July 15, 2017: A windy day in gorgeous Gorge Harbor

A blueberry pancake breakfast on a shiny morning gave the three of us the nourishment we needed to raise our anchor, under the watchful eyes of Joy and me and of the captain and first mate of the large power boat near us, who had dropped THEIR anchor very close to ours the evening before. No problems were encountered, and we motored (to recharge Braesail’s batteries) out of Squirrel Cove at about 9 am and headed for Gorge Harbour on the other side of Cortes Island, about three hours distant. Initially, we were able to follow our son Martin’s one-day 202-mile bicycle ride from Seattle to Portland (the annual “STP” during which he made the single-day ride in 2011), but then connectivity evaporated, unfortunately for me–I love to follow such journeys on my smartphone.

The journey was stunningly beautiful, as all of our sea transits have been, with glittering azure seas below us, sapphire skies above us, the glistening summits of the BC Coastal Mountains behind us and those on Vancouver Island before us, the sloping shores’ deep forest green corduroy shoulders beside us, and all manner of rocky islands all around us as care-free Braesail splashed through the wind-tossed waves. At first we motored into the wind as we went south from Squirrel Cove and the ride was a little bouncy; the wind blew across our beam as we turned west at the end of Cortes Island and we experienced some “rock and roll;” and then the wind and the waves “followed” us as we traveled north up the western side of Cortes Island and we were able to “surf” the small seas. Now and again a wave would break along or over Braesail’s bow, splattering the cockpit’s side curtains and port lights and washing from the fore-decks some of the mud dragged aboard by the anchor.

At noon we were making our way through the narrow entrance, called The Gorge, to large, beautiful, and well-occupied Gorge Harbour. On one side of the entrance, remains of First Nations rock paintings are said to be visible on some of the flat surfaces of the towering, almost vertical cliff, but I couldn’t spot them. The boulders on the other side of the entrance once formed burial caves.

gorge harbor entrance
Cliffs at the entrance to Gorge Harbour on which petroglyphs are said to be present

The harbor contains two small marinas and a number of islands, and we went around them to the west end and let down our anchor.  Standing in Braesail’s bow, however, Walt and I could hear the anchor dragging on rocks and could see the chain trembling, and we knew that the anchor wasn’t firmly set. I went to the helm and Walt used the remote anchor windlass to raise the anchor so it could be moved to a better spot, but the task proved difficult and on its way to the surface the anchor caught the rope attaching a bright fluorescent pink mooring ball to the sea bottom and Walt had to use our boat hook to untangle the line. By a little before 1 pm the anchor had finally dug its way into the muddy bottom of the harbor and Braesail was swinging relatively rapidly to and fro in a strong east wind in an arc that took us past a pretty schooner anchored nearby.

Once we were settled in, Joy made sandwiches for lunch and I stayed in the cockpit to watch the motion of the boat to verify the security of the anchor. Walt took his customary afternoon nap and then made more progress on his conference presentation; Joy worked on a puzzle and a biography of George Washington; and I read in our cruising guides about the places we have recently, and will shortly, visit, practiced tying some knots, relaxed and watched the boats around us as we swung across the jade-turquoise water in the wind, and finally dozed in the breeze-swept warmth of the cockpit as the wind whoooooshed through the trees lining the shore and through the rigging.

A steak dinner and evening chores were followed by games of Yahtzee and Hearts as the winds died down, changed from easterly to northwesterly, and rose again. Walt and I anticipated a slightly nervous night, as we tend to have when it’s windy. I thought of my father, who died in June 2003; he served in the US Navy during World War II, was an excellent swimmer, and would have celebrated his 97th birthday today. The Navy hymn was one of his favorites: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save;” may He still the restless wind and wave tonight!

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