Finding the Right Spot

Jedidiah sunburst-3391

We take a lot of photographs in the remote areas of the Washington State and British Columbia.  We travel to a lot of these places on our boat, Salish Lady.  Our boating/photography trips usually involve challenges of selecting a general location, getting there by boat, finding a safe place to anchor, and then launching the dinghy to get to shore.

I think all serious landscape photographers know that getting just the right light is the most important factor in achieving a STUNNING photograph.  However, without some kind of interest in the composition, even the absolute best light and color can’t move a beautiful photograph into the STUNNING category.

Working in the wilderness of Inside Passage makes it doubly hard.  The environment here is beautiful and overwhelming.  Almost every place you stand feels like it should be the “spot”.  But it is also a very complex environment and our eyes do an incredibly good job at distilling the environment for us.  In a photograph, complexity can get in the way of creating the STUNNING image.

Finding the right spot to take the photograph becomes an obsession.  We spend hours and hours trekking across the shore, up hills, and wandering around on small islands.  Don’t get me wrong; we really enjoy this exploration and would do it even if we never had any intention of taking a photograph.  However, finding a spot with just the right “stuff” drives this process.

So how do we decide on the right spot? All the usual rules of composition apply, but the trick we have found that seems to trump everything is simplicity.  We drive to create a simple image, without distractions, but still something to capture the viewers’ emotions.  We like to allow the simplicity combined with the colors tell the story.  When we are really successful, the image tells a story and hints at the broader beauty of the area.  A goal we strive for but rarely achieve.

So when faced with an overwhelmingly beautiful vista, look for the simple composition.  Have faith that from a simple image the story will be clear.

Back on the Water


We are back on our boat Salish Lady for another year of cruising in the Pacific Northwest (and BC southwest).  This year is a little different because I (Shawn) have semi-retired from some of my business concerns and hope to be fully retired by the end of the year.  Although I still have some business responsibilities, this is the first time in many years where I can set my own agenda every day.

Spending time on our boat has helped with the transition because there are always maintenance tasks to be completed.  She can be a demanding lady at times.  Boat projects are a nice distraction because they are discrete tasks that can be planned and completed in a few days.  It is always nice to progress through a “To Do” list relatively quickly.

I was very fatigued because the last few years have been extremely stressful. The downtime I have had in the last month to rest and recover has been rejuvenating.

I am now starting to turn my focus to writing and photography, two hobbies that have had the potential to be much more than just hobbies.  In previous years, we had a pretty good stream of articles and photographs that were published in boating magazines, but that activity waned as I had more demands on my time and energy due to my businesses.

Currently, Corinne and I are working on two different book projects.  As I start to put more energy into them, my days have become increasingly busy and it won’t be long before I will whine about never having enough time.  We also plan to put together more of our images with the “she saw/he saw” theme that we initiated last winter.  We post many of these on our Z Frontier Photography Facebook page  (

All-in-all it has been a nice transition to a new focus for my time and energy and I am enjoying the chance to work on some creative endeavors.

2012 Summer Cruise – Bamfield to Victoria

Frances Barkley ferry service to Bamfield

We were on our way back to Victoria by 6:00 AM today. The fog was pea soup thick this morning. The fog finally lifted about 10:30 AM to display a crystal clear blue sky day.

The ocean was very unsettled coming around Cape Beale. On the whole it was not that bad a ride. The sea swell was about 5 ft but it was confused. The ocean felt like a giant washing machine with us as a little cork slogging through. The ride was a little uncomfortable for about 2 hours, but not a problem. From Pachena Point to Sooke, we rode a 3 to 7 ft swell. It was coming from our stern which gives a pretty comfortable ride. Sometimes we have the sensation of surfing as a wave from behind lifts us to the top and slowing move forward, until it pass us and we drop down into the trough.

There was nearly no wind at all today. So although the swell got a little large, the water was pretty smooth. We battled the outgoing current most of the day. It was taking about 1.5 to 2.0 knots off of our speed, so we used a bit higher RPM on the engine to compensate a little. Even with the extra engine power, the day was a long one. Our return trip was about 1 to 2 hours longer than our outbound trip 2 weeks ago.

