Saturday, November 12, 2016

Culture Shock!

After our exploration of the sea cave at Port Alberni was done we headed to our staging ground of Dodger Channel to spend a last night on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It's an extremely beautiful spot, it feels so rugged and open.

Bright and early the next morning Isaac and Emma once again raised the anchor and we set off for the Strait of Juan de Fuca in foggy, glassy swells. I love quiet misty mornings like this...especially when we can see orcas off in the distance.

Conditions in the strait were calm and we motored most of the morning. The sun broke out and winds finally picked up so we were able to raise the sails and enjoyed a lovely downwind sail. Jason even motivated the crew to drag out the gennaker which we somehow managed to keep in the air and out of the water which is always a happy thing. When winds picked up to about thirty knots we dowsed the gennaker and continued to clip along downwind at a good pace.

After thirteen hours we finally pulled into Victoria. We docked in the heart of downtown Victoria at 8:30pm which gave us just barely enough time to high-tail it to our favorite fish n' chips spot in the world, Red Fish Blue Fish, which was due to close at 9pm. We stepped off the dock, after 2 1/2 months of wild solitude, straight into the Victoria Buskers Festival. It was seriously crazy culture shock. To go from thinking that having ten people around is a lot of people, to stepping into the middle of a crowded musical festival in a big city was surreal and just a little bit mind-blowing. It was a crazy experience to wrap our dazed minds around as we hustled towards the always-long line for our share of delicious fried salmon.

After dinner we headed back to the boat. At the head of our dock the string duo of Tequila Mockingbird were jamming out tunes from their well-loved cello and violin. They were seriously good. As the hour crept closer to 11pm we pulled our exhausted selves away from the fun and collapsed into bed.

The following morning Jason came beaming back down into the boat. He had recognized the boat in front of us as Nereida of Gene Socrates fame and he had just had a conversation with her. Gene is the oldest woman to have circumnavigated the world solo, nonstop and unassisted. She has now done it three and half times and is gearing up for her fourth. Amazing! We all casually, ambled up on deck in hopes of having a few words with her. It was so cool to meet this quiet, mild-mannered woman from England with such incredible experiences and successes under her belt.

After our conversation with her we spent the morning checking out the sights and wandering around the city looking for good sushi. After lunch we polled everyone and it was unanimous, everyone wanted to leave the city and head back out to hang on the hook, so we bid the big city farewell and headed out.

Click here for photos and videos.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Port Alberni Yacht Club

The next morning we saw humpbacks in the distance as we sailed to Port Alberni Yacht Club, a favorite stop from last year's trip. We had explored a sea cave there but were limited in how far we could go because our only source of light was my iPhone. Isaac had been anxiously looking forward to returning to the cave with proper flashlights so we could explore further and Aaron had been anxiously awaiting the cave so that he could properly try out his new powerful flashlight.

We arrived at the Port Alberni docks in time for dinner. Once again Port Alberni lived up to its extremely friendly and welcoming reputation. On our last visit the dock the host gave us fresh king salmon steaks and this time he had made extra servings of fish and barley which he invited us to finish. Feeling extremely thankful and with full, happy bellies we took an evening walk over the hill to a rocky beach where we watched the sun set.

The following morning we waited until low tide and headed for the cave, flashlights in hand. We entered the cave and squeezed through an uber-tight opening that last year had wigged me out because I had imagined spiders smearing across my back as I scraped through. We entered the small cavern beyond and Isaac anxiously shined the flashlight down into the passageway he had been dreaming of exploring since last year only to find that it didn't go too much further. Oh well. It was still super cool to be back in the cave with its glittery walls and ginormous cave crickets and so cool to share it with Cousin Emma.

Click here for photos.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thar Be Dragons!

After our paddle to Benson Island, Emma and Isaac pulled up the anchor and we headed to Wower Island where we spent a peaceful evening. The following morning we paddled out into some big swells with white water all around us where they were crashing into the rocks. Sea kayaking was new to Emma and it was fun to share the experience with her. The swells were a bit intimidating at first but Emma handled the bigger water beautifully. On the way back to the boat we pulled ashore on a tiny gathering of islets where we ate our picnic lunch.

