the Gulf Islands the Inside Passage

Back on the Inside: Portland Island

Thursday, September 19, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

Cambria at anchor behind Chads Island
After Sunday’s lightning storm, we wanted a day off, so we took one and waited until Monday to leave Murder Bay.   At this stage in the season, we’re at a bit of a crossroads:  Our house batteries are extremely weak and we’re ready to call it quits.  BUT winter moorage doesn’t begin until the first of October, so we have  to find a way to fill 11 more days. 

We didn’t care for the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday so we decided to make Tod Inlet, which offers excellent protection, our next destination.   But the forecast got pushed back several days and the brunt of the storm is actually going to hit the northern part of Vancouver Island before heading inland, so we’re only supposed to see 15 knots of wind from the southeast, meanwhile Cape Scott is expected to have hurricane-force winds.  It’s not surprising.  We invariably have to hide from the first major storm of the year come this time (i.e. the equinox).  The difference is that this year we’re far enough south that we’re not going to feel the brunt of it and may finally get to experience the “greatness” of September first-hand.

With no need for a bombproof anchorage, we left Tod Inlet this morning and made our way out of Saanich Inlet to take full advantage of our remaining time on the water and visit some new destinations.  First stop: Portland Island and Princess Margaret Marine Park

The first inhabitants of the island were Coast Salish natives but in the 1880s, Hawaiian immigrants who came to Canada as employees contracted by the Hudson Bay Company to work the land and act as interpreters for the fur traders moved onto the island.  After their contracts expired, they decided to stay but moved away some time before 1930.  In honour of her visit to Victoria in 1958, the island was gifted to Princess Margaret who, in return, gave the island back to British Columbia as a provincial park in 1967 and is now part of the National Park Reserve.

One of the many pocket beaches on Portland Island.

A well-developed trail system follows the coastline with vistas out to Boundary Pass, Swanson Channel, Brackman Island (an ecological reserve) and several shell midden beaches that dot the shore.  It’s 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) around with rocky and moderately rough terrain, but can be shortened by taking one of the cross-island trails which take you through abandoned apple orchards.  The trails alone make Portland Island worth visiting time and time again, but it’s going to be hard to convince David of that:  The roll from passing ferries makes it an uncomfortable overnight anchorage.

Anchoring options around the island are somewhat limited, but there are a few including Royal Cove at the northern end of the island.  The holding is reported to be good in mud, but we don’t know firsthand.  When we arrived, there were already two boats anchored and that was two too many for us so we chose to drop the hook behind Chads Island instead.  Not only did we have the bay to ourselves, but we had slightly better protection from the ridiculous ferry roll.  The most popular spot, however, is Princess Bay along the southern shore of the island which is larger, but shallow and much busier. 

We’ve been off the West Coast of Vancouver Island for several days now and are finding the noise to be more difficult to adjust to than we imagined it would be . . . or could be.  There was a stillness that simply doesn’t exist on the inside:  The people are busy and in such a hurry.  They travel from anchorage to anchorage.  City to city.  Friend to friend.  Who knows?  But everybody seems to be in a constant state of motion whereas on the other side, things flowed in a much more natural, quiet way – even in the populated areas.  It’s something I’m sure we’ll get used to after a while; but the question is, do we want to?

A raccoon kit in a tree on Portland Island.

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