03 October 2009 | Newport, Oregon
18 September 2009 | Ucluelet, Vancover Island, BC
14 September 2009 | Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC
06 September 2009 | Kyuquot, Vancouver Island, BC
06 September 2009 | Brooks Peninsula, Vancouver Island, BC
06 September 2009 | Klaskish Inlet, Vancouver Island, BC
03 September 2009 | East Cove, Quotsino Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
03 September 2009 | Quotsino Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
31 August 2009 | Browning Inlet, Quotsino Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
31 August 2009 | Cape Scott, Vancouver Island, BC
31 August 2009 | Bull Harbour, Hope Island, BC
11 August 2009 | Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC
09 August 2009 | Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC
07 August 2009 | Fitz Hugh Sound
20 July 2009 | Discovery Cove=2C Cunningham Island=2C BC
17 July 2009 | Shearwater Marine Resort
12 July 2009 | Port McNeill, Vancouver Island, BC
11 July 2009 | Port McNeil, Vancouver Island, BC
11 July 2009 | Squirrel Cove, Cortes Island
10 July 2009 | Nanaimo, BC
03 October 2009 | Newport, Oregon
Fraser and Jeff
Our last update was from Ucluelet, British Columbia, where we waited for a stretch of good weather to enable us to head south toward the United States and home. The last few days in Ucluelet were a mix of rain, wind and sun. Unfortunately, the sunny days on the Vancouver Island coast were not matched with comparable conditions across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and down the coast of Washington. Stormy weather with high swells and wind waves were occurring off the Washington coast from Cape Flattery to Cape Shoalwater. At one point we thought we might have to leave Storm Petrel in Ucluelet over the winter or weather permitting, sail her 100 miles southeast to Port Angeles, Washington, where we could clear customs, arrange for moorage, rent a car and drive home.
Despite our weather worries, we thoroughly enjoyed our last few days in Ucluelet. The Ucluelet Small Craft Harbor is very welcoming (Steve Bird, the harbormaster, is a gem) and shelters a collection of commercial and sports fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and live aboards. We were comfortable tied alongside E-Dock, the inner most pier with our port facing a mud flat (at low tide) and farther away, a small campground in the trees. In-between listening to Environment Canada and NOAA weather reports several times a day and preparations for offshore sailing; we enjoyed long walks along the north section of the scenic Wild Pacific Trail. The trail winds along the coast from Amphitrite Point at the tip of the Ucluth Penninsula towards Florencia Bay, northwest of Ucluelet. The northern section of the trail is undeveloped save for the gravel walkway, benches (with brass plaques indicating dedications to loved one's) placed at particularly breathtaking overlooks, and the seasonal trimming of brush and downed trees. Where we entered the trail was a sign warning of the possibility of cougar, bear, and wolf encounters. Although we did not see any of these large animals on our walks, we did find fresh bear scat at the high tide line of a small beach we explored.
Several miles north on the trail we stopped at a rugged, crushed shell beach guarded by an outcropping of rocks. On one of our walks it was low tide. Beautiful, clear tide pools filled with anemones and sea stars were exposed among the rocks and we had access between the pools to the outermost large, craggy rocks upon which the waves were breaking. Just beyond these rocks we spotted several humpback whales feeding in the shallows. We were awed to see the huge mammals so close to the shoreline and to us perched on the rocks. They repeatedly lunged half way out of the sea, their mouths bulging with krill-filled water and slapped the water's surfaced with their powerful tails. Their tale slapping created thunder claps and sent gallons of water skyward. We had to hang on to Casey and Jake as they were anxious to jump in and swim out to the whales. Casey trembled with excitement. The whales frequently emitted the astonishing bellow we first heard when sailing the Inside Passage. Rather like an elephant's trumpeting, it is a thrilling sound that reverberates within one's body. We read that scientists think this sound may serve to stun the prey of humpback whales. It is easy to imagine that it does so.
