Retrieving grandson Cameron at the airport

After attending the annual Blue Water Yachts Macgregor Rendezvous over the past several days, we cruised the boat back to Oak Harbor Marina, where we had launched. I pulled the boat so I could do the initial oil change on our new outboard. After that project, we relaunched the boat and put her into a slip along the breakwater. An unwelcome discovery of water in the starboard bilge turned out to be from a leaky fitting in the Plastimo bladder water tank, located under the Vee berth. I tried my best to reseat the “O” ring fitting, but just succeeded in putting more water in the bilge. It looks like we’ll be operating on the 9 gallon main water tank for this trip, and I’ll work on the bladder tank fitting after we get home.

Around 5 pm we took a quick dinner break, and then climbed into the pickup for the drive to Seatac Airport to meet up with 11 year old grandson Cameron. Cameron’s parents put him on a flight in Honolulu earlier in the day for his first unaccompanied airline trip. It was quite adventurous for an 11 year old. We were told that it would be no problem for us to arrange, at the Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter, to obtain a pass which would enable us to go through security, so we could meet him at the jetway, as soon as he stepped off the plane. However, that plan quickly fell apart. It turns out that, at 9pm, with no outbound flights, the Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter is unmanned. We tried knocking at their office door upstairs, with no luck. I called their 800 number, and was told that they would have an agent downstairs at baggage claim. A good story, but unfortunately, completely fictional. We then walked up to the TSA guy stationed where incoming passengers enter the main terminal. I was explaining our problem to him when a guy came up to see what the trouble was. He turned out to be the Airport Duty Officer, and he did his best to get a Hawaiian Airlines representative to meet with us and give us the necessary passes. They turned out to be less than helpful, however, and by the time Camereon’s plane was on the ground, we were still stuck outside the secure area. Our Duty Officer came through, however, and volunteered to walk over to the jetway and personally escort Cameron to us. It all worked out fine, and Cameron ended up being escorted by both a Hawaiian Airlines representative and the Duty Officer. After showing my ID and signing a form, we officially took custody of our grandson and exited the airport. A short drive later, we pulled up at son Ken’s house for a welcome night’s rest.

Fourth of July in Oak Harbor


P1180545Our final day in port was filled with necessary last minute preparations, some nostalgic sight seeing, and some great 4th of July celebrations. We made a final grocery shopping trip to Safeway in the morning, to buy enough fresh fruit and meat to last us until we reach Victoria BC, our next planned provisioning stop. We were able to finish up and get back to the boat just before the Oak Harbor Police closed off the access road, on account of the Oak Harbor 4th of July parade, which started promptly at 11am. We were able to quickly put the perishables into the frig and ice chest, fix up a picnic lunch, and walk across the park to the start of the parade route. P1180556The parade was a great home town 4th of July event, and was kicked off with by an EA6B Prowler, who made a low elevation pass along the parade route. Entries primarily consisting of local elected officials and candidates for office, all tossing candy to kids along the parade route, hoping that such treats will inspire parents to vote for them. All the local firetrucks made an appearance, along with the local high school drill team, flag bearers for each of the 50 states, and even entries from local businesses.

After the parade, we ate our picnic lunch in the park, and then hopped into the truck for a drive around the Oak Harbor area. Our grandson Cameron, who is accompanying us on this cruise, was born in Oak Harbor and lived here until he was 4. We wanted to show him some places related to that time. Our first stop was at Smith Park, which graces a gentle slope a short distance from downtown. The park is shaded by stately Garry Oaks, a species of oak unique to this area. It was inthis park, 12 years ago, that Cameron’s parents got married. Next stop was the off base military housing complex where Cameron and his folks lived for 4 years. Next, we headed for Joseph Whidbey State Park, a mix of woods and meadow bordering the Puget Sound waterfront. P1180560 We hiked a trail down to the beach where Cameron’s parents took him when he was just a toddler.