After lunch Isaac and Emma pulled up the anchor again and we moved on to Island Harbor. Not only did Emma bring her happy spirit, she also brought warmth and sunshine and we finally had warm enough weather to take a quick dip. Emma, by far, outlasted everyone else in the water, grinning ear-to-ear and laughing all the while. We retired to the foredeck to dry out in the sunshine and for some music. Isaac broke out his guitar and Emma, her harmonica. We were treated to a blissful afternoon of music and sunshine.

The following morning we dropped the kayaks into the water with visions of sea caves dancing in our heads. Poor Jason had to paddle me there like the Queen of Sheba the whole way because one of my ribs was out and I couldn't paddle. When we arrived we took turns gingerly inching our kayaks into a sea cave. It's always such an unnerving feeling as swells pick you up and suck you deeper into a cave.....especially when it sounds like a fire-breathing dragon lives at the end. Having survived the first cave we headed over to poke our noses into another. Next we were off to explore another little islet where we gathered nodding onions to spice up our lentil soup for the evening.

Click here for photos and videos.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to Barkley Sound

The following morning Jason had a meeting so Emma, the boys and I walked to Zoe's Bakery for more delicious treats. When we got back to the docks I ran into my old high school friend and we spent an hour catching up on life after high school. At noon, we fired up the engine, waved good-bye to friends and pushed off the dock heading back out to Barkley Sound. It was so fun to watch Emma grin ear to ear as she experienced her first taste of life on a sailboat.

We anchored at Clark Island and promptly dropped the kayaks in the water so we could paddle to shore. At this point I am going to let you read what Emma wrote about our hike on Clark Island because I can't even come close to capturing the feelings she so beautifully and poetically portrays. I love seeing these magical experiences through fresh eyes. We've hiked on so many islands in so many places, and though we love it, sometimes we take things for granted or as "just normal." Thank you Emma for reminding us of the magic of the world that we are so blessed to explore and spend so much time in.

The following day we paddled over to Benson Island. After visiting the statue of the First Man of the Broken Group and reading his story we hiked through the mossy forest to the other side of the island to check out a blowhole. The tide was low so we only heard a faint whoomf as water gently flowed in and out. As we scrambled across the rocks we peered into tiny tide pools scattered among the nooks and crannies in the craggy shore. In one of the pools I found a treasure, a rock with a perfect circle "drilled" into it, that I decided to leave with the First Man. I thought it would make a nice addition to his collection of treasures other visitors had left for him. When we got back across the island I discovered that the stone fit perfectly in his clenched hand almost like they were made for each other. Must have been destiny :).

Click here for photos.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Drying out in Ucluelet

Our original plan was to stay in Barkley Sound four nights but after night three of rain we threw in the towel and headed to Ucluelet where we could fix our heater. The entire month of June was cold and after so many weeks of rain and cool weather we were desperate to get the boat dried out so we were happy to raft up to another boat (which we found out later was the boat of the guy who warned us off the public docks in Tofino!) on a dock so we could plug in and set out our dehumidifier. What a relief! After weeks of damp everything we were finally able to dry out.

It rained through our first day in Ucluelet which gave me a chance to get all of our laundry done while Jason and Isaac fixed the heater. They have super funny stories to tell about maneuvering our forty pound hot water tank in the tiny space below the cockpit. As their giggles evolved into laughter they slowly lost strength while the water tank fell, squished Isaac and caused even more laughter. There was some doubt as to whether they'd ever make it out alive.

That night Jason and I went on a date but first we walked over to a wood-fired pizza place and grabbed a pizza for the boys to eat while we were gone. After three months without a date, we treated ourselves to dinner at Norwoods where we both consumed a deliciously prepared piece of fish. As good as it was it couldn't top the uber-delicious halibut braised in butter and white wine over carrots accompanied by a boat-made loaf of rustic bread I had made just a few nights earlier in the boat. I miss that dinner. Sigh. I digress. We had a lovely date and it was so nice to spend some relaxing, uninterrupted time together. When our waitress found out we were from Montana she let us know that the bartender was from Montana and she would send her over. When we met we discovered that we graduated from the same high school in the same year. It was really highlighted what small world we live in and given that I had no recollection of her, it confirmed that my memory really does suck.