After enjoying the whales until their foraging took them out of sight, we combed the beach for sea glass and other treasures. Sea glass in shades of blue, green, amber, and white and ranging from tiny fragments to quarter-size bits is plentiful along this part of the coast. Japanese glass fishing floats brought by currents and waves would likely be shattered by the sharp reefs extending well offshore. The remnants of these floats (and fishermen's beer bottles) are beautiful and look like jewels scattered in the sand and among the pebbles. It is fun to imagine the origins of the glass and its history upon the sea.
Casey, Jake, and Kaela frolicked in the protected shallow areas on either side of the beach. The surrounding reefs provided protection from the surf. The dogs chased sticks and dug for rocks to their hearts' content.
We were reluctant to leave the trail after the excitement of seeing the whales and the pleasure of beachcombing. As we retraced our steps on the trail back to Ucluelet, we frequently paused at the overlooks to scan the coast for humpbacks and other wildlife. We were rewarded several times with glimpses of whales engaged in exuberant breaching, tail slapping, and graceful flukes-up dives. A bald eagle flew by and out to sea to join a group of gulls. It wasn't until after watching the glorious sunset that we hurried the rest of the way along the trail, reaching the marina just before dark. Adding to the happiness of the day, a couple we met on the sport fisher, Kai Lani, offered us three cooked crabs.
The following day, Sunday, we again walked for several miles along the Wild Pacific Trail, stopping to enjoy the same pocket beach. This time the tide was higher and didn't afford the opportunity to climb the rocks out to the surf line. We searched for more pieces of pretty, soft-edged sea glass and soaked up the warm sun. The dogs were delighted with another chance to swim. Upon our return to the marina we lucked out yet again with an offer of cooked crabs from the crew of the power yacht, Rapid Transit.
Page and Rick aboard Rapid Transit, a beautiful Ocean Alexander, were also waiting for weather to reach acceptable parameters down the coast to their homeport in Newport, Oregon. We had been conferring with one another about forecasts and plans for heading home over the past couple of days.
An amusing incident happened one afternoon while we were standing on the dock talking with the harbormaster. He asked for our assistance in closing the spaces between several boats on the dock, in order to accommodate a fishing vessel that was coming in to stay until next season. A 45-foot space was created and soon the 43-foot wooden boat charged through the channel between the docks toward the opening going 6 to 7 knots. The captain nipped into the opening bow first, hit reverse, without even jostling the boats on either side, switched the engine off and nonchalantly stepped from the boat. As he did so, he handed Jeff the springline and quipped, "I usually do better with a couple of beers." His docking maneuver was an impressive sight. "Captain Ron" in the flesh!
At last, a weather window opened on Monday (September 21), enough to allow us to leave Vancouver Island for the 150 mile run to Gray's Harbor, Washington. The forecast called for acceptable, if not perfect conditions for our first leg south. After talking with Page and Rick, we decided that clearing customs at Gray's Harbor was a good idea as it gave us a stop halfway toward our destination and would allow us to review weather for the second half, walk the dogs, and get a night of sleep. As it turned out, it also gave us a break from rough conditions on the ocean.
Our first obstacle immediately upon leaving Ucluelet was to cross La Perouse Bank, a relatively shallow bank off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, in such a way that we would minimize the effects of the forecast 2-3 meter sea conditions. Soon after transiting La Perouse Bank, pleased to have lower seas than expected, we approached the west entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, about twenty miles out. Winds and associated waves along the Strait and near its entrances are often higher than along the coast; they were that morning. Off Cape Beale, the seas first began to kick up a bit due to cross currents and winds. We furled the mainsail and decided to motor sail with the mizzen raised to steady us. It was a good move as soon the wind strengthened and the seas began to build.
