When many sailors — novice and old salts alike — dream of cruising, they often picture themselves sailing from one idyllic anchorage to another on beautiful ocean breezes, dropping the hook in secluded coves with no other boats around and the cares of the world left far in their wake. After racing in the Van Isle 360 last summer, that’s how I dreamed our cruise around Vancouver Island would go this summer — and the past couple weeks certainly have.
Rounding the Brooks Peninsula put cell service gladly behind us and when the the sun came out, so too did favorable winds for sailing up mountain-lined fjords and upon the ocean. Since then, we’ve put many miles under Yahtzee’s keel with the sails up and engine off, hopping between scenic anchorages. Of course, we’re experienced enough to know that this isn’t always the reality of cruising, as the weather ultimately has the final say, but we’re happy lapping it up, living in the dreamy moments while they’re with us.
Cutting through the static, I finally heard the weather report crackle through over the VHF radio: Vancouver Island north. Gale Warning in effect. Wind northwest 10 to 20 knots this morning, increasing to gale force after noon. Wave heights, two to three meters. With a smile, I continued setting the staysail on the foredeck as we sailed westward out of Kyuquot Sound towards the open ocean.
As we neared Rugged Point, waves breaking on the reef beyond came into view and Yahtzee began to rise and fall with the swell. I could tell the wind was picking up and was glad we’d set a reef in the main and had our handy little staysail hoisted and drawing. Opting to sail south inside the reef, we made a sharp turn to port, gathering speed out toward the royal blue water of the Pacific. Passing quickly through rock formations, green islands and forests of kelp, we wove our way out into the ocean to meet even more breeze and larger, rolling waves.
Just as Environment Canada had predicted, the wind and seas continued to build and Yahtzee raced safely down the coast in rollicking leaps and bounds. The boys napped below while Jill and I sat in the cockpit, sailing the boat, reveling in bright sunshine and brilliant conditions. We’d dreamed of days like this and here we were, enjoying every minute of the ride with smiles on our faces.
When Porter woke up and came on deck, we were just making our turn east into Nootka Sound and surfing conditions were creating an exhilarating ride down 8 to 12 foot seas. On one surf we topped the 10 knot mark and from our squeals of excitement, it might as well have been 20.
A few miles later and we were under power on a flat pane of water, motoring into our anchorage for the night. I still wore a smile while folding the staysail and when we rounded a small point into a protected little cove, I almost laughed; it was the end of yet another great sail from one perfect spot to another.
With Jill and Porter rolling out the anchor and chain from the bow, I took a moment to soak in a 360 degree view of our surroundings. Emerald mountains shot skyward in a sawtooth pattern in almost every direction and below them, rocky outcroppings flanked us to port and starboard with beaches sprawling in front of the bow. The only signs of humanity were a few cabins ashore that were mostly obstructed by trees and what seemed like the remnants of an old logging outfit. It was the perfect place to stop and while away a few sunny days.
While anchorage-hopping over the past few weeks, a nice routine of sailing, choosing a spot to drop the hook, swimming, fishing, kayaking and rowing, working and exploring ashore developed. We’ve gotten some small projects done around the boat and without cell service, I was happy not staring or caring about a screen in my face. Books got read, bread got baked and Jill and I enjoyed many nights together playing our favorite game — Yahtzee, of course — in whatever anchorage we happened to be bobbing in.
Though anchorages can sometimes blend together after so many have been visited, in reality, no two are alike, and we always look forward to finding out what makes each one unique. Some are accessed by narrow passages in the rock that open up into beautiful basins and others are well known stops that are frequented by boats passing through the area. And yet other anchorages are merely made up as we go along, as in, “that place looks awesome, I bet we could anchor there.”
One such anchorage turned into a favorite since leaving the Bunsby Islands two weeks prior. It wasn’t a true anchorage at all, but rather a beautiful beach that was protected from wind and swell by a high, rocky point topped with tall trees that jutted out from the west side of Flores Island. Fine sand, temperate clear water and driftwood structures backed by a lush rainforest turned into a track for running, a jungle gym for climbing, a field for playing baseball and soccer, and whatever else our minds came up with.
Another favorite was the popular anchorage at Friendly Cove, where a trail leads to a gorgeous lighthouse and then on to a beach that is quintessential Pacific Northwest. We spent a full day here meeting the cove’s hospitable caretakers, venturing to the white and red beacon and adventuring to the gorgeous beach and nearby lake. And even there, at such a heavily visited spot, we were just one of three boats in the anchorage.
The thing about all these empty anchorages is that we’re getting spoiled by the solitude. And it’s not that we’re against sharing these lovely spots with other cruisers, because we love meeting fellow boaters along the way, it’s just that after cruising the empty San Juan and Gulf Islands for two winters and starting our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in mid May, we’ve managed to stay ahead of the boating hordes for quite a while. Especially out here on the west coast of the island, we simply haven’t been in very many places with other boats, due to the fact that there aren’t many other boats out here to begin with, and there are lots of places to stop.
But no matter if we’re having dessert on a new acquaintance’s boat, buddy-boating with great friends or exploring an empty cove like we’re the only people for miles around, it’s all part of the adventure, part of the moments that make up the cruising life. And that’s what we love. That right there, is “Rollin with Yahtzee.”