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".

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