As we ventured forth, the current was flooding toward the east and the winds were blowing hard from the east through the strait. With wind and current opposing, waves built up rapidly, often doubling the forecast wave conditions and decreasing the period (making them closer together). This amplifying effect is what created the worst sea conditions we experienced on our entire trip this summer. The waves were high and close together, which gave us a ride with a lot of pitching. Waves frequently crashed into the bow sending spray over the pilothouse and into the cockpit. The windshield wiper was on constantly. We rode through these turbulent conditions for about six hours until we were south of Cape Flattery, the southwestern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was the first time Casey has ever been seasick.
We passed Cape Flattery at around 15:00 and had wonderful, calm conditions after that. The winds became light to nonexistent and the seas flattened to five to six foot swells from our right quarter with no wind waves. We had a very pleasant sea until 03:00 when an east wind started blowing and kicking up wind waves. The wind waves from the east winds were opposing the dominant swell from the west making the ride very rough once again. The good thing was that the long shore current was with us giving us a boost. Of course, that was mixed blessings as we had to slow down to avoid arriving at the Gray's Harbor bar during the ebb current. We managed to slow enough so that we crossed the bar at low water slack which smoothed out the seas considerably.
Gray's Harbor and the town of Westport was a very pleasant stop. We had to wait a couple of hours for the customs inspector to arrive as he was just boarding a large ship with twenty crewmen as we tied up at the dock. Upon entering a country one must stop to clear customs allowing an inspection (if so required) and declaring any goods or products brought into the country, especially those not for one's own use. It is not allowed to leave the boat for anything except to tie-up to the dock until the customs inspector has cleared you. We were able to have lunch, feed the dogs, and rest a bit before the inspector arrived. Once he arrived, the inspection consisted of an interview asking about products to be declared and the presence of any prohibited items. Of course, we had little to declare, certainly nothing amounting to the $800 allowance for each of us.
After the inspection, we took the dogs for a well deserved and much desired walk on solid ground with grass! They were most appreciative. After everybody's needs were attended to we returned to Storm Petrel on the transient dock. While walking down the dock, we observed a huge male California sea lion swimming toward us down an empty slip. We stopped to watch, wishing we had our cameras with us. At first we were intrigued by his habituation to the people and activity on the docks. Then we realized that this sea lion was more than comfortable around people, that in fact, he was very aggressive. His entire demeanor changed as he closely eyed the dogs Fraser was walking and showed the first subtle signs of a planned lunge forward to come up on the dock. Fraser was quick to recognize the advance as his yellow eyes narrowed and focused directly on them, while a wave pushed forward from his chest signaling the energy exerted to propel him onto the dock. Instinctively, she swiftly moved down the dock pulling Jake and Kaela to safety. Casey and Jeff quickly backed off the other way. Once Fraser and the dogs were clear, the sea lion retreated, dove under the dock and disappeared. We were flabbergasted and thankful that we immediately recognized the change in the animal's behavior and avoided a confrontation or worse outcome.
We stopped to talk to Rick and Page after the unnerving incident. They were not surprised to hear what happened as the occasional sea lion in Newport, Oregon, their homeport, is similarly aggressive. Apparently, a few California sea lions have learned that dogs are easy prey while walking on the docks, even when on a leash. Hungry sea lions have also learned that humans (especially women) walking along the docks often carry bags containing food with them. Sea lions have been known to lunge toward women on the dock carrying grocery sacks and have absconded with dinner to go. We've always been careful when walking the dogs at the beach when sea lions are present and are now vigilant on the docks at marinas frequented by these intelligent, adaptive creatures.
An entirely different, delightful experience with sea lions occurred on our passage from Gray's Harbor to Newport the following day, Wednesday. South of the Columbia River during the late afternoon's unexpectedly smooth sea conditions, we saw a number of sea lions foraging or swimming by. One of them treated us to an acrobatic show. The sea lion leaped completely free of the water, "porpoising" several times. On one occasion, he (females and juveniles stay in California and Mexico) was facing us as he leaped, so that he was silhouetted against the blue sky. For a moment, we saw the sleek, dark body suspended in air, even to the detail of the "fingers" in his extended flippers.
