Sunday, July 25, 2010

Recent Photos

Hot Springs Cove to Tofino

Our 2 days at Hot Springs Cove were quite special. On the first evening we walked the 1.3 mile long boardwalk through the rain forest to the springs. What an ordeal it must have been to construct the path. It meanders through bog and dense, dark forest with lush ferns and moss covering everything in sight. The hot springs are in a rocky crag on a point of land that juts out into the open ocean. The hot water cascades down a small cliff and fills several small pools before pouring into the sea. At high tide, small waves surge into the outermost pool mixing ice cold salt water with the warm fresh water. We shared a soak with a group from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club who were traveling as a group around the island. They soon began the trek back to the anchorage giving us the rare opportunity to watch the sunset while alone in the pools.

The next day was spent aboard in the anchorage working on projects and helping a couple from another sailboat who had trouble with their engine’s alternator. Mark even loaned them a spare that we carry aboard but, although it was the same brand and size,
it had slightly different mounting points. The folks were very grateful for the help. Anne, meanwhile, chased dust bunnies around the boat with a broom and dust pan (how can a boat on the open sea get dusty??) and tried a new recipe for a breakfast bread that used a can of beer instead of yeast. It turned out to be delicious and more socially acceptable than drinking a can of beer for breakfast.

On Friday the 24th were sailed to Baccante Bay, another beautiful spot up an inlet behind Flores Island. We found just one other boat anchored there but were soon joined by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club group. They were a fun bunch though and later invited us aboard two of their member’s larger power boats that were rafted (tied) together for the night. Everyone was so pleasant and made us feel welcome. Anne commented that they were all so polite. Maybe that goes with the “Royal” part of the yacht club’s official designation. We laughed about how she felt like she had to be a bit careful with her usual “say anything that pops into her brain way of speaking”.

Yesterday we sailed and motored to the town of Tofino, the tourist Mecca of Vancouver Island’s west coast. It’s from here that the hoards of visitors depart via high-speed boats and float planes for daily whale and bear watching tours. We consider ourselves so incredibly fortunate to be experiencing all of the best this area has to offer aboard our own “floating home”, on our own schedule and, most often, in total privacy. All of that comes with a price however. We are totally responsible for our safety and the seaworthiness of our vessel and, although somewhat of a burden, we feel it offers the most satisfaction, fulfillment and sense of accomplishment. While watching last night’s sunset from Tofino’s wharf, we gazed out across the water at “Blue Rodeo” gently swinging at anchor in the ebb tide current and almost had to pinch ourselves to make sure that this wasn’t just a wonderful dream.

We will stay in Tofino again today and may take a shore bus ride to check out some of the nearby, famous surfing beaches. Tomorrow, it’s off to the town of Ucluelet and Barkley sound where more exploration and adventures awaits.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tahsis to Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove

On Sunday, 7-18-10, “Blue Rodeo” and crew departed the small community of Tahsis bound for an anchorage near the entrance to Nootka Sound. Conditions were sunny and clear with brilliant blue skies. As we motorsailed away in calm conditions, we were treated to another spectacular view of the glacier-covered mountains that formed the backdrop for the village. While heading south down the canyon-like, narrow channel, we spied what appeared to be a clump of seaweed or flock of birds on the water ahead. With help from the binoculars, we were delighted to see that it was a “raft” of 30 or more sea otters. For whatever reason, otters will raft-up and drift along while lazing on their backs grooming and tending to their young. It’s hard to imagine a more endearing sight. They as so incredibly cute! Unfortunately, without a telephoto lens we were unable to get a good picture of them.

Friendly Cove, our intended destination for the night, seemed lacking of charm or interest so we poked our bow into tiny Santa Gertrudis Cove nearby just as four boats that were traveling together were pulling up their anchors. We dropped ours, being careful to avoid the numerous rocks and shallows, and once again marveled at our surroundings and good fortune to have the place all to ourselves. After getting settled, we took our dinghy ashore where we made a short hike via a crude trail through the rain forest to a beautiful lake. A cool breeze was blowing so Anne opted not to swim but Mark eased his way out through the rocky shallows for a pleasant swim. We often wonder how primitive man survived without shoes or sandals. Our feet never seem to get tough enough to walk barefoot on all but the smoothest surfaces. Oh well, Mark tells people that his feet are highly evolved for the use of pushing aircraft rudder pedals.