There was very little boat traffic on the way up Juan de Fuca Strait. There was the usual procession of large freighters in and out Juan de Fuca Strait and a few commercial fishing boats trolling their gear. Otherwise we only saw one sailing vessel at least. We spotted a couple of other vessels on Radar but never got a visual on them due to the fog.

The Coast Guard have been announcing a lot of military activity at the military exercise areas WH (called Whiskey Hotel) and WG (Whiskey Gulf). The Coast Guard (Canada and US) were indicating that both areas would have live fire exercises. Not a problem for us as we are not close to either area.

There was no room on the dock in Victoria’s inner harbor. Corinne found us a reciprocal spot at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Cadboro Bay on the east side of Victoria. The Seattle Yacht Club membership has proved quite handy so far. We were warmly welcomed and once we got the paper work finished, we took Prince for a walk in the ritzier part of Victoria. We were headed for a park at the head of Cadboro Bay, but discovered that dogs are not allowed in the Park after 9:00 AM.

2012 Summer Cruise – Poett Nook to Bamfield

We walked Prince on another marshy beach in Poett Nook this morning. There was a pretty little creek in the southwest corner of the bay. However, the beach area was rather slimy and mucky, so it didn’t encourage us to walk the waterline.

We started out early in the morning, hoping we might catch some fish during the morning bite. We trolled along the southern shore on Trevor Channel. However, the fish were elusive once again.

We docked at the Harborside Resort in Bamfield again. John welcomed us to the dock. He had been in Australia when we were here two weeks ago. After getting tied up it was time to head off to Brady Beach. Prince had a great time playing on the beach. However, when we got home we noticed that his right front foot was swelling up and he was limping. It looked more like a sprain than cut but we will keep an eye on it for the next couple of days. We were going to take him for another long walk to the north end of the Bamfield inlet before dinner, but he was just not up to it.

Shawn went up to the store to get some nuts. We like to snack on them when we are traveling or fishing instead of making lunch. If the weather is cool, Corinne prefers soup.

We spent the afternoon getting Ocean Mistress ready for her trip back to Victoria. The wind could end up being quite strong, but should be from behind us. The tide will ebbing against us and it will be in the opposite direction from the wind and swells. These factors could make it a slow bumpy day as we head south and east on the Juan de Fuca.

2012 Summer Cruise – Robbers Passage to Poett Nook

It was a quiet morning with lots of clouds. We are not planning to go very far, so we decided to do a few boat chores before leaving this morning. Corinne gave the bathroom in the Master stateroom a good cleaning. I changed a filter that appeared to be leaking. There are a couple of oil leaks that I will need to address when I get back Anacortes. The oil leaks are annoying, but don’t appear to be serious.

We went fishing at Pill Point again. All we were catching were weeds and mackerel. Last night we were told that the “catching” was better last week. That seems to be the story we often get. Well at least we caught a couple salmon in Clayoquot Sound last week.

We also learned that most of the fish are being caught 15 to 20 miles off shore in 200 ft of water. We don’t have the gear for that kind of fishing. Further it would take us 3 hours to get out and and another 3 to get back.

The sun came out a little for the afternoon. We decided to anchor in Poett Nook. It is a lovely anchorage. There is a large oyster lease at the back of the bay and a marina/RV Park on the east side of the bay. We docked at the marina to see if we could take Prince for a walk, they said yes but charged us $10 (plus tax), similar to the load and unload fees. We won’t be going back there.

We took a walk on the gravel road out beyond the RV Park area. There were no cars or trucks during our walk, but we kept Prince on the leash in case we did encounter some traffic. Along the road, there were lots of ripe thimbleberries that we snacked on.

We returned to the boat for some dinner and then took Prince over to a little beach by the old oyster farm for another piddle break. There was only a small area to explore, so we were not off the boat too long. It was a very calm night.

2012 Summer Cruise – Pinkerton Islands to Robbers Passage

We awoke to a very low tide this morning. This usually means it is a good opportunity for some beachcombing. A black bear defeated that attempt. The bear had already claimed the beach for his/her own investigation. We deferred to the bear and went to one of the small Pickerton Islands that was in the area near the boat.

It was a very peaceful morning. There was no breeze. According to the weather report, there might be a little storm this evening. However, it does not sound like it has much of a punch or will last very long.