As dinner time rolled around, we returned to the boat, and barbequed hotdogs at the dock. The evening was topped off, at 10:30pm, by the Oak Harbor fireworks show. Sitting out on F dock, at the edge of the breakwater, we were in perfect position to enjoy the show. What a great sendoff for our Gulf Islands cruise.P1180592P1180586

Oak Harbor to Cypress Island

P1180619We were all eager to begin our cruise, and got underway at 7am. Our route took us through Deception Pass, which runs at 7 to 8 knots with serious whirlpools and rip currents at peak ebb and flood. The current table predicted a slack tide at 11:10am for today, and our 7am start gave us a comfortable amount of time for the run to Deception Pass. I wanted to time our arrival for 1/2 hour before slack, so we could ride the last of the ebb out through the pass. This plan worked to perfection, and we enjoyed a comfortable, yet exciting, passage between the narrow opening and beneath the high arch of the Deception Pass bridge. P1180626 As we passed through, we gave Cameron a Whidbey Island Naval Air Station challenge coin which we had bought at Bremerton Naval Shipyard Museum. This coin has a picture of a Prowler flying past the Deception Pass Bridge on one side, and a PE Orion, the same type of plane Cameron’s dad flies in, on the other. Cameron collectsthese coins, and he was pleased to receive this special addition to his collection.


The day was sunny and bright, with just a lighty chop on the water, as we crossed past the entrance to Anacortes and entered Bellingham Channel. We kept a eye out for marine life, hoping to spot a whale, but more than satisfied with numerous harbor porpoise and seals which made an appearance near our boat. We cruised past the east shore of Cypress Island, and pulled into Eagle Harbor, on the northeast corner of the island, around 1:30pm. A substantial number of boats were moored on DNR mooring balls, but our early arrival enabled us to grab one of the last of the moorings. It was a perfect spot, closest to the beach, and in only 5 feet of water at low tide. Just made for a Macgregor.

The first chore was inflating the dinghy, so we could make a run to shore.P1180663 We went for a nice loop hike, which allowed us to stretch out and work up an appetite for dinner. We were entertained in the evening by bald eagles, who appropriately favor this namesake harbor. At dusk, I also spotted an otter who was busily exploring the water’s edge.

Cypress Island to Sucia Island

I rose early as usual, and had my morning coffee in the cockpit, waiting for the rest of the crew to stir. I was rewarded by the unusual sight of a bald eagle diving to the water’s surface, right next to shore. He had just missed diving after an otter. After the eagle landed on a nearby snag, the otter made a quick dive and disappeared from both my view and that of the eagle.

P1180671Since we only had 18 miles to cover today, we weren’t in that big of a hurry to start. We took time to fix up a french toast and sausage breakfast, and finally got going shortly before 9am. Our course took us past the north end of Cypress and then across to the east shore of Orcas Island. The current was running strong against us as we approached Lawrence Point. A bunch of boats were out, trolling for salmon, and this attracted the attention of a Fish and Wildlife Service Enforcement boat, which stopped each boat in turn to check for compliance with regulations. We cruised on by, rounded the point, and then set our course for Sucia Island, which was clearly visible at a distance of 7 miles. We bucked a current most of the way, and encountered some interesting rips and whirlpool currents. We arrived at Sucia just before noon. We took the time to cruise through some of the islands in Echo Bay, and then headed around to the west side of the island. I wanted to moor in Shallow Bay, where we’ve previously stayed. A dozen or more boats were there, either anchored or tied up to mooring buoys. There was still one open mooring buoy, but I liked the looks of an open patch of water, and chose to anchor there instead.

P1180717After securing the boat, we ate a quick lunch and then headed ashore to explore this lovely State Park owned island. When Sandy and I first visited here, we both remarked on what a great place it was to enjoy with kids. Our two boys were both grown up and married by then, and so we never had the chance to do this kind of thing with them. What a treat it is to be able to take our oldest grandchild out here, to explore the strange rock formations, peer into tide pools, and wander along the beach. The day was everything we hoped it would be. P1180719

