On May 15, 2017, Leslie and Val on Cat’s Cradle headed ‘out to sea’ to visit a complex archipelago on the southwestern side of Vancouver Island. This is a diverse group of islands within which there is good protection from the prevailing northwest winds and swell from the northeast Pacific Ocean. But, to get there we have to face that ocean and its winds and waves head on. Three 6-8 hour days of motoring (with just a few hours of sailing when the wind came from the south) brought us to Effingham Bay. This area has good protection from the waves we had watched sending up towers of spray as they ended their ocean-wide journey on the rock-torn coast.
En route, we had picked up Colorado Springs friends, Ron and Kathy, in Victoria. Ron started teaching Biology at Colorado College the same year that Val joined the Physics Department in 1972 and our kids grew up together. It was great to have so many things to remember and talk about and Ron’s marine biology background lead us to discussions, with a bit of Latin, on many creatures that we found on intertidal walks and dingy excursions.
After a calm night in Effingham Bay, we sailed off with light and pleasant winds exploring the outer islands of the Broken Group. This is part of Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park. It seemed that we were the only boat in these waters. Then we got a call on the VHF radio from Friday Harbor Sailing Club friends, Ken and Ruth, on Misty Blue. They met us and the club cruise officially began. We had been expecting the club’s cruising commodore, Stefan, and his wife, Georgia, to join us on this trip, but the health of their aging dog intervened so the cruise became a two-boat event.
From the outer islands we worked our way northward to the inner group, had a motorized trip to Ucluelet to drop Ron and Kathy off so they could get a bus that started a trip that would take them back to Colorado. Returning from Ucluelet to the inner group, we had a sparkling day with a perfect 10-15 kt following breeze. We sailed and sailed, stopping at Island Harbor, a large fairly well protected region between Jacque and Jarvis Islands (also known as Joe’s Bay). There we met Pam and Dave from Friday Harbor who travel in a cute little power boat named Smuggler.
We then took the little electric outboard (some of you may remember our report on last summer’s horrible experience when the little outboard we had ‘jumped’ off the transom and disappeared into the deep, dark sea) and circumnavigated Dempster Island which has very steep cliffs intermingled with surging sea caves. This was by far the most productive and beautiful intertidal area we visited. In one trip we saw literally hundreds of sea stars and zillions of clams, oysters, mussels and anemones.
Our last stop in the Broken Islands was Nettle Island where we dropped our anchor near shore and then stern-tied to a big log. Misty Blue matched the perfectly blue and calm bay surrounded by tall green trees with snow-covered mountains ringing the skyline in the distance.
At each of our anchorages we took walks on beaches and on trails through dense forests and used our little electric outboard motor to quietly explore the edges of the sea. It was a special delight, especially when venturing off near low tide when all the intertidal creatures are on display.
From Nettle we sailed east to take a spot on the Port Alberni Yacht Club dock on Flemming Island (Deer Group) where two gregarious members, Dennis and Gary, welcomed us. Here we waited out a forecast gale force storm and the wind did blow! But the blow was ‘out there’ where the water was filled with white caps and ‘in here’ at the dock, all was calm.
Bamfield was another stop. This picturesque village has long, wandering paths and boardwalks along the shore connecting little cottages, various docks and a few commercial operations. We walked and talked to many friendly passersby and tested many of the benches facing the water. We took the dingy over to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center and chatted with various students.
We ended our Barkley Sound Cruise with a celebratory dinner out at Bamfield’s Hawk’s Nest Pub. Ken, Ruth, Leslie and Val all agreed that this has been a challenging and beautiful exploration of a lightly visited corner of the Northeast Pacific Ocean.
At this point, the open ocean faced us again. We had to listen to the weather forecasts and make a decision as to when to head back out and turn toward home, 100 nautical miles away. The forecast for Thursday, May 25th looked OK, so at 4:30 a.m. we set off just as the sun was getting ready to rise. Hours of motoring followed by 5 hours of sailing, most with our big green spinnaker pulling us home, brought us back to Sooke Harbor. Then on Friday, we motored on home with very little wind. At Sooke, we were anchored very close to where three Great Blue Herons were very successfully foraging on blennies of various forms and Leslie got these photos:
Both on our outbound trip and again on our return we drifted past Race Rocks (www.racerocks.com) and took in the scene of sea lions and seals hauled out and barking at us in a threatening fashion as we passed by.
And, Laura’s beautiful Mother’s Day flowers traveled with us. Here they are at the start and again 2 weeks later.