10 Places to see Spectacular Sunsets

April 22nd, 2009  |  Published in Hot off the press

Pacific Yachting
          text and photography by Cherie Thiessen

Sunset watching in paradise

Anywhere the promise of a beautiful sunset presents itself there is a hush over
the land and sea, people momentarily pause and life stills.

Sunsets are works of art. While you cannot create the art, you can select the frame.

Last summer I dedicated myself to the arduous task of choosing ten settings in which to indulge this
favourite past time of boaters. Here is my modest list of super sunset sites.

When selecting these,
I categorized them to give seafarers a choice: from energetic to easy, from private to party time, from
cozy to convenient, from pampered to pristine.

1. Sunset for Beachcombers and Bird watchers – Montague Harbour, Galiano Island.

Almost everyone’s number one favourite is probably the sunset viewed from the sandy beach at Montague Harbour,
judging from the people who gather there nightly.  This has got to rank as one of the best and most convenient
spots to see a sunset.  You can anchor or tie up at a mooring buoy at the marine park and take your dinghy to
shore.  A short walk through the campsite or across the lagoon and you are there. A wide expanse of clamshell
beach makes for inspired beachcombing while you await the sunset.

There are many shells and sea creatures to observe in the nearby rock pools and birds to study in the tidal marshes and forest. The belted kingfisher loves to take up watch on the dead trees, and bufflehead ducks enjoy wriggling snacks while waiting for the sunset.

Should you desire to be alone to watch the sun’s departure, you can walk for a long way along the beach or upper forest trail to find a perfect private spot.  Wherever
you decide on, you will have an unobstructed view down Trincomali Channel. We have rarely been disappointed in the sunset from this popular but magical location.        



2. Sunset for energetic lovers – Roesland, Otter Bay on North Pender.

In order to see this sunset, your best bet is to spend the night at popular Otter Bay Marina. Good
holding ground is available in the bay as well, but the passing ferries make this anchorage sometimes
uncomfortable. At least half an hour before sunset you should begin your pilgrimage. You’ll save
kilometers of walking by rowing across the bay. The key word here is "rowing" –
engines are just not romantic. It’ll take you about 15 minutes. Alight at a tiny beach
beyond the little bridge at Roesland. From here it’s obvious. Walk through to the point where
you’ll find a perfectly positioned solitary seat. You can also go further out to the rocks and watch
from the very tip of the point.

There’s a path back to the road if you have time and feel in the mood for a quiet
forest stroll. This beautiful and still largely undiscovered area is all part of Roesland, which became
a marine park 3 years ago. The genial previous owners still live here. Years ago they ran Roesland as a
resort and you’ll see the old cabins as well as the remains of an old native canoe. Please
respect their privacy when passing by their home.

3. Sunset for families, Sidney Spit

You don’t even need to stir off your boat in order to enjoy the sun setting over the Saanich Peninsula.
However, if you have active children aboard, take them ashore and to the top of the
bluff. Often Mt. Baker blushes a soft pink across Haro Strait, seemingly close
enough to touch. Check it out and then do the two kilometer circular walk to see
if you can spot the fallow deer found here, or the peacocks. They seem to like sunsets
as much as we do, and there’s a good
chance the children may spot them and it’ll make their day. Then check out Mt. Baker again
on your way back to the boat, the hot toddies, and those final fiery views from the cockpit.

4. Sunset for lazy lovers – Winter Cove , Saturna

Drop your anchor, break out the bubbly, get cozy in the cockpit and face west. No need to stir in order
to see the sun dropping over Mayne Island. The nice thing about Winter Cove is that it never seems to be
too busy, even in summer, and there’s that great trail through to narrow Boat Passage where the whole
of Georgia Strait seems to be trying to take refuge in the Gulf Islands when the ebb tide is at its
fullest. While the point is a beautiful place to snuggle up on the seat , in
all honesty the sunset is better from the boat, as nearby Samuel Island obscures the sun’s final
moments. Up to you.

5. Sunset for sky watchers – Cabbage Island Marine Park

This anchorage on the Strait of Georgia is exposed to NW winds. Be sure to check your barometer and
weather forecast before overnighting here, or you may experience more than a great sunset. In
perfect conditions this park is heavenly. Due to its open aspect you have a vast sky with a
more panoramic view than most anchorages offer. After you’ve watched the sun settle into the
Straits you can set up your telescope or kick back and watch the shooting stars, the satellites
and the planets in this quiet anchorage, without any nearby lights to distract you, and all this from
the comfort of your boat. Every 11 years, increased solar activity makes for more interesting
sky shows, and guess what – this is the year! Sky watchers may even get glimpses of the aurora
borealis this summer.

