Vancouver Island’s Wild West Coast… Seven Days, Seven More Gorgeous Places

After two idle days… waiting out the weather at dock in Kyuquot Inlet… it was still gnawing at me that we “blew” (literally) right past a colony of Puffins a few days prior. I’d never seen Puffins in the wild, but they are a bird I’ve always loved observing in aquatic marine parks, such as the one in Newport Oregon. Their features are striking, and they are a tad bit silly to watch, especially from a viewing window underwater. Here’s one from Newport several years ago…

Puffin at Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport

 

Did I miss my only opportunity to observe and capture images of Puffins in the wild??? I know they colonize on coastal cliffs while breeding, and that their populations are dwindling, but I had no way of researching where they might be located without wifi, so… I asked the locals, who happen to be fishermen and know these waters. Most were clearly so focused on fish, they literally didn’t have a clue about puffins. One guy told us they could be found on Grassy Island, not too far south of Kyuquot Inlet. When we set out, THAT was our first destination of the day. We knew it would only be a “drive by”, as it was out in the open water, and surrounded by rocks.

Island and waves off Vancouver Island’s west coast

Waves

Waves breaking off-shore of Vancouver Island’s west side

Colorful waves

 

While John was focused on the depth, and the surrounding rocks, I was on the lookout for Puffins… binoculars to my face. (In other words, I wouldn’t have seen a rock if it were right in front of me.)

I saw lots and lots of gulls and Murres and Cormorants, but no Puffins! 😢

Grassy Island off Vancouver Island’s West Coast

 

Our ultimate destination for the day was Queens Cove, but we made a “quick anchor stop” at Catala Island for some beach-combing. The shells were “meh”, but the rocks were colorful AND plentiful!! While collecting, we happened upon a pair of Oystercatchers who went to great lengths to attract our attention with lots of antics and noise… clearly distracting us from a nearby nest. One of them literally ran right up in front of us and laid down… not just once but several times, as we walked down the beach. I really wanted to find the nest in order to see baby Oystercatchers, but we didn’t want to disturb them any further than we already had, so we moved along

While there, we met a really nice group of kayakers, who gathered from far and wide to adventure and camp together amongst the many islands in that vicinity on the west side of Vancouver Island. (I really admire what it takes to do this type of camping.) Apparently they spent a good portion of the previous evening standing in a huddle under one tarp. And here we were feeling sorry for ourselves hiding from the rain in our boat! 🙄

Noisy Oystercatcher on Catala Island

Oystercatcher drawing our attention away from a nest

Score on the colorful rocks!!  Catala Island

 

At Queens Cove we ran into a couple we’d met and gotten to know in the pouring rain in Kyuquot… Rusty, Barb and their energetic, water-loving dog Maggie. (We would run into one another several more times along our voyage south, and ultimately make plans to visit them on our way through Canada in the motorhome. At writing, those plans are firmed up and we will see them next week!)

Rusty and Barb’s exuberant boat dog, Maggie

 

We moved on to Nuchatlitz Marine Park the following day, thinking we’d be anchored for the night and have plenty of time to explore the area. As it turned out, the most protected spots were taken. We found a place to drop anchor, but it did little to protect us from the 15-20 knot winds. We dropped the little boats in the water and explored around for a bit, but the winds made the conditions a bit unpleasant… at least for me with expensive gear  in my hands.

Nuchatlitz Inlet

Another Sea Otter… stuffing his face

Interesting driftwood changed by time… and the sea

 

We hoped the wind would abate so we could stay put and explore the outer islands nearby, but they did not let up. We decided to move inland to Tahsis a day ahead of schedule.

Docking usually means dinner out, fresh water in the tanks, clean laundry, potential for groceries and the ever so slight possibility of WiFi! The marina had a loaner car for runs to the grocery store, but frankly… the store wasn’t worth it! I think we stocked up on milk and beer, and called it good!

The WiFi worked pretty well from the covered tables/dining area up on the dock… especially in the morning when everyone else was out fishing. I believe I got two blog posts done while there!

