June 30, 2019–Across the Top of Vancouver Island

Departure Port:  Port Hardy; Departure Time:  6:30am; Destination:  Bull Harbour; Arrival Time:  11am; Miles Cruised Today:  29; Total Miles:  450; Conditions:  glassy smooth seas, air temp:  65 degrees, water temp:  54 degrees

Today our northward voyage up the east side of Vancouver Island comes to and end, and we turn westward, toward the outside of the island.  We’ve traveled 13 days since clearing customs at Bedwell Harbour, and have logged 400 naDSCF2235utical miles in cruising up the east side of the island.  Our route has been anything but direct, with our crossing of the Strait of Georgia, our zig zag passage through the tidal rapids region, and our big detour through the Broughtons.  We pull out of the Quarterdeck Marina in Port Hardy at 6:30am, run for half an hour to Duval Point at the mouth of Hardy Bay, and then turn due west, toward Cape Scott.  The water is glassy smooth, so I set a diagonal course for the north side of Goletas Channel and follow the south edges of Duncan, Balaklava and Nigei IslandsDSCF2236 on our way toward Hope Island and our destination of the day, Bull Harbour, which is the last secure anchorage before we venture forth to round Cape Scott. 

Our run is highlighted by some remarkable wildlife sightings.  The smooth water surface makes it easy to see salmon leaping into the air.  We see a large sea lion cruising along, oblivious to our presence.  I put binoculars on a large group of sea birds, and discover that they are phalaropes, with their tall, thin necks and long bills, busily swimming in tight little circles.  About 200 yards out ahead of us I see a humpback whale surface and dive, with tail flukes waving goodbye to us.  Out of the corner of my eye I think I see another salmon jump, right next to the boat, but I’m mistaken.  The water alongside rips open to reveal a Pacific white sided dolphin rocketing along, just below the surface.  He’s come out to play with us.  He shoots ahead, turns sharply, and then rises several times in our wake.  He comes right alongside, and seems to look up at us, and then abruptly, he’s gone.  It’s an experience that puts big smiles on our faces. 

As we near Bull Harbour, we glass to the west, toward the daunting Nahwitti Bar, which we must get past tomorrow.  The incoming Pacific swell clashes with this shallow bar and at any time other than slack, it creates very rough seas.  If a contrary wind is added to the mix, it can quickly set up breaking seas.  We plan to avoid the bar by taking a circuitous route behind Tatnall Reef, but we’re still interested is seeing if we can sight the rough water with our binoculars.  Instead of seeing high seas, we sight something far more spectacular.  Out toward the bar we sight a breaching humpback whale.  This DSCF2245whale launches itself out of the water, exposing more than 3/4’s of his enormous body, 4 or 5 times, each time arcing high into the air before crashing back into the water with an incredible splash.  On one of his breaches I clearly see his long pectoral fin.  It’s as if he’s extending  a welcome to the wild waters of Vancouver Island’s west coast.

Shortly before 11am we enter Bull Harbour.  We work our way into the inner part of the harbour, which is nearly devoid of other boats.  We anchor in 20 feet, fix lunch, and then take naps.  It’s quiet and peaceful here.  A small collection of houses are clustered on the narrow spit at the head of the bay.  The land here belongs to a First Nations band, and we can only go ashoreGOPR0404_Moment by permission, which we have not made arrangements to do.  We busy ourselves with getting our fishing poles rigged.  I also set out the crab pot, since I recall reading somewhere that the crabbing can be good here.  I hope so.  You’ll have to check tomorrow’s post to see if we had any luck.  Dinner tonight will be salmon fillet, courtesy of Tobi’s crab bait gift.  It should be excellent.

July 1, 2019–Rounding Cape Scott on Canada Day

Departure Port:  Bull Harbour; Departure Time:  6:30am; Destination:  Sea Otter Cove; Arrival Time:  3pm; Lunch Stop:  Guise Bay; Distance Cruised Today:  34 miles;  Total Distance for Trip:  484 miles;  Conditions:  Mostly overcast, sunny in afternoon, wind calm in morning, 10 knots in afternoon, seas 1.5 foot or less; water temp:  55 degrees; air temp:  65 degrees

DSCF2249DSCF2251The water is glassy smooth in Bull Harbour when we get up.  We’re pleased to find no fog.  We’re underway by 6:30am, which we’ve calculated should give us ample time to arrive at Cape Scott at slack.  The water looks very tame out on the Nahwitti Bar, and we see several go fast fishing boats charging past us, and headed straight for the bar.  However, we stick to our plan and cross over behind Tatnall Reef, where we take the more protected inside route.  We cruise along at a leisurely 5 knots.  We catch up with the fishing boats at Cape Sutil, where 10 boats have lines out.  We don’t see any fish caught when we pass, just beyond the fleet of trolling boats.  I then set my waypoint for Cape Scott, some 14 miles distant.  Since I have a clear straight line course to the Cape, I can determine both the distance and our projected arrival time, based on the speed we’re making.  This helps assure that we’ll arrive at our desired time.  About halfway toDSCF2261 Cape Scott we see our first sea otter.  He’s bobbing on his back, with both head and webbed feet sticking out of the water.  This is the first of several otters we see this morning.  We near Cape Scott about half an hour ahead of our desired time, however, both wind and water remain calm, so we continue on our course.  Our passage around Cape Scott without difficulty, despite its well warned reputation for nastiness.  In fact, we’re probably enjoying one of the most pleasant roundings of the Cape thus far this season.  This marks the end of our passage across the top of Vancouver Island.  Once we turn to the southwest, we begin our run down the outside west coast of the Island. 

Just a mile or two past the Cape we turn into Guise Bay.  It’s lunch time, and this inviting little bay, just behind Cape Scott, is a perfect place to eat and then go ashore in the dinghy for a beach walk.  We find another sailboat already anchored here, as we make our way in.  She’s named Winging It, a 28 foot sloop, and when we go ashore we meet the young family sailing in her.  They are Alex and Maria and their two young kids.  They started in Port Hardy a few days ago, and they’ll be taking a month to cruise down the outside, just like us.  It’s more than likely that we’ll encounter them again as we proceed on our voyage.

