Wednesday, August 22, 2012

True North Summary August 7 to August 22

It's been a while since we've posted to our blog, since we've had very limited Internet access here on the west side of Vancouver Island. Anne has updated the Google Map of our route. You can see that at:

Tuesday, 8/7: We caught up with our two sailor friends, Keegan and Carsten from Themistocles first thing to find them analyzing their engine trouble: probably a combination of a clogged raw water intake and fuel filter. They are really young at 18 to be taking on the circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in an older boat and which is only a month old to them. They're sailing for a noble purpose, to raise money for juvenile diabetes ( Really nice guys and a good cause. Some of the locals jumped in to help them fix their engine by providing spare parts. We did make it to Java the Hutt where our Lake Forest Park neighbor served up apple and blueberry pie a la mode. Just before leaving we stopped by the Java dock to top off our water supply and found ourselves talking with a couple sorting a large halibut and several salmon on their fishboat, almost neighbors as well, from Kirkland, WA. They've been coming to Kyuquot for a dozen years to fish. We're thinking we might like to try it, too – get ourselves to Kyuquot for a week of fishing and stay at one of Eric's guesthouses.

Halibut at Walters Cove

Finally, at 1400 we left. It was just a two hour hop SE to our next stop Dixie Cove on the west side of Hohoae Island. Infrequently, I take the helm while docking because I'm still nervous about how to read the wind, currents, and other boats – and Gregg does it so well. I took the helm for an uneventful exit from this dock to zig-zag back through the entrance and into Nicolaye Channel. The dramatic landscape where Crowther Channel, Kashutil Inlet and Markale Passage meet bear a striking resemblance to Desolation Sound. By 1430 we had anchored on the west side of Hohoae Island in Dixie Cove, well protected from all sides.

Anne at the helm

Wednesday, Thursday, 8/8-9: We pulled the anchor at 0620 in a mist to leave for what we anticipated would be a great place to explore for a couple of days, still in Esperanza Inlet at Nuchatlitz Marine Park, Nootka Island. We headed S-SW from Hohoae Island through Pinnacle and Kyuquot Channels. Just as we were passing Rugged Point, a sandy beach with one sailboat anchored, we saw whales. Three of them dove and spouted off our starboard side. We headed out towards the Pacific once again, taking the inner route, Clear Passage, between a shoreline mixed with rocks, logs and sandy beaches and the rocky islets of the Barrier Islands, passing a distinctive pinnacle called Grogan Rock. After several miles we left the protection of the islands to face the open Pacific for the short passage past Tatchu Point. With a SE wind directly over the bow, we motored, choosing the wide Gillam Channel entrance to Esperanza Inlet instead of the shorter, shallow Rolling Roadstead.

Motoring into light SE winds

Nuchatlitz Marine Park is just inside the entrance and to the south. Even on a gray day it looked promising for some activities off the boat. Nuchatlitz is the site of a native village from the early 1900s which has since been abandoned but the site with the midden is ancient. A couple from one of the houses on shore rowed over to visit. They are from Tacoma. They are here with their two teenage kids and told us that 12 families own the island. They pointed towards a trail through the woods to another bay which we took later and which leads to Port Langford. An isthmus connects two other islands but you can only walk across at LW. We took the dinghy to the Kayaker's Island to circumnavigate by foot along the beach and found a group of women kayaker friends on the Pacific side and stopped to talk with them and their guide for awhile. They were having a great time together with their lone, male guide who they said was an excellent chef. We've seen so many kayakers in the islands on the west side and would like to return with our kayaks, too.