The following day brought sunshine so we pulled apart the boat. All of our wet clothes came out of the shower and every drippy item was pulled out of the moldy sail locker. The decks were strewn with an explosion of sails and foulies everywhere. I busted out the vinegar and mold killer and set to work wiping away all of the mold we had carefully cultivated over the last soggy month. Though I had been wiping the boys' cabin clean on a weekly basis the wet weather was an inviting climate for mold to quickly grow back. I took this opportunity, with the help of the sunshine and dehumidifier, to at long last conquer all the mold I could find and allow those spots to dry completely before we piled everything back into the boat. While everything dried out in the sunshine we headed into Ucluelet for a yummy lunch at a sweet organic bakery before hiking out to a light house where we had splendid views over the graveyard of the pacific. When we got back we piled all of our now dry things back into our dry boat. I can't tell you how good it felt to once again have a dry, mold-free, clean boat.

The following day brought more heavy rain as we anxiously awaited the arrival of our niece, otherwise known as Emma 2. Emma 2 is another adventurous soul who eagerly jumped at our offer to bring her onto the boat. We knew it wouldn't be easy given that we were circumnavigating Vancouver Island which can make timing tricky and uncertain, but as luck and weather would have it, we made it to Ucluelet before her arrival. We had a plan all laid out for her. She would fly into Victoria airport, take a taxi to the bus station and hop onto a bus that would drive her the five hours to Ucluelet. What could go wrong? Turns out, all it took is one piece of the cog to fail and the rest of the plan collapsed. I received a text from Emma in the morning informing us that her flight out of Boise had been delayed which meant that she would miss her flight out of Seattle which would delay her arrival into Victoria which would cause her to miss the final bus to Ucluelet. Warg. We immediately hopped onto the Internet to try to fix the problem. Our first thought was seaplane. After thorough exploration we determined this was cost prohibitively and timing-wise impossible. Taxi? Also super expensive. Rent a car? Oops...she left her driver's license in Iceland (we told you she was adventurous!) Finally after all options had been explored over the course of the day, as she inched her way ever-closer in our direction, we decided she should stay in a hotel in Victoria and catch the morning bus. I happened to be in an organic grocery when we decided this so I spent a creepy amount of time in the tiny nook-and-cranny store booking a hotel for her. The cashier kept checking on me in the back to make sure I wasn't looting him...perhaps he sensed my saltiness and thought I was a savvy cyber-pirate since my nose was buried in my phone making the hotel reservation? I did spend an excessive amount of time there so I can understand his concern.

With a final plan laid out I slogged through the pouring rain to find the restaurant where the boys were eating so we could head back to the boat. We got back to the boat about a half an hour before Emma's plane was to land in Victoria when Jason heard back from a person he had left a message with earlier in the day. His name was Keith and he was a tour guide for cruise ship passengers and he was up for the adventure of picking Emma up at the airport and driving her to Ucluelet. I quickly texted Emma letting her know plans had changed, yet again, and Keith who would be picking her up. He could be recognized because he was wearing a purple shirt that says Kiki Shuffle. My response to this was "What?!? Seriously. Kiki Shuffle? Who is this guy?" Turns out he gets wonderful reviews on Yelp and he was for real. At this point I will start to call Keith, Super Keith. Super Keith dropped off his grandchild he was babysitting, hopped into his van and sped away to the airport. When he arrived he couldn't find Emma anywhere. At this point I had received a text from her that her bag had been lost. So Super Keith wandered through the airport with me on the phone trying to locate Emma. Emma was still behind customs so it took a while. Meanwhile poor Emma was cycling between the Delta and Alaska Air desks trying to locate her bag. On our end we realized that if she left the airport without her bag she wouldn't see it again until we dropped her back at the airport in nine days. Luckily Emma and I are roughly the same size so I suggested she could borrow clothes from me and we could buy her some undies when she got to Ucluelet. Emma was just about to accept this as her fate when her bag miraculously appeared on the next flight. At long last a worried Super Keith and Emma met in the airport and after showing her all kinds of official documentation as proof of being a tour guide they hopped into his van and away they sped. During her five hour drive we were lucky enough to spend time visiting with another couple I had met while I was doing laundry way back in Port McNeill. At long last our paths had crossed again so we spent a lovely evening aboard their Valiant 42 sharing stories of adventures circumnavigating Vancouver Island. After leaving her home in Boise at 7am, being put through the air-travel wringer, Emma finally arrived in Ucluelet at 9pm still smiling where we welcomed her with open arms. Welcome to the boat Emma! Thank you Super Keith of Kiki Shuffle for coming to the rescue and delivering Emma safe and sound!

