Thursday, October 2, 2008

Storm bound in Ucluelet

Hey Folks,

I have just read Gina's updates to my blog. She is such a trooper, looking after the house, the dogs and Shea Bella whilst I am out 'playing' and she even finds time to update my blog bless her! Of course my Mum is there helping too and I will forever be grateful to them both for this opportunity.

So I am here in the small town of Ucluelet storm bound with winds of 30-40 knots from the south east which once again is in exactly the wrong direction. I made the decision to stay put after listening to the weather forecast on my VHF radio issued by the Coast Guard. Thank goodness I did. I took a walk out to Amphrite Point Lighthouse and the sea conditions were horrendous. Horizontal rain, less than 1/2 mile visibility and a very rough sea. So it has given me the opportunity to catch up on my emails and the blog.

I want to thank Gina's Mum who is 'on the case', following my every move and watching my back, especially when the Spot Messenger website was down for a while. She now has a personal contact with the folk at Spot who will update her if the site requires any more maintenance in the future!

I also want to thank Rob Avery who has sorted out a delivery of a container of Valley Sea Kayaks for me whilst I am out 'playing'. It is reassuring to have him looking after business in the Pacific Northwest for me.

So how's it been? Well I am completely in awe of this island. I will be writing in detail about my adventure later but for now I just want to say that from the moment I said goodbye to Brian Coggan as we left the bay at Port Hardy, I didn't see a single human being for 6 days. I saw a couple of boats in the distance but that was it. The north west of the island is by far the most remote place I have been. Sure there was evidence of human activity and maybe it is just the time of year but it was quite an experience to not see anyone or be able to talk to anyone for such a long time. I did monitor my VHF radio for weather reports but even that was sketchy reception at times. What I did see were lots of bears (I shared my first beach with a Mum Bear and her cub - they didn't seem to mind!), whales, seals, porpoise, loads of sea otters and some very big and scary sea lions! Please tell me they don't bite because at times they were coming very close and roaring at me and I was paddling away as fast as I could! I was delighted by the sea otters which seem to be really pletiful north of Clayoquot Sound. I have spent much of my paddling hours 'writing' a children's story in my head for Shea Bella. I think I have a nice story line going and may publish it online if it is any good. It is about a baby sea otter called "Kelp" and his journey around Vancouver Island...

Anyway, the weather forecast is not great for the next two days at least and not great for the next 6 days. I am confident I can get to Bamfield across Barkley Sound from here but the problem is the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The wind gets channeled through the Straits and there are potentially few places to land if the swell is big. They are giving swell heights of 4-5 meters at the moment. I need to be able to make good mileage and I cannot do that if the wind is too strong.

So I have to wait for the wind to drop. It is forecast to do that tonight, but to pick up again from the SE tomorrow. Saturday sounds better but the wind is forecast to pick up again from the SE on Sunday and Monday. I had hoped for NW winds to blow me down the Straits but it seems that the northwest winds that are predominant in summer were switched off as soon as I set foot on the island! Of course I wonder if I my strategy was wrong. Maybe I should have started at Victoria and headed up the west coast. It's always easy in hindsight. And there is a good chance I would be up around Cape Scott right now and they have a hurricane wind warning in effect up there at the moment!

Anyway, I will try to be patient. I cannot afford to take any uncessary risks with this next section. They don't call it the 'Graveyard of the Pacific' for the fun of it and I do not want to be added to the long list of lives lost on this notorious section of coastline. I have just heard that Dan Henderson, who is trying a clockwise circumnavigation is holed up in Port Renfrew. I am sure he is having the same concerns as I am having. At least he will have a tail wind but that can be tough too if the wind is too strong.

Thanks for your interest and I will try to keep you posted or get my darling wife to let you know what I am doing or just keep checking the Spot page.



Tofino Dan said...

Hi Sean
Heard about your trip from Adventure Kayak magazine. Figured you must be getting close to my hometown of Tofino yesterday so checked it out today and sure nuff my spidey sense was right!
Glad to hear you laid over today-it was gnarly for sure! Hoping you will get some fair winds soon, altho I agree it is not looking great for the next few days.
In terms of your record attempt, do layover days count?
I would encourage you to complete the circumnavigation even if it looks like you won't set the new record. I went around in 1990 and it is such a feeling of accomplishment.
Stoked you are enjoying the Island. It is usually a lot busier than you have found, but definitely quiets down mid-September.
A bunch of kayak guides will converge on Ukee this weekend. Please consider yourself invited to supper on Saturday night-if you want to meet a bunch of paddlers I'm sure they would love to meet you as well. Call Tracy at Majestic Ocean Kayaking and she can provide details-we start Friday evening around 1700 at the UAC Hall downtown.
All the best for rest of your journey. In my opinion you made a good decision on direction. SE tailwinds aren't that helpful on the outside coast-you will smoke the inside in SE gales. We did Campbell River to Hardy in 4 days, ending our trip October 25, and we were basically slackers who wanted to get the trip done before seriously snotty weather set in for November. Call me if you need anything-Tracy has my number.
All the Best!
Dan Lewis
Tofino BC

grammygal said...

Excellent paddling today Sean!!! You made it much farther than we expected---must have been that NW gale that transported you along! Look to see you heading past Victoria before long.

Ron said...

Hi Sean,
You are making a trip I can only dream about. Paddle hard and be safe!

grammygal said...

Yea Sean---Good job!!! Looks like a good wind tomorrow that will take you well on your way northward. Hope it is good paddling for you.

jim said...

Hallo to a familiar brave solo traveller from wet and windy Galway (West coast of Ireland), Only heard about your trip last week Sean (from Jim Kennedy) and have been checking out your daily progress on SPOT. Vancouver Island sounds like the kind of elemental & remote place guaranted to astonish any 'European' paddler! This new trip highlights once again your drive,determination and pure sense of adventure. Congratulations on all the hard miles to date and we wish you continued safe passage, enjoyable paddling and a tailwind up the east coast. All our best..
Jim ,Sarah, Rowan & Ewan Morrissey

Pat said...

Grade 6 Division 14 at Silver Star Elementary in Vernon, BC are cheering you on, Sean! We are following your progress on a big wall map of Vancouver Island. We hope you are well and waiting out the winds. The students are wondering if you are still in Ecluelet? Also, they are curious to know if you have seen any Killer Whales? Pat and the gang from Div. 14

Pat said...

Hi Mr. Morely,
My name is Tayler from Mrs. Couch's class. I will be reporting your progress to the other kids. Do you ever get seasick? What are you eating? Tayler