Back to Big Smile, Spring 2019
Our winter of 2018/19 was very eventful with lots of skiing until a fall changed all that. In addition to all of our Stratton skiing and my Stratton volunteer work we made it to several other venues around the country. Shortly after our Christmas and New Years celebrations in Vermont we headed up to Smugglers Notch to use our timeshare week. It was the best and snowiest week we have had in our 25 years going to Smuggs. The week saw 30 inches of light, fluffy snow, perfect for skiing.
In late February we flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and immediately rented a car and headed north to Big Sky, Montana. We could not have asked for better conditions. Brilliant sunshine with an abundance of snow that stayed with us for the week. We liked it so much we booked the same condo for next winter.
From Big Sky we drove back down to Jackson Hole picking up Tara and Andrew at the JH airport. Jackson Hole has the reputation of being a tough skiing hill and it proved to be just that. After two days of flat light and tough skiing we decided a change was needed and drove to Grand Targhee Resort for the day. We loved it. Perfect weather and snow combined with very few people on the slopes made for an awesome day.
The weather and visibility at Jackson Hole improved greatly and we enjoyed our last three days. Except that on the last run on the last day Cath fell coming off the very top of the mountain. Tara, Andrew and I were hundreds of yards down slope but fortunately a young man from Maine stopped and helped her get back into her skis. The damage was done and although she was able to ski to the bottom very slowly on the traverse trails she had torn her left ACL and skiing for 2019 was over.
It wasn’t all skiing this winter. Cath joined a group of women to play Canasta Wednesday afternoons and I played backgammon with a group of men on Wednesday evenings. We also went to the Robert Burns dinner at the Dorset Inn. We dressed for the occasion.
Winter was over and it was time to drive cross country. We chose April 1 as our departure date. This years car trip would be a northerly route and have us cross into Canada from North Dakota. Along the way we stopped at Niagara Falls and South Bend, Indiana to walk the Notre Dame campus. We visited Milwaukee and stayed at the old Pabst Brewery, recently converted to a small hotel. A night in Minneapolis and Bismarck, ND were fun. Bismarck had a film festival going on and we got tickets for the event. Our first film festival and we really enjoyed it. We crossed the border into Canada and got on the Trans-Canada Highway. This highway is the longest in the world and stretches for 7,821km or 4,860 miles. First stop along the way, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Then Calgary, where we spent two nights. We took a 3 hour private tour and really got to see the city.
Our next stop, Banff, Alberta, was one we were really looking forward too. We missed this stop last year due to a snowstorm but no problem on this trip. Our destination was the Fairmont Banff Springs. This classic grand hotel was originally built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It has undergone substantial changes including a rebuilding due to a 1926 fire. It was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988. We had also made reservations for dinner at Sky Bistro, which you get to by taking a gondola to the 7,510 foot summit. The food was very good and the view amazing.
There were only two more stops to be made, one in the Okanagan wine region to pick up two cases of wine and the other in the Seattle area to pick up kayaking gear and two new folding bikes.
On to the ferry we go. Again we loaded onto the ferry in Anacortes for the couple hour ride to Sidney, BC. Again an easy and uneventful ride with a quick stop in Friday Harbor. We arrived at Big Smile on April 13, just shy of two weeks after leaving Vermont.
We were happy to see our boat and happier to see how clean she looked. On April 24 we were scheduled to cruise over to Roche Harbor for the Selene Rendezvous. Cath and I had volunteered to do the initial setup but as it was our first rendezvous we had no idea what to expect. We arrived on Wednesday, a day before the official start. Half a dozen Selenes were already there and over the next few hours 25 or so more Selenes would arrive. All told there were 38 Selenes at the rendezvous ranging in size from 43′ to 66′. Of the 38 boats, seven were first-timers to the rendezvous.
Cath and I did our little part on Wednesday with help from other couples. The event was fantastic. Days were filled with seminars and nearly one full day was spent on boat safety for couples. A live man-overboard drill was very interesting. We have the equipment on board Big Smile but in seven years of ownership we had never taken out the Lifesling. The nights were filled with food and cheer including a pirate themed dinner. For Cath and I it was a wonderful and educational experience.
Back to Sidney we went and using the Canadian customs phone system we reported our arrival and docked in our slip. On May 9, Cath’s brother Barry and wife Rebecca would be joining us for twelve days and we had some vital repairs to address. The most pressing repair was the watermaker. A manifold had cracked and needed replacement. Of course they shipped the wrong manifold and then when the second one arrived one fitting had different threads. Plus we found out that our genset batteries where dead and needed replacement. Dave, at Great White Marine, took care of it all for us and all was fixed before our guests arrived.
Barry and Rebecca arrived at our new favorite airport, Victoria International. Fifteen minutes later we were back on board. The weather had been great for many days and we hoped (but doubted) it would continue. Luck was on our side and only one day of rain, a motoring day, occurred.
Our agenda was loose and after two nights in Sidney showing them our adopted town we pushed off. First stop, Tod Inlet, adjacent to Butchart Gardens. As usual it was impressive.
After Tod Inlet we stopped at several lovely anchorages. The highlight of the twelve days however would be Princess Louisa Inlet. Our first experience through a set of rapids was interesting and thankfully uneventful. Malibu Rapids guards the entrance to the Inlet and must be taken at or near slack water. Entering was simple but leaving two days later was a bit more exciting.
Princess Louisa Inlet is magical. In the spring, powered by the snow melt and rains, the waterfalls are a sight to behold. We lost count of the number we spotted as we cruised up the inlet to the head. At the head you will find Chatterbox Falls. We managed to grab a side tie at the one dock adjacent to Chatterbox Falls. We were greeted by Park Ranger “Ming Neal”, a Parks employee who has been living at the cabin, (May to October) for nineteen years. She was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. We hiked “Ming’s Trail” and did lots of kayaking and took a long dinghy ride to view the many falls up close.
Our last anchorage was at Jedediah Island. Privately owned till 1995, the island was purchased and is now overseen by BC Parks. The island is beautiful and even has feral sheep living on it.
At several of the anchorages we had success crabbing. We caught and cooked Redrock crabs although it was Dungeness crabs that we would have preferred.
Barry and Rebecca left this morning on an early float plane from Harbour Air’s, Sechelt float base. We are tied to a dock in Gibsons, BC and it has been raining all day. A perfect day to write and finish this blog entry and to clean up Big Smile. We had a great time together and look forward to our next guest, Andrew!