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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Wild Coast Part 4: Esperanza Inlet and Tahsis

We didn't spend much time here, as we had to pick up Kelly from Tahsis. Esperanza Inlet and Tahsis Inlet form an inside passage around Nootka Island.
DSC_5668 Mitumi Princess
We found this wrecked fishing boat on an abandoned dry-dock at Queen Cove, a protected anchorage close to the entrance of Esperanza Inlet.

DSC_5673 Salmon Burgers
Salmon burger. You know you've eaten a lot of salmon when you take a perfect filet and make burgers out of it.

DSC_5684 Fuel Pipes
We stopped at the Esperanza Mission. They sold fuel too, which was much needed. We had the engine running fairly inefficiently at high throttle on the leg from Rugged Point to Queen Cove. We didn't realize how far away the next fuel spot was. There wasn't a fuel dock in Kyuquot, but there was Fair Harbour, but it's a bit out of the way inside Kyuquot Sound.

DSC_5712 900 Horsepower
The rocketship, 900 horsepower of excessiveness. There was a sign saying: "Free Endervor Rocket ship ride. $500 per hour, maximum five people. Inquire at the office"

DSC_5721 Looking towards Tahsis
Looking back at Tahsis, a small town at the end of Tahsis Inlet. It had been raining pretty hard those couple of days. Kelly arrived that night, and we left the next afternoon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wild Coast Part 3: The Brooks Peninsula

Aug 3 - Aug 7

The Brooks Peninsula is believed to have been untouched by the last glaciation, leaving behind unique plant species. The peninsula sticks out like a sore thumb from Vancouver Island, often forming a weather system of its own. Solander Island regularly reports the strongest winds on the west coast. With a bit of good planning and luck, we managed to sail around the Peninsula in calmer than average conditions.

We left Winter Harbour quite late, and bobbed up and down in the swell out by the Quatsino lighthouse, wondering if we could make it to the next anchorage in one piece. The sailing was really good down to Klaskino anchorage, about 12 miles away. With the wind at our back, we were sailing on a broad reach the entire way down at 6.5 to 7 knots.

DSC_4896 Sunset
A race against the sun.

DSC_4912 Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

DSC_4944 Scouler Entrance
West coast scenery

DSC_4879 Sunset

A lot of these places on the west coast would be quite difficult to get to without a chartplotter, especially if you're not familiar with the area and it's dark. There's countless rocks, some that you can see, and others where you either see kelp floating above it, or just swells crashing over. Scouler Entrance was no exception, and we were thankful for that piece of technology.

The next day we explored the Klaskish basin, an almost landlocked paradise, entered via a narrow 20m wide channel. The Klaskish basin was quite a spectacular sight. We were close to East Creek, which was once one of the last unlogged valleys on Vancouver Island, until 2003. I had heard about this place, supposedly a magical place, one of the greatest rainforest on the planet. Although we could see the scars of logging higher in the valley, the Klaskish river estuary has been protected, a really neat place to explore. We took the dingy up the river, but our journey ended too soon when the river ended where several large trees had fallen over it.

DSC_4998 Exploring the Klaskish Basin
Ed walking along the shores of the Klaskish River

DSC_5042 Acid trip
Bright green moss contrasting the black basalt

DSC_5118 Klaskish River Estuary
The Klaskish River estuary

Next up was the rounding of the Brooks Peninsula. The weather was quite calm that day, and we had a more or less uneventful rounding. In fact, we probably motored most of it as the winds never picked up over 10 knots until we reached Solander Island.

DSC_5135 The Brooks Peninsula
Looking at the Brooks Peninsula.

DSC_5186 Cape Cook and Solander Island
Approaching Cape Cook and Solander Island. It was cloudy and threatening to rain, but the water was quite calm.

DSC_5212 Solander Island
Solander Island, an ecological preserve off-limits to humans. Ed wanted to anchor Salus and take the dinghy to shore, but I convinced him that we shouldn't trample over such an amazing place. The whole island is craggy, covered in moss, and every square inch seemed to be filled with wildlife.

DSC_5237 Beach landing
Beach landing.

The next logical spot to stop around Cape Cook is Columbia Cove, a protected anchorage, with a trail leading to this sandy beach facing the Pacific ocean. The water was quite calm, so Ed decided to anchor the boat close to shore, and we took the dinghy on its (and our) first surf landing. I was quite amazed that we didn't flip the dinghy. We thought the tide was going out, so we didn't pull the dinghy very far up the beach. We would later regret this.

