Cruising With Contessa & Crown Jewel (2001-2016)


It all started because of Contessa, a beautiful creation I met in the 10th year of our marriage, who would become my mistress and a vital component in the rather unique "menage a trois" my wife and I would establish. Built in 1965, she was 25 feet long with a medium "V" hull, a compact little galley, a tiny head, and room for two to sleep. Powered by a six cylinder Chrysler marine engine, she was finished inside and out in mahogany and her decks were made from teak.

It had been my dream, for quite sometime, to follow the footsteps of Captain Vancouver, who spent four years on the B.C. coast charting, amongst other things, the route now known as the Discovery and/or Inside Passage. Starting from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I wanted to go through the Gulf Islands, up through Georgia Strait (Salish Sea) to the Discovery Islands in Desolation Sound, continuing on up past the end of Vancouver Island, crossing Queen Charlotte Sound and following the B.C. coastline all the way to Prince Rupert and Alaska, with perhaps a side visit to the Queen Charlotte Islands, now called Haida Gwaii. Whether I would do this all in our own boat, or a combination of others, remained to be seen but, after acquiring Contessa and spending considerable time and money getting her fitted up in the style she was accustomed to, as well as enrolling ourselves in the necessary seamanship and navigation courses, we were ready to begin.

We started off slowly, learning how to handle the boat and mastering the intricacies of docking, cooking on a two burner stove, and adapting to compact living quarters. As we explored some of the nearby islands and waterways of Burrard Inlet, Indian Arm, and Howe Sound our confidence grew and we would take our friends along for day picnics off of Bowen, Keats, and Gambier Islands. Already we were discovering protected spots to drop anchor and enjoy the beauty in our own backyard.


In spite of taking the Power Squadron course to learn how to read a chart we managed to hit a rock in Shoal Channel, our first accident, but it led to the discovery of the marina at Gibsons. This soon became our go to place for spending the weekends as the waterways to get there were relatively sheltered and it provided all the amenities we needed including showers, groceries, and fuel. The locals were friendly, nice beaches and walks were nearby and the community had an annual sea festival that featured a mile swim from Keats Island to Gibsons which I won for my age group two years in a row.


Gibsons also offered the closest point for crossing over to the Gulf Islands.Our first crossing of the Strait was a bit of a nail biter since the weather was a little rougher than forecast and it was the first time we couldn't actually see where we were going. We had to remember the compass doesn't lie and trust in our navigational skills. Sure enough we made it to the safety of Silva Bay on Gabriola Island where we then met up with friends who had crossed via a different route.

Now that we had a crossing under our belts we were ready to start planning more adventurous forays and, after pouring over our charts and cruising manuals, we decided to head for Desolation Sound. The unique geography of this region, with its hundreds of picturesque islands that are protected from the wrathful expanse of the open Pacific Ocean is, of course, only accessible by water, and it offers boaters endless opportunities to explore a comparatively safe, but still exciting, environment that simply doesn't exist anywhere else. Taking off from Gibsons we made our way past Sechelt and the Trail Islands through Welcome Passage and the Thormanby Islands until we arrived at Secret Cove.

The clear, calm waters and amazing sandy beaches of Buccaneer Bay that connects the Thormanby Islands is a particularly popular daytime stopover for boaters in the know. The names given to places is always interesting, though more often than not it seems the British and Spanish explorers were mostly concerned with recognizing themselves and important supporters back home rather than acknowledging the names already given them by the local natives. Occasionally though, obvious names like Secret or Smugglers Cove enter the lexicon and these two places offer a safe, picturesque harbour.

Secret Cove is also a convenient staging spot for a hop over to Lasqueti Island, a hangout for modern day outlaws growing marijuana throughout the island with relative impunity. A perilous looking opening along the rocky shoreline leads to the delightful Squitty Bay where one can spend a pleasant time exploring or waiting out nasty weather.


From Secret Cove it's only a short cruise to the colourful collection of islets and coves making up Pender Harbour, or the "Venice of the North" as it is sometimes referred to. The community of marinas, stores, and pubs in the area offers a wide variety of provisions and services for boaters. It also hosts an annual jazz festival on the final weekend of summer.

Pender Harbour is a sort of junction for boaters in that from here they can either head up Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet or they can continue up Malaspina Strait which, thanks to Texada Island, usually offers a calm stretch of water enroute to Grief Point. Around the entrance to Jervis Inlet is a beautiful series of protected coves and islands that make up the Musket Marine Park. Here you can anchor for a leisurely lunch and take in some swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or even hiking. It's also a great place to spend the night.

It was off of Texada Island, where we had stopped in for a night at the Vananda marina, that I pulled up our prawn trap in the morning only to discover I had caught a large octopus instead. Not wanting to harm it we carefully set it free and shortly after the ocean gods rewarded us with a humpback whale encounter that was so close to our boat we could almost touch it when it surfaced. We were so shaken we couldn't even take a picture when it breached in front of us but it was a magnificent experience.

Just north of Powell River and end of Highway 101 (which, in its heyday, was the principal route for coastal travelers all the way to the end of the Baja in Mexico) is the town of Lund. From Lund you can catch a water taxi to the nearby, uniquely tropical, Savary Island with its amazingly clear water and broad sandy beaches. The colourful, action packed Lund marina is also the last stop for fuel and supplies and launch pad for boaters heading into Desolation Sound.