DSCF2267After our walk, we return to the boat and get underway.  A breeze has come up, so I unfurl the jib and we motor sail 6 miles down to Sea Otter Cove.  We trail a fishing line on the way, but have no luck.  The entrance to Sea Otter Cove is a bit tricky, with rocks and kelp beds to watch out for, but we work our way into the anchorage area near the head of the cove without trouble.  We decide to pass up the big mooring floats, which are designed for very large boats, opting instead to anchor a bit further in and closer to shore, where we have a little more protection from the wind.  I’ve programmed a layover day here, however, we decide to move on in the morning, with Winter Harbour and Browning Inlet as our goal.  We’ll troll for salmon a bit, with the downrigger, on our way.  This plan will put us 2 days ahead of our schedule.  We have a lot of great places still ahead, and we expect that we’ll have no trouble spending those extra days in attractive surroundings.


July 2, 2019–Down the Coast to Quatsino Sound

Departure Port:  Sea Otter Cove; Departure Time:  7:30am; Destination:  Browning Inlet; Stop Along the Way:  Winter Harbour; Arrival Time:  4:30pm; Distance for the Day:  29 miles; Total Distance Cruised:  513 miles; Conditions:  seas calm to light chop, light wind to calm air, 68 degrees, 58 degree water temp

DSCF2276We are in no hurry to get underway today, taking our time with breakfast and raising the anchor at 7:30am.  We motor out of placid Sea Otter Cove at low tide, with mud flats and weed beds showing all around.  Once outside, I rig the salmon pole and downrigger for some salmon fishing.  As soon as I lower the downrigger ball, the fishing line pops free of its clip.  I thinkDSCF2279 it’s simply come undone, but no, the rod tip is bouncing, a sure sign of fish on.  Greg reels the line in, and we soon see what we have.  Not a salmon, but a decent sized black bass.  I put it on a stringer and we set up to troll again.  We idle along at 2.5 knots in our intended direction of travel.  It takes us 45 minutes before our second fish hits; another black bass.  We agree that if we catch a third black bass, we’ll take the line in and travel.  Sure enough, a short time later we land our third bass, the largest of the bunch.  We now have a nice string of fish, plus a good new supply of crab bait once I filet the fish out. 

We enjoy a lonely cruise down the coast toward Quatsino Sound.  The sea is nearly flat, with only the slightest hint of a swell, and absolutely no surface chop.  It’s overcast, but comfortable.  We sight a few sea otters, some harbor porpoise, 3 sea lions, and get a brief glimpse of a whale.  Close to noon we approach the entrance to Quatsino Sound.  As we turn eastward, into the sound, we find that we have cell service out in open water.  This will likely be the only place on the west coast, until Tofino, where we’ll have cell service, so we text and phone our wives.  They are glad to hear from us, and we’re pleased to hear that things are good back home. 

We motor up the inlet to Winter Harbour, where we fill the gas tanks (got 5.5 miles/gallon since leaving Port Hardy), pick up a few groceries, get ice, and fill the water tank.  We’re now well stocked for a lengthy time without support services.  With harbour chores completed, we cast off and head for nearby Browning Inlet.  This narrow inlet is quiet and peaceful, with no one around.  We anchor in an attractive nook along the channel, and while I’m setting out the crab pot, Greg busies himself with dinner.  He fixes the last of the salmon given to us by Toby at Alert Bay.  He uses a recipe he found in Billy Proctor’s book, marinading the salmon in soy sauce and brown sugar.  It comes out great, and we hope to recreate this feast again, with a salmon we catch on our own. 


July 3, 2019–Challenged by Wallas

DSCF2289Departure Port:  Browning Inlet; Departure Time:   8am; Destination:  Julian Cove; Arrival Time:  12 noon; Distance Cruised Today:  20 miles; Total Miles Cruised:  533; Conditions:  Cool, overcast, calm waters in morning; clear and sunny, breezy in afternoon

It wouldn’t be a cruising trip without the Wallas kerosene stove acting up, and this one is no exception.  The stove has been on fairly good behaviour thus far, although recently, it’s been hinting that it’s not completely happpy.  In the mornings, when it’s chilly and damp outside, and when we’re especially eager to get our coffee water quickly heated, the stove has been refusing to light.  I’ve had to resort to starting the outboard, thereby giving the battery a voltage boost, in order to get the stove started.  Later in the day, the stove has lit just fine, but mornings have become a problem.  This morning, Greg and I decide that we have time to fix up a fancy breakfast, opting for French toast.  I start the engine, and hopefully give the stoveDSCF2290 button a push.  No ignition.  We wait 3 or 4 minutes and try again.  Still no joy.  This cycle repeats 3 or 4 more times before we acknowledge defeat and resort to cooking on the butane cylinder portable camp stove, which I carry as a backup.  Of course, the fuel cylindar is nearly empty, and has to be changed before we fry up our.last 2 slices, but at least we’ve completed breakfast.  But now a bit of a worry has arisen.  I know that the 3 cylinders of butane stove fuel we have along will not be enough to fuel all of our cooking for the remainder of the trip.  Our third backup is to cook on the propane barbque burner, which is possible but not in the least degree convenient.  While propane fuel canisters are widely available, we’re virtually certain that fuel for the butane stove will be impossible to find out here.

