Sunday, Aug 27, 2006

Posted on August 27th, 2006 by Darusha

Depart: Bamfield, 8 am
Breakfast: eggs & bread aboard
Weather: heavy fog

Despite being unable to see across Bamfield’s narrow harbour, Wai Whare set off in dense fog. The crew was optimistic that the fog would dissipate early as it had in Ucluelet, and there was a long day ahead. Wai Whare lost sight on land at the entrance to Bamfield harbour and would not see land again until inside Port San Juan nine hours later.

We motored a compass course toward Cape Beale in fog, light swell and even lighter wind. Relying on the GPS to accurately determine our position, we turned off Cape Beale toward Juan de Fuca. We motored for hours in light wind and 1-2 m swell. The fog stayed with us; sometimes visibility was several hundred metres, but mostly we could see 2-3 waves away, perhaps 100m.

We heard a mayday on the radio, and determined that the vessel in distress was nearby and along our planned route. We kept a sharper lookout but we passed in the mist, as the Coast Guard arrived at their location.

We also encountered a 40ish foot sloop from Gibraltar, adrift as there was no wind and its engine had failed. We circled and discussed the situation. We could not safely come alongside in the 2 m swell, and had nothing to offer anyway, so we left her (we saw her later motoring in Port Renfrew).

Plotting our position regularly, we were rewarded by hearing and finally seeing the buoy outside Port San Juan. We turned to enter the bay and the outboard started to stutter. Suspecting that the gas tank was empty, we turned off the engine and clumsily refilled from the spare tank. Of course, this all occurred with land finally in sight – several rocks formed a dangerous lee shore. The engine was a little better after filling the tank, so we puttered into the fog toward the harbour, only to catch sea weed on the rudder. Another long five minutes fighting the sea weed in sight of the rocks then we motored off, with the engine sounding better.

There is only one dock in Port Renfrew. It isn’t a public harbour; it isn’t sheltered. It is full and falling apart. We found one free spot and took it to discover that it was reserved by the hotel. We walked a block to the nice-looking hotel to discover that the spot was reserved. As the dock was otherwise full, we departed.

We went to anchor behind a tiny breakwater, only to find other vessels there. We found a spot and dropped the hook in 15 kt wind, 2′ chop and mist that made it difficult to see. Our first drop set the anchor, but was too shallow in the falling tide, so we motored to a deeper less sheltered spot. The night, however, was calm and we had a restful night.

Port Renfrew

Posted on August 27th, 2006 by Steven

Port Renfrew is the name of the town at Port San Juan, a 2km by 6km bay on Vancouver Island facing the straight of Juan De Fuca. The bay is large and free of harzards except close to shore at the entrance. The bay gradually shallows to a beach and there is plenty of room to anchor at any depth. However, the bay is not very well sheltered.

There used to be a public dock at Port Renfrew, but it has been privatized. The dock was lined with sport-fishing charter-boats and has very little transient moorage. There was none available when we were there. Which might have been for the best as the dock is in terrible shape and the repair work that has been done in the recent past is of very poor quality. Add a surprisingly large amount of current and winds as strong as outside the bay and the docks were the most dangerous part of the day. Remember that we spent the whole day in strong winds, tall waves, and fog before you approach this particular dock.

Sailing Directions recommends “leaving Port San Juan for Neah Bay immediately if strong south west winds are encountered”. There is no shelter from the south west and the even the north westerly winds that prevail in Juan de Fuca funnelled up the bay, seemingly stronger than they were outside.

In short, I can’t recommend stoping at Port Renfrew. It is the only place to anchor between Bamfield and Sooke on the Canadian side of Juan de Fuca, so I have to recommend Neah Bay on the US side sight-unseen. The distances from Bamfield-Neah Bay and Neah Bay-Sooke are very close to those stopping in Port Renfrew, and Neah Bay could hardly be a worse anchorage.


