August 15 – Ladysmith to Thetis
This morning we took a quick tour of Ladysmith and had a meeting with Tom Irwin, the executive director of the Ladysmith Maritime Museum. This group is amazing and over 200 volunteers strong. Where else can you find a community run marina that is this much fun? The place just oozes enthusiasm and a passion for boating. Most importantly, it is a fun place to stop, with antique boats around and their new lounge and washrooms. While I was there a yacht club group was having their rendezvous on the dock. Food was flowing off the tables. Some made it to the grill and most made it onto the plates of the participants. Funny thing is, the next morning at 7:00 am they were still there, or maybe they were back after spending the night on their boats. The tables for this group were again overflowing with food. I thought it was left overs from the night before, but no, it was the morning breakfast buffet. This group really knew how to party, and eat!
Thetis Island Pub
From Ladysmith, I took a quick stop at the Thetis Island Marina and I discovered some really good news. Paul Deacon, the owner, is now back. Paul filled me in on a number of improvements going on at the marina. The friendly old staff is back, the food is now very good, and they are making improvements to the docks and facilities. This is a positive transformation for this venerable marina resort and pub.
August 16 – Ganges
Ganges is one of the top destinations in the Gulf Islands. Foodie Heaven, I call it. Arriving on a Friday at the Kanaka Wharf means you are there for the Saturday “Market in the Park,” one of the best farmer’s markets in the Gulf Islands and maybe the B.C. Coast. In addition to the market, there is a wide range of restaurant choices. Look for the article in this edition of Waggoner eNews on “Foodie Heaven…” and the restaurant reviews of The Gathering and Auntie Pesto’s in Centennial Square.
The Gathering is a good new restaurant in Ganges.
While getting an update from the manager of the Salt Spring Marina, I learned that after many years they now have all of the environmental issues resolved and permits in place to start construction of a breakwater in front of the marina at the end of this season. The docks will remain as is for 2014 with new docks and the expanded marina ready for the 2015 season. Once finished there will be docks out over Moneymakers Rock and the facility will be up to modern standards.
I moored at the Kanaka Wharf, convenient to all areas of downtown. Things were busy across the way at the Ganges Marina with many large boats at the dock, including the superyacht After-Eight. Traveling in a boat this size would be an interesting experience, but I am pretty happy squeezing into the smaller and more intimate places in my 30’ Tolly without the entourage of a crew.
August 17 – Ganges to Otter Bay
All summer long, I have been receiving the updates for special Saturday night dinner events at Otter Bay Marina. While I was in Ketchikan on the boat, the Steak and Lobster dinner at Otter Bay one Saturday was calling my name. I could not be there. When my schedule worked that I be there on a Saturday night, I immediately called to see if they could squeeze us in – and yes they just barely had moorage and a few seats for dinner left. Charlene and Jess Mansley, the harbor and resort managers, put on quite a nice event. It has been very successful throughout the summer. Chef Stephan comes in on the weekends and prepares a fabulous meal. For ours, it started with breaded deep fried shrimp. Then a wonderful salmon dinner with a good wine followed by a Nanaimo Bar cheesecake for dessert. Yum.
I have to give credit to Charlene and Jess. Every year they make new improvements to the Otter Bay Marina. The grounds are beautiful. It is relaxing. And they are focused on providing a great experience for their marina guests.
August 18 – Otter Bay to Sidney
The passage to Port Sidney has its moments. Your head needs to be on a swivel as you approach the ferry docks at Swartz Bay. Not only are there ferries coming and going, but there are many recreational boats that all seem to converge in this area. Add a few charted rocks in the water in John Passage, and you have plenty to keep you busy. Just a few weeks ago I was in northern BC seeing only a boat or two a day…what a change.
Outdoor concert in Sidney
Moonrise in Sidney
August 19 – Victoria, Brentwood Bay and Tsehum Harbour
Port Sidney needs to be mentioned as one of the nicest marinas on the coast. The docks are wide and beautiful. The laundry and washrooms are better than most, and the staff is courteous and helpful. Sidney is a great urban marina destination. I had a lot to cover in the Sidney/Victoria area where we have many customers for the Waggoner Cruising Guide and our Ports and Passes books. I called National Rental Car and someone came by with a nice Mazda 3 hatchback within an hour.