As I say, it’s a worry, but nothing we can do at the moment but enjoy the day.  I climb into the dinghy and row out to retrieve the crab trap.  One of our cruising guides says crabbing is good here, and I’m hopeful, since I’ve baited it with some particularly tempting bait.  I look for the crab trap float, but it’s not where I put it out last evening.  I finally spot it, considerably further down the inlet.  Curious.  I row down there and haul it up.  I find the line badly fouled with green floating algae scum, which is all over the place here.  Apparently, it collected around the rope and the outgoing current dragged the trap to its current location.  It feels heavier than usual, which is a good sign.  When it emerges from the depths, however, disappointment once again.  All I’ve managed to catch is one small rock crab and 2 rocks.  They must have gotten inside during the trap’s journey toward the inlet entrance.

IMG_4576I stow the crab trap stowed on deck (I’ve also read that Julian Cove, where we’re headed, is also good for crabbing). and we row ashore for a short walk before departing.  We come across a small cat-sized creature, rather mangy in appearance, who is poking his nose into the rocks.  He’s not the least afraid of us, allowing us to approach to within 6 feet or so.  Occasionally, he stares at us and hisses with a very irritated look on his face, before resuming his search for breakfast.  He’s perhaps the rattiest looking mink I’ve ever seen.

We get underway at 8am.  Out on the main channel it’s nearly calm, overcast, but the low hanging clouds show signs of breaking up.  We maintain just over 5 knots of speed, and find we’reDSCF2297 getting a welcome push from the incoming tide.  Out on the main body of Quatsino Sound, we once again find we have cell service.  We check in with our wives, and I manage to upload some recent posts.  I phone a resort down on Esparanza Inlet, where the Waggoners Guide says fuel is available.  Getting to that area will involve our longest run between fuel docks, and I want to confirm that they do indeed have gas for sale.  My call goes through and I learn that they don’t have gas available.  Very good to know.  They point me toward another place, Esparanza, where we can count on filling our tanks.  I’ll verify this evening that Esparanze is within reasonable cruising range for us.  My final call is to my Wallas stove dealership.  I want to talk with the technicial, to see if he can point us in a useful direction in getting the stove to work.  He suggests a few things for us to check.

We arrive at our destination for the day, Julian Cove, and it’s every bit as lovely as the descriptions we’ve read.  A large cruising sailboat is already anchored here, but he takes off in mid afternoon.  We suspect he was just hanging out here, waiting for slack at nearby Quatsino Narrows.  We now have the place to ourselves.  After lunch and a nap, we take a run at stove repair.  I check out the things the technician suggested, and find nothing amiss.  While I’m poking around, I shove on the power connection wires.  I’ve had trouble with this plug fitting DSCF2298coming apart in the past, and this time I find that it’s slipped a bit.  I push it 1//8 inch further in, and begin wondering if this loose connection may have caused a drop in voltage to the stove.  We test the stove, and voila, she fires right up.  Now, I know better to think that I’ve won, but at least we have cause to hope that the stove will run for the duration of the trip.  Now, If I can just row out and pull up a nice mess of Dungeness crab, things will be perfect.  We’re not counting on that, however, and our dinner menu tonight features fresh caught black bass fillets, dipped in egg batter and rolled in Panko.  Should be very tasty.

Post Script:  Yes, dinner was outstanding.  Wallas held up his end of the deal, and the fish was outstanding.  After dinner I go out in dinghy to give the old crab trap a pull.  This time my efforts are rewarded.  One nice male Dungeness, a full 1/8 inch over the minimum size.  He’s really feisty, but I manage to get himcleaned and into the cooler with all fingers intact.  I set the trap out again for an overnight try.  It would sure be great to get a second.


July 4, 2019–4th of July Special: Museum, Dinghy Explore, and Crab Feast

Departure Port:  Julian Cove; Departure Time:  8:30am; Destination:  Varney Bay with a stop at Coal Harbour; Arrival Time:  3pm; Distance Traveled Today:  13 miles; Total Cruised to date:  546 miles; Conditions:  overcast, air temp:  64 degrees; water temp:  61 degrees

DSCF2304The Quatsino Narrows rapids control our movements this morning, with an ebb current of up to 6 knots early, easing to slack at 10am.  This gives is time to fry some eggs and make toast, as well as check the crab trap.  The trap comes up empty, but breakfast is great.  We take off a bit early for the narrows, figuring with our 60 hp engine we can challenge the current a bit if necessary.  We reach the narrows about 40 minutes before slack.  The current is still running about 2 knots, so I swing from one side of the channel to the other in search for helpfulDSCF2305 backcurrent eddies.  We exit the narrows right at the forecast time of slack, and then head for Coal Harbour, where we’ll top off our gas tank.  Greg goes below to put lunch together while I anxiously eye what looks like a rainstorm headed our way.  I put my foul weather gear on, just in case, and I also engage the autopilot so I can put up the cockpit surround.  These precautions prove unnecessary, as the rain never materializes.  We head for the fuel dock, intending on a port side tie, which works best for us given how I’ve got the boat set up.  Once we get close, however, it’s clear that we need to do a starboard tie.  Greg deploys the midships fender on the starboard side, but when I attempt to do the same for the stern, I discover that the fender is missing.  Somehow it has come undone and is no longer with us.  I grab the one from the port side and switch it over, and we tie up at the fuel dock.  We only take on 6 gallons, however, given the long distance we must travel, at least 140 miles, before our next gas opportunity, I want to start out with completely full tanks. 

We eat lunch on the boat, and then walk into Coal Harbour in search of the museum.  During World War II Coal Harbour was the site of a Canadian Air Force seaplane base, and for nearly 20 years after the war this place was headquarters for the last whaling station located in North America.  The museum is housed in a hanger building which dates back to the war, and it features fascinating exhibits on whaling, the seaplane base years, and logging.  One whole room is filled with chain saws, some of which are at least 5 feet long, and requiring 2 men to operate.  The DSCF2307whaling exhibits are amazing, but also sobering and quite saddening.  Over 19,000 whales were slaughtered and processed here, and turned into dog food.  We view the huge jaw bones of a great blue whale, which dwarf Greg by comparison. 

