We did it. Yesterday we departed our northernmost anchorage, Bull Harbour, traversed the Nahwitti Bar leaving our protected inland waters behind and entered the Pacific Ocean. We rounded Cape Scott, making the Big Left Turn. We sailed in the promised brisk northwesterlies, wing on wing for hours, due south. As we watched the west coast of Vancouver Island pass by on our port side, and the endless Pacific Ocean to starboard, we couldn’t stop grinning at accomplishing the biggest challenge of our journey so far.
Two days ago we sat in the still waters of Bull Harbour on Hope Island. Fitting, we thought, that Hope Island would begin and end our journey northward. To get in, you motor through a twisty deep channel and end up in a lovely landlocked bay. Normally we would have relished such a spot and stayed for days on end enjoying the nearby trails and tidepools, and on the other side of the island via a short hike through cool mossy woods, an ocean beach with brilliant blue waves pounding the rock strewn shoreline. No, we were too anxious about the next upcoming leg of our trip, rounding notorious Cape Scott and finally, finally sailing in the Pacific again and eager to move on.
We put everything away below that might get tossed to the cabin floor in the ocean swells. We tied the jacklines on deck, fitted the girls’ new harnesses on. The liferaft got strapped to the wheel pedestal in the cockpit. Water and fuel jugs and miscellaneous gear strapped down on the aft deck. When we went to bed the boat was as ready as she’d ever be. We’d talked with the girls about what the next day would be like, rocking and rolling in the ocean swells like they’d never felt before. (“Like a big powerboat wake?” asks Leah. “Exactly! Except over and over….”) Ourselves however, were a swell of emotions – anxiety, excitement, dread, giddiness. I woke up at 4 am in a cold sweat and pounding heart, imaging huge freak waves overtaking us as we attempted to cross the Nahwitti bar, our first obstacle.
Morning came and we motored away from Bull Harbour in glassy calm waters under a dreary gray sky. We arrived at the bar just as the flood was ending and motored across it like any other body of water, except for the Pacific swells that we were now riding up, down, up and down. The wind remained calm as we motored across to Cape Scott but the NW swells were mixing with the westerly ebb now, and we bounced around for hours in confused triangular seas. Not dangerous, just nauseating. The girls stayed in bed too long and by the time we got them strapped into the cockpit with us they were green. Sadly, our pink vomiting tub was called for that morning by our youngest crew.
Around 11 am we reached Scott Channel, still motoring in less than 5 knots of wind. As we turned left with the ebbing sea, the motion calmed down as we, the swell and the water were running south together. The girls had fallen asleep in the cockpit earlier snuggled in their blankets and in the calmer motion Leah awoke and exclaimed: “That’s much better!” Holly was soon awake and they were bouncing around the cockpit wearing their new offshore harnesses like it was any other day at sea. All was well again onboard.
About an hour later we could feel small puffs of wind at our backs, then it slowly got stronger until it was the NW wind we’d been promised. Real Wind. We unfurled the genoa to starboard, prevented the main to port and sailed for the next five hours like that, wing on wing. “We are like a butterfly!” Holly noticed. The wind built until little whitecaps appeared all around us, almost glowing in the blue sea. We’d left the clouds behind and were surrounded by bright blue sky and sun. We glided down the waves, Wondertime rocking slightly back and forth as the swells rolled under us. The perfect magic carpet ride.
We rolled right into Quatsino Sound, then found our first anchorage at North Harbour outside of the tiny fishing outpost of Winter Harbour. We were the only boat. Just us, mountains of old growth trees, water, sky and our satisfaction of a journey well made.