Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hot Springs Cove

After waiting out six days of high winds in Nootka Sound, we finally got the opportunity to make our hop around Estevan Point. We woke up uber-early (for us) and pushed off from the Friendly Cove dock at 5:30am. The sun had just snuck over the horizon and shone unnatural and red through smoke from forest fires burning on Vancouver Island. 90 degree air temp, 78 degree water temp and forest fires on Vancouver Island? Scary. I wolfed down my granola, yogurt and morning tea in hopes that if I ingested them before we hit the swells maybe I wouldn't be sea sick. No such luck. The high winds gave way to a windless, rolly day offshore which gave us an easy, though slightly nauseous, passage. Estevan has a reputation for being rough and causing trouble, so we were happy to get off so easy.

We arrived at Hot Springs Cove before lunchtime and snagged the last spot on a super busy dock. Just two weeks before our arrival an old-fishing-boat-turned-restaurant had opened in the cove, so the kids and Jason were super excited to eat delicious salmon burgers for lunch instead of peanut butter and jelly, yet, again. We really felt like we had re-entered civilization at this point. Hot Springs Cove is an amazing place where hot, sulphury water bubbles up from the ground, picturesquely cascades over a beautiful, but stinky, waterfall and then tumbles into descending pools of various temperatures, depending on the tide level, below. Needless to say, it is a major tourist attraction and there is a constant stream of high-speed tour boats and seaplanes from Tofino shuffling tourists in and out all day long. As a sailboat spending the night the local advice is to wait until after 6pm and you can have the hot springs to yourself. On the first day we decided it would be interesting to see it at its peak... We could easily see it alone later.

After lunch we slipped into our bathing suits and walked the famous boardwalk carved with boat names. It was fun to check them all out along the way and we were excited to see some old dock mates and the Ballard contingent.

It was high tide when we arrived at the hot springs. We weaved our way down through boulders, pools and people and squeezed into a spot at the bottom where the waves pulsed in and out, sucking two delighted, squealing children back and forth. We had a lovely conversation with a Norwegian/Japanese couple from Tokyo where we learned which seaweed floating in the sulphury pool we could dry to make nori. We took a good look, but left these healthy, stinky, tourist infused specimens where we found them.

Back at the dock a crab boat passed by and yelled to see if we wanted any offer we couldn't refuse. He pulled up to the dock and we bought two Dungeness crabs and the owner of the fishing boat restaurant bought a halibut. We ate the crabs for dinner and then bought the freshest halibut burgers ever for lunch the next day. Yum.

The following day the weather finally cooled down and we spent the day relaxing on the boat and catching up on all things wifi. Jason's work was relieved to find out that we were still alive after so many weeks of silence. In the evening, after all the tour boats had left, we headed back to the hot springs for the solitude experience. A pack of wild half-wolf, half husky pups (who live across the way and swim over to the hot springs dock to beg food from all of the tourists) followed us all the way down the board walk to the hot springs. They were awesome. At the hot springs, we found another couple from the dock tucked into a pool down by the ocean. It was the only pool that was at a bearable temperature at low tide so we squeezed in between rocks nearby and had a nice conversation. Eventually they packed up and left and we had the place to ourselves. We decided to soak Scandinavian style, (no not naked!) alternately dipping in the hot pools and then cold. It was so invigorating. Once we'd had our fill, we walked back through the dusky forest to the dock where we were re-greeted by our new doggy/wolfy friends.

After two lovely nights at Hot Springs Cove, we fired up the engine to continue on our way. At first, all was well, but then the reassuring splooshing sound of water from the back of the boat stopped. Jason shut down the engine and began the process of trouble-shooting why the water intake was no longer working. After some back-and-forths on what we should or should not tear apart, he finally worked the hose loose that I thought he shouldn't and he discovered our problem. A poor little fish had met its maker in our water intake system. Sad. Jason pulled him out, put everything back together and we were on our way.

Click here for photos.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cooking on a Boat with Kirsten: Episode 2 Granola Bars

Emma also wanted to learn how to make my homemade granola bars so I made her another video. I halved the recipe in the video. The full recipe follows below.