Around 1:30pm we get back on board and shove off, needing to cruise just 3 miles to reach Varney Bay, our anchorage for the night.  A light breeze is blowing, from a favorable angle, so I raise both sails and shut the engine off.  We’ll save a bit of gas this way, and we have time to spare in getting to Varney Bay.  I want to be there by 3pm so we can time the high slack on Marble River at the head of Varney Bay.  We sail for most of the way, with speed a mere 2 to 3 knots, however, we are anchored by 3pm.  I put the crab trap out and we then head up the bay in the dinghy.  The Marble River flowsDSCF2308 through a remarkable little canyon just above the bay, and we’re eager to see it.  The scenery there exceeds all expectations, with near vertical rock walls on either side, covered in many places by lush ferns.  The rock is marble, and it’s eroded into amazing forms, including several rather deep alcoves or caves right along the waterway. We are able to travel a couple of miles up the river, finally reaching a very deep cave.  The water shallows here, but we row a few hundred yards farther before reaching a small rapids which marks the true head of navigation.  This beautiful place is definitely one of the trip highlights to date.

We run back down the river, hungry and looking forward to tonight’s dinner.  We check the crab trap on the way back.  It’s empty, but no worries, since we already have crab in the refrigerator.  I boil salt water on the barbque burner, while Greg fixes pasta shells in garlic sauce on the stove (she lights on the 3rd try).  We melt butter, and toast up English muffin halves, which we cover with margarine and melted Swiss cheese.  The crab is steamed on the barbque while preparations in the cabin are completed.  Then the feasting begins.  Greg just keeps repeating:  “Oh, this is good”, and it is, truly delicious. 

Well, that was our 4th of July.  No fireworks, but for us, completely unnecessary.



PS:  In case you’re having trouble making sense of the last two photos, just turn your head sideways.  They’re reflection shots rotated 90 degrees.  In still places with interesting shore features, such as we found on Marble River, you can create some amazing images.  I think the second one looks like a moth.

July 5, 2019–Perfect Day at the Beach

Departure Port:  Varney Bay; Departure Time:  7:30am; Destination:  Gooding Cove; Arrival Time:  12:15am; Distance Traveled Today:  21 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  567 miles; Conditions:  Strong ebb current in Quatsino Narrows, mostly calm seas afterward; wind 5mph or less; 75 degree air temp; 58 degree water temp

DSCF2333We’re waking up most mornings at around 5:30am, and that’s the case today.  We take our time with breakfast, cleanup, etc. and are off the anchor by 7:30am, more than 2 full hours ahead of slack for Quatsino Narrows.  That’s by design, since the Narrows are ebbing, so they’ll give us a good push.  I’m confident that, with the power available in my 60hp outboard, I can easily handle any swirls or disturbed water in the strongly ebbing Narrows.  I have the throttle set at around 1300 rpm, and we’re making just over 3 knots as we enter the narrows.  We feelDSCF2334 the current steadily strengthen and our speed at our low rpm soon accelerates to a steady 8 knots, and at one point, scoots us along at 9 knots.  This means that we’re riding in a 5 to 6 knot current.  As I expected, we have no issues with control, and we simply enjoy the free ride.  The current makes its presence felt a surprising way out into the main body of Quatsino Inlet.  We’re a mile or two beyond the Narrows before the water completely smooths out. 

The sky is almost totally clear, in sharp contrast to the continuous overcast of yesterday.  We enjoy the warmth that sunshine brings.  We pick up cell coverage out in the main inlet, so we both place phone call to wives, and I also call my mom.  It’s amazing to have such communications in a remote place like this.  However, cell service is a luxury soon to end.  We expect to be out of cell service for the next couple of weeks.  This means, among other things, that I won’t be able to upload my blog posts, until I either have cell service or a wifi connection.

About 3 miles short of our destination we put out a fishing line, using a diving device called a “Lady-Go-Diva”.  We troll a squid imitation referred to as a “Hootchie”.  It seems to fish well, however we get no strikes.  As noon approaches, we near our destination, Gooding Cove.  This lovely spot is in a great strategic location, right at the mouth of Quatsino Inlet.  If we don’t stay for the night here, we must continue for another 25 miles, to the next anchoring spot.  We could make that distance today, however, we are enjoying outstanding weather, sunny, clear, nearly calm, and with similarly great weather DSCF2335forecast for the next several days.  We find no reason to go further.  The only risk this anchorage poses is exposure to the swell, which sneaks in here on a westerly or northwesterly wind.  It looks a little rolly, but we’re banking on the wind settling completely this evening, which should calm the little bit of swell we at first feel.

We break routine of our usual noon meal of either lunch meat  or peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and decide to fancy things up a bit.  Today it’s Cup of Soup (cream of chicken) andIMG_4641 BLT’s.  We still have fresh romaine lettuce from the very start of the trip.  It’s amazing how well it’s kept.  We have cherry tomatoes we can slice, plus mayo and butter for the bread.  For bacon, we use bacon bits, sprinkled on.  Bread is toasted in a skillet, and they turn out great.

Following lunch and the obligatory reading/nap session, we try an experiment.  We’re anchored near a nice sized patch of kelp, and we decide to lower the Go Pro waterproof camera down with a length of rope, to see what it looks like below the surface.  The effort is modestly successful, and we’ll continue to explore underwater photography opportunities.  It’s now GOPR0494_Momenttime for a shore excursion.  Greg goes equipped with a plastic bag for shell collection, and we both pack bear spray.  I also grab the trash bag so I can burn our paper trash. Gooding Cove features a lovely sand beach, with lots of interesting shells, rocks and bits of driftwood to examine.  We find a kayak camp site at the far right corner of the beach.  Greg goes over to check things out, and finds fresh bear tracks in the sand, near the camp.  We find good evidence of crab in the vicinity.  I go back to the dinghy and row out to the boat so I can deploy the crab trap.  We’ll leave it out overnight, and pick it up in the morning.  I row back to shore and pick Greg up. 

