Desolation Sound Cruise: Roche Harbor

Progress out of Vancouver was slow because we had to zigzag our course to avoid wet rolling seas on the starboard beam. I plotted a route across the Strait of Georgia to cut through the Gulf Islands at TK passage, which would both be more direct and offer us a chance of seeing whales. The only problem: the passage had a stiff current around the time we expected to arrive, and I knew from reading many of the passage guides for British Columbia that strong currents through mountain channels lead to riptides and whirlpools.



Indeed, we arrived just at maximum current, flowing 4 knots while our boat made 10. Fortunately the current was on our bow, meaning that we would just make way more slowly, rather than on our stern pushing us at high speed through the rocky passage. Still, I was alert for riptides where two different flows of water met in a crosschop, as well as for whirlpools that might cause the boat to veer suddenly off course. But the passage proceeded uneventfully (if slowly), only requiring me to avoid two ferries coming the other way. Just near the exit we did indeed run across a whirlpool, visible by a round smooth area of water several dozen feet across with chop at the edges, and the boat changed course about 10° to 15° – nothing serious enough to cause concern.

Down the west side of Stewart Island, the most promising areas to sight whales, we sadly saw none. Glenn kept an eye out for fast whale-watching vessels to give us a clue, but we never saw any. In reaching Roche Harbor late in the day, Glenn checked us through US customs, and we docked at the Roche Harbor Marina, part of an absolutely beautiful island resort that has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. No sooner had we tied up then inceptionInception tied up nearby, and Jim Barker invited our crew to join his for dinner. I hosed off the boat, we all went for a brief walk of the resort, and then had drinks and hummus at the terrace restaurant.

Dinner at the same restaurant was delightful, and I had a great chance to get to know Jim Barker, who’s a long-standing member of NYYC, had been involved somewhat in the America’s Cup effort, and had joined a number of cruises. By the end of the dinner, the Barkers, the Burnhams, and the three amigos were all fast friends.