Raising the oars from the water, I let the dinghy ghost ahead over a flat pane of clear, greenish-hued water. A bald eagle wheeled above tall conifers and besides the rustling of water from underneath the boat and the drip from the oars, not a sound could be heard. Sitting on the stern seat, Porter didn’t stir and I could tell he was taking it all in, too. Soon, the silence was broken as a blue heron’s wings burst into action taking it in flight across the anchorage.
Scenes like these were a regular occurrence during our time in the Octopus Islands, and we reveled in the quite moments, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and time spent together.
Lying on the northeastern side of Quadra Island, the Octopus Islands are a tranquil archipelago that, due to the need to time your passage through several sets of rapids, seems to not draw the crowds of nearby Desolation Sound. Also, there is no access by road and floatplane service isn’t available.
Being that our visit was in early June, we continued to stay ahead of the summer boating hordes from Vancouver and Seattle that will soon descend upon the area in droves. When we pulled into the islands on Friday morning, we were literally the only boat in the anchorages and had our pick of spots. Just a few others joined us over the following days and their presence was hardly felt.
In the mornings we awoke to birds singing and eagles chattering. The stillness of the place was only broken when the boys giggled with delight or shouted, “echo!” and waited to hear the response. When the wind picked up, the rustle of the trees overhead provided the only semblance of white noise, and no motors or generators from nearby boats broke the quiet solitude.
Beyond being in the islands with so few other boats, solitude was also found in that there was no cell coverage. That’s not hard to get away from in these parts, but as someone who makes a living working from the boat, it was fantastic to unplug from the drone of horrible news, ridiculous politics and sports that don’t matter. When my phone read “No Service”, I put it on the shelf at the nav desk and didn’t touch it again for several days.
Though there weren’t many other humans around, there certainly was a lot of wildlife to observe from the anchorage and while paddling and rowing around the many small islets that make up the Octopus Islands. Bald eagles and blue herons were a constant source of entertainment and any number of gulls, ducks, mergansers, geese and raccoons graced us with their presence.
The islands are also home to a small population off black-tailed deer that we found out swim between the forested isles. Jill watched as one walked from the bank of one small island into the water, swam across the lagoon and climbed out onto an adjacent island. You don’t see that everyday!
Beyond the mammals, the clear water underneath our boat was teeming with crabs, fish, oysters, clams, mussels, sea anemone and star fish. The crab were so plentiful that Porter and I spent about an hour catching the largest ones and paddling them back to Jill aboard Yahtzee. After cooking them, she worked her culinary magic and turned the delicious meat into crab stuffed mushrooms and crab mac ‘n’ cheese. Yum.
An Artful Cabin
One of the highlights of our time in the islands though, was finding the fisherman’s cabin on Octopus Island. After a paddle around the north and east sides of the island, we came upon the weathered cabin on the south side and went ashore to explore. Inside we found a museum of driftwood art left by fellow cruisers who have passed through the area over the years.
A small placard near the sign-in book inside the structure encourages boaters to not just leave a simple boat sign with the vessel’s name on it, but rather a piece of artwork that can truly make the place unique. We were game for this and decided that since it was lunch and nap time, we’d head back to Yahtzee and return later in the afternoon to build our masterpiece.
Armed with a bottle of champagne and some art supplies, we paddled to the cabin in the late afternoon and while the boys played in the grass, hiked the trails and climbed trees, Jill and I set about creating a driftwood mobile to hang inside. Of course, we incorporated the bottle into the piece and adorned it with small mementos including a “Life is Good” sticker, a Three Sheets Northwest coozie, a Sailor Jerry’s Kids sticker, our names and more.
When we returned to Yahtzee that evening and hoisted the boats on deck in preparation for an early morning exit to hit slack tide at the nearby rapids, it was with a sense of contentment at time well spent in these peaceful islands. After a week off the boat it was great to be back out exploring as a family again, getting into our cruising groove and enjoying life. And I can’t imagine a better place to make that happen than the Octopus Islands. They’re truly magical.