Back on the boat it’s time for taco chips and guacomole dip, washed down with rum and coke, with some appropriate island music playing on the CD player.  We feel extravagent with electricity, since I’ve had my 2 solar panels aimed perfectly all afternoon, and the batteries are very happy.  For dinner, we boil noodles and heat up beef strogonoff.  Sandy premade this meal before the start of the trip, and placed 2 meals worth into seal-a-meal bags.  They have been sitting in my Engel refrigerator, which we’re running as a freezer for this trip, just waiting IMG_4641for use.  This morning I took tonight’s frozen dinner out and stuck it into the ice chest to thaw, and coincidently add some chill to the ice chest.  This system is working out great.  We put the sealed bag of strogonoff into a pot of water, with a wire grate in the bottom, and heat it up.  This avoids creating a messy pot to wash up, and we can use the water to either wash dishes or make tea with.  The dinner turns out terrific, with generous dollops of sour cream placed on top for the perfect finish.  As you can by now gather, meals on this trip are anything but basic.

Tomorrow we’ll go outside for the run down to Klaskish Inlet, which is supposed to be very scenic.  Before leaving here, however, Greg and I plan to visit the water just off a rocky point.DSCF2339  On our way in I had a bunch of fish show up on the sonar display.  Later today an aluminum sport fishing boat showed up, and he just hung out there all afternoon.  We heard him talking to a buddy on the VHF, saying he’d caught a nice spring chinook salmon and a small halibut, and he’d lost a bigger halibut.  We figure we’ll do a bit of jigging for halibut before we begin our run to Klaskish.

And, the perfect day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without a spectacular technicolor sunset.


July 6, 2019–A Contrast in Days

DSCF2354Departure Port:  Gooding Cove; Departure Time:  7:40am; Destination:  Klaskish Inlet; Arrival Time:  12:40pm; Conditions:  overcast, breeze and cool in the morning, sun breaks in the afternoon, air temp 65 degrees, water temp 61 degrees

Yesterday’s warm, sunny and calm weather seems a distant memory when we poke our heads out of the hatch at 5:30am this morning.  The sky is once again overcast and gloomy. A light breeze is blowing.  We’re surprised to see 8 fishing boats already on station on the point, where we’d planned on dropping a hook for halibut.  We conclude that we’d be a major disruption, moving in amidst that fleet of slowly trolling boats, if we tried to go out and jig.  Instead, after a quick breakfast of granola, we decide to simply get underway and travel.  We’ll fing a less crowded place to do our fishing.

Before hauling on the anchor, we row out in the dinghy to pull our crab trap.  It feels really heavy and our hopes soar, only to be dashed when it surfaces, covered in kelp.  We find no crabs in this bay.  I stow the crabbing gear, and then it’s time to get underway.  Pulling the anchor always generates a little worry, since twice in the past I’ve had anchors foul and defy retrieval.  This morning, to my relief, the anchor releases with ease and comes up without a heavy load of sticky mud.  Greg steers us out of Gooding Cove and between the trolling boats,DSCF2357 while I tidy things up.  Then I take the wheel and set a course around the rocks and reefs which lie to the immediate south of Gooding Cove.  We have to run nearly a mile out before we can make our turn toward the south.  Unlike yesterday, when the ocean surface was smooth and calm as far as the eye could see, today we’re bumping up against a 2 foot chop, generated by a moderate headwind.  We must pass two other groups of reefs, and round Kwakiutl and  Lawn Points, before we reach the obstruction free open waters of Klaskine Inlet.  Our course now gives us a favorable sailing wind, so I raise the main and unfurl the jib.  We shut the engine down and proceed under sail, with a light wind on our beam.  The mouth of Klaskino Inlet is almost 5 miles across, and we hope to make the entire crossing under sail.  While sailing, we sight the tell tale spout of a whale, between us and the shore.  We manage to average 3.3 knots for the first mile, but then the wind begins to fail.  We hang in there with sails until our speed drops to under 2 knots.  I restart the engine and we motor sail for a couple of miles.  As we near Heater Point the wind returns, and we again shut the engine down.  We’re trying to be as conservative as possible in our use of fuel, since we’re on a long run of around 140 miles until we reach the next fuel dock. 

Because we’re accepting the slower progress of sailing, we’ll not reach our destination of Klaskish Inlet by lunch time.  Around 11:30 the wind slackens and I restart the engine for some motor sailing.  I give Greg the wheel and go below to wrestle up some lunch.  I heat a pair of cartons of tomato soup, and fix up some heated tortillas, buttered up and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, then rolled up.  Two cups of hot tea and some apple slices complete the fixings.  I bring the lunch trays up and we let “Ray” steer (Ray is the name we’ve given to the auto pilot, which is a Raymarine product) while we relax and enjoy lunch.

DSCF2358By the time we finish lunch, we’re approaching the narrow entrance to Klaskish Inlet.  It’s just past low tide, so the entrance channel appears even narrower than usual.  We follow the skinny, winding, steep walled channel for half a mile before emerging onto pristine Klaskish Inlet.  This scenic basin is just over a mile in length, and completely isolated from the open ocean waters.  We’ll have no discomfort from ocean swells while anchored here.  We select a spot along the northwest shore, close to where the head of the inlet begins to shoal, and set our anchor.  The combination of cold morning air and hot lunch bring on the drowsies, so we kick back for an hour or so, while the sun works on burning away the low overcast.  By 2:30 we’re ready to go on a dinghy explore.  I mount the kicker motor, but we let the wind blow us down to the head of the inlet.  We go up the Klaskish River a half mile or so, till we reach a massiveDSCF2360 log jam.  We see very little in the way of wildlife, and we wonder whether this log jam is too much of a barrier for salmon to get past.  The return trip is against the wind, and we’re thankful that the kicker gets us back to the boat. 

