Last week we got back from our 4-week trip out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, up the west coast of Vancouver Island to Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds, back through the Strait to Victoria, around the Gulf Islands a couple days, and then back to Seattle.
This was about 600 nautical miles, but that’s just the straight line distance – with tacking and jibing when we were sailing, we probably did closer to 800.
As cruisers often say, the highs were very high and the lows very low. Cruising is often more intense, in both the good and the bad, than land life. Our two biggest problems were mechanical – the fuel filter clogging in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the transmission progressively failing. There were human challenges too – dealing with very tiring passages, mild seasickness, difficulties in confused ocean waves, challenges controlling the sails in high winds, and almost swinging into rocks at anchor.
Despite the challenges, I feel we did quite well. We didn’t have any failures of seamanship – no groundings, no navigational mistakes, no anchor dragging, no poor timing of weather, no docking mishaps.
There were hard times, but for this post I want to focus on the fun times – all the amazing experiences and especially the great photos I got.
The trip was not a roadside safari, yet we saw plenty of wildlife.
- Whales – a gray whale while we were sailing south of Hot Springs Cove in large, confused seas, and a small whale near Effingham Bay that actually breached (jumped out of the water)!
- Bears – two separate sightings of black bears on Vancouver Island from Clayoquot Sound.
- Orcas – multiple groups in one sighting in Becher Bay near Victoria. There were several whale watching boats following them.
- Pregnant sea otter? Offshore of Barkley Sound we saw a sea otter curled into a fetal position on her back, feet sticking straight into the air – we thought she must either be giving birth, or sick. It was the oddest sight, randomly a couple miles offshore in ocean waves.
- Lots and lots of eagles. My favorite was in Tofino when a male bald eagle carrying a salmon head in his claws flew right in front of me only about 15 feet away.
- Seals (of course).
- A raccoon just a few feet off the trail on Portland Island.
- Portland Island (aka Princess Margaret island, part of the Gulf Islands national park) – this was probably our favorite sailboat-accessed hike yet – about a 6 km trail running around the island that had great views the whole way and interesting vegetation and scenery – lots of photo ops.
- Effingham Bay – I did this hike twice, once with Natalie and once with Kristina and Scott from Seattle. It’s an easy hike with a great beach, and when Natalie and I did it we went to the sea cave. The cave would be fun to explore further with a flashlight.
- Hot Springs Cove – this is an easy hike on a boardwalk, with a natural hot springs at the end as reward!
- Bamfield Boardwalk – it’s a stretch to call this a hike, but Bamfield was super cute – especially the dogs!