Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 23: Dixie Cove to Walters Cove

By the time I woke up the winds and rain had abated. I flipped the switch on the Wallas to get some heat and start breakfast. It cycled, smoked, and shut off. I flipped the switch again. This time it started, but it smoked excessively. Not good.

After breakfast I headed for Rugged Point Marine Park. The anchorage is not good for overnighting, since ocean swells wrap around and result in uncomfortable rolling. But as a day stop, it’s fantastic.

I paddled ashore and hiked to the ocean side. Miles of sandy beach, and trails crisscrossing the woods and bluffs. In July and August, this park is filled with kayakers, who camp on wooden platforms in the woods. I see the appeal. Today, though, Rugged Point was an inhospitable place. Environment Canada had issued a gale warning, and winds were reported in excess of 40-knots. Ugly water for sure.
Sandy beach at Rugged Point Marine Park
One of the trails at Rugged Point
From Rugged Point, two routes lead back to Walters Cove. The outside route skirts along the coast, with some protection offered by offlying reefs. I poked the bow out and didn’t like what I saw. Strong winds were blowing towards shore, and big, white-topped waves pounded the coast. Kelp lined the water. Because of the offlying reefs, I’d have to travel close to shore. A bit of kelp wrapped around the outboard would have me dead in the water, and the gale would have me pinned to the rocky shoreline in just a couple of minutes. If that happened, the boat would quickly be crushed, and so would I. I turned around, and headed for the longer-but-calm inside route.

By early afternoon I was in Walters Cove. I turned on the Wallas to make lunch. No dice. Smoke, but no heat. I’d seen this before and suspected the burner was covered in soot. Without much other choice, I pulled the Wallas from the countertop and placed it upside down on the dinette for surgery.

Yep, lots of soot. I attacked the innards with a wire brush, then vacuumed the soot out. I replaced the mat and wire ring with new pieces (attention Wallas owners: carry these essential spares!) and reassembled the device. Then I reinstalled it in the counter, reconnected everything, and pressed the power button. After what seemed like a long wait, success! The Wallas was running again, and much better than before. More heat more quickly. The whole thing took less than an hour. I’m going to chat with Scan Marine about why my unit seems to soot up so quickly (300 hours the first time, I’d estimate 700 hours this time). I also plan on doing this as regular, annual maintenance in the future.
Time to open the Wallas up...
Filled with soot. After a good cleaning, it runs well.

Day 22: Hankin Cove to Dixie Cove

Another short run today. I stopped into Fair Harbour, the only place to buy fuel in Kyuquot Sound, and picked up 15 gallons of gas and a few gallons of diesel for the Wallas. I probably didn’t need any additional fuel to get to Zeballos, but it’s better to have too much than not enough.

Other than fuel, Fair Harbour didn’t have much. It’s the end of a long, dirt road, and the launching point for trailerable boats in Kyuquot Sound. The store stocks chips, candy, ice, and fishing tackle during July and August, but they weren’t yet open.

After visiting Fair Harbour I headed for Dixie Cove Marine Park. Once again, I dropped the hook in windy and rainy weather, but conditions moderated in the evening and I took off in the kayak. The shoreline was interesting, but not spectacular.
Dixie Cove inner anchorage
About 2:00 am, I awoke to torrential rain and strong winds—I’d estimate 30 knots. I checked my position on GPS and I hadn’t moved. Good, the anchor is holding. I’ve been impressed with the 15lb Manson Supreme and 50-feet of chain, both last summer and this summer so far. This anchor sets almost instantly and holds amazingly well. The only problem is it tends to bring up a lot of the bottom with it!

Day 21: Walters Cove to Hankin Cove

Hankin Cove is one of a few good anchorages in Kyuquot Sound. The distance from Walters Cove is less than 10 nm, so it doesn’t take long to reach. Inside, the cove has plenty of room for anchoring and lots of coastline to explore.

I arrived in strong winds and heavy rain. After dropping the anchor, I hung out inside until after dinner, when the weather cleared and the sun peeked out. I hopped in the kayak and set of exploring. A seal colony on the Expedition Islets had attracted my attention when I entered the cove, so I paddled towards it. Unfortunately these seals were exceptionally skittish, and scampered into the water soon after they spotted me, still 1000 feet away. I felt badly forcing them off their rock.
One of the more intrepid seals
Several small streams empty in Hankin Cove
I turned around and headed back inside Hankin Cove, paddling around the perimeter. Several seals followed me, gradually getting closer. They must have been curious.

