Stone and Water

On our recent trip to the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, we enjoyed a variety of beautiful beaches. The geological history of the Gulf Islands includes a huge river delta that formed during the melting of the last ice age. As the glaciers melted, rocks and silt from the mountains were deposited into the river and the surrounding delta. The result now is beaches with beautiful sandstone formations. Water carves away the softer sandstone, leaving lovely shapes and exposing all manner of rocks and stones carried by the glacier, deposited in the old delta. Some of my favorite beaches sport ‘river stones’ carried from far away in prehistory.

Someone built this cairn at Portland Island, one of our very favorite places.

 This year we were able to visit islands we’d never been to before. I thought beaches couldn’t get much better than Cabbage Island, on the Strait of Georgia. But I was wrong! We traveled up to Thetis and Penelakut (Kuper) Islands, finding the same beautiful sandstone. Our Gulf Islands route included D’arcy Island, Portland Island, Salt Spring Island, Thetis and Penelakut Islands, De Courcy Island and Saturna Island. The forces of nature that formed Cabbage Island were evident at several of the places we stopped. 

The ‘discovery’ of Penelakut Island added a new ‘favorite’ to our list of places. We anchored off the west coast of that island and enjoyed beautiful views, warm (ish) water, and sandstone beaches.

Mike enjoys the honeycomb formations on Penelakut beaches.

Sandstone and Pacific Madrona

Sand, stone, and water.

After checking into the U.S. at Point Roberts, we crossed the Strait of Georgia again to visit the eastern part of the San Juan Islands, anchoring off the northern coast of Patos Island. Part of the same sandstone formation as Thetis and Penelakut Islands, Patos Island is, in a word, amazing. With the weather mild enough to anchor away from the crowds, I had this beach completely to myself, except for the seal colony.

Sandstone formation at beautiful Patos Island. The white sand in the foreground is actually stone.

Moonrise beyond the sandstone on Penelakut Island.

Because of the glaciers, the beaches are littered with beautiful stones. Nature has polished them. Nothing else is required.

Pebble at Patos Island, nestled in sandstone.


View of a sandstone formation with Patos Island lighthouse in the background.

These islands are a pebble collector’s dream. I have all kinds of vessels filled with beautiful pebbles from Northwest beaches. They decorate pretty much all the rooms of our house and my office. I believe Mike was relieved when I returned to the boat with only a handful of special rocks. It could have been a bucket full.

Patos Island pebbles.

Smooth sandstone, weathered over time, pebbles nestles in the crevices. Patos Island.


10 thoughts on “Stone and Water

  1. I was scrolling along and the sandstone formation from a distance on my monitor at first appeared like a carving of little people or dolls holding hands. Weird.

    Really beautiful scenery.

    • They are like clouds. You can see many things in the sandstone. You and Dani really should come up here some day. Native people may say you have seen the spirits in the rocks.

    • Yep. We’ve talked to a lot of cruisers in this area who have cruised extensively in the world and they just stay here now. That’s actually a little scary to me. I can see how that could happen. But I always say I want to see the rest of the world for myself first, then decide.

    • Well, ‘local’ is really a relative term. It takes us several days to get up there from here. We consider getting a slip farther north and keeping our boat up there so we could get to the islands faster. Then we’d be able to go more often than once a year. But I did think of just how much awesome fun Kitty would have on these pebble beaches in the warm tide pools where there is nothing to harm her.

  2. Great photos, as always. Reading your blog makes us regret leaving the boat in Mexico for hurricane season. If it weren’t such a trial to bash back, it sure would be nice to have the boat here for the summer. We’re missing out on sailing. Continue to enjoy yourselves and keep the blog current so we can continue to enjoy it!

    • That really is too bad to have to leave a boat down south during boating season here. Still, you get such lovely places to visit in Mexico and I do hear that the ‘bash’ back can be pretty bad unless you do that long tack to Hawaii, then home. We are working on additional ‘photo’ posts. It’s hard to decide what photos to put up, considering we have about 500 photos from the trip!

  3. Amazing images. I’ve seen beautiful glacial potholes while swimming at Shelbourne Falls (MA), but never ocean-carved like this. What a place to walk around in a complete state of geologic wonder. Did you return to the boat with stones in your pocket? 🙂

    • Oh, I have been known to come back to the boat with literally buckets of stones! And ‘geologic wonder’ is an apt term. I did collect the little striped stone. It is shiny and smooth, like it has been polished.

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