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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hot Springs Cove

We woke up early the next morning for our hop around Estavan Point. We had a perfect beam reach until we rounded the point and then motored into Hot Springs Cove.

Arriving in Hot Springs Cove, we feel like we have finally re-entered civilization again. Hot Springs is home to a paradisiacal (you might have already guessed this) hot springs that bubbles up from the forest floor, tumbles down a cliff and then cascades through a series of rock pools before meeting the ocean. The low pools are a variety of temperatures depending on the state of the tide so you can choose a pool with a temperature comfortable to you and then dip between hot and cold. For good reason, Hot Springs is a major tourist destination so there are tour boats and sea planes from nearby Tofino coming and going all day long. We like to tie up to the dock so we can watch all of the normal folk arrive to take a break from their normal lives and spend a few hours in wildness. Here, we also re-entered cell service, our first taste of cell in two weeks so we took the opportunity to call our parents to tell them we were still alive and, of course, catch up on some work. Like I said, full-blown civilization.

On our first afternoon there we walked the picturesque boardwalk (we still haven't joined the legions of other boaters and taken the time to carve the name of our boat into a board there) to the famous hot springs and joined the crowds of tourists in the pools. It's always interesting to talk to other people there and hear their stories. We talked with a woman from Ireland and I was lucky enough to have my back turned to a German man who got naked as he changed out of his wet clothes...others in my party were not so lucky. As they looked up to say something to me all they saw was a big, naked, German butt behind me that rendered them speechless. He was kind enough to hold up a towel for his wife so she could do the same.

The following day was super rainy so we spent the day in the boat resting and playing a board game. We noticed a very tiny, very soggy open boat tie up to the other side of the dock. After dinner Jason saw a man sitting next to the boat looking cold and wet. I thought he must be from the tiny boat so I stuck my head and asked if he'd like a cup of tea to warm up. He declined and said he was just waiting for a sea plane. He said the guys from the tiny boat were inside eating dinner. Hearing this conversation, we saw two heads pop out so we stepped out of our boat to say hello and thus began our first meeting of the "Irish Lads" as they came to be known. Originally from Ireland they were now hanging out in Canada and sailing as much as they could before their visas ran out. The Irish Lads had come around Cape Scott in their teeny, tiny boat, and the Dreaded Brooks Peninsula and now Estavan Point. I couldn't believe they were circumnavigating Vancouver Island in that boat. I thought back to all of the times that I had felt terrified and felt like a total wimp as I glanced back at our uber-stout, seaworthy Marinero. They had gotten quite the pummeling going around Estavan that day but now they were warm and dry and happy and didn't need a cup of tea after all.

That evening we walked back to the hot springs for the solo experience. All the tourists filter out of the hot springs by 7:00 so after that you can have the whole place to yourself. We soaked in the lower pools, dipping ourselves between hot and cold as the weather lightly misted us. We watched fog slowly roll in and soon the eerie high-pitched whistle of a foghorn sounded in the distance which totally added to the moody feel of the evening. Happy and relaxed we plodded back along the boardwalk to our boat.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Friendly Cove

We left the old lumber town of Tahsis the next morning anxious to get back into wilderness. We expected winds to be flowing up Esperanza Inlet but we really didn't hit any wind until the very end when our destination was in sight. We raised sails anyway and beat into the wind for the last short mile or so. We pulled into Friendly Cove just as the coastal freighter, the U-Chuck, was pulling out as we waved to our buddy boat friends as we headed for a free space on the dock. We remembered from last year to tie up with our bow facing out otherwise the swells rolling in from the open ocean slap us in the butt all night long making our stay a bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately our memory had failed us on how loud and squeaky the dock was and as we laid awake that night we wished we had dropped our anchor instead.

