Jupiter Orbits Saturna

Parties are past, fast friends gone astray.
Jupiter, dateless, finds her own way.

Her crew remains aboard at Roche Harbor to spend an evening with local friends who generously listen to Flotilla fables from weeks past.

The next morning it is time to return to Canadian waters, and we shape a short course across Border Pass to clear customs at Bedwell Harbour.


The SENĆOŦEN people named the island TEKTEKSEN which means Long Nose, but Saturna appears on charts as it was renamed by Spanish explorers for a small sloop, the Santa Saturnina, eponymous of some forgotten saint.

Jupiter travels to explore the Saturnan anulus including Tumbo, a curious island hanging into the Georgia Strait off the edge of the coastal shelf, and off the edge of Canadian waters. Tumbo is recognized as a mignon contraction of “tombolo“, a compelling geologic formation inviting exploration.


Two anchorages at Tumbo, separated by a great tombolo, present themselves. One is protected from northwest winds, the other safe from southeast blows. Finding no wind at all, we anchor in the big bay with expansive views of the Strait and all the human fabrications appearing on the opposite shore. These far-distant belching metropolitan vistas increase our contentment by reminding us of where we are not.

This bay is a four fathom sand pan separated from nearby deep waters by rocky reefs. It is quiet in the cove, but outside immense tidal exchanges rage. A distinct difference in the aqueous state indicates this profound hydraulic tension.

Slow moving freighters some miles distant are back and forthing at terminals near Vancouver. These vessels develop powerful rolling bow waves, which overwash the rocky reefs. Jupiter’s crew enjoys an evening of core training, tumblers tumbling, and anchor chain loop jangling.

Windlass + Wine

The crew learns that a noted Saturna winery, located on the south shore of the island, is accessible by boat, and that lunch is served.

Anchor raised, Jupiter makes way following her orbit back around Saturna Light, into Plumper Sound then Breezy Bay to lower anchor again.

Jupiter’s big Lofrans anchor windlass delivers only 20 feet of chain before refusing to offer more.

A peek into the chain locker reveals that the damp pyramid of ready chain links has fallen on top of itself reminding that “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last”, at least according to Lofrans.

Thirty minutes of cursing and tugging blindly in the iron heap proves useless, but pleading and pandering to Lofrans’ sense of purpose eventually frees the tangled mess of chain to anchor Jupiter. Exhausted crew lower the tender and motor to the winemaker’s float.

A short walk past many hectares of grapes thriving in dry soil between soaring granite cliffs and the deep blue sea, finds the wine bar and bistro where winches, windings, and windlasses are all forgiven.

Round About

Wine tasted, food fed and Lofrans rested, crew returns from Saturna to Jupiter by way of IO with the intention to complete our ambit of the island. Past inviting inlets, cosy anchorages and islets, Jupiter transits Georgeson Pass, soon turning to enter Reef Harbour on the opposing side of the tombolo.

We anchor outside the few small boat moorings and enjoy the relative calm of the little bay. A couple of conjoined high tides allows the crew a restful evening view north to the freighter feeding grounds.

The Natural + The History

By morning the tide has fully retreated, and the rocky reef encloses the boat into an entirely different world. Low tide is a good time to beach our tender, as the several hours to high tide prevent the boat from stranding on the island’s low shores. The crew in amphibious footwear are ready to explore the natural history of the place.

Tumbo Island has been many things to few people from ancient times to the present. Indigenous communities found abundance in harvesting clams, foraging and fishing. Colonialists homesteaded, fur farmed, furrowed for coal and found more fish. Tumbo and neighboring Cabbage Island are now a part of Gulf Islands National Park with tempting trails and diverse natural attractions.

Coming ashore at the bottom of the tide we find signs of former clam gardens. These intertidal zones were fostered by First Nations people to optimise habitat for clams and other shellfish by building low borders of “head sized boulders” in a suitable bay.

Forests, meadows, salt-marsh, highlands, tidal flats, rookeries, rockeries and the magnificent tombolos provide rich habitat and interest for visitors. We find killdeer and red-winged blackbirds living in the marsh, and heron, still sentinels, along the shore.

The Wolf Bole

A wolf bole am I
Burled cedar from the rain coast north
On generations of tides and winds pushed forth 
First sawed and felled by two men alone
Sent seaward from my ancient home

Floated far by dodging drifts of moon's tide courses
Pressed on rounded capes by gales and seaward forces 
I yet remember the witchy waves reared up like running horses

Storms have rolled me on a hundred shore
To break and bake my heartwood back once more
Resting henceforth on this sandy beach
Bleaching my bones until high tide might reach
To lift my barkless bite afloat
For days and nights as yet unwrote

Come mariners and lay your hands on me
Feel the force of a fallen tree

Thank all the tides and all the time
That your boat shall never meet up with mine

Starlink is new aboard Jupiter.
All recent posts have been transmitted via this inventive satellite constellation.

Jupiter’s crew departs soon for more grounded locales, leaving Jupiter to the boatyard at Sidney, BC. It seems impossible that tides will rise and fall, currents will flow, clouds and winds will blow over seas absent us, but so they shall. For awhile.

Jupiter at anchor in Reef Harbour, Tumbo Island


  1. Heather says:

    Beautiful photography , history and descriptions. You will be back! Next time (hopefully never) the windless misbehaves play Aretha’s famous song! See you soon. xxx

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