Leaving Lund, with the pretty coastal shoreline on one side and the Copeland Islands on the other, the narrow channel at the end of the Malaspina Peninsula suddenly opens up to the breathtaking vastness of Desolation Sound. Jagged, almost surreal looking mountain peaks, with their tops still covered in snow and looking as if they belong to another time, ring the area in the distance and, out of the ocean itself, as far as the eye can see, are thickly forested islands. The crystal clear waters teem with salmon and the shoreline bristles with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of oysters.

The beauty of this place is overwhelming and is the annual Mecca for all Pacific Northwest boaters which makes it anything but desolate. Captain Vancouver, however, didn't see it that way when he came through. For him the jagged mountains that seemed to rise straight out of the sea were a manifestation of how raw and primitive this land was compared to the placid farm country of England. Added to that were the impossible depths of the sea itself, something almost beyond belief compared to the relatively shallow waters of the English Channel. As he faithfully charted the coastline venturing up each and every fjord or inlet, with the hope it would lead to the fabled Northwest Passage, each and everyone turned out to be a long dead end and, when the clouds and rain set in, he couldn't imagine a more desolate place in the world.

Days can be spent cruising around the various channels and islands looking for that perfect place to drop anchor or simply admiring the beautiful majesty of it all, but one of the most pleasant surprises is the temperature of the water itself. Thanks to a natural phenomenon occurring with the ocean tides the water here can reach temperatures of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. That's because this is the place where the tidal flood currents coming from around the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the south meet up with those coming from the north end of Vancouver Island and the subsequent ebbing of these two tides negates most of the cooling effect the tidal exchange would normally have on the local waters. As a result, this is a great place to go for a swim and Pendrell Sound is the warmest of all.

It wasn't until later that Captain Vancouver realized Vancouver Island was an island. Until then these two contradictory tidal currents caused Captain Vancouver, and the Spanish ships accompanying him under Don Juan Quadra's command, considerable confusion as they tried to navigate through the maze of this particular archipelago now known as the Discovery Islands. Strong whirlpools and vicious rapids spun their ships around, much to the chagrin of the local natives, and many times they thought they had lost their bearings.

There are two routes through Desolation Sound and in the end Vancouver opted for the seemingly less complex but more treacherous waterways of Johnstone Strait while the Spaniards continued on past the Yuculta Rapids and around the various islands until they met up around Telegraph Cove which is in the centre of the Broughton Archipelago. We had the benefits of modern day charts that not only showed us where all the islands and rapids were located but also the best times to get through them. Content to explore the surrounding area by day and seek shelter in one of the interesting marina outposts by night, we opted for the Spanish route so we could check out some of the various island attractions.

One of our favourite places was Refuge Cove, in Redonda Island, a funky collection of clapboard buildings that not only acts as the principal provisioning station for the area but also boasts a decadent bakery and Starbucks coffee!! Cortez Island is the nearest neighbour to Refuge Cove and offers its own refuge with a marina in Gorge Harbour where you can stretch your legs by walking to to nearby Whaletown.

After navigating the tricky Uganda Passage around Shark Spit you then come out at Quadra Island and into the protective arm of Rebecca Spit and the marina in Heriot Bay. Besides having all the amenities, including of course a nice pub, we rented bicycles and went exploring around the island to April Point on the other side.

A nice place to stop for a picnic and do some snorkeling and kayaking is Frederick Point off of Read Island. Sticking out into Whale Passage, it's halfway between Heriot Bay and Big Bay on Stuart Island. It's places like this that every boater is looking for, a safe, quiet, solitary place to commune with nature and forget about all the world's troubles.

Next stop was Big Bay on Stuart Island where we carefully timed our arrival to coincide with slack tide so we could easily cruise through the Yuculta Rapids and tie up at the marina for a few days. The water here was too cold for swimming, and a little tricky for kayaking, but it was a great place to go hiking and watch the rapids from a safe lookout.

Across from Big Bay Marina is the exclusive Sonora fishing lodge where we had the opportunity to stay for a few days. In addition to all the fine dining and spa treatments we also got to go on some guided fishing and landed some Chinook salmon. "No nooky like Chinooky" was the local expression.

Taking turns at the wheel while making our own music we continued up past Big Bay through the Dent Rapids and arrived at Blind Channel Resort on West Thurlow Island. A great place to swim, kayak and hike amongst a few of the remaining giant trees.

Passing through the Green Point and Whirlpool Rapids enroute to Johnstone Strait and Port Neville you pretty much have the waterways to yourself since most recreational boaters aren't that keen to go any further. But the beauty never lets up and there are dolphins and porpoises that keep appearing along with bears foraging along the shoreline. In spite of Port Neville being an abandoned town it does offer a safe place to dock when the winds are howling up and down Johnstone Strait.

Port Neville is also the entry point for another group of islands known as the Broughton Archipelago that lie between Johnstone Strait and the entrance to both Kingcome and Knight Inlets. We pulled into the mostly derelict Minstrel Island Resort which clearly had seen better days and a lot more customers and went for a long hike accompanied by the camp dogs Fat Boy and Sporty. It's hard to run a successful business this far away from the city but the cold, strangely coloured, glacier fed waters are sure good for prawning.