We left the public dock at Gray's Harbor at 05:00, an hour or so before first light. A low, rhythmic west swell swept across the bar, making it easy for us to proceed past the sea buoy. We set a course on a straight line to the buoy seaward of the Newport Jetty and settled in for the 142 mile passage. Fog closed in for awhile in the morning but burned off by noon. All day we enjoyed a five-foot westerly swell with a 12 second period. There wasn't enough wind for wind waves beyond a ripple. In addition to seeing the playful sea lions, we saw a couple of humpback whales in the distance, flocks of pelicans, storm petrels, and plenty of gulls. Dall's porpoises twice joined us for very brief bow rides. With Storm Petrel steered by auto pilot, we all sat on deck taking pleasure in the gentle motion and lovely afternoon at sea.
The sea state changed gradually, so that by midnight we had northerly three-foot wind waves on top of the westerly five-foot swell, creating a rather rolly ride. Fortunately, the sea state never reached the severity we experienced sailing past the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca or approaching Gray's Harbor. We were able to continue directly on course for Newport, but the increasing waves did follow the forecast putting an end to our hopes of continuing on to Winchester Bay in one leg from Gray's Harbor. The forecast included much higher winds and waves (30 to 40 knots of wind, 9 to 13 foot wind waves on top of 10 foot swells with short intervals); we would not be continuing south for a few days if not a week or two.
During the last four hours of transit toward the entrance to Yaquina Bay at Newport, we observed a fishing boat behind us on the radar. Her speed was only slightly higher than ours and her track mirrored ours. We were able to recognize the craft as a fishing boat because of the huge and very bright light it had burning in its rigging. We continued to track the approaching vessel on radar, but made no attempt to contact her via radio. As each mile passed she drew closer, until we realized she would catch us right at the channel entrance. With only a half mile before the turn into the channel, the fishing boat continued to overtake us exactly on our track. We thought the captain would see our navigation lights, if not the boat on radar, but she/he gave no indication of that by slowing or altering course. Approaching the buoy at which we were to turn towards the inlet, we realized the fishing boat captain did not see us and would run up our stern if we did not take evasive action. We altered course to seaward by 90 degrees to avoid a collision; all the while Fraser was in the cockpit shining our brightest light toward the fishing boat's pilothouse. Neither of us really felt that the captain of the fishing boat saw us at any time, unless, maybe as we followed her into Yaquina Bay.
The rest of the channel and under the Highway 101 bridge was its normal confusing path at night due to the conglomeration of lights around the structure and along the wharf beyond. It can be quite misleading trying to decipher the navigational lights depicted on the chart from random lights on the bridge and around that part of town. Thank goodness for GPS, a good chart plotter and radar. Those tools make the task relatively easy, not too different from flying an instrument approach to an airport. The hard part came when trying to get into a slip on the transient dock at the South Beach Marina in the dark. A fifty-five or sixty-foot power boat was backed into a forty foot slip and took up half the fairway. On the other side, the pilings at the end of the finger piers were black, which camouflaged them in the dark night. It was a challenge to squeeze our way between and into an inky slip. We finally got situated with lines secured and engine shut-down. After a quick walk for the dogs, we were all quickly asleep, enjoying a well deserved rest in the calm marina.
By the time we awoke sometime around mid-morning, the wind was already whistling through the rigging. We were glad to be off the ocean with the large waves that were certainly kicking up by then. Had we kept onward toward Winchester Bay at 03:30, we would still have another six hours of dealing with the growing waves. As we looked around the transient dock, we found ourselves in good company with several much larger sailboats waiting for better conditions. Late that night, another larger ketch found her way to the transient dock after being pounded by fifteen foot waves and howling winds.