After our exploration hike, I ran the dinghy back to the boat and dropped Sandy off at the boat, to get dinner started. Cameron and I stayed in the inflatable to go on a little dinghy explore of Shallow Bay. I let him take the tiller, which was a really big deal for him. First time. He approached this task with caution, putting along at idle speed and finally getting the hang of steering by tiller, which at first seems opposite to what it should be. Once he mastered that, I showed him how to operate the twist throttle, and I let him open it up some. This was great fun for us both, and he was doing great until, for some unknown reason, the motor abruptly quit. P1180709 This is a brand new motor, and it has been performing perfectly, so I was surprised and concerned. We weren’t out of gas, and the kill switch clip was properly in position. I leaned on the cowling to look at the prop, and the motor felt hot. Sure enough, a piece of seaweed had wrapped around the cooling water intake and caused it to overheat. I feared that it had been damaged. I pulled the starting cord, which pumped water out the pee hole. I pulled for about 15 minutes, but couldn’t get the motor to start. I rowed the short distance back to the boat, and then pulled some more. She finally started, and sounded good, with a strong flow of water streaming out the pee hole. I’m assuming that the motor has a heat sensor which enables it to shut down before it becomes damaged. That seems to be the case anyway.

Sucia Island to English Camp on Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

P1180729I raised anchor at 8:15 this morning, after enjoying a nice cup of coffee out in the cockpit. The bay was calm, with hardly a soul stirring on the other boats moored there. We motored out toward the south side of Waldron Island and almost immediately picked up a 2 knot current. I was able to maintain 6 knots at just over 2000 rpm. I ran out the jib to help us along. As we entered President’s Channel the current accelerated, and I was able to slow the engine down to around 1500 rpm. Speiden Island was our next landmark, and as we cruised along its southern shore, we saw several of the wild fallow deer and goats which still roam the grassy open hillsides. These animals are descendents of exotic game species which were released on the island years ago, when the island’s owner tried establishing a private hunting preserve. We had difficulty viewing these animals, however, since the current increased to around 6 knots, and the uneven bottom set up an extensive area of 2 to 3 foot standing waves, some of which were capping. These seas got very confused, and they kicked us around as we worked our way to the south side of the channel. Once on the south side, things calmed down and we eased our way past Roche Harbor, with its amazing collection of yachts and pleasure boats. P1180730 We navigated the twisting channel of Mosquito Passage and glided into Garrison Bay, where we anchored on the inside edge of the boats moored there. I’ve actually seen this place much more crowded, so it was nice to be here with fewer boats.

After lunch, I dinghied Sandy and Cameron in to shore, to start exploring the English Camp National Historical Park. I returned to the boat to try and fix the Wallas stove, which has been giving us trouble off and on ever since we left Oak Harbor. I determined the problem to be inadequate voltage reaching the stove, and I was able to replace the power connections, and wire them directly to the battery, instead of going through the buss bar. I tested the stove and it fired right up, so I’m hopeful that I’ve solved this problem.

P1180731I caught up with Sandy and Cameron, and we continued our tour of English Camp. From 1859 to 1872 San Juan Island hosted two armed camps, with the English here and the Americans at the south end of the island. They call this confrontation the “Pig War” in honor of the only casualty, an English pig shot by an American settler who’d gotten tired of the pig raiding his garden. Both the English and the Americans claimed San Juan Island, and after a peaceful 13 year co-occupation, the Kaiser of Germany settled the dispute in favor of the Americans. The English clearly had the best of it during their occupation, since English Camp is a delightful place, while American Camp, on the south end of San Juan Island, is cold, bleak, and windswept. Our visit included a hike up to the English Camp cemetery, where 6 Royal Marines and one civilian are buried. During the hike up to the cemetery, Cameron discovered a delicate type of orchid, called coral root, which was growing near the trail.

After our tour of English Camp, Sandy returned to the boat to begin dinner preparations. Cameron and I went out for a tour of the bay in the dinghy, with Cameron running the outboard. He’s definitely gotten the feel of steering, and he gradually worked up to running the throttle wide open. He topped things off by bringing us in to the boat, making a successful landing on his second attempt.

The dinner of chicken fajitas was great, and we’re now enjoying the peaceful calm of evening on Garrison Bay. No loud partying, no generators, not even any dinghies running around. As I glance over to the restored blockhouse on the shore in front of English Camp, I can easily imagine a large supply ship tied up to the pier, off loading provisions for the fortunate garrison which was stationed here.

