Between a Mence and a Brabant

IMGP5150 We anchored between Mence & Brabant Islands. That anchorage requires a stern anchor (like a stern tie but you use a second anchor) to limit your swing. Another beautiful place and incidentally, loaded with oysters. The summer is a bad time of year for oysters. They get ready to reproduce and get, let’s call it “squishy”. 

The weather has turned for an early Fall which is a big bummer for us. Some Septembers are still sunny. So far, this one mostly isn’t. We’ve had enough sun to get out swimming at Lucky Creek and we take full advantage of every sunny afternoon to kayak. We had two sunny 2-3 hour windows, two afternoons in a row when we were at Mence-Brabant and so the first day we kayaked over to and around Hand Island (just stunningly beautiful – there is world class kayak camping here IMHO – pictured here on the right is a campsite) and the second day we stuck close to our anchorage and went around Mence Island.

In photos:

Tasty critters

Barkley Sound is good to us again in the shellfish arena. Mmmm…

Crabs, crabs, crabs

Oysters and Carol shucking with his newest shucking injury (food fights back)

Gorgeous Pacific blue mussels marinara with burnt yam fries (oops, my bad)

Joe’s Bay & the CCA

IMG_5125Joe’s Bay was on our list of places to visit in the Broken Group for reasons described yesterday but we had added incentive because friends aboard MV Eventide (pictured in the right of both photos) suggested that we hang out with the Cruising Club of America’s PNW Chapter who would be cruising the Broken Group when we would be there. We chose Joe’s Bay to meet up with them. MV Eventide introduced us first to SV Shingebiss II whom we spent several hours chatting with and picking their brains. This couple returned 3 years ago from a 14 year, primarily high latitude (far North and far South) circumnavigation. They visited places like Antarctica and the Falkland Islands in their sailboat. Way cool, eh? We also spent time chatting with SV Lyric who also spent years circumnavigating, who traveled to most of the places we are dying to visit and were kind enough to fill our ears and our bellies one morning. In both cases the boats left from this area which adds to the excitement for us. Two more couples, on two more boats, who left from approximately here to have an adventure.

 IMG_5143We attended a dinner and a sing-a-long aboard an absolutely enormous motor vessel (MV Far Out) which was great fun.  Carol led the crowd in “Alouette” to sing for our dinner ;) The hosts deserve a medal for having close to 50 soggy boaters aboard their boat all arriving and departing in a rainstorm. One sobering moment was when a boater left and stepped off the swim platform into thin air. Thankfully someone was outside to hear him fall and to pull him aboard. I don’t know if he had on a PFD. It is a good reminder that some of the most dangerous times of boating are during the silly, easy tasks.

A criteria to become a member of the CCA is having done a significant ocean passage and they were kind to invite strangers who hadn’t done so into their midst. We had a great time.

Kayaking near Joe’s Bay

Joe’s Bay is a magical spot for us. I’ve already described how we feel about Barkley Sound after our short visit last year. Joe’s Bay epitomizes Barkley Sound and the Broken Group. While inside Joe’s Bay you might wonder why we feel so strongly about it. The bay itself is nice but not nicer than any of a half dozen surrounding it.  But if you get into your kayak and tour around the small islands just North of the bay, you can see why we fell in love with it. Plus, you’ll never guess what I found in a tree…



So cool. We went out on deck after dark and tossed tiny handfuls of rice which hit the water like sparks, immediately to be followed by tubes of light (housing fish) that darted around in the water near where the rice hit.

I can’t wait to see a dolphin, a big fish or a whale lit up like that, or to be underway through it. We’ve seen it before, most often in our toilet at night. The first time that happened I thought I was losing it. We’ve also been anchored in a swift current between Portland & Brackman Islands and seen the bioluminescence illuminating our anchor chain – tres cool.

Yes, yes. I wish I had pictures too.

Relative boat size

Our boat was big and now it is small.

We had read in various books and magazines that the size of the average cruising boat is increasing.  Our boat is just under 11 meters (35 feet) which was apparently a big boat for the 70s and 80s but is one of the smaller boats in the current cruising fleet.

