Friday, 29 July 2016

Lazy days in Barkley Sound

After a couple days provisioning (and going out for dinner!) in Ucluelet -- again, a great place to visit and great public docks -- we headed out to the Broken Group (Pacific Rim National Park), aiming for the anchorage between Dodd and Turtle Islands (sometimes referred to as "Joe's Bay"). When we arrived, we were only the third boat, so we were a little surprised later to have 14 boats (10 from the USA, most from the Portland Yacht Club) around us (including a very large 60+' motor-sailor that wanted to anchor only some 60 metres from us and another boat -- even though at the time the bay was 2/3 empty... ARRRRGH!).* It was still a quiet night.

[* Turned out, the 14 boats was an exception -- the rest of our time in Barkley Sound would only see 1-3 other boats anchored with us.]

Next day we headed out of the Park over to the Pinkertons. We found solitude, and stayed put for three nights (only one other boat came in). We got in a couple of good kayak trips, and even spent a few hours losing lures and flashers (as opposed to catching any fish -- well, we caught a couple too small ones we returned to the sea). Mornings were very foggy, but usually the sun burned off the fog and the afternoons were sunny.

Kayaking in the Broken Group

Pelagia, anchored in the Pinkertons

Next, we moved to Pipestem Inlet, to the anchorages near Lucky Creek, where we are currently. After trying a couple anchorages with only partial success (rocky bottom), we finally got a spot behind Refuge Island later when others left. Sea water temps are up to 23.5 degrees C -- great swimming temperatures; Sea of Cortez temperatures. So we have been in the water multiple times. Nights, so far, have been very calm. Last night, we scored a huge filet of fresh-caught salmon from folks on the Victoria-based sailboat "Saturnus" -- very very nice of them to come to the aid of this terrible fisherman (David). Today, we kayaked up Lucky Creek to its great fresh water swimming pools and falls.

Kayaking up Lucky Creek

Lucky Creek

Cool, clear water of Lucky Creek

After Lucky Creek, we picked up some fuel and water in Bamfield, then headed over to Dodger Channel.* Dodger is a great location: a wild, west coast anchorage (you can hear the swells breaking outside, yet it is calm inside), close to Cape Beale and hence a great jumping off spot to head south/east to Sooke.

* Note: the South entrance to Dodger Channel is only about 3 feet at zero tide, contrary to the 9+ feet indicated by at least one popular guidebook, as well as the 2.8 metres (>9')  suggested by the CHS chart (however, the CHS chart does not indicate this is the minimum depth).

We spent two nights at Dodger, trying to judge weather, allowing us some kayak time.

Kayaking in Dodger Channel area

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tofino: Not a friendly place for cruising boats

Just a short note for cruisers considering a stop in Tofino: don't bother. Go to Ucluelet.

Moorage at Tofino's public dock is extremely limited for transient cruising boats -- during July/August cruisers will almost certainly have to "raft" if  they can find space. (Another cruiser suggested the problem is due to the high rents in Tofino, resulting in more liveaboards. However, this problem was also present 14 years ago in 2002.) We didn't see any space, so elected to anchor off the marina (as we did in 2002, when we also found the public docks to be a poor choice). Well, there was 3-5 knots of current roaring through the anchorage which was full of crab traps (thanks Tofino locals!). We managed to get anchored and ate lunch while we watched the "river" flow around us, and saw Pelagia getting too close to propeller-snagging crab-trap lines. (The night before, a friend had been anchored on the other side of this anchorage, and had been yelled at by a tug boat skipper for being "in the channel".) While anchored, we also watched (with anger) tour boats roar by (at 20-30 knots), with no regard to the effects of their wake on us. Meanwhile, float planes kept landing near us.

With all this cacophony and the dicey anchorage, we decided to get away from Tofino. We planned to head over to the anchorage at Windy Bay, ~7.5 nm away, which would add 1.5-2 hours to our trip to Ucluelet the next day, but would at least be safe and peaceful. As it turns out, as we went down Browning Passage, we felt it might be possible to anchor on the side of the wide portion of this passage a mile or so South of Tofino. The current was still swift, but there was tons of room and no boats passing close by. (And, to liven things up, just as we got our anchor down, a grey whale surfaced right beside Pelagia, giving the stink eye to Michelle -- and stink breath -- and really giving her a fright!) Not sure why guidebooks haven't suggested this as an anchorage option (which made us wonder if there was some problem, such as a fouled sea floor, which we would find out the hard way the next morning).

