Saturday, July 30, 2011

Buddy Boating in Barkley Sound

Looking back, one of the things Aaron and I were most excited about when starting this trip was solitude.  Cruising in Puget Sound and the San Juans, you never (or very rarely, like in the dead of winter) get a bay or cove all to yourself.  But in B.C. in the springtime, secluded anchorages are a dime a dozen.  Which isn’t to say that we don’t love coming around a bend and finding we have that special nook all to ourselves.  But sometimes we just want to party!

And who better to help us out with that than our friends Deborah and Marty on s/v Three Sheets (of Three Sheets Northwest fame).  We’d like to think they packed up their Island Packet, readied their fearless sea-kitty, Lily, and made the trek north to Barkley Sound all for us, but whatever the catalyst, we spent an amazing week buddy boating with them.  I just wish we’d interrupted our socializing to take a few more pictures!

One of my very favorite moments happened after we’d finished dinner and brought our wine and oil-filled trawler lamp (and citronella candle) into the cockpit.  As the night got darker, we snuffed the candle and lantern and simply gazed at the stars for hours. 

But we also peeked in the windows of abandoned buildings:


We rafted up at the dock in Ucluelet:


We devoured a delicious happy hour spread on the beach (four cheeses! crackers! cherries! grapes! pepperoni! pistachios! salami! dark chocolate!):


We stern-tied off beautiful Nettle Island:


And of course, we did a lot of dinghy exploring:


Although our livers are happy that we only had a week with the crew of Three Sheets before they moved on to Victoria, we were sad to see them go.   Until Mexico, guys!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot Springs Cove

By Aaron

Want to hop in a stinky spa that smells like rotten eggs with a bunch of strangers?  It’s nicer than it sounds.  We spent 4 days at Hot Springs Cove enjoying some good weather and the company of SV Estrellita.

IMG_1657Nicole on whale patrol during the run offshore to Clayoquot Sound

One of the neat things about Hot Springs Cove is the twisting up and down 1.3 mile boardwalk that takes you out to the springs.  Over the years visiting boats have established a tradition of  carving their boat names into the planks that make up the boardwalk. 

IMG_1673The Royal Victoria Yacht Club went all out

It was a lot of fun to hike out to the springs and find the boards for boats we know.

The crew of Estrellita had brought their own board to put down, and did a fine job indeed.

IMG_1664Carol and Livia on their way to the boardwalk.  How convenient for them that Nicole just had a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven

IMG_1675 (Large)

This was good for us, since they had to pull up a board to put theirs down.  They brought us the board they pulled up so that we could do our carving from the comfort of the cockpit.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t injured during the carving process

IMG_1677Wasn’t easy to get the board up since they using something along the lines of railroad spikes to nail them down

Tada!  Our second contribution to “cruiser graffiti” (the first being Wallace Island)


As to the hot springs themselves, we didn’t get many pictures.  If only we had a waterproof camera!  We went out there on our first night and hung out until about 1am with Estrellita and some other boaters.  The water was hot, the stars were out, and I didn’t have to go to work the next day so it was pretty sweet.  We did take a few pictures on subsequent hikes up the boardwalk.

IMG_1686You smell the springs before you see ‘em

IMG_1687 One of the spots where the piping hot water comes out of the ground.  Straight from Hell.

If you’d like to visit the hot springs, there’s certainly simpler ways to do it than selling everything you own and taking off on a sailboat.  There are many charter companies, boat tours, and float planes that drop off visitors by the dozens throughout the day.  The young, bold pilots are not shy about taxiing, landing, and taking off around and through the anchored boats.  The prop wash made for a nice breeze on a couple of the warmer days we had. 

IMG_1669  Float plane making its way between us and Estrellita

Another quiet day at anchor

We had a fantastic 4 days here. But  I needed a haircut really bad so we left for Tofino.  We met up with Estrellita again where we splurged on burgers and beers.  This would be the last time we’d see them for awhile since they left from Tofino and arrived in San Francisco 6 days later.  But we’re starting our own latitude reduction program in a couple weeks and will catch up eventually. 

