Barkley Sound, BC Cruise Report (2009)

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Barkley Sound, BC Cruise Report (2009)

Postby jeffd » Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:05 pm

I’ve taken the SJ21 to Barkley Sound, on the west side of Vancouver Island, BC, once before. The first time was in 1988, with the SJ21 Fleet 1. I was planning to meet the rest of the fleet in Ucluelet, BC. Unfortunately, I had tow vehicle problems and ended up launching the boat at Port Alberni, BC. I was a bit unprepared for this change of plans– no charts, and I did not do my homework on the local conditions. I ended up launching at Port Alberni in the early afternoon, and motoring all the way out to Barkley sound – against the strong, up inlet winds, taking about 4 hours. I later found out that this wind is typical – the strong winds blow up the inlet all afternoon. The good part about this first trip is that the weather was great the whole time. I got to enjoy the awesome sunsets that Effingham Island is famous for. Here is one of them:

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Since I used up so much gas getting to Barkley Sound, I motored on over to Bamfield BC to fill up with very expensive gas (The road to Bamfield is a very long dirt road. Most get there by boat or seaplane). But I didn’t need to. The wind blew up Alberni inlet all afternoon. I got to enjoy a long 4+ hour spinnaker run from just outside of Bamfield BC all the way back to Port Alberni:

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When I got back to Port Alberni, I decided to put that very expensive Bamfield purchased gas into the tow vehicle, since we used hardly any of it.

So ever since that trip in 1988, I’ve wanted to go back to Barkley Sound. So I planned a trip in the summer of 2009, and managed to convince my sister to come along (she used to live aboard her 32’ sloop, so she’s a very experienced cruiser). Originally, the plan was to again, drive to Port Alberni and launch. But this time, the plan was to stay the night in Port Alberni, and motor out to Barkley Sound very early in the morning, to avoid the stiff afternoon up inlet winds, and then enjoy the long spinnaker run back. But the long range forecast for the week was for unsettled weather, so we decided to tow the boat all the way to Ucluelet. With my luck, if we launched at Port Alberni, the unsettled weather would upset the normal wind pattern, and we’d have to motor BOTH ways! So with a general plan in place, we packed and were off. In true cruising style, only general plans were made – exact anchorages and which way we head were dependent on the wind, the weather and our mood that day.

Here is a photo of the Barley Sound Chart, with our anchorages and approximate routes drawn in:

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Day 1: Wed 8/5/2009: Drove to Ucluelet.

Left Renton about 7:30am. 5 minute wait at the Border. Got to Tsawwassen about 10:10 – not going to make the 10:15 ferry, so we get gas, shop for groceries. Arrived at the ferry dock about 11:30 for the 12:45 ferry. Note: The ferry fares for a tow vehicle & trailer are kind of steep – for us it was over $200 each way(!). We shop for souvenirs! We just made it onto the 12:45 ferry – we were the 2nd to the last loaded on the lower deck. Lesson learned: Next time, make a reservation, and be there on time! It does take a while to get from the border to the ferry dock – not all freeways. Lots of stoplights. 1pm – 3pm: enjoyed the ferry ride to Nanaimo. Took a nap. At Nanaimo, we ate at Zellar’s (like Target) – Halibut burgers! Took maybe an hour break. Continued on to Port Alberni, then to Ucluelet. Arrived in Ucluelet about 6:30pm. Checked in at the Ucluelet campground, on Seaplane base road, paid the boat launch and parking fee. Launched at the ramp – kind of shallow, and rough, not much pitch, and the tide was out a bit. My sister gets in the boat, and I ‘power launch’ (back up, slam on the brakes) and manage to get the boat off without submerging the rear end of the van. Then, I took the kayak out to the boat.

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“You call that a boat ramp ?!?!"

Maybe next time I’ll consider using the concrete ramp (with a dock) at the fishing resort up the road. We anchored out, a ways out from the ramp, near an old steam donkey and two old wrecked wooden boats, rotting on shore – how sad!

Day 2: Thu 8/6/2009: Sailed to Effingham Island.

Awoke to a foggy Ucluelet harbor. Motored to the public dock (Hemlock St, outside marina where the Canadian Princess ship is docked), filled up the Reliance water container, took a quick look around the public dock and the marina. Then, we motored out of Ucluelet harbor. Out of the harbor, we hosted the sails. Just outside and East of Ucluelet harbor, in Newcombe channel, we sighted Minke whales.

