About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

West Coast Vancouver Island Highlights

"The perfect pink"

The following is an excerpt for an article which we wrote for the Blue Water Cruising Newsletter, it briefly describes our sail down the west coast of Vancouver Island. We are now about to set sail for the US and ports south!

Rather than sail down through Johnstone Strait and Strait of Georgia which we have done numerous times, we decided a trip down the west coast of Vancouver Island would be a great send off to Canadian Cruising. We were surprised at how busy it was compared to the Central Coast, but with many peaceful anchorages to ourselves we could still feel the wilderness.
We spent a couple of days sailing to Bull Harbour at the north end of Goletas Channel. This is the last protected anchorage before rounding Cape Scott and was busy with nine boats while we were there. We had read of previous cruisers who walked across Hope Island and Tlatlasikwala territory to Roller Bay, but when we asked if this was ok, we were told that we were trespassing.
The following morning we caught the perfect sized pink salmon for our dinner before motor-sailing around Cape Scott to Quatsino Sound. We only stayed in Quatsino Sound a few days but enjoyed a hike to Grant Bay, a beautiful west coast beach, picked lots of huckleberries for scones and caught another “perfect pink” as we headed south to Klaskish Inlet, just north of Brooks Peninsula. This short passage would be one of our best sailing days with 25 knots of NW breeze pushing us south. We paddled our double kayak up East Creek which felt like a remarkable moment since it is one of only 6 intact watersheds remaining on Vancouver Island. We were also lucky to be there on a weekend so our peace wasn’t disturbed by any of the current road building into this valley.
Our wind deserted us the next day which meant that rounding Brooks Peninsula was fairly calm, but we had to motor through patchy fog. We managed to catch a glimpse of three Transient Killer Whales near Solander Island as they disappeared into the mist. We wondered if they had been after the many Steller Sealions hauled out on the rocks.
We anchored at Clanninick Cove and went for a paddle and hike up the creek the following morning to see large, stunning sitka spruce and collect another bonanza of huckleberries. Our only other anchorage in Kyuquot Sound was Cachalot Inlet, which is actually not a great anchorage, unless the weather is calm and then there are no-see-ums, but we were curious to go ashore and explore the remains of the old whaling station. We have visited many of these sites in several countries and on several continents and find this era of human history sad and yet fascinating at the same time. We were pleasantly surprised to find an overgrown sculpture of a 20-foot sperm whale above the bank. Stephen cleared several thimble berry bushes so that we could actually see the statue properly, before just the bulbous head was sticking up out of the brush.

The hidden Sperm Whale statue

The following day we headed south and before we put up our sails we saw a group of 6 killer whales breaching and feeding, with gulls trying to scavenge the scraps! The wind was fluky, but we persevered until we could sail right to the mouth of Friendly Cove. When we chatted to the friendly lighthouse keepers onshore, they noted our arrival under sail in this historic spot where Captain Cook first came ashore. They also made a funny comment about the prevalence of “stick boats” – sailboats that are always under power. It was busy in the campground here as the Mowachaht/Muchalaht first nation were having a summer gathering and several families were camping with more arriving on each visit of the MV Uchuck for this special event.
Out next stop was Hesquiat Harbour in Clayoquot Sound, where we counted three grey whales and a couple humpbacks as we rounded Estevan Point in the sunshine. We woke in the morning to the sound of rain and paddled ashore to try and find Cougar Annie’s Garden. If anyone doesn’t know the story of this infamous west coast pioneer who out-lived four husbands and tamed the wild forest into an impressive and productive garden, it is worth reading the book by Margaret Horsfield, or visit www.cougarannie.com.
After the garden we sailed to Hotspring Cove. This is when we decided that we really had been previously spoiled on the Central Coast with its isolation. We watched three high-speed daytripper boats depart for Tofino as a couple float planes arrived and we anchored among the dozen or so yachts already there. That’s when we decided to get busy making kelp pickles and save our bath until morning. We woke up at 5am and went ashore to enjoy the hotspring by ourselves for an hour before breakfast. It was worth the wait!
Feeling relaxed and refreshed we anchored at the mouth of the Megin River to see how far we could paddle upstream. With the dry summer weather, we didn’t make it far when the portages across gravel bars became more common than the paddling, so we carried on to an un-named bay on Obstruction Island. Then the skies opened up and the serious west coast rain fell. All this water would have made the river easier to paddle, but we stayed put and tested our water-catcher. As the deluge continued we had no problem filling our tanks from the 20L jerry can that we placed under the catcher. Out of curiosity, I timed each 20L’s. The fastest (ie. the heaviest squall) was filled in only 12 minutes!
Up to this point we had been very lucky catching salmon, picking berries, pickling seaweed and catching water, so we didn’t feel the need to call into Tofino and so carried on to Barkley Sound. This would be our last of the five major sounds on the west coast and we enjoyed some great sailing and whale watching with friends who joined us in Uclulet. We also paddled in the popular Broken Group and caught a Coho on our way into Bamfield to pick up a fellow biologist and dear friend who joined us for the quick sail up Juan de Fuca.
Time always seems to pass way too quickly when cruising and for every anchorage enjoyed or river explored there are several more to come back to!