We’re finding that to be true. In fact, an experienced cruiser recently told us to ask for advice on how to cruise “in a smaller boat”. Most of the people that we have met on the West Coast of Vancouver Island are not full-time cruisers, or people with offshore cruising plans, and so we still can’t answer that question fully but I have to say that on the outside of Van Isle we are almost always the smallest sailboat. This was not true on the inside of Vancouver Island where we were a medium sized boat. Out here we see smaller powerboats, especially fishing boats, but we have seen only two sailboats smaller than us that we can remember and a few more that were the same size as us. Almost all of the boats we see are 40’ or larger.

We have friends crossing the Pacific this season in a 30 foot boat so we are definitely not anywhere near the smallest boat out there by any stretch and we think our boat is plenty big enough. In fact, it is large and luxurious compared to what many people have circumnavigated in. Hot, pressurized water, refrigeration with a (wee) freezer, computers, and soon a watermaker (my non-boater friends are laughing at these “luxuries” I’m sure).

One boat nook

IMG_5096We left Lucky Creek for Jarvis Island – relatively close by in the Broken Group. We poked into a tiny anchorage where we needed to stern tie.

For the non-boaters, this is a good time to explain anchoring. You are aware that we drop a big metal hook off the front of the boat with chain/rope attached to it and it keeps us from moving far. We still move of course, in a circle around the anchor whose radius is approximately the length of the chain/rope we let out.  The idea is that you let out more than three times as much rope as you have depth. This keeps your angle to the ground low enough that the anchor has a chance to bite into the ground. If you imagine only dangling enough rope that the anchor barely touches the ground, you can see how that isn’t going to work. Also, by putting out a bunch of chain, in addition to keeping the anchor low, you add a bunch of weight on the ground. In light to medium winds we will often only be pulling on our pile of chain, not even on our anchor yet.

Sometimes, you want to put out a certain amount of rope, but you can’t swing in a full circle because there is crunchy stuff or because there are other boats and so you decide to stern tie or stern anchor. Stern tying is taking a line to shore and tying it to the back of the boat to limit where you’ll move to one quadrant of the anchoring circle. In the chart below, the M’s in circles are about where the boat was (our anchor was ahead of there) and the brown bit with the line to it on the right was the rock where we tied the stern. By the way, the chart is slightly offset from our GPS. We were definitely closer to the shore on the bottom of this picture than the markers indicate – another reason to trust your eyes.

This all sounds simple enough, right? Except, as anyone who has tried to stern tie knows, done inexpertly, it can be a gong show.  Our good friends Ryan & Christine experienced (and participated in) one of our early attempts at stern tying in which we kept almost drifting into another boat.

The issue is that there is a period of time after you drop your anchor and before you tie the butt up where you have to avoid drifting into the very crunchies which are in your “drifting circle” and that you are stern tying to avoid. Meanwhile, one of you is hurrying out in the dinghy with the rope to secure to the rock, or tree or special ring installed by the park.

But you can only hurry in the dinghy so much. Just to make it even more interesting, it is a good idea to enter a small rock strewn anchorage at low tide when you can see the rocks…but that means that the place you are going to tie to is now high up in the air. For example, watch me climbing 5.3, in rubber boots, on kelp and barnacles to our stern tie location. In this case I’m removing the line. One way to avoid having to remove the line is to use a long enough line to loop it around and all of the way back to the boat. This way you can cast off (remove the line) without leaving the boat although you still have to climb up to get it around the first time.

The first task is to get out of the inflatable dinghy without rubbing it on the sharp barnacles while holding onto the rope for the dinghy and the rope for the stern tie.
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Next I navigate the barnacle encrusted rocks which have a nice slippery layer of kelp over the sharp bits.
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Finally we have some “normal rock climbing” on damp rock to the tree we tied to:
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Now I just have to get back to the dinghy :)

Here we are successfully anchored and stern tied.

We spent a rainy lazy two nights here. Lovely spot. Nothing too exciting to report.

