July 2013 Sailing Trip

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Christine and I both had the month of July off this year.  I’ve known that I’d be taking this summer off of work for about two years.  When I first learned about that I started to think about how I’d like to spend it, and that is when I initially got interested in sailing. Sailing has really clicked with me, it has the right mix of being a slow and immersive form of travel, presenting new challenges and things to learn, and is both fun and relaxing. It’s got a lot in common with cycling that way and I’ve noticed a lot of crossover between cyclists and sailors.

Our destination for July seemed obvious, we’d go to Desolation Sound.  I really knew nothing about Desolation Sound except that it was a major destination for sailors and kayakers around the world, and it was also almost in our backyard.  It is about halfway up Vancouver Island, in between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, right where the Georgia Strait ends and dozens (or hundreds?) of islands and inlets begin.

click to browse our route

The blog has been quiet for the last 9 months because I’ve spent most of my free time preparing our boat for the trip and getting in a lot of sailing.  We bought this boat (a 28.5′ Pearson 28-2) last October and in the meantime I’ve replaced all the running rigging, much of the electrical and electronics, sails, bottom paint, plumbing, lifelines and generally customized the boat to our needs and liking. Regular blog readers might notice that this is our second sailboat in a short period of time. It’s a bit larger than the previous one which made it a more comfortable size for this trip. The time that we had with the first boat really helped me learn what I’d want in the second one. I’m glad that we’ve owned both, and think this one will stick around for a long time to come.  The new boat was in good condition when we bought it and is really dialed in and in great shape now.

We left for our trip on July 1st.  The plan was to move at a swift but not breakneck pace up towards Desolation Sound, with one major break to visit Buchart Gardens near Sidney, BC.  This is a very well known garden and we hadn’t been there in 15 years.  Since Christine works with plants for a living and the garden was accessible by boat it was a must visit.  We also ended up with one rest day on our trip north while we waiting for the weather to calm down so we could have a more comfortable passage across the Strait of Georgia.  We still ended up crossing the Strait in 20-25 knots of wind with seas of about 4-6 feet in height.  The boat did great, but Christine was quite nervous.  In total it took us about a week to get to Desolation Sound, with us blowing past most of the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands.


Buchart Gardens

Smuggler's Cove was one of our favorite stops heading north

We spent almost two weeks in the Desolation Sound area.  This was awesome with fjords everywhere and mountains plunging straight from the sky into the water.  There were waterfalls that dumped right into the sea, islands and rocks everywhere to explore, beautiful clean lakes to swim in, and most surprisingly warm clean sea water (the next warmest water south is in Mexico) to swim in too.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves (and click on any of them to drop into a gallery with many more). I don’t think I can name our favorite anchorages, they were all wonderful.

Entering into Desolation Sound

Anchored out in Isabel Cove, Desolation Sound. That is our sailboat in the background and our dinghy in the foreground.

Hiking in Laura Cove, Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound.

Clear waters, blue skies, awesome scenery in Prideaux Haven.

We had to learn how to anchor with a "stern tie" to stay put against cliff walls. This was in Teakerne Arm

That little white spec is another sailboat for perspective.

A rare cloudy day as we head past "Hole in the Wall"

We came home down the western side of the Strait of Georgia in very calm conditions and had to motor most of the time.  We didn’t leave ourselves a lot of time to explore on our way home and chose to spend what we had in the Gulf Islands.  The two days spent on Salt Spring Island where a highlight of the trip.  We might some of the nicest people anywhere on that trip, I went for a great bike ride around the island on my Brompton, and ate some great local food too.  It was a fitting way to really end the trip.

Heading south along the Strait of Georgia

Hornby Island had a great swimming beach, but lots of crowds.

We didn't see as much wildlife as we hoped. These transient Orca whales were found near Wallace Island. The resident whales are believed to be far offshore this year due to low Chinook salmon stocks in the Salish Sea.

A couple of the very friendly folks that we met on Salt Spring Island. I ran into this group racing remote control sailboats while on a bike ride on the north end of the island. They invited me to try out the small boats and to come race with them on larger boats the next day, but sadly we couldn't stay that long.

The rest of the way home was a little bittersweet.  I wanted to keep going, Christine wanted to get home and see the cats, and we had things to attend to in Seattle.  We had a couple of quiet days heading south through Puget Sound and putting the boat away.

Heading south down Saratoga Passage

In September I hope to do another trip.  I’m thinking about doing a big adventure and going up to Barkley Sound, or a smaller one and returning to the Gulf Islands.


  1. Pat S says:

    Great read, Alex, looks like an awesome trip. The Strait of Georgia photo is pretty fantastic.

  2. Phil Brown says:


  3. Scott says:

    Barkley Sound would be awesome. I vote you go to Howe Sound like you had told me. Then you get to see the Gulf Islands more and have a Mid level trip.

  4. Alex Wetmore says:

    Barkley Sound idea has been pushed out a year or two to prep my boat or a friend’’s Yankee 30 for offshore sailing. I need a second reef, stormable jib, and radar to really do that trip.

    I”ll either go to the San Juans or Gulf Islands and Howe Sound in September, it depends on crew schedules.

  5. tony dadson says:

    I live in gibsons, bc at the entrance to howe sound. great anchoring and docking at the marine park in plumpers cove on keats island just across form us. good marinas in gibsons.

  6. Ken Vadnais says:

    Fantastic read! Thanks for sharing, Alex!