Desolation Sound At Last – Prideaux Haven

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Prideaux Haven is a large protected anchorage surrounded by towering peaks offering breathtaking vistas. It is well-known for its bath temperature swimming water and protected anchorages. It is equally well-known as one of the busiest anchorages in Desolation Sound. The harbor is nestled up against the mainland and protected by a string of barrier islands that offer protection from wind, sea and wakes from passing boats. The barrier islands offered us hours and hours of exploration by kayak and paddleboard.  We found a snug spot to anchor stern tied to shore and quickly started exploring by kayak, sailing dinghy, by swimming and by foot. We have a favorite swimming spot here and we were happy to get back there. We named this particular swimming spot Grandpa John Rock. On one of our many trips to Grandpa John Rock we met a wonderful family from the Vancouver area who were on holiday. Mark, Kelly, Christian and Ava Cooper were an absolute delight to visit with and offered many tips about places to visit in the area. Ava and Victoria were very close in age and really hit it off. They spent many hours together exploring the shore and finding shells and small creatures below the water.  The Cooper’s genuine kindness really personified the welcoming nature that we love about our Canadian neighbors to the north.

One day after returning from a day hiking we noticed a familiar boat in our anchorage. Our former dock neighbors from the M/V Red Rover had anchored just a few 100 meters from us. We were all happy to see Allison and Kevin along with their two dogs Zoe and Max. They are on a similar trip as us. They left Seattle in June and are slowing making their way to Mexico. Ashley and I went on a tour of their amazing yacht. It is a good thing we did not have access to the internet because I am sure that Ashley would have been looking for our next boat as soon as we got back to Samadhi. It was really fun talking to someone on the same path as us. We lived in the same marina, we are now exploring the same area, and we will see each other again on the other end of this continent. 

The forecast called for heavy rain the next day. And while most boats in the anchorage prepared to wait out the deluge we loaded our backpacks for a hike to the summit of Llandover Mountain on an island two miles north of where we were anchored. When we awoke the next morning sure enough it was raining. And raining and raining. It was really coming down. Undaunted, we donned our rain gear and loaded in the dinghy for the 15 minute run to a bay called Roscoe Bay which is where the trail to the top of the mountain begins. As we arrived at Roscoe bay you could see many faces looking out their windows wondering what we were doing out in this downpour. I am sure that they were even more surprised when they saw us head up the trail. As is most always the case Victoria and Alexander were having a blast hiking in the rain. They love it when mom and dad say “of course you can walk in that mud puddle”. The hike was a tough one. The summit was 2300 feet high and the trail as a little over 6.5 miles long.  Did I mention it was pouring down rain? Alexander led the entire way up the mountain.  When we got to the top, there was a beautiful view of the inside of rain clouds so we did not stay long. Victoria then led us all the way back to the dinghy. We planned on stopping for a swim in the lake that was less that ½ a mile from where we left our dinghy. But by time we reached the dinghy we all decided that we had had enough of a fresh water bath for today. So we headed back to the boat for some hot chocolate and a movie to wait out the rest of the rainstorm.

The day after the rainstorm brought beautiful, sunny and warm weather. We took this opportunity to explore some of the surrounding islands, inlets and reefs via dinghy. After investigating a few different coves and bays we settled on a small rock just of shore of a small island. This rock had no name so we named it Aunt Molly Rock. Here we spent the afternoon swimming and honing Alexander and Victoria’s snorkeling skills. Alexander is becoming more and more fish every day. We had to finally tell him to get out of the water and eat and drink something because we was just swimming around with his face in the water and snorkel in the air as he explored the many nooks and crannies that the fish were hiding in. Aunt Molly Rock also had a great ledge on one side that Alexander decided to use as a launching spot for many jumps and cannonballs into the water. Finally after what seemed like hours of jumping in the water and then swimming back and doing it again, I asked him if he wanted to learn to dive. He, of course did not hesitate with a resounding, yes. After the first couple of “dives” that were more like him just leaning over at the waste and then jumping in feet first, he graduated to belly flops. Next were a series of varying degrees of loud smacking belly flops that any harbor seal would be proud of. Undaunted he finally learned to kick up his heels just before his feet leave the ground and he was diving. It was really great to see the pride and excitement on his face. So for the next hour or so Alexander was diving.  On our way back to Samadhi we came upon a large pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins. There were about 80 of them with many jumping clear out of the water. At first they were bunched pretty tight but they soon spread out across the bay. Many times one would surface less than 100 feet from our little boat. It was truly an amazing site. We would see them many more times before our stay at Prideaux Haven was over.