During our second day in Tahsis we ran into the group of kayakers we’d met on Catala Island, and joined them for dinner-out that evening. It was really a delight sharing stories with this group, but I’ll be damned if I can recall any of their names a month later! (I’m starting to really not like what’s happening to my memory!)

From our dock I noticed several juvenile Bald Eagles on the breakwater, and a Great Blue Heron nearby as well. Between laundry loads I trotted back to the boat to fetch my camera and ventured out the docks in pursuit. (Cuz that’s what I do! You could call me a wildlife paparazzi! 😜)

Juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight at Tahsis

Second juvenile Bald Eagle in flight

Great Blue Heron with his catch

 

From Tahsis we headed to Friendly Cove, where we could go ashore to take in some of the local history, and hike a trail to a beach on the western shore. It started to rain while underway. 🙄 We got to Friendly Cove to find it packed with boats at anchor. With no place to drop ours, we decided to move on to nearby Santa Gertrudis Cove, which was highly recommended to us. Two boats were already at anchor, and as we motored into the cove a fishing boat zoomed past right us and took the last usable spot in deep water, even though the adjoining (shallower) cove would have served his needs just fine. So… off we went again… to Bligh Cove.

In the rain and doldrums once again… we pretty much hung out, hoping the weather would turn. No kayaking or adventuring. This was getting old.

Weather surrounding Bligh Cove

 

The following morning we motored out under overcast skies, headed for a place many talk about… Hot Springs Cove! After all the wet and grey days it sounded rather inviting… even rejuvenating! Five hours later we arrived to numerous other boats anchored in the sizable inlet. (There was a campground on shore as well.)

Once settled, we decided to row ashore and check it out. We’d been told to go to the actual springs early or late, when there were likely to be fewer people. I guess we both envisioned it a little differently, but from the dinghy dock we hiked a few miles out to the “hot springs”, found several items of clothing littering the ground when we arrived, and then discovered the coveted springs were a fairly steep rock scramble down into a small pool carved in the rocks. We were told it was HOT, but since we hadn’t bothered to bring appropriate attire on our recon mission we didn’t get in.

The idea was to come back later, but there was not enough space in the “pool” to share with more than another body or two. In addition, the best “later” would be after dark and I wouldn’t want to climb down those rocks in the dark, not that the dark of night would bring us any privacy anyway. We met people out there, and many more coming and going down on the trail. It was clearly a popular place. Our “go/no-go” was an agreed no-go for us.

Another tidbit… there was a cougar sighting right there that very day! We found out later it was on the news. Here’s a clip from YouTube… Mountain Lion Sighting- Hot Springs Cove.

When we got back to Summer Breeze, we decided to weigh anchor and move on. This took us back off shore to the next inlet and Hootla Kootla Bay. On the way I spotted a rock islet dotted with noisy Sea Lions. (I believe I heard them before I saw them… at a pretty good distance!)

Sea Lion covered rock, offshore of West Vancouver Island

 

There, we rode out two more days of rain… no pictures, no stories. We read, we played cards, we challenged ourselves with Sudoku…🙄

When the skies cleared we cruised along to Young Bay, anchored, dropped our little boats in the water and headed out to explore Cecilia Creek. This creek didn’t excite us like so many we’d enjoyed. I remember it being rather over grown most of the way, with numerous downed trees.

Because Zephyr’s gunwales sit higher above the water than my kayak, it’s sometimes trickier for John to maneuver under trees than it is for me. Although… he just pointed out to me that he lies down inside the boat going under obstacles, so Zephyr is the high point… as opposed to me lying down on top of the kayak, making ME the high point going under. Admittedly, it’s sometimes a little creeping not knowing what I might brush against when I go! 😳 In the case below, I’d gone ahead… brushing off anything clinging to the bottom of the tree. 😬

John and Zephyr squeeze under a fallen tree on Cecilia Creek

 

After that excursion we cruised to Bachante Bay, anchored, and dropped the little boats in the water once again to explore Watta Creek. Unfortunately we didn’t make it far because the tide was too low, so we opted to come back at a higher tide in the morning.