Lucky Creek


 IMGP5088We anchored in Cataract Cove by Lucky Creek. The anchorage was nice but the creek was spectacular. At first we were underwhelmed by the falls. The pictures in the guidebook we have are either of the higher up falls or they are of a different season or a time with more rain because the first falls you see are a bit anemic. Once we climbed up to the first pool, we realized how beautiful the area was. There was a series of falls and bathing pools with mini rapids.


We had arrived with another boat (the bear scaring motorize dinghy) who came over to Estrellita 5.10b that evening to hang out and while we were swimming a couple from a third boat showed up but this late in the season we didn’t see any boatloads show up. Apparently lodges bring their guests to the falls and because you can only paddle/motor there at high tide everyone converges on the falls at the same time of day.


IMGP5083Did I mention there was a rope swing? Hell yeah. Carol found my first attempt at the rope swing so amusing that he gave me lessons until I could do a proper Tarzan full swing and drop. Of course, I plug my nose while falling which ruins the effect, but at least I no longer drag through the water to a pitiful stop and  then slide off of the rope.


We really enjoyed Lucky Creek. Definitely a new favorite place.



We have been told that it is not OK to fire flares except in times of distress in Canada. This seems like a good rule and we like to follow rules especially those that are for our own and others’ safety.


Purely hypothetically speaking, because we would neither condone flare testing by watching or conduct any ourselves, I would say that after dark the most effective flares are parachute flares and handheld red flares because both are bright and long lasting, a medium visually effective choice is the normal gun shot red flare which is bright and has some hang time, and the least effective are white or red meteor gun shot flares which are very bright but drop like rocks.


We are definitely going to replace some of our expired flares with parachute flares.

Close encounter of the bear kind

We were heading up Lucky Creek in our kayak to go swimming in the falls (more on Lucky Creek with photos in another post). The surroundings were lush and serene. We hadn’t seen another boat except one tucked away in another anchorage and we had Lucky Creek to ourselves…or so we thought.

We pulled close to the shore to check out the berries that were everywhere in the area to see if they were an edible kind that we recognized. As we were drifting along the shore I saw something splash in the water. My brain raced through the usual suspects. Was it a fish? An otter? A seal?

BEAR, BEAR, BEAR!” I shrieked as I began franticly paddling backwards. The bear, hearing me, turned its head toward me and began swimming away from us across the creek.

After retreating a safe distance (have you ever seen a kayak make a wake? you would be surprised at how fast I can paddle when I’m scared) we continued to make noise but the bear sat on the opposite shore, watching us, so we left and headed back to the mouth of the river. After waiting 15 minutes, floating, eating lunch and letting our hearts return to normal, we headed back up the river only to find the bear sitting in the same spot.

As far as we can tell, the bear wanted to stay on the West bank but was surprised by us and went to the East bank. While we were waiting for it to leave it was waiting for us to leave so it could return to the West bank where the berries were.

We went back to the mouth of the river and chatted with other cruisers in a motorized dinghy who were from the boat we had spotted in the nearby anchorage. After a while, the 4 of us headed back up river under cover of engine noise. No more bear.

Somehow we still managed to feel comfortable swimming in the waterfalls and pot holes.


Ucluelet is the northernmost town in Barkley. As noted, we stopped there briefly overnight on our way in and we returned after our two nights at Clarke Island because my brother was coming up for a visit.

He brought GIFTS! First, at least in my book, was two bottles of homemade apple liqueur which smells and tastes like apple pie. Lawdy oh lawdy it is good. Second, was a bunch of sweet fishing gear which we’ll describe in another post. And finally, he brought up our mail and other stuff we had ordered over the last few months for the boat. High quality guest behavior. Thanks to Josh and to Ramona for holding down the fort with my nephew Devon so Josh could come up.

We went out fishing, tasted the apple pie diligently to make sure there were no problems with the finished product, and had great pizza in town at a place called Roman’s. We spent the first night at anchor and the second at the Otter Street docks.

Josh showing off his “casual and yet totally serious fishing” pose and his best “Blue Steel(tm)”.
IMG_5068 IMG_5069 

IMGP5079 The night after Josh left we were treated to a fantastic fireworks show.  A boat anchored off Whiskey Dock and lit up the sky for more than an hour shooting straight off its decks. The boat itself looked as if it was either on fire or about to catch fire at any moment. They had a fire dancer aboard and a crapload of fireworks. We took our dinghy down from where were anchored, just far enough away to escape falling debris (although some came too close for comfort in an inflatable) and sat back to watch the action. Good times.

