Tofino Inlet was the next place we would explore on our way south along Vancouver Island’s west coast. While nearing the end of my three years of solo motorhome travel, I spent nearly two weeks traveling southward on Vancouver Island, and one of my last campgrounds was near the town of Ucluelet. While there, I made a day trip to Tofino with several stops along the way.
Tofino and Ucluelet would be two of the very few places I’ll ever have journeyed to and explored by both boat and motorhome. Now that I’ve done both I can tell you that the two scenarios are vastly different. What we are able to see and experience by boat, you can’t begin to grasp from land. Most of it, you can’t even get to EXCEPT by boat. The same can be said about what you can’t get to by boat, but having experienced both, it is my opinion that this part of British Columbia is more enriching from the water.
At this point, I don’t even remember why, but we passed by a few of the coves we’d considered as potential anchorages as we cruised into Tofino Inlet. Most likely they were full of boats. We were now starting to see a lot more boats as we traveled south. Most don’t do the entire coast, but come around the south end as far as Barkley Sound. We ended up in Windy Bay, and soon learned just how appropriately it is named. It looks protected, since it’s well inland and faces NE, but the wind found its way over two bodies of land and howled across the small bay, keeping the anchor line taut all night.
From there we moved on to Tranquil Inlet and dropped anchor in a pretty little cove. To one side was a big granite wall, and when the water was calm we had cool reflections all around.
Once settled, we dropped the little boats in the water and went up the creek, in this case with a paddle.The first thing I spotted in Tranquil Creek was a small group of Mergansers. From quite a distance, I watched the young ones hurry under overhanging trees along the shoreline, while mom took up position on a grass covered rock. She watched me closely, and when I reached the edge of her comfort zone… predictably… she scampered across the top of the water in typical noisy fashion, drawing our attention away from her young. Nature… is always amazing to observe.
We spent a good five hours peddling, paddling, rowing, and walking our boats through shallow shoals. Of course I couldn’t help picking up numerous rocks along the way. I’m always on the lookout for heart shaped rocks, and I found several on this outing. It’s funny how, when you’re watching for the shape, it seems to appear everywhere! The first one below was barely small enough to keep. The second was too big but cool… how the heart was infused to the rock, and the third was just nature sending her love in the form of a dry spot on a wet rock.
Numerous times, as we explored these rivers and creeks, we came upon trees that had fallen across the water. Some were so large they stopped our forward motion. Others only made it a little more challenging. In many cases, getting past it depended on the tide, which we had to keep in mind while traveling up river, so that we could make it back down. I can drag my wonderfully durable Hobie kayak over most anything. Our hand-made cedar strip dinghy… that’s another thing!
When we reached the spot where we could go no farther by boat, we pulled them up on shore and walked for awhile. This is something we get to do relatively infrequently, since there are very few hiking trails along these inlets. Beach-combing and in-town strolls are about the only times we get to put our feet on land.
The following day we were off to Kennedy Creek for a brief excursion… spotted a couple minks along the shore but they darted beneath the rocks before I could get them in focus. We didn’t get far up the creek, due to the strong rapids. If we had planned on overnighting here we would have come back at high tide, but we set out a short while later for the town of Tofino.
On the way to Tofino, I found enough cell coverage to call their marina to check on availability and make a reservation… and then got cut off before it could be confirmed with a credit card. By the time we were in range again I was told they had no space for us. We anchored nearby amongst a few other boats that we’d shared coves and docks with on our way south… our new friends Rusty, Barb and Maggie (the furry one) were amongst them. Those three joined us for card games again that night, and we made plans to visit them on our way through British Columbia in the RV.
The following day we were able to dock for the night at the resort. As my regular readers know by now, docking = WiFi (work), restocking, laundry and dinner out. It was interesting coming back to Tofino as a boater. First of all, it’s the first real TOWN we’d been in since we left Port Hardy a month prior. After a night at dock, we went out into open water again in route to Ucluelet.
And then we happened upon one of the strangest creatures I’ve ever seen. We’d been hearing about them. Several people we’d visited with on our way south told us about seeing them. Someone told us to watch for what looked a bit like a plastic bag floating on the water. Sunfish… Mola Mola… big ‘ol freaks of nature.
We were always on the lookout, but had yet to spot these unusual creatures. The weather and water conditions were ideal for a sighting on this particular day… flat calm. John spotted the first one… just a fin lazily flopping back and forth across the water. We made our way closer and circled for a bit. They have no tail, and seem to propel themselves simply by zig-zagging back and forth through the water using their upper and lower fins. As slow as they are, it was difficult to get a good shot from above the water on a sunny (reflective) day. It was hard to actually tell what I was looking at even though it was just below the surface, but there was no doubt it was odd and not very fish-like.
After the first one, we spotted 8 or 9 more. All of them looked a bit like they were half eaten, as there is little body behind the fins, and what’s there looks a bit mangled. I understand they are prey to Sea Lions, Jellyfish are what they feed on, and they are BIG.
Curiouser and curiouser! It wasn’t until we had good WiFi in Ucluelet that I was able to do a wee bit of research on them, and see what they actually look like. Here’s an underwater image I found online, and a video clip below it. Weird!
YouTube clip- Sunfish
Of course we saw more Murres. They’re almost as plentiful as gulls!
Since Ucluelet was on our way into Barkley Sound, we decided to make that our first stop. We fought a bit with the WiFi at the marina, but managed to get another post out while there. We also took an afternoon to walk across town to the Wild Pacific Trail, which I’d done the Lighthouse portion of with Jazzy and Sadie back in 2014. John and I hiked the Artists Loop, which was 2.75 miles along the rugged shoreline. Once again, we got a different perspective of the coastline we’d just traveled down. The image below looks north, toward Tofino.
After a couple nights in Ucluelet, we ventured farther into Barkley Sound… Pipestem Inlet, Pinkerton Islands and The Broken Group. Again… boating out and amongst these islands is the only way to go. That is, unless you simply want to come along with me virtually. If so… check back soon. I have WiFi, and I know how to use it!! 😂