From Minstrel Island we headed off down Baronet Passage to Johnstone Strait and arrived in Telegraph Cove, the planned rendezvous point for captains Vancouver and Quadra. An historic fishing and cannery village that has now been converted to an eco-tourism headquarters for whale watching. The nearby Robson Bight ecological reserve is home to the 300 or so northern resident killer whales who spend the summer here in pursuit of Chinook salmon.

Hoping to see some whales on our own boat we headed out under sunny skies and soon encountered a humpback whale in Blackfish Sound that kept circling our boat as it went about its business swallowing up vast quantities of water and krill and then every few minutes shaking its great tail in the air and going under for a brief dive. A little later it was Dall's porpoises and dolphins putting on a show as they chased each another under and around our boat and jumped in and out of the water while beeping and squeaking to one another in their excitement. But as we neared Robson Bight our pulses really started to quicken when we noticed the first plume of steam accompanied by the simultaneous appearance of the distinctive, long black dorsal fin of the orca whale.

There were little groups of orcas everywhere going about their business and, turning off the boat engine to minimize any noise, we sat transfixed as a group of seven began coming straight towards us. We could hear them clearly as they grunted and snorted their way along in perfect synchronicity, taking a small breath before diving under and then coming up again a few seconds later. It looked like the "Magnificent Seven" riding across the plains as they effortlessly swam through the ocean in our direction and, before we knew, they were right at the boat with some taking a breath to dive underneath us and others passing around the bow and stern.

The adults were the size of Contessa and could easily have done her serious damage if any part of their bodies had even grazed the hull, but they seemed to know exactly how much clearance they needed and their massive six-foot dorsal fins easily passed under our keel. The only time we were a bit anxious was when we encountered a trio of bachelor orcas in a feeding frenzy. They were diving under water to chase some salmon and then suddenly they would leap out again to catch their breath before diving under again.

There was no pattern of course to the route they were taking and you never knew when or where they would surface. They were the biggest orcas we had seen and their size and ferocity, as they went about their business, made us appreciate why they had originally been called "killer whales".  It was both beautiful and terrifying to watch and, given the total unpredictability of their movements, we made a concerted effort to steer our boat closer to shore and keep out of their way.

Stopped in at nearby Alert Bay on Malcolm Island which is just off of Port McNeil to do a little sightseeing and visit the U'mista Cultural Centre where the traditional potlatch regalia of the Kwakwaka'wakw people is once again now on display along with the story of their struggle to maintain their heritage.

From Telegraph Cove it's about a 45-minute drive north to Port Hardy where the ferry, Queen of the North, leaves for Prince Rupert. Passing through the open waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, before ducking into the protected islands and waterways of the Inside Passage, we were again treated to the sight of humpback and orca whales cavorting in the wild along with some of their smaller companions the dolphins and porpoises. As the ship cruised along at a steady 20 knots we settled into our chairs to take in the spectacular vistas provided by the various islands and fjords making up our route.

Punctuated at strategic junctures by picturesque lighthouse stations, we gasped in awe as we passed through narrow channels with 3,500 foot, densely wooded mountains rising perpendicularly from the ocean depths. The occasional sightings of weathered wooden buildings standing on their rotting pilings were all that remained of the abandoned fishing villages that once thrived here and were the only indication there ever was any human settlement in this area. Other than the town of Bella Bella, and the odd passing ship, there was nothing else to mark our passage or disturb the solitude of this overwhelmingly beautiful land of green forests and calm, blue waters now known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

Overnighting in Prince Rupert, where we checked out the attractions of the historic Cow Bay area and Museum of Northern British Columbia, we then boarded the Queen of Prince Rupert ferry to take us across the notorious Hecate Strait to the islands of Haida Gwaii formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. With the high winds that prevail here, and an open body of water barely 100 feet deep, the result is more often than not a rough ride through very large waves. Fortunately we were spared this unpleasant experience and arrived in Queen Charlotte City eager to explore the ancestral home of the Haida.

Hard enough to imagine, after all the days of cruising in motorized boats, how Captain Vancouver survived and documented this route in an 18th century sailing vessel, but thing of the Haida doing it in hollowed out cedar canoes. They certainly possessed an amazing mixture of seamanship, sheer bravado, and perhaps some other unknown ingredient supplied by these mysterious islands. Nowadays the Haida share their land with non-native fishermen and loggers, not to mention an eclectic assortment of artists and other folks trying to capture some of that mystery and fashion into a different lifestyle.

Although there are more than 400 islands making up the archipelago of Haida Gwaii it's the two main ones, Moresby in the South, and Graham in the north that sustain the bulk of all activities, and where all the towns and Haida villages are located. The ferry arrives in Skidegate on Graham Island and is home of the Haida Heritage Centre and Haida Gwaii Museum. Covered in forests of spruce and cedar and ringed by beaches strewn with large rocks and boulders on one side and miles of white sand on the other the islands offer a stunning and unique ecosystem. The weather is constantly fluctuating between periods of sunshine and rain and the locals say "if you don't like the weather just wait 20 minutes." 