A few quick reports: Victoria Harbour had a surprising number of slips available for mid-Augusts, even in front of the Empress Hotel. There were plenty of large yachts in the harbor, but plenty of space for a few more 36’ to 50’ boats.
I found something interesting on the waterfront: CycleTreks bicycle tours. From the waterfront you can rent a bike and they will drive you in their van to make it a one-way bike tour, say from Sidney to downtown Victoria. Or, they will pick you up after you ride to Butchart Gardens, for example. They have a number of trips available and they provide you with maps, helmets and all safety gear.
Pub deck at Brentwood Bay Resort and Marina
I stopped by the Brentwood Bay Resort and Marina and met with owner Dan Bethune. The facilities look as good as ever and they have had a busy summer with many boating visitors. They were preparing for a very large yacht to arrive that day and side tie to their long dock. That is one of the themes from the summer. I saw many more large yachts this summer all along the Inside Passage. None topped the 439’ Serene seen by many along the Inside Passage. Its owner is a Russian billionaire and his family.
Talking to the Brentwood Bay marina staff I found out that they still see boaters who get on the wrong side of the red U22 buoy and hit the rocks in front of the marina. We are all trying to make sure this does not happen. There are markers above the location of the rocks and the marina staff even points out the hazard when anyone calls on the VHF before entering the marina.
I heard more stories of rocks when I visited Philbrooks shipyard and some of the repair yards in Canoe Cove. They are very busy—right through August—normally a slow month. The good news is people are out using their boats. The bad news is, especially for the insurance companies, they are finding rocks with their hulls or gear on their boats. Lots of rock strikes this summer. Almost all are due to admitted inattention.
August 21 – Mill Bay, Genoa Bay and Cowichan Bay
The Mill Bay Marina has been going through a transformation since it was destroyed in a windstorm several years ago. The marina re-opened last year with beautiful and stronger, wide new docks. Plans were for a marina store and Bistro on the docks. Early word this season was – slip space was filling up and there were many nights the marina was full. I found out why. The Bridgemans Bistro was packed for lunch. This wasn’t just visiting boaters, the locals have discovered its excellent menu and they too enjoy sitting out over the water to enjoy lunch or dinner. The marina is now complete and they have used the space wisely. The wide docks now have picnic tables and a grill for happy hour or preparing your own meals on the dock. They rent out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The place is alive and welcoming, with moorage for boats up to 200’ long.
New docks at Mill Bay
Next stop was Genoa Bay. We have reported over the last two years the development of their breakfast bar. They are really having fun with this. It is now buffet style with a choice of many well-prepared breakfast items. The covered area with tables and chairs is a great way to socialize with the other moorage guests to start the day.
In another article in this edition of Waggoner eNews we call Salt Spring “Foodie Heaven.” Cowichan is a junior version with plenty of options. Everything is a short walk and there is a choice of marinas, or good anchorage off the docks. I pulled into the Dungeness Marina and made a quick tour of the waterfront. The choices for restaurants start with The Masthead where you can have fine, white tablecloth dining overlooking the harbor. Perfect for a romantic dinner with someone special. Great wine list. too. The hotel and pub both have dining options. The Rock Cod Cafe above the Dungeness Marina has some of the best fish and chips in the area, lightly breaded so the full flavor of the fish comes through. The halibut chips are especially good. Cow Bay Cafe is another good choice with dining inside or out on the deck.
Want to prepare your own dinner on board? Stop at Cowichan Bay Seafood, for fresh crab, prawns, fish or scallops. If they have sea asparagus, order a little for a different spin on a salty, crunchy green for dinner.
