Some high winds were forecasted for the next few days so we wanted to get to a well protected anchorage before they arrived. In our guide books and charts we found an all-weather anchorage close by that had a river to explore. So we raised our anchor and headed to Bacchante Bay in West Clayoquot Sound. As we sailed to our new destination we passed a bay that reportedly had a river flowing into it that one could paddle a kayak up to a lake. This was too enticing to pass by so we anchored Samadhi in the small bay just to the east of the river estuary. Our plan was to paddle our two plastic kayaks up the river as far as we could and then pull them up any rocky rapids that were too shallow to paddle. The kids’ kayaks are inflatable so they are not quite as durable. In one kayak we had Dan, Ranger and Alexander, in the other we had Ashley, Victoria, and our backpack. Up the river we went. It did not take long to reach our first shallow area. The river was nice and shallow in places so walking up while pulling the kayaks to the next deep section was no problem. Victoria and Alexander walked on either the rivers banks or in the water. We made our way upriver alternating between paddling and wading for a little more than an hour. We then came upon a level section that offered slow moving and deep water. We beached the kayaks and Alexander and I jumped right in. Victoria was soon to follow while Ashley again watched from the sunny river bank. The river was full of fish and beautifully colored rocks. The water was crystal clear and about 70 degrees. There was very little current and as shallow as ankle deep to nearly 9 ft deep. There was a fairly wide opening in the trees to there was a lot of sun to warm the rocks and our bodies as we emerged from the refreshing water. This was truly a place that none of us will forget. Here we spent an afternoon in the middle of a rainforest, up a river, miles and miles from any sort of civilization enjoying simply being together and appreciating the natural world around us.
Westview Marina in Tahsis Inlet
Sunday morning we slept in a bit. It was well after 10pm when we returned to Samadhi from the previous evening’s campfire. We got ourselves prepared to time our passage up Tahsis Inlet on the incoming tide so there was no rush to get moving; sleeping in felt great. We weren’t able to sail up the inlet but seeing quite a few sea otters made up for the constant noise of the motor. Up until this passage we had only seen single otters, while cute it didn’t compare to seeing an entire raft of them. We have rarely left the dock without seeing Dahls porpoise, have often seen orca, an occasional minke, fin or humpback whale and we’ve seen hundreds of river otters (right up close and personal as they lived on the marina docks). Never mind harbor seals and sea lions – this family has seen thousands. We joke that the kids have no idea how their life experiences differ from so many kids because they no longer even bat an eye at seeing the previously listed wildlife. Sea otters in the wild, however, was an awe inspiring experience for all of us. We think, and maybe we’re giving them too much credit here, that today Victoria and Alexander really realized what our family adventure is all about just by seeing those cute, cuddly little creatures floating on their backs with their adorable paws touching their whiskered faces in what looks like surprise. We hope they understand as we continue our explorations what we’re doing this for and how their lives are different than the norm. Everyone was flying high from the experience and Dan even offered to go below and wash the dishes so I could continue watching for otters. I wasn’t going to say no to that so my high continued. UNTIL a black boat with flashing blue lights pulled up alongside and asked to board our boat, I was being board by the Royal Canadian Police. On top of that as they pulled up they called me “sir”. I’ll admit I haven’t been doing my hair but I was wearing a pink coat! Likely they were confused by the woman driving with the man down below with soapy hands and a dishtowel over his shoulder. Anyway, they were very friendly and checked out a few things and stayed with us for about 10 minutes for a chit chat. After they left we made contact with the marina we were staying in for the night. We knew that the marina is for small sport fishing boats and had specifically asked about the logistics of us getting into the marina, the slip and our ability to subsequently maneuver our exit. As we pulled alongside the marina we discovered that maybe they hadn’t ever had a 55 foot sailboat on the inside float. A few dock lines and fenders had to be moved, we had to reevaluate our entrance and exit strategies but after about 5 minutes we were docked without incident. Dan did a great job anticipating how Samadhi does not maneuver and adjust according using patience and knowing how to get her to maneuver even if it means we have to briefly go the opposite direction we want to go. He’s amazing and a crowd gathered to watch our show. They literally have about 95% of the docks filled with 25’ or less sport fishing boats and the rest a little bit larger old fishing boats, Samadhi was quite a sight in with them, and we more than once heard comments like “what are they doing here?!?”. The backdrop was amazing and the marina had laundry, showers, fresh water at the docks, diesel at the fuel dock and a little bar & grill. They even let Dan & Victoria take their car to the village for a little grocery shopping. They have a fish cleaning / processing facility at the dock and the eagles loved the leftovers. At one point there were 11 eagles enjoying a free meal. You’d think an eagle would have a fierce screeching call but it is really more of a sing-song tweeting sound and we fell asleep listening to them just outside the boat.
