•    Newcastle Cruise   

    Could summer get any better? The sunshine was glorious for the whole weekend, and the evenings warm enough to sit out in shorts and T-shirts until the stars twinkled overhead. The crew of “Hale Pau Hana” got an early start to the weekend by setting out on Thursday, crossing the Strait for Silva Bay. Things were a bit lumpy around the Bell Bouy, with a bit of wind-over-tide action going on, but the seas settled down after a while, and the perfect north-westerly put us on a direct course for Thrasher Rock. Not a single tack required!

    Alas, the Silva Bay Pub and Restaurant was closed, on account of either a fire or a power failure, or maybe both, depending on where you heard the story. Plus, due to the ongoing drought, the washrooms and showers were closed from 4 to 6 PM each day to allow the well system to try and keep up. Things were dry indeed in the Gulf Islands! Luckily we had stocked up on plenty of liquids, water and otherwise.

    Jen and I took a hike to Drumbeg Park, which rewards one with great views across to Valdes Island, though it is a bit of a hike. A cool bevvy back at the boat was much appreciated. We enjoyed a quiet evening on the boat, with the afterglow of sunset lingering long into the summer twilight.

    In the morning, we conferred with Halfmoon II, who had arrived and dropped anchor overnight. The winds were up in the Strait, but the timing of the tides worked out well for doing the passage through Gabriola and Dodds Narrows, so we set off for the scenic route. After shooting through Gabriola with an ebbing current, and briefly hitting 9.5 knots on the GPS, the waters inside the Gulf Islands were calm as a bathtub.

    Boat traffic at Dodds had backed up quite a bit, as two tugs and log booms pushed through southbound. The crowd filed through in good order northbound, and we soon set the jib for a romp towards Nanaimo Harbour with gusty winds spilling over Gabriola Island. Halfmoon II and Hale Pau Hana arrived around noon, with plenty of dock space still available at the time. Irish Cream and Blue Max arrived shortly afterwards. Gil confirmed the crossing of the Strait that day was a bit “on the rough side”!

    Jen and I launched the dinghy and set out for Protection Island, to go exploring around and find a few geocaches. We also got some well-deserved ice cream from the island’s very own golf-cart ice cream truck! And a few veggies from the island’s community gardens – just leave a donation in the boot at the little booth! Another dinghy run in the evening (after BBQ ribs, mmm!) into Mark Bay rewarded us with encounters with a raccoon family, some otters, and even a mink!

    Free Spirit II arrived on Saturday and grabbed one of the last remaining mooring bouys… the docks and other bouys having long since filled up for the weekend. Also arriving that day were Jean & Richard’s friends, Bill and Denise, and Bill’s grand-daughter Mia from Montreal, and Sean’s friends the Bentleys (George, Carol, William and Richard) all the way from England, who happened to be on a Western Canada family vacation. The boat parties took turns drifting between Half Moon II, Hale Pau Hana, and the dock.

    The entire crowd joined us at the Dinghy Dock Pub, with some dinghies getting a tow from others. It was really great to see a big crowd of us at the Pub, and we were given a great outdoor spot to enjoy the late afternoon sun. The Bentley Boys even got some Dinghy Dock Pub T-shirts to take back to England with them.

    Sunday saw some of us doing local explorations of the island, as Jen and myself applied a little sailing expertise to engineer a way up a tree to retrieve a geocache hidden some 20 feet up in the branches – a rope ladder and a spare halyard did the trick! Ted and Dorte arrived on “Lady Dane” later in the day, under tow… Lady Dane blew her engine on the way over, and will be in Nanaimo for repairs. Hopefully insurance will help cover it! I’ll stay in touch with Ted to follow their progress.

    On Monday most of us set out for the return crossing of the Strait. The winds were blowing pretty strong at first, as we beat our way out towards Entrance Island, poor Jen laboured away down below in the galley making sandwiches as the boat lurched along. The forecast had called for winds to keep increasing throughout the day, but this time the weatherman was completely wrong – the seas eased as we passed Entrance Island, and about halfway home we had to start the engine and motor-sail. The breeze picked up enough to sail again as we passed Spanish Banks – making for a nice last leg as we made our way to home dock. And a drink with friends on the dock when we got there – what a nice way to end the day!

    The slide show, photos courtesy of Bernard and myself: