The (jarring) Return to Civilization

Continuing our Southward journey, our plan for last Friday was to travel from Lagoon Cove to the Octopus Islands.  That meant an early start in order to arrive at the Okisollo Rapids at or around slack water.  As it turned out, currents on the way down were favorable and we got there a bit early, upon hearing from another boat that conditions were mild through the rapids, we decided to transit both Okisollo and nearby Hole in the Wall rapids and proceed on towards Desolation Sound.  As soon as we entered Calm Channel, we realized that we were back in civilization, with an exponential increase in boat traffic.  And it seemed that all of it was headed towards Squirrel Cove, a convenient anchorage on the way to Prideaux Haven from the North.  There were more boats in Squirrel Cove than we have ever seen before… I counted nearly 50.  Our friends Kevin and Alison on N55 Red Rover greeted us on the way in and told us that there had been even more boats there the day before.  This was quite different from our experience over the past couple of months, when we were often alone or shared an anchorage with just one or two other boats.  

I counted 40 plus boats in Squirrel Cove, more than I had ever seen before

We had a similar experience visiting Prideaux Haven, the main anchorage in Desolation Sound Marine Park, and Miranda’s favorite.  We have fond memories of sunshine and warm water from visits as far back as seven years ago.  This is arguably the most popular anchorage in the area, and is always crowded.  Like many of the spots in the Desolation Sound area, anchoring often requires a stern tie.  A stern tie is similar to a Med mooring, in that you drop your anchor and back up towards shore, fixing a line from the back of the boat to a spot on shore.  The boat is oriented perpendicular to the shore, and the tie limits the swing, allowing many more boats to fit into an anchorage.

Stern tied to one of the new pins in Prideaux Haven.

BC Parks and the BC Parks Forever Society have undertaken a project to install stern tie pins in Prideaux Haven and other locations around Desolation Sound (http://www.marineparksforever.ca/sterntie.html).  This makes it much easier to stern tie, and preserves the trees along the shore, which had served as the tie points before the pins.  Here is a picture from the Waggoner Guide (the “bible” for NW boaters) showing the locations of the stern tie pins, which are clearly marked and have a length of chain hanging down from the pin to make it easy to access regardless of tide.

Nifty map of stern tie locations from the 2019 Waggoner Guide.

Unfortunately, when we came into Prideaux, very few boats were actually using the stern tie pins.  This was quite different from our earlier visits, where most boats were stern tied even without the convenience of pins.  There were many large (50’ or greater) boats swinging at anchor, very close to each other.  Furthermore, in many spots, the anchored boats made it impossible to actually get in and use the stern ties.  We eventually found a spot that we could squeeze in and stern tie, so all was good, but we wondered why the other boats were not making use of them.  Gwen thought it would be a good idea for the Waggoner Guide to include some information about how to stern tie in addition to listing the locations of the pins.

My conclusion after touring the area in the dinghy is that the area where most of the new pins were placed (South of Eveleigh Island) is where boats that did not want to stern tie came to anchor.   Honestly, I was a bit suprised that so many large boats were anchored so close together (some only a boat length apart) without using the stern ties.  All fine unless the wind picks up. Kevin and Allison from Red Rover were here a couple of weeks ago for the annual summer concert and reported anchor dragging carnage when the wind came up in the middle of the night.

Lots of big boats swinging in Prideaux.

Anyway, we enjoyed a relaxing couple of days at anchor after so many long runs down from Ketchikan. From Prideaux, we traveled down to the SYC Outstation at Garden Bay, and as I write this we are preparing to depart for Ovens Island in the Gulf Islands, across the Strait of Georgia.

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