Photo: A wolf prowls the shore of Turtle Island in Barkley Sound
Was June too early for cruising in Barkley Sound? A dark gray sky and a chill in the air made me wonder. And as we motored on calm seas from Ucluelet to Turtle Island, I noticed the absence of other boats - no little kicker boats to rock us in their wake and no other sailboats, even at a distance. But there were compensations, I thought, as I looked through binoculars at two black bears cavorting on a beach nearby.
In the anchorage between Dodd and Turtle Islands there were two other boats - a sailboat from Olympia and a powerboat from Alberta -- fewer than normal for this anchorage. There was also a wolf prowling the shore of Turtle Island. And when we inflated our kayaks and went for a paddle, we surprised a mink among the rocks at the low tide line.
The next day we crossed to Bamfield where we found the town so quiet even the pub was closed. "Maybe we'll open in July," a worker told us.
A quiet town meant people had time to talk to us. The storekeeper filled us in on the news. The small freighter-passenger vessel Lady Rose had been taken out of service but the Frances Barkely still makes three trips a week. "That's the best way to come to Bamfield," he said. "Tourism has been down for the last few years. Bamfield needs to learn how to attract more people."
"I think we were lucky," I told Steve as we walked back to the boat on the boardwalk. "We saw Bamfield in its heyday." I was thinking of our sculptor friend Babe Gunn who had a studio in the net loft that was always packed with people when the Lady Rose was in. Now the net loft is empty and silent.
At lunch the next day the owner of the Boardwalk Bistro also gave us his opinion. "All these small towns are withering away and the government doesn't give a s__t." Earlier in the day we had stopped in front of the Bistro's gate with its prominent closed sign and contemplated the hours of operation posted: "sporadic and unpredictable." The owner was working behind the gate and when he saw us, he asked if we wanted a cappuccino. We told him what we really wanted was a salmon burger for lunch when we returned from our walk to Brady's Beach. "Just give a shout and I'll open," he said. Now that's service.
Our artist friend Brunnhilde, who runs a B&B, caters at fishing lodges and paints exquisite landscapes had a different perspective on how Bamfield was doing. "I'm having one of the best seasons," she told us. "Europeans are coming." She had already hosted one artist retreat this season and has more scheduled. That made me feel better. I remembered that Bamfield's first heyday had been years earlier when it was the terminus of the Pacific telegraph cable. Later it was a commercial fishing center, then a sports fishing center. Perhaps Bamfield can reinvent itself again.
In the anchorage were two other sailboats. They had arrived from Victoria shortly after we arrived from Turtle Island. They were going around the island -- clockwise just like we are. So we might we be early and we might be going the "wrong way" but at least we aren't alone.
Photo: the boardwalk at Bamfield in June. Rhodendrons in bloom!