The following morning we set out to round Estavan Pt., one of the last major capes along Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast. Our guide book cautioned of many rocks and reefs that extend well offshore and have claimed many vessels over the years. Thanks to modern navigation equipment, we worried not so much about hitting rocks but about the potential for huge, confused seas created by the strong winds and the swells they produce coming in contact with the shallow waters near the coast. The weather forecasts again included gale force afternoon winds, just as they had for almost every day since rounding Cape Scott. Conditions for us were moderate though and the high point of the day’s sailing was seeing several whales spouting and surfacing not far from us. Once around the point we entered large Hesquiat Harbor and tucked into the small bay at it’s far end. This turned out to be on of our favorite spots so far. We had it all to ourselves and spent two nights there beach combing and watching birds of all kinds. We were a little grossed-out to watch two bald eagles dog-fight with an unlucky seagull, finally taking it down and making a meal of it. Anne wanted to intervene but Mark assured her that it was simply another example of the natural process that goes on constantly around us. While at anchor, Mark re-plumbed our exterior transom shower to have hot water so we can shower there without suffering from the cold water in our tanks and Anne did some boat cleaning and prepared an awesome chicken with Thai peanut and ginger sauce for dinner. While there in Rae Basin, we noticed a significant change in the weather as dense fog returned to the coast with the only sun appearing late in the day. While awaking this morning we soon realized that conditions were near “0-0” and likely to stay that way until at least mid day. Never the less, we departed around eleven o’clock and motored carefully the 15 miles around the next point to famous Hot Springs Cove where we anchored just ahead of a flotilla of boats from the Victoria Yacht Club who were circling the island together. So much for solitude! We pretty much new what to expect as this place, and it’s 1.3 mile cedar boardwalk through the forest to the hot springs, attracts visitors all summer long. Most arrive on high speed inflatable tour boats from the town of Tofino but some fly in in float planes. All in all, the activity around us makes for a good show. After dinner tonight it’s off to the hot springs. While at anchor we noticed few shore-side homes and power lines. This gave us the chance to try our new WiFi extender antenna and were amazed to pick up an internet connection. We’ll try to post this blog entry before we lose the signal. I guess we are getting closer to civilization. Bummer!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

More recent photos

Esperanza Inlet

On the morning of July 15th we sailed along the inshore route approximately 20 miles down the coast to Esperanza Inlet. The route required extremely careful navigation as rocks and reefs were everywhere. At one point we found ourselves clear of the narrow passage and, as the wind and swells began to build, “Blue Rodeo” charged ahead with speeds near 9 knots. What fun! With wind on the beam, we reached into the flat water of Esperanza Inlet and soon found ourselves at Queens Cove, our anchorage for the night. Queens Cove features abandoned homes, church, and the remains of a fish cannery. Near the cannery site a wooden fishing boat lies rotting on the rocks. It was another beautiful place although many of the hillsides around us were scarred from past years of logging. The tranquility of the scene was even interrupted by the sound of heavy equipment and chainsaws in an area that was still being worked. The cove featured a narrow river mouth and at high tide we took our standup paddle surfboards about a mile up the shallow river. Our solitude was interrupted by the arrival of a large Nordhaven motor yacht with two families aboard. It was interesting comparing our relatively modest floating home with their multi-million dollar palace. We really did not envy them thought as they didn’t seem to be very physical or active and spent most of their time inside the boat. In the evening we used our sat phone to call our good friend Mike Anderson who, with his wife Beverly, had boated through these same waters a few years ago. Even though the sat phone connection was less than perfect Mike passed on some good information about an inland detour around Nootka Island that would take us near the villages of Zaballos and Tahsis . Although not yet needing to reprovison, we were interested in checking out what remained of the tiny mining and logging communities and looking forward to a little more social interaction. We are finding that even though we love solitude and having the special places we visit all to ourselves, it is great fun meeting people and hearing about their lives and travels. As we write this we are tied to the public wharf in Zeballos amidst numerous commercial fishing boats and the big Nordhaven from Queens Cove. Are they stalking us or visa versa? We carefully docked the boat today with water depths adjacent the dock just a few feet deeper than our keel. We were relieved to make it in without touching the bottom and have calculated that at tonight’s lowest tide we should still have 2 feet of water under our keel. This afternoon we walked through the small village, had lunch at one of two cafes and ice-cream at the post office/ice-cream parlor. We also toured the town’s tiny museum that featured photos and memorabilia from its heyday as a thriving mining town with a population of over 2000. We were told that only 150 now reside here. The cafĂ© and fuel dock did have WiFi access so we welcomed the opportunity to get a few blog entries out and catch up with email. We will sail on to the other small village of Tahsis tomorrow and back out to the open ocean on Sunday. More interesting areas await us down the coast and we continue to look forward to the sights and challenges ahead. As we conclude this Anne wants to walk back into town in hopes of seeing a bear or two rummaging around the dumpsters



