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Extending Our Reach

October 6, 2019

We’re back on the coast for another fall sailing adventure. We’re also back on Eight Bells, the Santa Cruz 33 we borrowed last spring. So our adventures started in Port Townsend, Washington. This trip, we planned to pass quickly from there, through the San Juan Islands, and into the Gulf Islands to see whether we could push farther north along Vancouver Island than we did on our last Canada trip.

On our first day, we lucked into good weather and, once we crossed into moving with the current, a sailing breeze. We also lucked into our first whale sighting: a humpback feeding just southwest of San Juan Island and Cattle Pass. He attracted a lot of attention from the area’s birds as he chased schools of fish back and forth.

We spent our first night in the San Juans in the lovely Parks Bay, just across from Friday Harbor, intending to cross into Canada the following day. But we were sidetracked again by whales–this time a small pod of Orcas cruising in the opposite direction while we were traveling north. These ones attracted the attention of the whale-watching boats. We turned around and followed the parade back south, trailing the four whales–which appeared to be mom, two smaller yearlings, and big brother–past our prior anchorage until they sped away toward Cattle Pass.

We happily changed course for the afternoon, popping into Friday Harbor for a refuel and tying up to the dock at Jones Island for the night. Despite a windy forecast, we had a fairly peaceful sleep. It was disturbed only by predawn raccoons who decided to drop in for a visit; George scared them off the boat with an “Ooga Booga!” Bad raccoons!The next day, we crossed into Canada, checking in easily at Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island before cruising around the outside of Saturna Island into the Strait of Georgia. We arrived at Reef Harbour in the Cabbage and Tumbo Island Marine Parks to find we had the place to ourselves. We had plenty of nonhuman company as we explored the area: raccoons and deer, otters and harbor seals, starfish and jellyfish, herons and teals.

The birds were a sign of things to come: we’ve seen more birds, in number and type, on this trip than any of our prior adventures. Besides those in the photos, we’ve spotted mallards, red-necked and western grebes, pigeon guillemots in their duller nonbreeding plumage, various cormorants, and several varieties of gulls. We’ve also encountered many friends from home, including bald eagles, Canada geese, northern flickers, pileated woodpeckers, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, and red-breasted nuthatches.

From Tumbo, we crossed back into the inner islands through the narrow and beautiful Georgeson Passage. After spending a night in a favorite stop from our last visit, Prevost’s Glenthorne Passage, we headed to Salt Spring Island for a town day and stockup at the delectible Ganges farmer’s market. Our next nights put us in Galiano’s Montague Harbour Marine Park and Ruxton’s Herring Bay. Before we knew it, we were extending our reach farther north through Dodd Narrows, across the industrial Northumberland Channel, and into Nanaimo.

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