Though the weather forecast promised seas of less than a meter in the Queen Charlotte Sound, as we passed the aptly named Cape Caution — which marks the line where Vancouver Island no longer provides protection from the Pacific Ocean — the swells grew until they reached over five feet. So much for forecasts.

Admittedly, it could have been much worse. Tenacious was designed as a deep-draft, ocean-going vessel, a “blue-water cruiser,” with sturdy construction and a heavy lead keel to handle that and much, much worse. That doesn’t make it any more pleasant in the cockpit though, where you get physically exhausted after using every muscle in your body just to stay braced and upright while keeping an eye on the horizon to battle incipient seasickness. I felt a bit like I’d been to a really long exercise class with a hangover, and was most grateful to finally enter the protected waters of Smith Sound after three hours of floating rock and roll. We relaxed gratefully and waited out some rain showers in a tiny and very protected cove, then decided to continue northward toward Fitz Hugh Channel very early the next morning. Within moments of getting underway Patrick spotted the misty ‘blow’ of a humpback whale, just off our starboard bow. I grabbed the video camera and Pat instantly backed off the throttle to stay well out of its way. As we watched, we noticed another blow echoing the first one. A smaller whale was following nearby — a mother and her calf. Those two continued on their way south, and we turned north. This time I spotted the relatively small dorsal fin of another humpback. As we watched, it rolled on its side and held its long, narrow pectoral fin up in the air as if to give us a wave, then slapped it down on the surface of the water. Not long after we parted ways with that whale, another mother and calf were spotted a couple of hundred yards off to port. That was when we started counting. Several more whales came and went in the next little while. We hadn’t even logged an hour under way and we had seen seven whales. We had had only coffee before setting out that morning and we were both hungry. Just as I was about to head down the companionway to rustle something up, another whale surfaced. We watched him putt along a bit, rising so that just his blowhole and dorsal fin appeared, and then submerging a little to swim slowly along just below the surface. Finally, he dropped his head down to dive deeply, leaving his tail flukes in the air for a final farewell.

The rough crossing of Cape Caution was forgotten. Eight whales before breakfast!

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  • Barbara Olsen July 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Reading this adventure reminded me of a two week journey I took with dear friends from Vancouver in 1991 on a 26 foot cabin cruiser up through Desolation Sound. Though we didn’t encounter the fury of Pacific turbulence, our return back from Vancouver Island was similar – bucking “two foot chop” in heavy rain. Thanks for the memories.