Tomorrow we’ll try for an early start, eating breakfast while underway. We plan on cruising down the west side of San Juan Island, where whales are often sighted. Our destination will be Victoria’s Inner Harbor, where we will clear customs and tie up at the Wharf Street Marina. Cameron is really looking forward to the prospect of showers and sight seeing in Victoria.

Visiting Victoria

We’re tied up on D Dock at the Wharf Street Marina, watching the morning takeoffs and landings of float planes on the Inner Harbour. We had planned on leaving for Sidney Spit early this morning, but changed plans, due to strong winds, which are in the forecast for today. The weather is predicted to settle by tomorrow, so we’ll leave then.

We’ve been in Victoria for two days already, and the stay has been delightful. We got here around 11:30am on Sunday, after a nice passage from Garrison Bay on San Juan Island. We got underway around 8am and cruised along the west shore of San Juan, hoping to spot some orcas. We were unsuccessful, and turned to cross Haro Strait just south of Lime Kiln Lighthouse.P1180741 We were being moderately rocked by a 2 foot southerly swell. The breeze was light and out of the southwest, so I was able to raise the main and the genoa, which steadied the boat and gave us the bonus of an extra push. We motor sailed at around 6 knots.

The steadying effect of the sails was, unfurtunately too little-too late for Cameron. The rolling motion got to him and he succombed to a case of mal de mer. After feeding the fish he felt better. We wove our way inside of Trial Islands, and followed the narrow Enterprise Channel on approach to Victoria Harbour. This route is noted for strong currents and hazard rocks. They are well charted, P1180742 however, and we were arriving near the end of the ebb, so the current wasn’t too strong, while giving us a bit of a push. As we neared Victoria Harbour, we watched the Victoria ferry make her exit, and we were followed in by a pair of wooden masted schooners.

P1180753Our first stop was at the Customs Dock, where we tied up, flying our yellow quarantine flag. I got off and picked up the telephone to call Customs. The official who answered was polite and efficient. He took our information, gave us a clearance number, and we were in. We then went back to the fuel dock where I took on 12 gallons of gas, which worked out to a little over 6 miles per gallon thus far. I’m very pleased with fuel efficiency for the new engine.

After fueling, we headed for the marina. While distracted with looking them up in the cruising guide, I forgot to follow the line of yellow buoys located along the west side of the channel. These buoys are intended to keep smaller vessels out of the main channed, which is heavily used by float planes. My error was pointed out by a marine patrol boat officer, blue light flashing. I apologized, and quickly altered course to the yellow buoys. At the marina, we were directed to an outside tie up along their long D Dock. I walked up to the office to check in while Sandy fixed lunch.

P1180775P1180758We met the captain of a fascinating vessel moored near us. His name is Bruce MacDonald, and he ownes the North Star of Herschel Island, which is the last existing 3 masted square rigged sailing ship in Canada. This vessel was built in 1935 and served an Inuit family who engaged in fur trapping. Bruce is the third owner, and he has raised his 3 kids aboard. They cruise all over the local waters. Cameron bought a Tee shirt with an image of the North Star on front. The back reads “Thou shalt not serve two masters.”

The rest of the day was devoted to visiting the Undersea Gardens, and going on a guided tour of the Parliament Building. The tour included a living history presentation done by professional actors, and it was excellent. We capped things off with a seafood dinner at Nautical Nellies Restaurant. The food and service there was great. After dinner we paid a long overdue visit to the marina showers.

Yesterday morning we trekked 8 blocks to the Thrifty Grocery Store and stocked up on meats, fish, bread and fresh vegetables and fruit. Cameron was a great help in helping pack our load of provisions back to the boat. We packed our lunch and walked over to the park in front of the Parliament building for a picnic. The weather was sunny and pleasant, my favorite kind. We spent our afternoon exploring the Royal Museum and watching an I-Max film on the Arctic. P1180784 On our way back to the boat, Sandy took Cameron souvenier shopping, while I hoofed over to a sporting goods store to get a fishing license for Cameron. It was free, but a license for me would have cost $101, so I opted for just his free license. I’ll let him do the fishing, and I’ll act as guide.