One of our favorite things about Desolation Sound is the hiking; most specifically the ability to hike to a warm, freshwater lake (we weren’t able to experience this earlier in our trip). There are countless such hikes. In previous trips here we have anchored in Tenedos Bay and made a quick hike to the wonderfully warm Unwin Lake. If you get there early enough in the day you can find a warm bathing rock to jump off of when it is time to cool off. As it turns out there is a trailhead in Melanie Cove (a cove right in Prideaux Haven) that leads to Unwin Lake. No need to pick up anchor. The trail is really well marked and maintained with just enough technical and difficult terrain to make us feel like we are getting in a workout and not just an afternoon stroll (we might be avid and experienced hikers – and this might be tougher than we make it sound). We made the hike twice in our time at Prideaux. As is usual the kids led the way and completed the three ridge climbs either direction like it was nothing. In fact, the first day we did the hike they all dropped me thanks to the 120 squats that Mr. Murphy thought we should add to our workout the day before. Both trips to the lake were without disappointment. Alexander perfected his jumps and dives; it’s hard to get this kid out of the water!  We found a Northern Alligator lizard that seemed pretty large for the area (later to find out they grow to 11” and he was average size) and he hung out on the rocks above us the entire time we were there. When it is time to leave we will truly miss this place.

In previous visits to Desolation Sound we have always stopped in at Squirrel Cove. The anchorage is in a fairly protected bay with hiking trails and a lagoon that you can access by dinghy or kayak when the tide is right. Outside of the bay a few miles there is a great little store, large laundry and coin showers and the most amazing little take-out food shack. They also have a farmer’s market on Sundays. We needed to re-provision the fresh food and had 4 loads of stinky laundry wash BUT were not quite ready to pick up anchor and leave Prideaux Haven so we packed up the dinghy with our grocery bags, laundry and garbage and took off for the approx 11 mile trip over to Squirrel Cove. In the dinghy that is a little over half an hour’s ride. It appeared we left when everyone else was leaving their anchorages for the morning, the boat traffic was crazy and there were lots of wakes on the crossing. The kids, Victoria specifically, enjoy hitting the wakes at high speed and catching a bit of air. It probably reminds them of the days we would go out on our ski boat and they would tube across the wake and catch air, laughing and screaming in delight. We arrived just before the farmer’s market was set to open and headed up the dock with laundry bags in hand. We headed straight for the laundry to get that going before doing a bit of shopping and were saddened by the state of the laundry room. It was filled with machines yet only 2 washers and 2 dryers worked and they had signs on them that said “this machine works at the moment”, the building was in quite a state of disrepair and the washers had tattered paperback books for legs to keep them from becoming unbalanced. The restrooms with showers are in the back of the laundry and looked even worse. The vanities were rotted and the showers torn out completely. Once the laundry was going we ran over to the store to get cash for the farmer’s market and to find out where they’d be setting it up. The farmer’s market had died out a couple years ago and the ATM was found unplugged in the corner of the store; out of order. The kids were hungry by then so it was time for the take out shack – they have the most amazing falafel and sweet potato fries. It was closed up; for good. There was a sign stating all the food that used to be available at the shack could be found at the small waterfront restaurant. We did get our falafel and fries but it just wasn’t the same and most of the food went uneaten. As the laundry was finishing up we ran into the store to provision the fresh food needed. As the kids receive a “home” (read boat) education we often talk to them about how to afford this lifestyle we have to be frugal with how we spend our money. We also talk to them about economics and how it is important for us to spend our money at small businesses that depend on us, even if we feel we are overpaying for avocadoes (when you’re buying an avocado in a northern latitude in a country that doesn’t grow them that’s what you get!) or fuel in comparison to what we’re used to in the states. We finished up our purchase and headed back feeling quite sad that if we ever make it back here quite likely there won’t be any amenities for the boaters that pass through 3 months a year.