We’d planned on frying up the rest of our black bass fillets for dinner, however, the fridge has frozen them stiff, so we change our menu to canned chili.  This is the first time we’ve relied on canned goods for a dinner.  It seems appopriate for today, though.  We top the chili off with grated cheddar cheese, and I set out a jar of green olives for added interest. 

After dinner we study the chart, in anticipation of tomorrow’s planned cruise around the Brooks Penninsula.  Brooks is regarded as the potentially most hazardous stretch of water on the entire west coast of Vancouver Island.  It sticks out 6 miles from the main island, at right angles to the rest of the coast.  Winds and currents out near Cape Cook, at its western end, can be particularly rough.  The weather forecast has been encouraging, however the steep walls of Klaskish prevent us from receiving the Canadian Coast Guard continuous weather broadcast, so we must rely on yesterday’s information.  We plan on taking off early tomorrow.  When we get outside the entrance to Klaskish in the morning, we’ll listen again to the weather.  If it’s still favorable, we’ll press on for our rounding of Brooks Penninsula.  However, if conditions have deteriorated, we’ll hang out here and wait for suitable conditions.


July 7, 2019–Breakfast at Brooks

Departure Port:  Klashish Inlet; Departure Time:  5:40am; Destination:  Bunsby Islands; Arrival Time:  12:15; Distance Traveled Today:  32 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  619 miles; Conditions: Overcast in morning, wind 5mph or less, seas 3 to 4 feet till past Brooks Penninsula, then 1 foot, surface smooth; sunny in afternoon; air temp 72 degrees; water temp 57 degrees

DSCF2361Throughout the planning for this trip, two places were never far from our minds:  Cape Scott and the Brooks Penninsula.  All the cruising guides which cover the west coast of Vancouver Island speak with respect and caution when describing them.  They stand as potential barriers to travel, ready to punish any mariner who attempts to pass them in less than favorable conditions.  Several days back we made a very pleasant passage around Cape Scott, but we are mindful that, for most sailors, passage around the Brooks Penninsula is regarded as even moreDSCF2369 daunting than Cape Scott.  This curious landform projects 6 miles out, in a perpendicular direction, from the main body of Vancouver Island.  Its steep cliffed shoreline brashly confronts all that the North Pacific Ocean can throw at it.  It is all wilderness, with no roads or trails.  While the main part of Vancouver Island was covered with ice during the last ice age, the Brooks Penninsula remained ice free.  As a result, it is the home of many unique plant species which can be found no where else on the island. 

We managed to catch a weather forecast yesterday evening, and it indicated favorable conditions today and tomorrow, with stronger winds on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Our plan is to round Brooks today, and go across to the Bunsby Islands.  That will give us the rest of today to explore the Bunsbys, which are regarded as one of the major highlights of a cruise down this coast.  With Monday forecast to be nice as well, we’ll take a layover day here, and then move the short distance over to Walters Cove on Tuesday morning, with intentions of staying there for the night.  It seems like a good plan, and fits the weather forecast well.

We want to start early, when the winds should be most calm, so we pull anchor at 5:40am and carefully motor out of Klashish Inlet and then weave our way through the many rocks and islets in the broad bay which it connects with.  Low hanging clouds shroud the top of Brooks Penninsula, and the swell rolls in on our quarter, 3 to 4 feet in height, but well spaced and with no wind chop, since the wind is 5 mph or less.  All in all, good conditions for rounding Brooks, provided, however, that things don’t get rougher out at Cape Cook, on the western end of the penninsula. 

DSCF2368I set a waypoint on the GPS just off Cape Cook and get the boat on course, then turn the wheel over to Greg while I go below to fire up the stove and get breakfast going.  It’s a little awkward preparing the oatmeal bowls and spooning the dry coffee powder into insulated mugs, with the boat rolling and pitching, however, in short order the water is hot, and breakfast is ready to haul up into the cockpit.  We turn the steering over to “Ray” and set our breakfast trays on the steering seat booster cushion, which serves double duty as a lounging table.  We sit in the back corners of the cockpit and enjoy a hot breakfast as we cruise ever closer to Cape Cook.

We’re pleasantly surprised to discover that, as we near the Cape, the seas actually seem to be moderating a bit.  The cruising guides all recommend taking the long way around the Cape,DSCF2381 going outside of rugged and barren Solander Island.  Passage between the Cape and Solander is only recommended on those rare summer days with settled conditions.  Greg and I seem to have a slightly different interpretation regarding the precise definition of settled summer conditions.  I make the call to take the shorter route, and it proves to be a good decision.  The seas continue to moderate, and we get a great look at Solander Island.  We spot the sea lion colony, which we’ve read is to be found here.  We look for puffins, which are supposed to nest on Solander, but are disappointed in not seeing any. 

Once clear of Cape Cook we turn southeast, paralleling the face of Brooks Penninsula, running just beyond the many rocks which dangerously poke their tops above the sea.  Wherever there are rocks, the relentless ocean swell surges over them, sending up dramatic plumes of spray.  The next landmark is Cape Clerke, which marks the southwest corner of Brooks Penninsula.  We’re now in glassy smooth water, and rising with a gentle swell on our stern.  The south side of Brooks is in marked contrast with the rougher waters to its north.  We can now count on the warmer, less harsh weather and seas which are characteristic of Vancouver Island’s west coast, south of the Brooks Penninsula.

DSCF2388I set a course straight across to the Bunsby Islands.  The Bunsbys are regarded as “must see”, and we’re eager to experience them for ourselves.  I peruse the cruising guides and pick out an anchorage, called “Green Head Cove”, next to Checkaklis Island.  The approach is tricky, with many clusters of rocks, small islets, and kelp patches to avoid, but we find our way in, and are instantly taken by the place.  It’s a placid cove, nearly surrounded by several small timbered islands, with numerous shallow channels just begging to be explored by dinghy.  We anchor in 16 feet of water, at low tide, and get to work on lunch.  We make open faced sandwiches of turkey and cheese on grilled English muffins, accompanied by cups of soup.  The sun is starting to burn the overcast off.  It’s time to kick back in the cockpit and enjoy after lunch naps.  At the start of the trip Greg announced that he didn’t take naps, DSCF2393however, I note that he is sliding into that pattern with ease.  Have I given him a bad habit?

