Texada Island looms large (click on image to enlarge)
Thirty mile-long Texada Island, the largest of BC’s Gulf Islands, lies in the middle of the Strait of Georgia. With a high elevation, it’s a dominant landmark for boaters crossing the Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast.
The island has a colourful history that includes whaling, mining, farming and at least a couple of significant shipwrecks. It had an opera house at the turn of the 20th century and during prohibition, produced and supplied illegal hootch to the US black market. Today it’s quieter and more focused on outdoor tourism, but no less interesting, I expect.
I say “expect”, because Texada remains a bit of a mystery to me. Though I’ve passed by it more times than I can remember and I’ve lived in southwestern BC my entire life, I’ve only been on the island a couple of times. The reason is not lack of curiosity, but the island’s mid-Strait location.
Crossing the Strait in a small boat (or “crossing the Gulf”, as old-timers call it) can be a challenge. When a strong southeast or northwest wind is blowing, it builds strength as it sweeps along the 135 mile-long waterway. The resulting steep waves come at you broadside if you’re trying to get across the Strait – giving you the choice of rolling for the three or four hours needed to reach the other side via the shortest route, or taking a longer course to avoid the worst of the roll. Neither option is much fun.
But lest I scare anyone off, it’s worth noting that there are also plenty of days when the Strait is a gentle delight to cross, as it was earlier this summer when I took the photo above. We’ve had many calm crossings over the years, a result of choosing our timing carefully (along with some luck).
Even on a calm day, though, we know that weather conditions can change rapidly – which is why, instead of stopping to explore Texada, we always push on to complete our crossing. Perhaps some day we’ll make the island our destination, but for now, caution prevails over curiosity – so I’ll continue to appreciate Texada from a distance.