We greeted the kayakers who were on the beach, on a guided expedition exploring the Brooks Peninsula. They were quite fascinated by our dinghy landing, mostly amazed that we didn't capsize, and hoping for the same result on our way out. After exchanging stories and sharing a dinner, Ed and I set off towards the dinghy. We were wrong about the tide, the tide was slowing coming up, and our dinghy was now in the water, almost completely filled, along with our extra clothes. Under the nervous watch of the kayak guide, who was standing on the beach wondering if we would need a rescue, we launched into the crashing swells. After several failed attempts to break through the surf, we must have done something right as we emerged above from the beach, much to the cheers of the spectators on the beach. We were completely soaked, the dinghy was filled with water, and Ed was more or less inebriated.

DSC_5281 Stump
Massive stump on the beach at Columbia Cove.

DSC_5303 The Maiatla
The Maiatla anchored in Columbia Cove. Onboard was a friendly family from Nanaimo, also sailing around Vancouver Island.

The next stop was Battle Bay, an expansive stretch of sheltered water, named for the battles that took place between the local tribes and the Haida tribe. There was suppose to be an old native village nearby, but we never found it in the diminishing light.

DSC_5325 Trees in Battle Bay
Trees at sunset.

DSC_5333 Intertidal Zone
Intertidal life.

DSC_5347 Starfish
Salus anchored at West Battle Bay.

DSC_5400 Beach fire
Beach bonfire at Battle Bay

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wild Coast Part 2: Exploring Quatsino Sound

Jul 31 - Aug 3

The huge Quatsino Sound, one of many on the west coast of Vancouver Island, almost divides the north end of the Island in half. Only a small strip of land separates Port Hardy from Coal Harbour, a small community deep inside the inlet. These inlets offer refuge from the ocean for weary sailors, and great sport fishing as seen by the many fishing boats and fishing lodges found here.

DSC_4202 Looking up Quatsino Inlet

A prudent sailer would try to time their passage up and down these inlets in accordance with the inflow and outflow winds. In general, the inflow winds start around noon, strengthening in the afternoon. Outflow winds build in the late evening and die by early morning. We stopped for lunch in East Cove, tucked behind a few small islands with a few trees to shelter against the wind. A lovely isthmus and pebble beach looked worthwhile to explore. One could spend a month or more on this coast exploring all the nooks and crannies, or sail it the west coast from Winter Harbour to Ucluelet in three days as they do on the bi-ennial race around the island.

DSC_4217 Sails

Sport fishing boats are a common sight in the sound. The small communities of Winter Harbour, Holberg, and Coal Harbour are heavily based around the fishing industry. Not being locals, we would often look to see where other boats were, and try our luck in those locations.

Sailing at sunset up Quatsino Sound.

DSC_4254 Sunset over Quatsino Inlet
Sunset in Quatsino Sound.

DSC_4325 Sailing Wing on Wing
Sailing wing on wing up Quatsino Sound.

DSC_4336 Still sailing
Still sailing. Ed was persistent on sailing the entire day without the use of the engine. The last mile to Pamphlet Cove probably took an hour as we crawled along at 0.5-1 knot in the non-existent wind, only moving due to the current.

DSC_4357 Prairie Fire
A bastardized version of a Prairie Fire. Tequila, soy sauce, and hot red pepper powder. Don't try this at home.

DSC_4417 Foggy Island
Fog is a common occurrence on the west coast. Usually its just foggy on the coast, but the fog occasionally extends inland too. It's neat see the banks of fog cresting over the top of the trees. Most boats out here have both radar and chartplotters to deal with the constant fog and numerous rocks and reefs. We had a close call with a rock during a moment of inattention. We also had another close call when a fast moving fishing boat appeared out of the fog going across our bow.

DSC_4505 Tidal Stream
Tidal flats.

The inner section of Quatsino Sound is seperated from the outer section by Quatsino Narrows, a narrow channel with currents reaching 8 knots. Timing was key here. We decided to explore Varney Bay and Marble River Provincial Park that afternoon. The Marble river is a really neat place, almost a bird paradise. The first part of the river is wide with tidal flats, but suddenly it narrows and we were surrounded by steep limestone walls with high vegetation. We see eagles perched in the trees above, and sea otters swimming in the water. It might be possible to continue all the way to the source, Alice Lake, but after two portages with the dinghy we felt satisfied. Definitely a highlight. The best time to explore would to go up river just before high tide, so the current would help you in and out.