We fixed a great sockeye salmon and corn on the cob dinner back on the boat, and then did a laundry. While putting clean sheets into our sleeping bag, I listened to weather radio, and concluded that it would be best if we headed for Sidney Spit on Wednesday, instead of Tuesday. I’ll try to make up the day by a longer cruise after we leave Buchardt Gardens.

The day didn’t end with dinner on this final day in Victoria. After dinner we decided to go for a final walk around town, while waiting for it to get dark so we could see the Parliament Building with its lights on. P1180830We started off by walking over to the ice cream stand near the marina restrooms. While ordering sundaes we talked with the guy working there, and he told us about the free Jamaican concert just cranking up a short distance away. We took our ice cream in that direction, and sat on a grassy slope where we ate ice cream, watched the sun set, listened to the music, people watched, and chatted with Cameron. We had a great conversation about his Friends Club back in Maryland. After the sun set we got up and walked over to the Carillion and through the Empress Hotel rose garden. By this time the Parliament Building had become illuminated, and we enjoyed the beautifully it building from several waterfront angles. It was a great way to wrap up our visit to Victoria.

Third day in Victoria Harbour

P1180802Having made the decision to stay in Victoria an extra day, due to the forecast of strong winds, we slept in this morning, not rising until around 8am. I caught up on my journal after breakfast, and then Cameron headed uptown while Sandy worked on pictures. Cam and I poked into a few shops, and then headed over to the Victoria Bug Zoo, which had been recommended to us by Bruce. It was a really cool zoo, with all kinds of live, exotic beetles, walking sticks, centipedes, spiders, scorpions, ants and other critters. Our tour guide told us about each creature, and she was able to handle many of them, including some tarantulas and scorpions, which are quite docile. She invited little kids to handle some of the bugs, but only adults could handle the larger ones, such as the tarantula and scorpion. P1180809 I held a tarantula, but Cameron said he’d had bad experiences with bugs, and declined the chance to handle any. The leaf eating ant colony was particularly amazing, consisting of a maze of clear plastic tubes and chambers which covered two whole walls of the zoo. The ants had a harvest chamber, packed with leaves, a long tube where workers could be seen hauling off chunks of leaves, processing rooms where fungus was cultivated, a queen’s chamber, a waste disposal room at the bottom of the colony, and an ant cemetery where dead ants were deposited.

P1180810We returned to the boat and met up again with Bruce, who invited us aboard for a tour of his boat. It’s an amazing craft, and he gave us a detailed description of it’s colorful history. We saw the wood burning heater stove below deck, which heats piped water throughout the boat and beneath all the bunks, a very clever system for a boat designed to cruise the Arctic. He also showed us his sextant, a beautiful instrument. He gave Cameron a small telescope as a special gift. P1180824

After lunch, we headed for Starbucks, where I worked on uploading posts and pictures. Sandy and Cameron walked over to China town while I worked on the computer. We ate our dinner of mac and cheese with left over hot dogs in the cockpit, in comfy sunshine and grateful that last evening’s strong winds had not returned. Our prospects for a good travel day tomorrow look good. We will depart for sure. After dark this evening, we plan on walking to the end of our dock to enjoy an unobstructed view of the Parliament Building, which is beautifully decorated with thousands of lights.

Victoria to Mill Bay, Saanich Inlet

P1180836It was calm in the Inner Harbour all night, and the sky was clear when I rose at 6:00am today. It looked like a great dayP1180838 for us to depart Victoria and start working our way north. We were underway by 6:30am, with intent of reaching the narrow channels around Trial Island at slack. As I made the turn into the Strait of Juan de Fuca I could see a heavy fog bank further out. It was clear and sunny near the shoreline, where we were running. However, about half way to Trial Island the fog began closing in on us. Soon, visibility dropped to a few hundred yards, and the sun was reduced to a dimly lit disk overhead. My confidence was enhanced by the fact that I was able to follow the GPS track which we made on the way in to Victoria. Since we didn’t hit any rocks on the way in, I figured we were in good shape cruising through fog on the way out, so long as I followed the track. I wasn’t worried much about other boat traffic, since no large vessels would be in these narrow, rocky channels. To be safe, I dug out my radar reflector and hoisted it up on my flag halyard. About half an hour after we entered Haro Strait the fog began to lift, and we were soon back in sunshine. As we were emerging from the fog, we were treated to a “fog-bow”, a kind of white rainbow created by sunlight reflecting off the fog. We’d seen them before, but they’re always interesting to see.