No other cruising boats. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen another cruising boat in Kyuquot Sound. Where are they all?

Day 20: Scow Bay to Walters Cove

Yesterday evenings sunny weather didn’t last. I woke up to thick cloud cover, but no rain. After breakfast and getting everything on the boat secure, I pulled anchor and left the Bunsby’s. The trip to Walters Cove was quick and uneventful. Once again, the ocean was calm. Navigation was a bit complex—I was basically threading the needle through countless rocks—but the chart plotters made it easy.
The entrance to Walters Cove
Walters Cove is a neat spot. Kyuquot (Kai-yu-kit), a First Nations community of about 200, is on one side of the bay. Several sport fishing lodges and a hotel are on the other side. A public wharf provides free moorage, and a small store at the top of the wharf has a good selection of food and other goods. The store’s hours are weird, though, so shoppers must be flexible.

I tied up at the public wharf and walked over to the hotel, which generously provides free WiFi for any and all. It’s owned by a Erik Gorbman, a Jewish caterer from Seattle who specializes in Bar/Bat Mitzvahs…an unlilely guy to find up here! His dad was a biology professor at UW and he spent time here growing up. He fell in love with the area and purchased the hotel several years ago. During July and August he provides meals for visitors and the First Nations community. He’s a super nice guy, and even though he doesn’t have much to sell visiting cruisers, he welcomes them all.

The weather forecast looks nasty for the coming days, with southeasterly gales and correspondingly rough seas. I’ll poke around Kyuquot Sound until the weather calms.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 19: Columbia Cove to Scow Bay

I somewhat reluctantly left Columbia Cove mid-morning. This is a great spot, worthy of more exploration. Lots to see.
This baby crab came aboard with the anchor rode.
The trip to the Bunsby’s is short, just 10 miles or so. I cruised on a slow plane and made it in less than an hour. After poking around a few anchorages, I settled into Scow Bay for the night.
This bald eagle greeted me at Scow Bay.
A large lagoon at the head of Scow Bay begged for kayaking. I kayaked around the whole area. While I could have gotten Retriever in at high tide, motoring through the shallow, uncharted lagoon would have been nerve-wracking.

I returned to Retriever, made lunch, and read for much of the afternoon. By 3:00 or so the sun was shining brightly, and I gathered up a camera and GPS and set off for more kayak exploring. This time I headed through Gay Passage, towards the ocean. I’m finding that the ocean side of this coast is intriguing, and totally unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled by boat in the northwest. It’s much more rugged, more threatening, and less forgiving. But on a calm day, the gentle surge of the swell and untouched sandy beaches are magical.

I paddled around for an hour and a half, stopping at beaches along the way and relishing the sun. I actually got hot! If only I’d filled up the sun shower…
Paradise found!
Beautiful, rugged beaches abound
The exploring possibilities are nearly endless...
Eventually I made my way back to the anchorage. The sun wouldn’t set for several more hours. I read, cooked dinner, and read some more. Eventually, when the sun did set, the colors were magnificent.
Sunset from Scow Bay
Tomorrow I’ll be back in “civilization” at Walters Cove. Notably I’m at about the same latitude of Desolation Sound, but it’s way more desolate out here. 

10.8 nm today
545.7 nm total

Day 18: Julian Cove to Columbia Cove

The weather forecast this morning still looked good and the weather stations reported excellent conditions. By 5:15 am I was underway, cruising at 12.5 knots towards the ocean.

Mist hung thick in the air, reducing visibility to less than a mile. I run the radar constantly, so I’m familiar with its use when I really need it, and today was just such a day. Traffic was understandably light in Quatsino Sound at this early hour, but a few sportfishing boats did pass me. Radar gave me plenty of advanced notice.

By 6:30 I was into the ocean swells, and by 7:00 I had cleared Quatsino Sound. Visibility was still limited, but the wind was calm. Retriever danced across the swells comfortably, except for one problem. The heat wasn’t working.
The view in every direction
I use a Wallas 85DU for both cooking and heating aboard Retriever. Designed and built in Finland (and it’s reallllly fin-icky!), it’s a clever little device that burns diesel fuel. This is ideal on the boat, since diesel isn’t nearly as volatile as propane, the other popular cooking and heating fuel. The Wallas stove is also phenomenally expensive, and in my experience, not all that reliable. In fact, I’ve had more problems with the Wallas than with everything else on the boat combined.

