Sheltering in Quarantine Cove

Looking south from William Head is the lighthouse on Race Rocks with the Olympic Mountains behind. (Photo by MackXit)

Looking south from William Head is the lighthouse on Race Rocks with the Olympic Mountains behind. (Photo by MackXit)

Before we set sail, we ran some morning errands down to the transient docks at Causeway Marina and then found ourselves waylaid by a morning performance of synchronized ferries.

Five of the tiny Victoria Harbour ferries were doing a dance in the bay in front of the legislative buildings, motoring about in set routines, trying not to crash into each other to the accompaniment of piped-in orchestral music. The tourists lining the shore seemed entertained, snapping pictures.

Victoria Harbour ferries cruise in formation during a synchronized performance on a recent Saturday morning.

Victoria Harbour ferries cruise in formation during a synchronized performance on a recent Saturday morning.

We tore ourselves away, and got back to the boat, setting off, motoring beyond the breakwater and out into Royal Roads, where it was windless with barely a ripple on the water.

Forecasts warned of strong winds in the evening and overnight, but there was no sign of such conditions. We bobbed in place, waiting for the promised wind, and killed time over lunch, peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

By and by, a gentle southwest wind began to percolate. The sails gently filled and we were officially sailing. Soon there were many of us crisscrossing Royal Roads.

Most people relax when they sail. That’s hard when others are sailing nearby and you, like me, are a sinkhole of passive aggression. We constantly guesstimate if other boats are going faster or slower than us while pretending not to notice or care. That’s how I spent my day.

We had originally planned to anchor at the mouth of Pedder Bay, just north of Race Rocks, but as the warnings went from “strong wind” to “gale” we decided we would sleep better somewhere with better protection.

Chartlet from Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the Gulf Islands. Not to be used for navigation.

Chartlet from Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the Gulf Islands. Not to be used for navigation.

And in late afternoon, as the wind was beginning to whip some, we anchored off the southwestern shore of Quarantine Cove, near a commercial fisher who had also chosen to seek shelter here as well.

It is a lovely bay, tucked to the north side of William Head with the Olympic Mountains looming to the south across Juan de Fuca Strait. There are no services ashore, but the minimum-security jail there would be an excellent place to do time. A dock within the compound was lined with people, we assumed off-duty prison employees, casting for fish.

We had a new anchor, one of the new Vulcans by Rocna, and it would be the first time we used it in unsettled conditions.

It held tight throughout a strange night. According to our wind app, the winds built up to and beyond 35 knots at nearby Race Rocks before midnight. Then the winds fell to virtually nothing in a moment. From the cockpit, the water gently rippled.

Within an hour, the winds returned, nearing gale conditions. Then faded to nothing. Then returned. Then I fell asleep.

You will be hard pressed to find a more secure anchorage close to Victoria.

We awoke to the sound of fog horns. A wall of fog ran the length of the strait, but above us was clear sky.

There were duties to perform back in Victoria so we upped anchor and ghosted back under gentle westerlies.

Whale watchers and fishermen congregate within Victoria Harbour’s breakwater hoping the orcas will resurface.

Whale watchers and fishermen congregate within Victoria Harbour’s breakwater hoping the orcas will resurface.

Approaching the breakwater we were passed by a fleet of whale watching boats which milled in a pack at the mouth of the harbour. At least two orcas surfaced in the clutter among the boats which were joined by fishing boats, sailboats entering or leaving the harbour, even a harbour pilot.

An approaching cruise ship blasts its horn to get the whale watchers to clear a path.

An approaching cruise ship blasts its horn to get the whale watchers to clear a path.

Behind us all, a cruise ship blasted its horn five times to clear a path and no one was about to argue.

No doubt, the orcas were relieved.

(Quarantine Cove is covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the Gulf Islands.)

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2 Responses to Sheltering in Quarantine Cove

  1. Jim Burgoyne
    Jim Burgoyne November 8, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    I have never heard of military involvement, though I was long ago told that anchoring was restricted to the western half of the cove, away from the prison docks, which is where you would want to anchor anyway.

    However, that said, I have seen boats anchored in water that I would guess was in the eastern half. Don’t think anyone bothered them.

    I would think if a prisoner tried to swim for freedom, they might have an easier time making for the homes up the road than climbing aboard a boat.

  2. Bruce November 8, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    I had heard Quarantine Bay was restricted by the military. True? Not true?

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