Whidbey Island, Washington to Vancouver Island’s west coast
August 24, 2013: Our wedding day
Daylight broke and gray clouds consumed the summer sky. It was colder than we expected it would be. Two years of love and 352 days of brainstorming, planning, and creating would culminate today at the Captain Whidbey Inn. Today we’d exchange rings and become husband and wife. Would the clouds clear in time for the celebration?
The clouds faded away, and the day was ours.
In person and in spirit, we stood before the people whose love had readied us for one another, and we committed our lives to each other. Nothing we had experienced could have prepared us for the exhilaration of standing before the dearest people in our lives and sharing vows we had written privately for each other.
Enveloped in love and support, we broke bread, celebrated, and danced until was dawn was closer than dusk. If you’d like to see our day in action, check out our wedding video by our friends at First and Foremost productions.
August 26, 2013:Let the honeymooning begin!
Two days after our wedding, we set sail from Penn Cove and headed north. We anchored for the night at Hope Island and traveled through Deception Pass toward Canada the next afternoon. We arrived at Victoria Harbour at dusk, just in time to snag a slip in front of the spectacular Empress Hotel. Parliament was aglow, reflecting a magical ambiance on the water that only added to our excitement.
August 27, 2013: The big blue sea
We left Victoria the following afternoon, eager to make our way west thru the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward the Pacific. We watched a pod of orcas hunt near race rocks and hoisted a flag bearing symbols uniting our family names, a wedding gift from friends. We anchored for the night under the watchful eye of a bald eagle behind Wolf Island in Becher Bay. The next morning brought with it the fog for which the Strait is notorious. Radar blazing, we started the long haul toward Ucluelet (Yew-kloo-let), BC, at the north end of Barkley Sound.
Anxious excitement filled the air as we neared the Pacific Ocean – our first time officially in the big blue! We were itching to hoist the sails and more than a bit disappointed when we were met with light and inconsistent winds. We reached Ucluelet in a rainstorm well after dark and were kicking ourselves for pushing to cover so much ground. We’d heard plenty about the unforgiving terrain on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and our stomachs were in knots as our radar guided us through numerous rocky islands and outcroppings toward Ucluelet. Being greeted by murky shadows of menacing stone statues and the thunderous crash of waves upon rocks lost in the black made us rightly nervous. We were thankful for the immediate calm that welcomed us as we eased into Spring Cove and set our anchor. Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbour” and how grateful we were to have arrived.
August 29, 2013: A rainy fishing village
We were eager to motor further into the inlet and to explore Ucluelet, but a cold and rainy morning meant extra coffee was in order to move us to action. When we finally motored the couple remaining miles, we were happy to get a slip in the town’s marina, a facility that serves predominantly fishing boats. We enjoyed looking out of place amid the monstrous vessels and were hopeful that being in a fishing wharf would mean access to solid fishing advice. Ucluelet is small, only about 1,800 residents reside there, and tourism and fishing are its primary industries. The day was dreary, but we made the most of it. There were two main highlights: (1) exploring The Canadian Princess, a former hydrographic ship, that is retired in the harbour and now lives on as a restaurant and hotel; and (2) hanging out at Captain Hook’s, a fishing outpost and coffee shop. The owner is an experienced fisherman, and she introduced us to a kind guide who was happy to share his wisdom in selecting lures, hoochies, and bucktails that had been popular with the local salmon in recent weeks. Great fun for two newlyweds who were damn determined to feast on honeymoon salmon!
August 30, 2013: The best surf town in North America
The stormy trek from Uclulet to Tofino was challenging. Jessie spent the majority of the trip battling seasickness and offered her breakfast to King Neptune. Fortunately, the destination was well worth the nausea! The last thing we expected on our Canadian honeymoon was a beach experience; however, we were more than happy for the surprise that awaited us when we arrived in Tofino. We hopped the 20-minute, 2-buck beach bus to Chesterman Beach and spent the first sunny day of our honeymoon picnicking on the sand and climbing up the rocks.
The ominous rock outcroppings that had intimidated us during our night arrival to Ucluelet now appeared majestic as we gazed at the rugged Pacific coast of Clayoquot Sound from the sandy side of the surf. Children ran on the beaches and wetsuit-clad surfers chased waves. We allowed ourselves to get caught up in every moment, staying nearly until dusk. The next day, we explored the Saturday market and a visited the Eagle Aerie Gallery, which displays incredible traditional First Nations art by Roy Henry Vickers.
September 2, 2013: Leaving our mark
Two nights in Tofino didn’t feel like nearly enough, but we decided to make a final push north before beginning our voyage home. Not unlike The Red Thread, solar power recharges our batteries quickly, and we were revving for the lovely four-hour sail north to Ramsay Hot Springs. The reputation of the hot springs had earned it the top spot on our list of things to see, and it was absolutely worth the trek!
We arrived a hour or so before dusk, just after the last tourist boats had loaded their guests and sped back toward Tofino. The 1.5-mile hike from the anchorage to the hot springs is lined with planks of wood, one after the other, etched with the names of boats who have visited over the decades. Many of the planks were carved in ornate fonts; it felt like walking on art. The forest air was cool on our shoulders, and we walked alone only briefly, before being joined by a large dog that appeared more wolf than domestic. He was friendly and led us as we made our way toward the springs. Although the path is tidy and neat, the hot springs are unadulterated. The stones are jagged, and the 10-foot waterfall from which the steaming water gushes appears as it would have a hundred years ago. We crawled gingerly over the rocks and sunk into relaxation, especially Neil.
