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The Curmudgeon
Scuttlebutt News:

Cruising British Columbia
Story by Tom Leweck - photos by Dick Enersen

(July 27, 2007) There is little question that the Canadian province of British Columbia offers some of the most magnificent cruising found anywhere is North America. And it was this well-known fact that caused the Curmudgeon to quickly accept an invitation to join my friend Dick Enersen on his Cal 2-46 ‘Brass Ring’ for a week of cruising along the B.C. Sunshine Coast. The opportunity to experience firsthand the majesty of the fabled Princess Louisa Inlet, the Malibu Rapids and the raw beauty of Desolation Sound was much too compelling to pass up.

Kenmore Air - click to enlarge
It turned out that getting to Dick’s boat in Pender Harbour became one of the unexpected bonuses of this adventure. Kenmore Air, which flies small ‘float planes’ from Seattle to dozens of bays, coves and harbors on B.C.’s West Coast, has got to be the friendliest airline in an industry that certainly seems to be more combative and hostile every day. What nice people they are. And what a treat it was to ‘leap’ out of the water of Lake Washington, fly over some the earth’s most scenic areas before gliding down into the sheltered bay where Dick’s boat was waiting.

My Kenmore Air flight back to the U.S. was even more exciting because Captain Karen let me sit in the copilot’s chair. And to add frosting on the cake -- when I put on the headset, she called attention to every point of interest in this magnificent green and blue wonderland. However, she did not have to explain to me what was going on when we flew right over the top of the huge fleet at Whidbey Island Race Week -- the Original Northwest Adult Summer Camp. This flight sure beat anything Disneyland has to offer.

click to enlarge
There is simply no way for me to describe the beauty of British Columbia’s incredible miles and miles and miles of serene, picturesque cruising grounds -- others have done that so much better than I could. And it’s very easy to see why this area annually attracts so many cruising boats from the U.S to enjoy the lush green hills, mountains, valleys, coves and inlets … and to stare in awe at the numerous Bald Eagles. However, as hard as it was to be disappointed when surrounded by such beauty, the weather in all of June and for the first three weeks of July has left something to be desired.

“We’ve had more rain this summer than we had all last winter,” a shop keeper in Refuge Cove told the Curmudgeon. I could relate -- on the ‘Brass Ring’ we were drenched with more rain on each of two separate nights than Southern California has had in the past 15 months. Pumping out the inflatable dinghy each morning was no small undertaking. However, the abundant rain certainly did make the area’s waterfalls even more spectacular.

click to enlarge
And there was also some serious breeze during my visit. Although the wind instruments on the ‘Brass Ring’ were ‘on vacation,’ Bob Blethen told the Curmudgeon that on Saturday night, July 21, he sat up all night as 50 knots of wind bombarded his West Bay Sonship 85 ‘Final Edition’ in Tenedos Bay. Gale force winds certainly test a boat’s anchor and ground tackle, and although ‘Final Edition’ passed that test, the following day Blethen quickly retreated to the docks at the Seattle Yacht Club’s out-station in Cortes Bay.

Bob Hale, who edits and publishes the ‘must have’ Waggoner Cruising Guide, felt that this has been the worst early summer season in memory. His dismay echoed the disappointment that was articulated everywhere we went. “When is the rain going to end?” was a common theme that seemed to punctuate every conversation. “Is there some way we can get Al Gore to accelerate his schedule for the implementation of Global Warming?’ asked the skipper of a Kelly Peterson 46.

There was little doubt that the Curmudgeon had brought along too much sunscreen and not enough fleece. And my light-duty, waist-high Musto foul weather pants were simply overmatched in every heavy downpour.

Cal 2-46 - click to enlarge
Finally -- as the Curmudgeon was packing his seabag for his return to SoCal, the weather patterns changed dramatically -- summer suddenly blossomed on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. I had six hours of absolutely perfect weather in Bargain Bay before I had to board the float plane for my return flight -- six magnificent hours that virtually erased the memories of the wind, overcast, gloom and rain of the previous week. And subsequent Skype calls from my skipper Dick Enersen have assured me that the good weather is holding and summer is solidly in place on British Columbia’s West Coast.

Obviously the timing of my trip sucked, but even the less than perfect weather during my stay was not enough to diminish the fond memories of this unparallel cruising area. Without question, if the phone rang this afternoon with another invitation to go cruising in up there, I’d clear my calendar in a heartbeat and quickly book a return flight with my new friends at Kenmore Air.

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