foot.

From Garrison Bay we followed our friends down Haro Strait to Bowman Bay, just north of Deception Pass.  Amanda and I dinged the kids to the nearby sandy beach which was bathed in sunlight, and let them run around to burn some energy.  Dinner and a game of Mexican Train with our wonderful friends rounded out day thirteen.

Day fourteen, we went through Deception Pass and made it just outside the breakwater to Oak Harbor marina when our port engine died.  Our friends, who already fueled up and were ready to head back home to Everett, decided to stay with us and help Ryan sort through the problem.  After a squall passed which brought thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour, Ryan and Adam isolated the problem.  Resolving it enough to get our engine going again and we continued home to Everett with calm seas, puffy white clouds and sunshine.

Back in the Puget Sound, pods of porpoise welcomed us home.  We traveled 400 nautical miles in two weeks, anchored every night and used our dingy as our car.  Our family loved every minute of this trip, confirming our hearts’ desire to continue pursuing this amazing adventure of exploring, learning, serving and sharing our story as we live on the water, vacationing for now, on the Salish Sea.



Categories: Life Aboard, Our StoryTags: , , , , , , ,

1 comment

  1. What an awesome adventure, so many good memories!! So happy for you all!!


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