Nanaimo and south to St. Helens Marina

One of the destinations we particularly enjoy, in our wanderings away from our home moorage at St. Helens Marina, is Nanaimo, British Columbia.  Last summer we took a six week trip north to Puget Sound and Canadian waters, and visited Nanaimo twice.  Here are some pictures and memories from that trip.

View of the Sunshine Coast, approaching Nanaimo

View of the Sunshine Coast, approaching Nanaimo

The approach to Nanaimo from the north passes through some of the most beautiful waters in the Pacific Northwest.  There are mountains to the east and mountains to the west, often covered with snow.  We were lucky enough to pass through this area in calm weather — we’ve often been there when the wind has been howling and kicking up big seas.

Our son, Ian, had been with us for a week, and we needed to get to Nanaimo to meet his Kenmore air seaplane, which would take him back to Seattle.

Collage of Nanaimo Scenes

Collage of Nanaimo Scenes

Nanaimo has a waterfront path that runs from the Nanaimo Yacht Club (where we would get moorage) right to Kenmore Air’s terminal near Departure Bay.

We spent the next day and a half walking a lot, experiencing Nanaimo’s sights, in between laundry, grocery shopping and computer troubleshooting.  They have a wacky picture frame at the Harbourfront Park, looking out across Swy-A-Lana Lagoon and across to the mountains beyond the Sunshine Coast.  We took advantage of that, taking several pictures with different combinations of us.  We found a Greek Restaurant, close to the Yacht Club, with great food.  We listened to the town bagpiper, and watched as they shot off the ceremonial cannon. Just prior to Ian’s departure, we had brunch in an Old Town cafe.

We saw Ian off on his Kenmore Air flight, and then headed south the next morning.  There was a brief try at fishing, adjacent to Gabriola Passage, and then we headed to Chemainus, a new destination for us.  The town bills itself as a tourist destination, with lots of old fashioned murals on building walls.  We found the people friendly, but the town somewhat closed up after Labor Day.  We found an African restaurant which was quite popular, and quite good, but only one African dish on the menu (which we both ordered).  By the time we finished to walk back to the boat, there were people waiting for tables.

Foods that might be prohibited entry to the United States

Border Crossing Lunch

After that, we voyaged in succession to Bedwell Harbour, Friday Harbor and Port Angeles, planning to meet Mark there for the voyage down the coast.  A few memorable moments:  The lunch we had as we approached the US Border, knowing they would likely take away most of our produce.  It was quite delicious and a nice inspiration.

As we approached the border, there was a beautiful line of fog that hovered just there – almost as if it were saying: “Welcome to the Land of Mystery.”

Fog at the International Boundary

Fog at the International Boundary

In Port Angeles, we needed to do laundry.  Unlike most places, there are no machines in the marina, and no laundromats close by.  A Yelp search turned up two laundromats:  The one closer by had lower ratings, and user comments about the number of drug deals being transacted, and the litter of used hypodermic needles.  We elected to try the other one.


Fog at Waadah Island near Neah Bay

Mark arrived, and we departed at sunrise for the trip down the coast.  It was an uneventful trip (perhaps the best kind) and we motored most of the way.  As we proceeded westward out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the fog began to close in, and at times the visibility was quite limited.  Once we turned the corner it lifted somewhat, but we still didn’t see any sun until we were most of the way up the Columbia River.

Boat-made pizza

Bar-Crossing Pizza

Crossing the bar was a non-event (the best kind), and we anchored for the night in the Tongue Point Lagoon, enjoying “boat-made” pizza for dinner. The next day we were glad to get back up the river to St. Helens, finally arriving home to rescue some of our apple crop from the marauding deer!

Editor’s note:  See more tales of Craig & Barbara’s sailing adventures at their website.


Craig and Barbara Johnston are owners of S/V Sequoia, proud to be St. Helens Marina tenants since 2001.

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