Sunday, June 23, 2013

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

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