Melrose-river-01The summer of 2009 started out with great promise for boaters in the Pacific Northwest, and I don’t think anyone was disappointed.

Our adventure started in beautiful Victoria; the capital of British Columbia, a charming Canadian city on Vancouver Island. As we enjoyed sunshine in the harbor while looking at the majestic parliament buildings that grace the waterfront, a local photographer putting together his portfolio visited us, and in no time we became his subject, or rather our Maritimo 52 Skylounge was the subject (see  and click on portfolio- people). Our photographer was prepared and had even brought his own model. I thought perhaps I might even have a chance so we took pictures too! Victoria was beautiful and we did so enjoy the beautiful city views.

On the 9th of July, we enjoyed more city views from another beautiful Canadian city, Vancouver – British Columbia. Here at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, we rendezvoused with 11 other boats; half were local Canadians, and the other half were from Seattle Yacht Club (Seattle, Washington USA) for a week-long trip up the Fraser River to Harrison Hot Springs and back. This undertaking took three river pilots to accomplish and all boats needed to travel at speeds of at least 14 knots to participate. Our group spent two days meeting and preparing for the trip and on July 11, we set out from the Coal Harbour location of RVYC and headed into the straits of Georgia, south to the Fraser River Delta where our trip began. The delta is wide with only a narrow entry and is marked by buoys and dredged in order to accommodate the many commercial vessels that carry logs, pulp barges, fishing boats and private yachts, especially in the lower reaches. This is a real working river; its banks are rich farmland, pulp mills use its water, and a few dams on some of the tributaries provide electric power. We passed many such vessels, bridges and small communities on our way as our way as our group moved upstream against a 4 to 6 knot current. As we journeyed further up, we also saw many campers enjoying the river. We also saw many local and native fishermen plying the waters in search of salmon.

Our destination for the first day was Ft. Langley, a small mill town that at one time was a thriving community and now has seen cedar mills close down in these difficult economic times. The dock at Ft. Langley would not accommodate all the boats in our group, so several of the larger ones (we being one) moored upstream a mile or so from the town. By 8:30 am, we were on the move again for a long days run, all the way to Lake Harrison. It was on this leg we picked up our 3 river pilots, one to lead, one in the middle of the group, and one in the rear; this in order to keep everyone in line because going outside the line meant instant grounding on the many sandbars. There were also numerous railroad bridges to navigate under where the turbulence grew. Many of these bridges were not high enough to accommodate the bigger boats, so it necessitated calling ahead to have the bridges opened for us. By 2:30 that afternoon, we left the Fraser River and cruised into the Harrison River, still some distance from the lake. Here we noticed a remarkable change in the watercolor, from the brown water downstream we were suddenly into clear water. It was quite amazing! After several more bridges that are difficult and man frightening twists and turns of this smaller river, we arrived at Harrison Lake at 4:30 that afternoon. What a welcome sight that lake was to us – we were relieved and tired as the Captain had to be on the bridge constantly. We reserved dock space at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel for the week and we took every spot.  People from town came to see this phenomenon of big boats at the dock and asked how we were able to trailer them up here!

The hotel at the hot springs was very gracious and opened their spa facilities to all the boaters, and we arranged for a barbecue in their famous Copper Room for the next evening. We had a marvelous meal and then the dancing began! Someone in our group told the band that we had been there on our honeymoon 56 years ago, so they invited us to lead in the Anniversary Waltz, which we did and it was very fun! The beach at Harrison Hot Springs Hotel is very sandy and they host the annual world championship sand-sculpturing contest here. There is also swimming, water skiing, wind surfing, sailing, hiking, horseback riding and fishing to keep everyone occupied. Our 5 days in the lake included a trip down the river a short distance to Harrison Mills where we found the Sandpiper Golf Club (next door to Rowena’s Inn on the River) almost hidden in tall timber stands. The night before we went to dinner at Rowena’s traveling by with the group by bus, so we followed it up with a golf game right there the next day. It was a beautiful course with facilities for avid golfers from near and far. We played and it was beautiful. We also took a trip up the lake for 15 of the some 45 plus miles long, and enjoyed an overnight with the rest of the boats, in a bay called Long.

We returned to the hotel the following day and with all the hot weather there were great clouds that formed during the early evening which later became a full blown lightening show that night. It was stunning! The days passed quickly and soon it was time to return to Vancouver, BC. The boats left Harrison Lake on July 18th with the pilots and made the return trip going downstream in one day. It was one of the most exciting adventures Ed and I have experienced in all our years of boating and required much preparation by both the Seattle Yacht Club and Royal Van Yacht Club to put it together. We will be forever grateful.

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