Whales, deer, bear, and especially bald eagles, are everywhere, not to mention of course the salmon, all of which provide inspiration to the Haida artists for their colourful paintings with their bold forms and lines that are so popular, as well as the intricately carved totem poles that have always adorned the fronts of homes and community buildings. In various locations you can also see how animal bones and driftwood look-alikes have been used by local artists for interesting decorative effect.

A great place to go for long solitary walks, collecting moon snail shells and agates off the beach, and hiking up the boardwalk trail to the top of Tow Hill for an incredible view of North Beach below and Alaska in the far distance. This is the extreme western edge of Canada, with the nearest land being either the Hawaiian Islands, where Vancouver would spend his winters, or over to Japan, the source of the glass balls Japanese fishermen still use in their nets and which continue to wash up on shore each year thanks to the prevailing Japanese current that carries them here. According to Haida legend this is where raven first brought people into the world by coaxing them out of a clam shell, making this also the birthplace of humanity.

The main journey up the B.C. coastline was now complete but there were still plenty of places to explore and visit again. It made us realize it was the ocean and not the land that has shaped the history of the Pacific Northwest. It was the ocean that sustained the great salmon populations and killer whales, provided a means for native warriors to raid and explore in their great cedar dugout canoes, and the only way loggers could access the mighty stands of timber that covered the landscape. Captain Vancouver and others came from around the world to discover all this but for us it had been waiting all along.

There was still the east side of Vancouver Island and all its offshore islands to explore. Having taken up scuba diving one of my favourites was Hornby Island where the sea lions come every year for the herring spawning run. Free from wives and children the male Stellar and California sea lions congregate for their annual bachelor party and herring feast and welcome divers to join in the fun. Acting as if they are nothing more than big, friendly dogs, these 1,000 lb. beasts dive bomb, wrestle and play with the divers. In spite of all the action it is also a laid back place to go for walks along the shoreline of Tribune Bay.

The port of Nanaimo with the nearby Newcastle Island and dinghy dock pub was also a good spot to go for a hike and then cool down afterwards.

Having a wooden boat with a Monk design also meant we could enter Contessa in the wooden boat festival at Maple Bay on Vancouver Island. After all the sanding, staining, and varnishing we had to do every year it was nice to be able to show her off. It was also an opportunity to share tips and news with other Monk owners.

Having a boat made it very convenient for scuba diving in the local waters, even if Contessa was a little small, but it was at Silva Bay where I really started to appreciate what the ocean here had to offer. Wherever there are rapids and strong currents there are lots of nutrients to sustain the colourful invertebrates and fish that abound in places like Seymour Narrows in Johnstone Strait, Skookumchuck in Sechelt Inlet, and Gabriola Passage which are some of the most famous dive sites.

Montague Harbour on Galiano Island is another popular destination for boaters as it is a marine park. Now that we were members of the Vancouver Rowing Club Yachting Section we were able to join everyone at the annual lamb/pig BBQ and other outstation activities like a blindfolded dinghy race at Silva Bay.

By now we were splitting our time between either Gibsons or Silva Bay and in 2005 I finally came in first overall for the Keats Swim. 


Meanwhile in Silva Bay we discovered the Wooden Boat School where there were a group of young apprentices who were happy to help make Contessa even prettier inside and out. I also picked up a pet dog for the summer named Onay.


 At Silva Bay the prawning was great and so was the scuba diving and kayaking but one day when we put it all together for a little diving with the seals on Brandt Reef we had a serious mishap with Junie falling on her head and having to get taken by ambulance to the Nanaimo hospital. It was the second trip to a hospital in two years after a carbon monoxide scare in Powell River.

Once Junie was in the clear we decided to make a little getaway to Sidney via Telegraph Harbour and Genoa Bay  for some rest and relaxation and as a prelude to a more serious exploration of the Gulf Islands.


By the end of the year we decided it was time to say goodbye to Contessa. She had taken us everywhere we wanted to go up and down the coast but we were all getting a little older now and needing a little more comfort. One of her many admirers, the Wooden Boat School in Silva Bay, wanted to give her a new home and all the care and attention a woman of her age and class deserved so it was settled and, in early December, we made a final crossing together.

(2007 - 2016)

If I thought Contessa had been a labour of love and money to get her into the level of style and comfort we expected, it was nothing compared to what we were about to go through with Crown Jewel. After the semi-abandoned state of disrepair we found her in, we weren't surprised to discover she had been named Who Cares Eh. Her previous owners may have tried to forget about the troubles of the world but, in the process, they had neglected her terribly. The list of repairs she needed was extensive, and getting on board with her was not going to be for the faint of heart.

If beauty was only skin deep I never would have been interested in her in the first place but I knew she had one of the strongest hulls ever built, a very spacious overall layout, and the only vessel in her size and class that came with a single, large engine. She was a 28 foot Crown, built locally in the 1970's by a firm with an excellent reputation, and loaded with extra features including; a full galley, a head with a shower, hot water heater, built in furnace, and a command bridge. Once we had repaired and replaced everything, laid down a new teak & holly floor, and gotten her all re-upholstered, her true colours were now on display and it was easy for everyone to understand why we re-named her Crown Jewel. She was strong, built for comfort, and very beautiful.