Work your way down the block for your appetizers at Hilary’s Cheese. Purchase your bread at True Grain Bread – where they mill their own flour and grains for their bread and other bakery items. And if you have any room left after dinner, walk up to Morning Mist Ice Cream, just west of the Maritime Museum. If you have been to Cowichan Bay before you may remember some of the best ice cream served at the Udder Guy’s Ice Cream. Well things changed and for a variety of reason they moved a few blocks away, kept their bright yellow exterior and now have a new name – Morning Mist Ice Cream. Same great flavors, made right on the premises, and they still place a jelly bean in the bottom of each cone.
True Grain Bread
August 22 – Back to Ganges
The Salt Spring Island Chamber invited me back to one of their Chamber member events to introduce the Waggoner Guide to local businesses. It was hard to turn down an invitation for a summer event at Mistaken Identity Vineyards. The tasting was on their deck, just above the vineyards, with a tour of the production area. The wines were very good on this warm August afternoon and I got a chance to meet many of the local Ganges business people to promote our new Community Marketplace for Salt Spring Island.
Saturday, August 24 – Back to Sidney
One theme of my cruising reports this season has been looking at the different options for travel to get crew to and from your boat, or even to head home to attend to business and family matters. One option is to use Sidney as a point for guests to join. They can fly into the Victoria International Airport, just a short ride away from the Brentwood, Sidney or Tsehum Harbour marinas. This is also a nexus for the ferries from Vancouver/Tsawwassen and the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes. My home port is Anacortes and it made all the sense in the world to head back to Sidney where my son could walk his bike onto the ferry in Anacortes and ride to the Sidney Marina when after he docked. The Sidney Classic Car Show took over Beacon Street this Sunday and there was a great 60s and 70s cover band playing down at the waterfront band shell on this sunny day.
August 26 – Prevost Island and Montague
There were still a few Gulf Island destinations I had not checked this summer. One was Montague Harbour, both the marine park and Montague Marina. But first we cruised through the inlets of Prevost Island. Glenthorne Passage turned out to be “Wooden Boat Heaven” with 7 woodies at anchor in a very scenic setting. The queen bee was the stately M/V Olympus, always looking like the ultimate in luxury, albeit 75 years ago. My son MJ and I did a lot of photography in this beautiful anchorage. We are looking for a shot worthy of the Waggoner Cruising Guide cover.
Several beautiful wooden boats were anchored in Glenthorne Passage
While cruising up to Prevost, I ducked behind an interesting line of islands called the Acland Islands. Beautiful rock formations, reasonably shallow at 25’-30’ for anchoring, and places for a stern tie. This could be an alternative if the popular Glenthorne Passage has a few too many boats anchored for your taste. I will be checking this spot out further and will need to test it as an overnight anchorage. Please keep this one a secret…
We continued on to Montague Marina. Our goal was to check on the Hummingbird Pub and ride the bus. The Montague Marina has been for sale for a number of years, but it is still well maintained. The store has a number of provisions and supplies as well as an excellent selection of books. Between the Marina store and the Galiano Book Store in Sturdies Bay, they sell a lot of books on Galiano!
Cafe at Montague Marina
Dinner was set for the Hummingbird Pub. The complimentary bus ride from the marina to the pub was a hoot with the engaging driver, Tommy T. See the article on Tommy T. in this issue of Waggoner eNews.
Dinner at the Hummingbird Pub was very good. This is pub food, but a few steps up. The Pub is in a beautiful wooded area with outdoor dining on the deck or indoor in a very pleasant and open setting. The Shepard’s Pie disappeared on my son’s plate, but I did notice that it looked very good as it disappeared. I ordered a pound of fresh scallops and was surprised to see them arrive in broth and beautiful shells. The texture and taste is different than a regular harvested and cleaned scallop. Very good, and the broth was perfect for dipping their warm bread. I could not resist the blackberry rhubarb pie, served warm, with vanilla ice cream. Debbie. The owner and manager of the pub filled us in on the history of the pub and the Hummingbird Bus. As you will see from the accompanying article, the bus trip is a riot, and they offer good food, too.
Montague Harbour is huge, with a marina, Parks Canada dock, beach, many mooring buoys and places to anchor. Lots of choices for a marina destination.