Our night was quite peaceful, and the next morning, we weighed anchor (thankfully with only seaweed to clean off), and, with a fast ebb flowing out to the ocean (including at our anchorage), we zipped past chaotic (and cruiser unfriendly) Tofino and headed to Ucluelet.

Arrival in Ucluelet presented such a positive contrast to Tofino: there is a speed limit in the harbour which seems to be observed, so no boats roaring by; Ucluelet public dock is so well organized, the harbourmaster Kevin (and staff) very responsive, even meeting your boat to help with docking. Provisioning in Ucluelet is excellent.  Ucluelet is a very nice town.

Note to Tofino Town Council: if you want cruisers to visit, make it more friendly to cruising boats. Learn from places who do it right like Ucluelet, Port McNeil, Sointula, etc. As it stands, Tofino seems only to care about tourists going out on whale-watching and hotsprings tour boats, as well as sportsfishers. Until this changes, we will avoid Tofino.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Checleset Bay, Kyuquot and Esperanza/Nootka

Motoring towards Brooks Peninsula

Solander Island (Brooks Peninsula behind)

After rounding the Brooks Penninsula, we anchored with SV Carousel in the west side of Battle Bay. Dotted with rocks with beautiful beaches, this was a beautiful place. It felt like the wildest place we'd anchored in so far. The following day, we were joined by Rolly and Marian on MV Tropic Isle for a dinner with 8 of us on Pelagia. (This rendezvous had been arranged a couple days earlier via HAM radio on the Great Northern Boater's Net.) We first met Rolly in 2002 while on a mooring buoy at Columbia Cove (only a few miles away from Battle Bay; the mooring buoys have been removed), and have crossed paths a few times since then. Rolly is well-known up-and-down the B.C. coast (and even in Alaska): at 80 years young, he has circumnavigated Vancouver Island at least 25 times. Every Summer he does a long trip, with Marian joining him at different points. We had great fun at dinner on Pelagia, Michelle having cooked up at wonderful chicken curry in the pressure cooker.

Battle Bay anchorage

Bear on the beach (Battle Bay)
Battle Bay

Rolly & Marian (MV Tropic Isle) in Battle Bay

After Battle Bay, Rolly offered to "guide" us through rock-strewn "False Gay Passage" (not the official name, but a passage cruising guides warn "not to enter") and then to an unknown, uncharted special anchorage not in any cruising guide. The passage was a little nerve wracking but following both MV Tropic Isle and SV Carousel, it turned out OK. Passage into the secret anchorage was a little more eventful: the other two boats draw 4.5 feet, Pelagia draws 6 feet. Rolly indicated the narrow pass into the anchorage would have more than enough depth. After Carousel and Tropic Isle went in with no issue (and reporting 15 feet depth), we followed. We probably were 5-10 feet off-centre in entering, and "found bottom". That is, we skidded over the top of a rock: didn't stop moving and the touch was pretty "smooth". We anchored and then surveyed the entrance: turns out there was indeed a rock with about 5-6 feet over it when we entered (3-4 feet at zero tide).

[Update: weeks later, in Pipestem Inlet, with water temperatures as warm as 24 degrees C, David finally got to dive and check Pelagia's keel. As expected, there was only a small nick on the bottom. clearly, we had barely hit the top of a flat rock. No big deal.]

Following SV Carousel and MV Tropic Isle in the Bunsbys

Entrance to secret anchorage (from inside): a rock lies in the middle...

Anchored in the Bunsbys
The secret anchorage was a great anchorage. We kayaked nearby, guided by Rolly, to a 1st Nations burial cave, complete with coffin boards, bones and skull. (We viewed it from the outside and did not enter the cave nor took any photos, out of respect.) We then kayaked over to kayakers' campsites on another nearby island. It was a very interesting day (mostly good, with a little "bad"...). That night, weather was to turn rainy, and a Southeast wind was predicted. It poured hard all next day and the wind picked up. The anchorage was well protected: Tropic Isle had the best spot, with nary a breath of wind; Carousel had occasional gusts; Pelagia had constant wind. (but no waves, indeed barely a ripple.) Interesting differences over a couple hundred feet. During the rain, we still had a great dinner over on SV Carousel. That night, the winds picked up (apparently >25 knots out in Checleset Bay), causing David to keep an anchor watch (i.e., little sleep). True to Rolly's word, however, this secret anchorage was very secure in these Southeast winds.