After months of work we were finally ready to launch and our maiden voyage was back across the Strait to the outstation at Silva Bay to show her off to all our friends and fellow club members. Had a great weekend and then, on our return, the newly rebuilt engine suddenly blew up and we were left wondering about our decisions and whether or not we really wanted to keep on with boating. Fortunately there are things like warranties and insurance to ease the disappointment and, less than a month after getting towed away, she was ready to go once more.

With the repairs completed we decided to stay a little closer to home and test out a few more things so we headed off to Bowen Island and tied up to a mooring buoy in Galbraith Bay. Having completed my DiveMaster program the year before, I was also looking forward to taking advantage of Crown Jewel's spacious back deck to do my scuba diving in more comfort. This was the perfect spot to spend the weekend, with Hutt Reef, a well known dive site, only a few minutes away by dinghy.

The ocean gods obviously wanted to make up for things and the first indication was a very friendly seal who joined me underwater to act as a sort of tour guide. Leading the way around the reef he seemed to be pointing out all the interesting features including a variety of pretty fish, various invertebrates, and a giant octopus den. When I surfaced he followed me in the dinghy back to Crown Jewel to wait, while I changed my tanks and had lunch, before leading me back for a second dive. Quite extraordinary and, even when I was finished and back on board putting all my gear away, he didn't want to leave. It was like having a well trained dog and I sure wished I had a place for him back at home.

Scuba diving in the Emerald Sea as the waterways of the Pacific Northwest are referred to, may not be as warm as the tropics but this is where the action is. The bluer the ocean is, the more it resembles a desert with little to sustain the aquatic life. But the green, plankton rich, ocean here is teeming with life and sustains an enormous food chain of salmon and other fish species that feeds the thousands of resident seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, and killer whales not to mention the hundreds of migrating grey and humpback whales who feast on krill and other small fish. Clinging to the rocky shoreline and underwater reefs are a colourful variety of rock fish, barnacles, sea urchins, nudibranchs, crabs, scallops, corals, sponges, anenomes and other invertebrates that make is such a delight for divers. The diversity of life is quite astonishing with grunt sculpins, decorated warbonnets, and painted greenlings being some of the more peculiar residents.

Plumose Anenomes

Decorated Warbonnet

Grunt Sculpin


Painted Greenling

But of all the creatures to be found, the two most prized and interactive are the giant pacific octopus and the wolf eel. The octopus can weigh up to 70 kilos and stretch more than seven metres in lenght so it certainly isn't something to be trifled with, but it also has a very well developed brain that allows it to learn things and remember. Although not easily coaxed out of their dens, which are easily identified by the mounds of crab shells just outside, they will occasionally let their curiosity get the better of them and come to visit or extend a tentacle to shake a hand. Sadly these fascinating creatures only live for 3 - 4 years and once the female lays her eggs she starves herself to death guarding them until they hatch.

Pacific Octopus

The fierce looking wolf eels, with a face only a mother could love, are perhaps one of the most gentle sea creatures to be found in spite of their powerful jaws. Sociable, curious, and generally unafraid of divers, they love to be enticed out of their dens with a sea urchin snack and will contentedly eat it out of your hand and allow you to pet them. Often times they will swim close by, resembling a beautiful grey and black silk scarf as they effortlessly swish their eight foot long bodies through the water. But while they may look like and eel they are not part of the eel family, they are a fish. Wolf eels mate for life and, in their den, they can usually be found snuggled together watching TV.

Wolf Eel

Everything seemed okay and, given that we had our new boat, we wanted new places for her to explore. Even though it is perhaps the most sheltered cruising grounds in the world we were off to the Gulf Islands where we were determined to be a bit more adventurous and try anchoring out instead of always tying up at a dock. With her 200 feet of chain and an electric windlass we felt confident about her abilities and secure in "dropping the hook" in what would turn out to be a wide variety of stunningly beautiful anchorages.

First stop was Clam Bay just off of Thetis Island where a narrow, shallow channel made for dinghies led into where the marinas and pubs were located. Fortunately there was also a float plane service to Thetis which enabled delivery of a replacement starter for me to install.

From Clam Bay it was off to Ganges on Saltspring Island, the largest town in the Gulf Islands and a very pleasant place to  spend time checking out all the shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Dropped anchor in Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island and enjoyed the scenic beauty of Beaumont Marine Park for going swimming and having a nice walk. There is also the nearby Poet's Cove Marina and pub that is only a dinghy boat ride away.

Next island on the list was Winter's Cove on Saturna Island and greeting us on arrival was a big fat seal suntanning on a rock. It was one of the nicest anchorages for swimming and walking along the shoreline which offered views across boat passage rapids and the Salish Sea.

Every day brought something new to discover and, after all the anxiousness of the winter and spring, we were happy to simply surrender to the rise and fall of the sun and tides. Days were filled with refreshing swims, pleasant walks in the forest after a dinghy ride to shore, and delightful pubs to relax in when we weren't on board. Back on board there were books to read, music to enjoy, a BBQ every night, and glorious evening sunsets. Crown Jewel made us feel more comfortable than we had ever imagined.

That fall we had the opportunity to return to the Sonora Island Resort Lodge for another luxury getaway. Did some fantastic salmon fishing of course and landed a couple of large Chinook. But the real fishing was going on further up Bute Inlet where the grizzly bears were feasting on the spawning salmon and we got to go on a Homalko Nation guided tour to see them up close. Another first.