P1180840The run up to Sidney Spit was uneventful, and around 11 am we dropped anchor about a hundred yards off the beach. IP1180842 dug out the crab trap, eager to use some of the salmon bait we’d bought at the Victoria Thrify Grocery. Cameron and I dinghied out to a promising spot, where I set up the trap, baited it, and lowered it in the water. I was telling him a story about when Grandma had lowered a crab trap once into water deeper than the length of line I had. She didn’t know that the float wouldn’t hold the trap up, and we both watched it sink into the depths. As I finished the story, I tossed the extra line into the water and dropped the float in. It was then that Cameron innocently asked if the float shouldn’t be tied to something. Oh no! Major senior moment. It had been so long since I’d used the crab trap, that I’d just figured the float to be tied to the line. Not so. Well, that ended our crabbing for the day. Cameron looked at me and said, “We won’t tell grandma, right?” I said that we would tell grandma, but we wouldn’t tell anyone else. However, here’s the embarassing story for all to see. We both agreed that we wouldn’t let the incident spoil our day.

P1180843By the time we got back to the boat, Sandy had a picnic lunch fixed and we went ashore to explore Sidney Spit. We had lunch ashore, near the dinghy, and then went for a walk to the extreme end of the mile + long sand spit. We picked up shells, sea glass and interesting rocks. At the far end, Cameron and I built a cool driftwood fort, before starting the long walk back. P1180868 Along the way, we discussed possibly going farther today, which would shorten our run to Buchardt Gardens tomorrow. That would allow us to see the Gardens tomorrow, instead of laying over a full day here. That would give us back the extra day we’d spent in Victoria. It seemed to be a good plan, so I raised anchor and off we went. When we hit the channel near the Sidney ferry landing we picked up a sailing breeze, so I pulled the sail covers and raised sails. We weren’t far from our destination, so for the first time on the trip I cut the engine and we proceeded on wind power alone. It was definitely light air sailing, with maximum speed of 3.2 knots, but what the heck. We were sailing. I stayed with the sails for about an hour, but a few miles short of our planned anchorage the wind died, so we motored the rest of the way. We anchored in Mill Bay, which is a quiet, peaceful cove. A handful of boats are anchored or tied to mooring balls, and the nearby marina looks to be about half full. We barbqued chicken cordon bleu which we’d bought in Victoria, and it was great. As dusk was settling in, I rigged a fish pole for Cameron. He was working P1180873a plastic jig from the bow of the boat when, all of a sudden he said “Whoa, what’s that?” I looked to see his rod tip sharply bent, and the line zigging across the surface of the water. I coached him on how to play the fish, but it clearly didn’t want to come up. I showed him how to pump the rod and gain line. He finally got it to the surface, and we could see that he had hooked a 3 foot long dogfish shark. Another larger shark was following his hooked fish. After a short struggle at the surface, the fish managed to cut the line with his sharp teeth, and he settled into the dark water, taking Cameron’s jig with him. Cameron was thrilled with the whole event, however. I set him up again, and he managed to hook another fish, with similar results. With that, we decided to call it a night. Long day, but good memories.

Mill Bay to Butchart Cove and Butchart Gardens

P1180878Since we had such a short distance to cruise today, we started the day in leisure fashion, and fixed a fancy breakfast ofP1180883 blueberry pancakes and Canadian bacon. It was a tasty alternative to our usual fare of Cheerios. Following cleanup, I raised anchor at 9:45 am, and we were off to Butchart Gardens. It was another gorgeous sunny day, and we motored down Saanich Inlet at a comfortable 5 knots. We reached Butchart Cove a little before 11am, and so took the time to explore Tod Inlet, a narrow, steep sided inlet which wraps around for a mile or so beyond Butchart Cove. We then returned to Butchart Cove, and were pleased to see that all 4 of their mooring buoys were open. We tied up to the small one, which is furthest in. I had Cameron retrieve the hose reel which holds our 400 foot long stern tie line from the deepest recesses of the king berth, and I placed it in a fishing rod holder. I rowed to shore with the end of the stern tie line, looped it around a convenient tree, and then returned to the boat with the stern tie line. Once back on board I pulled in the slack and tied off. This arrangement keeps us from swinging in the tight quarters of Butchart Cove.