We anchored in the peaceful bliss of Santa Gertrudis Cove just inside Nootka Sound. We had to sneak by two menacing rocks as the sun was going down. We made it through and anchored in the middle of the snug little cover that we had to ourselves. Our guidebook mentions a trail to a lake. The day before fellow cruisers Emily and Dominic said that they did not find the trail. So I went ashore (machete in hand) in the morning to see if it could be found. Before long I found what looks like could be a trail so Ranger and I made our way through the heavy undergrowth for 1 mile before we came to a lake. On our way back to the boat we slowly and methodically hacked the trail clear for us and those in our wake to find. When I came out of the forest and back to the beach we had a neighbor to share our little cove. They were a couple from Seattle on a Salish Sea cruise. Alexander and Victoria finished their school work and as we were readying for our hike to the lake another boat joined us in the cove. This boat too was from Seattle and their moorage slip was in the same marina that we left just a few weeks ago. Again, it is a small world. We made our way to the lake to find that it was not exactly the best for swimming. While Alexander and I did swim for a short time the water was just a little too murky and muddy to entice Ashley or Victoria in for a swim. Our two neighboring boat crews did make the hike and few of them decided to have a swim too. We chatted about our experiences on our respective voyages and compared our favorite spots. After we hiked back to the beach we spent the next few hours exploring at low tide. Ranger was able to get lots of exercise. Alexander put on his mask and snorkel and with his waterproof camera investigated all that the low tide offers 6 year old curiosity. Victoria used this opportunity to expand her crafting imagination. She found on the beach various items to design a school of fish. Using driftwood pieces, kelp leaves, rocks and shells to make for a wonderfully creative design on a large driftwood log.
Bligh Island Campfire
The next morning we lifted anchor and again carefully made our way between the reefs. We set a course for Bligh Island. Bligh Island is named for Lt Bligh who was an officer on George Vancouver expedition of discovery that mapped and named much of the Salish Sea and Vancouver Island. It is the same Admiral Bligh whose crew famously mutinied and set him adrift in the story of Mutiny on the Bounty. It was our trip to Bligh Island that allowed us to check the primary box that brought us to the outside of Vancouver Island. Ashley needed to see sea otters in the wild. It was already agreed between Alexander, Victoria and I that when we see our first otter that the three of us will have to tackle mom and hold her down from jumping in the water and trying to cuddle the cute little creatures. As soon as the first otter was identified Victoria wasted no time looking at it, she immediately jumped on her moms legs to hold her down. Good job Victoria! It worked and Ashley stayed on the boat. They are every bit as cute as we thought they would be but they are pretty shy so they do not let you get too close before diving underwater and out of sight. Despite this, it was great to see them and we were lucky enough to see quite a few. At the anchorage there was not much in the way of a beach or hiking trails. There was a small area that kayakers use as a camp so we went ashore there and explored a dry creek bed that went nearly straight up through the thick forest. After some time in the forest we came back to the camping area and Ashley and I set about making a campfire. Alexander and Victoria made themselves essential in their tireless search for dried leaves and twigs to keep the fire going. Once the fire was going strong they then turned their attention to collecting the wild sea asparagus that grows on this particular shoreline. Once they amassed a good stockpile of sea asparagus we went back to Samadhi to make dinner. Ashley made us some amazing Lentils, cauliflower and sautéed sea asparagus. It was fantastic and it felt very good to harvest what nature offered us. After dinner we returned to our now smoldering campfire. We quickly had it roaring again. We spent the rest of the evening talking about sea otters and campfires. We would have loved to have cooked dinner on the fire or at the very least made s’mores but alas we were unprepared to do either. The setting was magnificent. We watched the sun go down between the islands as we sat by the campfire with Samadhi just offshore anchored in glass calm water. We returned to Samadhi under the stars and the kids were asleep in their beds in minutes.
