Circumnavigating Vancouver Island Flotilla | Day 11 | North Harbour to Columbia Cove

We’d departed North Harbour between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. for the trip around Brooks Peninsula. It’s not a particularly long trip—about 36nm—and the forecast didn’t look like morning would be any calmer than afternoon, but we wanted to leave ample time for exploring Columbia Cove once we arrived.

Rhapsody leaving North Harbour as the fog clears
North Harbour sunrise
North Harbour sunrise
Sunrise behind Epoch in North Harbour

Crossing the mouth of Quatsino Sound was the bumpiest part of the day. No wind, just some confused swells. We motored through a few fog patches, but generally enjoyed a sunny, clear morning on the water.

As we neared Brooks, conditions improved. We saw the rugged profile of Brooks Peninsula, something we haven’t seen on previous trips thanks to thick fog. Rays of sun reached Solander Island. Seas were flat. We saw sea lions, seals, and puffins!!

Sam wrote this while underway:

Solander Island and Cape Cook are to port. To starboard, nothing. A wisp of fog spills off the top of Solander, propelled by the same light breeze that blows the briny smell of the sea through the open pilothouse doors. The main ticks over faithfully at 1300 rpm, the sun shines overhead, a lazy swell gently rolls under the boat, and I can’t stop smiling.

It’s peaceful out here, but ashore the swells explode ferociously. Through the binoculars, I can see that Solander Island has almost no vegetation, just rugged, knobby, imposing bluffs. I’ve read stories of 100-knot winds out here, and I can’t imagine the maelstrom that would create. Evidently the violence is so great trees can’t survive. It’s good to be here on a calm day.

I’m smiling because today everything is working out perfectly. Cruising is a puzzle—for a day like this to happen, all the pieces must fit in their place. The boat has to be sound, the weather analyzed, patience exercised, plans adjusted, opportunities seized. For the last week, I’ve been eying today for rounding Brooks. We’ve slowed down and sped up, hoping our efforts would be rewarded with a smooth trip around Vancouver Island’s most imposing landmark.

Now, south of Solander, the computer shows an hour and a half to Columbia Cove, my favorite anchorage on Vancouver Island, but I don’t want this moment to end. I contemplate taking a lap around Solander, but the smell of the seal colony deters me. A moment later, the autopilot beeps and steers the boat onto a southeast heading. The swells slip effortlessly under the boat, a delightful magic carpet ride, the Pacific living up to its name. Does it get any better than this?

We arrived in Columbia Cove before noon. Most of us dinghied ashore to hike across to Shelter Sheds.

We beached the dinghies a distance from the trailhead and walked the rest of the way through the grassy marsh and across a large fallen log, then continued on the primitive but well-marked trail.

Once across the trail and on the beach, we enjoyed walking barefoot in the warm, soft sand. There were no other cruisers, no kayakers, just us and magnificent surroundings.

When we returned back to where we started, the tide was higher (and therefore probably more than knee deep in a few spots) so Kevin and Sam went to retrieve the dinghies, then picked the rest of us up at the log.

Later, we gathered on the Safe Harbour/Airship raft for dinner: BYOP (bring your own protein), corn on the cob, and baked potatoes. For the first time this trip, we had happy hour on the upper deck, warmed by the sun and energized by the perfect day!

Today’s route: 37.0 nautical miles, 4 hours 57 minutes underway
Flotilla total: 371.7 nautical miles, 51 hours 21 minutes underway