Continuing South Along Vancouver Island’s “Wild Side”

The next day began just as it Otter. πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜‚Β (Couldn’t resist!)

As we prepped to get under way the following morning, I spotted this cutie floating close to the boat all alone. No other otters in sight. I have to wonder… as a frequent traveler, in my professional life and beyond, it wasn’t unusual for me to wake up and briefly wonder where I was. Β As much time as these guys spend floating around on their backs… eating, cleaning themselves, and sleeping… Β with the currents that run through these waters, it must happen to them! Fall asleep in one cove and wake up in another! Like taking the red-eye! πŸ˜‚

Sea Otter, Varney Bay


Our next stop was mainly for provisions… Winter Harbour, a very remote “fishing village” in Quatsino Sound. Getting there took us back down Quatsino Narrows. This time we had a few knots against us, but still made it through just fine. As fast as the current runs, it’s wide and deep enough to be a safe passage. (Unlike so many narrows where we had to make a GPS track line from the kayak at low water, so we could follow the deepest winding route through to the other side.)

Sea caves in Quatsino Sound

Quatsino Sound


The first stop in Winter Harbour was the gas dock, behind a line of fishing boats. While John was handling the pump, I strolled around the dock observing the many Bald Eagles flying by and calling from the trees. Then I spotted several birds on some piling that I couldn’t identify. From the picture I discovered they were Black Turnstones, another new one for my ever growing list!

And of course they had their local Sea Otters. Amazing that it took so long to spot my first Sea Otters on the waters of British Columbia, and now they are everywhere! There are so many that it’s easy to spend time observing and learning about them. One thing I can tell you is that they have voracious appetites!

Black Turnstone in Winter Harbour

Sea Otter floats with a rock used for cracking clam shells open

Fine dining on the water

Literally stuffing his face!


We docked along the breakwater near the gas pumps and walked up to the Outback “Resort” store/office to check things out. First observation was the hours of operation (including the gas pumps) were 1-6pm. (Good to know!) The general store consisted of one aisle of groceries (cookies, chips, crackers, canned pasta, soup, Hungry Man entrees, frozen “no name” meats, and a scattering of moldy vegetables), two aisles of fishing stuff, toothpaste and bandaids, and a big aisle of cheap beer and hard booze. Sums it up nicely, yes? Certainly shows what easily sells to fishermen.

There was no cell coverage, although we were told there was a signal out by the lighthouse at the entrance to Quatsino Sound, (roughly 45 minutes by boat for us) and spotty WiFi for a fee of $15 a day. 😳

From the docks, we spotted a momma black bear with cubs across the water, cast off to get a little closer, and then moved to the government dock which was slightly cheaper and a fair bit quieter. We discovered “Be More Pacific”, a tiny trailer/food shack… their one and only dining establishment. That turned out to be the gem of the entire village, as we soon discovered.

Momma Black Bear and cubs looking for dinner at low tide

Black Bear and cubs

Cubs follow momma back into the woods


We left Winter Harbour the following morning for one last stop before heading back out into open water. But… wind and weather were heading into Quatsino Sound with a vengeance. Crossing the sound to Gooding Cove was very rough, and we should have taken that as a signal to turn back. Since we didn’t, we got to spend a very rough night trying to sleep on a bucking boat.

As much as we love our “cat boat” rig, we discovered very quickly that she doesn’t act like most other sailboats at anchor, nor while docking, when there’s wind. Our 57′ tall mast is all the way forward on the bow, and acts like a sail in strong winds, pushing the bow around the keel. In the case of Gooding Cove, the wind blew from our only unprotected direction, and we took the swells on our side… all night long!

Weather settling into Quatsino Sound

“Tumbleweed” buried in swells in open water outside Quatsino Sound

Sunset from Gooding Cove

Weather on the water


Who ever said “Red Sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” was full of beans!! This was pretty darn red, and at night! We couldn’t see the sky by morning.