August 26 – Montague to Hope Bay, Lyall Harbour, and Port Browning
It was now time to see a few more places in the Gulf Islands, starting with Hope Bay. Many bypass Hope Bay and they are missing a cute stop on Pender Island. There is some moorage at the dock but you may have to raft. 1-2 mooring balls, or you can anchor unless strong winds are out of the north. There are a few interesting shops and the Hope Bay Cafe seems to have new life. It was crowded for lunch when we visited – a good sign. It seemed to be full of local Pender Island people and some visitors. The current chefs and owners are in their second year and it looks like it will work out for them. Next time we are on Pender Island, we will have to try out the cafe.
Next, the anchorages around Saturna Island, Irish Bay, Winter Cove and Lyall Harbour. We stopped at the dock at the Saturna Point Store and Fuel and found the store to have simple provisions and hand-dipped ice cream, essential for summer cruising. The Pub now has a new family friendly entrance and dining room.
Saturna Point Store
We ended the day with a short cruise to Port Browning. While not fancy, the marina is relaxing and the resort has a pool, essential when traveling with kids. The restaurant has a family friendly dining area and a good pub. The marina is walking distance to the Driftwood Centre, a small shopping center for the Pender Islands. The Driftwood Centre gas station is now stocking marine supplies.
August 27 – Poets Cove to Roche Harbor
As a reporter, I covered the grand opening of Poets Cove Resort and Marina 9 years ago. It was spectacular then and still is. The swimming pool overlooking the marina is one of the best in the islands. The cafe added beer and wine sales several years ago. Fine dining, a pub, and a spa…how can you go wrong? Or, just moor on a mooring ball at the Beaumont Mount Norman Park, a provincial marine park that is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. News: overnight moorage on a Parks Canada mooring ball has gone up by $2 to $12, still a bargain. In an interview with a Parks official, I learned of the budget cuts in the last two years, but I am relieved to report that there have been no cut-backs on mooring ball maintenance. ALL mooring balls have been replaced in the last 8 years or less and they are checked by a diver each year. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is an amazing collection of island parks and moorage. It is worth further exploration and they are adding new land to it regularly. I will be writing an article with more detail on this national treasure in the future.
Headed Home –
With a misty morning start it was time to leave British Columbia. Searaven has been north in B.C. (and Southeast Alaska) for the entire summer, since June 2nd. We have covered over 2300 miles under mostly sunny skies. This has been one of the best summers for good weather in the northwest in history. From our quick poll of marina resort operators, this has also been one of their best summers, with record numbers of marina guests. Boat brokers in B.C. were still selling boats in late August, which is almost unheard of. Good weather, a reasonably healthy economy, and people are spending money on boating.
Our transition back into our home country was a challenge. I counted 12 boats ahead of us and seven more quickly queued up behind us for room at the U.S. Customs dock at Roche Harbor. Sailboats, powerboats, and a sole runabout all jockeyed to stay relatively in line yet pointed into the light breeze until a Kenmore Air turbo prop float plane needed to get to the dock. It was close quarters to say the least.
Once at the dock, we quickly cleared Customs after offering our tomatoes and peppers as tribute for entry. They are both on the “bad” list this year and were not allowed into the country with us. Our CBP agent recognized me from clearing before and was friendly. Other agents were a bit testy with the clearance process for others. This is not necessary and Roche Harbor has a reputation for testy Customs officers. I would like to bring Tommy T to them for a lesson in how to better work with the public. This is in contrast to Ketchikan, where the CBP officers are friendly, efficient and I suspect better able to gauge if someone is a bad guy as a result of the discussion they are able to have.
We are now busy in Roche Harbor, writing and preparing copy for the 2014 Waggoner Guide. It is an inspiring setting for writing about northwest cruising while surrounded by a collection of every kind of boat you can imagine, some huge, some modest, all having fun!
Enjoy your time on the water. There is still plenty of good cruising left in the season.
Stop by and say hello at the Waggoner and Pacific Nor’West Boating booth at the following boat shows in September:
Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival: September 6-8
Lake Union Boats Afloat: September 11-15
Anacortes Boat Show: September 27-29