As the year began we once again had to get out the tow rope and get taken in for repairs after hitting a partially submerged log in Howe Sound and damaging our prop in the process. Floating debris is the bane of all boaters even if you are always keeping an eye out. 

With the Gulf Islands under our belt Crown Jewel was now ready for more adventures and with a new cruising season about to begin we were anxious to return to Desolation Sound. It's impossible to ever tire of its magnificent scenery and, no matter how many times we visit, there is always something new to discover along with the pleasure of reconnecting with old acquaintances and favourite places.

Every expedition seems to create its own stories and adventures, and this one was no exception. Things started off okay with our usual stop in Lund for provisions etc. prior to stopping in at Refuge Cove but then I inadvertently added water to the gas tank and had to get my fuel lines and everything else properly drained and pumped out. Good theatre for other transient boaters and a little frustration amongst the crew but it gave us an opportunity to get to know some very colourful locals and make friends with a new swimming companion. It also got us featured in Pacific Yachting magazine.

We were ready to go now and it was off to Francis Bay, the last warm water spot before the Hole In The Wall rapids. Already the hustle and bustle of Refuge Cove was a distant memory as we soaked up the sunshine, went for a swim, and enjoyed a starry evening dinner of freshly caught prawns. Our lives were as untroubled as the surrounding waters and whatever was happening in the rest of the world wasn't our concern.

"Hole In The Wall" is a channel between Maurelle and Sonora Islands and leads to the Octopus Islands Marine Park on the northern end of Quadra Island, a place so clear and pristine it defies belief. We dropped anchor in Waiatt Bay where the hot sun was merciless but the water was so cool it kept everything in perfect balance. If we weren't reading we were swimming and snorkelling while meanwhile around us the seals were busy trolling for fish.

Nearby Thurston Marine Park on Sonora Island was another wonderful location, practically devoid of boats though some porpoises were there to greet us on arrival. Of course that was how we preferred things, having the world to ourselves with nothing to do but put our feet up. It was also just around the corner from Blind Channel Resort on West Thurlow Island, a favourite place to tie up for a night and get stocked up on fuel and supplies.


Cruising through Cordero Channel and the Dent and Yuculta rapids, we passed by Sonora Resort Lodge again on our way down through Calm Channel and Sutil Channel to Cortez Island. Anchored in a little place called Quartz Bay where we hit the prawn jackpot yet again. With all the rapids and tidal action, this area is also home to some of the most amazing scuba diving and from time to time I was able to put on my gear and check things out.



From Cortez it was off to Heriot Bay on Quadra and then Comox before finally dropping the hook in Tribune Bay on Hornby Island. It seemed like some sort of tropical beach scene with the warm, clear waters and sandy beach filled with locals and visiting boaters all enjoying the sunshine and laid back atmosphere. At night the full moon came out and the ocean was alive with a sparkling luminescence that seemed to mimic the stars above.

Arriving back in Silva Bay, to kick-off a new cruising season, we were pleasantly surprised to see Contessa waiting there with her new owners and looking prettier than ever. Wonderful reunion and a great opportunity to take some pictures and celebrate the start of summer.


This year the plan was to go to the west coast of Vancouver Island and check out Barkley Sound. There are two ways to get there, either by cruising around the southern tip via Juan de Fuca Strait, or by getting trailered to Port Alberni and launching from the head of the Alberni inlet. The latter is much faster, safer, and more economical so, after spending a pleasant night in Nanaimo, we were up with the high tide to begin a new adventure.

First stop after a leisurely cruise up the "canal" as the Alberni Inlet is referred to by the locals, was the Rendezvous diving lodge. Stunningly situated against the rocky side of Rainy Bay at the end of Barkley Sound, this is the launch pad for some of the most spectacular diving to be found anywhere. Fed by the constant tidal action of the open Pacific Ocean, the reef strewn waters of Imperial Eagle Channel are filled with life that is larger and more plentiful than anywhere else and more dive sites than you can count. Octopus and wolf eels are guaranteed, as are some of the more elusive creatures like ratfish, red Irish lords, and the small sharks known as dogfish. Barkley Sound also encompasses a beautifully rugged group of small islands that are a Mecca for kayakers and intrepid boaters looking for waterways less travelled. On one of the islands a large sea lion community has taken up residence and the waters are filled with migrating grey and humpback whales.

Spiny Dogfish

Spotted Ratfish

After a few days of diving and getting familiar with the area it was time to drop the hook and the first stop in the Broken Islands Group was Effingham Bay. Completely sheltered from the merciless wind and continuous action of the ocean waves, this picturesque anchorage offered sunshine and swimming by day and glorious sunsets every evening. It was also only a short row to shore where a colourfully marked trail through the forest led to a lovely beach on the other side of the island with an ancient midden and a large sea cave to explore.

Even with a good set of charts one quickly realizes the Broken Group is a minefield of islets, barely submerged reefs, and shoals that are just waiting to clip an unwary boater. So once the mothership Crown Jewel was safely at anchor in either Effingham or Nettle Bay we used the dinghy for all of our local exploring.

