Cruising boats often congregate at strategic anchorages awaiting advantageous weather and tides to make an anxious passage. Jupiter fell in with four sail and two power boats at Bull Harbor, overnighting to exploit the next morning’s forecast for light air and a favorable current across the dangerous Nehwitti Bar.
In these places fellow explorers meet, sometimes making plans to travel in consort with one another for a time. Voyagers are often alone at sea and the land is as empty of help as the ocean. An affable couple aboard their sloop, Pellucidar, asked if they might shadow Jupiter across the bar, around Cape Scott and on to the next sheltered cove at Winter Harbour, a sixty mile run.
Cape Scott, at the northwest end of Vancouver Island is guarded on the eastern side by the Nehwitti Bar. This expansive shoal is the party house where Pacific swells conduct raves with big winds and strong currents. Any of many bitter environmental recipes can make a direct three mile crossing into a horrible rage of shuttering seas.
The only store in Winter Harbour is open from 3:30 – 5:30pm
After a fine crossing Jupiter and Pellucidar anchored up near Winter Harbour. This community is a caricature of west coast fishing villages, busy with holiday cabin and caravan rentals during the summer months, and much less busy with a reduced population of mostly loggers in winter. The village has a remarkable boardwalk along the shore, and a pleasant hike to a pebble beach of beauty. An ancient spruce, said to be one thousand years old stands survivor along the trail.
The Brooks Peninsula, looking like a massive mineralized drop cap at the beginning of the next chapter of Jupiter’s west coast exploration, is a dark extension of mountainscape familiar from Lord of The Rings. This dramatic geography changes everything for a cruising boat, often doubling wind speed and wave height and tripling any angst a skipper might hold close.
Cape Cook marks Brook’s northern point, and within a canon shot lies Solander Island with its wave slapped sea-lion haul-out and an automated weather station, regularly reporting bad news for mariners.
Jupiter’s passage around the Brooks Peninsula, with the exception of a peculiar, but temporary, auto-pilot failure, was uneventful with benign conditions in dazzling sunshine. Viewing the cloud cap pour like cream off the bluff toward the expectant sea was the main entertainment.
The Bunsby Islands
After the capes we motored into the Bunsby archipelago which encompasses several fine anchorages among the skerries, rocks and beaches, all perfectly designed for exploration by dinghy and kayak.
The Bunsbys and several other adjacent islands and islets were named by Captain George Richards of the Royal Navy survey ship Hecate after characters in a Charles Dickens novel.
Captain Jack Bunsby had “one stationary eye in the mahogany face, and one revolving one, on the principal of some lighthouses.”Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
To anchor here is a gift, and continuing fine weather encouraged us to spend hours dinking and paddling among quizzical populations of sea-otters. Northwest sea-otter populations were decimated by two centuries of fur trade, but a program in 1969 relocated Alaskan otters to the Bunsby Islands where they thrive; their numbers and range steadily increasing.