Circumavigating kayakers island

This picturesque anchorage, with the waves from the Pacific lapping at the rocky islets just beyond our cove, was one of our favorites to date. Beautiful sunset! In the morning, we waited for LW to walk the isthmus with a picnic brunch on the Pacific, then dinghy to another cove and hike to Port Langford. There's a large shallow area good for rowing. Gregg was dealing with a starter problem with the dinghy outboard when a spring flew into the water! Now we can only start it with the emergency starter but at least we have one. It's difficult to make headway rowing in the strong afternoon winds and choppy water. Later: Tofino weather radio broadcasting is back. NW 20-30 next 3 days; gale force tonight. We have a beautiful clear sunset, followed by a starry sky, with wind picking up from the east. We're protected in this cove but the wild Pacific is just on the other side of those low rocky islands.
Friday, 8/10: At 0900 we left beautiful Nuchatlitz Marine Park though we would have liked staying longer. We're aware of how much coastline there still is left to go. Exiting Esperanza Inlet, we unfurled the jib, turned off the engine and heard only the sound of a nearby whale that made a big dive, showing its large fluke before disappearing underwater. Good show! Catala Island Marine Park has a big sandy beach and spit that we wanted to see so we detoured for an hour walk on the beach, anchoring in Rolling Roadstead south of the spit.

Anne at The Spit, Catala Island

Next stop: Queen Cove around the corner for the night. More whales at the entrance to Eliza Inlet! One other sailboat was rafted to a motor yacht in this peaceful cove with a couple of families aboard. The recreational boating traffic is picking up - we weren't the only boat here. We walked a logging road clogged with overgrowth, viewed the fishboat wreck, then took the dinghy around the cove to look for the abandoned church but it, too, was covered in heavy brush. The evening colors highlighted the cove's beauty.

Boat wreck, Queen Cove

Saturday, 8/11: We left early at 0615 for the long day between Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound and hoped to catch the calmer NW prevailing winds, predicted at 10-20, then picking up later to 25-30. As we're finding out, it's difficult to keep the sails full with 3-4' swells and wind as light as it was the first couple of hours at 8-10 knots and from every direction. We rolled a couple of times to 30 degrees! We kept trying to get it right and when the wind picked up to a steady 15+ about four miles offshore, we put up both sails for the rest of our time out for a smooth sail. Another impressive whale show of one nearby – we heard it first, then saw it make a big spy hop, dive and swim away.

Sailing, fishing, whales...

Soon we reached fishing grounds, for as many as 25 small fish boats could be seen in all directions on the horizon outside of the Nootka Sound entrance and a ways offshore. I joined in but didn't catch a thing. Disappointment! After last week's catch I thought it would be easy with the buzz bomb. Approaching the entrance of Nootka Sound with the impressive Nootka lighthouse, we entered picturesque Friendly Cove at 1415, also the former site of the Mowachaht Band native village of Yuquot. There would be a lot to see and do here! Surprisingly, there were two other sailboats anchored in the cove. We hadn't seen any sailboats for many days, possibly because another option is to take the inside route through Thasis Inlet to get from Esperanza Inlet to Nootka Sound. We were tempted by the description of steep sided hills and mountains lining the inlet, which can also be sailed because of good wind there, but the sun was shining and we heard the call of the ocean. Besides, we needed to fine tune our sailing skills on rolling seas. It went very well! Once ashore, we walked to the little store behind the church-turned-into-a-museum to pay a shore access fee. The people are very friendly! But, the name Friendly Cove comes from its rich history. It's where Captains Vancouver and Quadra signed agreements to avoid war between Spain and England over rights to the northwest at what became the Nootka Convention of 1790. There are two beautiful stained glass windows inside the church-museum with scenes commemorating this. The museum includes four totems, photos from the early 1900s, and native artifacts from the Nootka area. Outside, on the far right of the cove next to the only occupied house, a very impressive totem pole lies in the grass, carved in 1929 and standing until 1983 when it blew over in a storm. It's the first authentic totem we've seen on the coast.

Fallen totem, Friendly Cove

There is a grassy meadow above the beach filled with dozens of tents for the two-week annual Yuquot Campout for the Mowachaht Band of native families from all over, joined with hikers bound for the Nootka Trail. Jewett Lake is a short trail away with lots of kids swimming. Next, a walk across the beach, across piles of driftwood and up the high steps to the well-maintained lighthouse brought us to Joanne and Mark, friendly lighthouse keepers who came outside to visit with us and enjoy the sunshine.