Click here for photos.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Effingham Bay

I miss heat. And being dry. We spent three rainy, shivery nights in Effingham Bay. With weather like this I really miss having a heater. When the rain sets in everything is wet. My feet are always wet. And cold. At the end of the day we peel off our damp clothes, put on our damp jammies, and climb into our damp beds under our damp bedding.

Actually our early morning sail from Tofino to Barkley Sound was gorgeous. We arrived in Effingham Bay early enough that we were the second boat in the anchorage. I packed a lunch and we hopped into the kayaks to paddle the couple of miles over to Dicebox Island to check out some sea caves but first we landed on an inviting beach to eat lunch and explore. I found some nodding onions to gather and some yummy thimble berries to munch on. Next we paddled over to the sea caves for a look-see inside.

Back at the boat we soaked up the last bit of nice weather as we watched boat after boat arrive. There was a warning for strong winds so everyone decided that Effingham was the safest and most comfortable place to sit out the storm. A dinghy from a neighboring boat stopped by telling us that they were headed out to fish and asked if we'd like any. Never ones to turn down fish we accepted. A short while later they arrived back and asked us to hand over a bucket. They then proceeded to fill the bucket with five fish! After many thanks Jason decided that we needed to bring the bucket down into the boat to keep them out of the sun since we were about to eat dinner. He set the bucket o' fish on the counter when one of them started flipping. Me, being a recovering vegetarian, had a little freak-out session about this. I don't want to sound ungrateful or unthankful but I was super unhappy because I thought we were getting a bucket o' dead fish, not a bucket o' suffering-slowly-to-death fish. Jason grabbed the bucket and started up the companionway when a fish flipped right out of the bucket and flopped around on all of our shoes at the entrance of our boat :(. At this point he grabbed one of Aaron's sticks and clubbed it to death :(:(:(. This may get me kicked out of the sailing sisterhood but the fish violence made me sad, sad, sad. After dinner Jason headed to the cockpit with iPad in hand to try to fillet his first five ocean fish. Meanwhile the boys and I stayed below, away from the carnage, and played a card game. After an hour or so he was victorious and we slid four quart bags of fresh fish into our fridge. Nicely done.

The next day it down-poured all day so we nestled into the boat along with the dozen other boats that had joined us in the anchorage. We spent the day playing a board game and making chocolate chip cookies.

The following day brought lighter rain so we pulled on all of our foulies and ventured out. We hiked across the island to a lovely beach and a sea cave we had visited last year. The rocks on the way there were slipperier-than-all-get-out but it we made there and back with our lives. On the way through the forest we came across the biggest red huckleberry bush I have ever seen so we stopped to snack on as many of them as we could reach with big smiles on our faces.

Click here for photos.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Megin River to Tofino

After Hot Springs Cove we headed up inlet to Megin River. A rainy evening gave way to a sunny morning which we were super happy about since our plan for the day was to paddle up the river. After a quick session of yoga where I soaked up as much sun as I possibly could we were approached by a First Nations boat. They gathered a fee for anchoring in their little harbor and told us about their teenage nieces and nephews on shore who were spending a few weeks camping and living off of the land of their ancestors as a spiritual cleansing. What a super cool thing.

After I packed up lunch we paddled through a narrow rock lined cut and up the crystal-clear river through old growth until we hit a big sandbar where we got out to eat our lunch and take in the gorgeous scenery. Having seen so little of the sun we really relished any time we got to bask in its glory so this was a wondrous little outing.

In the afternoon we set out down inlet to Ahousat which we had read had a little man-made "warm" springs. We found the anchorage a little tricky to anchor in and ended up dragging up the anchor to change our location. The following morning we awoke to more cloudy, cool weather but we paddled to shore anyway to find the fabled "warm" springs. When we got there I quickly wimped out of a dip in the "warm" springs when I felt the water temp. I stayed bundled up while all three boys stripped down and bravely took a dip while I snapped photos.

