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Fun with Family and Friends in Desolation Sound

Sometimes people just have a bad day, and this must have been the case one June day in 1792 when Capt. Vancouver arrived at the northern end of the Strait of Georgia.  Vancouver’s two ships had been searching for the “Northwest Passage” without success and with much travail in the often cloudy and foggy numerous islands and winding fiords of the British Columbia coast.  He named this region “Desolation Sound”, reporting in his journal that “there was not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye”.

We had the complementary experience.  For two months we have been north of Desolation and in that time we have seen the sun, but certainly never enough of it to put on shorts or a t-shirt.  As we came to the opening of Desolation Sound, the sun came out and it stayed out for the entire week that we spent with CLAMS (Cora, Liam, Annie, Mazey the pooch, and Scott).  We found Desolation (at least in mid-August) to be quite pleasing to the eye.  Take a look!

IMG_6444IMG_6701CLAMS drove and ferried from Seattle to Lund, BC, where they joined us on Cat’s Cradle for a week of sailing, belated August birthday celebrations, warm-water swimming, hiking, playing games, reading, and generally having a lovely time just hanging out.  We anchored in cozy nooks such as this spot in the Curme Islands where there was just enough room for our boat accompanied by two stern lines competently placed by Liam, Cora and Scott.  We went to three places where we could hike to fresh water lakes.IMG_7155

IMG_7078IMG_7024Then we very much enjoyed two days with our San Juan Island friends, Tom and Robin, and their new adorable 13 week-old puppy, Bandit.  They rafted their sailboat to our catamaran in Teakerne Arm Marine Park – just around the corner from a big waterfall coming down from lovely Cassel Lake. We all had fun trying out some of the Donnellys’ water toys:  a paddleboard and 2 very comfortable and maneuverable inflatable kayaks.


Additionally, Pacifico was very happy to have a very quiet and energy-efficient new electric outboard engine (a 3hp Torqueedo delivered by Scott from Seattle) which the kids used to shuttle the elders and Mazey here and there.   Rigging our dinghy with a sail was another challenging activity in our exploration of Desolation Sound.


The themes of teamwork and problem-solving come to mind when thinking back on our summer of sailing.  We’ve both taken photos for the blog, written and edited entries, and talked about overall messages.  Anchoring in deep waters has certainly been a group effort with Liam and Cora (and often Scott) swimming to shore with a long rope to tie our stern to a tree or boulder.  The grandkids have really blossomed; Liam, 13,  continues to hone his photographic talents (click on Liam’s eagle photo and enjoy his other photos here and there in this blog entry) and Cora, 10, has gotten quite good at navigating and charting a course for Cat’s Cradle.  (She and Leslie were behind the wheel when they spotted the struggling eagle (click on the image above) trying to butterfly to shore after it had abandoned its too-heavy rockfish).  We continue to appreciate the love of nature which Scott and Annie have instilled in their children.  We also appreciate being able to have taken the summer to explore an exceptional area we’ve always wanted to visit by boat, connecting with friends and family en route.  Thanks to all who have read the blog and commented – we have appreciated your input!

We ended this summer-long adventure with one more (there always seems to be one more…..) unexpected adventure.  After a long run under spinnaker south from Desolation Sound, we anchored in Tribune Bay on Hornby Island.  We had a peaceful night rocking in the reflections of the anchor lights of other vessels staying here.  In the morning, a good northwest wind was starting to blow, so we decided to raise the anchor and head for home.  Usually this is a simple exercise wherein Leslie drives the boat and Val goes to the bow and uses the  electric windless to raise the anchor.  When the anchor is raised and cleaned up, Val stows it and Leslie starts the boat on its next course.  This is not what happened!  The windless stalled with about 20 m of anchor rode out and, try as we might, we stayed anchored in Clam Bay.  We let the rode out and moved the boat to pull from various different angles as that northwest wind did its best to confuse us.  Val still could not get the anchor to come up.  Finally, we put out lots of rode and Leslie powered into the wind and we over-rode the anchor as the boat sped forward.  Then the anchor rode snapped tight and the boat stopped and its momentum snapped it around stern to wind.  Leslie quickly put the engine in reverse and Val, feeling the bar tight rode with his hand, thought he felt some movement.  Leslie kept the power on, and with various snaps and jumps, the anchor came slowly up.  We had been entangled in old oyster farm equipment and eventually we got the tangle of oysters, rope and wire to the surface where Val cut if off.  Even a simple start to a day can be a challenge……  But, teamwork and trying different things saved the day.  And, glad we were five hours later when we safely tied to the dock at our home port in Mitchell Bay on San Juan Island.


Some summary stats:finalMapMedium

Estimated sailing miles650

Catagory Amount
Number of days 78
Nautical miles traveled 1420
Total fuel (liters) 475
Total fuel (gallons) 125
Total engine hours 224


9 Responses to “Fun with Family and Friends in Desolation Sound”

  1. susan nevin says:

    Welcome home! Congratulations on an excellent adventure. You guys are all too photogenic—’tain’t fair, McGee! as Mother used to say. xoxo S and K

  2. Shane says:

    Wow! What an adventure you two had. I’m truly a landlubber, but your adventures made me want to go sailing. Hope to see you sometime soon.

  3. Jane Smith says:

    So glad you are safely home in Friday Harbor. Have really enjoyed your up and down and all around adventures in the Cat and of course your amazing photos that stir my inner soul and bring the touch of peace that our crazy world needs now!!

    Wonderful pics of your family and how they have grown and blossomed. (We haven’t aged any…right???)

    So who took care of 585 Smuggler’s Cove while you were away for 78 days???

    Welcome Home and Happy Labor Day!!

  4. Lesley says:

    Welcome home and thanks for so beautifully sharing your wonderful adventures.

  5. Ric and Dorry says:

    Great pictures and commentary — vintage Veirs! You’re making a hollow mockery of being senior citizens. And where did you find water that was warm enough to take all those swimming scenes? Anyway, glad to have you back home again safe and sound (the unnautical, unflimsy, and unacoustical “sound”).
    Ric and Dorry

  6. Eric Adelberger says:

    I really enjoyed the vivid pictures and commentary of your adventure. You two are amazing! And it’s great to have you back safely on San Juan Island. Your 3-generation family fun in Desolation Sound must have been fantastic.

  7. Debby Levinson says:

    Glad you returned home safely (and still married!) after such a long and beautiful adventure together! What an inspiring trip…

  8. Shirley Paterson says:

    Hi – Am finally catching up by reading these on the “big screen” (as opposed to tiny iphone screen). Super travelogue! Hope you are ready to unwind a bit, now back at home– although that’s obviously not your style.
    It’s wonderful to have such memorable times with family, friends, and travel!

  9. Shirley Paterson says:

    btw – Charlie has some recent posts of our out-and-abouts at his blog:, if you’d like to see:)

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