Our new friends, Page and Rick, on Rapid Transit, offered to drive Jeff to Winchester Bay so that he could get the 4-Runner. Fortunately, the good old car started up right away despite sitting in the marina parking lot since the beginning of June. With our wheels back in Newport, we off-loaded as much as we could from the boat and then headed back down the coast and across the mountains to our home on land. Our great sailing adventure this summer is almost at an end; it will always remain fresh in our memories and inspire dreams for the future. We hope for sea conditions to improve along the Oregon coast in the next couple of weeks, so that we can sail Storm Petrel all the way back to her home port on the Umpqua River before the winter weather patterns prevail.
Fraser is well underway into the new term at the university and Jeff is busy taking care of some of the more mundane aspects of our return from the sea. Like us, the dogs are adapting to being land based, reexploring their backyard, sniffing the air for any new scents, and continuing to keep us safe from imminent invasion.
We thank you all for your wonderful, supportive comments to our ramblings. The past few months have been an incredible voyage made even more special by being able to share it with all of you faithful blog readers.
Wishing you all fair winds and following seas (less than two meters)!
Fraser, Jeff, Casey, Jake, & Kaela
Tofino to Ucluelet
18 September 2009 | Ucluelet, Vancover Island, BC
Fraser and Jeff
We left Tofino under a sunny sky with calm winds and a lightly rolling sea. As we left the island and moved into deeper water, we were almost immediately treated to the sight of a humpback whale surfacing a couple of hundred yards in front of us. It is always a thrill to see the leviathans as they enjoy the rich waters of British Columbia. We decided to put out our fishing lines and before we could get the second line in the water, we had another fifteen to seventeen pound coho in the boat. We have been quite lucky to catch a salmon almost every time we want one. While Jeff filleted the fish in the cockpit, Fraser was busy watching another whale, which breached twice, then waved its pectoral fins high in the air. The pectoral fins of an adult humpback are quite significant and it is an impressive sight to see them waving above the surface. Of course, a breaching whale is always an awe-inspiring sight. It is quite humbling to see thirty feet of whale come shooting out of the waves, then crash back with a tremendous splash.
The trip southeast along the coast to Barkley Sound was quite pleasant with smooth, but organized waves rolling under us from the west. With our mainsail flying the ride was fairly stable; enough so that we could enjoy fresh salmon tacos for lunch.
A little further along, off the white sands of Long Beach, we were joined by a couple of Dall's porpoises. The little black and white torpedoes rocketed through the waves crossing right under our bow. We were all enjoying the spectacle from the bow as the autopilot kept us on course. The dogs really enjoy a visit by dolphin or porpoises and bark encouragement as they hang over the gunwale to get a closer look. Dall's porpoise often look for boats so they can play in the bow wave. They only spend a few minutes with us as we're a bit slow for their antics.
We reached Amphitrite Point and turned north into the sound then northwest into the harbor of Ucluelet. Ucluelet, another "big town", is, for some reason, more inviting to both of us. We find Tofino a bit too rushed as tourists flow from one shop to the next. Ucluelet is also switching its income base toward tourism as the fishing and logging industries diminish, but it seems to maintain a more relaxed pace.
One of our fond memories of Ucluelet from our last visit five years ago, is walking along the "Wild Pacific Trail." Though beautiful, it is not all that wild with its graveled surfaces, bridges, and boardwalks over ravines and boggy spots as it winds along the forests and cliffs of the spectacular, rugged coastline from Ucluelet toward the northwest (it will eventually go all the way to Long Beach). We were all looking forward to a good walk and quickly made our way to intercept the Wild Pacific Trail on the outskirt of Ucluelet. We were quite surprised that a housing subdivision in the making was overlaid on top of the trail with roads, streetlights, lot lines, utilities and all the rest. The developers managed to keep the trail accessible, but this portion is not the wild trail we remembered. We enjoyed a walk on the trail for a small stretch and were surprised when we came upon a huge resort condo built right out onto the cliff at the shore side. About the time we decided to head back to the dock, the rain began to fall as a light mist. It quickly developed into a full fledged rain and we were all soaked through by the time we got back to Storm Petrel.