We woke to blue skies and sunshine!!! Amazing how deeply we are effected by weather… especially out here where there’s little to do when it’s raining. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, but hiking was seldom an option for us. Exploring these inlets and creeks by boat is what it’s all about.

We set out once again up Watta Creek the next morning… another one of those where we walked our boats across the shallows… while colorful rocks winked at me all along the way. 🤣  It was a refreshing excursion, to say the least. We were thankful for the fresh air, clear water, sunshine and exercise!

John rowing up Watta Creek, Bachante Inlet

 

Before leaving, we weighed anchor and cruised a short distance to the mouth of Megan River. On the way we spotted a nice waterfall in Shelter Inlet, and motored closer to have a look. There was another sailboat anchored in the only protected space, so… knowing we wouldn’t be there long, we anchored at the mouth of the river in a fairly strong current, waited long enough to know the anchor had a good hold, and headed out. The local curious seal was there to greet us as soon as we we were in our little boats on her level.

Water fall near Watta Creek, Shelter Inlet

 

This was an interesting creek for us because the narrow entrance was running fairly fast with swirling waters. I put my camera in the safety of the dinghy so I could both peddling AND paddling past the trickiest spot. Once beyond that it was a lovely paddle upstream. We had to walk our boats through the shallow rapids (great workout!), but for the most part we got to ride them on the way back down, as the water level had risen some. And of course I picked up rocks all along the way. 😜 (When I run out of space in my kayak, there’s always room in Zephyr! I notice an eye-roll from time to time… or a shake of the head… and I remind John to be thankful that the shiny rocks I like are free! 😂)

John and lots of shiny rocks! Megan River

Yours truly, up the creek WITH a paddle (too shallow for peddles/flippers)

Barnacle encrusted, heart-shaped river rock from Megan River

 

After our creek exploration we weighed anchor once again and headed out into Hayden Pass, still a little unsure where we would anchor for the night. That anchorage turned out to be at the head of Matilda Inlet. A very large mud flat lies between our anchorage and the shore, and without a high tide we really had no comfortable way to cross it. Too mucky to walk, too shallow to dinghy, so it was just an anchorage.

In the morning, I hopped on the kayak and headed back down the inlet for a bit. At this point, three months into our summer journey, we were often stuck in our own personal, somewhat weather induced doldrums. After losing Sadie, and then riding through… or hunkering down and waiting out… the gloomy and/or stormy weather, we were fighting a frequent funk that we had a hard time shaking. The side excursions in the sunshine made a huge difference. I took this side excursion solo… not because I needed to get away from John, but because I needed to get out while the sun was shining. Who knew how long it would last???

While out, I followed a couple of playful, chittering Kingfishers for awhile. They are fun and gleeful little birds, and they never fail to make me smile at their obvious joy and playfulness. Plus… they challenge me photographically. They rarely stop moving, and they move really fast!!

Kingfisher, Matilda Inlet

 

Just after moving on from those little beauties, a dark shadow crossed over me. I looked up to see a beautiful Bald Eagle land atop a deadhead tree, and then spread his wings for drying. He glanced at me a time or two as I peddled up and circled around, trying to settle myself enough at a good angle for a shot. For the most part, he ignored me and took up a regal stance… looking off in the distance… with an occasional call to his mate in the tree tops across the river. Eventually he’d had enough of my intrusion, lifted his wings and flew away.

I’m getting the “eagle eye”, Bald Eagle, Matilda Inlet

Bald Eagle drying his wings

Lift off

Bald Eagle in flight, Matilda Creek

 

So, where all these images and experiences might have filled us up in a matter of hours or days… this collection of experiences took a whole lot longer. Cruising is clearly more pleasant when the weather is cooperative, or better yet sunny and warm. So… my advice to anyone heading out to make this voyage (or any long voyage for that matter) is to bring along books, games, and small crafts that entertain you. Bring a variety of things that take little space, and require no electrical power, that will keep you happily focused on anything but the weather. Just my two cents.

Just so you know, the experiences accelerated from there. Soon I would have a day full of more photographic experience than I had in the entire month prior! So cool!!! I can’t wait to share!!

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