Solstice Cruise, part 1
thumbnail On the far side of Gabriola Passage the wind is light, the water flat. We said before leaving Nanaimo that it might be fun to do a "photo op" in relatively calm conditions; Jon could get into his kayak with the camera and I could sail Taz around him, making approaches on different points of sail. This seems like a good spot to give it a try....

thumbnail ... as there's just enough breeze to move the boat, but not enough to make it really tricky launching and retrieving the kayak. Photos from this exercise have already been posted over at Taz' blog, so I won't replicate them here. She really does look impressive under full sail.

thumbnail We spend some contented hours tacking back and forth along the shore of Valdes Island. Once we are startled and rather delighted to hear an avalanche as we approach the cliffs; that's a first for me!

thumbnail There are a few other boats sailing out here today, but no one approaches us closely. We are however approached and hailed by a Forest Service safety inspector in a little motor skiff; he comes alongside and engages me in an enthusiastic conversation about junk rig. He admires Taz sincerely and tells me about his plans to convert an affordable steel hull to junk rig. We chat about his summer job touring the smaller islands looking for fire hazards (tough life, eh), and I send him on his way with a couple of chocolate cookies :-) Other than that encounter, no one comes within hail; we have the sea and sky mostly to ourselves, and spend the afternoon happily putting Taz through her paces.

thumbnail As the evening wears on we round the southern tip of Pylades Island, leave Tree Island to starboard (I'm tempted to cut between Pylades and Tree but think better of it), and head North past Ruxton to the southern tip of De Courcy; Jon knows of a little-used but perfectly sound anchorage right around the corner from the too-popular, crowded Pirate's Cove. Here we drop the hook (and since we are fairly close to shore and I feel paranoid, the stern hook as well) and go ashore for a little stroll around the peninsula to Pirate's Cove. For several years I have dreamt of seeing my boat lying prettily to her anchor in some quiet cove, and here she is at last.

thumbnail De Courcy is not far South of Nanaimo, but summer seems further advanced here; these Gulf Islands are drier and warmer than the Nanaimo coast. The grass and mosses are dried out and golden rather than green.

thumbnail When we return from Pirate's Cove I cannot resist some more portraits of Taz at anchor: she looks so pretty, and the setting is so like a classic Asian woodcut or brush painting.

thumbnail See what I mean? I'd sure like to paint a watercolour based on these pictures.

thumbnail OK, this is as bad as baby pictures, I know :-) but what a charming composition.

thumbnail Sunset blazes over Pirate's Cove just the other side of the peninsula; Jon stares thoughtfully at some kind of strange orange stuff on the marsh grasses in the saddle between peninsula and the main body of the island.

thumbnail Patches of "danger orange" stuff puzzle us at first: has some vandal been spray painting? has someone sprayed some evil herbicide? But Jon takes a sample and discoveres that the flaming orange stuff is some kind of oddball fungus, growing on and around the grass. We've never seen anything quite like it.

thumbnail The sun is setting and Taz looks very small against the big sky and quiet sea.

thumbnail As our friend Adrian says, "Calendar pictures!"

thumbnail The wind drops further and the sea is becoming glassy; the very last light of sunset catches Ruxton Island to the South.

thumbnail We paddle around the corner of De Courcy to see the very last of the sunset, leaving Taz in shadow. Later we'll return and have a nice dinner (lightly pan-fried halibut on a bed of green salad, naan bread, and fresh fruit). I'm very happy with the day's sailing and Taz' performance. Yesterday was a bit frustrating (too much wind, having to motorsail, no sleep the night before) but today has been justabout perfect.