BC - Vancouver Island Part 4 - Ucluelet



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Kayaking in the harbor of Ucluelet, British Columbia provides an introduction to Vancouver Island's marine ecosystem in a protected setting comfortable for the novice kayaker.




Day 5 - We spent the day before hiking in the marvelous temperate rain forest of the Pacific Rim National Park. Today we scheduled a half day kayak tour in Ucluelet harbor as part of our three day package stay at Little Harbor Inn. Our trip was hosted by Coastal Knights, a provocative name that evokes images of flashing kayaks riding heaving flanks and flowing white foam manes of large Pacific surf. We arrived at Jamie's Whaling station where the kayaks were located on floating docks alongside the several different types of boats used to take vacationers out to see whales.




The weather was just like the previous day with morning fog lifting to low clouds shrouding the mountains by our 9:30 departure time. Josh, our guide for the day, met us a few minutes later. This was Josh's first season kayaking and guiding. He was 17 years old and a Ucluelet resident. He got the equipment out of the upstairs drying room and we were soon preparing the boats for launch. We indicated our desire to paddle the entire harbor, which Josh thought would be unlikely in the three hours of the scheduled tour.
We got into the boats and pulled out along the harbor piers, headed south to the mouth of the Ucluelet harbor. Giant kelp formed beds along the shore. Farther out toward the open bay, the giant kelp was replaced by bull kelp.




We paddled out along the west side of the harbor, under the overhanging decks of the older houses in Ucluelet. In a cove near the inlet entrance was an old building of a fishing processing house that was confiscated from the Japanese at the outbreak of World War II. At the outer edge of the harbor we crossed across the inlet to the east shore, a high walled rock coast with cedar trees clinging to the craggy walls. On the wave washed rocks, the orange and purple starfish followed the tide line. Orange stars mating with orange stars produce orange stars and purple stars mating with purple stars produce purple stars. Orange mated with purple stars produce brown stars.

We turned back into the harbor following the eastern shore past the Indian Reservation. Along the shallow shore, the mud flats were beginning to appear as the tide dropped. Red headed mergansers in a large flock did the best to swim ahead of us, but finally decided to take to wing. There was very little current in the narrow, but nearly constant wide inlet.

As we paddled into a shallow cove in the top third of the inlet, we began seeing Coho salmon leaping up out the water. The 30 pound fish were impressive even from a distance. On the bank near the native fish processing plant we saw a sow black bear with two cubs. Further down the shore we saw a solitary bear along the shore. We stayed well away from the bruins whose pictures turned out to be little more than black dots on the shore.




We crossed over the inlet once more returning to the western shore. The last third of the inlet was getting very shallow with the lower tide. Most of it goes dry at low tide. We let Josh catch up to us when we reached the opposite shore. The high tide was evidenced by the stark line of the tree branches. The heavy forest pushed out and down to the limits of the dry land.

Josh showed us the different types of starfish, including a leathery skin star appropriately named leather stars, very large stars called Mottled stars, stars with webs between their arms named Bat stars, and multi-armed Sunflower starfish (20+ arms) and Sun stars 9-18 arms. You have to admire Canadians for the simple starfish names.

We paddled back past the marina and commercial fishing facilities to Jamie's where we pulled out on the floating dock, ending our 3 hour tour of the harbor. Jamie told us that we covered all of the three separate tours that they normally offer in one trip. We did about 10 miles.





We went to lunch at a local favorite restaurant, the Tea House. In a converted residential house we had a nice simple lunch at a good price. Then we drove up to Tofino to check out the harbor and look for places to rent kayaks. When we arrived, the harbor was a bustling scene. An emergency helicopter was lifting off from the dock, a float plane was taking off, there were water taxis crisscrossing the channel - in short things were hopping. We discovered that most of the kayaks were booked but we finally found some acceptable boats at Pacific Kayak Rentals. We also found a place to stay for the next three nights. The proprietor of the motel, a German immigrant was quite a character, referring to himself as "the Mayor" of Tofino and claimed to own most of the town.

We also located Dan and Bonnie of Rainforest Kayaks, the two most experienced guides in Tofino. Dan was taking out a group for the next couple of days and would not be available to guide us until the weekend. That was longer than we were expecting to stay in Tofino. They also were talking about paddle trips of 6 to 7 miles per day, which was a little bit less than we were interested in. We decided to check with them on Friday when Dan was due back. Then we discussed possible plans for bringing a group out next year.

We returned to Ucluelet and had dinner at a local's restaurant/bowling alley. I would recommend that you not go here. Seems that Blueberries is the spot for food. Another gorgeous day of weather ended with a clear sunset over the Pacific.

Next ................. Kayaking in Tofino


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