Quatsino Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

Quatsino Sound: Around the Sound and Back Again

Tuesday, July 23, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

Quatsino Sound

Next up:  Varney Bay where I wanted to explore the canyons and caverns of the Marble River by dinghy.  So after a quiet night in Pamphlet Cove, we upped anchor this morning to time our transit through Quatsino Narrows, where the currents can run up to nine knots, at slack tide. 

The entrance to Varney Bay is somewhat tricky.  A submerged rock lies well off the southernmost islet at the entrance and it’s necessary to hug the shoreline of Kenny Point (the northern edge) in order to miss it.  We arrived just after low tide and could see the obstacles . . . or so we thought.  Long story short, we went aground.  I jumped in the dinghy with our hand-held depth sounder and took some readings – we missed the channel by two feet, at most.  Had I been standing on the bow watching for shoals, like I normally do in difficult entrances, it wouldn’t have happened.  But I wasn’t. 

While we were waiting to float off the rocks, our enthusiasm for Varney Bay dwindled.  Another boat was already anchored in the best spot behind Kenny Point, leaving only the head of the bay near an old homestead – not exactly what we had in mind.  The mouth of the river appeared difficult to access through a large delta and the rest of the anchorage didn’t look very interesting (where were all the sea otters and nooks and crannies to explore the cruising guides had mentioned?) so, once free, we motored over to Coal Harbour for hot showers, lunch at the café, provisions from the general store and to see their famous whale jawbone. 

Coal Harbour has reinvented itself over the years and was first settled in the late 1800s by miners, but the coal was of poor quality and the mining eventually ended.  During World War II, it served as a RCAF seaplane and reconnaissance station.  Currently, it’s a base for tourism and sports fishing.  But the village is probably best known for being home to the last remaining whaling station in North America, which didn’t close until 1967.  As a result, they have the world’s largest jawbone, which is close to 23 feet in length – something I really wanted to see (while David was more of the opinion that if you’ve seen one whale jawbone, you’ve seen them all).

We tied up to the public wharf and went for a look around: The showers were very nice, but out of order.  The store didn’t have much of a selection.  The café was closed.  And we couldn’t find the whale bones, which had been recently moved to an old airplane hanger cum “museum”.  So we went back to the boat to wait for the afternoon slack to transit Quatsino Narrows and move on to our next destination, Port Alice in Neroutsos Inlet.  

The village of Port Alice can be a little confusing.  On the chart, it’s called “Rumble Beach” and the area further up the inlet that’s referred to as “Port Alice” is actually the site of the pulp mill, the town’s main source of employment.  But we managed to figure it out and dropped the hook off the yacht club in the protection of their seawall.  The anchorage is exposed and it was blowing 15 to 20 knots, so David stayed with the boat while I dinghied to shore and walked to the store.  Finally!  Success.  I managed to fill a cart with everything we needed and get back to the boat within an hour.  We quickly upped anchor and bashed our way back, against wind and current, to Pamphlet Cove for the night. 

 And thus endeth our stay in Quatsino Sound. 

Rocky islets line the mouth of Quatsino Sound

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