Princess Louisa At Last
June 19, 2023
We loved Jedediah, but it was time to start the 2-day trek to Princess Louisa. Our ultimate destination is at the end of Jervis Inlet and can only be reached through Malibu Rapids. These rapids allegedly can run anywhere from 9-12 knots, so we needed to ensure we transited through them at slack tide. Unfortunately, the slack tide was at 2:30, and we were 45 miles away. So it was going to be an early morning for us.
So we picked up the anchor on a cloudy day and headed for Pender Harbour. It would be a short hop of about 15 miles, but it would be our best option for a staging ground to get to Princess Louisa. And luckily, there was a nice breeze that would push us right into the harbour. Hopefully, we'd be able to sail the entire way.
Not quite. There was no wind in the channel once we left the anchorage, but as we neared the end of the track, the wind picked up and slowly clocked around to be on the boat's beam (the side). Nicely, the wind also picked up, so we were flying along. We even had a pod of Orcas keeping us company while we rounded the bottom of Texada on our way back to the Sunshine Coast.
We were feeling pretty lucky. Since we left Vancouver, we'd had good wind each time we were out, and, more importantly, we were sailing so much faster than last summer. At first, we were pretty proud that we must have learned to sail properly. But the recent bottom paint refresh probably contributed to the newfound fast speed….and maybe the new sails.
It was a quick 3 hours, and we were at the entrance to Pender Harbour. Not without some drama, though. We were taking the waves on the beam, and with the increasing wind, we were moving at an average of 7 knots. With the propellor spinning, we were starting to hear some strange sounds. Mark tried to stop the prop from spinning, but because of the speed, he couldn't put the prop brake on. So we lived with the shuddering sounds and cringed a little more each time it happened.
We'd never been here before and weren't sure what to expect. The entrance was narrow, and we needed to follow some beacons on the way in. The wind wasn't subsiding like we thought it would, and there were a lot of boats. We motored through the various bays and settled on Garden Bay for the evening. We took the dinghy to shore and picked up some more fresh food. It seems that we're always on the hunt for fresh food. Having a lot of refrigeration would be nice, but we don't, so we constantly search for the next grocery store. And eggs. We're always out of eggs. I'd get a chicken in a heartbeat, but Mark and the dog disagree.
Well, the following day came quickly. 6 am quick. We headed out with mugs full of coffee and puffy coats on. There was barely a stiff fart of wind, so we motored our way out of Pender Harbour and towards Agamemnon Channel. We motored and motored and motored. Running the engine meant hot water, so we enjoyed toasty showers en route.
Oops, the shower bilge pump broke and flooded the boat. Mark was called to duty to fix this. Thankfully the water was calm, and we had hours to go before we reached our destination. So down he went to work. Okay. Bilge fixed, back to enjoying the sail. Oh, wait! The hot water tank inlet popped off and drained the entirety of what was left in the water tank into the main bilge. Oh, and then the bilge pump clogged. Back to work for Mark.
Many hours later, Mark had missed most of the majestic trip up the inlet fixing bilges, pumps and plumbing but had everything set. The wind had filled in, and we lazily sailed towards the rapids. Like yesterday, the wind built up before we needed to do some tricky maneuvering. We dropped the sails and motored towards the rapid in the line of boats waiting to cross through. We transited the rapids in line without any issues.
Once through, we finally understood what the hype was about. The inlet was surrounded by high cliff walls that we couldn't grasp how big they were. After doing a Google, we discovered the walls can be as high or higher than 3,000 feet. And the water was deep and blue, in some places well over 400 feet. We motored past (the wind had died to zero) McDonald Island towards Chatterbox Falls and the moorings. We grabbed the last ball on the far edge, tucked up against a massive cliff and a couple of small waterfalls, and just sat back to take in the surroundings. Knowing we were moored in over 400 feet of water was weird.
The next three days went by in a blink of an eye. Obviously, the first thing we did was walk over and look at the falls. It was a relatively wet spring, so the falls were still running pretty well. It was intense seeing them so close.
What people didn't tell us about the inlet was that, yes, there's a massive waterfall, but there are dozens of other ones. So we headed out on the paddleboards to check them out. The water was incredibly clear and full of jellyfish (both friendly and unfriendly kind). There were also dozens of seals swimming around checking us out.
We took advantage of the clear water and donned the wetsuits to check out the underwater cliff walls. We swam amongst the little jellies and managed to avoid the Lionsmane Jellies, but Mark saw one with 20-foot-long stingers.
The nights were dark and starry. We saw some of the most magnificent bioluminescence we've ever seen. Mark got the bright idea to go paddleboarding in the pitch dark to see it. So off we went. It was so dark we couldn't see each other. We could only see the schools of fish lighting up the water and the seals hunting them. Seeing green flashes shooting around the water and under the boards was wild as the seals chased their dinner. It was all so surreal. Cameras don't do it justice.
After our 3 days were up on the moorings, we moved down to McDonald Island, the halfway point of Princess Louisa Inlet. It's an entirely different vibe down there. We were no longer tucked against the cliff walls but nicely between the land and an island. The water was still calm, but it felt warmer and cozier, with trees at eye level. The island anchorage is home to a kids' camp, so much more non-boater action was happening.
We relaxed here for another three days, exploring the shoreline by paddle board before the early wake-up to cross back through the rapids and continue north.
I had built Princess Louisa up so much in the last couple of months that I was worried it wouldn't meet my expectations. I can certainly say it did. It exceeded them. When we were motoring out of Malibu Rapids, we both wondered if it could get any better than the last few places we'd visited. Who knows?
NM Sailed: 66