Buddy-boating in bountiful Barkley Sound

Jill and the boys enjoying a snack after a swim.

Jill and the boys enjoying a snack after a swim.

Standing on top of the waterfall, tiers of glistening, freshwater pools stretched out before us. Carved perfectly in the rock, they were laced together by a series of tumbling rapids, cascading from one deep basin to the next, which, coupled with the warm sun, beckoned us in for a swim.

“This is amazing!” I said to Jill with a beaming smile. “And I can’t believe we’re the only people here!” Double-checking myself, I wheeled back around, looked below us at the creek we’d just paddle up from Yahtzee and at our kayak parked on the rocks. You can only reach this spot by boat and we were the only one around. It truly was amazing, and we had it all to ourselves.

A look back at the kayak and creek from the rocks atop the falls.

A look back at the kayak and creek from the rocks atop the falls.

Part natural water park, part jungle gym, we spent the afternoon swimming from one pool to the next, climbing around the rocks and falls, jumping into the cool water from tall precipices, and basking in the glorious sunshine. In all our adventures aboard Yahtzee, this was one of the most beautiful and memorable moments we’ve had. We savored every minute of it, and wanted to return before we’d even left.

A week later and we’d found ourselves back at the falls on our first night in Barkley Sound buddy-boating with our good friends Ryan and Autumn aboard their Wylie 31 Velella. We figured the falls and pools were a perfect start to our adventures together and, like us, they weren’t disappointed.

On impossibly clear pool after another was there for the swimming.

One impossibly clear pool after another was there for the swimming.

After a sunny sail into the sound from Ucluelet, we rafted Yahtzee and Velella together at the mouth of the creek for two nights, played in the nearby pools by day, ate fresh oysters and salmon in the evenings and laughed long after twilight. This was the beginning of a perfect cruising routine in bountiful Barkley Sound.

Better Together

During the previous two months sailing around Vancouver Island, we hadn’t spent a consistent amount of time around other cruising boats (I can only think of one or two), and though Ryan and Autumn were circumnavigating the island as well, we’d always been about a week apart. Fortunately, we’d kept in touch along the way and after our first week in the Broken Group Islands of Barkley Sound, we needed to provision in Ucluelet, which gave us a chance to meet up with them as they came down from Tofino to the north. Just like that, friends reunited and we were attached at the boat for the next 10 days as we zig zagged across the sound.

The crews of Velella and Yahtzee: (L to R) Ryan, Autumn, Magnus, Jill, Andy and Porter.

The crews of Velella and Yahtzee: (L to R) Ryan, Autumn, Magnus, Jill, Andy and Porter.

While we enjoy cruising on our own aboard Yahtzee, we’re also big fans of buddy-boating with good friends, and to do it for any extended amount of time, they have to be just that — good friends. The crews of Velella and Yahtzee meshed as perfect cruising buddies and our laid back demeanors and similarly slow cruising styles suited each other flawlessly.

By far the best part of communal cruising like this, though, was how much we helped each other as we went. Rafting together everyday felt like we had one big boat with everyone pitching in on navigation, cooking, playing, working and even child rearing. Ryan and Autumn were beyond awesome with the boys. They’d invite Porter along to drop or check the crab trap, read to him in the cockpit, jam together on their guitars and ukuleles, get him setup on one of their standup paddleboards and patiently answer questions about whatever meal or piece of boating gear was being worked on. It was fun to watch.

Ryan reading to Porter aboard Velella.

Ryan reading to Porter aboard Velella.

One Day at a Time

With an almost intentional lack of a schedule to sail to, we sat down with charts during our nightly gatherings and plotted out one day at a time. To us, that’s how life should be lived. Some days, we’d create a loose plan only to chuck it the morning in favor of a different idea.

We were always in search of beaches: Porter on a rope swing we found at one of our favorite spots.

We were always in search of beaches: Porter on a rope swing we found at one of our favorite spots.

We excelled at finding places that weren’t popular in the cruising guides and discovering one-boat coves to tuck into that were near beaches where we could have a fire, play and swim. Being that the numerous islands and beaches of the Broken Group are so close together and so rife with anchoring options, one windless morning we simply set out under power with the goal of poking around until we identified the perfect spot. After weaving our way through rocky islets and past tree-lined coves, we found our preferred spot and tucked in for the afternoon and evening.

Yahtzee and Velella rafted in another gorgeous spot. Ryan out on the paddleboard to set the crab trap.

Yahtzee and Velella rafted in another gorgeous spot. Ryan out on the SUP to check the crab trap.

Just like our anchorages, our meals were also combined without schedule. For the most part, we’d compare what needed to be eaten from the boats’ fridges, break out the cookbooks and make a plan for the night’s collaborative meal.

A typical scene at dinnertime.

A typical scene at dinnertime.

When not in the Broken Group — which is a park where you can’t harvest fish or shellfish — we’d turn to the sea for our protein. Magnus and I collected a large bucket of oysters that lasted for several days and Velella and Yahtzee were often found trolling for fish before setting sail for our next anchorage. One day Velella would provide a salmon, and the next it would be Yahtzee’s turn. Needless to say, we ate well.

Yahtzee's contribution to dinner.

Yahtzee’s contribution to dinner.

Cherishing the Little Things

As usual, one of the most memorable parts of our cruising adventures together in Barkley Sound were the small moments and routines we formed together. Afternoons on the beach were a common occurrence and when we’d return to the boats at happy hour, it was truly happy. We’d turn on some music, get food and drinks going and bask in the last of the bright sunshine while the boys entertained us with their antics on deck. It couldn’t get much better.

The crew hanging out on one of the best beaches we found in the Broken Group.

The crew hanging out on one of the best beaches we found in the Broken Group.

Sunsets are always a chance to gather, and when we couldn’t see it from an anchorage, we’d head out by dinghy a very short distance from the boats to sit, float and take it in.

One of our stunning sunsets.

One of our stunning sunsets.

Some of the best times were at the end of the night when the boys were tucked in snoozing and the adults could sit, chat and laugh over a game of Yahtzee, music and lively conversation. Boats were often a hot topic, but so too were our plans for the future, both near and far. And we’ve already started planning our next adventures together. It seemed that no topic was too big or small, and when you’re amongst great friends, that’s how it should be.

Velella and Yahtzee swing together at anchor.

Velella and Yahtzee swing together at anchor.

4 thoughts on “Buddy-boating in bountiful Barkley Sound

  1. Oh goodness. I am in tears! This is a new “life” for me! You share your “life” so beautifully and inspiringly! (I think I made that last word up!) I look forward to finding those amazing places, hopefully in the near future, with my Johnny and ‘Avventura’. Keep living a blessed and beautiful life. Your boys are just…well, blessed! Great job parenting, btw! Sigh, pull it together, Lisa…
    SAILOR’S TOAST
    May you see the way wherever the journey takes you,
    sailing safely over rough water
    and weathering the waves’ dips and crests.
    May you find treasure in Earth’s infinite variety,
    beauty and surprise.
    May you hear the ocean’s music in every shell you hold to your ear.
    May your boat fill with insight, laughter, generosity and love
    as you discover new landscapes and explore the wide expanse of memory.

    – Navigator’s Blessing, littlegoldboat

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