Joanne and Mark, Nootka Light keepers

We could imagine their winters! They've been the keepers here for the past eight years, taking off for a month every winter for the warmer climes of S. America. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of this lighthouse. Every former keeper of the Nootka lighthouse came for the celebration, bringing an object with them for a time capsule, placed in the lighthouse and to be opened in 50 years. It's a stunning location. There are 27 manned lighthouses on the west coast of BC. We asked about their duties as keepers. They report the weather every three hours and receive rescue calls. A summer rescue team lives in the house next door. Most of their calls come from fishboats that go out rain or shine to get their clients a fish. We discussed the shocking number of boaters that not only don't wear PFDs but don't even have them aboard. Meanwhile, three more sailboats anchored in the cove. On the way back to True North, we stopped to talk to two sailboaters rafted together to find Gavia, the vessel that pitched and rolled alongside us when rounding Cape Scott! Both vessels were going to stay another night and we thought we might, also.

Sunday, 8/12: It was a remarkable day in a couple of ways. We went ashore when we heard native songs coming from the tented meadow beyond the cove. The Mowachaht Band of campers was beginning a welcoming ceremony and the raising of a newly carved cedar totem, the first here in 93 years, and were just waiting for the ferry Uchuck III to arrive with visitors and native dignitaries. It was a potlatch with a salmon lunch served afterwards. All of the visitors were welcome to stay. The totem raising involved a blessing first, then many of the strong younger men gathered around while the totem was unveiled. They struggled with its enormous weight and size to raise and anchor it. All the while, a group circled around the totem in a rhythmic dance, with several of the elders wearing the native black and red button capes. Very informal on the one hand with local Mowachahts, children, elders, dogs, hikers, and boaters and quite striking high on the hill above the beach.

Totem pole raising, Friendly Cove

Another nice surprise was visiting with familiar boaters from earlier in the summer. Besides getting a chance to talk further with Gavia's owners, Bruce and Lila, we met sailors Ken and Carol on Aquila from Port Alberni, plus Electra sailor Graeme and his dog Diesel, with whom we had visited over a month ago in Port McNeill. Graeme had wanted to make the trip around Vancouver Island, too, but couldn't talk Wanda into doing it so he's traveling with their dog. Bruce and Lila recently moved from Seattle, putting their things in storage (familiar!), retired, bought their sailboat and left in April for Alaska. Nice to compare some notes. With all that experience, the day they (and we) rounded Cape Scott was the roughest sea conditions they had ever encountered.

Crews of Electra, Aquilo, Gavia, True North

Gregg and I returned to the lighthouse late in the afternoon to connect with the lighthouse wifi, at their invitation, and later met three current coast guard residents who had just returned from a rescue mission in Queens Cove – nothing too serious. Two of the guys are summer coast guard interns and the third is their boss who extended a most generous invitation to join them for a salmon and chocolate cake dinner. What a place!

Monday, 8/13: Our sailing buddies Gavia, Electra and Aquila left early for the outside and Clayoquot Sound; we were staying another night in Esperanza Inlet. We left at 0930, motored past a large Coast Guard vessel at the entrance, and promptly found a whale spouting directly ahead of us. We idled the engine to stay back but the whale came towards us, circled boat entirely and dove too close to our stern for comfort; we took off quickly.

Close whale!

Our first stop was at Resolution Cove in Bligh Island Marine Park. We climbed a short but steep rock cliff to get to plaques commemorating the place where Captain Cook brought his ships, Resolution and Endeavour, to repair damage caused by a harsh Pacific storm. Moving on through Zuciarte and Hanna Channels and across Eliza Passage we arrived at Critter Cove in Tlupana Inlet, a very well-maintained fishing camp. Small cedar planked cabins lined neat docks against a rocky, forrested backdrop with mountains beyond. We were undecided about staying over night initially but after a walk around the docks on a beautiful day, we added our names to the restaurant list for turkey dinner and stayed – the only sailboater among a sea of small sport fish boats.

