After enjoying the ups and (in my humble opinion) downs of anchoring in the lee of the Brooks peninsula we moved on a little sooner than planned.
The up side was the beach. There is a hike from the anchorage that takes you through to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. As we emerged from the darkness of the forest we emerged, blinking into full summer at the white sandy beach. I made a bee line straight to the water grimacing in preparation for the icy coldness of the North Pacific….I opened my eyes mid grimace as I realised the water was quite pleasant and minutes later found myself splashing around in the sparkling spray like an idiot who hasn’t seen water for months. In later days we found this temperature inconsistency was not an anomaly, the west coast that the water is quite nice. We figured in the end that we were comparing it to the water in the Broughtons which is essentially the bottom of the ocean that has been churned up over the Nahwitti bar.
Nothing compares to the muscle numbing, scream evoking cold water of the Broughtons.
Mr. A busied him self with the very serious work every child conducts when exposed to sand – Digging.
The rest of us beach combed for treasures as this beach was the final resting place of a mountain of debris washed ashore from distant lands.
The down side to the anchorage was the williwaws that came over the mountains on the peninsula every few minutes. As the anchorage is slowly silting up we only had a short bit of chain out and I found the blasts of wind every few minutes quite un-nerving. The winds were supposed to be gale force for the next few days, so prodded by my frayed nerves I put forth the motion that we should move on. Skip the Bunsby islands (a group of flat, rockly islands that didn’t look all that interesting or protective in a blow) and head into Kyuquot Sound proper. Sure the guide books all said “Don’t skip the Bunsby’s” but I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about so skip them we did. The plan being to head deep into Kyuquot Sound to a storm hole protection from the gales.
As we sailed past the entrance to the village of Kyuquot, also known as Walter’s Cove we saw an interesting boat heading right at us. As it got closer we got the binoculars on it and identified it as the Uchuck III.
Back in the day, (and by that I mean the 20 Century) there was a larger population north of Johnstone Straight and on the West Coast of Vancouver Island than there is today. Populated by homesteaders, hand loggers, first nations, fishermen and general misfits, people got around largely by the coastal steamers which were the life blood of all rural communities.
With the advent of the government only granting logging permits to large companies, and those large companies in turn flying people in and out for work, the communities have been dying and so, the age of the costal steamers came to a close.
There are two left. Most people know of the Francis Barkley which services Ucluelet, Bamfield and the Broken Group, but there is one more. The Uchuck III which services Nootka Sound, Esperanza Inlet and Kyuquot Sound. She is a reconditioned wooden WWII minesweeper and has been plying her route pretty much regardless of the weather since 1955. (Her ability to run in all weather has given her the nickname ‘the Upchuck’ For ship buffs she is a beautiful old girl. For me, who loves local history, she is a glimpse of a way of life almost extinct.
The moment we set eyes on her, all three of us were captivated. Almost an unspoken agreement occurred. We turned 180 degrees and followed her into the narrow windy entrance to Walters Cove. Tying up just down from her at the government dock.
Moments after docking Mr. A & Mr. J (who tells me he was just supervising Mr. A.) were standing on the wharf next to the Uchuck watching the ballet that is the unloading of her supplies. Small boats came along side, mostly from the first nations village across the water and the Uchuck unloaded directly into her. We saw 7 or 8 washing machines and other appliances disappearing over her side in this way. The crew man in charge of the twin derricks had incredible confidence and finesse at swinging huge pallets up, over and down. Never faltering once. The two boys watched spell bound for at least an hour…likely more. I watched for a while, but then occupied myself by wandering round the docks chatting to other people standing in the audience mesmorised by the Uchuck. Fellow sailors and locals alike. When the Uchuck arrives, the whole town comes out to watch.
Here she is unloading a kayaker – Uchuck style.
Every person I spoke to asked if we had been to the Bunsby islands. When I said no, each person had a story to tell of how amazing or protective in a storm they are. Humph, I guess we’ll have to pick them up next time.
That night, after a lovely dinner down the winding boardwalk path that fronts the entire village and ends at Eric’s restaurant “Java the Hut”, we wandered back to find what seemed like most the local first nation kids engaged in a game of jumping off the wharf into the harbour wearing swim gear and woollen socks. Each kid would jump with a huge splash, giggle, climb out onto the dock, giggle, and then squelch back up the ramp to the wharf to jump again leaving time for more squeals and giggles.
The Uchuck’s crew had finished unloading and were relaxing for the evening before leaving the next morning. J. Started chatting to the mate and before long we were given a tour…which was just amazing. From the chart room with the original speaking tubes, to the brass telegraph controller that is still used to communicate engine speed to the Engineer.
I’m not a big ‘engine room girl’ but, the engine rooms were straight out of an old movie. From the shiny engines with the control lever, the other end of the ‘full steam ahead controller’ to the fuse panels with the old school light bulbs and handles. It was a hipster’s paradise….although I’m pretty sure that hipsters are a local delicacy round here.
You can take day and overnight cruises on the Uchuck, they also have Kayak racks so that they can deliver you to your preferred destination – a number of people got off to Kayak to the Bunsby’s, because apparently they are not to be missed.
The Uchuck, steamed out the next morning before we did but as we left Walter’s Cover we realised that we had a new place in our hearts for the community and the Uchuck III. If you ask A. He will tell you that meeting the Uchuck was one of the highlights of his summer. To me it was a glimpse of a simpler, life that seemed so lacking in all the things that we feel that we ‘need’ in modern society and so full of that special kind of summertime joy. A special joy, that I’m pretty sure they didn’t have any of in the Bunsby’s.