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There was a whale watching boat too. We sailed by and took pictures. Then, we sailed past Sail Rock:

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and of course, took more pictures. We sailed 4-5 kts on the spinnaker, on to Effingham Island. At Effingham, we anchored in Effingham Bay, the south cove, near the head. We took a nap. Then, we inflated the kayaks, rowed ashore, and hiked to the Southeast side of Effingham Island.

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The trail was pretty well marked with miscellaneous flotsam, and a bit of a rainforest type environment. We had to do some bushwhacking. We saw the clearing for the former village site:

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with some artifacts, and the clam shell beach. We walked up (south, towards Mears bluff) the beach to the first sea cave.

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Very nice! Had sea ferns, stalactites and stalagmites. Then, we returned to the boat, ate, and slept. It was foggy/overcast, so no awesome sunsets this time.

Day 3: Fri 8/7/2009: Effingham Island to Wouwer Island.

We motored around Effingham Island, and saw the Village site and caves (where we explored yesterday) from the water:

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Then we motored to Wouwer Island – one of the ‘outer’ islands. We anchored in the Northeast corner of Wouwer Island, in a nice niche, on the side of the island away from the open ocean. Then, we inflated the kayaks.

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We kayaked up to Coombe Rocks, where lots of sea lions were on the rocks – some lounging, some making noise, some getting in and out of the water.

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Swells were increasing, so we decided to row around Batley Island. We explored a sea cave – only accessible by kayak.

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We went back to the boat for an afternoon nap, then dinner. After dinner, we kayaked to shore and explored Wouwer Island. We hiked northeast on Wouwer Island, around two small Islets, connected at low tide.

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Day 4: Sat 8/8/2009: Wouwer Island exploring, then back to Effingham.

Slept in – some fog and misty. Today, we kayaked around Wouwer Island. We rowed through the shallows between Wouwer Island and Bauke Island, then out to the south side – the open ocean! There were swells, overcast, and lots of cool scenery out here.

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The wind switched. Saw the log strewn, windswept side of the outer coast.

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One guidebook mentioned a hike through the narrow part of Wouwer-but the hike is described as a Sallal tunnel and recommends a flashlight even during the day. We saw lots of sea lions, as we rowed past Combe Rock - lots of sea lions were lounging about, barking, swimming here and there. We kayaked to the narrow part of Wouwer, landed, and ate a snack. We explored the start of the ‘trail’ and Sallal tunnel a bit. After returning to the boat, we had heavy drizzle and rain. We moved the boat over one cove for more shelter, then had lunch. After lunch, we motored along Coaser Channel, following the south chain of islands. We couldn’t see across! Visibility was less than 1 mile, often as little as ¼ to ½ mile. We motored back to Effingham Bay. Our ‘spot’ at the head of the cove was taken, so we anchored out a ways in the bay. We put up the boom tent, tried to dry out some stuff, ate a snack.

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In the evening, the drizzle/rain stopped. We took some pictures, adjusted the anchor, ate dinner, went to bed. About 4:30 AM, we awoke to some strange splashing noise – fish jumping all around us! This lasted for maybe about a half hour, then it was quiet again. We saw a near full moon. Pretty exciting.

Day 5: Sun 8/9/2009: Sailed/Motored to Jaques/Jarvis Lagoon.

Not raining but a high overcast today. The Sun was peeking through, then blue skies.

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We dry out stuff, then try to sail out of Effingham Bay. Not quite enough wind, so we motor past the mark, then drift/sail slowly past the Faber Islets and Village Reef. Then, we motor just past to catch some wind from the southeast – going our way! We sail 3-4 kts broad/beam reach up to the harbor entrance, and turn in between Gibralter and Jaques Island. As we turn, behind us is the kayak camp on Gibralter Island. Gee, it seems like there are a lot of folks there! We turn northwest, sail up by Jaques Island. The wind dies, then heads us. So we motor up the last bit, and carefully navigate into Jaques/Jarvis Lagoon, avoiding the rocks. It was a sunny/partly cloudy day. We saw more fish jumping around us as we entered the lagoon, at high tide. We free anchor in the more shallow end of the lagoon, about 2:20pm. We took a nice, late afternoon nap. About 6pm, the fog and cold started to settle in. We cooked our dinner, and felt rain approaching, so we put up the blue tarp. The rain came later. No drips! The re-caulked chainplates that leaked last summer were OK now. We’re still the only boat in the anchorage. Just after we arrived, three groups of kayakers came through the lagoon. One group landed near the native fish trap, explored, then headed out the west exit. All were gone within ½ hour. It was a great place to explore by kayak. Looks like rain all night.

