Islands in the Straits
Before heading for Washington, my mates and I had been advised to dress in layers and be ready for cold, damp skies, little wind, and lots of motoring. Instead, when we arrived in Bellingham, everyone was talking about the approaching heat wave. At Sucia, we found the mercury pushing 90 F and decided a dip was in order, even if it appeared there weren't a lot of other swimmers. I won't say the water was warm, but it was invigorating, and a swim-albeit a quick one-became a daily ritual for some of us. I'm not sure that Joe got fully wet in his one jump off the boat-he was back aboard very quickly. I am certain, though, that anyone along the shore heard his colorful description of the experience.
That evening, we dug out the crab trap (really more of a net), baited it up with chicken, and set it adrift to fetch our dinner. Luckily, Peter had brought chipotle pepper-spiced pork tenderloin, broccoli, mashed potatoes, and salad along with the crab bait, since it seemed the creatures were on to our tricks.
The next morning, though we'd been warned that Homeland Security had made border crossings more complicated and three in our group hadn't brought passports, we decided to take a chance and push north into Canada to see the South Gulf Islands. We cleared in at Bedwell Harbour, which lies in the long, deep cut between North Pender and South Pender islands. At the docks at South Pender's Poets Cove, we tied up to the government float, and I climbed the ramp to the customs office, where I found a bank of phones that provided a direct dial to bureaucrats somewhere. Did we have more than a gallon of booze per person? No? Well, "Welcome to Canada, and enjoy your stay." Two cheerful officers just back from patrol were helping another visitor tie up his boat and wished us well, too. So much for strained relations on that side of the border.
With more wind forecast for that night and everyone ready for a walk, we decided to rent a slip, and soon we went off exploring in separate directions. The buildings and grounds of Poets Cove Resort and Spa are set into the steep hillside on the north side of the harbor. A five-minute strenuous climb brings you to a ridge and road that runs alongside the water, then curves inland through woods and fields. Sue and I followed a walking trail that led us to a sign announcing we were in "The Enchanted Forest." With glimpses of water, dramatic views, and an alien-to our East Coast eyes, at least-array of shrubs and flowers, it was a pretty darned good show. Joe and Annie walked the other way and eventually came to a trail leading to Lake Green, park land that had recently been set aside for recreation.
As they left to go walking, Joe spotted a pair of bald eagles in a tree overlooking the main dock, and by the time we'd all returned, the birds had become celebrities of sorts. Crewmembers from one of the larger trawlers were jigging for fish and letting the carcasses float near the dock to lure the birds down for a tasty treat. These sportsmen, apparently, had already gone through several pounds of bacon, laying it out on the dock in hopes that the birds would land.
Our dinner that night was beef cooked on the barbecue along with asparagus and roasted potatoes. The meat was topped with a red wine-and-fruit reduction using the fruit salad left from lunch. Yes, we were roughing it, but we were holding up well.
The promised wind arrived overnight, and in ample amounts, giving us a rollicking sail south to Sidney, on Vancouver Island, and its immaculate municipal marina. There we found a bustling downtown and a bus that would take us to The Butchart Gardens. By luck, we had a new driver who hadn't yet mastered the route, so we enjoyed his extended tour at no extra cost.