Another great place to check out and go for a swim is the natural freshwater pools at Lucky Creek located off Pipestem Inlet. After navigating a narrow and shallow tidal channel one is rewarded at the end with a stunningly picturesque series of crystal clear pools that have been carved out of the rock over time. Thanks to a thoughtfully provided rope swing you can also pretend you're Tarzan. It's such a pretty spot and the only disappointment is being forced to time your departure with the tide. If you get that wrong you will have to either portage your dinghy out or wait until the next high tide to leave.

And when the hot water completely runs out one can always pull into the spotlessly clean outstation run by the Port Alberni Yacht Club at Robbers Passage and have a shower, go for a hike, or simply get a little local knowledge from the friendly folk who are always happy to lend a hand or offer advice.

Also nearby is the town of Bamfield located at the end of the 75 km. West Coast Trail which was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of shipwrecked survivors along the coast which was known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. In 1902 it was the western terminus of the worldwide undersea telegraph cable network but the building is now part of the Marine Sciences Centre. Boardwalks now connect everything together but you're never far from the ocean. Another great spot to head off scuba diving, whale watching, or getting up close to the sea lions.

In spite of our best efforts to avoid the rocks we did manage to find one at Turtle Bay that put a nasty dent in our prop but a fellow boater towed us to nearby Ucluelet where a local boat yard soon changed out our spare prop. It was time to get stocked up on fuel and supplies anyways and there wasn't any other damage so it all worked out just fine in spite of a few anxious moments. But perhaps the most anxious moments are when the fog rolls in, as it so often does in "Fogust" and you can't really do much except wait for it to lift.

Besides the incredible salmon and halibut fishing that is the obvious mainstay of the local economy, tourists come from around the world to catch a glimpse of the migrating humpback whales. Occasionally encountered as we cruised through the various channels of the Broken Group it was easy to see them out in the open ocean as long as one is comfortable riding the large swells. Quietly going about their business of feasting on krill, these truly awesome creatures keep to themselves until they either feel like taking a break or some strange fancy strikes them and they leap out of the water to take a big stretch that leaves us completely humbled by their magnificence.

In spite of all my west coast diving experience there had always been one "trophy creature" that had eluded me and that was the mysterious sixgill shark. Little is known about them except that for most of the year they live a few thousand feet down and, for some reason, come close to the surface in summer at a few places around Vancouver Island including Barkley Sound. On our last day I joined up with my friends at Rendezvous for a chance to spot one and descending to 80 feet around the edge of an undersea pinnacle I suddenly came face to face with one and stopped dead in my tracks. Even though sixgill sharks eat mostly small fish and crabs a 10 foot long shark is still a little intimidating and I waited to see what would happen next. Staring at me calmly the shark was in no hurry to leave and I had plenty of time to count its gills, study its blunt nose and other markings that clearly identified it as my long sought after prize. I couldn't believe my good fortune and when my partner came over to film it I even had a chance to stroke its beautifully sleek and perfectly engineered body.


Sixgill Shark

Our holiday in Barkley Sound was nearly at an end but, after the shark encounter, it was time to celebrate and watch the video clip over and over. Of course the best place in town was the Rendezvous Lodge with its hot tub, outdoor patio deck, and a stunning, custom ordered sunset to bid us farewell. Yet another action packed cruising adventure for the Crown Jewel logbook.

As much as we loved going on our annual cruise to new destinations we were just as content to drop the hook most weekends in familiar local locations like Bedwell Bay in Indian Arm, Halkett Bay Marine Park on Gambier Island, Silva Bay on Gabriola Island, or Snug Cove on Bowen Island. Each one offered swimming, hiking, and scuba diving, a BBQ and some inevitable socializing.  


And of course some of the biggest adventures happen when things go wrong like a transmission giving out, engine trouble or electrical issues, all of which occurred with intermittent and poorly timed frequency. It also meant you might have to put your boat on the "hard" which was never much fun and was usually expensive as well. But the towing rope was always ready, as was our membership card with C-Tow, and we tried to always keep smiling.

There is also the annual maintenance to deal with including a coat of bottom paint, new zincs, and the endless washing and waxing. It's a never ending battle with the elements that are always trying to destroy a boat with rust, mildew, rot, and corrosion, not to mention the hazards of hidden rocks and logs and nasty weather. Boating is not for the faint of heart.

But every year brings a new season and, as cruising officer for the VRC in 2011 it meant organizing something special for every long weekend with a dock party, dinner, games, and other festivities. 

But the real excitement and disruption to our carefully ordered lives that year was the arrival of a 12 year old grand niece.

After all the excitement was over we headed over to the Gulf Islands to rest and relax in some of our favourite anchorages like Clam Bay and Winter Cove, and the marinas at Port Browning and Ganges.



It was at Winter Cove while shooting the rapids in Boat Cove with my dinghy that I had a mechanical problem with the outboard motor that caused me no end of grief and got us another write up in Pacific Yachting magazine.


In reviewing our planning chart to Princess Louisa inlet we realized that Lasqueti and Jedediah islands were two places that warranted closer inspection so we decided to check them out enroute and were rewarded with a very pleasant time.

First stop was the colourful Lasqueti Island where there are no police, few rules, and everyone seems to get along. It is a happy enclave of counter culture and the only major island not connected to B.C. Hydro's power grid. At the government dock in False Bay the kids are happily using the loading equipment to launch themselves into the water while the adults watch from the comfort of the hotel patio deck.