IMG_1692Next time we see these yahoos it’ll be about 35 degrees warmer outside

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It’s not quite Mexico, but…

By Nicole
Unless our log book is wrong, we’re still a thousand miles north of Mexico.  So how did we find ourselves sitting on a patio sipping umbrella drinks?
From behind the mountains surrounding Tahsis Inlet, the Westview Marina appeared almost like an oasis.  With Jimmy Buffett on the radio and a healthy dose of tropical/Mexican kitsch, the owners created a little piece of paradise in what’s actually a boom-and-bust sawmill town.
Tahsis, off in the distance
Three uniformed staff members saw us coming in and met us at the dock. They took our lines and gave us a full run-down of the marina’s amenities: showers, laundry, restaurant, coffee shop/margarita bar and, get this, a courtesy car so we could drive into town (no questions asked – they just handed over the keys!).
Westview Marina’s floating patio, restaurant, coffee/tropical drink/ice cream bar and gift shop.
After the sawmill closed a few years back, the town pretty much shut the door and turned out the lights.  So we weren’t terribly surprised to find the streets empty and many of the houses up for sale.  The Tahsis Supermarket in the center of town was small, but it was stocked with plenty of fresh produce (yay!).
Grabbing some fresh apples...
Although we loved our stay at the Westview Marina, it certainly wasn’t Mexico.
In another few months, though, we won’t have to settle for tropical-themed locales – we’ll have the real thing.  And boy, are we ever getting itchy for it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Windy Day in Nuchatlitz

By Nicole

From our anchorage in Port Langford off Nuchatlitz Inlet, we had no real indication that a gale was blowing just over the hill.  Except for the fact that Environment Canada, the agency responsible for the weather reports we get over our VHF radio, was repeatedly warning of gale-force winds in the area (that’s 39-54 mph).  So of course we had to take a little dinghy ride to see all this wind for ourselves.

Off on a dinghy adventure in Port Langford

So what does wind that strong look like?

Exhibit A:IMG_1627_thumb3
Look how long Aaron’s hair is getting!  I didn’t even get it all in the picture.  I’m going to have to start French braiding it to keep it out of his eyes before too long.

Exhibit B:DSC_0452_thumb2
The wind was roaring out of the northwest and across the shallow water of the Nuchatlitz area.

Our exploring also took us to a sandy beach (that smelled like sulfur – there are a number of hot springs up here) and to a daisy-covered hill. 

Daisies in full bloom!

Aaron bravely searched for treasure in a sea cave, but all he found were logs and seaweed.

No treasure, no bats and no stalactites

We savored our two nights in Port Langford, thinking that this may be the last time we have an anchorage to ourselves for quite some time.  Well, I guess we weren’t really alone, since we did share the spot with a seal, a sea otter, three deer and two black bears.  And loads of bald eagles.  And thousands of jellyfish.


And maybe a sea urchin or two.

Friday, July 8, 2011


By Nicole

I really love s’mores.  And Aaron really loves to build campfires.  We’re a perfect match.

Aaron’s mighty beach fire (with Bella Star in the background)

Yep, we’re expert marshmallow toasters.  We even have our own sticks.

The first bite’s always the best.

But the second bite’s pretty good too!

Beach fires and s’mores… does it get any better?

Dixie Cove’s Sleeping Sea Otter

By Nicole

Sea otters are a common sight up and down the west coast of Vancouver Island.  They’re easy to spot, as they float along on their backs with their heads and feet sticking out of the water.  We never get tired of watching them munch on shellfish snacks, using their tummies as tables.