With the morning sun, we arose and paddled back to the shore to carve our own plank in the pathway. Our boat’s namesake added to the story of Maquinna Provincial Park, we began our journey south.
September 3, 2013: Barkley Sound bound
In retrospect, we would’ve loved to have spent more time in the charming islands of the Broken Group in Barkley Sound. A hundred islands or more dot a southern crook of Vancouver Island, each erupting with sea and other wildlife. The sun was out, and we anchored in Effingham Bay in the company of several other sailboats. A family dinghied over and invited us for a bonfire on the beach later in the evening. Complements of Jessie’s navigational skills, the propeller hub on our outboard had been busted when we ran aground near Tofino. Needless, to say, our trusty dinghy, Miss Sassy Strings, was basically a chubby hypalon canoe. Lucky for us, neighbors in the bay aboard s/v Curtsy offered to let us hitch a ride. We enjoyed an afternoon of kayaking and then ventured to the beach bonfire, where we enjoyed the company of three other liveaboard couples and a liveaboard family. Being new to calling The Red Thread our home sweet boat, we had a great time learning from our new friends and hearing their stories.
We awoke to another spectacular, sunny morning! However, midway through the day, Jessie’s left eye started to become blurry and extremely sensitive to light. A look in the mirror revealed that her pupil was freakishly dilated. She knows enough about the workings of the brain to freak herself out, and she was definitely concerned. Fortunately, the culprit was later sorted out when she replaced the scopolamine patch that she’d removed earlier in the morning and actually read the risks of the anti-nausea treatment. She recalled removing the patch but had washed her hands after doing so. Several minutes later, she had put in contacts (I’m a genius, I know).
September 4, 2013: Hunting for fish in the Deer Group
That afternoon, we weighed anchor and tried unsuccessfully again to fish for salmon. We made our way to Dodger Channel in the Deer Group for our final night before heading back into the Puget Sound. As dusk crept near, we paddled out in the dingy to fish for lingcod. At long last Neil got a bite, but our “catch of the honeymoon” was a small rockfish. Rockfish are not allowed to be retained, and Neil gently set it back to sea.
September 5, 2013: Return to Puget Sound
Despite having our fishing line out numerous times since setting out on our honeymoon and spending many evenings jigging from the side of the boat, we were still salmonless! We were in the final days of our getaway and were determined to turn our luck around (and by “luck” I mean really figure out how we were screwing up). As we neared Port Renfrew, the winds seemed to change as we reeled in a barely legal coho. It was just over the legal size limit and made for a lovely hor d’oeuvre. At the very least, we had not been skunked!
We anchored in Port Refrew for the afternoon and set out to explore the area. We met a couple of kind fisherman who took pity on our honeymoon salmon dreams and gave us tips and a couple lures. We also replenished our tacklebox, as we’d managed to lose two flashers and the majority of our lures due to snagging on seaweed and snapping our line. Impressive, right? We motored across the channel and dropped anchored for the night next to s/v Curtsy.
September 6, 2013: Salmon or bust
Have I mentioned that we had salmon fever? Our bite-size coho merely whet our appetites. The journey between Port Renfrew and the Sooke Basin wasn’t too far, so we spent much of the foggy day trolling under jib sail. We rocked our new flasher and a lime green hoochie dressed up with a hot pink bucktail. A moderate breeze allowed us to cruise along at salmon speed. and within a 20 minutes of letting out the line, WE WERE ON (as they say on Wicked Tuna)!! Fifteen minutes later, Jessie had reeled in a 29-inch coho! Neil put the pole back into the water and before Jessie could finish filleting her catch, he reeled in one of his own! This time, a 24-incher! Before we reached out destination, Jessie added yet another (23 inches long) to the mix. Thanks to some very kind Canadian fishermen, we had beefed up our skills and now felt like a couple of real bad asses! Honeymoon dream realized!
Exuberant, we rounded the spindly spit that protects the Sooke Basin and set our anchor amid a minefield of crab pot buoys. We were proud of our salmon and thankful to have the makings for a fine dinner with our new friends Bert and Mejan on s/v Curtsy. The following morning, the four of us dinghied into town to pick up a few groceries and other supplies. It was a wonderful day to share.
September 7, 2013: The long journey home
The last few days of our honeymoon were bursting with sun, fun, friends, and [finally] fish. Neither of us were ready to return to the buzz of a busy city, but after sailing (successfully yet again) for salmon, we pointed our nose toward Seattle. We watched the sun sink behind the horizon as three monstrous cruise ships headed for Alaska. I’m not sure we’ll ever get over the sense of awe that comes from seeing such large vessels underway.
We planned to drop anchor in Port Townsend around midnight and to clear customs in the morning; however, that was not to be. Our radar looked like it had been clobbered in purple party confetti – the anchorage was packed with dozens of boats, many of which lacked anchor lights. Trying to find a spot to anchor would not have been safe given the circumstances. So, sleepy, we decided to motor through the night, hoping that we’d be allowed to clear customs in Seattle. We dropped the hook to snooze for a couple of hours in Kingston before being boarded by the Coast Guard upon returning to Seattle (technically, we had broken the law by skipping a designated port to return home). Lucky for us, the officer didn’t give us too much grief. We settled back into our slip at Elliott Bay Marina and then raced off to meet friends, to cook up some of our honeymoon salmon, and to catch our first Seahawks game as newlyweds.