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Cruising Vancouver Island’s “Wild West” Coast
By Neil Havers
A trip aboard the MV Uchuck III gives visitors a glimpse into a unique maritime way of life.
The coves and inlets of the rugged northwest coast of Vancouver Island are home to remote logging camps, fishing resorts, fish farms and coastal communities. All of which have no road access and rely on Nootka Sound Service and its MV Uchuck III to deliver everything from groceries to fuel on a weekly basis. The MV Uchuck III is, quite literally, a lifeline to these marine outposts and carries a variety of cargo on her voyages.
The MV Uchuck III carries more than just freight. She also carries passengers who wish to experience a true “Wild West Coast” adventure. The very friendly and informative crew enjoys interacting with the guests and the ‘Kyuquot Adventure’ offers those onboard an opportunity to witness the day-to-day activities of a working marine vessel as well as see spectacular coastal scenery and marine wildlife. Departing every Thursday (year round) from Gold River, this popular two-day marine cruise takes you through Nootka Sound, Esperanza Inlet and offshore on the open Pacific to the quiet village of Kyuquot where you stay overnight.
Heading out early in the morning from Gold River guests settle in on the top deck to take in the scenery of the inlet and its rugged forested cliff faces that plunge into the sea. Pods of kayakers hug the shorelines, eagles cruise overhead, diving down to grab fish close to the surface. Cameras are working overtime and you’re only twenty minutes out from the dock as the aroma of fresh baked muffins and coffee wafts up from the galley below.
Stopping at fish farms, supplies and food are dropped off for both the employees and the Atlantic salmon that are being raised in open net holding pens. Standing close to the action, guests watch the First Mate deftly man the controls of the cargo winch as it lifts supplies from the cargo hold and drops them onto the dock, taking into consideration tide and wind effects on the vessel.
Heading further down Tahsis Inlet stops are made at resorts and logging operations to drop off much needed supplies. These drop offs are informative for those interested in resource industries as well as those who are more interested in the environment. It’s also an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the boat’s crew as well as workers on the dock as they work offloading supplies.
Up to this point the vessel has been travelling in relatively calm waters, protected from the Pacific Ocean by Nootka Island. Heading out to the open ocean via Esperanza Inlet and Kendrick Arm the MV Uchuck III makes her way to Kyuquot Sound, the day’s final port of call. Guests aboard are now getting to know each other, hunkering down in the lounge, trading stories, sharing photos and enjoying a bowl of fresh made chili or soup.
A few settle in for a nap or tuck into a good book or the ever-popular ‘Nootka Sounder’, the MV Uchuck III’s own onboard newspaper with information about the vessel, the communities, local history and the wildlife of the area. Nothing gets the guests back on their feet and back out on the decks faster than someone shouting: “There’s whales out here!” Fortunate guests get to see Humpback whales breaching as well as watching the antics of sea otters in kelp beds in the sheltered waters behind a multitude of small rugged islands along the route. This open ocean stretch is great for wildlife viewing, bird watching and offers opportunities for taking some great west coast landscape photos.
Coming into the sheltered waters of Kyuquot Sound passengers witness what a truly remote maritime village looks like on Vancouver Island. Small cabins and docks dot the landscape, boardwalks and trails hug the shoreline of small islands and rocky outcrops, all backed by towering Douglas fir and Cedar trees.
The evening meal is served bunkhouse style in a one-room restaurant that once served as the community’s school in days gone by.
The building, built on stilts, has an abandoned look about it, which only adds to the charm. It’s amazing how hungry one can get sitting or walking around a boat all day watching the world pass by. Accommodations include beach side cabins, B&Bs and a local resort.
Following the return trip, after arriving back in Gold River guests say their goodbyes to new found friends with whom they had shared a unique and rewarding experience. Undoubtedly, many photos will trade hands by e-mail and the memories will last forever.
For more information on Nootka Sound Service’s ‘Kyuquot Adventure’ and other scheduled cruises go to www.getwest.ca