Friday, April 25, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 13 The Hermit Dog of Beck Island.

Every day when the Tide drops to expose the big sandbar beside our mooring, a black dog comes out to run busily around, splash in the puddles in search of fish, and bark. Ruff! Ruff! The tidal flat is connected to a little forested island and he must live there when the tide is high, but he is always alone and quite self sufficient. We name him " The Hermit Dog of Beck Island"and concoct a story of shipwreck and high adventure. Perhaps we are feeling a little marooned ourselves as we wait near the little town of Tofino for word of Heathers heart angioplasty back in Victoria.

Tofino is connected by road to the east coast of Vancouver Island so the plan is for Anne to drive her up so she can join us on the boat and yet still be near the Tofino hospital in case of post op. trouble. We wander the streets of this tourist town and the long sandy beaches of Long Beach while we wait, and sample the beauty that we have so recently sailed past on our way north from Barkley Sound. The waters around here combine rocky islands with big sandy shallows making navigation even more educational than usual!

It is time for Elaine to travel back home to Nanaimo, so Gwyn and I decide that while we continue to wait we can make a small circumnavigational voyage of discovery around the high forested mountains of Meares Island. We will be sailing in protected waters and this time we plan to actually SAIL as much as possible rather than use our engine. We have had to motor up `til now as we rush north in the calm mornings to reach the next sheltered bay before the strong headwinds start to blow in the afternoons.
We pick our way carefully through narrow Browning Passage under power until we reach open deeper water and then hoist all our sails and beat back and forth in the fresh afternoon breeze. Shiriri is reminding us that she is after all a sailboat and handles in a much more lively fashion when heeled rail down and roaring along. Without the engine noise we hear the wind whistling among the sails and rigging and the splash of our wake. Like Shiriri, we feel very much alive. Its easy to forget how recently sailors have had an engine to assist them and how much skill they once needed to navigate these waters under sail alone.

By evening we have slipped into the sheltered entrance of the Kennedy River, rowed Edith as far up river as we can get and eaten supper in the silent thunder of a red sunset. The next morning is all sailing as we run wing on wing before the wind and into Mosquito Harbour. How elementally satisfying it is to sail Shiriri into a narrow gap in a rocky shoreline and as we pass through into the hidden bay behind to smell the air change from crisp salty to the summer smells of warm rocks and coniferous trees. The wind eases as we enter the bay and we round up and anchor under sail without benefit of motor assist. We have made a sailor`s landfall and feel positively salty!. We wait here through the afternoon for the all important tide to turn and carry us through a narrow passage and around the end of the island. Its getting late but if we don`t go now it will be even later tomorrow before we can try again. It`s mid summer and the days are long so out we go and find the wind is now against us . After tacking frantically back and forth in the channel we admit defeat, lower sails and plod along to the very narrow entrance to Quait Bay, threading the needle in the dusk until the bay opens to a generous size. We have followed a small motor boat piled high with hay and wonder how many horse power he must have to feed, but find a big floating fishing lodge instead. Something is fishy alright!

We arrive back at our mooring near Tofino the next evening to hear that Heather`s operation has gone well and that she will arrive the following day. We feel a load slide off our backs that we have been carrying for so long that it`s only when it is lifted that we feel it`s absence. She arrives with Anne and all would be joy except that she brings word that my mother has had a worse stroke and is struggling. We decide that we have had enough of being at the end of a phone line while events are unfolding at home and sail quickly back down the coast propelled by those north westerly winds that had made travelling so difficult on the way north .We sailors move ashore to care for my mother so she can have a chance to recover at home.

Our summer sailing was cur- tailed like the dog of Beck Island but at least we had the experience of West Coast survival, Heather`s survival and now the opportunity to assist in my mother`s survival.

Lone Cone. Meares Island.

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