A lot gets written every summer about the beauty of cruising in Desolation Sound. The stories trumpet the area’s warm, swimmable water, gorgeous scenery, and bounty of anchorages to tuck into and enjoy the picturesque seclusion until your heart’s content.
As it turns out, it’s all true. The mountain views from places like Prideaux Haven are breathtaking. Cassell Falls at Teakerne Arm is a sight to behold. The water is the warmest north of Mexico (so we were told, and don’t doubt). And sunny days have a way of melding themselves together into weeks.
But Desolation Sound is much more than all that. It’s also a place where you can idle away the days reading a book in the sun or sitting around and thinking about everything or nothing.
Grant Lawrence probably captured the area’s character best in his hilarious book Adventures in Solitude, “It simply and grandly offers us a reflection of who we were, who we are, bound together by our adventures in solitude.” Spend some time there and you’ll realize why that quote works.
For us, Desolation Sound had all the usual stories that get told, but it also had immensely memorable, yet simple, family moments that bound us together. Here are a few of those.
Porter’s bare little feet pressed against Yahtzee’s aluminum mast as I hoisted him up on the main halyard with ease. I’d unfolded the mast steps in case he wanted to use them, but he acted like they weren’t even there. If I didn’t know any better, I could have sworn he’d done this before, but it was his first time.
With a smile bursting across his face, he pushed off and swung backward away from the mast and then caught himself with his hands, feet or both as he veered forward again. And every time we thought he was high enough, he’d call down for us to put him up higher. We stopped at the first set of spreaders where he swung, climbed and looked down at us with a giggle and beaming grin of pure bliss. What a boat boy.
Magnus had a front row seat on deck to watch his brother go up, and his face contorted from down below with equal expressions of wonder and worry. “What is my brother doing up there?” He must have been thinking.
That same afternoon, Magnus had a first on the boat, too. Needing to rinse him off, Jill put some warm water in the right side of our double sink and he cooed, splashed and laughed as he took a well deserved bath. We’re not really sure how after two and half years and two kids we’d never done that before, but it is a regular occurrence now.
Neither of these firsts for the boys necessarily needed to happen in Desolation Sound. They could have been anywhere, but it was the simple isolation of the anchorage that lent itself perfectly to just hanging out and enjoying the day. There were no hiking trails nearby, great beaches to comb or islets to be explored via kayak. It was just a day on the boat. And we don’t get many of those.
“This place is great, want to stay another night?” I causally mentioned to Jill while getting dinner ready to go on the grill.
In a lighthearted yet serious tone, she turned and responded, “Sure, I don’t even know what day it is.” Followed by a smile and a shrug.
That short conversation pretty much sums up our experience in Desolation Sound. We took life one day at a time and in doing so, ended up spending multiple nights at various places during our three weeks in the area. And the one spot that stood out as the most memorable was Manson’s Landing on Cortes Island.
The anchorages of Desolation Sound and the nearby Discovery Islands are well documented in any number of cruising guides and we have several of them aboard that we use regularly. A few miles out from the anchorage at Manson’s Landing we flipped through the books and didn’t find a whole lot of useful info, so when we dropped the hook next to a small, tree-covered islet across from the public dock, we weren’t well informed as to what we’d find ashore.
The lack of information was fine by us, at the very least we knew there was a marine park with a beach adjacent to the anchorage and possibly a market or small café nearby — though we weren’t sure of the location at all.
After paddling around Manson’s Landing’s inner lagoon, we ventured to the beach at the marine park where we found a hand-drawn map at the public dock of the immediate area. The small café and market were just down the road and, surprise, surprise, so was a lake with a park and swimming beach. What we found at nearby Hogue Lake and park kept us at Manson’s Landing for the next two days.
With a beautiful, gently sloping sandy beach and warm, crystal-clear water, Hogue Lake was the sweet spot. Jill and the boys initially went to check it out with the plan of staying just a few hours while I found and worked at the nearby café. A text message calling for lunch brought me to the lake where Jill had made friends with a couple families who were staying at a nearby campground.
They were all hanging out on the beach chatting like they’d know each other for years and Porter was helping himself to their collection of beach toys and rafts. Late afternoon soon turned into early evening and we packed up and made the short trek back to the anchorage.
The decision to do a repeat the next day came quickly and easily, and when I think back on our time cruising the area, it’s those kinds of unplanned moments and discoveries that truly made it so much fun.