After all the excitement of leaving Quatsino Sound we awoke early and suitably chastened for a new day.
When people talk about cruising the west coast of Vancouver island, there are two great landmarks that people refer to. The first, is obviously rounding the north end of the island. The second is a squarish peninsula that juts out into the Pacific called Brooks Peninsula. It is famous for a venturi wind that sets up at Cape Cooke at the end of the peninsula. 30knots is known as a ‘calm day’ there.
We woke early the day we planned to take on Brooks Peninsula. The anchorage was still and quite beautiful. As we lifted the anchor we heard two eagles calling to each other either side of the bay.
With the anchor up and the bow slicing through the stillness up popped an otter about 10 feet from the bow. He had a starfish in his paws and appeared to be having his morning shave/ scratch with it.
Brooks Peninsula is geographically interesting because for some reason the last ice age didn’t touch it. So it has some unique flora on it…and apparently puffins.
We kept our eyes open for puffins all day…meaning that I had lots of opportunity to try my “what is the opposite of a puffin?- nuffin” joke a variety of different ways never failing to elicit stony silence from my audience each time….sigh.
For days, we had been tracking the weather, carefully calculating the perfect day to make our assault on the cape. Wednesday was the day. Thursday onwards forecast gales Wednesday was our only hope for something less than a fearsome tempest at the infamous Cape.
It turned out our weather window was actually a weather hole. The most our wind indicator saw on our rounding was 7 knots. We tried and failed to find enough ‘venturi-tempest-wind’ to fill a sail with.
There is an island off the cape called Solander island. The pass between the cape and island is a rock bone yard. There is a narrow pass on the inside. All but one of the guide books strongly suggest staying clear unless you have several generations of local knowledge at your finger tips. One guide book however said ‘In the right conditions, it is possible to get through.’
To my dearest husband, this is the equivalent of a green light. As there was almost no wind and we were there at slack we decided that there was no better time to take the narrow pass.
When I say ‘we decided’ the more accurate picture is of me saying “NO! Way!” while my beloved overcome with temporary deafness turned the boat at the pass. I fully admit that I am the resident scaredy cat on the boat. Sailing as a couple adds another, complicated layer to a relationship. Each couple either finds their own equilibrium or quits sailing. For us, we’ve been sailing together a long time and we seem to have developed a kind of sixth sense as to when to push each other’s boundaries (mostly mine) and when to lay off.
So despite my complaints, we did it….and I was so glad. It was a highlight of the trip. It was amazing and a rare treat to see both the fearsome cape and the island close up. There is a sea lion hang out spot on the back side of Solander. The pass takes you so close to the island and the lions you feel like you might be invited over for tea.
We tried to sail a bit after rounding but gave up after 30 mins or so. I was driving and J. Was reading Rohld Dahl to A. In the cockpit. We were all quite engrossed in the story when I saw a huge fin the water right by the hull.
I have never been face to face before with a sunfish. But it’s one of those animals that you recognize immediately when you encounter one for the first time. They are huge, flappy and kind of goofy looking.
We brushed along side a big one. I don’t know who was more surprised, us or it. It acted a little stunned, and then flapped it’s fin at us in anger before lolloping away in a very sun -fishy way. At the time we were honoured to see such a rare marine sight….over subsequent weeks saw 9 or 10 others so now we’re not convinced that they are so rare.
That was our welcome back into the so called ‘banana belt’. The guide books talked about how the weather being much warmer once round Brooks. I was ready for that to be true and, gleely shed the toque for the first time since installing it in Johnstone straight. The sun came out and warmed us to our cockles…I have no idea where my cockles are but I can tell you that they definitely feel happy when the sun warms them.
Before long we were anchored in Columbia cove, a small cove on the south east end of the Peninsular. 4 sailboats were in that night. The west cost way is that you either know the boats already from the last place you anchored or you go meet them and that is how it is possible to party with friends in such a remote and beautiful spot.