Desolation Sound – 2011 South Coast BC Trip

Desolation Sound – 2011 South Coast BC Trip

October 7th, 2011  |  by Marilyn  |  Published in Ship's Log

We hid in the Desolation Sound area for more than a week while a series of intense low pressure systems repeatedly caused storm force and hurricane force winds on the central coast. Because Desolation Sound is 100 miles or more from the central coast, we mostly just experienced gusty wind and some heavy rain – we guessed about 7” based on how much water needed to be pumped from the dinghy.

First we were at Octopus islands (not Desolation Sound, but nearby). Very lovely area with extremely clear water. But be careful at the southern entrance to the island group – there are many reefs and rocks that await your keel. A powerboat on went aground on a charted rock just as we were leaving! He refused our help at pulling him, saying that a sailboat could have no effect if his 200 HP motor would not budge him. The tide was due to rise anyway, so he would soon float off.

After some provisioning at Heriot Bay during good weather, we held up in Von Donop inlet at Cortez Island for 4 days as a few storms passed. That was a great place to hide from the wind, and we enjoyed being there, despite the heavy rain. Between storms, we had a walk in the lovely forest to the mudflats of Squirrel Cove.

A word of caution about the journey into Von Donop – the guidebooks say that to avoid the rock mid-channel in the narrowest part of the inlet, keep so close to shore that the boughs sweep the side of the boat. That’s nonsense! If you do, you will certainly run aground on the rocks near the shore or on one of the dead trees lying in the water! The mid channel rock has around 6′ over it at low low water, so at a modest tide most boats will have no concerns of hitting it. We saw no evidence of the middle channel rock – no kelp, no current boils, nothing. But we did see the rocks close to shore that extended well beyond the tree boughs!

Before another storm hit, we moved to Laura Cove near Prideaux Haven. We spent 3 nights there. During our last day at anchor, the Strait of Georgia had storm force SE winds – 50+ knots. We had carefully stern tied so our bow was pointed southerly, and side tied to the SE shore expecting any wind to come from that direction. To our chagrin, when the storm hit, the 25 knot gusts that entered the bay swirled around the steep hillsides and slammed into us from the NW. That pushed us right up to the SE bay wall, meaning our side tie was useless (or worse if it got wrapped around the keel or prop , so Van tightened it to keep us from drifting so much). Fortunately, we had stern tied with anchor rode so it had considerable breaking strength and could withstand the force. (We were 50 yards from shore when we initially tied up, so moving 36 yards towards shore put considerable tension in the stern line.) As each gust hit us, we could watch the boat move closer and closer to the shore – we measured it only 14 yards away, which is less than a boat length! But the depth sounder was reading 17’ still, so we held tight. It was not the weather to be out in the dinghy trying to tie to the NW shore! Van did pull in some anchor chain to reduce the scope, as the tide was due to fall another 5’. Otherwise, that difference would have made more slack on the anchor chain allowing us to move even close to the shore.

I spent that day quite worried, listening to the weather radio reports and watching the occasional water spout form as the gusts swirled around the bay. I noticed the family of otters living in the bay was not bothered! The storm eventually subsided and we had a lovely sunset.

Based on our experiences, if another SE storm was coming, I would head for Von Donop inlet before Prideaux Haven.

Stormy weather aside, Desolation Sound is a beautiful spot with a backdrop of high snowy peaks. We meet another sailor earlier in the trip who was returning home after 17 days in Desolation Sound with NO WIND the entire time! The difference was season – he was there in mid August, and we were there in late September. He said the Prideaux Haven area was too crowded. We shared Laura Cove with just the family of otters.

That’s all the areas we visited this year. Return to the Trip Overview.

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