Last spring, after Whistler-Blackcomb was forced to close due to the pandemic, we found ourselves missing being on the water. It was the time of year when we would normally have been flying back to our boat in NZ, but our flights were cancelled due to that country’s ongoing border closure. We decided to book a charter a power boat for a couple weeks in May to cruise around the Gulf Islands but boat maintenance issues and COVID travel restrictions delayed our charter until early July. Fortunately, Coopers provided a replacement boat as the one we had booked was still not ready to go. They also moved the boat from her Sidney home to Granville Island in Vancouver for us. The new boat was a 2013 38ft North Pacific power boat. The weather forecast was good, and restrictions had finally eased permitting travel between BC Health regions, so it all fell into place.

M/V Untethered, docked at Granville Island.

The boat was not ready to board when we arrived as the maintenance crew were still busy. It was very hot in town, so we rushed around Granville Island to find a place to keep our frozen food cold. Bridges Restaurant came to our aid, putting our cooler bags in their big walk-in freezers!

Power-boating and driving a boat with a single engine was a new experience for us, so the charter company’s insurer insisted we go through an orientation/test drive. Practicing to reverse into a dock was different with one screw but the boat had bow and stern thrusters so it didn’t take long to get accustomed.

Once we finished our orientation and had all our provisions stowed, we went for a nice dinner at Bridges. It was so hot out, we opted to eat inside where it was air-conditioned.

The hot weather had us concerned about getting a good night’s sleep on board while docked with no breeze but it was manageable. With a freshly brewed cappuccino in hand, (we brought our Starbuck’s Barista from home) we set off early the next morning.

Excited to be heading out of Vancouver Harbour and up the Sunshine Coast.

Monty getting into cruising mode!

The helm on the flybridge is a great place to watch for deadheads and logs.

It would not go well if we hit a log like that!

We arranged to visit Jane and Ritchie at their cottage on Sergeant Bay for Canada Day celebrations. Jane, family and friends on M/V Bella greet us and to show us where to safely anchor in the bay.

Visiting Patrick, Sue, Kaitlin, and Brogan, at their Pender Harbour cottage. Always great hosts, they insisted we stay for a delicious steak dinner!

Next stop was Pender Harbour. We visited Patrick, Sue, Kaitlin and Brogan at their cottage which overlooks the harbour. Always great hosts, they insisted we stay for a delicious steak dinner!

Sunset from Patrick and Sue’s deck.

On route to Dent Island, we had to wait for Slack at the Yuculta Rapids. It was so calm and warm, Monty went for a paddle on our Kahuna board. The boards had been in boxes in our basement for almost 2 years, as we had planned to take them to our boat in NZ, but with borders still closed, we decided to unpack them for this charter.

A typical tide line in these waters.

Seagulls rest on a tree as it floats around Gillard Passage. Behind is an estate with a private golf course.

Dent Island Lodge, ahead, caters to American boats and fishermen. It is a nice facility with a good restaurant, bar, hot tub, gym, sauna, gift shop and fishing charters. With COVID travel restrictions. American boats were not permitted to stop and disembark if they were transiting to Alaska. Docking fees are too steep for most Canadian cruisers.

The Docks at Dent Island Lodge.

Attractive gardens surround the lodge and cabins.

Monty paddled in the channel adjacent to the lodge. It is a nice pastime to watch the channel as it floods and ebbs, with speeds up to 12 knots, from the various decks and hot tub.

We decided to try out a fishing charter, something neither of us had experienced.

Our well-kitted Grady-White fishing charter boat.

Our guide about to release a salmon that was just under regulation size. Monty caught several but most were too small. They can’t be too big either!

A group of kayakers paddled by as we fished a ledge in Bute Inlet. What ideal conditions for them!

Bute Inlet was once considered as a location for a major city and port, but Vancover won out.

A blue ling cod was also released as it was undersized.

A young black bear scampered up the steep shoreline.

Many eagles live in the area.

Monty caught several salmon but this was his keeper, a white fleshed Chinook.

Dent Island Lodge has an excellent restaurant but had no guests other than us on this night. We opted to have our freshly caught salmon on board and give the staff a night off so they could watch the Stanley Cup final!

We met up with friends, Polly and Greg, on SealCove II. They had just sailed down from the Broughton Archipelago. They reported fog that hung around till 11am or later. We decided to stay south.

Shoal Bay was the largest town on the west coast of Canada in 1900, a mining and forestry hub. Above the town and in the area, gold was mined. Later, the focus shifted to timber and fishing. Today, only a few homes are occupied.

Happy Hour at the Pizza Barn at Shoal Bay.

A hot house supports a large community garden in the bay. Cruisers are welcome to pick some herbs and lettuce if they leave a donation.

Friends, David and Carol, rafted up to Untethered and offered to host a social and dinner in their large cockpit.

The old wharf could tell a story or two. The Bay was a beautiful spot to hang out. Next time, we will stay longer. A hike to the old gold mine might be in order too.

Next destination was Octopus Islands and Waiatt Bay. We motored there with Waterfront II, transiting the lower and upper rapids at Okisollo Channel between Quadra and Sonora Islands. David was correct that we didn’t need to leave as early as we did.

Approach to Waiatt Bay and the Octopus Islands is narrow.

Waiatt Bay and the Octopus Islands are a beautiful calm area for paddling.