Kayaking in the Bunsbys

1st Nation's Burial Cave

Battleship Island (Bunsbys)

Green Head (Bunsbys)

Next day, Rolly and Marian headed over to Columbia Cove, while Carousel and Pelagia headed to Kyuquot (sometimes referred as "Walter's Cove"). The winds were still blowing SE 20-25 knots, and we had to spend an hour or so beating through a narrow passage surrounded by waves crashing on nasty rocks in order to get to a more-protected route. An engine failure at any point could be very bad news, and David was always on the lookout for an escape route by sail. Happily, once through the rocks, the rest of the trip was fairly easy and comfortable. We arrived in Kyuquot in time to do a little grocery shopping (and water fill-up) at the Kyuquot store (currently only open MWF, 1-5 pm). We then went out for fish (halibut) and chips at "Java the Hut" (which also had free WiFi: trouble is, its WiFi "acts up" whenever it rains -- which it does routinely in Kyuquot -- so we had no WiFi).

Kyuquot public dock and store
Next day, we headed into Kyuquot Sound. Glassy calm, it was a relief from the winds outside. We anchored in a cove at the entrance to Amai Inlet referred to in the Douglass guide as "Petroglyph Cove" -- not that any petroglyphs can be seen -- and by the Dreamspeaker guide as "Blue Lips Cove" (supposedly named by locals due to the effects of a cold swim). Not sure what its real name is, but it was a nice anchorage.  The following day, SV Carousel left, heading southeast to Nuchatlitz, while we headed further into Kyuquot Sound to check out Dixie Cove. After over 3 weeks of travelling together, we found it sad to see Carousel leave. (We've kept in touch by HAM radio, but it looks like we will not be catching up with them.)

Goodbye to SV Carousel -- leaving Blue Lips Cove
Dixie Cove was quite nice, and we had a day of sun, allowing us to go for a kayak. Rain arrived that night, and the next day was rainy (no wind) so we stayed inside the boat, our Dickinson furnace keeping us dry and warm. The next day we awoke to no rain but some fog. Another boat had headed out, and when we contacted them by VHF radio, they let us know that the fog had lifted. So we weighed anchor and headed out of the sound and motored through "Clear Passage", then to Nuchatlitz, at the entrance to Esperanza Inlet.  Nuchatlitz is a contender for the most beautiful anchorage of this trip. We stayed a second night, and enjoyed kayaking around the many islands. We even go to see a "raft" of over 30 sea otters. Damn cute!  Later that afternoon, we were invited for drinks and appies on SV Endless Summer IV. Turns out, this was the boat we had been told to look for (by another couple we met back in June in Von Donop Inlet), and they had also been told to look out for us. John and Pat (on Endless Summer IV) had helped us the day before by letting us know about the fog lifting; we helped them by using our HAM radio email to make a moorage reservation for them at the Westview Marina in Tahsis. Also joining us for happy hour were Gene and Carol from SV Pendragon. A nice time in sunny weather.  Next day, we motored up Esperanza and Tahsis Inlets and moored at the marina. We filled up with water and fuel and went out for an "OK" dinner at the marina; unfortunately, their WiFi system was hopeless and food shopping at the Tahsis store pretty sparse. The marina works hard, but caters primarily to sports fishers, and cruising boats are not a big priority. We were happy to move on to a quiet anchorage at the head of Kendrick Inlet at the top of Nootka Sound (where we were the only boat, and watched a bear roam the shore).

Kayaking at entrance to Dixie Cove (Kyuquot Sound)

Grogan Rock, Clear Passage
Nuchatlitz -- a favourite anchorage

Raft of sea otters (Nuchatlitz)

Nuchatlitz anchorage
Next day, we motored down Nootka Sound to Friendly Cove (or "Yuquot" to the 1st Nations). We had a
sunny day to go ashore and visit this very historic (and scenic) place: visiting the small church, the former village site, graveyards, lake, and the Nootka Lighthouse. While we were anchored, the old MV Uchuck III arrived and docked, full of day-tripping (but respectful) tourists. Back in 2002, we anchored in Friendly Cove in thick fog, and didn't go ashore; we were glad to be able to have a better visit in 2016.

Entering Friendly Cove (Nootka lighthouse on left)

MV Uchuck III at Friendly Cove

Friendly Cove

Stained glass in Yuquot church
Yuquot church

Pelagia at anchor (photo from Nootka lighthouse)

Rounding Estevan Point of a calm, windless (and foggy) day
The following day, we went around Estevan Point. Although some wind was forecast, we never had enough wind to sail. But seas were comfortable. We arrived in Hotsprings Cove, at the North end of Clayquot Sound. We arrived to boatload after boatload of tourists doing quick "tours" from Tofino to the hotsprings. Meanwhile, on the permanently anchored "Innchanter" B&B nearby, there was a loud, obnoxious (and crude) party going on.

