Sooke in September

If the BC Gulf Islands are a shimmering hippie bead collection of sunsets, arbutus bark and sunburn (they are), then the Straight of Juan de Fuca is a frosty glass of “where the fuck are we,” and “are we moving forward?”

Island Girl lives — temporarily — in Victoria now. We talked and talked smack about trying living aboard, and here we are. Sharon and Adam generously gave her up for us to have a temporary home in September — nestled up by the interior wall of the Coast Hotel. 

More ought to be said about that adventure — I’ll get to that. Last weekend we met the family and plotted a course for somewhere reachable in a day. Upon consideration, that left us Sooke and Sooke only. Would that we had time to get to the J de F islands — another bag of marbles — but that will have to wait for another year.

The last time we were this far South, the boat was four feet narrower, Adam had more hair, and Jedd was hanging off the backstay, whooping with cheer and taunting the Pacific swells to do us harder. Now, both of us have less hair, and I’ve apparently lost my invincibility at sea. I don’t yearn for blue water challenges the way I used to; indeed Sarena has more interest in that than me. Vacation time is hard to come by — give me a hammock and a sunset any day. Davy Jones is best viewed from afar, perhaps trying to retrieve his heart from Johnny Depp.

No matter, this time: just like our crossing down to Victoria, there was nary a lick of wind. The seas were mostly velvety smooth. However they were not still — far from it. Legendary are the currents in this Straight, and on the way West, we had the full advantage of them. Island Girl has a hull speed of around 6.6 knots by the math — a little faster in practice, in my opinion. With a following current in, say, the Georgia Straight, we might run along at a tidy 7-7.5kts, no problem. However I have never before maintained a steady 9.5kts over ground for the better part of an hour.


At the time, this was a little difficult to appreciate, with the rain coming down in peals, almost entirely occluding the candy-striped stalk of Race Rock. Still, that misty landmark slid by awful fast, delivering us to the entrance of Sooke harbour by early afternoon.

Have I mentioned we’d never been up to the Sooke basin before? Normally I’d not think much of this. Just go over the chart on our various screens, and check it out. Sooke is a little trickier than that. Essentially a protected bay feeding into a lagoon, the harbour is a barely stirred pot of sandbars, rocks, reefs and tangles of kelp, seldom actually revealed by the tide. Navigating it essentially means flying by wire, in these scroll-y modern times. One could do this with a paper chart — indeed perhaps one should — but we were all pleased to not have had to rely on paper. A difference of datum-depth calibrations between our plotter and Adam’s Navionics made this passage especially interesting.

A few hairpin turns back from hidden mud-bars gave us new-found confidence in our instruments, and we played it as safe as possible navigating the deep(er) NE channel into Sooke Basin. This wide tub is itself relatively deep, though you can’t see a thing through the turbid water, which was a nasty brown from stagnation.

A beautiful sunset evening, a great dinner, and a new barbeque for my birthday made the stressful entry worth the trip. I recommend the location with a high-resolution chart and a stiff drink after the anchor is down.

Happiness is a new barby