I’ll concede that it’s not winter quite yet, but with the strong wind and rain that has battered the Pacific Northwest as of late, it might as well be. The official start of winter is just days away, and we’re ready to welcome it with open arms, because cruising this time of year is extremely rewarding.
As is our custom in the gales of fall and winter, we waited for a storm to move through before jumping across Haro Strait into Canada last week. The trick to this is not waiting until the storm is completely gone — because then there’s no wind — rather, to catch its tail end as the wind is dropping to use it as propulsion to our next destination. Of course, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
After clearing into Canada by phone at Van Isle Marina in Sidney, we made for Royal Cove on Portland Island on a beautifully sunny day. Royal Cove is well protected from the southerly quadrant and as another gale was quickly approaching, we figured it would be a great spot to tuck in and hang out for a few days.
Expectedly, we were the only boat in the anchorage and had our pick of spots to drop the hook and put a stern tie to shore. After spending one night uncomfortably close to some rocks at low tide, we moved the next day and put out a stern line and stern anchor, along with our primary anchor, to hold Yahtzee safely in deep water. With the boat tucked in tight, we spent the weekend hiking throughout the island, exploring fern-lined trails and rocky outcroppings.
Once the storm abated, we made our way down the Saanich Inlet for Gowlland Provincial Park, which is near Brentwood Bay and adjacent to beautiful Butchart Gardens. Though the Christmas sights, lights and sounds of the gardens were our destination, we found much more from the protected anchorage inside Tod Inlet.
Hiking through the park’s trails, we stumbled upon waterfalls and forests amongst crumbling infrastructure left from old logging and mining operations. Just outside the park is the entrance for Butchart Gardens and we spent a starry evening walking through the enchanting Christmas lights, listening to carolers and a holiday brass band, sipping cups of coffee and hot chocolate, riding the carousel and doing the “12 Days of Christmas” scavenger hunt.
After a few days swinging on the hook, we pointed Yahtzee’s bow north again and are currently getting set for our last few days in the Gulf Islands before heading back to Washington for Christmas at our friends house in the mountains.
Yes, winter might be here, but when we embrace the solitude of empty anchorages and parks, and the quality time spent together in the warmth of our cozy boat, it really doesn’t matter.