After our afternoon on the river we moved to a more protected anchorage 3 miles further up the inlet called Bacchante Bay for the night. Bachhante Bay is surrounded by the towering peaks of Lone Wolf and Splendour Mountains that make for a very protected and breathtaking anchorage. We were surrounded by the two mountains on each side and were able to look up a long beautiful valley at the head of the bay. At the head of the bay is Watta creek that we set out to explore. At high tide the marsh was deep enough for us to use the dinghy to get about ¾ of a mile up the creek. Soon we came to shallow water where we beached the dinghy and continued on foot. After a short hike we came to a section of blown down trees that blocked all but the most determined. When you combined the large amount of bear tracks and bear scat with the blown down logs we decided we were not that determined. On the way back we stopped for a swim in the brackish water and then made our way back to Samadhi.
For the next two days we were socked in with rain. And I mean some serious rainforest rain. My estimate was about 4-5 inches in 36 hours. We spent the days playing games of Chess, Stratego, Risk and Tenzi. We took this time to add some extra science and penmanship to the kids’ school workload. When the sun came out we were surrounded by the enchanting sound of waterfalls. Many many waterfalls. After the rain stopped falling it began draining off the mountains all around us in the form of many waterfalls. The quiet creek we slowly motored up 2 days earlier was now a raging little river. The beautiful emerald green water that Samadhi was anchored in was turned brown from all of the runoff. I scooped some water from over the side of the boat in a bucket and it came up as fresh water. There was so much water coming out of the valley that the top few feet of the water that we were anchored in was fresh.
July 11th 2019
We left Bacchante Bay early in the morning making our way to the very popular tourist destination of Hot Springs Cove. There was little to no wind so we motored the whole 25ish miles. We anchored in the bay and immediately were welcomed by fellow Seattle cruisers Emily and Dominic who were on their own Vancouver Island Circumnavigation. We exchanged each of our favorite spots as we were going the opposite direction so we were able to learn from each other’s experiences. After a nice talk they were on their way and we made our way to the hike leading to the hot springs. The hike is 2km entirely on a beautifully made boardwalk. It meanders through ancient old growth forests as it makes its way to the hot springs. We spent about an hour moving between the three hot, hotter and hottest pools and then finishing off in the cold swimming tide-pool. It was nice to visit but there were so many people that you were not able truly relax and enjoy the 110 degree water for too long before we felt inclined to share our spot with others that were waiting. We hiked back to Samadhi and after talking about where we wanted to spend the night. We decided it was not here due to all of the float planes and tour boats coming and going. So we readied the boat for ocean sailing and headed out to sea. Hot Springs cove is right on the Pacific so as soon as we were out of the cove we were in the ocean swell. We turned northwest and raised the sails. We had a beautiful sail in light wind and fairly calm seas. We sailed right up to the entrance of our next anchorage. Victoria and Alexander read books, watched a movie and had spelling bees as we sailed up the coast to Nootka Sound.
We left Windy Bay and motored through the narrow inlets to Matilda Island and anchored just off the First Nations community of Marktosis. On our way there we pasted by a beach that had two bears foraging for tasty snacks at low tide. We brought Samadhi right up near the beach to watch them feed. It was a real treat to be able to be so close to them and feel so safe. At our new anchorage, our guide book told us that there was a difficult hike to a beach and a small pool of geothermally warmed water. So we set out in shorts and tee-shirts and keen sandals at about 4:30 in the afternoon. The hike was indeed slow going and at not at all a maintained trail. There was not 20 ft of walking without climbing over a rock or under a leaning or fallen tree. We hiked for about 90 minutes and then turned back to the pool. The pool was quite a find. It was a man made rectangular pool that is fed from a sulfur spring. The water temperature was about 70 degrees. The pool was cut into the rock right in the path that the spring took to the bay, so the water was steadily being replenished. Victoria, Alexander and I all had an invigorating swim as Ashley watched in amusement as to why we can enjoy such cold water.