The morning of 7-11 dawned sunny and clear with a light breeze that built through the day to over 20 knots. The other boats that shared our anchorage departed early which left us to enjoy Scow Bay in privacy. What a treat! The strong winds and the choppy waters they produced discouraged anymore exploring by dinghy so we happily lounged in “Blue Rodeo’s “cockpit reading and enjoying the warmth of the sun. When the winds began to subside in the early evening we decided to dinghy around to a neighboring anchorage after having seen a sailboat enter there the night before. We found the Beneteau 50 still at anchor with its owner Andreas and friend Ken having dinner in the cockpit. As we approached they smiled and waved and, as cruisers often do, extended the invitation to come aboard. Seeing that they were still in the midst of dinner we suggested instead that they join us aboard our boat when they were finished and they happily accepted the offer. We hurried back to “Blue Rodeo” where Anne quickly made dinner while Mark straightened up a bit in preparation for our guests. Andreas and Ken were experienced racers and cruisers from the Vancouver B.C. area and had lively personalities and great senses of humor. Their description of the beautiful beaches and native village site across the channel prompted our early dinghy excursion the next day for a hike ashore. We really enjoyed our time ashore there and hiked for several miles along a pebble and rocky shore that bordered the dense rain forest. We explored tide pools and beach combed; finding lots of debris washed up on shore some of it quite interesting. There were lots of fishing floats and buoys of different sizes including one rather large black float almost as big as an average bathtub with Japanese writing on it. As we finished our hike we could see that the winds in the channel were already howling and, on our trip back to our anchorage, our little inflatable boat probably spent as much time in the air as it did in the water as it bounced from one wave top to the next.
Once back aboard we settled into a few boat projects and Anne made chocolate peanut butter cookies and chicken curry for dinner. Andreas stopped by to invite us over after dinner for drinks and we were treated to their pleasant company once again. With the long days at this latitude during the summer its easy to find yourself still talking, laughing and watching the sunset even after 10pm. Even though it was late when we returned to “Blue Rodeo”, we watched another episode of "24” and both agreed that we were getting addicted to the show.
Tuesday 7-13 dawned sunny and calm as we departed the Bunsby Islands for Kyuquot Sound. Careful navigation was required as we motor sailed through rocky and reef strewn waters toward our new destination. By late morning we were already squeezing through the narrow entrance to Blue Lips Cove where we intended to anchor for the night. Our timing couldn’t have been better as the only other boat there was raising anchor and preparing to leave as we slowly motored in. As we write this “Blue Rodeo” swings lazily at anchor in what could easily be mistaken as a small alpine lake. The tree covered rocky shoreline conceals the narrow entrance and from our position we are unable to see the channel.

