Hot Springs Cove to Tofino

July 27 -- Hot Springs Cove:

When Deb left us at Gold River, she said she'd never forgive us if Stephanie (who has stayed on with us) had five days of sunshine. We thought we were going to do that, but at last, a mild storm (with some rain) came in today.  Hot Springs Cove is famous -- lots of tourists come here on small tour boats from Tofino, or by float plane. As we entered the cove, we could see all the tourists in their swimming suits, out on the point where the hot springs flow into the ocean.We decided to postpone the hot springs visit until this morning, which was unfortunate in a way, because the sky was cloudy this morning and threatening to rain. We bundled up nevertheless, for the 1 1/2 mile walk to the hot springs. The park service has built a boardwalk, for the entire trail. Apparently the trail used to be extremely rough, so the boardwalk is certainly a good idea. The trail goes through virgin forest (which is actually pretty rare around here). Huge cedar trees tower over delicate wildflowers. The salal is about 8 feet high, and sometimes joins in a bower over the trail.Visitors have carved their boat names (or their own names) into the boards of the boardwalk. There are hundreds of different names carved, some quite artistic with logos, fancy script, animals, and other designs. Each boat adds the date it visited, and some boats have four or five different dates carved.By the time we arrived at the hot springs, it was misting lightly. The springs comes out of the rock too hot to step in, but then it flows through a succession of pools, each cooler than the last.
There were about ten people soaking when we arrived, and it was up to about twenty by the time we left. One couple wore nothing, but most were in swimming suits. It turned out the nude couple were regulars from the Tofino area, and coming up on a float plane. There are candle drips in the rocks, and apparently the really cool thing is to take a flashlight, go down the trail at night, and sit in the hotsprings to candle light.The regulars told us that at high tide the salt water flows into the upper pools, so you get successive waves of cold and hot.It's easy to see why this place is so popular. Nevertheless I felt rather sorry for the folks coming in after we left -- in the cheap foul weather jackets provided by the tourist boats, the rain pouring down, hoping for a place in the hot springs. There were hordes of them!We've spent the rest of the day at anchor here, attempting to dry things out, making bread, doing engine repairs, and generally "nesting in." We're very glad to have our heater. We had a visit from the neighboring boat, and heard about their plans for sailing to the south seas. The south seas sounds rather attractive right now ...The forecast is better for tomorrow, so we'll head further south.
July 31 -- Tofino

Arriving in Tofino was like going through somewhat of a time warp. The approach to the town is through shallow, narrow channels, which trace a convoluted path between sand bars and rocks. As we approached the First Street dock, we could look up the hill and see a blinking red light -- first such thing we had seen since the ferry terminal at Westview, more than a month ago. The blinking red light, it turns out, is the western terminus of the trans-Canada highway. The First Street dock is locally known as Whisky Dock. An ominous name. There was no space at Whisky dock, at least not at that moment. Water taxis and float planes were coming and going. We motored over to check out the Fourth Street dock, but all the designated "pleasure craft" space was occupied. Plenty of space marked "commercial." So we motored back to Whisky dock, and this time there was space on the inside, so we tied up. On the outside, water taxis were unloading and loading First Nations people with bags of groceries. Lots of Coca Cola and Pampers. One old native gent (perhaps a water taxi driver) said "gets pretty shallow there." We consulted the tide tables, and figured we would just have enough depth to survive the 3:00 am low tide. Another old gent came by and said "gets pretty shallow there." We took out the boat hook, and sure enough, it could reach the bottom (which we could also see). Hmm. We decided to walk through town to the Fourth Avenue marina and talk with the harbormaster there, to see if any space might become available for us.We waded through the hordes of tourists -- at least half of them speaking German. These are young Germans, with big backpacks, and many body parts pierced. We checked out the local chandlery, and finally reached the Fourth Street dock. The harbormaster there, Scott, was most friendly and said we probably could tie up to one of the commercial docks, "but by the way, the big aluminum sailboat is leaving. He wants to have a jam session with his friends, so they're all going to anchor out so the rest of us don't have to hear it. You could take his space..." So I camped on the dock space, prepared to look fiercely at anyone who wanted to take the space, while Craig and Stephanie hiked back to Whisky Dock to retrieve the boat. I watched as the aluminum sailboat anchored out, and his friends gradually began to arrive. Later in the evening I think there were six or seven boats rafted together, presumably holding their jam session, or at least having a big party.
The Fourth Street dock is at the bottom of a very steep hill. We're becoming very familiar with that hill. At the top of the hill are the laundromat, the bus stop, the bakery, the organic foods coop, a high-class, always busy Thai restaurant, the beauty salon, about six whale watching-hot springs cove operations, and an internet cafe! (First one since Nanaimo!). I logged onto -- first time since the little library at Winter Harbor -- and discovered a message which said that "First World" -- mega owner of Transport for the last several years -- is shutting down their dial-up service on August 31. So, thank you very much, while we are away on our trip, our land-based e-mail will be going away! An unpleasant surprise.  
Sunday night, we went around to four different restaurants -- each of which had more than an hour's wait to be seated -- before finding a Chinese restaurant on one of the few back streets in Tofino (off the beaten tourist path).  Monday morning we said good-bye to Stephanie, who climbed on the bus to Nanaimo, Vancouver, and eventually California. She was a delightful guest, and we will miss her.
There are an astonishing number of kayak rental operations, whale watching, bear watching, and hot springs cove excursion boats. They put the tourists in exposure suits, and pack them into big zodiacs. Then they speed off into the distance, to watch the bears, or the whales, or sit in the hot springs. The sportsfishermen are catching a lot of salmon here, too, but there are no obvious fishing charters.We're out at the end of the dock here, and it's as though we're on a superhighway. Boats are constantly going by, some at high speed, creating wakes that bounce us up and down. Float planes are coming in or going out every few minutes, threading their way between runabouts, fishing trawlers, zodiacs full of tourists, kayaks full of tourists, and decrepit old rowboats, sometimes full of drunks and dogs. This is probably just a bit too much civilization for more than two or three days.

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