Rather than mileage markers, the 20 km dirt road to Squitty Bay at the far end of the island is marked by colourful images of the planets laid out in proportion to their position in the solar system starting with the Sun in False Bay.

Anchorage is also available on the other side of the island in either Boho Bay which is close to Jedediah or Scottie Bay which connects to a road leading back to False Bay and the weekly market.

Anchoring in White Rock bay off of Jedediah we were able to easily access all the trails of the island, which is now a marine park, and check out the abandoned farm buildings and orchard.

Making our way up Jervis Inlet our first stop was at Egmont, gateway to the Skookumchuck Narrows one of the most intense and fastest rapids in the world. To see the rapids at their peak (which run at up to 20 mph) a 4 km walk along a well marked forest trail leads to a safe lookout with a view of the intrepid surfers and kayakers catching a wave.

Yet another of those dead end fjords that so bedeviled Captain Vancouver but is a source of beauty and wonder for boaters, Jervis Inlet leads in turn to Princess Louisa Inlet, a marine park, which has the Chatterbox Falls entering the inlet at its head. A boaters paradise and popular destination that offers swimming in glass-like waters and a good hike to the abandoned "trappers cabin" that offers a stunning view of the inlet itself.


The only thing that could spoil such a beautiful time would be an engine breakdown just outside of Pender Harbour. Thankfully it was another of our favourite locations complete with a great pub, local swimming spots, and all the supplies needed to keep going while the minor repairs were made.

Always nice though to get back home, and for us that was either Halkett, Bedwell, or Silva Bay. Whether we were discovering new hiking spots and viewpoints, dive sites, or simply enjoying a relaxing time on the boat the Coronas were always ready and so was the BBQ.


Because we spent so much time in Silva Bay we got to experience some very unique events. Things like a rare water spout, boats dragging anchor, and the appearance of unexpected guests for breakfast.

Pretty birds would show up to pose for photos and we even did our bit to help the purple martin community by installing a house for them.

There was always the entertainment of watching the trials and tribulations of other boaters but fortunately Silva Bay also had a shipyard ready to make repairs as well as take care of routine maintenance including replacing a lost rudder.

If the boat had to stay longer in the hospital than planned, or if the weather was nasty, there was always the "marriage saver" float plane service to get you home.

Best of all though was the pub itself with its fabulous view, great food, and libations that provided the perfect setting for being with friends.

While the year started off with a tow from the police, who were kind enough to avert a grounding in my own back yard even if it raised a few eyebrows as we came into the dock, the rest of the season went by without a hitch and we set about looking for some new places to explore.

A somewhat overlooked but still popular area is the east coast of Vancouver Island itself between Nanaimo and Victoria. After coming through either Dodd Narrows, Gabriola Pass or Porlier Pass (each of which needs to be carefully timed for slack tide to avoid the rapids) and, after passing by the seals, the first stop is Ladysmith.

Here we had a pleasant time walking along the abandoned railway grade, picking blackberries, and posing with all the town's recycled artifacts that were now public art exhibits. The summer's forest fires provided a rare look at the full sun overhead.

Pathways led to the waterfront where we could swim and watch the rambunctious river otters going about their business.


We also encountered a pair of magnificent humpback whales while cruising past Chemainus and had them all to ourselves for over an hour.

Cowichan Bay was a great place to go hiking and working up a righteous thirst before settling into one of the colourful watering holes to check out the local scene.

From Cowichan it was off to drop the hook in placid Todd Inlet where there wasn't a ripple except perhaps from the ubiquitous seals. It was also the location of another purple martin sanctuary, those hard working little birds that keep an anchorage mosquito and bug free.

A short dinghy ride to shore led to a trail that took us to the stunning Butchart Gardens (and a free back door entrance) as well as to the butterfly garden further along.

Stopped in at Saltspring on the way back and then motored over an ocean of sparkling diamonds all the way home.

There were many advantages to being a member of the VRC, including moorage in Coal Harbour, but there was also a pleasant comaraderie amongst the members that was highlighted by the annual regatta that pitted the different sections against each other in a fun rowing contest much to the amusement of everyone, including dogs and seals.

The advantage of pretty Bedwell was that it was very close and that made it easy to pack up and go at short notice for a weekend.

Halkett on the other hand was a little further away but offered hiking, better scuba diving (including the Annapolis wreck where the Coast Guard would show up for training) and a less crowded anchorage.


Bowen was a great place to go in the winter months as there was a safe, clean moorage, beautifully maintained walking trails, and a great pub. We even spent Xmas there.

Our final season started off much the same as the others with a check on our purple martin house and a perfect long weekend of scuba diving and socializing in Silva Bay. But when a butterfly made an unexpected visit it seemed like it was bringing us a message and sure enough on the way home we had another mechanical breakdown and we decided it was time to call it an end to boating. Yes there were still a few places we hadn't yet explored but after 15 years we had really seen most of what there was to see and it was time to do something different. 

It only took a few days to sell the boat and we were happy it went to a nice young couple who were eager to begin their boating adventures. There's an old saying that the two happiest days in a boater's life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it but if anything we were a little sad to see Crown Jewel go. She had provided us with more stories, photos, and experiences than most people have in a lifetime and cruising with her and Contessa had enabled us to fullfill our dream of exploring the B.C. coast.

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