The Gulf Islands Book Tour by Sea


At high tide on the afternoon of July 23rd we launched the RASCAL into the mouth of the Nickomekl River, for the launch of NO ORDINARY SEAMAN into the hands of readers on the southern Gulf Islands. The former is my friend’s MacGregor 26; the latter is my newly published nautical memoir.


I am now back at sea again, at the helm of a small sailboat, crossing the Salish Sea with friends, Captain BD (Brian) and Chief Mate van Herb. This vessel is smaller than the lifeboats on the deep-sea freighter that I steered through these waters many years ago.

The sun burns hot from a cloudless blue sky, and everything is reflected from the cold smooth ocean. We are becalmed, motoring on a southwest course across the strait from Crescent Beach to Whaler Bay. I am on a mariner’s book tour courtesy of Brian, who suggested that No Ordinary Seaman would be a great sell in the marinas and bookstores on the Gulf Islands during the summer months with all the pleasure boats stopping for fuel, supplies, and in search of nautical books to read. I took him up on the idea, commandeered his boat, and here we are.


Port #1  Monday

Active Pass is in view now, but we will navigate through there tomorrow. We round Gossip Island and pull into Whaler Bay for the night. This is at the southeast end of Galiano Island. As we make our way we are careful to steer clear of Seal Rocks at the mouth of this protected bay.

The rocks are not hard to miss because their craggy tops are dry at high tide. There are no lazy seals lounging on them this late in the afternoon.


Mates Karlsen and Gale

Our berth at the government dock awaits. We tie up and are soon grilling steaks on the small barbecue unit that is attached to the aft rail. A glass of good red wine is in the hands of each carnivore as we chew on the tender beef.


After many exchanges of rather tame sea stories, we bunk down in challenging quarters – in the forepeak  (very tight quarters under the bow deck).


Good grief, I am thinking, half a year after full hip replacement, should I be performing the contortionist sleeping position in  of a 26-foot sailboat? And worse, the predictable two or three in the morning salination of the already salty sea will require exiting through the forward hatch, located between my knees and my ankles. For the most part, these challenges were overcome during the tour with no mishaps other than a sore neck for a few days after returning home.

Morning comes early with the sun beating through the open hatch. We are soon hiking up the road toward Sturdies Bay where I am expected Galiano Island Bookstore .




Rob takes a few of my books, then we have a leisurely homemade scone and coffee breakfast right next door at the Sturdies Bay Bakery & Café.


A nice long walk in the shaded woods eats up time while we wait for slack tide when the waters are at rest in Active Pass: there is no way we are taking our small boat through there when the currents are running, whirlpools and all.


Just before departure I sell a book off the stern of the RASCAL to a local, whose friendly curiosity lands him a terrific nautical read, authored by this writer from White Rock.

It’s way cool going through Active Pass just a couple of feet off the water, rather than the couple of hundred feet higher from the deck of the Sprit of Vancouver, the Coastal Inspiration, or other ferry that usually takes me to Swartz Bay or Long Harbour. 

Spirit of British Columbia in Active Pass

From this level, the ferries seem to own the channel. Their passing is frequent, they are imposing. BD tracks them on his marine GPS and radio.