We are trying to be travelers…. and finding ourselves in transition.
To be sure, getting ready to go offshore and then exploring the west coast of Vancouver Island has been an amazing experience. From the beginning we knew we were testing ourselves and the boat, and I do think we have learned a great deal from our experiences so far. One thing has become clear as well: It is not always easy for four different personalities to be in happy agreement all of the time. And so, we are faced with a few dilemmas… As we grapple with how to best face the next phase, we have decided to stay in Victoria for another season, at least that is the idea at the moment…
Here’s a little gem of a sailing day (video clip) when we were south bound in the Juan de Fuca Strait…
After the swells and motion of our offshore experience calmed down we decided to set a course for Cougar Annie’s garden. According to Wikipedia, Cougar Annie (Ada Annie Rae-Arthur, June 19, 1888 – April 28, 1985) was a pioneer who settled near Hesquiat (pronounced Heshkwit) Harbour at Boat Basin in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1915 after having lived in England, South Africa and the Canadian Prairies as a child. She arrived with the first of her four husbands to save him from an opium addiction and ensure that the remittance cheques that came from his family in Scotland would continue to arrive. At the time she and her husband settled on the coast, they had three small children. She gave birth to eight more children in this remote location. She acquired her nickname because of her famed marksmanship. She shot dozens of cougars during her long life. You might wonder why we would want to go to a remote place that is full of bears and cougars… all I can say to that is: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
First we would need to go to Tofino and from there make our way to Boat Basin. Once in Tofino, surrounded by surf shops, my little people and Pete became surfers too!
South Chesterman’s beach provided some fun times. Tofino has a great bus service with a route that takes you from town to the various beaches in the area.
On our first day the waves were small but on subsequent days they were much larger!
Near Tofino is the wonderful “Big Tree Walk” on Meares Island. We hadn’t seen trees so big EVER… pretty amazing.
After a few loads of laundry, filling up with fuel and water, we were ready to leave for Hesquiat… As we approached, the clouds hung over the mountains like a big cozy blanket.
There were no other boats around as we crossed the infamous Hesquiat Bar… once at the anchorage there was one other boat… a large power boat with an older couple on board with three small barking dogs. It was calm and peaceful. We awoke in the morning alone. They must have woken up early to get to their next destination. You have to look very carefully and closely to see our little boat in this photo… magnificently remote and expansive… full of cougars and bears. But the beaches….
The kids want to go to the beach. I was warned by some experienced people in Tofino: “Do not let your kids go off on their own on the beach. The cougars wouldn’t try to get you, but if your little ones are on their own, they’re just the right size to get scooped up.” I don’t have a gun like Cougar Annie did… I don’t feel entirely comfortable here… The open ocean is suddenly feeling like a remarkably safe place now… “ok – to the beach” I announce after a 10 hour marathon of playmobil in the cabin (new level of cabin fever).
As we got close to the beach Nel announced it was her turn to get off first. Fine. She did a great job getting the bow line organized and then stepped off onto the sand. “wow Mummy, my feet are going down!” laughter and amazement… “Mummy I can’t move my feet!” laughter stops…. “what?!?” I step off, and it was the most surprising thing – foamy sand that behaved like quicksand. “Great, afraid of cougars and bears but what got them in the end was the quicksand!” runs through my mind… As it happened, it was only foamy for about 5 inches, then there was something solid – resistance of some kind, we wouldn’t be consumed by this place after all…
The kids had a great time racing around the beach au naturel laughing and giggling and having a fantastic time. Everything was wonderful, until suddenly it wasn’t. “Mummy, my foot’s bleeding.” says Liam calmly as he sits on the side of the dinghy to show me… a huge cut on his foot dripping with blood and also caked with sand. There must have been a sharp shell just beneath the surface of the foamy sand that cut him while he was running around… cougars aren’t like sharks, are they? drawn in my the smell of blood? Alright kids, back to the boat. First aid was easier on the boat than on the beach. Liam was so keen to get back to the beach where there was warm water for swimming that we created this special boot for him that would keep his foot clean and dry while allowing him to swim, run and generally have fun on the beach. This foamy sand was very good at hiding those little sharp shells… It wasn’t long before Neli got a cut on her foot too. Both cuts, with cleaning, antibiotic ointment, bandaids, and time healed well and didn’t stop them or slow them down at all.
I had to see Cougar Annie’s Garden… this place was so full of mystery and dangers (real and imagined). I had to see where this strong woman survived here for so long. The guide book was a bit vague… but on the second try we found the road that lead to the beginning of the property.
OK. So we went back to the beach to try to find someone. Nobody around… NO ONE!
Alright, so this shouldn’t be a huge stumper, right? So we went back to just show ourselves around. But wait, then there’s this:
It was so strange to realize that there really was on one here. Even the one person who might have been here was gone… and now we were being told that we weren’t allowed to see the one place that had drawn us up to this remote wilderness. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t forgo the opportunity while Pete on the other hand is so passionately rule abiding that he patiently waited for me to go quickly in, snap spme photos and then come quickly out again. Surely if we couldn’t find anyone around to ask permission, there wouldn’t be anyone around from whom we’d have to ask forgiveness… right? Truth be told, I do feel a bit guilty, but only a bit.
