Doing trips like this in your early thirties is quite different than in your early twenties. Relationships, careers and kids, can make carving out this time a great deal harder and I was thankful to have Adam, who departed in Hot Springs, for as long as we did. This did not stave off a strong feeling of melancholy at the idea of saying goodbye to one twentieth of our little band. Five had been crowded but cozy and productive. We all hugged and Adam hopped on the water taxi for Tofino 27 miles away. He would be there in just over an hour.
We went back to Carly’s (again thank you!) packed and cleaned. Keith gave us some sweet grass to burn on the boat and we said good bye to him and the little village of Hot Springs. There was one more stop to make before the tide called us. A blue wooden vessel sits at anchor just off the dock to the hot springs. At one time it might have been a common sight in these waters but now the Innchanter floats like a comfortably out of place ghost. Sean is the proprietor of the floating inn. Broad shouldered with thick carpenter hands he exudes an innkeeper’s friendly warmth. He had invited us for coffee, hot chocolate and gourmet rice crispy treats. The boat was his idea and he turned this old coastal freighter and fish carrier into a classily styled B & B. It was easy to tarry and I wished we had the time to enjoy the dinners that he offered. But we are a rowboat, and time and tide wait for no man.
The swells at the mouth of the cove were much more manageable than the day before. As we rowed into the waves to make the turn up the inside passage to Tofino one of the float planes servicing the town flew low out of the harbor and buzzed us. South wind pushed us up the inside passage around Vargas Island. Turning the corner the water was dead calm and the tide was pushing us. The channels between the islands are steep on each side and in the near distance are snowcapped peaks. It’s a striking wild landscape, but one that even still has clearly been touched by humans. As pristinely desolate as this seems there is not a direction we can look that has no evidence of logging.
It was pleasant rowing through the evening. Not fast, not slow. At one am Greg and I began the shift that would take us into port. Translating a chart into the darkness around us is nerve wracking. What is benign during the day becomes sinister in the dark. At some point it just takes faith in the lights and belief that the landscape itself will not morph. Once around the corner we saw the most lights we had seen since Port Hardy. A large sandbar guards Tofino on our approach from the north. We went extra slow, stopping when the sounds of lapping water became too loud. The spot light and confirmed the existence of a sandbar. Hundreds of tiny resting birds fluttered into the air, upset at the intrusive beam. An hour later we were tied up to the dock and walking through the silent streets. Tofino is a surf town and is Marcus’s home. Tonight we slept on the floor of his new and as of yet unfinished apartment above an organic market.
The next morning we had breakfast with Marcus’s family meeting Jen, Dylan, Ocea and Rio at the local bakery and waited for another weather window. It has been great to have their warmth on our trip and I am glad our stops have involved them. I love visiting each of these ports and wish I had more time to explore each town. Greg, Marcus and I did manage to get to the beach and look at the wind and waves keeping us in port and the four of us did spend a fair amount of time drinking tea and coffee. Our respite reached a crescendo with a superb meal that evening with Sibylla, Jen, and baby Rio. After spending time with a bunch of guys for weeks on end it’s nice to have some feminine energy to balance out man time. We slept well.