We had a tide to catch so we set sail after lunch for Tofino. We had the craziest, coolest sail of the entire trip. We wound through all kinds of twists and turns and each time the wind shifted in our favor. We sailed right up to the mouth of Tofino Inlet on a single tack and then things got really crazy. Tofino is notorious for being not-at-all sailor friendly but we decided to give it a try anyway. The current rips through the narrow inlet making docking and undocking incredibly challenging. We decided to tie up at the public dock where the wharfinger I talked to on the phone said that there was one spot available and there should probably be enough depth for our boat. I had a bad feeling about this. I had a nagging feeling we should tie up to the fishing resort docks where a nice lady with a proper English accent had told me they had plenty of room and, of course, there would be enough water under our keel. Anyway, we first landed on the wrong part of the public dock (because I had quickly forgotten what the wharfinger had said about what was available.) It took three people to help pull the boat against the current onto the dock. After we were tied up we were informed that we needed to move to the end of the dock so Isaac, Jason and I untied Marinero (at this point I silently panicked about our decision to leave Aaron on the boat just in case we lost control of her) for Tofino Docking Attempt Number Two (as if the first one wasn't difficult enough) and started walking her back down the dock. Phew! We made it into our spot and after we were safely tied up, again, a man came wandering down the dock and started up a conversation. He told us he has a sailboat, but he keeps it in Ucleulet because Tofino is so difficult. Eventually I asked him if he knew what the depth was here. After some puzzling we all realized that the wharfinger's half-hearted reassurances about depth here had no factual grounding (bad pun). We realized that we would in fact ground and be sitting on our keel with three feet of us out of water once the tide dropped to low. Our new friend then told us a story about how a friend of his had that exact thing happen to him on these docks. Curse you, Shady Wharfinger! Thank you Dear Nameless Stranger for your advice and warning. Time for Tofino Docking Attempt Number Three. As we untied Marinero we saw the one and only Irish Lads pull into a nearby dock. I'm positive they don't ever have to worry about depth.

Next we headed to the fishing resort with the nice woman with the proper English accent and tied up for the next couple of nights. The nice woman with the proper English accent met us on the dock and helped pull us in as the current ripped by us, literally. Certain times of the day the current was so strong we watched standing waves and tide rips form next to Marinero and boil through the docks. We felt relieved to be tied up to a dock where we wouldn't ground so now it was time to explore the town which basically equals a quest to find all the yummy food and consume as much as possible as quickly as stomachs would allow.

It was super strange to step back into real civilization. The surfing town of Tofino is a major vacation destination so the streets were choked with your classic ice cream-slurping tourists. The first night we ate at the Wolf in the Fog which was good but didn't live up to all of the hype. We had grown used to quiet anchorages so it was a bit of an adjustment being tied up to a dock next to bar where the patrons' rowdy yells kept us awake late into the night, or maybe it was early morning.

The next day (after lunch at a fish market which was meh) I made a major grocery run while the boys wandered from coffee shop to coffee shop looking for decent wifi. They never found any....apparently there is no good wifi to be had in Tofino. When I was checking out at the grocery store the clerk plopped a lottery scratch ticket in front of me and stared at me blankly. I stared back at her bewildered. She told me to scratch it so I could save on my groceries. I was about to pass it to the person behind me but they insisted I do it. I scratched it and It ended up taking 30% off my bill saving me $67 which I found amazing. The person behind me got 5% off her drink saving her about $0.03. I guess it was my lucky day. Like I said I had a lot of groceries so I needed help carrying them but I got tired of waiting for the boys so I strapped one bag to my shoulder bag and heaved the other four bags onto my shoulders. I only made it two blocks before my shoulders felt like they were going to tear out of my body and like I had a compressed spine. I cried uncle and set all of the bags down in the middle of the block and worked on my patience skills. Luckily I didn't have to wait long and I was thankful to have the help lugging all of those groceries the mile back to the boat. We got back just in time to turn around and head back out to dinner at a Japanese comfort food restaurant. Sorry Wolf in the Fog, Kuma Tofino kicked your butt with its amazing grilled rice balls. Yum! We left the restaurant completely stuffed and settled back into the boat for another low-sleep night. It was nice being back in civilization to indulge in way too much food and restock our fridge but we were ready to head back to the wilderness.

Click here for photos.