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Author Topic:   Desolation Sound in a Whaler
20dauntless posted 11-06-2007 06:37 PM ET (US)   Profile for 20dauntless   Send Email to 20dauntless  
For the last several years I have wanted to get up to Desolation Sound to do some whalering, but have never had the time, but it looks like I may be able to make it this next summer. So, my question is, how long does it take to get up there? Can I make it from Anacortes to Pender Harbour (by way of Nanaimo) in a day, then cruise around that area and visit Princess Louisa for 4 or 5 days? Or is it a multi day trip just to get there?

For reference, I have a 20 Dauntless powered by a 200hp Yamaha. Generally I cruise at about 30 knots. I have made it from the locks to Roche Harbor in about 3 hours 30 minutes several times, with a half tank of fuel remaining. So, is getting up to Pender Harbour (or Egmont, or anywhere in that area) doable in a day?

Thanks guys!

dburton posted 11-07-2007 12:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for dburton  Send Email to dburton     
About 8 years ago I went from Bellingham to Pender Island. It was an easy day trip. Canada has a customs station on South Pender that is open in the summer. The trip from Anacortes should be about the same as Bellingham.

I don't know what going through Nanaimo would do to the trip but I think that it is doable.

I had a 18' Outrage that was a joy in those waters. The water was like glass on the way to Pender. On the way back we had to fight wind, current and rain. But it was a great trip.

If time is a real issue, you might consider launching at Blaine or Point Roberts.


20dauntless posted 11-07-2007 02:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
Thanks for the reply. As far as I know Pender Island is way further south than Pender Harbour. To add to what I wrote in my first post, I think the distance to Pender Harbour is about 106 nautical miles, which assuming good weather would easily be doable in a day. Let me know what you guys think. Thanks!
cdnwhaler posted 11-07-2007 08:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for cdnwhaler  Send Email to cdnwhaler     
You are correct 20dauntless. Pender Harbour is a long way from Pender Island. On the map in this link you can see Pender Harbour on the Sunshine coast on the east side of the Straits of Georgia. Pender Island is a little south or SE of Saltspring Island on this map in the Gulf Islands area on the west side of the Straits. Desolation Sound is just north of Lund on this map.

There's fellow Roarque who posts here and he lives in Nanoose Bay which is close to Comox on Vancouver Island. He may be able to help with the distances/time better than I can.

Here's a current thread of his asking about his teak gunwales


dburton posted 11-07-2007 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for dburton  Send Email to dburton     
I always find it distressing what time does to my memory. I read Pender Harbor and thought Port Browning. I just wish that the passing time would fade the memories of my ex-wife.

The Port Browning Marina would be a good destination to keep in mind if the weather drives you off the water.


JMARTIN posted 11-07-2007 12:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
The nasty part is crossing over from Vancouver Island to the Sunshine coast. Where are you going to stay, on the boat? There is not much for accomidations up there. John
kglinz posted 11-07-2007 02:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
I have run from La Conner to Pender Harbour many times. If the weather is OK it should not be a problem. You can run over by Bedwell and clear customs. I go via Gabriola Passage and past Silva Bay Marina. You can refuel at Silva if you need to. From Silva Bay you can bypass W.G. easily, if it is active. There are many places to stay in Pender Harbour. 50 or so miles from Pender Harbour to Princess Louisa. You can stay at Powell River, Lund, or Heriot Bay if your running on up to Desolation Sound.

Kemp Lindsey

pglein posted 11-07-2007 05:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for pglein  Send Email to pglein     
Most people with trailerable boats trailer up to Lund and launch there. Or at least that's my recollection.

There is squat for accomodations up there, so you'll be sleeping on the boat. Bring lots of mosquitto repellant, since you won't have a cabin to retreat to. They seem like they're the size of golf balls and swarm in by the thousands when there's no wind.

Desolation Sound is one of my favorite places to visit by boat, but it's a lot more fun when you have a boat with some accomodations.