Carol, David and Tara, their Short-Haired Pointer, paddling with Monty.

A panoramic view of Waiatt Bay looking west. Years ago, we hiked from Waiatt Bay to another inlet on the western side of Quadra Island. A more aggressive hike goes to a lake and mountain overlooking the bay.

From Waiatt Bay, we headed east through Hole in the Wall, another set of dangerous rapids that can flood at 12 knots. We docked at a familiar spot, Toba Wilderness Marina.

Our vista of Toba Inlet from the flybridge deck on Untethered at Toba Wilderness Marina.

Desolation Sound Marine Park deserved another visit. Below is Homfray Channel from outside Prideaux Haven.

We anchored near our favourite spot, but found it busier than we had recalled.

Kayakers paddling through the channel at low tide. Note the large tree stuck on the rocks.

Kayakers paddle through the channel between islands at low tide. Note the large tree stuck on the rocks.

Same vista but at high tide. Note the same tree is floating but is still lodged in the rocks just below the surface. It eventually moved off in a new moon high tide.

Many boats were anchored in spots we hadn’t seen them in before. It was high season. Jimmy Pattison’s Nova Spirit is the 150ft yacht is in the background tucked behind the tug.

The orange bark of an arbutus tree lights up at sunset in Prideaux Haven.

We went on a few dinghy rides to check out the bays, boats, birds and wildlife.

Melanie Cove had little room for more boats to anchor.

A raccoon was out getting her breakfast, prying open oysters on the shore.

Many oyster catchers make the islands home.

A fawn lay high above the shoreline in the forest moss, watching passers by.

It was getting time to start our return to Vancouver, so we started making our way down the coast. We checked out the Copeland Islands for a safe spot to drop the hook and stern-tie. It looked beautiful and worth exploring, but it was already full up.

So we motored on to Madeira Park in Pender Harbour. We were looking forward to having a night off cooking. We asked the dock master about the two restaurants in town, only to discover both were closed that night! You would think they would alternate their closures! A quick stop at the IGA and we were back on board making dinner.

The next morning we explored Gun Boat Bay by dinghy. What a nice protected bay for a cottage (and dock)! Below a sister boat to Untethered is docked in the bay.

We carried on down the Sunshine Coast and coordinated with Jane and Ritchie to meet at Thormanby. It was a beautiful calm day, a great day to spend at the beach. Below is the view from Thormanby looking west at Vancouver Island.

The sand between the islands moves around in big storms, always changing the topography of the beach. Jane recounted how much it has changed over her lifetime. Below, Jane snapped a picture of us with Untethered and Bella anchored behind.

Winds were expected to pick up and change direction overnight. We didn’t want a sleepless night on anchor watch at Thormanby, so we motored across to the docks at Secret Cove. Sadly, their Upper Deck Restaurant was closed for the season due to COVID restrictions and staff shortages. We had a restful night and went for a walk around the neighbourhood the next morning. Below, Untethered at Secret Cove.

Plumper Cove on Keats Island was our next destination. Jane on her very pretty Bella sped by on her way from Sargent Bay to their moorage at West Vancouver.

Jane caught his shot of us on Untethered as she headed back to West Vancouver.

Other than driving by to catch a ferry, I had never visited Gibson’s. We crossed the channel on from our anchorage at Plumper Cove to Gibsons in our dinghy in the late afternoon. We met up with John, a ski friend and proud Gibsons resident. He had reserved a prime view picnic table outside at Smitty’s Oyster House. We enjoyed one of their specialties, a crab bucket, and dinghied back to our boat before dark.

The next morning we returned for a tasty breakfast at Molly’s Reach, made famous by the Beachcombers TV Show.

John led us on a 3-hour tour of Gibsons, including the downtown, shopping area, marina, Marine Education Centre and beaches.

Gibsons Marina
John with his capable boat in Gibsons

The next docking was at the Union Steamship Company Marina on Bowen Island.

We were invited for a lovely dinner at Lynn’s, a friend of my Dad’s. She gave us a tour of her beautiful garden with many rare flower and plant varieties. As we enjoyed drinks on her patio overlooking peaceful Mannion Bay, we could feel the attraction to living on Bowen. Below is the view from Lynn’s home, looking east to the mainland.

Bowen Island has oodles of charm and history and deserves a longer visit. Next time, we will bring or rent e-bikes and ride around the island and play the 9-hole golf course. Below, a houseboat/garden in the marina at Bowen.

Heading back to Vancouver, clouds loomed over the city.

We enjoyed our first power-boating experience. And no, there was never any wind blowing in the right direction that made us wish we were sailing. The summer months are often like that in BC. Being on a fixed timeframe, we did not have the luxury of waiting for wind, so it was good to be able to motor where and when we wanted. Also nice that we could return the keys to the boat and not worry about maintenance. Being a new boat to the charter fleet, we did provide the charter company with a list of to-dos, which they seemed to appreciate! 🙂

The trip was, in some regards, a “walk down memory lane” from our chartering days, pre-S/V Whistler. The familiar ports and anchorages in the protected waters of the Salish Sea, Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands were just as spectacular as we recalled, though sometimes busier. The pandemic inspired a wave of Canadians to buy boats and go cruising in our world-class backyard. Our itinerary included a few new ports and anchorages, all worth revisiting and further exploration. A highlight was meeting up with our friends at their cottages and on their boats along the way!