The second day on the "52 steps dock" (there is a steep stairway to the street level with, you guessed it, 52 steps) while we were relaxing on the boat after a walk around town, we were greeted by a couple of fishermen who were passing on the dock. They invited us over to their fifty-foot troller, the Confident, for a tour. It was a very pleasant and interesting encounter. We were both amazed at some of the impressive technology employed to help find the fish and with the work accomplished by the two lone crewmen on the boat. The Confident was currently seeking albacore tuna off the southern BC coast. She had been employed with prawn fishing until the season closed, then salmon fishing until that season closed. It takes a lot of work to make a living fishing these days with the price of fuel and everything else going up. The Confident burns about $350 worth of fuel every day she works, so she has to catch a bunch of fish just to keep even. The tuna are tough to fish because even when you do everything right, you find the fish and are right in the middle of them and have all your gear set just right, they may or may not decide to bite. I guess if it were easy, it would be called "catching" instead of "fishing". The captain and deckhand of the Confident wished us well on our voyage and gave us a couple of hooks and tuna jigs to try our luck on our way home.
Although the weather forecast called for high winds on Thursday, we thought we could make a run up to a favorite anchorage in Pipestem Inlet late Wednesday afternoon. The entrance to Barkley Sound was rough with 2-meter seas until we headed further into the sound. Underway we listened to an updated weather forecast for the following day, then decided in favor of a secure moorage and returned to the harbor and a slip at the inner basin public dock. Steve Bird, the harbourmaster is a great guy, always helpful, and assured us there was room for the night. The friendly community on our dock is composed of other transients like ourselves seeking a quiet moorage and a live aboard couple, established residents of Ucluelet. It is fun to meet fellow mariners from diverse backgrounds and to have wonderful conversations about a range of interests, from boating to philosophical concerns. We exchange information, share adventures, suggest good places to visit, and are quite often, "consequential strangers" to one another. We liked the term, consequential stranger, after hearing it used in an NPR interview. It refers to someone you have only just met or don't know well but with whom you have a meaningful encounter. The commercial fishermen who gave us a tour of their boat are an example, as is the First Nations man we talked with in Zaballos. We've been enriched with a number of such lovely, consequential meetings this summer.
The weather seems to have turned to the fall patterns sooner than it usually does. We've been told, and our experience has shown us, that September is one of the best months for sailing in this area and all the way down to our home waters. We have experienced delays for weather at every step of our trip down the west coast of Vancouver Island, much more than we anticipated. We expect to get home soon, but maybe not quite as soon as we had planned. We have had a couple of good days here, only to have it rough further south along the Washington and Oregon coasts. It looks like Monday may provide a window of opportunity with acceptable weather along our route south.
South Coast Vancouver Island
14 September 2009 | Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC
Fraser and Jeff
A break in a series of low pressure systems moving through British Columbia allowed us to depart Kyuquot for Esperanza Inlet on Sunday, 6 September. The extra days waiting for the new dinghy meant that we had to "boogy" while we had a weather window. Ironically, we decided to stow the new dinghy and are still using the old, patched one. We keep the pump handy and give it a few blasts of air every so often just to keep it going. We'll keep the new one in reserve as it's quite a bit smaller than the one we repaired.
