A definition of a nice day is: A nice day is what you make it. This year, June was in February and the real June was more like March. Hence Juneuary, the name in the Pacific Northwest for Junes like this. More gale warnings in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca than you can shake a stick at, but oddly enough, on the west coast of Vancouver Island where we’ve been lazing for the past 9 days, it’s been mostly overcast and chilly but no gales. It’s the kind of brooding coastal weather where, after you’ve had a good time beachcombing, fishing or hiking, or an excursion in the dinghy, you come back to the boat for a cuppa tea or cocoa or a glass of wine or beer and a snack, and it’s so snug and cozy you can’t believe you’re here and home at the same time. Let the wind howl in the rigging, the anchor’s well-set. When the sun shines and the sky’s blue, it’s almost unreasonably glorious. That’s our definition of a nice day, or series of them.
Transit: Sooke to Barkley Sound: We spent an extra day anchored behind Whiffen Spit in Sooke awaiting calmer winds, but caught two of the biggest Dungeness crabs ever. This photo is of the smaller of the two. Note the satisfied smile.
Jim is waiting for Karen to say she’s sick of eating crab. Good luck with that. Leaving on the ebb tide at oh-dark-thirty, we mostly motored into no wind, then light wind on the nose, and for the last third of the 16-hour, 80-mile passage, we motor-sailed into a 15-20 knot head wind and sloppy 6-foot seas.
Race Rocks Passage on a speedy 5-knot ebb. Olympic Mts are 35 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This photo shows what Karen found in less than an hour. Robert pointed across the channel to Haines Island and said, “See that grove of new greener trees? That was a village. I was born there.” He and his family were readying the now-uninhabited structures for the Tribe’s summer camping. They live mostly in Port Alberni and number around 700. They’ve lived here for ten thousand years and once numbered 7,000 or more. We hadn’t realized it was Tribal land when we first anchored (no one was there yet and we’d tiredly missed the letters “IR”--for Indian Reservation, we assume--in the cruising guide.) Karen offered her beachcombed shards back to Robert in case taking them was an offense, but he smiled and said keep them. He pointed to a whale swimming out in deeper water, and we told him that six eagles had been there just before he arrived.
Contrast this kindness and understanding with the treatment we received in our brief stop at the nearby village of Bamfield, where we went a day later to reprovision. It’s hard to explain the weird vibe—no one said hello, but they stared. The fuel dock, which the guide said was open, was “temporarily closed” according to a sign, at which two men laughed. They said it had been “temporary” for three years so far. A couple of battered old boats blocked access to the water hose. The owner of the general store, where we bought groceries, would only with great reluctance answer Jim’s questions about where we might find laundry facilities, showers, internet connection, and fuel. He finally snapped that he didn’t run other peoples’ businesses. So we left that place. Often, it’s what the guidebooks don’t mention that is most telling, and the book’s treatment of Bamfield’s charms is minimal. However, they have the best climate change sign anywhere.
The photo says it all. There we were, late afternoon in Imperial Channel, jigging with a weighted nausea-green squid at 170 feet. Mind you, Jim wasn’t taking any chances. He used the Big New Rod with 130-lb test line and its Herkin’ Big Reel. All was quiet until BANG! Bride of Codzilla took the bait and bent the Big New Rod nearly to the water. Holy halibut, thought Karen, that’s the Big New Rod bending, not the little one. Jim uttered something also starting with “Holy…” and began the tussle, which looked rather Hemingway-esque. He struggled for about a minute. Not quite enough time to judge our fish-powered boat speed. Then nothing. How did a fish like that manage to slip the hook under such firm pressure, we wondered as he reeled in the lure. Then we saw it. A fish that can bend the hook gets to slip it.
“Hmmm. Need bigger hooks,” grunts Jim. Uh-oh.
“Need to fish in shallower water,” says Karen.
Alright all you guitar-stringing, fish-slinging, hook-bending, line-tensioning guessers, tell us how big you calculate this fish was. We decided that one big bent steel hook, following closely on the heels of the original Codzilla, has given us a certain je ne sais quois in telling fish stories, the value of which we calculate to be about equal with the purchase price of the equipment.
How Minds Are Changed
Jim notices they’re cleaning fish on the stern deck and decides to row over and ask them about where they went and what bait they used. First thing they do is yell, “YOU WANT SOME HALIBUT?” Whoa! Things are looking up! We yell of course we do, and they pass us a nice small chunk, enough for supper. They got it 20 miles offshore, in some fishing spot named the Rat’s Nose. As we return to Sockdolager, Karen turns to Jim and says, “I guess they’re not so bad.” At which he guffaws and she adds, “Am I that easily bought off?”
Appreciating every day
We mentioned that our beloved Jack the sea dog is along on this trip, and it has been a merry chase so far. Jack, a 10 ½ year-old Brussels Griffon, makes us laugh every day and seems to be having a blast, especially when Jim takes him for a little zoom in the dinghy. Wearing his yellow lifejacket with its black straps, which makes him look like a 15-pound bumblebee, he peers into the water and thinks he’s rearranging the critters on the bottom as he "talks" to them.