Gregg with sportfisherman, Critter Cove

It turned out to be fun, talking to the fishermen and hearing their fish stories and tips. When we showed them our fishing pole (we did catch a salmon), they seemed quite amused by us, the fishing sailboaters. With their encouragement and tips, we decided this would be a great place to get an ocean trolling rod so we would be able to catch a few dinners for the rest of our trip. One especially helpful guide assisted Gregg with the whole set-up for trolling: a 30 lb line, pole, Shimano single-action salmon reel, a couple of spoons and weights. Later, a guy Mike was passing by – he asked what kind of spoon we got and when we showed it to him, he said he designed that one! When the fish boats took off for their evening fishing, we got our boat ready for tomorrow's ocean passage south past Estevan Point to Clayoquot Sound. Gregg rigged the preventer in a new way and we strapped the dinghy down tightly on the bow. When our dock neighbors returned from fishing, Kent from Campbell River and the boat Wee Meagan in front of us, delivered a beautiful fresh king salmon to us. Wow, fish for a couple of nights! Gregg immediately took it to the fish cleaning area to fillet with guidance from a little girl who told him how to do it exactly right!

Tuesday, 8/14: Left Critter Cove at 0615, well after the fishermen took off at 0430. We passed a dozen fishing boats along the far shoreline across Tlupana Inlet and another group along the opposite shore farther out; later in the day many of them would fish the open water in the Pacific. Heading out around the north side of Bligh Island would complete a circumnavigation of that island. Along the way we spotted a large humpback whale in the distance and coming our way. It passed close along our starboard side and dove, showing it's full tail.

Sounding whale

As we got closer to the Nootka Lighthouse we could see another whale, possibly the same one that circled our boat yesterday, and stayed well away. Shortly after leaving the Nootka Lighthouse abeam at 0745, we put up a reefed mainsail and full jib. The wind died for awhile, then picked up to a steady NW 18-25 knots for a perfect sailing day, despite a few hours with thick fog and quarter mile visibility – 5 ½ hours under sail all the way to Clayoquot Sound.

Gregg messing around with sails

In the meantime, we set up our Critter Cove ocean salmon gear in it's locking holder to troll for salmon, the tip curved just right under the weight of the line, and got back to the business of sail trim. After about an hour, Gregg was shocked to see that our fishing pole was gone from it's locking holder. Well, I had placed the handle snugly inside the holder lock but the reel was supposed to be inside the lock, too. Must have been a big one tugging on our line! Discouraged at losing our souvenir Critter Cove pole but not deterred entirely by the setback, we committed to replacing it. Trolling for salmon while sailing was just beginning to feel like a natural fit. The day marched on and by 1355 we were anchored in Hot Springs Cove, a Provincial Park famous enough to bring floatplanes and speed boats from Tofino with visitors throughout the day. The whole feeling of the west coast has changed since entering Clayoquot Sound with activity and many small boaters. The cove is very picturesque but busy. Several boats were already anchored and more arrived after us.

Hot Springs Cove

We waited until late afternoon when the last visitors of the day had left before we took the 1.2 mile boardwalk through the woods to visit the hot springs, walking on planks carved with the boat names of visitors. The RVYC has a whole section, all professionally carved. The man we met in Lagoon Cove who generously gave us a couple of bottles of wine in June had suggested we get a 2x6 plank, carve and bring it with us – so this is where it's supposed to go. The hot springs are quite hot at 50 C degrees (122 F) at the waterfall near the top and cools in successive pools as the water reaches the ocean flowing in and out. Grilled salmon from the cockpit, compliments of Kent from Critter Cove, was the chef's specialty this evening.