A certain sea otter in Dixie Cove managed to take the “cutest critter” prize, although Aaron thought maybe it was dead.  As we drifted over to it in the dinghy, we heard the unmistakable sound of snoring.  The otter wasn’t dead, it was sleeping!  And sawing little sea otter logs.  Her paws were tucked up under her chin, her eyes were closed and she was just snoozing away, oblivious to us and our dinghy.  It was quite honestly one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.  Of course our giggling woke her up, but at least we got a picture first.

IMG_1489Sleeping sea otter

Later that afternoon, s/v Osprey rowed over with some freshly baked blueberry muffins and an invitation to hike to the top of the ridge above the anchorage.  We’re in!

Hubert rowing us to shore to begin our trek

With Hubert blazing the trail (this wasn’t a hike but a full-on bushwack through the woods and underbrush), we made it to the top.  Phew!  And what a view of the anchorage and mountains below…

Mighty trailblazers!


You can just make out Bella Star through the trees and Osprey off in the distance.

Dixie Cove was a lovely spot, but I still can’t get “Dixie Land” out of my head.  Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

You’re welcome.

Socializing in the Bunsbys

By Nicole

Soggy day heading south from the BunsbysNorthwesterners like to joke that summer doesn’t start until after the 4th of July.  I don’t know what it’s doing back in Seattle, but we’re having monsoon season here on Vancouver Island.  Holy crap, has it rained a lot in the last week (and that’s coming from someone who’s lived in Washington for 30 years).

Despite the extra-soggy conditions (or maybe because of it) the Bunsby Islands proved to be a hotspot for socializing. 

Our friends on s/v Estrellita met us there, so of course we spent lots of time with them playing games, hatching plans to get ourselves to Mexico ASAP and drinking killer mulled wine (which fit perfectly with the whole “Christmas in July” weather we were having).

We also shared the anchorage with Rosmond, Slip Stream II and My Wind Song, the three boats we’ve been leap-frogging down the coast with.  They’re a great bunch of people, and Rosmond was even nice enough to invite the whole crowd over for a rainy day happy hour – good times!  (Ladies, as promised, the recipe for the cheese straws is below!)

I’m sure the Bunsbys are lovely in sunny, settled weather, but when we heard the forecast call for a break in the southerly gale-force winds, we waved goodbye to Estrellita and made a run for it.  Of course the forecast was wrong (SW 20+ knots instead of W 10 knots), but we pushed on through the driving, sting-your-eyeballs rain to Kyuquot.  If we’re lucky, the rain will be gone by tomorrow – although as I write this, it’s still a few days until July 4th, so I’m not holding my breath…

Cheese Straws

These cheesy, salty, crunchy snacks are the perfect happy hour nibble – and they satisfy my Cheez-It craving.  (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 ½ cups finely grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (or try a blend of Cheddar and Parmesan)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper flakes. Using a pastry blender (or two forks), combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water and knead 5 or 6 times to bring the mixture together into a ball. The dough can be refrigerated at this point, wrapped in plastic, for a day or so.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8” x 10” and no more than 1/4” thick. Using a floured pizza wheel (or a sharp knife), slice the dough into strips (anywhere from 1/4” to 1/2” wide and as long as you like). Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1/4” between pieces. If desired, sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes, or until very pale golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Store for a day or two in an airtight container.

Brooks Peninsula, Columbia Cove

By Aaron

We had a really premium sail around Brooks Peninsula.  The sun came out, the seas flattened, and the wind was perfect.  We headed up to a reach as we rounded and Bella Star dug her shoulder in just pleased as can be.  I certainly wish we could see more of these conditions!

Scootin’ along to Columbia Cove

IMG_1281Passing Solander Island

IMG_1285Land ho

We arrived in Columbia Cove to find Graham and Joanne on sv Nearchus anchored there, offering us lattes before we even got our anchor down.  Once we were settled we rowed over and settled on beers instead.  Graham did make us Lattes the next morning and let us know it was time to come over by giving a toot on the air horn. 

IMG_1294If you see Nearchus, try the lattes!