Day 6: Mon 8/10/2009: Jaques/Jarvis Lagoon.

It was a rainy, stormy, windy night at times. But no leaks, and the boom tent works great. The forecast is for more rain and wind, so we’ll stay put for now, maybe explore in the kayaks during the breaks in the weather. Planning to wait for a break in the weather in the next day or so before moving, maybe to Pipestem inlet and Lucky Creek area. For now, we’ll stay put in Jacques/Jarvis Lagoon. Rain, wind, what a show! Some times of pretty intense rain and wind. Drips were spashing, bouncing – we were happy to be dry inside:

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After a nice nap, the rain lets up a bit, sort of. We inflate the kayaks, and check out the fish traps at high tide:

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Then, we go out the ‘back door’ entrance – pretty tight and a current running, but quite doable in a boat at high tide:


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We circumnavigate Jarvis Island, checking out the Lagoon on the west side, with Islands, shallows, and Oysters! Mmm. The rain lets up, but the fog starts rolling in:

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We continue around Jarvis, back to the ‘front door’ entrance, where we came in yesterday, There was fog, but we decide to go check out the fish trap on the opposite shore, at low tide. Pretty neat! Looks like a maze, with multiple levels, all made of rocks. It’s still dry as we head back to the boat We’re almost dry! Darn, just before we reach the boat, the rain starts again. So we boarded, shook off our wet gear, and made dinner. Mmm, oysters, mac & cheese.

Day 7: Tue 8/11/2009: Sailed to Hiller Island, explore Lucky Creek.
Looks like a clear day! We dry out a bit, then leave Jaques/Jarvis Lagoon as a couple of groups of kayaks enter. We motor out, and head northwest, between Treble Island and Green Rocks, up past the Pinkerton Islands, and Hand Island, out to Lyall Point. A tailwind! So we sail 2-3 kts, sometimes 1-2 kts.
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We turn north at Lyall point towards Richard Rock, pass Stopper Island and some aquaculture. We see the Toquart Bay campsite – lots of RVs. We run up toward Refuge and Hiller Island. Wind dies so we motor. We anchored off Hiller Island on the SE side, off several rocks and islands. We put a stern tie out to Hiller Island.
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We inflate the kayaks and head up the inlet to Lucky Creek and the waterfall. We are near high tide. On the way in, we see a group of mergansers, an eagle, and a deer. We paddle up to Lucky Creek and we were not disappointed. Very beautiful and we were alone! We enjoy the falls, wash our faces in the fresh water, and take some pictures.
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As we leave, a ~16’ Boston Whaler shows up, takes a look, and then leaves. Then, a 17’ Lund with a dad and 4 teens beach the boat on the opposite shore and all go ashore. They quickly find their way to the top of the falls. We leave them, then we meet a couple of older gentlemen from Portland, Oregon, in an inflatable – their sailboat is in Cataract Cove. We talk a bit, then continue to drift downstream with the current. We explore Hiller Island, looking for the old trading post site. My sister spots an apple tree – bingo! There is a sunset of sorts behind the Island, with some color in the sky.

Day 8: Wed 8/12/2009: Sail up and down Pipestem Inlet, then to Joes Bay, finally back to Ucluelet.

Woke up to partly cloudy skies with a high overcast, at low tide. There are some sun breaks:

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I noticed a small bear in the tide flats between Hiller Island and Vancouver Island:

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He was picking for oysters and shellfish. He picked his way toward us, and looked up, then walked right past us – right past the tree that we were stern tied to. He continued to pick at oysters and shellfish along the way, on Hiller Island. What a show! We got to watch him for 15-20 minutes, much of it at quite close range:

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When I was in Barkley Sound in 1988, I spotted a bear on shore in a different anchorage. So I guess for me, it’s come to Barkley Sound to spot bears! I guess there are a lot of bears on Vancouver Island, so no big surprise. After breakfast, we motored out of the anchorage, checked out the lucky creek entrance, and found the sandbar – e.g. ran aground! After motoring off the sandbar, we started up Pipestem Inlet. Near Cataract cove, we noticed a tailwind! So we flew the cruising spinnaker, and made about 3-4 kts. We ran all the way to the head of the inlet –about 3 miles one way:

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On the way, we were treated to fabulous scenery, mountain peaks, and several waterfalls:

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At the end of the inlet, we dropped the spinnaker, put up the sails, and beat back upwind. The wind was good, so we made 3-4 kts. After passing our old anchorage, the wind kind of died. So we motored on. We decided to check out Joe’s Bay (between Dodd, Willis and Turtle Islands). It was pretty windy. Winds were about 10-15 kts from the southwest, with about 1-2 ft chop, so we tucked behind Hand Island and Brabant Island, before continuing on to the inlet between Dodd and Chalk Islands. The campground seemed to have a lot of campers and kayaks. There was another sailboat anchored in Joe’s Bay. We decided to motor for Ucluelet now, instead of waiting for morning. So we donned our raingear and headed out, anticipating the chop and spray from the swells. We headed out with a reefed main and jib, and sailed across Loudon Channel, at about 4-5 kts. Lots of spray and chop, but we did see several whales on the way. After tucking in behind Forbes Island, we followed the mainland, motoring up and around back to Ucluelet. The wind and waves were building, making for a kind of lumpy ride back, and upwind too. Luckily, it was clear. It seemed to take quite a while to get back to Ucluelet harbor, kind of grueling, but it was calm once we were inside. We motored back to near the boat ramp, and anchored out, near the steam donkey and derelict boats on shore, with all of the other transient boaters. We were treated to a nice sunset over the Ucluelet Peninsula:

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After a nice dinner, some reading, it was time for bed.

Day 9: Thu 8/13/2009: Ucluelet Pacific rim hike, drove back home.

Woke up – very calm, and a high overcast. There were some views of the mountains on Vancouver Island, between the clouds. We check out our neighbors: 2 abandoned wood boats ashore, an old steam donkey, rusting away – how sad. After breakfast, we pull the boat out, at about half tide – much easier than launching at low tide. I had to back up till the end of the bunks were submerged, which put the rear tires of the van just at the edge of the water, then I used the winch to drag the boat onto the trailer. After de-rigging and packing up, we drove through Ucluelet to the trailhead of the Wild Pacific Trail.
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We took the 2.5 km hike around the rugged coastline, out to the lighthouse, with many views of the coastline and some of the islands we dodged. Visibility might have been good enough to see across to Bamfield-we weren’t sure. There was a thin overcast, which burned off and we got some sun. A very nice hike:

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Then, it was time to head home. We drove east, past Port Alberni, Nanaimo to the Duke Point BC Ferry dock. We arrived about 3:30pm. There was a very slim chance we might make it on the 5:45pm ferry, but the readerboard sign said it was already full. So we might have to take the 8:15 ferry. So we go check out the Artist shops. Much smaller than the small shoppiung mall at Tsawwassen. We have a late lunch. As expected, we missed the 5:45. For the 8:15, they put us on the car deck – the upper deck – looks like the new ferries have about 8 foot ceiling clearances on the upper vehicle decks, versus the old 6’ 8” standard. We ate Noodles in the restaurant, and enjoyed the sunset over Nanaimo:

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After reaching Tsawwassen, we are on the home stretch. We drive south, cleared customs, and eventually get back to Renton, arriving about 1:30am. It was a long day, but well worth it, and I feel fortunate to not have gotten stuck on Vancouver Island.

What a great trip! OK, we did have to use our raingear, but we did sail quite a bit, and did a fair amount of exploring by kayak and hiking. There’s so much to see in Barkley Sound, and in the 9 day trip I feel like we just scratched the surface. I’m ready to go again. Maybe next time I’ll be able to do the long spinnaker run up Alberni Inlet.

Code: Select all
 
Trip Statistics:

Total gas used for boat:      about 3 gallons
Total trip outboard hours:    12.4 hours (I have a Hobbs meter on my outboard) 
Total GPS miles covered:      72.6 NM. 

Trip Resources:

Exploring Vancouver Island’s West Coast, Douglass, Fine Edge, 2nd ed, 1999
Cruising Gude to the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Watmough, Evergreen Pacific, revised edition, 1998
Waggoner Cruising Guide, 2008
Northwest Boat Travel, 2009
Barkley Sound Marine Recreation Map, Coastal Waters Recreation, Victoria BC
Barkley Sound, Port Alberni, Bamfield, Tofino, Fish-n-Map Co

     Charts:                             #    date  scale

Barkley Sound                           3671  1987  1:40K
Broken Group                            3670  1985  1:20K
Plans Barkley Sound (Ucluelet harbor)   3646  2005  1:15K
Alberni Inlet (not used this trip)      3668  2007  1:40K
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jeffd
 
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