On the morning of the 14th we sailed from our anchorage to a small cove near Rugged Point Marine Preserve. After going ashore we met an interesting couple who were kayak touring and had camped there for the night. It was interesting hearing of their adventures and sharing ours with them. After saying goodbye, we set out along the trail and boardwalk through the rainforest to the other side of the peninsula where we found incredible white sandy beaches on the ocean side. The sandy beaches were interrupted by forested and rocky cliffs and in several places the trail connecting them featured ropes and ladders to help hikers. We explored the beaches for several hours scouring the high tide line for anything interesting that might have been blown ashore by the winter storms. Many areas were covered with huge logs worn smooth by the waves and assorted plastic fishing floats were common. We even found the skeleton of a baby sea lion.
Later that afternoon we sailed back up the inlet to the seclusion of Dixie Cove where we found just one other boat already at anchor. Supposedly this cove has the warmest water on the west coast of Vancouver Island so after scrubbing our boat’s waterline from the dinghy, Mark took a dip in the water and found it cool but refreshing. Our hand held depth meter/thermometer showed 68 degrees at the surface so it really wasn’t too bad at all. While Anne was starting dinner the folks from the other sailboat came by in their dinghy on their way to retrieve their crab and shrimp traps. They were Kate and Carl from Utah and had accomplished what many people have failed to do. They had built their own boat starting from a professionally built steel hull and we listened with great interest as they told of the construction ordeal. When they continued on, we had another pleasant evening and ate dinner in the cockpit as the sun sank behind the tree covered hills to the west.