Underway from Kyuquot we weaved our way through the barrier reefs, shoals and other scary rocks all to the jerky rhythm of a pretty decent swell. It was an uneventful, six hour journey to Esperanza Inlet albeit rather rolly with the waves at two to three meters; a few were somewhat bigger than that and though they were regular swells the ride was exciting at times. Jake and Kaela were not comfortable with the motion, but Casey seemed immune to it. We left Kyuquot in the mid-afternoon which brought us to Esperanza Inlet's Gillam Channel as the sun was setting and then into Queen Cove (N 49 52.87;
W 126 58.99), just as it was getting dark. Mike, the intrepid skipper of Winter Spirit, the Fisher 30 we mentioned in a previous blog, was already anchored in Queen Cove. He kindly invited us to have a late dinner with him. It was a very welcome invitation. We enjoyed a great dinner with pleasant company. He was up early (earlier than us, anyway) the next morning and on his way toward Nootka Sound. We were a bit more concerned with forecast weather and sea conditions, so we continued into Esperanza and Zeballos Channel to the town of Zeballos. Zeballos (N 49 58.7; W 126 50.6) is a small, frontier type town built by logging, mining, and a little fishing. There is a small fish packing facility at the end of the dock with an ice machine that runs loudly all night. It was interesting to watch a commercial fishing boat empty its cargo and then replenish its ice supply. A truck waited to haul the fish to a larger port, markets, or perhaps to a cannery.
We ended up staying two nights in Zaballos due to storm force winds off the coast (a couple of gusts made it into the hurricane force category) and some fairly heavy rains (six inches overnight). We did get a list of boat chores accomplished, such changing the engine oil and filter, fuel filter, and transmission fluid. We were also able to top off our fuel supply, propane, and water. Our fuel consumption has been steady at just under .8 gallons per hour, which isn't bad for a 25,000 pound vessel.
Leaving Zeballos, we followed the winding inside route around Nootka Island, to Nootka Sound and eventually to our destination, Bodega Cove. All along our way the sky was broken to obscured with the cloudy, misty remnants of the storm, leaving a few holes for the sun to break through occasionally. Just when we thought the sun would win, the rains would wash over us again. The boat had another fresh water wash in the process. The scenery throughout the inner passage to Nootka Sound was spectacular, with steep mountains starting right at the water climbing up over 300 meters into the clouds. Several of the mountain faces were sheer cliffs interspersed with cascades of water from the days of rain.
Once anchored in Bodega Cove, we took a dinghy tour of the estuary at the head of the basin, enjoying the flocks of mallard ducks resting in the grasses. Next we rode the dinghy out to a group of islets, so that the dogs could stretch their legs. Jeff spotted a black bear on shore just at dusk. It was bigger than the many other bears we've seen this summer. The bear climbed over and around a fallen tree on shore looking for edibles revealed by the low tide. Taking the dogs to shore after dinner in the semi-darkness, we wondered where the bear was and if he or she was the only bear in the area. It was wonderful to be in a quiet cove again after the relative busyness of Zaballos. After a restful night under a star-studded sky, we left Nootka Sound to round Estevan Point, the last geographical hurtle in transiting the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The ocean swells quickly made their presence known as we motor sailed out of Nootka Sound. Heading south, we passed a big sea lion charging in the opposite direction. He passed quite close to the boat, not at all shy about our trying in vain to take pictures. We were happy to see him, the first sea lion we'd come across on our adventure. We know they inhabit these waters, but they usually hunt their fish prey further off shore than we have been travelling.
Heading out into the Pacific, we were greeted with two meter seas and no winds. We did have our mainsail flying for stability, but there was not enough wind to give us much of the desired effect. Fortunately, the seas were quite organized and though the swells were fairly close (about 7 to 9 seconds) we did not have a rough ride. Once we turned southeast around Estevan Point and down sea, the ride became even more comfortable. The only disappointment in rounding Estevan was that we did not catch a salmon to celebrate as we had at the other major capes on our trip down the west coast. We were, however, treated to the sight of several humpbacks.
As we approached the main coast of Vancouver Island again, we wondered if the sea otters introduced in the Bunsby Islands had established themselves south of Estevan Point. Even as we were asking each other, we came upon a raft of sea otters happily munching on the things sea otters munch on. The otters looked like a big bunch of kelp floating on the waves. As we looked through the binoculars the "kelp" came alive. We slowed to try to photograph them but the shy otters began back pedaling with their tails and eased even farther away from us. We continued on our way so as not to disturb them, pleased to know that otters do live in Clayoquot Sound.
