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The Farrows Sail to Desolation - Lessons Learnt

Darrell and David Farrow

SV Endless Song
Passport 40
May 22nd, 2024

Our last article ended after our refit as we set off from Vancouver. We were headed under the Lions Gate bridge for our first summer in Desolation Sound. Although excited to be under way, we were very nervous about what we were taking on. Heading out for 5 weeks or more, how would we survive? Living in tight quarters would be a challenge. We are both used to having lots of space. In a 27’ boat, there is literally nowhere to hide.

David and Darrell departing Vancouver aboard Mystic

What did we learn?

People

We would meet some people again and again as we moved around the various anchorages. This was delightful and we enjoyed it immensely; there always seemed to be someone to chat to, if you wanted to. When we wanted solitude, we could find more deserted anchorages, and even in the midst of summer there are a few places where none seem to venture!

Anchorages

There are lots of delightful places, but the anchorages can be very tricky. Skinny Cove at the south end of south Thormanby Island is a pretty anchorage, but avoid if there is a forecast of even a light SE wind. There are plenty of lovely walks from this spot up to Buccaneer Bay.

Thormanby Island: Buccaneer Bay with Skinny Cove inset

Ballet Bay is a splendid place to paddle and kayak around. Here we became acquainted with the oyster shells that are ubiquitous in these waters. An invasive species introduced decades ago and totally out of control. With their hard razor sharp shells, they make wearing shoes for any trip to shore a necessity. The effect of the previous summer’s high water temperatures was very evident with acres of dead oysters

woman in kayak resting on paddles

Kayaking in Ballet Bay

The popular anchorages of Prideaux Haven are beautiful indeed, but have way too many people for our liking in high season. Anchorages at Roscoe Bay, Tenedos and Squirrell Cove are busy, but there is space and excellent hiking at all these places.

Top: Roscoe Bay; Bottom: Head of Theodosia Inlet

Peaceful Malaspina/Lancelot/Theodosia inlets were beautiful waters and very quiet. We had a wonderful anchorage at Wootan bay, with only one other boat present. The paddle up Theodosia Inlet is superb. Hardly anyone goes there.

Mystic in Wootton Bay, Lancelot Inlet

Lakes

The various lakes are unbelievably warm. Black Lake was our favourite and we would return there repeatedly, portaging our kayak and SUP board for a fun day on fresh water. The walk to Cassell lake is a lovely hike up beside a waterfall and the scenery is awesome. Unwin lake was also great. Going to the lakes early in the morning or later in the afternoon would often give us the sense there was no one else around! Given how busy the anchorages are, it was surprising.

Paddling on Black Lake

Sailing

Our son Simon on About Time was a wonderful tutor, paddling out to greet us in Teakerne Arm and teaching how and where we could anchor our boat and stern tie in this quite challenging anchorage. Good, settled weather made it fine to anchor in a relatively unprotected position. This experience gave us so much confidence for later anchorages. Similarly in Roscoe Bay he helped us as we learnt about using the stern tie rings on the shoreline.

Sailboat anchored, waterfall in background

About Time in Teakerne Arm

We watched folk drift along in almost no wind, with their colourful spinnakers – it seemed way beyond us. On our sail home we did master the wing on wing sailing Simon had explained to us, which was about as technical as we needed to get!

Mystic was comfortable to manage in 20/25 knots of wind, reefs in the main and genoa and toe rails in the water as she headed upwind at 6 to 7 knots. Stronger winds are easier to sail in than light breezes where you have little control of the boat. In calmer conditions it is easier to become complacent. A powerboat passing us at high speed in the Thulin Passage managed to almost knock us over, and spun Mystic completely around in the ensuing wake.

Sailing on a 20 degree heel.

Although the summer winds are fickle, making sailing an exercise in patience, we managed to sail most of the trip. Sometimes you just have to motor. Having said that, the little YSB engine ran well and sipped fuel, maybe a litre an hour. In total we added only 50l of fuel over the entire summer. Our eyes were on stalks as we watched power boats fill up with $$$$$ worth of fuel!

Freezer/Cold box

While the combination of the small freezer/100Ah/LiFePO4 battery/100w solar panel worked very well for us, we still needed ice blocks for our ice box to keep perishables cool. As the freezer emptied, we would freeze Ice Packs and circulate them into the icebox. This worked quite well, and a full freezer is a happier freezer! As we needed more packs, we purchased them in various places, lessening our reliance on big ice blocks. Putting ice blocks into dry bags helped keep the ice a little longer and kept the ice box drier.

Provisioning

There are great places to get provisions along the way. We avoided the busy places like Pender Harbour and Powell River. Places we visited were:

  •  Secret Cove: a delightful spot to purchase necessities and ice.
  • Vananda, just south of Sturt Bay on Texada island: there is a good store here with almost everything food-wise you need, and it’s just a 20 minute walk from the marina. Ice blocks, showers, book swap and garbage disposal (for a fee) are available close to the marina, just ask the Wharfinger. There is a laundrette at the RV campsite, about a 30 minute walk from the marina.
  • Refuge Cove: seems to be everyone’s favourite. Gets a bit busy and you may have to wait for a moorage spot. You can get just about anything you could need from a small shop and liquor outlet, from iceblocks to Moet & Chandon. There are great showers and a reasonable laundry. The restaurant was closed in 2022 but re-opened in 2023. Dave’s garbage barge is a welcome place to drop your trash for a nominal fee.

Refuge Cove

  • Squirrel Cove Store: disappointing. It has the potential to rival the much smaller Refuge Cove store across the way, but it was poorly stocked with groceries, fruit and vegetables.
  • Lund: after years of hearing about Lund, our visit was a total disappointment. Nancy’s Bakery and Sassy Mack’s ice cream shop were closed the day we visited and the grocery store had a very limited selection of food stuff.

Communications

Cell phone signal is almost everywhere in Desolation Sound, although in Roscoe Bay we would need to climb a ridge to get a signal and download a weather forecast.

Conclusion

It had been a wonderful summer. All too soon it was time to head south. We had achieved our goal! It’s amazing how much fun you can have with so little. The new bed arrangement (revamped during our refit) worked well – a comfortable night’s sleep is important. We came back refreshed and relaxed, our marriage intact, and confident handling our little Mystic.

The sailing bug had bitten deeply, and we were entranced with possibilities.

Good food