The Gulf Islands, however, have excellent camping and shoreside ammenities, and are a lot closer.

kglinz posted 11-07-2007 05:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
A lot of people do launch at Lund. It's 2 ferry rides north of Vancouver. Here's the info on the trip by land/ferry and hotel... ...
20dauntless posted 11-07-2007 06:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
Thanks guys...

Regarding the accommodations, I don't really mind "roughing it." I am used to backpacking and sleeping on the boat is no problem with the camper canvas. Would it be best to clear customs at Bedwell Harbour or Nanaimo? I was thinking of running nonstop to Nanaimo, clearing customs and refueling, then crossing over to Pender if conditions permit.

Trailering is not an option since we sold the truck. And boating really isn't all that bad (;

Any other thoughts?

jimh posted 11-08-2007 12:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
We've been to Desolation Sound, but didn't overnight there. We came up from Lund, then went on to Big Bay or Dent Island Lodge.

We had a great time up there in 2003. The gas was cheap--by comparison to today--and we got $1.57 for our money on the exchange. The darn trip would probably cost me three times as much today due to the price of fuel and complete collapse in the value of the U.S. dollar.

kglinz posted 11-08-2007 10:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
Yes, Jim, times have changed. Big Bay Resort has been sold and gone "private". Dent is charging $3.50 a foot for guest moorage. I think you stayed at Minstrel Island Resort. It closed, but has been bought by 4 families and could re-open. I think there are as many boats as ever, above Johnstone Strait, It's hard for Marinas that need to make their money in 3 manths of the year.
JMARTIN posted 11-08-2007 11:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
The Canadian dollar is worth almost 1.08 in US dollars now. No bargains in Canada any more. John
revengewanted posted 11-08-2007 02:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for revengewanted  Send Email to revengewanted     
20dauntless, I admire your ambition. The trip you propose to do would be quite a challenge - with a terrific reward at the end of the journey - Desolation Sound. If you have not already consulted them - the Bill Wolferstan series of books are good resources to identify best locations for moorage, anchorage, fuel, etc. (Cheap used ones available at Some of the material is now outdated so you should check in advance on accomodations/fuel info.

The transit over Georgia Strait is usually not difficult and best done in the early AM. Generally the water conditions in Georgia Strait are "better than" Juan de Fuca. I've done the crossing in the worst of conditions but just takes longer.

Either Nanaimo or Bedwell/Pender Harbour are good Customs wise. The advantage to Nanaimo would be that there is moorage, anchorage, and camping (Newcastle Island) should you want to wait out the first day for an early morning run across Georgia Srait.


jgkmmoore posted 11-09-2007 11:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
Bedwell is such a neat place to clear. At the north end of the harbor there is a tight passage you can take between the North and South Pender islands into Pt Browning. Then usually a smooth run up Navy Channel to Nanaimo. Lotsa interesting stuff to see.You should be sorta tired of fresh air by then. I would recommend o/nite there, and take off REAL early (0300-0430) to beat the wind. 21 miles across to Secret Cove (neat place to putt around). If the wind hasn't come up by then......blast up Malaspina Straight as fast as you can to get to Savary Island for a quick swim in chest deep 80 degree,crystal clear water,then across to Lund if you need gas. Egmont is your last chance for gas on the way to Princess Louisa. Go see 'the rapids' up the trail from Egmont store.You can hear 'em from Egmont on a big tide.It's 65 miles up Jervis Inlet from Egmont to Pr. Louisa and back,and no stops.Malibu Lodge at the entrance to the Inlet is stunning. And then....feast your eyes for the next five miles up the inlet, on the most beautiful place on this earth! Guarantee it will absolutely take your breath away. If you have to choose Pr. Louisa or Desolation...Pr. Louisa, HANDS DOWN!!! No beaches. Mountains go straight up out of the water.Great waterfalls in the spring! The world famous Chatterbox Falls at the head of the inlet.Moorage to float or a few buoys. One or two boats can anchor close to shore in the mouth of the streambed. You can only drag anchor about 50' before your anchor goes off the ledge tho. You will NEVER in your life forget the experience of Princess Louisa Inlet.It's a beauty 'that passeth understanding', as Mac used to say.
Hey. Just noticed you are in Seattle. Shoot me an email, I'll give ya my phone.I'm right nearby in Bellevue. If you have time some day this fall/winter, I'll meet you for coffee and give you a virtual tour.I know every gunkhole from Seattle to well North of Campbell River, like the back of my hand. Have cruised it for over 50 years almost every year.I know all the nasty rocks too. I probably own the oldest, most dogeared Marine Atlas in the Northwest.I can save you lots of time by steering you away from stuff that looks inviting on the charts, and really isn't when you get there.We did it the hard way.