6. Sunset for ferry watchers and swimmers – Portland Island

Drop your anchor at this popular anchorage behind the Tortoise Islets. Row to the dinghy dock and
follow the trail to your left. Full sunsets may be obscured by Salt spring Island, but this
location is included because it’s such an enjoyable kilometer and a half walk to the point. The
clamshell beach opposite Chads Island is a great swimming spot and you may even have it to
yourself. Afterward, warm up at a beach fire, fires permitting, have a hot drink from
thermos at a picnic table, look for agates, pick cherries in season and watch all the ferries
chugging past on their way to and fro Swartz Bay. Arbutus and fruit trees, shell beaches
and grasslands, make this a honey of a spot and although it’s a campsite, I have rarely seen
anyone camping here. So enjoy the glow of the sunset and wave to those envious passengers
on the ferries.

7. Sunset for gourmets – Rosario, Orcas Island, San Juans.

We can’t leave out our southern neighbours, who share these beautiful inland waters with us and who
know how to make the most of it. Rosario is tops for many reasons but as dock space is limited,
it’s important to reserve ahead. Frugal sunset chasers are welcome too, as the resort’s mooring
buoys are now free. Be warned, however, that you must make your own way ashore, and that the
winds often get funneled down East Sound at night, sometimes making moorage at these buoys

May I recommend the view from Rosario’s Compass Room? The meals and service just get better and better.
While it’s true that the dining room is not west facing, does it really matter all that much
once the Sound and sky turns pink outside your picture window and the pan roasted Chinook salmon
is served. If you really want to see that sun disappear, all you have to do is delay your coffee
and dessert, and head out to the bluff right beside the restaurant where weddings are often
photographed in the sun’s final golden moments. Pretty awesome wouldn’t you say? Now back to
the warm apple tart with cinamon ice cream.

8. Sunset for tri-athletes. – Reid Harbour – Stuart Island – San Juans

You really need to be an athlete to get the best sunset view from this marine park but as with most
things, the reward is worth the effort. Tie up at the dock or a mooring buoy in Prevost
Harbour, then pack your bottled water in your knapsack, along with your bathing suit and jump in
your dinghy. Row like an Olympic oarsman to the county dock, about a kilometer.  Now
jog up the road and follow the signs to the lighthouse, about 2 kilometers away. Because
distance deters boaters, you may well find you have the point to yourself. It’s a beautiful
spot looking north over the Penders and offers an unobstructed view of the sun sinking. Dolphins
nd killer whales love the tidal action around these waters, so look closely for them too. History
buffs will also enjoy exploring and reading the placards that tell the history of this lighthouse
and its outbuildings, once home to the lighthouse keeper and his family. If you linger too
late you will definitely be needing your flashlight on your return. But this sunset is for triathletes,
remember, so when you get back to the dinghy it’s time for your partner to row. You’ll be
swimming alongside! The water is not too cold, and the swim to the marine dock will be
energizing. Remember to moor on the Prevost Harbour side, though, because you will have a lot
farther to walk from the Reid Harbour side and your swim could become a marathon.

9. Sunset for gamblers – Fisherman’s Bay, Lopez Island. – San Juan Islands

Gamblers will love this spot and I’m not referring to casinos. If it’s your first visit, you will
be kept busy lining up your markers. Be sure to read about the entrance and consult your
charts beforehand, but there is 6′ of water under you at zero tide, honest. It’s not a gamble.

So what is? This bay is a real sunset teaser. Although we have been blown away several
times with the beauty and magnitude of sunsets here, on the evening we arrived with cameras to
capture the setting splendor,  it was reticent to reveal itself.  We were ready to
dunk the next Lopez Island resident who said "You should have been here last night
." It remains for you to discover it, but should you encounter a sunset no-show,
there is much to
compensate. Take your dinghy back through the channel to explore the derelict herring boats  or
take a short jaunt into town to enjoy a great meal in the restaurants.

You can anchor in the bay but I recommend tying up at the marinas so that if the gamble doesn’t pay
off you don’t have far to go to console yourself. The Islander offers hot tubs along
with good moorage, and the genial bartender helped keep our spirits up on the chilly night we took
up vigil with our cameras by delivering excellent Irish Coffees to our positions on the dock!

10. Sunsets for people watchers – Sucia Island – San Juans

With its two snug anchorages, Sucia is a sweet little marine park. The best sunset and people watching
is at Shallow Bay, indenting the west end of the horseshoe-shaped Island. There are mooring
buoys here and good anchorage and the sunset over the sandy beaches and headlands can be spectacular
but beware the depths! Enter the bay with caution, watching for the submerged rocks on either
side, and check your charts carefully before furling your flag. It’s not called
Shallow Bay for nothing. If you draw too much water, there’s always Fossil Bay, but part of the
pleasure at Sucia is people watching and if you have a sadistic streak, you’ll want to take your drin
k top sides and watch the boats hitting the rocks, running out of ocean, or bumping into the docks,
while the first mate, usually female, tries to leap 7 feet to the wharf and the captain usually
male, yells "What are you waiting for, jump, damnit!" If you tear
yourself away from this action long enough, you may be able to see an awesome sunset over the Strait
of Georgia.

That’s it! Keep your eyes on the skies and think pink!

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