  • Docks: yes
    • Washrooms: not at the docks
    • Showers: not at the docks
    • Laundry: not at the docks
    • Restaurant: yes
    • Gas: no
  • Mooring Cans: none, they’re on the chart but we didn’t see them.
  • Cell service: none

Friday, Aug 25, 2006

Posted on August 25th, 2006 by Darusha

Depart: Tofino, noon
Breakfast: Bacon & eggs
Weather: fog

The impenetrable fog around Tofino lifted after 11 am and we decided to depart. We pumped out the holding tak for free then departed the docks. We motored out of Tofino under sunny skies, but were caught by dense fog before clearing the Barrier Islands. We motored a compass course and the fog lifted fortuitously for us to confirm our exit past the Barrier Islands.

We brought up the sails, but concerned about the fog and our late departure, we motorsailed at 5-6 kt. We used the GPS to plot our position as we sailed a compass course in 1 m swell. At times visibility was quite poor, but generally we could see several hundred metres, but could not see land. The fog cleared as we passed Long Beach and we continued under sunny skies to Ucluelet.

We also discovered how to set the autopilot on a compass course and later checked the oil on the outboard.

Thursday, Aug 24, 2006

Posted on August 24th, 2006 by Darusha

Depart: 9:30, Hot Springs Cove
Breakfast: Porridge/leftover vegetables
Weather: sunny, light wind

Motored out of Hot Springs Cove, brought up foresail early and slowly sailed up Sydney Channel. Turned into Shelter Inlet where we brought up the main and alternately zoomed along and drifted. As we turned into Miller Channel, the wind blew up the channel and we tacked closehauled in moderate winds heeled over for some time. We furled and motored into Calmus Channel and on to Tofino.


Posted on August 24th, 2006 by Steven

Bamfield is a small town that surrounds a narrow inlet. While smaller than Tofino or Ucluelet, it is bigger than the other towns on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It has a year-round restaurant, store, offices, and a coast guard station. There is a boardwalk along the inlet, but there are also roads inland.

We stayed at the public dock, which is about halfway down the inlet on the west side. It was crowded with ridiculously small craft, with rowboats and canoes taking up much of the space. We tied up to the end of a finger of dock and the smaller vesels left before dark.

The harbour is too narrow to anchor in most places, but is well sheltered.

  • Docks: yes
    • Washrooms:yes, not at the docks
    • Showers: no
    • Laundry: no
    • Restaurant: yes, but irregular hours
    • Gas: no
  • Mooring Cans: no
  • Cell service: none


Posted on August 24th, 2006 by Steven

Being urban-dwellers, Ucluelet was what we expected all Vancouver Island towns to be like. Ucluelet has dock space for about one 30 foot boat for every building, and has about 100 of each. There are several hotels, restaurants, and other tourist infrastructure. There is also a functioning commercial fishery, something that was entirely absent everywhere else on the west side of Vancouver Island.

The harbour in Ucluelet is long and somewhat shallow. The wind was funneling down it when we where there, but there were still sheltered spots for a dozen boats to anchor. As usual we tied up to the public dock, which entirely fills a cove. The public dock is very well sheltered.

We enjoyed our stay in Ucluelet.

  • Docks: yes
    • Washrooms:yes
    • Showers: not at the docks
    • Laundry: not at the docks
    • Restaurant: yes
    • Gas: yes
  • Mooring Cans: no
  • Cell service: yes

Wednesday, Aug 23, 2006

Posted on August 23rd, 2006 by Darusha

Depart: Friendly Cove, 9:00
Breakfast: Porridge
Weather: Overcast, thin fog, light wind

10:00 49° 31′ 56 N 126° 36′ 19 W, light S, light SW swell, motoring
11:00 49° 26′ 56 N 126° 36′ 43 W, light S, 2′ west swell, motoring
12:00 49° 23′ 18 N 126° 36′ 02 W, – , 1 m W swell, motoring
13:00 49° 21′ 39 N 126° 30′ 30 W, 5 kt W, 1-2 m W swell, motoring
14:00 49° 21′ 16 N 126° 24′ 47 W, 5 kt W, 2′ W swell, motoring

Motored out of Friendly Cove in light fong and active mist. Winds were light as we weaved through the fish boats in Nootka Sound. We passed Estevan Point and tried to sail with the wind behind us. We made 2-2.5 kt, but decided that speed was the better option and returned to motoring. As we approached the entrance to Hot Springs Cove, we saw the sailboat we’d been following all day – the first sailboat we had seen on the West coast.

