Sailing is Such Heaven

June 24

Rain overnight and low fog in the morning, but by the time we’d had coffee and eggs, a light breeze flowed down Matilda’s narrow flanks. We raised the main and then the hook and silently departed this hush of an anchorage. To our amazement, the breeze followed us into the channel and persisted from a direction not entirely unhelpful.

Jay, our photographer, announced he had two wishes for this passage: one, a shot of a Bald Eagle and two, a shot of a Raven. He had the former and now only needed the latter to feel utterly satisfied. “But Ravens are everywhere,” I protested. “No, the RAVEN,” he answered.

We lowered him into the dinghy and cut him loose and Kurt and I tacked RAVEN up and down Millar Channel as smartly as ever we could while Jay worked his big camera. After an hour we lifted him back aboard panting and happy.

The wind persisted and now we continued sailing for the sheer joy of it. On up the channel we tacked toward our cut into Tofino, and only as the fog lifted in the early afternoon and the islands on the chart began to appear as solid beings on our horizon did were realize we’d sailed with intention and great care many miles past our turn. How this could happen on a boat with a large electronic chart plotter, a plotted course to follow, and three seemingly observant humans baffled us, but our bafflement failed to reduce our exuberance for the day. We put RAVEN wing and wing before the wind. The warming sun slowly melted the breeze away, but a flood tide filled in and we drifted with contentment the last miles to our goal.

Tofino is a brightly painted village built on the northern slopes of the Estowista Peninsula. It has a marina (mostly dedicated to the fishing fleet), a float plane dock, a coast guard station, restaurants, a grocery, a few small hotels. It is the largest town on west Vancouver Island.

At the head of the ramp we were greeted by Ben, the harbor master, a man so short and wide as to appear round. We asked for a place to dine. “Do you like good food?” he asked. We avoided as much. “Well, I always recommend SoSo then eh. You’re gonna think it weird, maybe. They have a tofu sushi wrap that is just whoa!” Ben rolls back like he’s been knocked between the eyes with a two by four. “But whoever thought of that, eh? Tofu and seaweed. I dunno.” We are briefly silent, in part because Ben is a shockingly loud talker. I have moved back a few steps. “Once I went there for lunch, eh, and I thought, ‘I’m gonna have a turkey sandwich today,’ and the girl asked if I wanted lettuce or green apple. And I said, ‘green apple?’, and she said, ‘sure, lettuce is so dull’ eh. And whoa! she was right. I mean the apple highlighted the flavor of the mustard, the turkey, the bread. Just crazy, eh? So now I keep a green apple in the kitchen for when I make turkey sandwiches. Be sure to get the cookbook.”

We had plank salmon and grilled squab and toasted the completion of our voyage’s first leg.

Next morning we said goodbye to Jay, who had to return home for a family engagement. Then Kurt and I got on with what cruisers do when they reach civilization after a hard slog. We dug out our laundry, grabbed our computers and made for the WIFI-enabled laundromat, where we have been feverishly typing and folding clothes these last two hours. Next is a run to the grocery store.

Tomorrow begins phase two of a cruise whose eventual destination is the city of Victoria, but that great constellation of islands in Barkely Sound may need exploring along the way.

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