We’re not down for long.  Dinghy explore calls to us.  We cross over to the nearest island, which happens to be part of an Indian Reserve.  We’d earlier seen a couple of long canoes departing this area, so we know it’s still used by local First Nations people.  We see the remains of a broken up boat along the shore, and some small structures, which are in various stages of deterioration.  We go ashore for a closer look, and find that the brush has been recently cut, just like at Village Island.  We sense the presence of these people in this place and don’t touch a thing.  We get back in the dinghy and continue our explore, proceeding down several channels before returning to the boat. 

Dinner is a reprise of our tasty fish fry a few days back.  Greg has remembered that, if you dry fillets and then roll them in flour, the egg and Panko crumbs will stick better.  We don’t have any flour, so we substitute instant mashed potato power instead.  It works great, and our second fish dinner is great.  We’re now out of fish and will need to catch some more before we can place fish on the menu.

DSCF2399Our evening entertainment is provided by sea life.  While out in the dinghy, Greg had experimented with the Go Pro, taking underwater video of jellyfish.  We spot a group of small squid, hovering along side the boat.  Greg tries to take underwater video of them, however, the battery is dead.  Darn.  Maybe we’ll get a second chance tomorrow.  We also try my underwater light and the spotlight, and see several more jellys, including a large lion jelly.  In contrast with the seemingly barren Klaskish Inlet, this place seems to thrive with life.



July 8, 2019–Layover in the Bunsbys–Scoring on Rockfish

Departure Port:  Green Head Cove; Departure Time:  8am; Destination:  Scow Bay Lagoon; Arrival Time:  9am; Miles Cruised Today:  3;  Total Miles Cruised:  622; Conditions:  Overcast in the morning, clear and warm in afternoon’; Air temp:  75; Water temp:  57

DSCF2415No rush getting up today, but we’re still on deck by 6:30.  We opt to cook up our last premade omelet, which has lived frozen in the Engel fridge since leaving home.  It makes for an excellent breakfast, with toasted English muffins on the side.  We decide to make a short move this morning to another anchoring spot here in the Bunsby Islands.  The tide is going out, and we want as much water to work with as possible.  We putt along at 3 knots, enjoying the pristine forested shoreline.  We’re headed for an anchorage known as Schow Bay, and more specifically, the small lagoon which connects with it.  The lagoon entrance is too narrow and shallow for the larger cruising boats, however, we should do just fine getting in.  We find a 40DSCF2416 foot Benateau named Am Cala anchored in the outer bay.  We ease on past her and poke into the lagoon entrance.  Greg keeps careful watch for submerged rocks and other hazards.  We go all the way in, but decide to not attempt anchoring in the very back of the lagoon, since there doesn’t appear to be enough water once the tide goes out.  Instead, we return to a nice wide spot just inside the lagoon entrance.  There’s just enough room for us, and we drop anchor there.

Since this is a layover day, I decide to tackle a number of maintenance and small repair chores which I’ve been too tired to do on travel days.  I sew up a hole in a sock, fix a zipper pull, glue down the paper towel holder which has come loose, and I finish inserting pictures into yesterday’s post.  I’m just wrapping things up when a small kayak paddles over.   The paddler’s name is Jeff, and he’s off of Am Cola.  We learn that he’s been a live aboard for the past 10 years.  He’s spent most of his time in the Carribbean, but he’s now sailing out of Victoria.  We talk weather, and options to consider, given  the strong winds which are predicted to arrive tomorrow and last until late Wednesday.  He’s going to hang out here, while we’re headed for the dock at Walter’s Cove.  We learn from him that fishing for rockfish is open here in the Bunsbys.  We had mistakenly thought that it was closed here.  He also says that the fishing is veryh good. 

That’s enough motivation for Greg and I to quickly fix and consume our lunch, and then grab fishing gear and head out in the dinghy.  Greg drops a lure off at the first place we stop, DSCF2419and Whammo! He hooks a nice rockfish right away.  He catches several other small ones, which we release.  We move around the channel, trying various places, and all produce fish.  Greg gets one very large fish on the line, but it gets free before we can see what it is.  We end up keeping 6 fish, mostly rockfish, but also one greenling.  The largest rockfish is a copper rockfish, bright orange and yellow in color.  We return to the boat for a bit of relaxation, before taking a late afternoon dinghy tour of the lagoon at high tide.  It’s filled with life, including many large schools of small 3 to 4 inch salmon.  Jellyfish are also abundant here, including the large lions mane jelly.  Greg photographs them underwater, using the Go Pro mounted on the boat hook.  He gets some extremely interesting video.

After our dinghy explore, we get to work on dinner.  Tonight it’s barbqued steak with instant mashed potatoes.  Since we have a lot of sour cream on hand, we doctor our mashed potatoes with that, instead of butter.  It’s very still out, and the sky is mostly clear.  It’s hard to believe that the first weather system in weeks is lurking just offshore, and ready to blow and turn the sea rough tomorrow.  It will be a good day to stay at the dock, picking up some groceries, buying ice, eating a cafe meal for a change, and hopefully, taking some much needed showers.



