Continuing south from Friendly Cove requires rounding Estevan Point, one of the significant headlands on the west side of Vancouver Island. The forecast for today sounded acceptable—wind light, building to west 15-25 knots in the afternoon and northwest 25-35 knots in the evening. We planned to head for Hot Springs Cove, about 28nm or four and a half hours away. Given the forecast for deteriorating conditions, we planned to head out fairly early.
The many manned lightstations along the west coast of Vancouver Island are super helpful for picking weather windows. Every three hours they report wind speed and direction, wave height, visibility, and other important factors. Several lightstations are pertinent for today’s route: Nootka, just a few hundred yards from our anchored boats; Estevan Point, at the most exposed point on our route; and Lennard Island, south of where we’re traveling but useful in confirming conditions and trends. All three reported winds in the single digits and one or two foot chop.
By 7:30 a.m. we were underway. Wind was indeed light, and there wasn’t much wind chop, but the swell was a little closer together than ideal. We did plenty of rolling…
Within a couple hours we were abeam Estevan Point and the lighthouse was visible. In 1942, the Estevan Point lightstation was attacked by a Japanese submarine. Twenty-five to thirty shells were apparently fired at the lightstation, but none of them hit and nobody was injured.
Hot Springs Cove is one of the most visited sites on the coast. During the day, seaplanes come and go a few times an hour. Tour boats bring dozens of people at a time. Based on activity at the dock, it seemed like there might be 30 or 40 people at a time at the hot springs, even though there’s only space for 10 or 12 to actually soak.
Thankfully, by about 6:00 p.m., the commercial visitors are all gone. As the last Zodiac loaded up its 12 passengers, we got in the dinghy and headed for the dock.
A well-maintained 1.2 mile boardwalk trail leads from the dock to the hot springs. Many boaters have carved their boat name and year the visited into the planks. It’s an easy, pleasant 20-minute walk through rainforest.
At the end of the boardwalk a large covered deck has changing rooms and a dry place to leave your towels. The hot springs are in the rocks below. By waiting until after the commercial tours had left, we had them all to ourselves.
Hot water flows out of the rock in natural showers, then runs towards the ocean into three or four small pools. The water is hot. We were glad to be there on a relatively cool evening.
The pools are in a slot between tall, jagged rocks. A narrow slit of ocean is visible outside.
The agile and adventurous can scramble down the rocks towards the ocean, where the pools occasionally get splashed with surf. (Beware of barnacles though!)
We didn’t bring flashlights, so as the sun started setting we hustled back to the dock. The smoke from interior forest fires made for a long, colorful, dramatic sunset.