Barkley Sound, then back to Seattle
AUGUST 8 | Tofino turned out to be too hectic to visit, so we pressed on to Ucluelet that day, making the open water passage in good weather, with some fog. This is the beginning of Barkley Sound, and we knew that we’d encounter more activity from here on.
Entering the busy harbor was challenging — we weren’t used to having to share the water with other boats. We pulled in to the marina across from Kasala, a circumnavigating sailboat we had shared anchorages with before. They agreed that Ucluelet had everything that Tofino had to offer, but without the tourists. Good restaurants, wi-fi, a fully stocked co-op, and lots of opportunities for hiking, so we spent two nights there. Ucluelet is a surf town, and has the feel of a little bit of California. On the ocean side of the Ucluelet peninsula we discovered the most civilized hiking trails, with benches wherever you might want them, and artist’s perches for plein air painting. The Wild Pacific Trail followed the rugged coastline, winding around the rocky headlands and beaches. On the second day, we hiked out to the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, and encountered a lot of people on the trail who spoke in languages other than English. Who knew that this place was an international destination? It’s that beautiful.
Our time for exploring Barkley Sound was running short, so we agreed that we’d come back again in the future. It’s August now, and true to predictions fog was a problem. The outer islands of Barkley Sound were so socked in that we never did really see them, so we headed further into the sound and found some blue skies. After checking out a couple of potential anchorages in Pipestem Inlet (rejected because of the helicopter logging overhead), we found a peaceful spot in the Pinkerton Islands, but we had to share it with a raft of five boats that had already settled in there. As we entered the anchorage, they teased us that we could anchor there for $10 and all the shrimp you could eat. As soon as we got situated, we headed out in the kayak, passing in front of them again, and they made good on their offer and tossed us a bag of fresh caught spot prawns. OMG, yum. We promptly ate them for dinner, boiling them for just one minute. On our paddle around the Pinkertons, a humpback whale popped up in the bay we were in — an awesome experience when you’re at water level in a tiny boat.
We had to wait until late morning for the fog to burn off enough to travel, and even then we found ourselves in and out of the fog — thick in places, then crystal clear. We headed out to the outer islands, but since they were totally fogged in, we conceded that our time was better spent deeper into the sound. We found sunshine again in Joe’s Bay, a roomy, well-protected anchorage with beaches for kayak campers. Did some kayaking ourselves, and discovered the best midden ever — solid with whole mussel shells, bigger than I had ever seen, and polished to opalescent by the elements. I also found topknot shells and an abalone here. Clearly this was used by natives for a very long time.
Another foggy morning. The boat anchored across from us was in thick fog, but we were not. As we left the anchorage, we slowed to watch a humpback cavorting around and saw it poke half its body straight up into the air. Ever curious, Michael took us into the almost tropical anchorage at Russell Islands, only to find it occupied by our new friends on Latitudes. We stopped long enough to chat and compare adventures, but then moved on to go through Julia’s Passage, a long narrow gap of protected water that is dotted with float houses full of character. We had expected to be able to exit at the north end, but had to admit that we just couldn’t fit through that tiny opening. Possibly at high tide, which it wasn’t. We backtracked and continued on to explore Effingham Inlet, and anchored in out-of-the-way Useless Inlet for what was to be our last night alone. Adjoining our bay was a passageway to Fatty Basin, which in turn had an emerald green passageway to another outer bay. These passes had strong currents and were fun to negotiate by kayak.
One more day to explore Barkley Sound, so we went up Port Alberni Inlet part way, where we saw the MV Frances Barkley stop mid-channel to hoist a runabout into the water, presumably to exchange passengers without making a landing. Cruising along we were surprised by a humpback surfacing nearby, and then it pop up again right alongside our boat! Very exciting! We spent the rest of the day winding our way through the string of islands on the east side of Barkley Sound. The further towards the ocean we got the thicker the fog was. For our last night in Barkley Sound before the long passage to the south end we decided to stay in Bamfield. a little town with a long boardwalk and a very short road. It was sunny here, so we grabbed a spot on the government dock and hiked to Brady’s Beach, beautifully sandy with seastacks soaring into the fog. The harbour was a busy place and we gave up our spot on the dock to head further into Bamfield Inlet for a better night’s sleep, since we had a long haul the next day.
Up at 4am to be ready to pull up anchor as soon as we could see well enough. We knew we’d be in the fog, but with radar and a chartplotter, it’s not a problem. We did get to see the sunrise as we rounded the corner of Barkley Sound into the Pacific, but after that the entire passage along the south end of Vancouver Island and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca was in the fog. We had to commit to making it all the way to Sooke Harbour, since there are no other places to stop. We were underway for eleven hours that day, and didn’t get out of the fog until just outside of Sooke, where a male Orca popped up right in front of the boat and I nearly ran over it! He played around our boat for a while, like dolphins do, and it was so cool to be able to see him swimming underwater, thanks to his white spots. Grateful for any shelter at all, we dropped the hook just inside of the sandspit at the entrance to Sooke. A surprisingly nice spot except that it was quite windy, and had runabouts zipping through the convoluted entrance.
The next day was predicted to be gale force winds and since the next leg of the journey was across the Straight over to the US side we opted to wait a day and went deeper into Sooke Harbour for a well deserved day of doing nothing. Michael had fun navigating though the extremely shallow channels to get into the Inner Basin, where we anchored in front of some of the nice homes on the harbour. Still windy enough that we didn’t feel like kayaking around, so we had a chance to tidy up a bit and read.
The weather was better for the last big push from Sooke to Port Townsend. We had the waves behind us and were always on the edge of fog but not in it. Tricky trying to figure out where the other boat traffic was without being able to see it. We phoned in to customs thanks to our I-68 permits and treated ourselves to a last night in Mystery Bay on a park buoy. After three days without walking, we were itching for shore leave, so we rowed ashore to the park and walked to Nordland for Whidbey Island Ice Cream Bars at the general store. As soon as our hands were free, we started on the blackberries that lined the road. Easy pickings and we soon had a bagful. Hot blackberry muffins in the morning.
One more day of easy travel back to Shilshole. The hard part was dealing with the mental transition back to civilization. We actually got back a couple of days early, which gave us time to get the boat cleaned up and the house and yard back under control. We had spent 55 days on the boat.
The whole trip went surprisingly well, thanks to Michael’s careful preparations and diligence. We felt healthier than normal, ate even better than at home and slept great. There were exciting times and restful times. We experienced more personal space and freedom than you’ll likely find anywhere else. Its fantastic to know first hand that there are such wild places out there.
And kudos to Mischief, our wonderful boat. A very comfortable floating home, and a very capable ocean-going craft. We have a lot more confidence now, in our boat and in ourselves. Waves look smaller than they used to now that we have some big ones under our belts.
This is going to be a tough act to follow.