We're anchored in the cove in Nootka Sound, just a slim neck of land away from the huge Pacific, where three civilizations came together and sometimes to blows: we're in Friendly Cove, where Captains Vancouver and Quadra negotiated the accord that divvied up the entire west coast of North America between Spain and England, while First Nations people watched and waited, and made their feelings on the matter known later. Captain Cook was here, with Bligh and Vancouver as crew, in 1778; the Spanish were here throughout the 1600s and 1700s; Vancouver's journal in 1792 describes a place that has, since that eventful time, slipped back into obscurity and overgrowth. Where thousands lived there are now fewer than a quiet dozen. But the place shrieks its history if you read the books, follow the trails, and watch for clues of what went on here.
Nootka Sound was the largest center of commerce (fur trade, sea otter skins) and human population on the entire North American coast north of Mexico, for several hundred years. Now it's just us and a couple of nonchalant sea otters lazing in the bay, and some fascinating structures ashore. For you sailors, we're pleased to note that we short-tacked into this small cove in rather colorful Chinese fire drill fashion, and anchored under sail, just as the sailors of yore would have done. We figure their ghosts got a chuckle out of it. Switching centuries, we're also pleased that the Lighthouse keepers, with whom we had a good visit, have very kindly beamed their wireless modem into the cove so that we can connect and update this blog. Imagine that!
Now for some catching up. Let's start with a subject we'll call Fishing for Dummies: Since neither of us has a clue about fishing but we borrowed a bunch of gear anyway, Jim went to the source: a Tofino fisherman. He asked him how to fish. Recovering his composure, the fisherman said, on seeing out crab pot, "Crabs will eat eat anything!" So after we sailed to a tiny unnamed place in Clayoquot Sound informally called West White Pine Cove, we dropped the crab trap in 55 feet with our strategic bait: a pepperoni stick. We lowered it to the bottom to the tune of "High hopes, we've got hiiiiiiigh hopes!" buoyed it with a boat fender, and left it in for exactly 35 minutes. We pulled it up. There were two pepperoni sticks. Just kidding. Okay, crabs need more time to warm up to pepperoni. We lowered it again and let it sit all night. The morning's catch was one measly claw mark in the otherwise untouched pepperoni stick. Turns out crabs have a deep-seated fear of spices. Who knew?
Sailing into Unknown Anchorages: The thrill of leaving your sails up long after most people would have doused them, to sail rather than motor into an anchorage you've never entered before, is maybe a little crazy but fun. It's that think-fast, pay-attention adrenalin kick of uncertainty and in-the-moment physicality as you wait till the last minute for a wind lift that'll get you around the rocks to leeward. You glide in with the quiet satisfaction that an engine can't supply, let go the anchor and hear the chain rumble out, feel it grab the bottom and tug the moving boat around head to wind, all sails gently luffing, and you turn-to at furling sails and preparing the boat for a quiet night at anchor in a nameless wilderness cove. Nothing beats that.
The Hike that Roared: We tried a tough hike up a mountainside through a maze of fallen and standing old growth trees, with deep holes at every step and big logs like bridges across chasms. We turned back after Karen popped both shoulders trying to climb out of a hole between two logs. The bugs bite savagely there, too. Maybe they're velociraptors. K's arm swelled up and looked like Popeye's; J had lots of cuts and bruises, too. We decided that we're just too wise to go on another hike like that. Note we didn't say old.
The Best Bay We Ever Saw: Going as far back into a fjord as we could sail, we found the closest thing to a perfect anchorage we may ever see: Bacchante Bay. It had everything: wildlife in abundance, a good beach, a meadow, old-growth forest on vertical mountains, good holding for the anchor, moderate depths, a river to explore, a waterfall... well, you get the idea. The only thing it didn't have was crabs for the pot.
The Best Shower and Bath We Ever Had: This is one for the books. After sailing down-fjord back to the Pacific on the far west side of Clayoquot Sound, we found a slim harbor called Hot Springs Cove and anchored behind a floating B&B, a gorgeously refurbished 1920's inter-island freighter now called the "InnChanter." A row ashore at 6:00 pm after all the tourists had left gave us a walk in utter solitude, on a 2-km-long boardwalk, with hundreds of planks beautifully carved with the names of visiting boats, through some of the wildest forest either of us has ever seen. Imagine an enchanted forest with fantastical trees and root shapes, dripping grottoes, old cedars at least ten feet thick and nearly two hundred feet tall, filtered sunlight and the sounds of crashing surf, then a waft of sulfur and you cross a wooden bridge over a steaming stream bubbling up out of a hole in the ground, and you've arrived at the hot springs. It was great. We stood under a hot waterfall and let the torrent warm us in the cool evening breeze, then we soaked in each pool in a line toward the sea, each one cooler than the last, until we reached a pool where the waves washed in with shots of cold water.
"WHOAAAA!" we'd yell as surf tumbled toward us. "AAAAAA!" as it dumped cold water in our laps. "Ahhhhhh!" as it receded and our warm nook filled with hot spring water again. Suddenly a line of big, REALLY big swells began breaking. Things got briefly exciting. We scrambled back to more sedate pools. A final drench in the hot torrent and we dried off and began trekking like a couple of noodles along our boardwalk highway through Mirkwood. And the most amazing part? We had it all to ourselves, with not another soul there to harsh our mellow.
Fishing For Dummies Redux: When we rowed back to Sockdolager and pulled up our crab pot (now baited with chicken bones) there was one pissed-off rock crab in it. While we were figuring out how to dispatch it, it got away, dagnabit. So we decided to go high tech, and punched some holes in a plastic Crystal Light can, filled it with hot dogs, and lowered it. Two females were thrown back, but then we cadged a salmon head off the dock and it was like using the nucular option. Jim put the pot in for what he calls a "two-beer soak" and when we pulled it up, well, can you say Crabalicious? Last night we feasted on a crab dinner, drawn butter, Old Bay, da woiks. Oh it was good. We speak crab now. The fishing pole is next: we have to unwind the birds nest of line it made after one cast. All is well, we are happy, sailing all we can and eating like kings.