Sailing On… To the West Side of Vancouver Island

Those of you who are regular readers here, know we lost Sadie while preparing to round the north end of Vancouver Island for our journey down the west side. At the time, I didn’t really care whether we continued or not, I was so wrought with emotion over her loss. A few more days waiting out the weather didn’t really change that, but what could we do but carry on.

We made arrangements to have her cremains sent on to Washington, and stocked up on as many provisions as we could reasonably carry and keep fresh. When the time was right, we left Port Hardy for Bull Harbour on Hope Island.  This is a good staging and waiting point just north of Vancouver Island… before crossing Nahwitti Bar and rounding Cape Scott. This rounding can be dangerous.

Our departure from Port Hardy was shrouded in heavy fog, which… come to think about it… was probably very fitting, considering my state of mind. John dutifully blew our fog horn at regular intervals, and was amazed to see boats in our close vicinity on the AIS display, since we heard no horns from any of them! Not even the Canadian Coast Guard , which was close enough to pound us with their wake! Rather dangerous with visibility less than a hundred yards!

When we finally moved out of the fog, it made for some pretty pictures…

Low clouds and fog in Coletas Channel

Fishing boat at the edge of the cloud bank

Islands in the fog


Before entering Bull Harbor I spotted another Rhinoceros Auklet, a rather silly looking bird if you ask me, but in a distinguished sort-of-way.  And when we neared the entrance to the harbor I spied a sea cave… and then another, and another. As it turned out these exposed shorelines display a lot of them! Oh, and I mustn’t leave out my first Bald Eagle sighting of the day!

Rhinoceros Auklet

Bald Eagle watching for his mid-morning meal

Sea Caves on Hope Island

Several sea caves at Bull Harbour entrance

Bull Harbour shoreline


I noticed some kelp beds and a Sea Otter or two on our way in, and as soon as we were anchored I was on my kayak and headed back out. Otters are fun to sneak up on, and their expressions are priceless! (I’m starting to wonder if the red spots on their noses are wounds left by the crabs they love to feast on!)

Sea Otter

Sea caves, with Sea Otters in the foreground… mother and pup

Momma Sea Otter with a good-sized (and very sleepy) pup

Rocky shoreline of Bull Harbour

Sea cave, Bull Harbour


As the tide dropped I explored closer to the shoreline, and found numerous Starfish, Sea Anemone, and a… oh wait! Is that a frog?

Starfish and anemone exposed at low tide

Sea Anemone

Starfish and sea anemone on the shoreline of Hope Island at low tide


I was cruising around observing and photographing all the sea creatures that become exposed when the tide goes out, and caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a little green frog/toad crawling out of the water, and up a rock a good thirty yards from the shoreline of the island. I’d always been under the impression that frogs and/or toads don’t live in sea water, so this was confusing to me. If I’m not mistaken he’s a Western Toad, and if so… a “special of concern” with their numbers in decline. (I sent an email about this sighting to the proper authorities at BC.Gov, in case it’s of help statistically, and hoping to learn more.)

Western Toad? (Please correct me if you know!)

[I’m also wondering if this image might answer that age old question about a frog’s butt being water tight? 🤣]

Incredibly colorful rock shoreline of Bull Harbour, Hope Island

More sea caves

John joins me from some exploring


After exploring the outer part of Bull Harbour I turned around and went beyond our anchorage to see what I could find inside the harbor itself. (In case anyone’s wondering, Canadians spell harbor with a u… harbour.)

As it turned out there was a family of Bald Eagles… two adults and at least two juveniles. I happened to catch three of them in the same tree… something I’d never seen! One adult flew by with a little white feather hanging from its beak. I cringed as I glanced over at the young gulls on the nearby shoreline.

One adult and two juvenile Bald Eagles in a tree

And one juvenile takes flight

Bald Eagle with feather on his beak. Remnants of breakfast I wonder?

Bald Eagle in flight


I also spotted my first Red-throated Loons! (We’ve come to enjoy identifying the birds along our journey.)

Red-throated Loons


The following morning the weather was perfect for our passage over Nahwitti Bar and rounding point of Cape Scott. In fact, it was so perfect that we motored straight across the bar, while others went the long route out and around the shallows of the bar, which is notorious for strong swirling currents and large breaking waves. When we rounded Cape Scott and turned south, the wind, waves and swells definitely picked up.

Not far south of Cape Scott we spotted a pair of Humpback Whales. As I’ve mentioned before, as many times as we’ve seen them, it’s still a thrill spotting them!

Relatively calm waters of Coletas Channel before reaching Nahwitti Bar

Large group of Rhinoceros Auklet

Clouds over Cape Scott

Pair of Humpback Whales

One of many rocks and islets all along the western coast of Vancouver Island

Common Murre… they are now becoming a common sighting!

Waves breaking along the rocky shore

Rugged coastline of Western Vancouver Island

Colorful sea stacks at the entrance to Otter Cove


Our first safe harbor on the west side of the island was Sea Otter Cove. After a long day of cruising we were glad to make our way past the rocky entrance (and past more Otters) and find our spot amongst other boats where we could safely drop anchor for the night!

After anchoring and before preparing an evening meal I jumped on my kayak for a bit of exploring. As usual, I was immediately drawn to the local Sea Otters. 😁

Another Otter who didn’t see me coming. I read his expression and gestures as “Come on! Give a guy a break!” 🤣 Or maybe it was just, “Hey! Welcome to my cove!”

I believe this Otter found himself a Geoduck!

And this guy I caught napping…


The following morning we continued south to Quatsino Sound. This, like many of our future destinations along this coast, is a large body of water full of coves, harbors, passages and inlets, most of which provide safe anchorage for the many boaters along this long coastline… cruisers and fishermen alike. Our first stop was Browning Inlet, which is long and narrow. It leads to very shallow mud flats at the end, so anchorage is in the middle of the narrow channel.

Just before dropping anchor I spotted a Black Bear along the shore. Unfortunately he spotted us to, and didn’t stick around for happy hour.

Commun Murre in Quatsino Sound

Sea Otter going under in Quatsino Sound

Black Bear in Browning Inlet

Sunset from Browning Inlet, Quatsino Sound


For the next several days we would visit numerous coves and inlets in Quatsino Sound.  By kayak and dinghy, we would explore rivers and creeks and bays not accessible on Summer Breeze. We also discovered the shopping mecca of Winter Harbour (not!) and rode out some nasty weather there. That… and lots of beautiful images in my next post!!

4 thoughts on “Sailing On… To the West Side of Vancouver Island

  1. Thks for starting my day with this really great post. As I have said before, I’m living my dream life through your “Journey in Focus”. Beautiful & fantastic how you are sharing your photo skills with the world!!

    • Thank you Leon. I’ve thought of ditching the blog so many times, because of technical problems mostly, but also the pressure of trying to keep up when I am off-grid so often. But as much as I love capturing all these images (and experiences) out here, it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have a place to share them. So thank you… for giving me that purpose, and keeping me posting! 😁

      I’m glad you’re still enjoying the journey, if only virtually.

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