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Exploring the West Side of Vancouver Island | Part 1

As you might already know, we decided to take a different route home this summer: the west coast of Vancouver Island. Soon after we bought Airship (September 2014) we attended the Seattle Boat Show in January of 2015. We thought it would be a good idea to attend some boating/education seminars, since we were relatively new to boating (and especially boating in the Pacific Northwest). When deciding which seminars to attend, we opted out of the Alaska seminars and instead went to the presentation on cruising the west side of Vancouver Island. Closer to home, we thought. Alaska’s far, we thought. We’re too new, we thought. And then — we ended up cruising Airship to Alaska just several months later, in May 2015. The west side of Vancouver Island turned out to be the area that sounded the most advanced!

Since then, we have spent 5 months per year for the past three years cruising up and down the Inside Passage to SE Alaska, been underway for over two thousand hours, and have over 13,000 nautical miles under our belts. After all that, the west side of Vancouver Island sounded like a great idea — more remote areas full of new places to explore!

Vancouver Island is enormous, and stretches 300 miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Queen Charlotte Sound. The inside route we’ve taken numerous times lies east of Vancouver Island is therefore is protected from the Pacific Ocean.

The west side the island has five main sounds along its coast: Quatsino Sound, Kyoquot Sound, Nootka Sound, Clayoquot Sound, and Barkley Sound. These sounds each have quite a few interesting anchorages, small settlements, and miles and miles of remote shoreline. Between these sounds, however, you’ve got to hop out into the open ocean. The distances between are relatively short, but the addition of swells and thousands of miles of fetch can quickly make things uncomfortable.

So far, we’ve had an incredible time with some great weather, and the most challenging bits (like coming around Cape Scott, rounding Brooks Peninsula and Estevan Point) have been calm, foggy, and easy.

Here’s a brief overview in pictures of our first week or so on the outside:

Queen Charlotte Sound, on our way to Cape Scott
Shoreline as we entered Sea Otter Cove
Leaving Sea Otter Cove the next morning
Exploring the Marble River by dinghy. We anchored in Varney Bay in Quatsino Sound the first night, and Julian Cove the next. Lots of rain while we were in Quatsino Sound!
After rounding Brooks Peninsula in the fog, here we are approaching Columbia Cove as it burns off.
Airship and Safe Harbour anchored/rafted in Columbia Cove. Taken from the kayak. We arrived by 10am and had the whole sunny day to explore!
Aerial shot of our anchorage, Columbia Cove
There’s a trail that that leads from the inner part of Columbia Cove out to beautiful sandy beaches!
The Bunsby Islands are a great area to explore by dinghy and/or kayak
Kevin on the rocky landscape
The Bunsby Islands looking almost tropical!
Exploring one of the many rivers in the Bunsbys at high tide.
Wolf tracks on the beach. (We also saw cougar tracks, and bear tracks…well, and the black bears that made those bear tracks!)
Airship on the public dock at Walters Cove. We picked up fresh produce (and ice cream!) at the little general store here.
Portrait of the Queen in the Java the Hutt cafe at Walters Cove.
Taking a dinghy ashore to hike over to Rugged Point.
Intense foam churned up by waves as they crash over nearby rocks. On our way to Nuchatlitz, at the entrance to Esperanza Inlet.
Colorful west coast sunset, Nuchatlitz
Airship and Safe Harbour anchored in Nuchatliz. Sunset from the drone.
Nootka Lightstation in Friendly Cove/Yuquot
Native carvings and totems inside the old church at Friendly Cove/Ququot
Kevin and Sam, Hot Springs Cove, Clayoquot Sound
Sunset at the public dock, Hot Springs Cove. Airship and Safe Harbour are anchored just outside the right edge of the photo. I used no filter on this shot — I think the color is largely due to smoke from nearby fires. 

We are still in Clayoquot Sound and will be heading to Tofino in a day or two. The last time we were in Tofino we were there with the Airstream and were seriously considering getting into this whole boating thing. (THAT worked out well, didn’t it??) 🙂

After Tofino we’ll stop in Uclulet and then head into Barkely Sound where we will probably spend a week exploring before heading around to Sooke and Victoria. For more detailed posts, keep up with Kevin and Sam and I over at