After our rainy hike the weather just got better and better. The sun was hot and bright from sun up until it went behind the trees on the island. The day after our last trip to Unwin Lake we stayed inside all day feeling quite drained by the previous day’s exposure to the sun. The kids played with Lego and stuffed animals all day. Mid-afternoon we noticed a really neat looking boat had anchored a few boats away. It looked like a mini pirate ship with a raised aft-deck, ratlines leading up to a crow’s nest on the 2 piece wooden mast, and what looked like amazing craftsmanship from afar. The next time Ranger needed a shore break Dan stopped to compliment them on the boat and got an invitation for all of us to go see it later in the day. We were so excited! What we could see from afar was nothing at all compared to seeing the boat in person. Dawna and Duane Stutzman from Portland built the ferro-cement boat named Dawn Ray themselves as newlyweds and lived aboard it for 14 years. Bringing home their babies to it when they were born. They eventually built a home and moved shore side when their 2 kids were early elementary aged. You can see in every little detail the pride and care they have put into it. And the details were just amazing. The aft cabin contains a quaint settee / dinette with romantic paned windows astern (just like old time sailing ships!), mid-ship was the living area that they called the library. There were 2 settees on either side with a sea berth on 1 side, beautiful bookshelves throughout and the cutest enameled, cast iron wood stove to keep it toasty warm in colder months. You could literally feel what it must have been like to be there as a young family snug and toasty reading books and enjoying each other’s company. Forward of the library was their stateroom and forward of that a v-berth with twin berths for their kids. After our tour Alex asked to climb the mast (yikes) and with our permission Duane got him secured in a climbing rope and off they went. When they got to the crow’s nest Duane got him transferred over to it to sit for a quick picture (of course we forgot to bring a camera or phone). Once Alex was back on deck Victoria asked to do it as well so off she went with Duane and they completed the procedure. I’m sure Duane was wondering what he’d gotten himself into halfway up the second time! Both kids are competent climbers and Duane clearly had done this a few times. The kids have not stopped talking about climbing Dawn Ray’s mast and we are thankful to have met such kind and open people. They were celebrating 40 years of marriage on this trip but were anxious to get home to their grandkids – we wish them many more years of happiness and memories aboard their beautiful boat!

We spent 15 days anchored in Prideaux Haven. We’ve never been out on a trip for longer than 15 days, let alone to stay in 1 place that long. It felt really good and it was nice to get out our “toys” and slow down. We used our paddle board for the first time and the kids were instantly hooked. Both have taken it out on their own many times and no one has fallen off yet. We got the kayaks out for trips throughout the coves. Dan and Alexander took the sailing dinghy out for a trip as well. It takes a little more effort to get it off the bow of Samadhi and the sailing rig installed so it doesn’t come out often. Another “toy” we got out for the first time was our solar oven. We made brownies, berry muffins, bread, rice pilaf, and roasted beets in it. When we were at the dock and cooking, what we thought was a lot, we’d go through a propane tank in 8 weeks. We carry 2 so can go 4 months before refilling. Now that we make bread almost daily we go through 1 tank in a little over 5 weeks so cooking with the sun occasionally made us feel a little less dependent on the outside world. Alas, we felt compelled to go find another place to explore and 15 days without cell service left us feeling a little disconnected.

A Busy Prideaux Haven

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