Once we were tied up to the dock we didn't waste any time. We had been long anticipating our arrival back in Friendly Cove with dreams of bouldering on the beach in mind so we grabbed our climbing shoes and headed for the beach. Friendly Cove has one of our favorite beaches of all time. The rocks on the beach look like they have been put through a rock polisher and its the perfect place to lounge around soaking up the warmth of the rocks and spend hours searching through its perfectly polished, shiny pebbles. We always come back to the boat with our shorts hanging low from our bulging pockets full of treasure. This time we eagerly arrived and crammed our feet into our climbing shoes and hopped onto the beach boulders. We created routes and took turns climbing them. In between climbs I lounged around on the beach digging through the polished pebbles with Aaron. We climbed until our muscles ached. As we we leaving Aaron dropped his favorite rock on the beach. Jason and Isaac forged ahead to the light house while Aaron and I searched through millions of pebbles to find his favorite rock. Just as we were about to give up he realized he was holding it in his hand all along. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does things like that. We had a lovely, meandering walk back up the beach past the welcoming man statue with his arms outstretched to the sea and back up to the trail that led us back to our boat.

Click here for photos.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Nuchatlitz to Tahsis

Oh man, I'm so far behind on the blog, but I will get caught up.

From the Bunsby's we headed to Nuchatlitz, an abandoned First Nations village. Along the way we passed by rafts of sea otters who watched our boat cautiously as they lounged on their backs and munched whatever goodies they had resting on their bellies. They were so stinking cute.

We arrived at Nuchatlitz in the early afternoon so we paddled to shore to explore. We walked along a long, sandy finger out to a small island. We watched the time and tide carefully to be sure we didn't get trapped out on the island when high tide swallowed our sandy finger path. When we got back to our kayaks we each took a toboggan run down the steep rocky beach into the water.

The following day we enjoyed a light upwind sail into Esperanza Inlet. Our friends from Sea Otter and Columbia Cove were ahead of us. As we slowly gained on them the wind almost completely died. We slowly bobbed side by side, giving each other inspiration to try to sail though there really was no wind. Eventually we each gave up and fired up our engines to get us through the dead zone. It wasn't long before the wind picked up again and we were able to turn off the engine to sail the rest of the way to the tiny town of Tahsis where we tied up to a dock for the night.

We spent a soul-sucking afternoon under an umbrella at a table in the dock cafe catching up on all things wifi after such a long time of no cell service. Just as I had finished uploading photos to the Internet one of our boat friends walked up the dock and asked if I'd like to go the grocery store with her. She had borrowed the marina car and was heading in. It was perfect timing. The little store didn't have a lot but I was able to stock up on a little milk along with some fruits and veggies which I was very thankful for since I am almost always in a panic about food when we are on the West Coast.

Click here for photos.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bunsby Birthday

After Columbia Cove we spent two nights in the Bunsby's, a world-class kayaking and sailboat destination. On our first afternoon we paddled around in our foulies exploring the islands that surrounded us. We stopped on a little white sand beach where I foraged for food. I found a beautiful patch of pretty little nodding onions. Unbeknownst to me, Jason and Aaron were scurrying around on the beach catching tiny little crabs and stuffing them into their pockets with plans to add them to my wild stir-fry. We stopped at another island where I gathered sea asparagus and arrow grass. Back at the boat I made a delicious stir-fry accompanied by lentil soup. Yum, I'm loving the gathering wild food thing.

The next day Jason had the best Bunsby birthday ever. He awoke to sunshine, glorious sunshine and started the day with yoga on the foredeck. I packed a lunch and we headed out in the kayaks to explore. Jason had his eyes set on an sea stack-ful island with hopes of climbing one for a view. We paddled through swells and lovely sunshine past watchful sea otters to Jason's birthday island and landed on a big boulder beach. We awkwardly drug our kayaks as high as we could before gathering some more nodding onions. After assessing all of the sea stacks we picked the one that looked the best and scrambled to the top. Just as we had hoped it had glorious ocean views. We unpacked our picnic lunch and ate, soaking up the sunshine (yes, I'm mentioning the sunshine again because we have really missed it) as blue-green water swirled and churned through the rocks below.

When we had our fill, we retraced our steps back to the kayaks and slowly paddled back to the boat for refreshing swim. Afterwards we lounged around with crackers, cheese and a birthday beer, drying ourselves out on the teak of the foredeck. Jason then grabbed a book and climbed into his birthday hammock while I paddled to the nearest island to collect more arrow grass and sea asparagus. For dinner, we had a very special treat of pork chops along with potatoes fried up with the day's wild harvest. We finished dinner with a chorus of happy birthday singing and a moist chocolate stout cake. Yum! We then sat down around the table to play Dominant Species, the board game we had gotten him, and the day ended with a glorious sunset. With its beautiful sunsets, exposure to open swells and views of crashing waves on rocky islets, mountains towering in the background, we decided this was the prettiest anchorage of the entire trip. Having sunshine didn't hurt either :). Happy birthday Jason!