We left the dock in Victoria in the morning of June 21st. We were on our way to Ucluelet to meet up with the other Bluewater Cruising Association members who would be participating in the annual Vancouver Island Cruising Experience (VICE) which this year was meeting in Ucluelet to the head offshore to a waypoint 150 miles and then we would meet up again afterward in Bamfield.
The Bluewater Cruising Association has been a wonderful resource for us this past year. We have really benefited from the many people who have so openly shared their wisdom, experience and friendship as we’ve been preparing for this new lifestyle of bluewater sailing. Once in Ucluelet it was wonderful to pull into the dock and get hugs and welcoming that one would expect at a reunion or homecoming. The next day was spent getting our radio communications in order and some last minute provisioning and stowing. The group agreed to leave the dock at 7:30am the next day. There was no way we could get up and going that early. Clearly we were the only ones in the group on “family time” so we ended up leaving the dock at 10am. No problem. We initiated the first roll call on the VHF and managed to connect with half of the boats.
The first day out was the rockiest and most uncomfortable. La Perouse bank is shallow and subsequently the ocean swell that reaches it just gets piled up and lumpy… and in addition to that the wind was from the south which is unusual so there was a cross sea pattern as well… bumpity bump bump! I got bruises on my hips from getting thrown around the cabin as I tried to get anywhere. The simplest of tasks became so incredibly energy intensive. Poor little Nel could barely keep herself seated on the toilet (of all places) given how rolly the boat was at that time. It was also amazing to realize how many items we had thought we really needed that now, given how the boat was moving, turned out to just become annoying things in the way that we wished we never had. So quickly did the bonds of attachment break!
That night I barely slept at all while Pete took the first night watch. Our Monitor windvane (“Monty”) worked wonderfully! What a pleasant surprise and heartfelt wonder! I came on watch at 3am. Things had started to settle down by then. The AIS receiver was also a wonderful help as it gives you so much useful information while crossing the busy shipping lanes near the busy entrance of the Straight of Juan de Fuca serving the busy ports of Vancouver and Seattle. All those items that we all own that are made in China likely originate their journey in North America here!
The second day and night were better. We had all realized how we needed to move around the boat to minimize bruises and falls. The aft cabin turned into a catch all for all the detritus that had found its way onto the floor and was such a safety hazard. That night Pete let me sleep in til 5am before handing over the watch. At this point the wind became lighter and we had made it to the 110 nautical mile mark. We had to make a decision. To carry on would mean adding another day to our trip. We were only averaging 5 knots… We made the decision to turn around and head back to land. We sailed for quite a while but then when about 40 miles from Bamfield decided to just get on with getting in there! As it was we would arrive at 1am that 3rd night. The fog stayed away (thankfully) and we made it in without any event up until we were just about to drop the anchor… we ended up hitting what we would later learn was a part of a roof floating half submerged under the water. No damage done, just a loud bang! to welcome us to Bamfield.
The next morning we met up the crews of Falcon VII and also with Seadra. Papillon II had to get underway before we were able to meet up with them there. Kialoa would arrive in a few days and Woodwind I decided to head back to the Gulf Islands. It was great to share a meal with Falcon VII and Kialoa after a few days of clearing the boat out and getting rid of the items that had gotten in the way offshore. The Bamfield “Sharing Shed” graciously received all these items and hopefully some people of Bamfield will find them useful. We found Brady’s Beach to be a very magical place and enjoyed it for days!!!
After Bamfield we went into the Broken Group (Pacific Rim National Park). Effingham Bay was the first anchorage we pulled into. We explored some f the small islands and the kids loved finding various treasures that we could then identify with the books back on the boat. We then went to Joe’s Bay anchorage and enjoyed the campsite where we roasted wieners and marshmallows one evening. The other islands around Turtle Island were captivating – the kids developed a “bush house” that was kind of like a tree house but in the middle of a stand of bushes and small trees that had different rooms and spaces – they played in there for hours and hours. The only mishap here was leaving the dinghy for too long without checking on it. When it was time to leave the tide had receded and the dinghy was up on some barnacle covered rocks about 4 ft up from the sea…. Luckily I had the tandem kayak so all just got on the kayak and I went back for the dinghy at high water around midnight that night – no harm done.
Our plan once the VICE was over was to stay on the west coast of the island and get more ocean sailing in to then be better able to decide if we were ready (or wanting) to carry on with a trip to Mexico in the Fall. At this point we’re sticking with the plan. We are still in the process of testing ourselves and the boat. The inner journey involved with our plan was not completely anticipated… There are a lot of mind games that can (and do!) play tricks on ourselves and one’s partner…
We’re in calm water now, but in our minds there’s a bit of a jostling happening. More on that next time.
A year and a half ago we sold the 3 bedroom farmhouse on 24 acres in southeast Ontario, sold most of our possessions and traveled west. Once in beautiful Victoria, BC we rented a furnished suite and begin boat hunting. We decided on the gorgeous Riki Tiki Tavi located in Sidney, BC. We moved aboard in August 2012. We became members of the Bluewater Cruising Association, took many courses and have been busy getting organized to cast off from where we’ve been since mid October 2012. The date is set = June 21. And so now we get to the dirty business of actually doing it – sailing away and cruising the world. We’re pretty nervous now… and excited too 🙂