Columbia Cove was another great spot with some good hiking and beautiful beaches. 

IMG_1295A rare clear evening on our first night

IMG_1296A rock with a hole in it.  Unfortunately the tide didn’t go high enough for me to drive the dinghy through it.

We hiked out to the beach we’d seen on our way in.

DSC_0411More maddening crowds at the beach

IMG_1328There were some really pretty beaches tucked in amongst rocky headlands.

DSC_0396A rock alley led from one beach to the next.

IMG_1326Jackobson Point

IMG_1342Scary cave

DSC_0413Like a personals ad, we enjoyed a long walk on the beach. IMG_1333Attention friends and family: you are all getting plastic Japanese fishing floats for Christmas.

We spent 4 days at Columbia Cove.  One of those was a day that rained solid for 24 hours so we lounged around in our pajamas and drank coffee.  We’re currently working our way through all 6 seasons of Lost, and I think we watched about 14 episodes in one day. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quatsino Sound–Beaches & Bears

By Nicole

Why are we doing this?”  Aaron peeked/glared at me from under his dripping rain hood as we motored along in the dinghy, dodging patches of kelp in the pouring rain.

Practically in answer to his question, a furry sea otter poked up out of the water to check us out.  We exchanged curious glances with the little guy, as he floated along on his back through the kelp.  He followed us around for a bit, popping up here and there and generally being adorable.  Due to the downpour, I kept the camera in my pocket, so no otter pictures, though.

The rain stopped soon after, and we landed the dinghy on a beach to walk on real sand.  Sand!  After all the rocks and boulders and glacial till of the Inside Passage, we’d been craving sandy beaches.IMG_1188
Foulie pants and real sand

The next day, a 30-minute dinghy ride led us from our anchorage in Browning Inlet to the village of Winter Harbour.  It’s more of a fishing outpost than a village, but we managed to get a few groceries (marshmallows for s’mores was top of the list).

We bumped into three of the boats we’d rounded Cape Scott with and had a nice time chatting while waiting for the store to open (Hours: 3pm-7pm – gee, how handy).  As it turns out, Allison from s/v Rosmond follows our blog (hi, Allison!).  What a small world…  We hope to run into them again soon.

The rustic village of Winter Harbour.

Winter Harbour’s post office, complete with a sweet old guard dog (Aaron gave him plenty of attention).

Remember when we were lamenting the fact that we hadn’t seen a bear yet?  Well, we saw eight black bears in one day here, including a momma and her two cubs.  I even managed to get  a decent picture this time.

Cute black bear cubs and their mother

Thus, I broke out my trusty bear bell again for our hike through the woods in search of a beach our friends Lance and Carol on s/v Syrah claimed was straight out of Mexico.  How could we pass up a chance to see Mexico in Canada?

The trailhead shown in the guidebook was guarded by a bear when we arrived (swell), but as it turns out, the book was wrong about the location anyway.  Farther down the inlet we saw the conspicuous Vancouver Island trail marker – brightly colored fishing floats and other flotsam tied to a tree.  Fantastic – but how did we get the dinghy through the muddy marsh when the water was only a few inches deep?  Good question.  Here’s your answer:

Mush, Aaron, mush!  Yep, I’m riding.

Fearing for our lives (who wants to be eaten by a bear?), we tried to be as loud as possible while hiking the trail.  It was so overgrown with salal, salmonberry bushes and assorted other forest shrubbery that some resourceful individual who tromped through before us (probably last year by the looks of things) tied pink surveyor’s tape to branches along the way.  In many places we couldn’t see the trail at all, so we picked our way from one piece of pink tape to the next.  It was getting late, and at one point we considered turning back.  But we kept hearing Lance & Carol’s voices in our heads.  So we pushed on. 

And this was our reward at the end of the trail:







Did not get eaten by bears hiking to Grant Bay

This West Coast of Vancouver Island stuff is pretty effing awesome.