British Columbia Nootka Sound

Historic Bligh Island Marine Park: We Came, We Saw, We Anchored

Saturday, August 10, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

Leaving the sunshine of Bodega Bay behind . . . it's difficult to see, but somewhere at the head of the inlet is the entrance to the anchorage

There’s a lot of history along this section of the West Coast and we were anxious to get to it so, with Sally feeling better, we said our final good-byes to Cool Change and left Bodega Cove for Bligh Island Marine Park in Nootka Sound.

Named after William Bligh, master of the HMS Resolution on Captain James Cook’s third and final expedition (he was killed by the Hawaiians the following year), approximately half of the island is now a protected marine park and appears much as it did over 200 years ago when the first Europeans came to this coast.  Arriving in light fog with overcast skies ourselves, it was easy for us to imagine Cook’s two ships ghosting in to port so many years ago.

Resolution Cove, Bligh Island Marine Park

The vessels, the HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, anchored in a bay on the southeast corner of the island, now called Resolution Cove, on March 29, 1778 to make repairs and Cook became the first European to set foot in British Columbia.  First Nations people arrived in canoes to greet “the floating islands” and shouted, “itchme nutka, itchme nutka,” which means “go around, go around” in an effort to direct them to Yuqout, now Friendly Cove, where there was a better anchorage.  Cook misunderstood the shouts and thought they were calling out the name of the area, “Nootka, Nootka”, a moniker that managed to survive the years.

But because Cook died shortly after his visit, Nootka Sound is the only place in British Columbia where you come into direct contact with his footsteps.  Likewise for William Bligh, best known as commander of HMS Bounty when the infamous mutiny occurred.  Like so many other sailors, Cook’s accomplishments have grabbed our imaginationfor years.  For me, it started in New Zealand which was “discovered” and charted by Cook.  But for David, the story began decades ago as a young boy growing up in Middlesbrough, only three miles from Cook’s birthplace, where he continues to be heralded as the region’s greatest hero.

Bligh Cove

There’s only one completely protected anchorage on the island and Resolution Cove isn’t it, so we motored up to Bligh Cove which lies at the head of Ewin Inlet.  The anchorage is a pretty spot backed by hills that rise 1,000 feet into the air, but it pales in comparison to the Spanish Pilot Group, a cluster of rocks, islets and islands located at the southwest end of the marine park popular with kayakers.  And Ewin Inlet, which cuts three nautical miles into the island, where the granite rock that lines the channel is covered in golden moss and lichen, eagles perch themselves high in the trees and watch as you slowly motor past, and evergreens line the shore – sometimes the journey truly is the destination.

There were two other boats anchored in the bay when we arrived taking the prime spots, so we settled in behind one of the islets on the outskirts for the night.  I jumped into my kayak for a look around the cove while David, who’s giving his shoulder a rest this season, stayed on the boat and played his guitar.  Unfortunately the wind picked up and it started to get cool, cutting my trip short.  It’d be nice to explore more of this area, especially the Spanish Pilot Group, but we have a good forecast for rounding Point Estevan, one of the last major peninsulas on the West Coast, on Monday and still have so much to see; so we’ll up anchor tomorrow morning and make way for Friendly Cove, where Cook claimed the surrounding area for Britain.

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