Bob Hale’s Cruising ReportsFeatured

Cortes Bay, Desolation Sound, June 28. For the past three nights we’ve been stuck at the dock in Cortes Bay, waiting for gale force winds to subside in Johnstone Strait. “Stuck at the dock” misstates our situation. We’re at Seattle Yacht Club’s wonderful Cortes Bay outstation, with excellent docks, water and power for all boats, laundry, restrooms with showers, ice machine, garbage and recycling, barbecues to cook on, nearby roads and trails for walking and hiking, and a “pea-patch” with fresh lettuces and kale, peas, herbs and more, no charge. It’s pretty nice.

Marilynn just finished a small laundry load—towels and three of my polo-style shirts. Clothes dryers shrink these shirts, so we try to hang them to dry. The shirts are out back, hanging in the cockpit. For the first time in days there isn’t much wind but the temperature is pushing 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so it shouldn’t take long. I’ll get a picture.

Marilynn reminds me to tell you about Barbara Buffington. Barbara Buffington is a strong, smiling, big-boned, gray-haired woman who sells home-baked goods at local farmers markets and at the Royal Vancouver outstation and SYC outstation in Cortes Bay. Between 4 and 6 every afternoon Barbara carries baskets of breads, scones, cookies, pies, jams and toppings from boat to boat. To keep things fair, she alternates her first stops between Royal Van and SYC. Barbara welcomes us by name each year, an amazing memory. She told us she goes to bed at 7 o’clock on nights before farmers markets, so she can begin baking at 3 the next morning. She does this all summer long.

Barbara Buffington with baked goods.

Barbara Buffington with baked goods.

A big bubble of high pressure has been lying offshore, pouring its air over us. The result is winds, sometimes gale force, in Johnstone Strait and the Strait of Georgia. Rather than being delayed farther north we’ve stayed in Desolation Sound. The first night was in the back bay of Squirrel Cove, one of the most popular anchorages in the area. It was good to be on anchor. It’s peaceful to sit in the cabin or the cockpit and watch as the boat swings slowly back and forth—a constantly changing vista—even if the scene is just trees, trees and more trees.

We felt like moving on from Squirrel Cove, so we backtracked south and east a little, to cozy Roscoe Bay on the southeast side of West Redonda Island. For years we’ve wanted to revisit Roscoe Bay but couldn’t afford the time. The inner, most attractive part is protected by a drying shoal. Entry and exit have to be timed for approximately half tide or higher. As a practical matter this means that arrival and departure are separated by 25 hours. When we were researching the Waggoner we couldn’t devote that much time. Now that the pressure is off, we did it.

What a lovely spot, Roscoe Bay. A small stream at the head of the bay connects with Black Lake, a short walk along an easy trail through the woods. Most of the lake’s shore is encumbered by logs and lily pads, but a spot has been cleared where the more determined swimmers can get in. We continued past the swim access but the trail quickly became narrow and steep, and we decided to go no farther.

When we entered Roscoe Bay the sounder showed a least depth of about 8 feet over the shoal, so we noted the 22-foot depth where we anchored. The following day we upped anchor and departed when the rising tide got to 22 feet. I think 11 other boats were in the back bay with us, and most of them had the same idea. It was a real parade.

Roscoe Bay anchorage

Roscoe Bay anchorage

Black Lake, a short walk from Roscoe Bay

Black Lake, a short walk from Roscoe Bay

Important: Roscoe Bay is a B.C. Provincial Marine Park, with picnic tables near the mouth of the stream from Black Lake. A sign points to an up-and-down path that leads at last to an outhouse toilet. The door was open, and I could see that both toilet tissue holders were empty. The advice from the “Cruising Tips from our Experiences” chapter in the Waggoner is valid: Carry your own paper to park toilets.

Local knowledge says summer on the coast doesn’t start until after July 4. In June we expect rainy days and zipped-jacket temperatures and wave off thoughts that summer will never arrive. We aren’t used to this unrelenting streak of 90-degrees weather, where sweaters and coats have gone unused. The forests need moisture, and water sources need a refill. A few good downpours would be welcome.

Bob Hale

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