Granola bars

1 cup natural-style peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups dry uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups homemade granola
Your Desired Amount of Dark Chocolate - chopped


Mix oats, granola and chocolate together in a large bowl. Add peanut butter and honey and throughly mix. The mixture shouldn't be too sticky or too needs to be just right. Feel free to add more wet or dry ingredients in order to get the correct consistency

Once desired consistency has been reached, dump mixture onto a cutting board and squeeze into a tight rectangle. Cut into desired size and squeeze them a little lighter. Wrap each bar in foil and store in plastic bags. - No need to refrigerate as the ingredients are natural.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friendly Cove is Friendly

This is going to sound cheesy, but Friendly Cove definitely lives up to its name. Rich with history, it has been continuously inhabited by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people for the last 4,000 years and was the first place Europeans touched ground in BC when Captain Cook stopped here to repair his damaged ships in 1778. This lovely spot once housed 1500 First Nations people in 20 long houses. We were happy to tie up to the dock here after a couple of weeks of solitude in more remote country further north. It felt nice to step back into "civilization" here with its five or so inhabitants.

We socialized with the folks across the dock who were waiting for a documentary film crew to join them. As experienced sailors who have sailed the paths described in the logs of Captain Vancouver and Charles Darwin, they were hired to transport a film crew along the path of famed marine biologist Ed Rickets. They spent years sailing in Peru where they met Doug Tompkins, the founder of North Face. He invited them to his house by giving them its lat-long coordinates expecting they'd never be able to find him, but, they did. He was very surprised and greeted them with great hospitality when they sailed into his domain one day.

The following morning Jason started a conversation with a fisherman who lives there. The fisherman showed him how to succeed at salmon fishing and gave him some line and lures for us to drag behind our boat. Jason asked if he could pay him for the equipment to which he replied, "You don't need to, I just like to help people." Jason gave him a little cash anyway and then we headed out for the day.

We explored the church originally built in the 1880's. It burnt to the ground in the 1950's and was rebuilt in 1957 with stain glass windows donated by the Spanish government in remembrance of the 1792 peace negotiations between England's Captain Vancouver and Spain's Captain Quadra. Here we learned about the history of Friendly Cove and of the Whalers Shrine, an ancient site of purification rituals where 16 human skulls, 88 carved human figures and 4 carved whales were found. It was reported to have great powers but all contents were stolen (purchased in shady circumstances) in the mid-1920's and taken to a New York museum where they currently collect dust in the basement. The tribe is working on retrieving the shrine and returning it to its proper home.

We then walked through the forest past an old graveyard filled with Christian crosses to a freshwater lake where we went for a swim. Even Pika swam, though she didn't really have a choice since we plunked her in the water away from shore. While sunning ourselves afterwards, Aaron and I became entranced by all of the round polished rocks on the shore. They were so smooth that they looked like they had been through a rock polisher. Eventually we tore ourselves away from the lake and headed to the beach. We were delighted to find that the beach was entirely made up of these polished rocks in all different sizes and colors. Apparently in the 1700's there was a tidal wave that swept rocks from the beach over the hill and deposited them in the lake. We spent hours on the beach filling our pockets with precious pebbles, rock climbing on the sea-stacks and giving each other rock massages. As we left the beach we startled a couple of guys who had just checked into one of the ramshackle rental cabins off the beach. They were the film crew our dock mates had spoken of and had just flown in from LA. They were totally freaked out about being in such a remote location and were so thankful to see other human beings. It was hilarious to us how different our points of view were. We had just re-entered civilization, and they felt completely isolated and on the edge of the world.

Next stop was the lighthouse where we had a fascinating conversation with the lighthouse keepers. We asked if it got lonely out there. They said in the summer, not-so-much, but in the winter they don't ever see anyone except for the helicopter pilot that drops them supplies every five weeks. They said that the cove goes totally National Geographic in the winter. They have the herring hatches and then the cove fills as everything comes to feed on all the herring...orcas, sea lions, seals, sea otters, whales, etc. We told them about how we had seen three sunfish (and possibly a basking shark?) on our last passage to which they replied that the warming of the water is bringing in all kinds of new fish. A couple of years ago there was an invasion of humboldt squid. People were totally freaked out because they were attacking boats. One fisherman they know had his little aluminum fishing boat completely surrounded and attacked and he thought he was going to die. Come winter time they had hundreds of squid enter the cove and die. Needless to say, it smelled abominably bad. They used a crane to haul some of them up onto the dock where they took photos of the six-foot monsters. They are still using remnants of the squid for bait.

When got back to the boat, we found a bag of food sitting in the cockpit. In surprise I rummaged through the bag and found ziplocks filled with smoked salmon, halibut, shrimp, four carrots and a beet. The fisherman we met in the morning had left us a very generous gift. We were so surprised and super grateful. Our freezer was fully stocked again, a major relief to the person who is constantly worried about where we'll find food next.

