You know you’re far from the city when that shadow lurking around your car at night is not a thief but a deer. When the heaviest traffic is a few sail boats drifting by your window. When you keep a close eye on your cats in case an eagle swoops down and snatches them off the deck.
This is Pender Harbour, on BC’s Sunshine Coast, a collection of coves, bays, inlets and islets straight out of a Monet painting. Hop off the ferry from West Vancouver and follow the tight, twisty Highway 101, which snakes along the region’s more than 150 kilometres of shoreline, branching off into towns and communities like Gibsons, Sechelt, Halfmoon Bay, Madeira Park, Garden Bay and straight up to Earls Cove, where you hop another ferry to reconnect with the highway, which comes to an end at the village of Lund. Before the highway, the only way to reach these communities was by boat, which earned the area the nickname Venice of the North.
Surrounding hills and mountains are thick with forests of fir, cedar, hemlock, pine, spruce, birch and cottonwood. Groves of red-barked arbutus trees cling to rocky bluffs. The eclectic population comprises the shishalh natives (from which Sechelt gets its name), retired professionals, artists and descendants of families that have called the coast home for over a century. I wrote in detail about the area during our first pet-sit here in 2011, and again in 2014 on our return, link here and here, if you’re interested.
Not much has changed in the ensuing years. Pender Harbour is still serene and stunningly beautiful, much as it was when Captain George Vancouver slapped his eyes on it a couple hundred years ago. In the little white house above the bay, Daisy and Sachmo are a few years older but happy and healthy. Daisy still sucks her thumb and Sachmo still ambushes her just for fun. They’re both so much more affectionate than our first stay with them. In fact, we can’t sit down without them latching onto our lap like barnacles.
Daisy, in particular, and I have developed a deep bond. A huge ball of fluff that ambles along like a giant caterpillar, she follows me around, squeaks for permission to curl up with me when I sit, and warms my lap and my cockles. I’ve loved all the kitties we’ve cared for over the years but, with the exception of the late Chester, I’ve never been more smitten by a cat. Now, a week after we followed that same twisty highway back down the coast, there’s a cold, empty spot on my lap, and, I dare say, in my cockles.