After starting the engine first thing this morning, I flipped the power switch for the Wallas. I’d then gotten the boat ready to go (running the kicker for a few minutes, stowing everything, pulling up the anchor) and forgotten about the Wallas. But 15 minutes later, the cabin felt cold. I looked at the control panel for the Wallas and noticed it was dark. I figured this was some fluke, flipped the switch off and then on again, and waited.

Ten minutes later, it was off again. It was like the Wallas wasn’t getting fuel. I checked to be sure the fuel intake was sucking up diesel. It was. The fuel pump was clicking, and the intake was well below the level of the fuel in the tank. After seven power on-and-off cycles, and numerous system resets, I gave up. I’d tear the thing apart when I anchored for the night. Maybe I’d even have a new anchor!

 Everything else was still running perfectly. From the middle of Brooks Bay, I couldn’t see any land, thanks to the mist. But out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a massive plume of spray. This isn’t that uncommon, actually, since rocks extend far offshore. When the swells roll into the rocks, they explode with spectacular force. But I didn’t remember any rocks where I’d seen the spray. I double-checked the chart. Sure enough, nothing. I kept watching, and a minute later two humpbacks burst to the surface, breaching in unison. I wish I’d had my camera ready. I quickly slowed down and trained my camera lens towards them. Alas, I didn’t see them surface again.

I figured I’d try starting the Wallas one more time. I flipped the switch. The fuel pump started as normal. The light flashed, indicating the glo plug was energized. Then it became solid, and the stove was lit! It remained running the rest of the way to Columbia Cove.  What a mystery!

As I approached Brooks Peninsula, I neither saw it nor experienced rougher water. Brooks Peninsula is the piece of land that conspicuously juts into the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver Island. Cape Cook, at the tip of Brooks Peninsula, is one of the most notoriously nasty areas on the west coast, but it was calm today. Notably, Brooks Peninsula was the only part of Vancouver Island to escape the last ice age un-glaciated. As a result, it is home to species found nowhere else. Apparently it’s beautiful, but today it’s invisible.
Solander Island emerges from the fog
Seals on Solander Island 
About a mile out, Solander Island, an inhospitable piece of land off Cape Cook, came into view. I nudged close in the calm conditions in order to to see a seal colony, then continued on my way. Something about the mist hanging in the air, the desolation, and the audible surf crashing ashore made being close to Solander Island spooky. This is not a place I’d want to lose power…

A few miles further south, I passed M/Y Evivva. I’d seen Evivva in Pybus Bay last summer. Evivva is a bit larger than me, at some 164-feet. It even carries its own helicopter. Orin Edson, the founder of Bayliner and probably the only guy to ever make a billion dollars from recreational boating, owns Evivva and the shipyard that built her.
M/Y Evivva...cruising in comfort!
The rest of the trip into Columbia Cove was easy. Smooth water, and improved visibility.

I dropped the anchor and quickly set off exploring. A trail leads from Columbia Cove to a beautiful, sandy beach on the “open” side. After spotting some fresh bear scat, I whistled the entire length of the trail and kept my hand close to my canister of bear spray. I spent over an hour exploring the beach, walking from end to end. Tons of plastic trash was visible, and some evidence of kayakers, but no other people.
Xtra-Tufs are the ideal foot ware for the trail at Columbia Cove
Beautiful, sandy beach
This buoy washed ashore. It's seriously well built...I wonder what it was for?
After exploring the beach, I kayaked around the area for an hour. Kayaking along the rocky outcroppings, with a bit of surge from the endless procession of waves rolling in, is infinitely interesting. The view constantly shifts as the water rises and falls, alternately covering and uncovering myriad sea life. This is what the west coast of Vancouver Island is all about, I think.
Endless sea stars
Kayaking close to the rocks is exciting!
Tomorrow I’m off to the Bunsby Islands.