We entered Hot Springs Cove and docked next to the sailboat. After a stay at the nearby hot springs with Richard, the other sailboat’s singlehanded skipper, we returned to Wai Whare.

We went over to Richard’s boat for a potluck supper with Nick and Jenna from a junk rigged boat anchored out in the cove. All of our dinner companions were also sailing around the island. We discovered that Wai Whare was the smallest of all these relatively small vessles – Richard’s boat is 27′ and the three masted junk is 26′ overall and 28′ long on deck.


Posted on August 23rd, 2006 by Steven

Tofino is a town catering to tourists. By west-coast-Vancouver-island standards it is a city. It has all services.

We tried and failed to eat out in Tofino. In the summer there are more tourists than seats in restaurants, so you’ll need reservations and expect to pay C$30-40. If you’re sailing down the coast and you’re on a budget I’d recommend eating onboard in Tofino and treating yourself in Ucluelet.

Tofino has a solid kilometer of docks. We stayed at the public small craft harbour. The wharfinger there was very helpful. When we docked there was at least a knot of current pushing us off the dock, which made for several false starts. We also had some trouble with excess wake.

The approach to Tofino from the north is a cut through a submerged sand bar marked by three sets of port/starboard buoys. The cut is much smaller and shallower than it looks; keel boats should keep to the centre of the lane and let the shallower-draft, tourist-filled zodiacs either wait their turn or go around. Luckily, the coast guard station is only a 100m away and they’ll happily pull you off if you run aground on a falling tide.

  • Docks: yes
    • Washrooms:yes
    • Showers: yes, in town
    • Laundry: yes, in town
    • Restaurant: yes
    • Gas: yes
  • Mooring Cans: no
  • Cell service: yes

Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006

Posted on August 22nd, 2006 by Darusha

Depart: Zeballos, 10:45
Breakfast: omelette/bacon & eggs at Zeballos Hotel
Weather: overcast, light wind

11:45 Zeballos/Hecate/Esperanza intersection, 5 kt S, rippled, motoring
12:45 Tahsis Narrows, light, glassy, motoring
13:45 abeam Blowhole Bay, 10+ S, light chop, motoring
14:45 past Tsowwin Narrows, 10 S, light chop, motoring
15:45 north of Strange Island light, 15 S, light chop, motoring
16:45 Spanish Pilots light, 15+SW, light chop, motoring

Day 18, can’t decide what day it is.

Enjoyed a leisurely mornign in Zeballos, eating out and showering for free. Departed Zeballos under sunny skies, unaware of what lay ahead. We motored through the various fjords in glassy calm conditions. Once in Tahsis Inlet we encountered 10 kt on the nose, which we wisely chose to motor through.

Many hours later we entered Nootka Sound, where we had 20 kt winds on the nose with the unreasonably short and steep 1-2′ waves that indicate current opposing wind. One and a half hours of bouncing in thise waves brought us to Friendly Cove (Yuquot) which must have been named for the warmth of the people as it is a lousy anchorage.

Hot Springs Cove

Posted on August 22nd, 2006 by Steven

Hot Springs Cove ( 49°21′N, 126°16′W ) is a provincial park with a 2km-long boardwalk leading to a natural hotspring. The boardwalk is longest, best-maintained, most-scenic one that I’ve seen in BC. It leads through temperate rain forest and hundreds of planks have boat names carved in it.

The hotsprings trickle by large bolders forming irregular-shaped pools that are difficult to walk in. There were dozens of people filling the pools to capacity when we were there. Float planes and tour boats bring tourists to the springs during the day, but you can have the springs to yourself if you come at dawn or after dark. There is an outhouse near the spring but there is no other infrastructure, which is a bit odd: at the end of 2 kilometers of boardwalk there isn’t anywhere to sit, or hide from rain.

Our stay there was an absolute joy.

The cove itself has a short dock that is crowed with tour boats. The chart shows mooring buoys but there aren’t any. There were several boats anchored in the cove. The cove is very well sheltered from the prevaling westerly wind, and the entrance is well marked, wide, and deep.

  • Docks: yes
    • Washrooms:yes
    • Showers: no
    • Laundry: no
    • Restaurant: no
    • Gas: no
  • Mooring Cans: No. The chart shows them, but they aren’t there.
  • Cell service: none