Red sky at night


Conditions had only gotten worse by morning. It wasn’t really a question of, “do we brave the open water?” … cuz there was no way in hell I would… but “Where do we ride out the storm?” Ugh… back to Winter Harbour… where we dined yet again at “Be More Pacific”, and hunkered down in the boat while it poured for hours and hours and hours on end!

After one night in Winter Harbour we left the dock for a quiet anchorage nearby at North Harbour. One other boat was riding out the storm there, but since both our boats were buttoned up tight, we never met them. We only knew they had a dog, and had to brave the elements a few times for “potty breaks”.

Finally, the following day the weather throttled back enough for us to get out of Quatsino Sound and into open water for the rounding of Brooks Peninsula.

More adorable Otter sightings!

You cannot pass through Quatsino Sound without seeing Sea Otters

Adorable Sea Otters

Eating… what else


We finally set out for our next destination… Bunsby Islands. While coming up on Brooks Peninsula we found perfect wind of for Summer Breeze… 15-17 knots out of the NW… just right for filling that big sail. John was grinning from ear to ear as we blew past two other sailboats. (You can take the race boat away from the man, but you can’t take the racer out of him… ever!)

Sailboats rounding Brooks Peninsula


As we were sailing along I saw some birds off our port side, took a shot for ID purposes, and wailed “Those are Puffins!!”, as we blew past them. To John’s credit, he did offer to douse the sail and turn back, but I didn’t have the heart to take one of our infrequent opportunities to sail away from him. He was having too much fun… and I was hopeful that we’d find more of them along the way. (Which we didn’t 😒)

My only Puffin sighting!!! 😳😒

Solander Island, home of the Puffins

Vancouver Island


As we arrived amongst the Bunsby Island group what should we see? More silly, adorable Sea Otters. I’ll never tire of these critters!

Sea Otters, silly as always

Cormorants decorate rocks around Bunsby Islands


When we were safely anchored in a protected cove, I took off for some solo time with camera in hand. Rarely am I disappointed from the seat of my kayak. I happened upon a Great Blue Heron, and followed him around for a bit…

Great Blue Heron coming in for a landing

Great Blue Heron watching for a meal

Great Blue Heron


Off to another fishing spot

Definitely not the most graceful looking birds


Then I spotted this back-lit sea kelp from a distance and was reminded of the opaque textured glass that was so popular in the 1970s. Light plays a part in everything we see, and it intrigues me… constantly. Where most barely notice it, or possibly don’t know why they are drawn to a scene, I can’t NOT see it! This scene, in any other lighting condition, would be ho-hum at best.

Bull kelp leaf


By the time I got back to the boat, John was ready for an excursion, so we set out together in the other direction.

Back at the “mother ship” with John

Of course there was an otter along the way…

…and of course he’d be eating… πŸ˜‚


In the morning we set out again, in yet another direction. (Easy to do amongst so many islands!) I’d been listening to two eagles calling from the trees all morning Caught a glare from one as I peddled by. This excursion took us out amongst the islets and kelp beds near open water.

Bald Eagle watching over our bay

View from Bunsby Islands

Another Bald Eagle searching for a meal amongst shallow waters and tide pools

Dining on Red Rock Crab

Sea Otter making a meal of cracked crab


After two days in the Bunsby Islands, we weighed anchor and set out for our next destination… Kyuquot Sound. Even with the rough weather, we’ve seen so much out here on the “wild side” of Vancouver Island… and we’ve really only begun! I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up writing about this place, but I’m giving it my best shot with incredibly rare connection of any kind!

I can tell you that, upon writing this post nearly a month later, and as we near the end of our summer journey… despite the rain, the west coast is packed full of incredible beauty and wildlife! Keep coming back! You definitely don’t want to miss it!


2 thoughts on “Continuing South Along Vancouver Island’s “Wild Side”

  1. As always your photos are beautiful. What a treat to see so much wildlife to photography, as well as the landscapes. Love following your adventures. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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