For those who frequent these waters, it is common knowledge that the Strait of Georgia is not a crossing to be taken lightly. The wind tends to build through the day, building steep wind chop which can run opposite the powerful currents the flood back and forth through the straits. With that knowledge in the back of our minds we got underway at first light, slipping out of the confines of Pender Harbor along with a slew of other likeminded skippers, stretching out into a ragged line as we turned south past the point.
The morning evolved into a brilliant sunny day, and much to our relief, our incredible string of calm weather continued, and we bobbed in a small following sea. A pair of humpback whales broke the surface near Telita, their dark skin a gleaming contrast to the silver water around them. It wasn’t until several minutes later that we saw they had a calf with them, probably born early this year in the warm waters of the tropics. The adults swam with the calf between them in a protective embrace. Not wishing to disturb the young creature, we linger only a moment before again returning to our course.
By late morning we have neared the opposite shore, and the bottom comes up to meet us. The rocks and reefs of the Flat Top Islands force us into a circuitous route, winding towards Gabriola Passage. The gulf islands are markedly different from anywhere we have so far visited. The dry climate and sculpted sandstone shoreline lend the area a feeling all its own. Small marinas and cabins dot the coast, while yachts and powerboats motor up and down the channels that separate the islands.
An hour’s motoring south through Trincomali Channel brings us to Montague Harbor, a broad, well-protected anchorage on Galiano Island’s west shore. While certainly a destination in itself, it is also a popular jumping off point for boats going south into American waters, and the harbor is filled with sailboats and yachts of every description. A provincial park encompasses the point that forms the north arm of the bay, and the crews of Aquila and Telita join Greg and Rowan for a walk to enjoy the hot sunshine and admire the wide shell beach and gorgeous coastal forest.
Any trip to Montague Harbor is incomplete without a trip to the Hummingbird Pub aboard the rickety school bus that ferries patrons from the harbor dock across the south end of the island. Captained by the charismatic odd-ball Tommy Transit, the ride is part island tour, part show, and part concert. Tommy passes out rhythm instruments as passenger’s board, and soon the whole bus is playing along to rock and funk classics blasting over the sound system, accompanied by Tommy on the drum kit mounted above the rearview mirror. The pub itself is lovely, and everyone returns to their boats happily humming snatches of Elton John under a bright red sky.