As we snaked our way through the shallow approaches to Tofino, boats buzzed every which way, sea planes took off and landed, and kayakers paddled gracefully down the shoreline. Ashore, cars and trucks moved about, buildings cluttered the waterfront and we could tell the town was brimming with life. It was by far the most people and activity that we’d experienced since leaving Port Hardy in a month and 350 cruising miles, and at first, all the buzz was a bit overwhelming.
Tofino is the farthest town west on the only paved road reaching the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island (Highway 4). Considering that the island is 285 miles long with six and seven thousand foot mountains running up the middle that break into smaller ranges, long fjords, bays and inlets along the entire rugged outer coast, that makes Tofino itself a pretty remote and special place. Continue reading Surf’s up in Tofino→
When many sailors — novice and old salts alike — dream of cruising, they often picture themselves sailing from one idyllic anchorage to another on beautiful ocean breezes, dropping the hook in secluded coves with no other boats around and the cares of the world left far in their wake. After racing in the Van Isle 360 last summer, that’s how I dreamed our cruise around Vancouver Island would go this summer — and the past couple weeks certainly have.
Rounding the Brooks Peninsula put cell service gladly behind us and when the the sun came out, so too did favorable winds for sailing up mountain-lined fjords and upon the ocean. Since then, we’ve put many miles under Yahtzee’s keel with the sails up and engine off, hopping between scenic anchorages. Of course, we’re experienced enough to know that this isn’t always the reality of cruising, as the weather ultimately has the final say, but we’re happy lapping it up, living in the dreamy moments while they’re with us.Continue reading This is cruising: Anchorage-hopping under sun and sail→
One of our favorite parts of cruising around Vancouver Island this summer has been the ability to harvest shell fish along the way. We are especially fond of oysters, and though they aren’t everywhere, when we’ve happened upon them, the crew of Yahtzee has been quick to snap up these fresh delicacies to enjoy as appetizers aboard or over a campfire on the beach.
After a while, our same old oyster recipes weren’t cutting it, though, so we again dug into one of our most beloved cookbooks to find a way to make them a bit more interesting. And the boys love them, which isn’t surprising, but is very helpful come mealtime. Continue reading From the Galley: Barbecued Oysters→
When I woke in the five o’clock hour, my head stayed on the pillow but my mind was on deck — already out on the Pacific. I listened for a few minutes, opened my eyes and looked out of the port above my head. The sky was gray and rainy, our fifth day in a row. I envisioned climbing out of Yahtzee’s companionway, starting the engine, weighing anchor and setting the sails in the soggy morning to head out on the ocean. And just like that, I was up.
No matter what the weather is, though, I approach each day with the same amount of optimism and zeal as the next. You can’t change it, so why worry and complain about it? But on this morning, I was sure that as we set out to sail around the Brooks Peninsula and for points farther south, we’d be in for sunshine and a taste of glorious Pacific Northwest summer weather.
How sweet it was for that to come true … mostly.
Round the Brooks
When we cleared the reef and rock strewn mouth of Quatsino Sound, the Pacific Ocean sprawled out before us and a moderate northwesterly breeze had Yahtzee bounding south with the swell. We soon had the spinnaker up and, just I’d hoped, patches of blue sky began to break through ahead of us near the peninsula. The closer we got to Cape Cook, Solander Island and the Brooks, the more the clouds were ripped apart by the peninsula’s tall green mountains, as if to welcome us on around. Continue reading Finding summer around the Brooks Peninsula→
Yes, you read the title right, we actually found some good dehydrated food — and it’s aptly named, Good To-Go foods.
Lets be honest for a minute, though, when most people think about eating dehydrated food, they don’t envision something that is going to taste even remotely delicious. But when friends Amanda and John Neal of Mahina Expeditions gave me a sample of Good To-Go’s Classic Marinara with Penne to try over the winter, I was shocked at how good it was and how well it fit into our meal planning while cruising.
Since then, we’ve tried four of their six meals aboard Yahtzee — Thai Curry, Smoked Three Bean Chili, Classic Marinara with Penne and Herbed Mushroom Risotto. (They have since come out with two more: Indian Vegetable Korma and Pad Thai.)
Over the past few months of cruising we’ve found that the pouches make great meals while underway, particularly when it’s cooler out. We simply boil water, pour it in the pouch, seal it up, let is stand for 20 minutes and we’re enjoying a hot and delicious meal in the cockpit.
Steep cliffs rose high above us and green trees bent over the water. Birds chirped, the faint sound of rushing water echoed and a steady rain could be heard dropping into the Marble River as I stripped off my clothes. Jill and Porter were already in as I ran from the rocky bank and launched my way out into the deep water. Landing in the refreshingly cool freshwater provided an instant rush that felt better than any shower or swimming pool could have in that moment. There was nothing like that swim, and while toweling off with my shirt, we were all smiles, enthusiastically talking about how happy were to find this special place.n
Such was life in Quatsino Sound.
We’d sailed down this long, east-running cut into the northern part of Vancouver Island just four days prior and as we did, it seemed that around every bend we turned and in every cove we explored, there was something rewarding to see and do. Though dotted with the unmistakable clearings created by the local logging industry, Quatsino Sound’s modest mountaintops and green forests spill down to the ocean in the cascading beauty known well to those who adventure throughout the Pacific Northwest by boat. Continue reading Not enough time in Quatsino Sound→
We could see the huge waves rolling over the Nahwitti Bar from a few miles out. And the closer we got, the more we rose up over their crests and down into their troughs. At the tops it was like looking out over hills, and at the bottoms, all we could see forward of the bow was water, and astern, a wall of water.