Best Regards-Jeff Moore

jgkmmoore posted 11-10-2007 12:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
Be advised. Gas at he pump, on the road, regular, was $5.00 a gallon or more in BC at the end of last summer! I hate to think what Marine gas runs. Better call before you go....may change your mind the way the USD is going.
kglinz posted 11-10-2007 12:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
You need to choose your refuel stops. I fueled in Campbell River, last year for $.97 a liter for 87 octane, but saw fuel for as high as $1.35. In Campbell River and Westview fuel is cheaper on the water than in town for auto use.
shipskip posted 11-10-2007 02:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for shipskip  Send Email to shipskip     
Jeff, I'll put my tattered Morris book up against yours any day. Or my similar looking Evergreen Cruising Atlas. And as you stated, I likewise hardly need them any more. First trip to Chatterbox was 1957. Both sons were mountain guides at Malibu. One was a ski boat operator one year while the other was a kayak guide out of Egmont. Fond memories for us all.


shipskip posted 11-10-2007 02:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for shipskip  Send Email to shipskip     
Kemp, back in the day as they say, during the late 50's, we refueled at float plane docks, hand pumping aviation fuel out of 55-gallon drums. The early Grey Marine and Chrysler Hemis couldn't run on the lower octane stuff. Things fortunately are a bit better these days.


jgkmmoore posted 11-10-2007 06:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
Craig- Ya owe me a beer! I piloted the "Misty Waters", a 44' Jacobson across from Nanaimo to Smugglers in a blow....I was 13 at the time. The rest of the adult crew were hanging off the transom and lee side puking.The year was 1954.As we left Nanaimo Harbor at 0400, a 55' Chris was entering the Harbor. We asked about the forecast 'light chop'. He reported he lost both rudders coming over from Pender. To this day, I don't know why we continued.Green water over the top all the way.Five hours to make 24 statute miles.The Evergreen Guide came along long after I had beaten my Marine Atlas to a pulp...never owned an Evergreen. I recall walking across rocks in Smugglers that were coated solid with oysters.Non of us liked them, so we didn't harvest any.Clams tried to jump into the boat.Had lunch on the Gray Goose with the Duke one day, in that group of islands at the mouth of Jervis Inlet....good story.My buddy and I got to paddle Macs canoe out to help a Seascout boat that could't get anchored in front of Chatterbox Falls.The guy 'blew us off' (we were just kids)and reanchored 6 more times into the night.Mac got a good chuckle out of that.NOBODY ever got to mess with Macs canoe.....we were so amped!! He used to paddle down to Malibu every Tuesday night to tell fireside stories. His last year at the Inlet was 1972, as I recall.
Your kids were fortunate to have time at Egmont and Malibu. WOW.Those rapids at Skookumchuck were blazing CRAZY!!! I'd never seen an overfall before.WOOF!
My kids are now in their mid 30s, and they fondly recall the 'cruisin' days'regularily. "Best Years of our Lives" is heard often.
kglinz posted 11-10-2007 07:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
Damn, you guys are old. Glad you put these stories in writing while still you could. You know the difference between a Fairy Tale and an Old Sailor's story? One starts out, "once upon a time" and the other starts, "this ain't no Bull Shit"
20dauntless posted 11-10-2007 08:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     