49.9 nm today
534.4 nm total

Day 17: Port Alice to Julian Cove

The weather forecast still looks good for Friday. After a bit of grocery shopping and a shower at the nearby campground, I headed out mid-morning for Julian Cove. Attentive readers will remember that I visited Julian Cove a few days ago and thought it was beautiful. I didn’t spend the night then, but I will now.

I cruised slowly to Julian Cove. Even at 5.5 knots, it didn’t take much more than an hour. This time I pulled in and found no other boats.

Soon after dropping the hook, the rain began. The wind was already blustery, and with the rain falling, I didn’t feel like doing much. Luckily, I had started an excellent book a few days ago, and I spent the afternoon and evening reading.
Beautiful Julian Cove
Now, bear with this brief digression…

The book is titled The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Grand Canyon. The boat that holds the record, the Emerald Mile, happens to be a dory. Not a C-Dory, of course, but a river dory.

The waterways of the Pacific Northwest are probably my favorite place in the world, but red rock country is a close second. I first visited Moab, Utah on a family trip one spring break in middle school. I remember enjoying the trip, but I really fell in love with the area in college. Colorado College, the school I attended, operates on a bizarre schedule. Students take one class at a time for three and a half weeks. After a final exam on the last Wednesday morning, students set off on various adventures until the next class begins the following Monday.

Each Spring, I piled into my car with a bunch of friends and drove to red rock country. The scenery is stunning, almost alien. Deep canyons, mind-boggling arches, and rocks perched in impossible places. We’d hike, scramble, and climb our way through the landscape.

Until last April, though, I’d never been to the Grand Canyon. When I visited, I was floored. A couple friends and I showed up with no reservations for staying at the bottom, but we were lucky enough score two nights at Phantom Ranch. The splendor of the Canyon is mind-boggling, the scale monumental. It’s impossible to fully appreciate from the top, but hiking to the bottom reveals breathtaking scenery, step after step. I, of course, didn’t get to raft the river, but it’s on my bucket list.

The Emerald Mile ratchets the rafting trip up a few notches on that list. The book does a superb job of telling the history of the Grand Canyon, the saga of the damming of the Colorado, and the frightening 1983 near flooding of Lake Powell. A real page turner…

Back to this trip…the weather looks great to head around Brooks Peninsula tomorrow. I’ll be up early to confirm conditions, and if all looks good, head south for the next chapter of this adventure.

6.8 nm today
484.5 nm total

Day 16: Early Bird Cove to Port Alice

Another day with not much distance to cover. Port Alice, up Neurotses Inlet, is a sawmill town with about 700 people. Apparently they also have a well-stocked grocery store, so I can resupply with fresh produce and ice before heading around Brooks Peninsula.

The public moorage is at the Port Alice Yacht Club. It’s nothing fancy, but it works. Their foreshore lease prohibits them from charging for moorage, so all moorage is by donation. No need to be a member of a reciprocal club (there are none)…this club is open to all, as long as you don’t trailer your boat in.

I got tied up and phoned Lee, the guy in charge of the docks. He came down and gave me a key so I could get in and out of the docks. They’re not used to seeing small boats that come in by water. Most of the boats my size trailer in.

Right next to the club the city is installing new public floats. These new floats will be in by mid-summer and will serve visiting boats in the future. The yacht club is greatly relieved about this, since they don’t have enough space during peak months.

Once I got settled in, I wandered around the town. It’s not big, but has a few restaurants, a great grocery store, post office, liquor store, hotel, and a few other small businesses. People were universally friendly. I don’t know if they all said hello because they didn’t recognize me or because they’re just that friendly.

The library has WiFi, so I camped out there for a bit to get a few blogs posted and do some other internet work. The WiFi wasn’t fast, but it was free.

I’ve been watching the weather for rounding Brooks Peninsula, and here’s the forecast:

Today Tonight and Thursday
Wind northwest 10 to 15 knots except northwest 20 to 25 south of the Brooks Peninsula this evening. Wind becoming northwest 20 to 25 after midnight then diminishing to northwest 10 to 15 Thursday evening.
Wind northwest 10 to 15 knots diminishing to light late in the day.
Wind southeast 15 knots increasing to southeast 25 to 35.
Wind southeast 25 to 35 knots diminishing to south 15 to 25.

Looks like Friday is the day. The weekend looks like it’ll get a bit sporty!

7.0 nm today
477.7 nm total