Rather than entering Clayoquot Sound at Hot Springs Cove as we planned, we continued southeast along the coast of Vancouver Island and entered near Flores Island. We went to Matilda Inlet, a long, narrow cut slicing into Flores Island. Matilda Inlet is home to Ahousat, a small outpost settlement with a hotel/restaurant, store and fuel dock. Past Ahousat, further down the inlet is Gibson Marine Park. In a small basin off of Matilda Inlet is Marktosis, a First Nations village. We anchored toward the head of Matilda Inlet (N 49 16.16; W 126 04.41), in the deepest area, about 30 feet deep. The Inlet is well protected and very quiet, except for the distant sound of the occasional boat going into or leaving from Marktosis.
At the very head of the inlet is a warm water spring which fills an old concrete pool just right for soaking off the salt crystals. At the spring, begins a trail that leads through the temperate rain forest across the arm of the island to a beautiful broad beach. We kept the beasties on their leashes to prevent any possible meetings with resident wildlife, and slipped, splashed and stumbled our way through the sticky bogs and slippery limbs and roots for an hour each way to the beach. At the beach, the dogs had a great time sprinting across the sand, diving through the small breakers and generally enjoying themselves while we delighted in the beautiful beach and surrounding vistas. We walked to the end of the beach and then took a small trail and boardwalk around a rocky cliff to the next portion of beach. Here, we found many empty moon snail shells in varying degrees of deterioration. This is the first place we've been able to find a beach that is fairly easily accessible. British Columbia has a beautiful coast line which has miles of rocky shorelines with the thickly wooded hillsides dropping straight into the sea. There are a few beaches, but they are often too difficult to approach as we are wary of anchoring on a lee shore for even a short time. Vancouver and his crews were a lot braver than we are! They also had bigger, heartier wooden dinghies to carry them from ship to shore.
After leaving Matilda Inlet, we visited a gorgeous little bay called West White Pine Bay (N 49 17.79;
W 125 58.35). It is west of the main White Pine Bay, separated by a small island that creates a perfect little anchorage. At the entrance to the inner bay, there was a huge barge supporting a structure that looked like a motel or dorm. It was moored with a float on either end. One float was for boats, the other for a helicopter, a Jet Ranger. Evidently, the barge is the working residence for a helicopter logging operation which we could hear working in the distance. Fortunately, the barge was out of sight of the inner basin where we anchored. The tiny inner bay is very attractive, surrounded by low timbered hills rising to a large mountain with other, larger mountains in the distance. It was so peaceful in the anchorage that we easily heard the approach of a seal as he surfaced and exhaled on his entrance into the bay. The Milky Way was magnificent in the clear, dark night. Several shooting stars zipped across the sky as we watched from the cockpit before retiring for the evening.
The following morning the weather forecast indicated high seas associated with another low pressure system out of the Gulf of Alaska, so we decided to visit Tofino. Tofino (N 49 09.2; W 125 53.95) is the first "big' town we've come to since leaving Port Hardy a month ago. It offers the amenities of a larger community, such as a well stocked co-op grocery store, restaurants, a bookstore, and art galleries. It is a pretty town on the water that attracts adventurers of all types‚Ä"recreational boaters, kayakers, fishermen and women, surfers, and campers, as well as tourists seeking the beauty of the Pacific coast. Walking to the grocery store, we heard people talking with delightful accents and in languages representing many countries of the world.
The view of mountains and islands from Storm Petrel's deck is lovely. She is at the end of one of the piers at the 4th Street Marina. There are many different vessels in the marina, ranging from pleasure craft to fishing boats. We plan on sailing to Uclulet, about 20 miles south, tomorrow morning before another low pressure system signals its arrival with higher winds and seas. We hope to have a period of more settled weather for our journey home within the next week. We'll keep you posted on our plans.