Thanks so much for the offer, I really appreciate it and will let you know when the planning gets a little further what the status of the trip is. Princess Louisa is definitely on the must see list for this trip. Several years go I was on a friends sail boat in the area (went to Pender Harbour, Egmont, saw the rapids, anchored out a few nights) and I remember it was gorgeous, but we didn't have time to make it all the way to Princess Louisa. I figure that in the Whaler I will be able to make it to far more places!

Just curious, would you guys recommend July or June? August is also an option, but typically it is foggier in the San Juans, so I thought it might be further north as well. FWIW, I was thinking of leaving Decatur Island (we have a cabin there) at sunrise to try and get it all the way across Georgia Strait in one day, but obviously if the weather is bad or I don't feel like boating anymore, I can always stop in Nanaimo or another place on the way up. Thanks so much for the help guys, I really appreciate it. Regarding gas prices, it is a concern, but not a deal breaker.

jgkmmoore posted 11-12-2007 05:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
20d- June is wonderful.Very light boat traffic, and usually a better month to cross the straights.Weather is real iffy tho.We had to 'hole-up' in Smugglers Cove for 3 days one June....and the gulls and fishermen were still coming IN when we were going OUT.Saw stumps the size of houses floating all over.They would pop out of a wave less than 100' ahead (8-10' waves)and were sometimes hard to dodge.Big spring runoff from the Frazer that year sent all kinds of flotsam into the straights (Georgia and Malaspina).Not a fun crossing that June.The HEAVY boat traffic starts the weekend of July 4th in both San Juans and the Gulf Islands.Still, traffic in the Gulfs is substantially lighter than the San J's. The larger (yacht club type) boats from Vancouver/Victoria seem to stick to the mainland coast and head for Desolation. Lots more 'white pants' sailors on that side.Gulf Islands more primitive and personable.Suggest giving a wide berth to the 4th of July slicker skippers take 3-4 days to decompress after leaving the city.Kinda snarky in the island stores and marinas around that time.Don't even bother to fish in BC. Not any better than in Washington, and it's spendy. Clamming good........ Don't try to transverse the Georgia Straight in North/South directions.Too many miles, too exposed, and lots of 'fetch' for the wind, which can come up very quickly. Stay in the protection of the Gulf Islands all the way to Nanaimo.You can (if the wind out of NW) sneak further N. to Hornby Island, then turn right, and surf back to the south tip of Texada before you pop into Welcome pass. May be less windy, but more miles/gas.'Bad weather wind' is from the SW, just as in Puget Sound.Be sure to take a spare prop with you in June.Maybe two.More deadheads Apr-Jun.
jgkmmoore posted 11-12-2007 05:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
BTW- I would do this trip in a Whaler in a heartbeat if I was 30 years younger.Recommend a couple weeks minimum.The only reason I don't do it now is that I've slept in an Outrage with full canvas in the rain before.Seems there was nearly as much rain/water inside as there was outside.Be sure to take a good tent! Stake it down HARD too.We have lost two tents on Patos (both staked).When they fly away and hit the water, they roll fast like a BIG square tire.Not fun to watch when you know your digi cam and your jammies are in it! Don't leave your leather wallet out while sleeping....the raccoons will get it EVERY time.They will NOT give it back either.
20dauntless posted 11-12-2007 11:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     

It looks like my brother and I will be going (24 and 18) so we will be fine roughing it. One more friend might go, but I'm not sure I want to have 3 people aboard since it may get too crowded. Technically we don't have a time limit, so it should be fine going in June even if we lose some days to weather and of will be nice to avoid the crowds. Regarding the 4th of July, I would never plan any boating then. It's just too chaotic. Thanks again!

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