We left Bamfield early in the morning for the 40 mile trip to a village called Tofino. We left Barkley Sound for the next sound to the north called East Clayoquot Sound. On our way north we spotted two different groups of humpback whales. We saw multiple breaches and a few tail slaps. Tofino is on the entrance to many deep and narrow inlets in East Clayoquot Sound. This makes for lots of current outside of the harbor. We did not like the anchorage so we went deeper into the sound and found a beautiful anchorage called Windy Bay. Despite its name it was a very calm anchorage that surrounded us by sheer cliffs that rise steeply to 1200ft. From here we took our dinghy the 5 miles back to Tofino. Tofino is a bustling tourist town with its own small fishing fleet. There are countless shops offering guided tours to see whales, bears, hot springs, or rainforest hikes. We spent the day at their public market immersing ourselves into the local art scene. There were wood carvers actively displaying their talents. Paintings of the local wildlife and environment were on many booths. Candles, beach crafts, homemade clothing, foraged foods, herbal concoctions are all just a sampling of the locally crafted wares on display. Ashley and I got a few ideas for new crafting projects to try with the kids. I bought a jar of Fireweed jelly that is made from a weed that only grows right after a forest fire. It was amazing and did not last three days. After the kids were all done looking at yet another painting of a wolf or orca we took them to the local playground to give them some time playing with other kids. It was a large playground with about 30 kids there. Our kids played with each other, electing to spend almost the entire 2 hours there on the zip line. Another nice thing about Tofino was that they recycled. We had two bags of recycling that we were carrying with us on the boat that I refused to put in the garbage. So we were able to unload our recycling. On our way back to Samadhi we stopped at a trail on Meares Island. Meares Island is home to some of the world’s largest cedar trees. Twenty-five years ago these trees were protected from logging by determined environmental protesters and the Tla-o-qui-aht and the Ahousaht First Nations. Today there is an amazing boardwalk constructed to take visitors on a path through untouched, old growth forests and past some truly magnificent trees. One of the cedar trees is called the Hanging Gardens tree and is said to be about 1500 years old!
We left Effingham Bay and made our way to Robbers Cove where we stayed one night. From there we went to a small town of 300 people called Bamfield. In Bamfield we restocked our fruits and vegetables and topped off our water and fuel tanks. Joe, the manager of King Fisher Marine was kind enough to allow us to top off our water tanks and stay at their docks for a few hours while we went ashore and explored the town. The town is split down the middle with East Bamfield on one side of the bay and West Bamfield on the other. There are no roads to West Bamfield so all travel between the two sides is via boat. It makes for a fun ambiance with shuttle boats and taxis running back and forth throughout the day. West Bamfield has a boardwalk running the length of the town passing right next to the many eclectic homes on the shore. One day we made our way along the boardwalk to a truly magnificent little art gallery called Brady’s Gallery. It was a tiny little art gallery in the backyard of someone’s home. They used a little backyard shack as a display of their many creative pieces of artwork. On display were many painting on canvas, driftwood and on seashells. There were many colorful hand-sewn jellyfish made of felt. Breathtaking photos of the surrounding area lined one side of the tiny room. Clay pottery filled with saplings gave the room an earthy aroma. The yard leading to the gallery had so many creative uses for beach driftwood and collected shells. There was also a chicken coop filled with chickens, many of the breed we had at our own little homestead. Tending to the chickens was one of Victoria’s favorite parts about our old home. Seeing the antics and waddle of the chickens brought a smile to her face. It was truly a wonderful little gallery and we highly recommend visiting should anyone be in the Bamfield area. The next day we hiked across the peninsula to a sandy beach (Brady’s Beach) that is open to the Pacific surf. Victoria, Alexander and Ranger played in the surf and ran along the expansive beach. We climbed over barnacle encrusted rocks to a few sea caves that were both eerie and exhilarating at the same time. We could not stay at the caves too long for the tide was quickly rising threatening to shut off our escape off the rocks and back to the beach. The next day we did our laundry on shore and then spent our afternoon at the community center and library. We talked with Martin the Director of Community Development who gave us loads of information about life in these remote villages of British Columbia. He also sat down and played Alexander a game of chess. He said it had been a long time since he had been given such a run for his money.