What better way to celebrate Poppy’s 75th birthday than an 8-day cruise in the BC Islands.
My dad is a waterman. That’s not a term used for just anyone who likes the water. Being a waterman in the true sense means a person is driven by a need to be in the water and on the water for sport, leisure, and sometimes livelihood.
My dad, in particular, will sail anything that he can hook a mast on. He’s raced everything from 2-crew 505 sailboats to 5-foot short-board windsurfers. When faced with a lack of wind, he’ll paddle; for miles. He was an early adopter of SUP, as he would simply pop the mast off his longboard and paddle up the river if she wasn’t blowing.
Nearly all of our family vacations involved a van with four boards on top or some kind of boat on a trailer. He actively seeks the opportunity to spend the entire day sailing, paddling, or simply cruising to dinner at sunset with my mom. It’s his sweet relief from life’s responsibilities, simply moving through the water.
While planning for his 75th birthday, he called upon his crew to plan a sailing trip through Desolation Sound. What better way to celebrate three-quarters of a century on the water than with a crew of kids, grandkids, and sons-in-law? The entire family gathered around a big pot of spaghetti and several bottles of wine. Maps were unfolded. Calendars were pulled out. Dates and destinations were considered. Soccer games and softball games were crossed off the calendar. And Poppy’s 75th Birthday Cruise was marked across eight days of summer. It should have been 15.
We chartered two boats out of Comox, British Columbia to carry the full crew. A 32-foot Bayliner, “Frank” and a 42-foot Jeanneau, “Gloman Magic.” Our loosely planned itinerary included crossing Rosario Strait and heading up to Squirrel Cove, Refuge Cove, Pendrell Sound, Prideaux Haven, Lund and then back to Comox.
Squirrel Cove seems to have popped straight from the pages of a storybook. It is protected from weather and surrounded by gorgeous tall trees that reach to the sky. It has a feeling of a protected water playground, where rocky tide pools burst with starfish. This was our first night spent anchored and it was filled with fun and drama.
There is a large tidal pool, the size of a lake, connected to Squirrel Cove via a short narrows. During a tidal flood, it’s fun to run the dinghy into the connected lake. But be sure to pay attention to the tides, because the narrows will eventually dry up. Unaware explorers and fun-seekers can find themselves stranded on the ‘lake’ side until the tide comes up again, which happened to us. We missed dinner and got back to the boats well after dark. As far as vacation-problems go, we survived the reminder Mother Nature is in charge relatively unscathed. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time stranded than playing with starfish and oysters.
Pendrell Sound was the anchorage we had heard so much about and yet had heard nothing at all. People could only say they were at a loss for words upon experiencing this precious place. When our bows turned into that famed channel, we could understand why. It felt as though we were being swept into an imaginary scenery — one so beautiful it almost shouldn’t be real. There was a sense of awe as the mountain tops broke the surface of the sea and connected with the sky. We set anchor in a protected little cove and jumped into the comfortably warm waters. Again, the kids took to dinghy exploring; it never gets old to see your teens get forced off the data highway and reset directly into nature’s playground. Taking a paddle out alone serves as a hotline to Zen and a deep appreciation for this beautiful place so far removed from every device that ties you to your connected life.
After a night or two in Pendrell Sound, we realized it was time to shower and re-provision. Breaking the silence, we fired up Frank and Gloman Magic and headed toward Refuge Cove.
Seaplanes fly in and out of this easy dock to pick up and deliver guests to larger yachts and adventure flotillas. This jumping-off spot has a darling bakery, a well-stocked store for provisions, and fabulous artisan crafts and gifts. The smell of fresh cinnamon rolls filled the air as we walked up the dock — greeting us like a grandma’s hug.
“Shower first please, then breakfast,” I emphasized to the teens without any intention to do the same for myself. Those rolls smelled too good.
Our next stop was Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park, Prideaux Haven anchorage. This spot is known for making friends as you help one another stern tie off from the cliffs that protect the anchorage. It’s a beautiful little pool filled with boaters anchored from the bow and tied from the stern to keep the boats from swinging into each other. And to get a little closer to one another just in time for Happy Hour.
My brother-in-law volunteered as tribute to scale the cliffs and tie us to a tree halfway up the wall. Then, being the showoff he is, he climbed to the top and jumped off the cliff into the deep blue pools of warm tidal water. Obviously, we asked him for a repeat performance so we could catch his dive on video.
These beautiful finger coves are filled with jellyfish. Schools of little jellyfish must number in the thousands. Oysters are so plentiful, they literally jump into the boat. Casual swims with the kids, boat barbequing, and letting go of life’s worries come easy in a place this magical. After one night at this anchorage we sent a shipmate away on a Kenmore Air flight. He was an 18-year-old and he needed to head back for work. Meeting the plane via dinghy outside of the marine park entrance was a really cool moment and he was back in Seattle in just two hours.
His departure meant the trip was almost over. After a day in Prideaux, we were forced to head south again. We took the better part of the day to cruise to Lund and we decided to make one more stop before crossing the straits. The rain arrived to set the somber mood that the trip was ending. Then as we called into the marina, a rainbow appeared. We tied up and tucked into some frosty beers, tasty hamburgers and much needed showers. Lund took the sting out of this final chapter.
Our last morning, we crossed back to Comox and parked the charter boats. The text machine started to ding and wake us from our state of disconnected bliss. And yet, I remained comforted by the memories — the awe and wonder of a truly un-touched special place on the earth. I promised myself to return when my soul needs to be fill with the unique solitude.
Wonder what Poppy has planned for his 76th? I’ve heard great things about the little archipelago nearby north Quadra Island!
This is delicious raw or cooked. When harvesting from Desolation Sound, you’ll want to do a quick online check for red-tide prior to your trip. And it’s a little more insurance to serve cooked oysters, easily made from your boat barbeque.
But first make yourself a fresh mimosa. Squeeze some orange’s juice and combine with prosecco. It really is the best way to make these delicious bites.
For raw oysters, shuck and pour some of your mimosa on the oyster. Top with zest and slurp. It hits all the great citrus and acid notes with the combo of wine and oranges.
Barbequed Oyster Mimosas
Ingredients: Oysters, Melted Butter, Orange Juice, Prosecco, Zest
Set the closed oyster on the barbeque and heat until they begin to open. Pop the oyster and pour in some melted butter as it cooks.
In a sealable jar, create a foam by shaking together nearly equal parts: melted butter, fresh orange juice and Prosecco.
Using a spoon, top the barbequed oysters in butter with a little of your foam and zest.
Enjoy with several more mimosas. You can create the same recipe with sparkling cider if you wish.
Simple Barbecued Oysters
This incredibly simple recipe was made with leftover provisions on the boat.
With a sheet pan, we made some croutons on the barbeque with torn bread, butter, parsley, lemon and salt and pepper.
Set the closed oyster on the barbeque and heat until they begin to open. Pop the oyster and pour in some melted butter as it cooks. Top with the barbequed croutons.