Sooke to Bamfield

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Barkley Sound Trip Day 3, Sooke to Bamfield

It is about 75 nautical miles from Sooke to Bamfield.  It is a looong ways, at best about a 12 hour journey, with much of it in the Pacific Ocean.

This was the long stretch, through the whole length of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with a northward turn through the open ocean to Cape Beale and the entrance to Barkley Sound.  Bamfield, the small town on the southern edge of Barkley Sound, was the goal.  The weather forecast wasn’t great, with the wind on our nose again and forecasted to be not truly nasty but perhaps approaching it.  I think the US forecast called for winds to 25 and the Canadians gave it their usual 5 knot bump to 30.  Not quite gale force, but approach it.  We decided to head out and experience reality rather than the forecast, with contingency plans to retreat ready to activate.  We monitored the wind reports at Race Rocks, Sheringham Point, and the Neah Bay buoy on the VHF as we moved along to get an idea of how things were evolving.

Turned out it really wasn’t so bad, except for the near constant rain, the cold, and a bit of ocean swell.  The wind never got up past maybe 15 knots.  My dad, who has been around the island in the Van Isle 360 race, declared the conditions to be ideal other than the lack of a breeze at our backs.  Ocean swells had enough of a period to be swells without any of the banging and slamming robbing us of our momentum as we saw on day 1 in the tide rips.


I had two pairs of these lined gloves, and they both saw serious use

That’s not to say it wasn’t fraught with some discomfort and a reunion between the bucket and its customer from the prior day’s journey. I was getting a bit queasy myself when we turned north and the swell was on our quarter, inducing much rolling action, a part of the day that lasted three or four hours.

It was a day for good foulweather gear.  I had five layers on including the foulweather gear, with the face mask flap in place and the hood locked down to a narrow slit of a visor.  Each of us bemoaned the fact that we had not thought to pack long underwear.  We also shared the experience of feeling clammy, especially on your butt when sitting on a wet surface for hours.  But upon examination we were dry.  I envied my Dad’s breathable boots as my rubber boots became progressively damper with each passing hour.

But we made it!  John the gregarious Aussie proprietor of the Harbourside Lodge in Bamfield had a spot for us on his dock in West Bamfield, the side of Bamfield you can only get to by boat.  We like to think it is the cool side of Bamfield.  Not that we ever set foot on the east side.  John runs a fine rustic lodge, freely dispenses fishing reports and local knowledge, stocks a curated supply of lures and other tackle in his shop on the dock, and offers unmetered showers to all at the rate of $5 each.  He also sells diesel.  We gave John a repeat visit on the way back.  Highly recommended!

At every town we visited, there was a pretty detailed tourist map available

Fishing boat "hauled out" on the Harbourside Lodge's tidal grid

Some of the cabins for rent at the lodge

Trail marker

Bamfield residents are passionate about mycology

Wildlife

We walked the boardwalk up to the small general store and enjoyed some black cherry ice cream.  John warned us of bears and wolves, not that we saw any.  We checked out the cute “treehouse toilets”, public composting toilets just off the boardwalk, as well as the Coast Guard station and views of the research center across the inlet, famous for being the point at which a trans-Pacific communications cable was terminated in 1904.  The completion of this link provided a line of communication around the world for the British Empire. This became known as the “All Red Route” because the cable only came ashore in parts of the Empire and the maps of those days showed the British Empire colored red.  Today it is a marine sciences research center jointly owned by three Canadian universities.

Research center

A sad state of affairs

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