After leaving the Tatchu peninsula, we continued to make our way south down the coast towards Nootka island, through thick wet fog. The fog was disorientating, obscuring the horizon and all the landscape, leaving you in a shifting, rolling world of confused waves and white nothingness. We quickly grew tired of swaying and bobbing through this medium and found an anchorage at a small island for the night. We would continue to Nootka the next day.
Shortly after we anchored, the fog cleared just enough that we could see the pebble beach of the bay around us. Sea caves hollowing out the cliffs on one side of the bay. Since we needed to stretch our legs, a few of us went ashore to poke around while the others stayed and made dinner on the boat. Pushing further back into the bush, rocky bluffs scooped out into dark cave mouths became apparent. Looping bending small cedars and ferns hung from ledges off the bluffs. The cave mouths dripped their mineral drips, slowly, slowly building upon stalactites.
At the mouth of one cave sat a small animal skull. It still contained teeth, though loose in their jaw, but I couldn’t decipher from what type of creature it had come. It was brittle as if very old. As I peered into another, larger cave, I was struck by the sight of a pile of rather large bones. There were no skulls, only many large ribs, vertebrae and other bones, scattered in a heap on the floor of the cave. At the time, I was puzzled thinking them from a large animal like a sea lion, and wondered how they got there. But upon later talking with an archaeologist friend I became convinced they were in fact human bones, the skulls possibly taken as a souvenir by some thoughtless visitor at some point over the years. There was a long period in history during which First Nations placed their dead ceremoniously in caves of ledges near the sea. Many of these sites have been destroyed or are in danger of being destroyed due to development.
We left the anchorage at the island of caves in the morning, the fog having cleared substantially, now only drifting by in cottony white swaths. we sailed south for Nootka. We were headed for the large and sheltered anchorage of Mary basin in Nuchatlitz inlet as we had heard on the radio that a fairly strong south-easterly gale was approaching within the next two days. As we entered the inlet the final shrouds of fog that had still been hanging around the mountains began to lift, and we were finally able to see the extent of the landscape. Mountains rising high on either side of the inlet, gaping mouths of huge sea caves looming on one side. After a calm night tucked deep in Mary Basin, we decided to sail back closer to the entrance to the inlet, to Louis Bay. The gale had not arrived yet, Louis Bay was still fairly sheltered and we had heard of a shipwreck worth exploring there.
It was not long after we anchored that rain began to fall and the wind began to build. Harry, Jonty and Bas had all come down with the cold I had previously had back in Sea Otter Cove and so as the rain pattered down on the deck they hunkered down with blankets and a movie on the couch. I, however, desperately wanted to stretch my legs, go ashore and see what there was to see. Keiran was also in good health. So the two of us suited up in all our rain gear and climbed out into the dinghy in the downpour. Raindrops pelted our faces and filled our eyes as we navigated for the large sandy lagoon adjacent Louis Bay. The water inside the lagoon felt surprisingly warm. The rain itself was actually quite warm as well. As soaking as it was, we weren’t cold at all. A twisted mass of rust-red steel jutted violently out of the sand, and high above our heads as we approached the wreck of a Greek freighter smashed apart in some violent storm the island had weathered once upon a time. Rain pelted down on the hulking metal wreck, persistently etching it back to a state of nature.
Sea Otters floated lazily on the dimpled jade-green water of Louis Bay, thoroughly unconcerned by the weather. After checking out the wreck again in fair weather, and happening upon a mysterious zip-line in the woods, we pulled up anchor to head down the west coast of Nootka Island. The surfers were craving waves. As we left the bay and headed for the mouth of the inlet, we felt the swell rapidly increasing, lifting the boat smoothly up and down. Leaving the inlet for the open coast, the swell had grown until some were the size of three story houses. With each wave the boat climbed up, up, then dipped down into the trough, the horizon disappearing behind a wall of water. The waves were smooth and unbreaking and the feeling was exhilarating. Perhaps we would have some luck with the surf after all.
Photos by Jonty White