Recent Photos

"Blue Rodeo"....back in her element

Thursday July 8th was an occasion to celebrate as we rounded the northwest end of Vancouver Island and felt the rhythm and energy of open ocean swells for the first time since purchasing “Blue Rodeo”. The boat and crew felt back in their element with a rounding of notorious Cape Scott in the early afternoon.
We have had limited`access to the Internet and a lot has happened since our last blog entry so we’ll try to bring everyone up to date. Our Princess Louisa Inlet to Campbell River leg included a pleasant downwind sail that finished with an exciting romp through the confused water off of Cape Mudge. By the time we reached that point the winds were gusting to 35 knots and, when combined with the currents and eddies in the Discovery Passage, they made the water look like the heavy duty cycle in a washing machine. Boat and crew fared well but were happy to safely tie up at the marina dock even though pinned against it a few feet from our designated spot by the powerful l winds that continued to blow well into the night. We got to know Campbell River well from our time there last year and ended up staying this time in their convenient marina while we worked on a few boat projects and did our last major provisioning for our trip around the island. Anne spent hours in the grocery store and Mark joined to help her wheel an overloaded dock cart back to the boat. An equal amount of time was spent aboard trying to stow the month’s supply of food and beverage. The night of July 1st (Canada Day) was special as we were treated to an exceptional fireworks display that we enjoyed from our boat’s cockpit while at the marina dock.
After our stay, we again started north only to turn around after ten minutes when Anne noticed water on the galley floor coming from our engine room. We hurried back to the marina and Mark spent the next two hours adjusting the motor mounts and repositioning the collar on our leaking propeller shaft seal. Once that was fixed, we again set out and enjoyed pleasant sunny conditions and help from the currents as we motor sailed through Seymour Narrows and into Johnstone Strait. We anchored for the night at Boat Bay on West Cracroft Island and were awakened during the night by the sound of rain on the deck. The next morning was cool and foggy with a steady drizzle as we continued north with sharp eyes both ahead and on our radar screen. Passing Port McNeil, Mark expanded our electronic chart to a larger scale and was stunned to see that the plotter’s electronic chip did not have data for the west coast of the island. Even though we had all necessary paper charts on board, a decision was made to return to the small town of Port McNeil in hopes of obtaining the necessary chip. As luck would have it, the town’s modest hardware and marine supply store was able to order it from Victoria and have it to us in just two days. We were thrilled! As it turns out, the entire region experienced cold, gale force winds while we waited so we were happy to be in port and not bouncing somewhere at anchor waiting for the winds to abate. With the chip in hand and better weather in the forecast, we left the dock there on Wednesday the 7th at 6 am. In favorable sea conditions we rounded the northwest end of the island just after noon and threaded our way through Sea Otter Cove’s tricky entrance a few hours later. Sea Otter Cove is a very special spot with good protection from the ocean winds and swells but limited anchor room with numerous rocks and a very shallow bottom. While creeping along at minimum speed we touched the soft mud bottom in the recommended anchorage and found ourselves stuck until the evening higher tide. It was no big deal though as the tide was already beginning to rise so we set our anchor and spent the time reading, relaxing in the cockpit and enjoying the antics of the resident sea otters. By 7pm we were floating free so we raised the anchor and carefully followed our entry track back out of the cove and around a headland to the neighboring bay that offered deeper water. Once safely anchored, we sat and reveled at the majestic scenery around us and finished the evening with delicious grilled turkey burgers. The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we raised our anchor and sails and headed down the coast toward Quatsino Sound and Winter Harbor. Despite a cool breeze over the 48 degree water, the downwind sail was awesome with each of us taking turns surfing the ocean swells while propelled by a 20 knot wind from astern. By early afternoon, we were anchored again in a protected nook near a small island and another family of otters. Shortly after our arrival, a loud hiss from nearby alerted us to the presence of a small humpback whale feeding within 50 yards of our boat. What a thrill! The whale would continue to share our secluded anchorage for another 36 hours until we left to continue our journey. We tried in vain to photograph the mammal during its brief seconds at the surface but eventually gave up and chose instead to firmly plant the memories of the experience in our minds. Three or four pairs of eagles soared overhead as we watched the sunset accompanied by the splashes of otters and seals that came by to check us out. Before dinner, we took our dinghy two miles up the sound to the small village of Winter Harbor. It featured what remained of old cannery buildings, water- logged, rickety docks, and a few cabins and motor homes occupied by fisherman, most of who had come by ferry from the mainland and driven the long windy roads across from the island’s east side. It didn’t take long to see all there was to see and we enjoyed ice cream sandwiches in front of the general store that was the only place to buy supplies. The next morning a dose of reality hit when we realized that we would probably not make it to a location with Internet access in time to pay our Visa bill on time using online banking. We remembered though having seen a tiny Canadian Post Office shed in Winter Harbor that was only open 3 days a week and were lucky enough that that day was one of them. We hurriedly prepared a check and mailing envelope and dinghied back to the village where we entrusted the part time post mistress with our letter. It took considerable faith to believe that it would reach its destination considering the incredibly remote area it was being mailed from. Well, I guess we will see when next month’s Visa statement arrives if it made it on time. Mark spent the rest of the day opening access panels around the fuel tanks and to the bilges when he discovered a small amount of diesel fuel in our bilge. As it turns out, a slightly loose inspection cover on one of the tanks was to blame allowing a small seepage of fuel from the full tank while the boat sailed with the hull at an angle. Once Mark had cleaned up his mess, Anne was free to reclaim her galley and concoct a scrumptious chili recipe for dinner. A few scattered raindrops fell late in the afternoon and tendrils of fog began creeping through the valleys around our anchorage. We couldn’t help but take another dinghy ride after dinner to savor more of the majestic scenery. We concluded the day by watching two episodes of the first season of “24” on DVD and turned in at 11:30 for a sound night’s sleep.
Saturday the 10th began early with preparations to continue down the coast and around the Brooks Peninsula and Cape Cook, another spot on the island’s west coast, famous for strong winds and treacherous seas. We planned a route well off shore to avoid the cape’s reef strewn waters and sailed through areas of dense fog, carefully scanning the radar for other vessels. By mid day the weather gods began to smile on us as the fog gave way to clear skies and sunshine and the winds steadily built from behind us. We had a magical day of sailing; surfing down the ocean swells with boat speeds approaching 10 knots and spectacular scenery all around. Mid afternoon found us anchored amid the Bunsby Islands in a delightful spot that we shared with 4 other boats. While surveying the area by dinghy, we were invited aboard a large motor yacht by our new neighbors Don and Doug and enjoyed getting to know them and sharing stories over cocktails. We excused ourselves near dinner time and returned to “Blue Rodeo” where Anne created a shrimp and pasta masterpiece that we savoured while watching the evening light put on a wonderous show on the forested hills around us.