P1180892We gathered camera, snacks, hats, sunglasses, water bottles, and other necessities for exploring the wonders of ButchartP1180946 Gardens, and climbed into the dinghy for the short row across the cove to their expansive dinghy dock. An employee was there to take our line. We tied up, purchased tickets at the head of the dock, and walked up the carefully raked gravel path into the gardens. This approach took us up into the Japanese Garden area, and we followed meandering paths through the lush greenery of the Japanese Garden. We were treated to one surprise after another as we climbed on up to the level of the main gardens. First task was to make dinner reservations at their main restaurant. We wanted to eat at 6pm, with an outdoor table, so we would finish in time to take in their live evening concert, which starts at 8pm. We were pleased to find that they would be able to accomodate us.

P1180896Our next priority was to wander into the gardens, in search of the most perfect bench, where we would sit and enjoy the drinks and snacks we’d brought along. We walked up a dark, deeply shaded path which opened at the brink of the Sunken Garden, which is more or less the focal point of Butchart Gardens. P1180897 It’s a stunningly landscaped area, dramatically located in a former limestone quarry. Planting of this quarry was started by Ruth Butchart over 100 years ago, and her remarkable drive and vision transformed a once stark quarry into a profusion of floral color which is one of Canada’s true treasures. We found our perfect bench, and snacked while soaking in the view. After our light lunch, we walked down the steep switchback trail to the floor of the Sunken Garden, where paths wind around, amongst the floral beds. At the far end, we peered over the railing to a large pond, far below, which is animated by a fountain, with multiple jets which trace interweaving patterns into the sky.


We then retraced our steps and explored other areas of the gardens. We sat down and enjoyed ice cream, and even took time for an extended break in the shade. I napped on a shady, sloping lawn while Cameron lounged on a smooth rock while reading his book. It struck me that, on our two previous visits to P1180914 Butchart, we were on a tight schedule, with only a couple of hours allotted for seeing the gardens. This meant that we were quickly walking from one vista to another, snapping pictures as we went. This time was different. We could take our time, enjoy rests at particularly nicely placed benches, chat with other visitors who also seemed to be taking things a bit more slowly. We took pictures, yes, but we put more effort into absorbing mental images and impressions.

Our dinner at 6pm was very special. We had a corner table on the veranda, comfortably shaded and looking out on theP1180963 lawn and star pond. The food was pricey, as expected, but unique, delicious, and stylishly presented. We were in the mood for a special meal, and it was worth every penny. We finished our desserts just in time to walk over to the outdoor performance stage for the evening concert. The group consisted of 6 or 7 musicians, and two vocalists. They performed a wide range of classic rock and dance music. It was a treat to listen to. In front of the musicians they have a large dance floor, and 20 or 20 couples, who appear to be part of a ballroom dance group, came up and danced up a storm. Some were extremely talented, and all were fun to watch. One woman appeared to be in her 80’s, while several young girls were also practising their steps.


After the concert we hit the gift shop for some souvenier shopping. Cameron selected several unique items to give to bring back to his sister and folks. We left the gift shop around 9:30pm, as dusk was settling over the gardens. This becomes a truly magical time, as the lights come on, and paths walked in bright sunlight are transformed into enchantingly new experiences. Shadows intrude onto the walkways, while here and there, lighting plays on the flowers. Some blossoms are highlighted by individual spotlights. Elsewhere, colored flood lights shine up into the branches of trees. Butchart Gardens at night is a place transformed. We wandered down the twisting paths of the Japanese Garden, pausing at a hole in a hedge, which framed a lovely late sunset view of Butchart Cove. This was a memorable day indeed.