Click here for photos.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Around Brooks Peninsula

After an awesome stay in Sea Otter Cove we had a 20-30 knot wind sail downwind through six foot waves to Klaskish Basin where we shared the anchorage with both boats we had seen in Sea Otter. We spent two rainy nights trying to listen to the broken radio weather report on our VHF and staging to go around the dreaded Brooks Peninsula. We had a full day of steady, soggy rain. We still managed to rouse ourselves from the boat to paddle up the Klaskish River through the pouring rain and blustery wind. I have only a few iPhone photos to document the day. We paddled up tiny fingers where grass towered over our heads and I secretly worried about startling a bear. We plucked salmon berries from low-hanging branches and watched ripples dance across the water with each down-draft that gusted from the steep mountains surrounding us. Along the way I gathered bladderwrack seaweed which I boiled when I got back to the boat to make a gooey facial mask Nikki had told me about. I've never done a facial before so I'm not entirely sure I got it right but it was fun to try.

The following morning we compared notes from the staticky radio report with our anchorage buddy before setting out. Winds were predicted to be light in the morning allowing us a window of opportunity to jump around the Brooks before the winds shifted to a southeast slog fest. We decided the weather looked good and we ventured out into open ocean. It was one of those super beautiful, moody mornings with clouds caught in the mountains and the ocean shimmering like liquid mercury. We watched puffins float by as Solander Island looked ominous and foreboding in the distance. Winds were light but we had two separate set of swells coming from different directions so I was super seasick the whole day long. Even Jason was green by the end. Blech. Not fun, but better than getting the tar beaten out of us.

Our reward was that we anchored in a West Coast favorite from last year, Columbia Cove. I have been dreaming of returning ever since last summer. I have awesome memories of glorious warm, sunny weather with lots of swimming and exploring the big, beautiful, super-remote beach. Upon our arrival the weather cleared enough for us to sort-of dry out all of our wet rain gear left over from our paddle up the Klaskish River. We enjoyed crackers and cheese on the foredeck while we watched four sea otters float around on their backs munching on their dinner. A couple hours later our buddy boat from Klaskish pulled in. I relaxed on the foredeck while they brought their dog to shore. Just as they started rowing back I looked up and saw a huge black bear trot along the shore. It was beautiful.

The following day we paddled into shore where we talked to a couple from the Netherlands who have spent the last ten years sailing 100,000 miles around the world. They were super hard-core, like the kind of sailors that just hang out at Cape Horn. For fun. For two years. When Jason asked where their favorite spot was, without hesitation they both said the Falklands. Like I said, hard core.

We parted ways and headed through the gorgeous, old-growth of Brooks Peninsula to a ginormous, wind-swept and weather-beaten beach. It was a different experience to be there in our fowlies instead of swim suits but it was still beautiful nonetheless. We walked over to a river and hiked up to a little waterfall and ate salmon berries. Back on the beach we sifted through Asian junk washed up on the shore, pretended to play Japanese drinking games with sake bottles we found and played on craggy rocks before heading back through the ancient forest to our kayaks. Along the way we gathered sea asparagus and arrow grass to add to a soup I was cooking for dinner. Yum.

When we got back to the boat I had it in my head that I needed a shower. The weather had been so cold so we hadn't been able to swim, and my hair felt so greasy I couldn't handle it any more, so it was time to go in. The air temperature was probably fifty degrees and the ocean was, as you might imagine, not warm, but I put on my bathing suit and, twice, I lowered myself into the water and dunked my head to get my hair wet, with all of the squeaking, shuddering noises you might imagine would accompany such activity. Then I stood on the swim step with my baking soda and vinegar and scrubbed my head. I used the solar shower (I swear the water was colder than the ocean) to rinse clean. By the time I finished I was shivering like crazy and my hands and feet were white and numb. that's desperation. Oh. I forgot to mention that during a crazed moment of wild pummeling between Sea Otter Cove and the Klaskish Basin our furnace broke off the wall so we no longer have heat. Brrrrrr.

Click here for photos.