DSC_4592 Marble River Canyon
The limestone canyon.

DSC_4682 Salmon Filets
Grilled salmon

DSC_4704 Old Building
Old building from World War II in Coal Harbour.

Coal Harbour was named for some coal deposits found nearby. It used to be the last whaling station on the West Coast, but the only evidence of that today is a monument with a harpoon and the old whaling building. We heard that the not to be missed site in Coal Harbour was the massive blue whale jawbone on display, possibly the largest in the world. I walked by the site twice, but just couldn't see it. And then I asked some locals and they laughed, since apparently I just walked by it. I was baffled wondering where it was. Eventually some guy drove by and explained that some drunk idiot had driven into it, probably thinking it was a goal post.

DSC_4727 Moonrise
Moonrise over inner Quatsino Sound

DSC_4733 Fishing boat at night
Fishing boat at night.

DSC_4848 Quatsino Sound
Quatsino Sound

We waited at Winter Harbour, hoping for a favourable forecast. While it was protected there and inside Quatsino Sound, the outer sections were experiencing a gale. The marine forecast was calling for 2-3m seas, 25-35 knots of wind. While the boat probably could have handle that, we weren't quite sure if we were up to it, and the torn mainsail would be tested. Admittedly we were getting a bit antsy, having spent a few days now in Quatsino Sound, and we were craving the open ocean and a change of scenery. Around 5pm, we decided to go out into the sound and see what the wind was doing. It was still blowing strong, gusting 25-30 knots but it felt like the winds were diminishing as per the forecast. We messed around a bit, getting used to tacking and steering in the wind and swell, and once we felt confident, we decided to sail towards the Brooks Pennisula in a race against the sun.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Millennium Falcon

Millennium Falcon, top of Pitch 7
Sarah, Matt, Bram and I climbed Millennium Falcon lite on Saturday. What a great climb! Lots of sustained climbing, with only four pitches easier than 5.10. Spent the next day bouldering. Quote of the day, as Ben's friend explains why he didn't go trad climbing with him, "I was afraid your fat ass was going to pull out my trad on the way up." Or something funny like that.
IMG_3765 Sarah on the Arete
Sarah on the technical arete. Pitch 4, 11a. The initial sections, protected by three bolts, felt like the main crux of the pitch.

IMG_3771 Climber on Freeway
Climbers on Freeway

IMG_3775 Climbers on Freeway

IMG_3778 Bram on the fingercrack
Bram on the finger crack of Pitch 3. 10d

IMG_3787 Sarah and Matt on Bellygood Ledge
It's possible to climb four more pitches to the top, but its suppose to be hard 11b slab, so we passed. It was a busy day on the Grand Wall, and one party walked by us carrying a 50L haulbag. They hauled it up the Grandwall!
More photos here
A pitch by pitch description of the route can be found here on Mountain Project and also on Cascade Climbers. Go climb it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Wild Coast Part 1: Port Hardy to Winter Harbour

Jul 27 - Aug 15 2009

I spent three weeks of my summer joining my friend Ed on a sailing trip down the West Coast of Vancouver Island, from Port Hardy to Tofino. This is an amazing coastline, with countless stretches of rugged shores, lots of sandy beaches, and interesting remote communities.

The West Coast of Vancouver Island has been described as the last rugged coast of North America. Endless stretches of sandy beaches, countless offshore rocks and reefs, and rugged shorelines. Open to the never-ending Pacific swells. Surrounded in a layer of fog. The West Coast experience.

Most people circumnavigate Vancouver Island in a counter-clockwise direction, starting from either Vancouver or Victoria, sailing up the inside passage up to Port Hardy, around Cape Scott at the north end, and then down the west coast and back home through the Juan de Fuca Strait. There's even a biennial sailing race around Vancouver Island.

