After a quick jaunt through the dense, electric-green forest on Portland Island, we came to a grassy clearing that sloped quickly down to the sea. I laid my backpack on a rock, grabbed a water bottle, two beers and snacks from inside and passed them around, officially kicking off our family’s impromptu celebration in honor of being back in British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands.

The boys were soon off exploring and I stood next to Jill for a moment taking in the sunshine and gorgeous views of Salt Spring Island across Satellite Channel. It was great to be back in that spot and Porter echoed the feeling when he found me to say, “Dad, I’m so happy to be back here.” The sentiment absolutely melted my heart — he was right.

Royal Cove on the north side of Portland is one of our favorite winter anchorages in the Gulf Islands because, when stern-tied to shore, strong southerlies flow right over the trees and boat. Back in the cove, the boys rowed around in the dinghy and we set a stern tie line while our new friends aboard SV SpiritWind anchored nearby. Knowing that our sunshine was fleeting and that rain and wind were in store for the night ahead and following day, we played hard and soaked up the last bits of remaining light.

Sure enough, the rain came overnight, but it didn’t stop us from getting out hiking and beach-combing with Marcia and Andrew of SpiritWind, along with their two boys Sebastian and Kaiden. We hopped back and forth between the two boats and when their crew brought over freshly caught crabs, we all hid from the passing showers inside Yahtzee to cook them up and share stories, laughter and playtime for the young ones. There aren’t many other cruisers out this time a year, so it was refreshing for both families to anchor together and discuss the realities of life under sail with kids.

Getting our Ganges On 

From Portland Island we headed to our old Gulf Islands home base of Ganges on Salt Spring Island. We always love this quaint island town for its restaurants, provisioning, playgrounds, friendly locals and activities for the boys, and this time was no different. Canada invests heavily in early learning for children, and the boys, as always, were welcomed with open arms at Salt Spring Elementary’s ELF program. The free half-day class sessions had them meeting and playing with new friends, engaging with a teacher, listening to stories, doing art projects and enjoying their favorite parts of the day, gym and then snack time.

While they were at school, I was able to get a lot of work done and finished up a bunch of boat projects that have been begging to be checked off our list. One of those was to install a new Walker Airsep closed crankcase system on our Perkins 4-108 and to change the engine oil. It was a rare project that took less time than I thought and required zero trips to the hardware store to complete. I wish they were all like that. With it installed, the engine is quieter and is supposed to leak less oil, which is a common problem with these old Perkys.

Also on the project list was switching our insurance carrier and Jill worked hard to get that accomplished. Following several recommendations and after getting various quotes, we opted to go with Boat U.S. And though we just got the new policy, we have been satisfied with their customer service and willingness to meet our needs.

Island Time

In keeping with our winter ritual, we left Ganges and headed back out on anchor where we met up with our friends Will and Sarah aboard SV KaiQuest. It’s always fun to catch up with them and they recommended a spot we’d never been to before, gorgeous Glenthorne Passage, which is tucked amongst numerous islets west of Prevost Island.

The sun cracked through the clouds during our short sail over to the island and by the time we’d dropped the hook next to KaiQuest, it had us all shedding layers. With the anchor set, we dropped boats in the water and soon had the idea to simply tie our sterns together so that we could move back and forth between the boats via our swim steps. Neither of us had rafted up in this fashion before, but it worked famously in the flat calm cove. If the wind had kicked up any chop, we could’ve easily untied and swung freely on our own anchors.

With the boats set, we all headed to shore to explore a nearby beach where the boys and adults alike reveled in catching small crabs, throwing rocks and identifying various shells and sea creatures on our laminated field guide to Pacific Northwest invertebrates.

As always, happy hour and dinner were a collaborative effort between the two boats and when the kids fell fast asleep, we splayed charts out on the table and talked of adventures past, present and future. On their previous boat, Will and Sarah cruised Mexico and then took off for the South Pacific and ultimately Australia, so they always have lots of experiences to share. There aren’t many people that we can sit around and dream with where everyone totally gets what we’re after in life, but the four us sure have a way of making it happen. And that’s priceless.