Clearly, we were no longer on the "wild west coast".

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A week in Quatsino Sound

Julian Cove, Quatsino Sound
 After coming around Cape Scott and down to North Anchorage (near Winter Harbour), we spent a week cruising Quatsino Sound in the company of SV Carousel.

Our next stop was Pamphlet Cove, a well-protected cove up Quatsino Sound on the North side of Drake Island. At high tide, we were able to dinghy into the small lagoon at the head. We had sunny days -- warm enough for the Carousel crew to jump into the ~16-17 degrees C water (but not us).

After Pamphlet, we headed through Quatsino Narrows at slack. The area around the Narrows is quite beautiful. Carousel did a short detour to Coal Harbour (where they enjoyed its small museum), while Pelagia headed straight to the anchorage at Varney Bay, at the outlet of the Marble River. We wanted to get there early so that we could kayak up the river (at high enough tide) to the Marble River Canyon. The Canyon was very beautiful. Clear, fresh water flowing slowly through a steep-walled, narrow canyon. A mother and pup seal were hanging out way up the river (well out of salt water), as well as many birds, including the usual eagles and ravens, as well as many kingfishers and a family of mergansers. Returning to Pelagia, we were joined at anchor by Carousel. After dinner, we put the outboards on the dinghies, and all motored together back up the river, reaching even higher than in the afternoon, reaching a good swimming hole where the river water was very warm. (But with the late hour and cooling air temperature, plus the lack of towels, we didn't go for a swim; must be great later in July and in August.)

Paddling in the Marble River Canyon

Marble River Canyon

Marble River Canyon

Marble River Canyon

Marble River Canyon: clear fresh water!
Next day, we headed back through the Narrows over to Julian Cove. This was a very beautiful (and protected) cove. However, the depths have obviously changed -- likely due to silting-in from the streams -- since the guidebooks and charts were written, and Pelagia briefly found the (soft) muddy bottom. A quick backing away and we anchored in much deeper water than suggested by the guidebooks. On shore was a grassy estuary, with many salmonberries and huckleberries, and evidence of bears. Later that night, SV Carousel made us all an excellent dinner, including a (fresh) salmonberry crumble.

Julian Cove: it becomes very shallow very quickly!
 We would have stayed longer at Julian Cove (it was so nice), but we wanted to go to Port Alice and join in their Canada Day (July 1st) celebrations. It was a short trip (albeit, against Southerly winds and ebbing tide) to the excellent (and relatively new) village-owned "Rumble Creek Marina" (excellent docks, good water, no power or washrooms). We arrived in time for the parade (ambulance, police including RCMP in red serge uniforms, 3 fire trucks, all decked out with Canada's maple leaf flag). Then it was free coffee and muffins at the village community centre. Later, the village and the Lions put on a fantastic salmon BBQ (huge meal with very large pieces of teriyaki-marinated salmon, all, remarkably, at no cost). It was a well-attended event, topped of at dusk with a longer-than-expected fireworks show (easy to view from our boats). An excellent Canada Day. Next day, we stocked up with groceries at the village's excellent supermarket and BC Liquor Store, then returned to Julian Cove, managing a short downwind sail (seems Neroutsos Inlet always has southerly winds in the daytime...).

Canada Day parade in Port Alice

Enjoying our Canada Day muffins (Port Alice)

Port Alice Canada Day breakfast, complete with Mounties in serge

Barbecued teriyaki salmon -- SO good! Thank you Port Alice!

[Port Alice was a mill town, but the mill shut down some years ago. (There is a story to that.) Before the shutdown, the town built up to 900-1000 people, and built many excellent amenities (community centre, ice rink, curling rink, Canadian Legion, docks, supermarket, even the Port Alice Yacht Club...). However, since the mill's closing, the population has decreased by nearly 50% and properties are for sale at remarkably low prices. Nevertheless, the village has a comfortable well-kept feel to it; its people are very friendly, and it has excellent amenities. We highly recommend cruisers plan a stop at Port Alice on their trip down the West coast of Vancouver Island.]

After our second night at Julian Cove, we headed back down Quatsino Inlet to anchor again at North Anchorage, to prepare to round the Brooks Penninsula the next morning.

We safely (though not entirely comfortably) rounded Brooks on July 4th, and are now in the Bunsby Islands (Checleset Bay, near Kyuquot).