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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.


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Wooden Ship on the Waters
An historic vessel sets the tone for cruising Canada?s culturally rich Gulf Islands

We joined Capt. Colin in the wheelhouse as he started up the twin 325hp engines. He took us out on the starboard passageway and told us to listen: “People come just to hear these engines,” he said. “You can’t hear that sound anywhere else; it’s an extinct noise.” Griffinson and devoted engineer, Jack Dixon, have lovingly rebuilt the 400-ton vessel’s original WW II diesel engines (Atlas Imperial direct twin reversing engines), making parts that were no longer available.

With the water churning behind, and a sound that resembled a steam locomotive, we were off. Although we would eventually be heading northeast to Vancouver, the captain had decided to first detour south on a hunch that there might be some orca and pilot whales in the area, catching the end of the salmon.

As we headed out past Sidney Spit, a large sandbar, we were treated to an informal lunch on the aft fandeck. The area is enclosed with plastic and canvas shades and a large propane heater, making it comfortable, no matter what the weather. The aft deck dining table, supported by the original propellers, was laid out with an array of grilled chicken, vegetables, and salads. “Breakfast and lunch are usually served family style,” said personable First Mate Stanley Katz, “but we also do six-course meals with accompanying wines, depending on what guests want.”

As we lingered over our raspberry and peach crostata in Devonshire cream custard, Stanley announced that there were whales just ahead. We hurried outside to see at least a dozen or so keeping pace with us starboard! Then we saw them all around us. Arcing and diving, their immense black and white bodies looked quite graceful as they pursued salmon heading to winter in the Fraser River.

The captain even spotted a cow and her calf swimming side by side, as we turned north, moving toward Irish Bay, a protected little cove near Saturna Island where we would drop anchor for the night. As the sun started to fade, we climbed into the skiff for a tour around the bay. It was difficult to believe that we were just 10 minutes from Vancouver Airport by seaplane, for we had the bay entirely to ourselves and it seemed like we were a million miles away from civilization. Peeking out here and there through the trees was an occasional home, but even these seemed uninhabited. Many of the houses on the smaller islands are without electricity. Some have generators; others rely on log fires, kerosene lamps, and outhouses.

One thing is certain: BCers like the way their islands are, and they have endorsed strong legislation to protect them from development. Capt. Colin pointed out a salmon fisherman’s typical old island homestead, small and white, and nestled into a tiny cove. A wooden shack at the edge of the water held his nets. There were orchards beyond and farmland to the rear. It was illustrative of the self-sufficient life natives have practiced in the Gulf Islands for centuries, but it is one of the last white houses to survive.

Today’s strict buiding codes dictate that houses must be environmentally blended into the landscape. None can be white. Instead, most are built in a Pacific Northwest style with dark brown shakes and green roofs, hidden amongst the evergreens and arbutus trees that line the shores. Many have small private docks, which are silver. Only the red ones are government docks, which anyone can use.

As the sky darkened, and a few fish splashed here and there to break the silence, we returned to the comforts of Pacific Yellowfin, where a candlelit dinner awaited us on the aft deck. A centerpiece with votives, fall leaves, and a selection of vintage and new boat-themed books welcomed us. Chef Clare started us off with a salad composed of organic spinach, candied pecans, goat cheese, strawberries, and caramelized onions with a mango vinaigrette. In keeping with her practice of using as many local – and organic – ingredients as possible, she then served chili-crusted fresh-caught halibut over lemon risotto, with baby pattypan squash.

After our dessert of coconut creme brulée, we donned the cozy outerwear and blankets the crew made available, while we sipped lattes on the port passageway and marveled at the constellations, which seemed to be within arm’s reach. The next day our last guest would fly in by floatplane to join us, and we would explore Saturna Island.

Floatplanes are like the taxis of the islands, and what makes them so accessible. Although the region operates on a fabulous ferry system, the farther north you go in the islands, the fewer the stops and the lengthier the ride. Alternatively, you can catch a ride on a floatplane for only about $75, and arrive with ease. These planes, too, are historic. Many are from the ’50s. Known as the “Jeeps of the north,” they were workhorses, used to carry supplies to the mountains. Today, they are not only useful, but a colorful part of the scenery, whether flying overhead offering fantastic views, or sharing dock space with area boaters.

About Jamie Matusow
Jamie Matusow is a freelance writer based in New York. She was the long time managing editor of legendary Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine. Jamie traveled extensively throughout Mediterranean, Caribean, and the Bahamas where she filed many of her charter stories.

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