British Columbia


West Coast of Vancouver Island - North



The two challenges at the top end ofVancouver Island proved benign for us. The Nahwitti Bar gave us strong ripples and eddies but none of the standing waves the guide books warn of. But then we had only 6 knots of wind. On the chart, the bar is quite dramatic. It took only two minutes for the depths to shelve from 250' to 42'. Cape Scott gave us a lumpy sea for forty minutes but that was about all. Vicky recorded in the log book; "Now we will be heading southwards for some six thousand miles." First stop however was just seven miles on at Sea Otter Cove.





The entrance to Sea Otter Cove was way more daunting than the bar or the cape. Here on the rugged NW coast there is a bay accessed by an intricate, narrow, very shallow, rock-strewn channel, with kelp beds hanging off all the islets. The kelp at least 'marks' the off lying rocks. We motored in very slowly, Vicky steering, following the chart track, but also following Tom's signals from his eye-ball navigation on the bow. It was a very high spring tide; our least depth was 15'. That was a little concerning for a departure near low water the next day. Of course it was also blowing now. With sun, the day breeze had picked up, NW 18-20 knots. Inside the bay opens out, but most of it is even shallower. For fishermen and cruisers there are four large, strong, steel mooring buoys to which we tied. This was remote. We could look out over the islets into the Pacific.








The next morning the bay looked a lot smaller with mud flats and eel grass all around. We decided we could not leave at dead low; after two hours, we still only had 7' in a couple of places wriggling our way out. Outside we experienced something so rare in BC cruising we sailed! The NW wind, 18-22 knots gave us a fine run, in the sun, down the coast.



Every thirty or so miles down the west coast an inlet sends fingers of water into the mountainous terrain, providing more sheltered waterways, sometimes with connecting channels around larger islands. The west coast is certainly more rugged, more challenging and more remote than the east side of Vancouver Island. However there are settlements here, there are some gravel road connections and there is industry. The two mainstays of coastal life, logging and fish farms were very much in evidence; now also there is sports fishing with associated lodges. This was our third cruise on this coast and we have never found it quite as remote as we had been told or as the guide books relate.





Winter Harbour, a very small settlement with a gravel road connection allowed us to wait out some strong NW winds blowing outside. We were royally entertained by the locals; the resident sea otters. They know where to feed. There were barnacles lining the wooden docks and fish scraps from the filleting tables thrown daily into the water by the fishermen. These mammals are very cute, rolling over and over in the water, basking on their backs and eating their fill, with food on their tummies as they backstroke around.














We also had an entertaining time with three couples, all from the West Vancouver Yacht Club, cruising in company around the Island. 'Happy Hour' was taken in the sun on the wooden docks eight of us together. The Sunstoners of course in spartan mode, sat on the wooden slats while the others brought out fold-away chairs and small tables.








After two days we motored deep into Quatsino Sound to the village we had biked to from the east side Coal Harbour. As we walked along the one road to stretch our legs we were stopped twice by locals and invited to the Annual Pig Roast, a community fund raiser. We went along that Saturday night to mingle with the locals.






The next day we motored away undecided about where to go. We picked up Internet coverage spasmodic on this coast and read avidly about the Super 15 Final! We do miss our rugby away from New Zealand. A third west coast challenge was looming. Brooks Peninsula - a larger, squarer version of Banks Peninsula is a bump, sticking out from this coast. The wind reports from Solander Island, the small off-lier, are always 10-20 knots more than the norm. On warm sunny days the NW winds often peak at 40 knots from 1100 until dusk. While a NW was a following wind for us we hoped to find something a little less than 40. We did. We just kept going. There was some high cloud, the wind was patchy offshore and there was no tell-tail cloud sheet pouring off the high land of the peninsula. It made for a 10 hour day, but the wind was no more than 20 knots, from behind and we did not have fog. The next three days it all changed with a SE headwind and fog. We have learnt to take our chances when we can!





This area is Cook country Captain James Cook R.N. on the Resolution. The great explorer was sailing this coast in 1778. Solander was Cook's botanist/naturalist. The northern point on the peninsula is named Cook Point although Cook originally called it Woody Point. Clerke Point at the southern end is named after Cook's second in command, while the intervening Banks Reef is named after Joseph Banks another naturalist with Cook. We headed for Columbia Cove; named after the ship of Captain Robert Gray (American) who was a fur trader and anchored in this "excellent harbour" in 1791. Sunstone tucked in behind Protection Island. Over two days we explored the wonderful outer beach following a 'primitive' trail for 2 kms from the inner cove. Here they call such beaches 'stressed'! That is because they have flotsam strewn everywhere above the high-water mark. The most obvious 'stresses' are huge logs, thrown high up onto the beach in winter storms, in a jumble of orderly chaos. Some of the logs are really enormous. In between, as one walks along, the smaller 'stresses' become obvious plastic bottles, shoes, light bulbs, glass bottles, poly prop rope, plastic fishing buoys. It is a beachcomber's delight. But we still did not find the most treasured item - a Japanese, glass, fishing float.



Fog is a notable feature of this coast, especially towards the end of July and into August. We experienced some low cloud and foggy patches over the next two days, weaving between more rocky islets of an outer barrier reef. The swells were rolling in over the rocks, giving the sea otters plenty of fun, even spying on the sports fishermen at times. If we had to run to a hurricane hole on this coast, it would be to Dixie Cove where we anchored for one night. This cove sits up an inlet, with surrounding larger islands, entered through an outer almost fully protected bay to the inner fully landlocked Dixie Cove. We could see the fog 'outside' but we sat under sunny skies enjoying the peace and quiet.