Earlier in the summer, Ed Estabrook posted on the Varsity Outdoor Club message board looking for crew. It's always a gamble posting and looking for crew. You might get some amazing crew, but you might also get somebody whose personality doesn't quite fit yours. And on a boat, on the open ocean, there's not much space for conflicts. I've done a few sailing trips before, but the West Coast has an offshore reputation, something different than what I was used to. I wasn't really sure about the condition of Ed's boat either, or his sailing ability, and I was just hoping we would make it to Tofino in one piece, along with the boat.

Despite that fact that both of us were unemployed, our schedule didn't quite work out, and I ended up joining Ed several weeks into his trip in Port Hardy. Elsa, another VOCer, also joined me in the long bus ride up. We met a motel owner from Coquitlam, who made the commute to Port McNeil (just before Port Hardy) for his two week shifts at his motel there. Now that's a long commute.

We met Ed in Port Hardy and stocked up with food from Overwaitea. Fresh vegetables, pasta, rice, bacon, sausages, cheese. We only had a small icebox onboard, and the food only lasted as long as there was ice, which would be about 4-5 days unless we found some more. That wouldn't always be the case. Some things last forever, like rice and pasta. And other things, like yams, potatos, carrots, melons also keep well. Later during a point of low provisions, we made a carrot and potato curry. The staff here are used to people purchasing large amounts of food. At the checkout they're ready to box it up, and even provide a free taxi service to your boat. Turns out the several hundred that we spent was on the lower end of what they normally see from other boaters and fishermen.

The next morning after doing a much needed liquor run, we left Port Hardy at 1:00pm. The journey up Goletas Channel would take most of the afternoon and into the late evening, fighting against both a head current and light to strong winds. Of course it was foggy too. Eventually we gave up on sailing and switched the motor on, in hopes of reaching Bull Harbour before dark.

DSC_3845 Choppy Conditions
Sailing up Goletas channel with a furled jib sail and reefed mainsail. This was when the winds were still strong.

DSC_3943 Sunset in Bull Harbour
Sunset at Bull Harbour. The other boats were also preparing to round Cape Scott the next morning on their journey down the West Coast.

We rounded Cape Scott the next morning. We woke up early in order to cross Nahwitti Bar at slack tide. It was fairly anticlimatic, with nothing more than some low swells. The bar is notorious for having rip-tide conditions, where the wind and current oppose each other over this shallow section of wave, forming large standing waves that can be impassable to small crafts like ours.

DSC_4001 Sailing boat and Cape Scott
Fellow sailboat and Cape Scott in the background. The winds would build in the afternoon, but speed was the priority so we continued motoring until the winds strengthen.

DSC_4010 Gennaker Near-Disaster

The rounding of Cape Scott went smoothly, but we had a near-disaster when we flew the gennaker on the run down to Sea Otter Cove. We were cruising along at 7 knots, surfing the swells, perfect. But soon the winds increased to 15-20 knots, and we were a bit shorthanded and inexperienced to handle the big sail in these conditions. We were getting really close to shore, and I finally convinced Ed to gybe. I'm not completely sure what happened, but the gennaker wrapped around the forestay several times as we changed course. The sheet and guy line were also attached to the sail using climbing caribiners, and I think these clipped themselves to each other, making the problem worse than normal. I was up on the foredeck, one eye looking at the sail desperately trying to untangle it, and the other eye looking at the lee shore. Ed later told me that we reached the 9m contour while I was up there battling it. We switched spots, I went back to steer the point several miles off our desired course, towards Japan, while Ed yelled and cursed at the sail trying to get it down. The sail has a sock which it slides into, but those lines were caught too and we ended up dousing the whole sail into the forward hatch.

DSC_4078 Landslide on Mount St. Patrick
Entrance to Sea Otter Cove. A welcomed relief from the open Pacific. The landslide is on Mount St. Patrick.

The next day of sailing was great! We didn't mess around with the gennaker again, and instead chose to just sail wing on wing, with the jib set to the other side using the spinnaker pole. This makes steering easy, especially with a gybe-preventer set on the mainsail, but it's not the most comfortable point of sail in the moderate swells.

DSC_4139 The Fuel Dock
The fuel dock at Winter Harbour. The first community encountered on the West Coast after Port Hardy. Public docks are available to moor at, but we didn't feel like paying for moorage (usually $0.75 per foot), so we motored over to nearby Browning Inlet to drop the anchor. The weather seemed a bit unsettled, and we heard sounds of distant thunder. I was hoping to see St Elmo's fire, but no luck.