Wednesday, 8/15: Nothing quite as nice as a leisurely, warm, summer morning. All but one of the boats anchored in the harbour seemed to be staying another night. We planned to leave late and got underway at 1400 for the 1 ½ hour ride across swells and Sydney Inlet to Hootla Kootla Bay with space for just 2 boats. Hot day, 62 degrees water temp and a swim for Gregg. I still can't bring myself to jump into cold water. Maybe tomorrow. We took the dinghy around to look for submerged rocks. One digital chart, Navionics, showed two rocks near the entrance as islands; iNavX with Navionics charts, showed no rocks. The scary thing here while underway is the very large brown kelp that looks like submerged rocks. We didn't find any uncharted rocks in our search. A lone loon drifted at the entrance.

Anne rowing in Hootla Kootla Bay

Thursday, 8/16: We were underway towards Bacchante Bay at 1230, following another leisurely morning. This is inland through Shelter Inlet and is described as one of the most dramatic anchorages in Clayoquot Sound. The backdrop is stunning with the steep, high rocky cliffs of the Splendour mountains, and the sound of the water flowing from Watta Creek to the north.

Bacchante Bay

Two seals and a couple of eagles enhance the setting. It is unusually hot at 95 degrees. We both go for a refreshing swim; then Gregg takes the dinghy out to search for fresh water for the portable shower. To get here from Hootla Kootla Bay, we sailed for 1 ½ hours through the inlet with a gentle 12-15 knot breeze with full sun and a clear sky, and one of the few days so warm that we could sail in shorts, t-shirts and sandals. We passed two sailboats on the way but are the only boat here.

Sun, sailing, exercise

Friday, 8/17: Today's destination: Ahousat in Matilda Inlet, a very protected anchorage in Clayoquot Sound and near the Ahousat General Store, fuel dock and water supply. We're getting low on fresh food but didn't find it there. The supply boat was due later in the day. We anchored in the inlet, just in front of a couple of islets with just two other boats, soon followed by two more sailboats.

Ahousat anchorage

We took the dinghy over to the nearby First Nations community of Marktosis to explore and see the beach. There are old wrecked fishing boats all over their outer harbour. After we got back to our boat, the sailor from the ketch Fire Water out of Ketchikan stopped by to visit as Gregg worked on the outboard motor. His wife is from the native community here and they live on their boat, here in the summer and Mexico in the winter. One year they left in October for their passage south and were caught in an early winter storm with 70 knot winds. They simply hove to until the storm passed, while a factory trawler radioed them and said they were concerned about the ship breaking up! We visited with him a few times while in the inlet. He told us about two hikes, one to the White Sand Cove and another to the Ahousat Warm Springs, both listed in the guide books.

Saturday, 8/18: In the morning we took the 20 minute trail to the beach wearing rubber boat boots which were ideal for the mud flats at the water's edge and partly muddy trail.

White sand beach

We met Dan and Katherine from the sailboat Premium Vintage from Victoria on the beach hike. Their boat is pictured in the Dreamspeaker's guide at Dixie Cove and they're mentioned as the couple the authors met who kindly provided them with wine when their wine locker was dry. On the way back to our boat we spotted an eagle flying with a stick, over to its nest where another eagle nested – then just their two white heads could be seen in the nest. We got back to our boat just as it started to rain, the first serious rain since 8/1. We've had great weather! We moved on to another cove we wanted to check out: West White Pine Cove in Herbert Inlet. It was only an hour to the NE but much more of a wilderness experience. Entry is through a narrow pass with a shallow bar and at a higher tide only. The colors after the evening rain were beautiful and were reflected in the mirror calm water.

Sunday-Monday, 8/19-20: Space is tight at the Tofino Port Authority's 4th Street Dock but we did get a space assigned to us, rafted to a 39' 1930 ketch, Galatea, and its owner, a young guy Kevin and his buddy Luca, a sweet black dog with a red kerchief.

