Monday, July 18, 2011

Tofino and back down "the Ditch"

He needs more room to dock!
From our anchorage in Friendly Cove we had a grandstand view of the sport fishing boats patrolling up and down with their downriggers just outside the bay. I was somewhat curious as to the salmon prospects so out we went in the morning with the hoochies and the flashers. Curiously enough, round the Point come the salmon. Out there the fishing was slow. But just outside the cove, only in 80 feet of water, we found the answer - suddenly our sounder was showing huge quantities of bait fish, and that was where the salmon were biting. Only half an hour later we had our supper (for several nights). We set off for our next destination, Hot Springs Cove, where there was plenty of room at the dock since we were a little late in the day. Just long enough for us to head off along the trail and for me to get my photo taken under the hot waterfall. 
That water is HOT!
The next morning we headed for Tofino. From reading the guides I found that
dock space is pretty limited in Tofino, so I had booked in at the Weigh West resort. Nothing to do with the fact that there is an excellent dockside pub there of course. Anyway, for those of you planning to take your boat to Tofino one day I have just this one word of advice - Don't! The current is just too tricky for comfort. At most states of the tide there is 3 or 4 knots passing along the dock. To get in there I had LM in full reverse gear; it was not a smooth operation, the only strategy was to get those docklines on damned quick! And getting out was not pretty, thank heaven it was 0630 and too early for spectators. There is a very narrow channel and shoal close by, and the current is rushing the wrong way. Still, Tofino is a busy tourist place and we enjoyed a few days strolling around the boutiques ( not me) and even going out for breakfast, now that we are near to civilisation.

After Tofino our next stop was Ucluelet, since we really wanted to walk at least some of the Pacific Trail again following on from our visit three years ago. That was the time there was a memorable dinner at the Wickanninish Inn, but that is another story. This time we docked in the small craft harbour at Ucluelet; a great place to moor up and very well managed by the harbour manager, Steve. Ukee is just the total opposite to Tofino. Very quiet and laid back compared to frenetic and full of tourists.

So it just so happened that the Pacific Rim Summer Festival was on, and Ucluelet was hosting the Rock section! I turned up for the workshop, led by Graeme, Spencer and Derek from Speed Control, a great band from Whitehorse, Yukon.

The workshop is mainly for local young musicians to play in a rock concert so we had two afternoons of rehearsals and then a memorable concert. This is the first time that I have ever actually performed "Smoke on the Water" or "Highway to Hell"! The youngsters that we played with had a great time; they had limited (ie none) live experience but after a few hours practice they were whipped into shape and shoved into the limelight! Speed Control asked me to jam with them and it was brilliant, loved every minute. Thanks guys, and good luck on the tours.

Stardom was short-lived and we headed off to sleepy Bamfield. Once again we had space at the public dock - we don't seem to have had any problems with getting space all the way up to Alaska and back. The boardwalk was good and also the short hike to Brady's Beach. We decided that we would return to civilisation and head to Victoria, so I looked at the route and the tides. Victoria is at the other end of "the ditch" - the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is a 90 mile run, so it is essential to get some help from mother nature. Once we were in the Strait, the flood tide would start running at 1144 and last until 1746 with a maximum speed of 1.3 knots. It may not seem much, but it means that our speed of 8.5 would get to over 10, much better than being knocked back from 8.5 down to 7. And the trip at that speed would be easily viable in one day - the actual journey took 11 hours. And the sea was wonderfully calm; after all, I had checked the weather. We travelled with new acquaintances on Northern Comfort, folk from Seattle. All along the Strait of J de F there were fishing boats at every headland and river mouth, just trying to catch those elusive salmon, who are all intent on getting home to spawn. Now here we are again at Victoria, on the floats under the Empress Hotel. It seems like home. Just to reward ourselves we headed for the Brasserie Ecole for supper Victoria is a city crammed full of restaurants, but the BE is highly recommended. Located in an unassuming part of town. You can't make reservations. At 630pm it is..........absolutely packed! I do love those places that just "have it", you can keep all the other restaurants in town but here the food, ambience, service, wine ..........(enough!).

We were last in Victoria 2,200 miles ago, on April 22nd. It really has been a great trip over the past few months. And we have now travelled over 5,000 miles on Last Mango. Here is some forward planning, important if you are planning a visit to us. We are heading soon up into the Gulf Islands where we will take a short break from cruising while we visit family in England. In five weeks' time we turn south and head for California; we will be in San Francisco in the first week of September and then Los Angeles thereafter. November we head into Mexico on the FUBAR rally.

A shot from the archives - Last Mango transiting Louise Narrows, Haida Gwaii. The channel dries at low tide. But is is dredged, so with a sensible level of high tide it is easily passable. But note the Admiral on the bow checking that we were in the middle of the channel and that there were no unexpected hazards.

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