I’ve gotten to know a few out-of-the-way places as home base since starting down a path in wildlife photography. I have dive gear, camera gear, and various belongings scattered among a handful of islands up and down the coast.
Sometimes that can leave you feeling, well, scattered.
Perhaps it is a tangible way of keeping ties with each place, always maintaining an excuse to return. I’ve felt torn between islands for a while now; ones I am immediately enchanted by, ones I call home, ones I’ve yet to meet. The pull is always present.
Recently the time came when I was once again ‘between islands.’ I couldn’t quite imagine the next one. A desire for all my gear to be in one place without losing the ability to go from island to island began to grow.
A week ago I found myself in Nimmo Bay looking at a small sailboat tied to the dock of the remote wilderness resort tucked away in the Broughton Archipelago.
She’s a 27′ Catalina sailboat and has just become my home base.
From Nimmo, fellow wildlife photographer/filmmaker Tavish Campbell (also conveniently one of the most knowledgable captains on the coast) joined me to sail the boat south.
Crossing Queen Charlotte Strait in February, we were fortunate with the conditions. The first of the ‘herring weather’ this spring was with us. Squalls rolled down over top of us bringing indigo layers low on the horizon. The passing squalls were complete with rain, sleet, snow, rainbows, and bursts of sun that you can feel on your cheekbones.
Periods of glassy calm were interrupted sporadically by passing breaths of wind. Herring season brings stunning light, along with the wildlife that moves in for the annual spring feast. This is my favourite time of year on the coast.
We anchored in Boat Bay that night after a full days travel out of the narrow channels and tidal passages from Nimmo Bay.
Map painted by Tavish’s sister, Farlyn Campbell.
Coming into Johnstone Strait, a westerly wind of 15-20 knots gave us our first real sail on Capricorn. We travelled down the long, narrow stretch of water that is well known for tricky conditions when the wind and tides are not smiling in your favour. The wind helped us buck an ebb tide as we made our way down the strait, and hot cups of coffee helped keep the February chill at bay.
We sailed the second day ’til dark when we lost the wind. Motoring down the back eddies along the shore at dusk, we watched eagles fish and current twirl as it passed us in the opposite direction. We looked forward to riding the flood tide in the morning.
I got an initial feel for how Capricorn handles under sail, and I was grateful for some fantastic winds to learn the ropes in.
Vancouver Island was rooted to the west of us all the way down the Strait. Her natural beauty and her industrial fate mingled to create a bittersweet frame for our travels. A landscape scarred with expansive clearcuts; with low snow dusting the remaining forests and recovering patches of young trees.
Growing up on Vancouver Island in a smaller mill town, the logging industry helped put food on the table during my childhood. Coming to know wild places and the vital importance of healthy, intact ecosystems plus the priceless nature of old-growth forests has given me another perspective.
What does it mean to cut down a forest to fuel our current culture of excess?
Balancing human needs and a way to sustainably meet those needs without succumbing to the lure of excess at nature’s expense is a tricky line to walk. It is an all-important balance to figure out if we want to continue living and breathing on this planet.
We anchored in Knox Bay the second night, before stopping in at Sonora Island (Tavish’s home base) to give the boat some TLC. The wood stove roared to keep out the frost threatening to creep in that night. The stars seem brighter from the sailboat. We celebrated my quarter century mark on this earth aboard Capricorn. Quite a fitting way to kick off the next quarter century – if I’m lucky enough to experience another 25 years exploring the coast.
One of the main pulls to being sailboat based is the way in which life unfolds when you’re at sea. Being on the water is being present. It is being in tune with the natural rhythm of the planet. It is reading the water, the weather, the tides, and knowing you are not separate from anything that surrounds you. It is also a gateway to the islands of my dreams and memories.
Most significantly, it is knowing this whole coast as home, and doing all I can to keep it wild.