An Artist Afloat
Sailing and sketching
The Broken Isles are aptly named. There are certainly plenty of them, nestled together as if a butter-fingered giant dropped a larger land mass from above, then left the shattered pieces where they lay. This creates a sheltered cruising ground, and a great area for rowing and kayaking.
We took Island Prism into Effingham Bay on Effingham Island. The bay was a sheltered chip in the island's east side, shared with a couple of other boats and a very curious hummingbird, who returned numerous times to inspect us, my bike and the rigging. It also seemed to develop a fascination with the fire extinguisher in the galley, and I was worried it might have formed a bit of a crush. The anchorage was calm, and if the forecast of strong north westerlies was correct, we didn't notice a thing.
Jim had declared the Broken Group to be rather dull, but I think this trip changed his mind. Seals regularly came into our little bay, and our excursions in the dinghy took us to tiny islets teeming with starfish, mussels and sea birds. Exploring the south east coast of Effingham took us to an enormous sea cave, dripping with lush green ferns. We discovered rock arches, and found the site of a First Nations village. The shoreline in front of it was studded with tide pools, and I spent a happy hour reliving childhood holidays to Tenby, looking for fish, anemones and crabs.
It was then an easy cruise to Bamfield. This remote community is only accessible by boat or logging road, but is worth the effort. An inlet splits the east and west halves of the village. With no bridges, the endless flow of weaving boats and water taxis keeps the community stitched together. We called in at the East Arm to top up with water and grab some provisions, then took Prism round the corner to peaceful Grappler Inlet. We dropped the hook near to the jetty and enjoyed watching herons, eagles and river otters from the comfort of our cockpit. This was Jim's departure point when he and Island Prism left Canada back in 2007. It is also home to his friends Cliff and Laura, who waved him off on his voyage and were now waiting to celebrate his return.
We enjoyed great company for four days. From Cliff and Laura's elevated deck, we watched black bears foraging on the shoreline and eagles perched in nearby trees. We walked to a stand of pristine forest and paddled kayaks around the inlet, enjoying home smoked salmon after our adventures. Laura and I visited Kixiin, the remains of a First Nations village at Execution Rock. Our native guide, Whisky, shared the history of the site. His chants brought the past to life, and his commentary was interesting and insightful. He showed us fallen house posts and conjured back the long house, the whale chief's house and the dramatic events of bravery and betrayal which took place over a century ago. The Huu-ay-aht Nation places great value on their history, and is also playing a central role in the regeneration of Bamfield after many of its key businesses were purchased and run down by an unscrupulous businessman. The tour is currently complementary- you can find out more at kiixin.ca/
South of Bamfield lies the Graveyard of the Pacific, final resting place of scores of ships battered against this inhospitable coast. Once again we thanked modern weather forecasting and GPS- we had a smooth passage, where the only excitement took the forms of seals and sea lions. The dramatic currents of the east coast began to make themselves felt- passing Race Rocks took half an hour as we battled a strong current, finally finding the back eddies that allowed us to make progress. We'd been hoping to anchor in Oak Bay, but the anchorage was taken up with mooring buoys and it was hard to find a suitable spot. A kindly local pointed us to a sturdy buoy which would be vacant for the rest of the week, so we tied up and dinghied ashore to spend a week with Jim's brother Bill.
Victoria is often described as being the most English of all Canada's cities. It definitely retains a strong British colonial feel, evident in the architecture of buildings like the Empress Hotel. There is a wealth of things to sketch, but my time in Victoria was busy and my sketchbook mainly stayed in my bag. Instead I painted my way through a pair of exciting commissions, and filled in a pile of much less exciting paperwork.
I managed a few quick drawings of the little water taxis which ply the harbour, the stag which reclined on the front lawn and the young heron we saw in town. I made the most of a five minute break to sketch the state legislature, and grabbed time for a few quick drawings of the totems by the museum downtown.
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.