The Wild Pacific Coast

Lucky Creek falls

A southwesterly gale was well underway as we approached Ucluelet. 6-8′ waves were rolling through and crashing into the shore on either side of us. The buoy in Carolina Channel, to our west, was disappearing completely behind the waves. The calm weathers we’d experienced early in the trip had given way to storm after storm. What better place to enjoy the weather than in Canada’s storm-watching capitol? Ucluelet has built a thriving tourist industry based in giving visitors a chance to experience the west coast’s fierce weather firsthand. We were eager to walk out to the Amphritite Point Lighthouse to view the storm in full force.

Here’s our log from the Pinkerton Islands to Ucluelet, or you can display them on the live map view.

12/27/11: No rain, no wind
The heavy rains we’ve had for the past two days finally have stopped, as has the wind. This is the view looking north from the anchorage.

12/27/11: Snow level
The snow level has dropped since we arrived in the area. We didn’t see any in snow on the foothills last week.

12/27/11: Pinkerton Islands
The view west from our anchorage.

12/27/11: Dinghy tour
The wonderfully complex islets of the Pinkerton Group are great dinghy and kayak territory. We’ve not been out in the dinghy for the past two day as it’s been raining too much. Our general rule with winter boating is: “If it’s not raining, get out there.” We’ll have plenty of time pinned inside the cabin to relax or do boat chores when the weather is bad.

12/27/11: Float home
The Pinkerton Islands are outside the Pacific Rim National Park, and have a number of floathomes and cabins tucked away on and alongside the islands. Of the many floathomes we’ve seen on this trip, only a few have been occupied.

12/27/11: Walking on water
This would be a bad time for a large wake to hit.

12/27/11: Private island
This cabin was on an island all to itself.

12/27/11: Unusual current
On an 11′ high tide, we were able to work a ways up two creeks that empty into the Pinkerton Group from Vancouver Island. The surface current in this one was most unusual. The current was running perhaps a knot or so where we’re stopped, and the direction kept changing back and forth, between inflow and outflow, in the space of minutes. We couldn’t figure out what would cause that.

12/27/11: End of the road
We probably had enough depth to go further up this second creek, but too many branches were in the way, and the rain had started up again. Time for lunch.

12/28/11: Newcombe Channel
A gale warning is in effect for West Coast Vancouver Island south. Winds are expected to be 25-35 from the southwest with 4-meter seas. The wind already was blowing a steady 25-30 from the SW as we approached Ucluelet Inlet, and 6-8′ waves were rolling through and crashing into the shore on either side of us. The buoy in Carolina Channel, to our west, was disappearing completley behind the waves. Newcombe Channel looks reasonbly wide on the chart, but felt pretty narrow with breakers all around. We’ve recently added an attitude gauge to our Maretron N2KView display. The video shows the boat’s motion, with pitching up to 10 degrees, and also the wind speed.

12/28/11: Newcombe Channel
The attitude gauge showed little rolling motion, even though the waves were on our beam. Our stabilizers were working hard to produce that result.

12/28/11: Spring Cove, Ucluelet
We tied off at what was left of the public dock in Spring Cove to walk out and see the weather at Amphritite Point.

12/28/11: Peninsula Road
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” (Ranulph Fiennes). Rain was pouring and the wind was gusting, but that was kind of the point: we were out to see storm.

12/28/11: Wild Pacific Trail
A spur trail for the Wild Pacific Trail is at the intersection of Peninsula and Coast Guard roads. The main trail is incredibly well-built and maintained. A wide gravel path, with room for 3 or 4 people walking abreast, winds through vibrant rainforest along the rugged shore. Numerous lookouts, interpretive signs and benches are along the way.

12/28/11: Carolina Channel
Looking east across Carolina Channel. We entered Ucluelet Inlet less than an hour ago this side of the barely-visible islands in the background. The buoy on the right of the picture is the one we saw bouncing around as we approached. We could here it’s bell from our anchorage in Spring Cove.

12/28/11: Breakers
The “wild Pacific” definitely was on display today as waves battered the rocks. The steel bark Pass of Melfort wrecked nearby on Chrismas Eve, 1905. The ship was enroute from Panama to the Puget Sound and was blown off course in a southerly storm. None of the 36 on board survived. These shores are as unforgiving as they look.

12/28/11: Amphritite Point Lighthouse
The Amphritite Point lighthouse on its rocky perch. Behind are the old light keeper quarters—the light was automated in 1988.

12/28/11: Original lighthouse
The original wooden lighthouse was built in 1906 in response to the Pass of Melfort tragedy. The structure lasted less than a decade before a storm swept it away.

12/28/11: Storm watching
We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the storm. On our short walk we encountered perhaps twenty others, some clearly local, some obviously tourists. Ucluelet bills itself as Canada’s storm-watching capitol. The Wild Pacific Trail was built to give visitors a safe and accessible view.

12/28/11: Head of Ucluelet Inlet
The storm was sending fair-sized waves into the anchoarge at Spring Cove, and the houses on shore reduced the privacy somewhat. Either one we could have put up with, but with no compelling reason to stay, we moved to the head of Ucluelet Inlet for the night.

12/28/11: Eagle’s Nest Marine Pub
On the way to our anchorage, we passed a building with a big sign: “MARINE PUB”. This turned it to be the Eagle’s Nest Marine Pub. We have a hard time passing up on a marine pub, but the weather was pretty miserable for a dinghy ride. Luckily, the rain and wind stopped just around dinner time and started up again only after we’d returned to Dirona.


Previous log post for this trip: Christmas Cruise 2011: After the storm

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2 comments on “The Wild Pacific Coast
  1. -- Jennifer and James says:

    Happy New Year to you as well Keith. We’re glad to have finally made the decision to go to Barkley in the winter–we’re having a great time.

    Hope you had a nice holiday season as well,

  2. Keith Short says:

    Happy New Year guys! Thanks for the log and photos – it’s been great tracking you over the Holidays.

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