Paddling East Creek

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Killer Whale Recording

Here is a couple of our hydrophone recordings overlayed with a couple of our photos of the Killer Whales we encountered during our sail down the westcoast of Vancouver Island. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

West Coast Vancouver Island Species List

(in order of appearance)

Rhinoceros Auklet
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Bald Eagle
Northwestern Crow
Hermit Thrush
Mew Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Common Loon
Red-throated Loon
Caspian Tern
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Red-necked Phalarope
Black Turnstone
Belted Kingfisher
Great Blue Heron
Greater Yellowlegs
Common Raven
Sooty Shearwater
Northern Fulmar
Parasitic Jaeger
Cassin’s Auklet
Marbled Murrelet
California Gull
Dall’s Porpoise
Harbour Porpoise
Sea Otter
Harbour Seal
White-winged Scoter
Northern Flicker
Steller’s Jay
Fox Sparrow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Rufous Hummingbird
River Otter
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red Crossbill
Bonapart’s Gull
Canada Goose
Common Merganser
Spotted Sandpiper
Tufted Puffin
Surf Scoter
Varied Thrush
Pomerine Jaeger
Transient Killer Whale
Steller Sealion
Pink-footed Shearwater
Western Gull
Winter Wren
Song Sparrow
Lesser Yellowlegs
American Robin
American Dipper
Green-winged Teal
American Mink
South Polar Skua
Pacific Loon
California Sealion
Humpback Whale
Grey Whale
Pileated Woodpecker
Black Oystercatcher
Cedar Waxwing
Brown Creeper
Wandering Tattler
Hooded Merganser
Red Squirrel
Red-necked Grebe
Eurasian Collared Dove
Barn Swallow
Black-footed Albatross
Heerman’s Gull

Learning Curves and Leaving

A day you don’t learn something is a slow day. Today I learnt “datum” (the start point for all depths on a chart) was the singular for “data”. That aside, we have had other learning processes on the boat. The weekend before leaving, the anti-siphon valve on our engine failed, which meant the engine back flooded from the wet box and started filling the bilge via the air intake. So I learnt how to remove all the injectors and so on to clear salt water from where it should not be. I was thankful for having 4 spare oil filters on hand as we live far from a metropolitan area. Lesson 1- we will always shut off our water intake now instead of “usually” shutting it off, even for short periods. Lesson 2 – lots of spares is a good thing.
With the engine running again we did manage to get out for a bit of the weekend and found a humpback and orcas for Lorraine and Tara who’d travelled west and north to come and see us. They brought all sorts of food plus a care package full of edibles and drinkables from Lorraine’s Mum that we all enjoyed and are still finding after they were stowed for space and sailing.
At Sea-fest in Alert Bay, we didn’t win a prize in the around the island kayak race but we did win a hamper of native food in the Artfest raffle. What a treat; smoked, canned and dried salmon, oolichan smoked and 2 jars of grease, dried seaweed and some new potatoes to go with it. We were fortunate to be able to share some with those who appreciated it before we left and still have a good supply. George and Susan from “Top Brass” also gave us some home canned salmon and Dave and Maureen the day before we left, brought a case of home canned salmon down to the boat along with a box of veggies from their garden. Dave’s comment was to make sure we came back. How could we not after such kindness. Ten days later we have just eaten the last of the garden veg and are savoring the salmon. Our final learning curve was a lesson on simple but nourishing food. We met Yoshi, a Japanese sailor who we had for dinner and he gifted us a special type of nori and other seaweed and told us how to cook and eat it with rice (and celery with every meal).
On leaving we tried to say our goodbyes to as many people as possible, but as we learnt on our first departure from Oz 6 years ago, sometimes just slipping away quietly is a good thing too.