We are planning to head back to civilization on Friday. Two week vacations are way too short. Just about the time I get relaxed, I start thinking about all the issues that are waiting for me to address.

We tried some fishing today at Swale Rock, but had no luck. I spent most of the time removing weeds from the gear. There were half a dozen boats trying to catch fish, but like us they spent a lot of time clearing weeds. The sun shone for most of the day, so at least it was nice weather for fishing.

The Port Aberni Yacht Club (PAYC) Outstation at Robbers Passage was our destination tonight. We were warmly greeted by the owners of Carpe Diem who were yacht club members who were hosts. Apparently, we lucked out today because the dock had been very busy for the last few days. Several large boats had just left which opened up space for us. This is a great outstation and one of our favorite stops. It has well maintained docks and a great trail and beaches for walking Prince.

With the sun out for the afternoon, we pulled out our deck cars and sat in the cockpit enjoying some warm weather. There was also plenty of time for Prince to get in two walks on the trails.

2012 Summer Cruise – Ucluelet to Pinkerton Islands

Today was a resupply day. After the usual Prince walk, Corinne and I were off to the local CO-OP. We needed some fresh food but were otherwise pretty well supplied. We also added some water and stopped to get some gasoline for the dinghy.

We got off the dock about 11:30 AM. We headed to the entrance of Ucluelet to do some fishing. We caught a very small salmon, but not a keeper. Corinne suggested that we troll into the islands. We eventually ended up at Pill Point. We had not luck there either. When I say we had no luck, I mean we did not catch any salmon. We did catch 6 Lingcod but since we do not eat Lingcod, they were all returned to the deep.

The anchorage for the night was in a very small and protected cove in the Pinkerton Islands near a float home. We have used this anchorage before and really like it. There is really only enough room for one boat and we were surprised that it was available. There are sailboats anchored in the other less suitable anchorages nearby.

We arrived at our evening anchorage quite late. It was about 7:00 PM when we took the dinghy around the corner to the logging road. Unfortunately, the logging site which was inactive during our last trip looks very active today. They appear to be building new roads and are using explosives based on the signs posted and 2 heavy duty metal containers about the size of garden sheds. There were some No Trespassing signs. It’s the first time I have actually seen a logging area posted. We took a very short walk and then headed back to Ocean Mistress for the evening.

2012 Summer Cruise – Steamer Cove to Tofino/Ucluelet

We are spending a quiet day in Steamer Cove. We are headed for Tofino later today but wanted to give the Saturday night crowd a chance to get moving before we got there.

We are about 3 hours from Tofino at a relatively slow cruising speed. The amazing thing about Clayquot Sound is how close and how many great anchorages there are to be found.

The anchor was up about 12:00 noon. We did head for Tofino, but that is not where we ended up. There was no room at the dock for us. So we decided to bring the boat back to Barkley Sound. We are docked in Ucluelet Harbor. The dock master organized a spot for us and then helped us with docking when we arrived around 5:30 PM. We hung a little off the end but otherwise it was a great spot.

We did a relatively quick walk to town. Prince was very ready to put some paws on dry land. He was also ready for a better walk than we found at a few of our recent overnight spots. Prince doesn’t mind urban on-leash walks. However, he only has two speeds, flat out or dead stopped. If you don’t mind the split pace, then everyone enjoys the walk.

We talked to several folks about the fishing. They are mostly catching Springs. They are also catching a lot of very small salmon that no one seems to be able to identify.

We will do some provisioning tomorrow. It is not clear if we will head out tomorrow or Tuesday. It will depend on how well we do at getting the boat ready again.

… Later

We arrived near Tofino by about 3:00 pm and called the harbormaster by phone.  He told us that there was no room at the dock tonight and he had a Riviera Yacht rendezvous.  So, after a little discussion, we decide to head south to Ucluelet (pronounced you-KLEW-let; locals call themselves Ukees) in Barkley Sound.  We had gorgeous weather with calm breeze and mixed sun and cloud so it was an effortless afternoon for travel.  We were able to see some whales “grazing” near the lighthouse near Ucluelet. About 4:00 pm when we were about 9 miles from the harbor, Corinne called to the Ucluelet Harbormaster and he said that he thought he would be able to find us a spot on the docks and we should call him when we got closer.   We called again at 5:00 pm and he confirmed that he had a spot for us and we should enter the harbor.  It took us about 30 minutes to complete the trip up the inlet and get docked.  We thanked the harbormaster for his hospitality and his willingness to stay late to get us docked.  We arrived to pay our moorage fees in the morning so that he could head home.

