Four years ago on an Easter Sunday, Douglas and I checked out a Valiant 42 sailboat for the first time. I can clearly recall looking over the boat and sitting in the salon, looking around the cabin and thinking this was the sort of boat we could make a voyage with. We had looked at many boats before that, had been to a few boat shows, chartered boats, but we hadn't been aboard a boat that felt so right. That afternoon we started talking about going to places like Desolation Sound, exploring Alaska by boat, sailing the South Pacific. It all felt so possible and we knew we had found the right type of boat. That Valiant didn't work out for us but we soon found Tumbleweed and started the process of outfitting, sailing, updating, learning and dreaming about distant travels. High on our list was going north - to see the British Columbia coastline and to explore Alaska. Desolation Sound came up often as one of the cool, distant places we wanted to explore. Being here, finally, feels like a fresh chapter in this adventure, another big stepping off point.
We sailed up from Blubber Bay, at the top of Texada Island, in steady high 20 knot winds with gusts into the low 30's. Large swell built up by late morning and with the occasional surf we were hitting 7.5 knots boat speed but most of the day we were sailing around 6 knots. Late afternoon we put in our second reef and that with our staysail made a perfect combination. The sailing was thrilling, but Valiants seem built for this sort of sailing and Tumbleweed was solid and settled.
We saw our first Orca whale of the trip, just west of Savary Island, first a few spouts and then one surfaced. I had been thinking that morning that we were overdue for a sighting. Someone was listening.
Shortly after that we crossed the 50th parallel. We really feel like we're moving north. We noticed today that we are listening in on the Comox Coast Guard station. We've moved from the Puget Sound Coast Guard based in Seattle that we are used to listening to, and up from the Victoria Coast Guard that we followed the past couple of weeks. Each station seems to have their own personality - the US Coast Guard sounds younger, occasionally hesitant, but always professional. Victoria Coast Guard had an urbane vibe, like one would expect crossing over to Canada, polished and polite. Comox Coast Guard sounds like the late night DJ, he has a world weariness and authority that the other stations didn't bring to the game. Mayday calls, boats out of fuel, kayakers in the water, he addresses them all with a gruff, collected voice that says “we are going to get you out of this fine mess you got yourself into, but first let's get all the details…..” . That's the sort of entertainment out here, the VHF radio scans all the channels, Coast Guard on 16 and 83A, the other channels up for grabs. Several times a day someone uses channel 16 for a radio check, or to chat up a friend, and Comox Coast Guard comes and and wearily tells them, again, that channel 16 is for distress calls only……implying - “for the love of God, don't you people read your VHF regulations before you start gabbing away?”
The waves were getting pretty large when we passed Savary Island so we tucked behind the island, hove to for lunch and put in the second reef in the main sail. The afternoon was a couple of long jibes downwind until we rounded Malaspina Peninsula and sailed into Desolation Sound. Passing Sarah Point the waves dropped dramatically and the wind went from 28 to 18 knots to12, then as we thought we were clear, gusted back up to 22. Two large bald eagles crossed in front of us, gliding on the wind and circling upward.
Douglas and I were both overwhelmed with the unexpected beauty and majesty of the place. Steep fjords, mountains running off into the far distance, rocky islands covered in stunted pine, a glacier catching a bit of sun through the grey cloud cover. Our speed dropped and we sailed in slowly, passing rugged Kinghorn Island and making for Galley Bay on the Gifford Peninsula.
We are anchored in Galley Bay, in a small cove, with a view up into Homfrey Channel and the fjords of the sound. The tide was out as we anchored, exposing rocks covered in oysters. The bay was once the site of a large commune. There are several cabins and the remnants of the commune's fruit trees, all looks tidy and well maintained. Lots of no trespassing signs that kill the commune vibe. Once we set anchor the winds died out and the water went pretty flat.