After six days at Pruthe Bay a big fat high finally settled in to the NE Pacific and brought us favourable northerly winds for the passage down the west coast of Vancouver Island. As we sailed down the outside of Calvert Island we saw a couple of logs but after that we did not see another so our worries about hitting logs were allayed. We had a good overnight sail across Queen Charlotte Sound and gave Cape Scott a wide berth as it is renowned for its steep seas and strong currents.
There was a 2-3m swell which caused us a bit of sea sickness so it was not a very comfortable passage and we decided to cut in to the coast and anchor in Esperanza Inlet instead of pushing on for another night. The route into was Nuchatlitz Bay was a tortuous, narrow conduit between islands, rocks and shoals but the anchorage was beautifully peaceful and after a spectacular sunset we had a long, sound sleep.
The next day the wind had dropped so we motorsailed but it picked up a bit in the afternoon and we had a good beat across to Hot Springs Cove, at the mouth of Sidney Inlet. Again the entrance was narrow and shallow but fairly straight forward and we had plotted a course up the middle of the channel on the electronic charts. As we motored in we seemed to be alarmingly close to some charted rocks and I had to steer off course in order to keep a safe distance away. Once we had set anchor we compared the electronic charts with raster images of the old charts and they were mis-positioned by about 120m – yikes – it could have been disasterous!! We usually check the two charts against one another but had failed to do so in this case. We won’t forget that again in a hurry!
It was about a 2km walk to the hot springs on a boardwalk through a magnificent forest. The springs were the nicest we had visited as they were natural rock with no pipes or concrete. Even at 9 o’clock in the morning they were quite crowded as tourists come here from Tofino which is about an hour by fast boat. Even so it was to lovely bask in the warm sunshine and soak in the steaming hot water.
By lunch time we were on our way to Tofino ourselves. We motored at a leisurely 5kt across the mouth of the Clayoquot Sound through the channels and islands – positions double checked to be sure. One thing we found surprizing about the West Coast (apart from the lack of wind!) was the shallow depth of the water. Unlike the steep cliffs and deep waters of the inland passages there seems to be a coastal shelf here which is less than 100m deep and extends 15-20NM offshore. This makes anchoring in the inlets much easier, but the passage into Tofino was very shallow in places and in the marina we were touching bottom at low tide!
Tofino is a very touristy town but consequently has several good restaurants, the kind that serve meals without french fries as our guide book said! We had a superb meal at “The Wolf in the Fog” and, funnily enough, we were sitting next to the people we had shared the hot springs with. While we were there the town was hosting the annual Carving on the Edge Festival. I had the opportunity to join a workshop and learn a bit about relief carving, where the background is removed in order to define the image. I had a go at carving the totem image of an orca, I ran out of time so my masterpiece is not yet finished but I enjoyed the carving. Both Neil and I are keen to buy some carving tools and start whittling!
From Tofino it was just four days to reach Victoria. We stopped at Ucleulet which was a pretty and historic little fishing town with a huge shallow bay to anchor in at the head of the inlet. Then we had a long stretch of coast to the southern point of Vancouver Island through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tides in the Strait are strange with the ebb tide running inwards and low tide occurring at the end of the landward flow. This is opposite to normal and very confusing. We covered the last 15NM from the Becher Bay at the southern point up to Victoria in thick fog. It was quite stressful as we couldn’t see more than 200m ahead. With Neil helming and keeping a very close eye on the charts and me blasting the fog horn and keeping a sharp lookout, we managed to avoid the rocks, the fishing boats and the container ships and we arrived safely in Victoria Inner Harbour.
We very much enjoyed Victoria and, by luck, our visit coincided with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge aka Will and Kate and their family. I’m not a fervent royalist but it seemed like a good opportunity to get a good look at the future king of England. I waited in the crowd outside Parliament House for four hours, it started of warm and sunny but was pretty chilly by the time they appeared at 5:30. I was in a good position to get some photos of the royals, the Canadian Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau, very good looking!) and the other dignitaries while the speeches droned on and on.
Finally we have arrived at Canoe Cove where we will stay for the winter. Since we got back on board Distant Drummer two years ago we have been focussed on getting the boat ready and on our voyage across the Pacific. Now we are going to stop for a while, do some work on the boat and not think about tides and weather or plans and passages. We are looking forward having a two month boat-break in Europe and spending lots of time with family and friends.
See you soon!