True North rafted to Galatea

Nice guy and doing all the bright work on his prized sailboat. Space is tight! The huge outer harbour is extremely shallow and usually a 3 knot current flows through the marina. We arrived in Tofino late in the afternoon, ready for a break from the galley and some good people watching from the deck of Shelter Restaraunt. Tofino is interesting with a large working fishermen's population, topped with a layer of outdoor adventure companies for tourists on every street featuring whale watching, bear watching, guided fishing and surfing.

Tofino waterfront

On each of the two afternoons we were there fishermen unloaded large catches of geoduck, lingcod and salmon. On Monday, we soaked up the local busy-ness while tending to laundry, groceries and exploring the few streets. It's a fast track back to civilization after the past few months in remote places. We made a stop at the fishing supply store and left with the “Tofino” salmon fishing set-up to replace our lost Critter Cove gear. Gregg patiently put together the new gear and placed it in the holder as we anticipated the words of the fishing guide who told us we would have no problem bringing in a salmon or two on our Pacific stretch to Ucluelet the following day.

Tuesday, 8/21: The day started on a sad note. As our neighbor Kevin on Galatea helped us untie the lines from the dock and his boat he told us that his visit to the vet yesterday with Luca had brought the bad news that Luca was very very sick at 13 years old. He was completely choked up and how badly we felt for him as we were rolling out of the slip. The image of Kevin with Luca stayed with us for the morning. We put up both sails and even with a 14 knot to sometimes 20 knot wind coming almost off the bow, we sailed close hauled for a couple of hours before the wind died.

Rocks and fog nearing Ucluelet

While sailing, we happily fished with thoughts of the fantastic salmon dinner ahead. Now this is the next sour note of the day: the fishing pole, reel and its locking holder were suddenly gone! The holder had broken off the anchor to the rail, taking the entire Tofino set-up with it. We're both stunned by this new setback. I pulled out Mike's fishing rod with our buzz bomb attached and try again because the fishing is supposed to be good on the bank here. Before long, I feel the tug of a big fish and begin reeling it in when SNAP! The line breaks so we now lose the buzz bomb, too. We put Mike's pole away for safe-keeping. Later, entering the peaceful outer harbour of Ucluelet is a treat which makes us forget about fishing. The water is calm, the harbour quaint, and Steve, the harbourmaster greets us on the dock to roll out the welcome mat. Nice place already. Another sailboat from Everett, Anakena, and still one more, Nemesis from Seattle, pull in across the dock and we visit awhile. Oasis is here, too. We'll stay another night so we can hike a couple of Pacific crest trails in this beautiful area. It's a laid back kind of place.

Wednesday, 8/22: It was a perfectly good weather day at 68 degrees, sunny and with cool ocean breezes when we started out for the Wild Pacific Trail, which follows the coastline and edges into the woods here and there for several miles. The trail is well-maintained with well-built viewing platforms, benches, and many beach access side trails.

View from Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

A second trail brought us past the lighthouse on Amphitrite Point right at the edge of town to give us a great view of the rock-strewn, potentially treacherous entrance we had taken yesterday. I can't praise digital maps enough! The ancient mariners had mastered navigation skills which took much time, patience and diligence to get them safely through these waters and even with these skills they sailed uncharted waters, resulting in hundreds of shipwrecks along the rocky coast. Less ancient mariners of 10 to 15 years ago also needed the skills to be able to accurately locate their position on a chart in order to safely navigate any route. Today, we study the chart before leaving, chart our desired route, then count on the digital map but if that fails, we're ready to find our position the old fashioned way...and hope there's no fog! Late this afternoon we found the fishing gear store and now have the “Ucluelet set-up” - different holder altogether with stainless steel bolts from the hardware store to keep it on the rail, same Shimano pole and Moocher Plus reel, a few more weights, 30# line, buzz bomb and spoons, all on an end-of-season sale. We talked with a recreational fisherman who also lost his gear due to a holder failure so it's not just us! He thought our new plans sounded good. On the way back to True North we spot Premium Vintage, the sailboat from Matilda Inlet, and go by for a visit.

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