Friday, 4 November 2016

To Go Boldly by Ron Palmer - DAY THREE

His risings fogs prevail upon the day
MacFlecknoe (1682)

I woke up at 0530 cursing under my breath, as I’m on my own there is no point to saying it out loud, to a beautiful day of thick fog. Thick as a hedge again, with visibility down to almost nil, no matter as by now I was beginning to accept that I wasn’t going to have much in the way of sightseeing on this trip. So I decided to first have breakfast, do my chores then push off in the hope that the fog would eventually clear. With the GPS and the now fully operational radar there should be no problem feeling my way to Bamfield.
Regardless of my concerns about the fog I did remember to take something out of the freezer for the evening meal. A nice Forfar Bridie would do very nicely, garnished with mashed potato and the ubiquitous peas and carrots, a dollop of HP sauce would go nicely too, just to give the meal that extra bit of zest. And a little smearing of margarine on the veggies rather than gravy to smooth the way just for a change, after all one needs variety to enhance the enjoyment of a meal. Which, the reader might ask, ‘why peas and carrots’ with every meal? Well, carrots are, or the carotene they contain are well known to be an anti cancer element. And as for peas, don’t they go with carrots? Like love and marriage, bacon and eggs, that sort of thing one might say. Once again a meal fit for a king. While on the subject of food I decided to make a sandwich for lunch just in case the fog situation prevented so doing at the appointed hour, seems as though my memory was improving to remember all these tasks.