The next day we headed up inlet to Moutcha Bay to top off our water tanks. It was uber-hot (90+ degrees) and we spent the day alternately sweating and jumping into the 78 degree water. The water was super floaty so we could just lounge around for long periods of time without getting tired or cold. It felt really, really weird to be experiencing such tropical bliss in this part of the world. We found out later that it was the highest temperatures ever recorded, for any day, for this area.

While tied up at Moutcha with calm weather, we took the opportunity to change our headsail. The tack on our jib had developed a small tear in it and we no longer trusted it to hold. The high winds from our crazed sail had dramatically increased the tear so we dropped the jib and replaced it with our genoa, though we had to swim three times to cool down before the job was done.

After a night at Moutcha we headed back down inlet where we tried out our genoa for the very first time. We were beating into weird, swirly, gusty winds and we discovered right away that we were not fans of the bigger surface area the genoa carries at this wind angle. We had a couple of gusts of 25+ knots which buried the kayak into the water and made me use unlady-like words.

After a brief overnight at St. Gertrudis, we made a quick hop back to Friendly Cove where we would continue to wait out the high winds that were raging offshore. We happily repeated our activities from our previous stay but added a trip to see an old fallen totem. Buried deep in a thicket of blackberries, it was so amazing to see a real totem, gorgeous and magical. When it fell the Royal British Columbia Museum wanted to saw it apart and move it their museum. The tribe declined, believing it is the way of things to let it return to Mother Nature.

Click here for photos.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Insanely Epic Crazed Sail

So the crazy part of this journey was supposed to be crossing the Nawhitti Bar or going around Cape Scott or sailing past the dreaded Brooks Peninsula. We timed all of those really well and they were a breeze. At this point we realized that we could handle a little more wind on these downwind passages, so we thought a wind forecast for 20-30 knots from the northwest sounded perfect for a sail from Rugged Point to Nootka Sound.

The day started sunny with moderate breezes which made for a gorgeous sail. We were all relaxed as we soaked up the sun and dazzling scenery. I noticed something in the water off the port side of the boat which I mistook for a dead manta ray. I was so excited I sputtered and tried to get everyone's attention. Isaac realized right away that it wasn't a dead manta ray, it was actually a giant sun fish which had come to the surface to bask in the sun. We had a hard time believing this since they are tropical/temperate water fish but then we caught glimpses of two more later on. As the day wore on the swells increased in size but our day going around the Brooks Peninsula had gotten us used to 10-12 foot waves so we settled into a groove in these waves, three miles off shore. I spent hours standing at the back of the cockpit working on my balance as Marinero moved, up and down, back and forth with the rhythm of the waves. We watched other boats in the distance heave and buck through the water and we thanked our lucky stars that Marinero was taking such good care of us. Late in the afternoon it came time to jibe back towards shore and into Nootka Sound and this is when things got a little crazy. As we set our course towards Nootka Sound, the waves started to stack up steep due to the current ebbing out of the sound. Now we were seeing 12-15 foot super-steep, curling waves with the occasional 20 foot wave looming over our heads threatening to swallow us up. Our autopilot, Otto von Bismark, had performed beautifully up until this point, but as I stood watching backwards from our open cockpit, one of these monster waves reared up and boiled towards us. At this point Otto became overwhelmed and the boat started to turn sideways to the ginormous wave, threatening a broach. I turned and yelled to Jason, "What's happening?" He immediately turned Otto off, grabbed the helm and corrected us. Phew! I stood there and shook for a while as adrenaline pumped through my system. At this point we had 30-35 knots of wind behind us and we were screaming along at 10 knots except for when we were surfing down waves at 12 knots. At one point we actually hit 13.5 knots. It was insane. We knew we only had an hour to go so we opted not to turn into the wind, bucking around like crazed lemurs, in order to reduce sail. In retrospect we would should have reefed a little sooner before boat speeds got so high. Jason continued to man the helm, throwing his weight against the wheel to keep us on track as we surfed down the waves. While this was all occurring, I noticed that one of our deck lines was dragging in the water. Not wanting to lose it or have it go into the prop when we started the engine back up later, I clipped in forward and went to the side deck to retrieve it. At this point Marinero surfed down a huge wave, heeled over and a wave of knee deep water boiled down the side deck. Jason watched in horror as I scurried up onto the cabin top to try to avoid getting wet but still got dowsed up to my knees. Eventually the motion calmed down as we neared Nootka Sound and her red-roofed lighthouse at Friendly Cove was a welcome sight. We gratefully took the last spot on the dock and breathed a sigh of relief.

Here's a GoPro video of sailing around Cape Scott, Brooks Peninsula and Nootka, although video never does the waves justice....

Click here for photos.