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Butchart Cove to Thetis Island Marina

I was awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of raindrops, beginning to pelt the cabin roof. Shortly thereafter, the sounds of distant thunder disrupted my sleep. I thought of the open cockpit, with seat cushions exposed to the rain, but it didn’t bother me enough to get up in the middle of the night to install the cockpit surround. It would wait until morning, and the wet seats would easily dry off with my chamois.

P1190003 TAKING HER OUT (1)I got up at 6:30am, and it was still lightly raining. I had Cameron hand me the surround panels, and I zipped and snapped them into place. The surround provides us with a completely enclosed cockpit, and it’s very cosy during a rain. Once the cushions were dried off, we were ready for whatever was to come. Once I’d had my coffee, I prepared to get underway. I tasked Cameron with reeling in the stern tie line. P1190003 TAKING HER OUT (6)Once that was done, I released the bow line from the mooring buoy, and let Cameron take us out of the Cove. He gets very serious when he’s driving the boat, clearly feeling the responsibility of safely steering the boat. Once we got out into open waters, I took over. By then the rain had ceased, and the sun came out. We had a bit of a sailing breeze, to I raised both the main and the genoa, and we motor sailed our way out of Saanich Inlet. Once we entered Satellite Channel, between Saltspring Island and the main Vancouver Island, the wind clocked to astern, so I was able to sail wing on wing, with whisker pole on the jib and preventer rigged to the boom. Our speed held at between 3 and 4 knots, so I shut the engine off and we enjoyed a quiet downwind sail. Our wind held until shortly after noon, enabling us to sail through Sansum Narrows. While eating a lunch of crackers, smoked salmon and beer, the wind finally died. After lunch I fired up the engine and we motored the final 8 miles to Thetis Island, where I figured on taking a slip. We actually went farther today than initially planned. However, the day P1190003 TAKING HER OUT (3) was nice, the distances moderate, and getting a day ahead of schedule will allow us to explore an additional spot or lay over at some special place. As I neared Thetis Island Marina I started hearing radio calls from boats in search of a place to tie up for the night. I radioed from a couple miles out, and was directed to C Dock, bow in, portside tie. Sounded good to me. We found C Dock without difficulty, and the dockmaster was standing at the end of the dock, ready to take our lines. It’s warm and sunny here, and feels like a good place to stay. They have water, fuel, ice, showers, wifi, a pub and small store, and a liquor store. What more could you ask for? Sandy and Cameron went for a walk up the road, while I typed on my journal, and they came back with a jar of jam, a bag full of fresh salad greens, and a fresh bumbleberry pie, which looks great. A little further into my typing, a First Nations guy who had just pulled in on a small boat walked up and asked me if I wanted to buy some crab. Oh yeah! I got three nice Dungeness for $20, and he cleaned them to boot. Our dinner menu of hamburgers will just need to be revised.


Dinner’s done, and a memorable feast it was. While boiling a kettle of salt water on the camping propane stove which I set up on the dock, I struck up a conversation with a fellow who lives on an older working boat, tied up across the dock from us. He was busy painting trim, and told me that he had recently purchased his boat, and had lots of work to do on her. He offered to give me some oysters from local waters. Both he and the dockmaster, who collected them, had been eating them to no ill effect. I accepted his generous offer, and fired up the barbque to grill them. They were larger than I prefer, but I do love oysters. When their shells opened I offered Cameron a taste. He was game, and so I sliced off a chunk and placed it on a spoon. I advised just tossing it in, rather than trying to nibble on it. Trusting kid that he is, he followed instructions. However, his expression immediately turned to a severe frown, and he appeared to be bordering on gagging. I could see in his eyes that he was requesting permission to eject the oyster chunk. I pointed toward the water and, with great relief, he returned the piece of oyster to the sea from which it had originated. He kept repeating “Oysters are nasty!” After this experience, I wasn’t too sure how fresh crab would go over, but I needn’t have worried. He was adept at cracking crab, and equally adept at eating it. We ate all the crab we could, and then gathered up a generous zip lock bag full, which we tossed into the refrigerator. It will be a great addition to a future dinner. The meal was topped off with large slices of pie all around. Sumptuous fare indeed.