At 0715 up came the anchor and off we set into the swirling fog with a quiet prayer that the instruments would not fail and leave me blind. With this thought a film I had seen many years previously came to mind, the title of which evades me. However, this American millionaire was being transported with his goods and chattels to his private island off the west coast of Scotland by a Clyde puffer, which is a small cargo steamer that plied its trade in that part of the world. During the journey they ran into thick fog, the American of course became quite alarmed as to their safety anxious that they would run into one of the island and be wrecked. The skipper assured him that there was no danger as they would know where they were by radar. Looking around the wheelhouse the American pointed out that they didn’t have radar. To which the skipper drew his attention to the galley boy going forward carrying a bucket of coal. That’s our radar going forward now the lad will heave a lump of coal into the fog and if it splashes we are fine, and if it clunks we know we are too close to the land. ‘Works like a charm it does, sir.’
Maybe I should think to bring a bucket of coal on these journeys into the fog just in case the radar packs in. On sighting the entrance buoy at the entrance to Port San Juan the fog had lifted a little the visibility clearing to maybe half a mile, not perfect but promising. The fog soon closed in again with wisps of the stuff curling around the stem, so I took up my position as of yesterday, feet on coaming and seated on the high stool.
While progressing along the coast several fish boats loomed out of the fog which had been large enough to be picked up on the radar so their appearance was anticipated without my being shocked at a large unyielding object suddenly appearing out of the gloom. The manifestation of these objects if unexpected suddenly appearing out of no-where, can, if ones nerves are wound up from peering into a wall of cotton wool could give one a very anxious moment, alarm even.  
As though trying to compensate for these miserable conditions nature chose to bring out the sun and as it was astern of the boat a beautiful rainbow appeared ahead so tantalisingly close it was as though we would run into it and be so close to the legendary pot of gold. Fat chance, one has a better, though very slim chance of winning the lottery. Nice thought though. Maybe I should keep a look-out for Leprechauns and claim the pot of gold.
Somewhere along this coast, approximately half way to Bamfield probably, the Pacific swell started to gently lift the boat unseen in the thick fog giving a strange ethereal sensation, an out of world feeling in the damp blanket surrounding my immediate world. This swell was to stay with me for all the way to Cape Scott at the top of Vancouver Island thankfully causing no discomfort, just a gentle rise with approach of the wave and an almost imperceptible slide down the other side, soothing almost. About this time the wind started to pick up to blow at 7 knots. So out with the Genoa again to assist my passage, to be sure this situation lasted about ten minutes before dying away again making the Genoa a limp flapping nonentity to be hauled in again. Although British Columbia has one of the most perfect boating areas in the world at times the often erratic winds can be most frustrating.
The fog finally dispersed on approaching Cape Beale to reveal a beautiful clear sunny day, the sort of day that one should expect in BC as we like to say, ‘it is always like this in BC’ when the sun shines. The run up Barkley Sound, (native name Nitinat), to Bamfield became one of the most pleasurable legs of this odyssey.
Captain Charles William Barkley, mentioned earlier of the British Trading vessel, Imperial Eagle, discovered and named this beautiful sound in 1787, with its many rocky islands after himself, as with most colonising Europeans the local indigenes were quite often ignored. And on reflection Barkley Sound does have certain melodic appeal, Nitinat to my mind seems to grate somewhat. On this particular voyage he had with him his seventeen year old bride, Francis, who could claim the honour, for what it is worth, of being the first white woman to visit British Columbia.
Bamfield is a small fishing village which lies in its own little inlet on the south side of Barkley Sound four and a half miles from Cape Beale. And if my memory serves me correctly from those far distant schooldays, this was where the undersea telegraph cable came ashore from Australia the Pacific section linking the British Empire in a world wide communications network. This cable link is probably not used anymore as the advance in technological knowledge would no doubt have made this system obsolete. This would have to be investigated during my stay here as a matter of interest and the large building on the opposite bluff looked promising as the type of building which would serve as a communications building. Seeking wisdom and truth was all part of this journey and as I was in no hurry to disappear into the fog again I would be content enough to explore the possibilities of this settlement.
Part of the Pacific Rim National Park is just a few miles to the south, and the West Coast Trail a forty-seven kilometre hike from Port Renfrew ends at Pachana Bay close by between Bamfield and Cape Beale. No doubt a welcome sight to those hardy souls having hiked the distance, (no pun intended) although the soles of their feet would be ready for a hot mustard bath after such a distance. There is a shuttle bus operating from Bamfield, Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Victoria to each end of the trail during the hiking season. The trail was original created by rescue services to access the many vessels driven ashore and wrecked on this coast as previously it was well nigh impossible to get through the dense forest to render assistance. 
The village of Bamfield is split into two parts by the inlet to form East and West Bamfield. Both parts have an array of quaint buildings, stores, bed and breakfast establishments and private homes. Most of the docks near the entrance and on each side of the inlet carried the legend, ‘Private Dock’. So obviously there would be no point in tying up at one of those. As the predominance of buildings were on the west or right hand and not having been here before I decided to direct my search to this side of town. The General Store dock, mooring time limited to twenty minutes seemed to be a good place to park as I needed engine oil and it would be a good place to inquire for the whereabouts of a dock I could stay at over night.
The engine oil was not forthcoming as I required a 4 litre container which they did not stock. Well, as I still had some oil left over I decided to wait until the next stop if none could be purchased in the quantity I required here in Bamfield. The store clerk was kind enough to direct me to the Government dock towards the south of the town as the best place to moor for the night, so I directed my course to that dock. While proceeding in this direction further into the inlet. I noticed that a walkway followed the shoreline for its full length from the customs dock to, as it turned out to where I was to moor. This aroused my curiosity and I made a mental note to investigate after settling in.
The dock proved to be ideal as this early in the day there were no other boats tied up and I had the choice of any position along the outer length of the moorings. However, there were groups of boys spaced at different positions along the full length all apparently fishing as I felt my need to be paramount I called out to one group that I was coming alongside and to watch their lines, more for my well being than theirs as monofilament fishing lines can foul up a propeller before you can say piscatorial artist. Boaters and quite often anyone who happened to be around usually help a boat coming alongside to moor. In this instance I had to hop onto the dock and take my own lines as apart from the aforementioned boys fishing there wasn’t anyone around and they didn’t seem to be inclined to perform the task, probably due to being busy getting their lines out of the water. 
“Sorry, lads, but I needed to moor here,” I offered ever polite.
“That’s alright,” said the eldest. “We can move to the other side.”
With that they gathered up their tackle and moved.
Later on, after having a late lunch I decided to explore the town on this side of the inlet.
But first maybe I could get some information from the lads who were now fishing on the other side of the dock.
“Do you lads live in Bamfield?” I asked.
They all looked up at me but, again it was the one I took to be the eldest who answered.
“No.” he said, “We’re on vacation with our parents.”
“You wouldn’t know how Bamfield got its name then?”
“No.” He shook his head and looked at the other boys. They also indicated a negative response to the question.
“No matter,” I said. “I’ll ask up the road.”
As I walked away there was a general whispered conversation amongst my piscatorial friends. Probably asking each other why some old nut would ask such a dumb question.

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