Fortunately, there was just enough wind to put pressure on the mainsail to keep Yahtzee from rolling and pitching uncomfortably and she, once again, proved her strength and performance as we waltzed over the infamous bar at the top of Vancouver Island. As we did, Magnus slept and ate, Porter sat in the cockpit with me and Jill, somehow, made breakfast and coffee. I honestly don’t know how she did it.
Once across the bar, we were out in the sweeping panoramic views of the North Pacific. Yahtzee rode the swell like a boat made and prepared for the ocean and it felt good to be out here again. There is something special, admirable and awe-inspiring about the sea. It gets me every time and makes me want to keep going.
After two and half weeks exploring the Broughton Archipelago, Jill and I had a collective moment in the cockpit while moving from one anchorage to another. Almost simultaneously, we decided to move on from the Broughtons and continue towards the top of the island — we often find ourselves on the the same page, but this was just eerie. With our nomadic tendencies telling us to move, we abruptly changed course and headed west for Blunden Harbour to spend a couple days and then to Port Hardy to prepare for the journey around the top of Vancouver Island to the west coast.
Port Hardy is an excellent stop to provision before going around and also has playgrounds, parks and a library for the boys. Plus, I got a bunch of work done and we joined in the town’s Canada Day festivities on a beautiful first day of July.
It took three wagon loads of provisions to get us set for what would be our last big stock-up until Tofino or Ucluelet. On top of that, I was able to change the engine oil and get Yahtzee prepared for the possibility of bigger winds and waves that we’d most likely encounter on the outside. We were moving from cruising mode to ocean sailing mode so I rigged jacklines and the inner forestay for our staysail. And just as soon as we’d come, we again got cabin fever, deciding to head out of Goletas Channel towards the Nahwitti Bar and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
We left Port Hardy under a mix of sun and clouds with just a slight breeze ruffling the water. About halfway up the channel, a dark squall moved towards us off the tip of the island and smacked Yahtzee for about 30 minutes with driving rain and wind on the nose. I knew it would soon be over and, sure enough, the sun filled in behind the passing clouds, inviting us into Bull Harbour on Hope Island that evening.
During another moment of classic Jill and Andy spontaneity, we decided late that night to rise early and cross the bar at the first slack tide for the run around the top of the island past Cape Scott to Sea Otter Cove. I fired up the engine at 6 a.m. and Jill drove us out of the harbor and into the oncoming swell and flooding current. We switched jobs and I hand-steered us over the bar as Porter watched silently from underneath the dodger. The power of the massive waves could be felt under the boat as the depth dropped from hundreds of feet to the low 30s and then back up as we made the turn west.
A mostly sunny morning gave way to rain and clouds while rounding Cape Scott and 30 miles after leaving Bull Harbour we entered the narrow yet stunning entrance to Sea Otter Cove under a shroud of mist. Overall, the trip over the bar and around the cape was uneventful if slow, which was just as it should’ve been given the conditions. I’ll take it.
Sea Otter Cove
Arriving in the late afternoon, we found only one other boat in the cove and dropped the hook near a line of big mooring buoys. The kayak was quickly put in the water and we paddled ashore to explore one of the many beaches that surround this wild and isolated cove.
That evening, two boats that were rafted in front of us in Bull Harbour pulled in and anchored nearby. Porter and I rowed over for a chat and found that we’d all be spending the next day in the cove and would plan to meet up. It’s great meeting other cruisers out here, especially in such isolated places.
Independence Day dawned soggy, and the nearby mountains were cloaked in low-lying clouds and mist, but we headed ashore in the kayak and dinghy to find a trail described in Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island by Tim Leadem. Never ones to let the weather dictate our mood or appreciation for a place, we found the beauty of the cove enhanced by the ever-changing weather flowing in off the ocean and moved along the shoreline in the boats looking for a sign of the trailhead.
Towards the head of the bay, Jill stopped paddling, and in a soft yet firm shout said, “Andy … BEAR!” Sure enough, just on the foreshore was a large black bear moving slowly away from us. We paddled and rowed closer to get a better look and at some point he/she heard us, turned and looked in our direction and then ambled into the dense woods. Awesome!
From there, we moved towards the other side of the cove and as we did, our friends from the other two boats came ashore to find the trail as well. Starting near a creek that emptied out into the bay, we quickly concluded the overgrown trail was not fit for the legs of a 3-year-old and 18-month-old and instead opted to hang and play in the cool fresh water spilling over the beach.
That afternoon, we headed to a nearby island to celebrate the Fourth of July with a campfire, snacks and libations. Our Canadian friends stopped by for a visit and to wish us a happy holiday. Happy indeed. It was a great way to end our time in Sea Otter Cove and to get ready for the next days run back out in the ocean to Quatsino Sound.
As we head over the top of Vancouver Island, we look forward to what is to come on the outside and back at what a great time we had exploring the amazing Broughton Archipelago. The people, though few and far between, were friendly and welcoming. The wilderness was raw and awe-inspiring. And the adventures have been exceptionally memorable. That said, we’d like to offer up some tips on provisioning and self-sufficiency for those who are yet to come through the islands over the course of the summer.
When it comes to provisioning stops in the Broughtons, your options are limited. Near or on Vancouver Island you have Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay, Port McNeill and farther down the road, Port Hardy, but once you get into the islands themselves and don’t want to go back south, as we did, you’re left with just two options: Echo Bay and Sullivan Bay. Other pit stops have come and gone over the years, but at the time of this writing, these were our only options. (If we’re missing something, please share in the comments). And though amenities here may be limited, the plethora of places to tuck in, drop your hook and enjoy the world around you is almost unparalleled. Enjoy! Continue reading Tips on self-sufficiency and provisioning while cruising the Broughtons→