July 9, 2019–Kuyquot, Home of Ben and the Fishing God

Departure Port:  Scow Bay, Bunsbys; Departure Time:  7:30am; Destination:  Kuyquot, Walters Cove; Arrival Time:  10am; Distance Traveled Today:  10 miles; Total Distance Cruised:  632 miles; Conditions:  Overcast to hazy sunshine after noon; light wind and smooth seas in morning, strong SE wind forecast for this evening; air temp:  71 degrees; water temp:  56 degrees

DSCF2426After quick bowls of granola and boxes of juice, we raise the anchor and are off to Kuyquot.  It’s a short run, but we want to get there early so that, with rough weather in the forecast, we have a good chance to tie up at the public dock.  It’s overcast, mild, and almost devoid of wind.  We motor southwest on glassy seas, staying close to the coast.   We pass an interesting stretch of shoreline, with numerous sea caves carved out by the waves, at the base of steeply timbered slopes.  Some of these caves appear big enough for kayaks to enter, and the entrance of one is veiled by a thin curtain of water, dripping from its entry ceiling.  In short order we draw near to Walters Cove and the community of Kuyquot.  The approach is narrow and twisty,DSCF2432 but well marked by channel buoys.  We find a good spot on the public dock and tie up.  We will spend the rest of the day today, and all day tomorrow here.  We must wait till 1pm tomorrow for the store to open.  This store will be our primary provisioning opportunity, and will have to serve us for the next 2 weeks.  Also, there’s this small matter of these 25 to 35 knot SE winds, forecast for this evening and tomorrow, so Kuyquot seems like a good place to hang out in.  We hope to stock up on groceries, buy ice for the cooler, fill our water tank, dispose of garbage, enjoy a meal or two at the local cafe, catch on family news and publish recent blog posts via wifi, and if we’re really lucky, find a place to take a couple of much needed showers.  We’ll see how all this works out.

Once the boat is tied up and secure, we grab our laptops and follow the 1km  trail/board walk around the bay to the restaurant.  Some sailboat cruisers we talked to raved about the pie and hamburgers, so we’re looking forward to sampling the fare.  We decide to have hamburgers for lunch, and then try their fresh halibut fish and chips for dinner this evening, and maybe a slice of that pie too.  The waitress encourages us to order quickly, since a crowd of 17 are soon to arrive in 2 long canoes.  We place our orders and then log onto the wifi.  I publish posts and send emails to family.  Greg emails his wife and checks the weather forecast and satellite imagery.  Lunch is great.  While using the restroom I can’t help but notice the enticing shower stall located a few feet over from the toilet.  I ask the owner about the chances of taking showers there.  He says that would be just fine.  He charges $10 per shower, and recommends we wait till 7pm, when the restaurant closes, so we won’t be in the way of any diners when we shower.  Under the circumstances, $10 sounds more than reasonable, and we plan accordingly.

DSCF2437After lunch we step out onto the dock to watch the canoeing group get ready to leave.  They’re out on a week long canoe camping tour of the area, using 2 long canoes borrowed from a First Nations band located near Victoria.  It takes them a bit of organizing, but soon they’re off, paddling to a cadence and seeming to have a great time.  We walk back to the boat.  I aim the solar panels and take our stuffed garbage sack up to the dumpster located at the head of the dock.  Trash disposal can pose difficulties in remote places, however, there is a road to Kuyquot from the more populated east side of Vancouver Island, so trash service is available and we’re glad for it.

We settle in on the boat, intening to get pictures transferred to the computer, but we don’t get far.  The voices of two kids, a white boy and a First Nations girl, are excitedly engaged inDSCF2441 conversation just outside the cabin of our boat.  I peer out the window to see what’s going on.  They’re both lying prone on the dock, heads poked down into the space between the dock and a piling, arms reaching as far as they can go.  An old fishing pole and a piece of metal tubing with monofilament line tied to the end, lie next to them on the dock.  They’re trying to pull pile worms off the dock for bait.  I ask them how they’re doing.  They answer politely but briefly.  They’ve got more important things to do than make small talk with an old guy on a little sailboat.  Before you know it, the girl pulls up a small pile perch.  Not to be outdone, the boy catches a much bigger fish.  The girl identifies it as a rainbow fish, and it is indeed colorful.  I ask if it’s good eating and she definitively says “No!”  She explains that a relative of hers ate one and got very sick.   I learn that she’s from the Indian settlement across the bay, and she’s over here for the day, visiting.  She tells me that her father calls her “The Fishing God”, and for obvious reasons.  She’s acutely intent on her activity.  The boy’s name is Ben, and he’s also all business when it comes to fishing.  they both appear to be about 10 years old.  Ben hauls in the next one, even bigger than the rainbow fish.  He says “Look how fat she is, she must be pregnant”.  The girl says “Yes, her water just broke.  She’s going to have babies.”  She begins to stroke the fisb’s distended vent and, sure enough, a tiny fish, actively flipping around, pops out.  She carefully picks it up, examines it carefully, and then tosses it into the water.  The Fishing God acts as midwife for half a dozen other baby fish, and then she releases the mother fish as well. 

Greg and I try to return to our picture processing but it’s hopeless.  We end up taking more pictures than we’re able to load onto the computer.  Soon, I get pulled into the action.  A hook gets swallowed, and my help is needed in getting the hook out of the fish’s throat.  Then a hook is lost, and I am able to provide a replacement from my tackle box.  The Fishing God asks to borrow a knife to trim off a line.  I lend her a scissors which works better.  The DSCF2442action climaxes when the girl asks me if I’m wearing a short sleeved shirt under my jacket.  Turns out, she’s spotted some tube worms under the dock which are just out of their reach.  She’s thinking that my arm might be long enough to get them.  I take my jacket off and roll up my long sleeved shirt, and walk over to where the worms are hanging out.  I see them down there, grab ahold of one, and pull for all I’m worth.  Despite my best efforts, I can’t yank one free.  They really hang on hard.  Greg and I expected that having to hang out on the boatDSCF2455 here for several hours  would get really boring.  Ben and the Fishing God have provided the best entertainment imaginable.  As for the two kids, they’ve experienced several hours of fascination and enjoyment, without the slightest involvement of anything electronic.

This evening’s activity will center around walking back to the restaurant to sample the halibut fish and chips, check email on the wifi, and take those much needed showers.  We’ll put the cockpit surround up before retiring, because of the rain being forecast.

IMG_4713 IMG_4715IMG_4714DSCF2434