We also picked up groceries and did some online errands. Tomorrow we fill up our fuel and water and head out into Barkley Sound and the Broken Group for the next few weeks. Back to the wild…

Just gotta have more cowbell

This is one of those things that I should know, but don’t. Any readers able to help?

For our non-boating friends, in Americanada when you are in “the open” and you want to enter “a harbor” (fuzzy concepts that get very confusing when you have two harbors connected by a channel) you keep the red buoys on your right side and the green buoys on your left side to avoid any crunchy bits touching your boat. This buoy coloring fact spawned the mnemonics “red right returning” and “red left leaving”. Major buoys in the ocean often also have lights that flash in certain patterns so they can be identified, loud sounds and have stuff built in so that they show up as larger-than-they-are blips on your radar screen – all so that mariners can find their way to safe harbors in the dark and in the fog.

To my question for the boaters: It seems to me like the red buoys out here on the W Coast moo and the green buoys clang like a cowbell. Is it just the case that some buoys have bells and some have horns and randomly I’ve been seeing red ones with horns and green ones with cowbells or is this a planned fact that you can use to guide yourself into the harbor in the fog?

Sailing moments

We’re growing as sailors. We’ve probably spent almost as much time on the water in the last 3 months than we did in the prior 3 years and our sailing days are less constrained so we can take the time to work things out and learn more about sailing our own boat. This learning is a small part of the reason we wanted to spent the first year of cruising around here.

The freedom of having time also means we are treating sailing as the primary goal of the day, or the primary fun of the day, rather than a pleasant means to a more desirable end (the anchorage). We sail a lot and I, in particular, am enjoying sailing more now that I don’t feel like we are in a rush to get somewhere. For me, rush = stress and thus weekend sailing trips = fun + stress. Now, we regularly plan short transits or if we are planning a longer transit, we pick a shorter hop as a back up that we will go to if we are sailing but not sailing very quickly.

Here is a collection of areas of sailing that we’ve explored since we left Victoria.

Sailing onto and off of our anchor: For non-boater friends, normally we turn on the motor and drop the sails prior to entering a cove to drop our anchor. Similarly, as we get ready to leave we normally start the motor, raise the anchor, exit the bay under motor and then raise the sails. Sailing on and off our anchor means that we sail into the bay to drop our anchor or raise our anchor and sail out of the bay, all without using the engine. We’ve now sailed onto our anchor twice and off of our anchor once. Any engineless sailors reading this blog are rolling their eyes right now but we are quite pleased with ourselves.

Tacking our way through narrow channels: We are sailing in places where we would have motored before. We sailed through the narrow pass out of Comox, the very narrow channel into Tofino and in numerous other places where we would have been nervous to be beating or on a dead run previously. It’s exhilarating and again, makes us feel quite pleased with ourselves.

Night passage: We had already been out for 3 days in one stretch and had sailed past dark or starting in the dark in the morning a few times but we took the opportunity to transit from Port Langford in Esperanza to Hot Springs Cove in Clayoquot overnight. With only very limited experience under my belt, I can’t say that there is anything particularly different about night passages other than it is more difficult to stay awake, I get nauseated faster if I’m doing computer work and it is difficult to find things you set down in the dark. Also, the night sky even only 10 miles offshore was amazing. I saw the Milky Way for the first time in my life during my watch.

Heavier wind aft of the beam: We had managed to be in 30 knot winds only foreward of the beam prior and now we have had time to work on our running rigging and sailing technique in heavier winds while running or reaching. We have a workable boom preventer system although we have ideas on how to make it better. More on that later when I work on the new set up.

Anchoring closer to shore and closer to other boats: This may not sound like a desirable growth direction and no, we don’t anchor close to other boats on purpose. However, we had previously always been overly nervous and overestimated our swing distance, leaving way more room than needed and sometimes not staying in an anchorage that had plenty of room or anchoring in depths that were much deeper to have more room from shore than necessary. By using our electronic charting to double check our eyes we are training our eyes to be able to gauge the distance actually needed given the scope we put out. We still stay a safe distance…but not a ridiculous distance.