This put us back to Barkley Sound a couple days earlier than we planned, but sometimes it is best to take advantage of a convenient weather window when the opportunity arises.  We will just take some time to enjoy some of the nice spots of Barkley Sound before we have to head south toward home port.

2012 Summer Cruise – Young Bay to Steamer Cove

It was an overcast morning. We took Prince ashore to relieve himself. He has been pretty good this trip. When he was younger, he would have been very disappointed not being able to walk. Now he is happy to give the beach or shoreline a close inspection. We try to give him several chances as we inspect a new anchorage.

We took a look at the old fish rendering plant. It was originally built to support the pilchard fishery. It is hard to believe how busy and populated the coast must have been in the 1920s through 1940s.

After our short excursion ashore, we came back to the boat and Corinne made cornmeal pancakes with an apple, rhubarb, and nut topping. It was a very tasty breakfast.

We left Young Bay around 12:15 PM and went south along the Openit Peninsula toward the entrance to Hot Springs Cove, fishing along the way. We had several hits with small salmon and several got off the hook before we netted them. The sky lightened up a bit as we fished, but the sun never made an appearance.

At 3:00 PM, we decided to head for our new destination at Steamer Cove. Corinne had read that it was the location of some logging some years ago and we hope there might be some logging roads that would be good for an afternoon walk. The cove is a little more open than our previous anchorages. The cove is also a little deeper.

We found a nice corner of the cove for anchoring and put the dinghy in the water to ride to shore. We landed by the old logging site and found it quite overgrown. There was some old equipment that was hard to identify since there was so much scrub brush growing around and up through the sheds, trucks, busses and what-have-you. We walked a very short distance before we decided that the road was too overgrown for a walk. We used the dinghy to try a walk on another shore of the bay. We found what looked like a recent resting site for a bear. There was no other sign of the bear as we strolled along the beach.

We returned to Ocean Mistress. It was a little cooler and the clouds were thicker this evening. We made another dinner of barbecue salmon and salad. Since we were on our own in the cove, so we ran the generator and the watermaker. We made almost 100 gallons today. We use a lot of water when we go fishing. Shawn prefers to wash the fish guts and blood out of the cockpit with freshwater. Running the generator gave us a chance to playa movie on the television/DVD player. Shawn picked the original “Italian Job”.

This anchorage makes 6 new anchorages this year. That might be a record for a 2 week trip. Corinne has done a very good job researching the anchorages. Not only do they need to be secure spots to anchor the boat but also provide an opportunity to take Prince ashore. She also prefers anchorages that have some historical, cultural or other feature.

2012 Summer Cruise – Bacchante Bay to Young Bay

We gave Prince a short walk this morning before we loaded the dinghy back onto the Ocean Mistress. The plan was to go for a run out to the coast and do some fishing.

I rigged all the gear the night before. As we headed out, we set some lines. It wasn’t too long before we had a hit. The first couple of fish were rock cod and lingcod. We let both of these go. We then caught a small salmon, that was also released. After a few minutes we had a solid hit and the line started to whizz away for the reel. “Fish-on” and Corinne came down to help me land a good size Coho. Just about the time we got the lines back in the water, we got another hit and this one was a much bigger fish. Unfortunately, it spit the hook out before we got it into the boat. We got another small Coho, which we released. Finally, we got another sizable hit and managed to land it. That ended our day of fishing, it was time to get the barbeque ready for a fish dinner.

We anchored in Young Bay. It is lovely bay. We got a surprise after we anchored. A commercial fishing boat came into the bay to retrieve a long line. It turns out that we anchored on his line. We had to take our anchor up to untangle the line. It was not too difficult to untangle and they finished taking up their line. They left the harbor after getting the line onboard.

We tried walking Prince at a couple of spot on the shore and up the small creek. We did a adequate job for the evening, but it was not the best location for Prince.