Logbook: Crossing our track

IMG_5065 The farthest we had previously been up the West Coast of Vancouver Island was Barkley Sound. We spent a few lovely nights in Joe’s Bay after our 3 day shakedown in the ocean last year. So, in a way, getting to Barkley completes an interrupted circumnavigation of Vancouver Island although it won’t feel like we’ve been around the island until we head back into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We left Tofino in the early afternoon after waiting out the fog and arrived at the mouth of Ucluelet Inlet just at twilight. We don’t like coming into anchor at night even with a good moon, primarily because of the crab traps but deep fog is definitely less fun because we can’t see land OR other boats. We weren’t planning to go to Ucluelet but it was the closest easy place to anchor and we anchored on the East side of the channel just past Spring Bay.

IMG_5063We slept in and had a late morning sail out of the inlet across to the Broken Group. – for those unfamiliar with them, the Broken Group is a bunch of picturesque islands, islets and reefs that are an ecological preserve/park in the middle of Barkley Sound. They are filled with kayakers and everywhere you want to go seems to be about 5 – 10 miles from where you are. We ran into friends MV Eventide while underway and had a 5 mile gennaker sail in the sun. It was one of those days where you wish you had a longer way to go because you aren’t ready to take down the sails.

We anchored at Clarke Island in the Broken Group and spent two nights. We kayaked around, watched kayak-campers come and go on the shell beach and enjoyed two glorious sunsets. The only reason we didn’t stay longer was that my brother was coming to Ucluelet for a weekend visit with us. We might end up going back there for another night or two – we’ll see. There are so many gorgeous anchorages in Barkley and we are a little sad to see Fall coming.


Benson Island, immediately N of Clarke, has been continuously inhabited for 5000 years according to archeological digs and is the site of the local First Nations creation myth. It’s like Christianity’s Garden of Eden except…a lot older. It is a lush wet island in the greenest of greens that you find on the raincoast. Correction to Dreamspeaker’s Guidebook: Benson Island no longer has camping. It has been closed for overnight use although it is still OK to visit and hike around by day. Kayakers can camp on next door Clarke Island.


We had heard how busy Barkley sound was with cruising boats but apparently arriving Sept 1 is late enough in the season. We had the anchorages at Clarke Island to ourselves for two nights and have only seen other boats at anchor in Ucluelet. Perhaps we were just lucky? Not that we mind sharing the anchorage.  We are purposefully joining up with some other boats later this week for some group play time.

Pimping the IWAC

Giddy with delight, I would like to give our blog readers a heads up that tomorrow's Interview With A Cruiser is a really fantastic interview (if I may say so myself) with Lin and Larry Pardey.

The boaters on this blog already know why I am excited. Please do pass the link of their interview along to your friends or forums/lists you belong to either directly or by using the snazzy new "share" buttons at the bottom of the interview to blog/tweet/email/etc it.

For the non-boaters who are swing dancers, think of the Pardey's as a Frankie Manning of sailing.

For the non-boaters who are climbers, think of them as a Lynn Hill of sailing.

Everyone else, just know that they are "way cool". They started cruising in 1968 and wrote the book on it...literally. They have circumnavigated both east-about and west-about, both times in boats they built, both boats without engines.

Logbook: Freedom Cove

A family owned, float through homestead, Freedom Cove is an example of dropping-off-the-grid, green living. It is near Tofino and if you want to visit, check out the contact information on their youtube account or shoot us an email.

They grow their own food and in August the walkways are alive with greenery and the hothouse tomatoes were ripening on the vine.

The structures used to float on various logs and foam that were found on the beach but now exist on a grid of recycled fish farm floats which provide a more stable surface that can be loaded with more weight. This has enabled the family to go big with their farming.

The informal visit ended with a trip through the candle shop. Although there is zero pressure to buy, bring some cash in your pocket and consider it a donation to something magic, something wild, something creative in the world.

Can you guess which candle is Carol’s and which is mine?


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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