So, from Port Alberni it was off down the Barkley Sound on the MV Francis Barkley, a converted Norwegian car ferry built in 1958. We departed in mist but the sun soon burned it off and before long we had blue skies and were accompanied by humpback whales, sea lions and sea otters.
It was a magnificent trip down the sound and we'd like to thank Captain John, first mate Mike, engineer Darren, and deck hand Michael for sharing their vessel with us and loading and off loading our bikes like they could do it in their sleep. We'd also like to thank Mike, the owner, for 'comping' us the passage and Stacy in the office for getting us booked on board. We shared the deck space with quite a few very happy tourists. There was one English couple based out of Nanaimo that had procrastinated for seven years before booking a passage and when I asked the husband if the wait had been worth it he bust a smile that gave me an instant answer. For us in a sense it was work, but humpback whales, blue skies, and a very hospitable crew allowed us to enjoy the passage every bit as much as the tourists. So, a huge thank you to the folks at Lady Rose Marine Services, another first for me on Vancouver Island.
We slid into Bamfield which is split by the water into East Bamfield, and West Bamfield. Dianne, at Imperial Eagle Fishing Lodge was putting us up for a couple of nights and she was in West Bamfield, but we had to store the bikes on the east side as that was where the road was. Bamfield is a cool little town with a big heart and the coolest boardwalk in Canada, part of the Queen's highway apparently! We soon got settle at the Imperial Eagle and we'd like to thank Dianne for putting us up in such a cool cabin. She was lovely and had my attention as soon as I saw her mowing the yard on her bright orange Husqvarna mower. Soft spoken, Dianne thought it would be neat to help us out on our adventure and it's because of folks like her that we managed to pull it off, so thank you Dianne.
We soon got a handle on Bamfield, with less than 200 people it's not a huge place but the fact it's divided in two with a water taxi connecting the two sides lends a uniqueness that is very refreshing. Add to that the absence of 'through' traffic on the west side and it makes for a very peaceful destination. The next morning we walked out to Brady's Beach so Dominik could set up and capture a prime West Coast vista, and I think he captured it beautifully.
Then it was off to a very interesting place, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, or BMSC. We had a couple of interviews lined up with the faculty so called Mark and he whisked us over to the 'east side' in his water taxi. From there we climbed on the bikes and headed for the BMSC. The facility is located on the site of the old Pacific Cable station that was the terminus for a Trans Pacific cable in 1902. The location has quite the history and after the cable operations were suspended in Bamfield in 1959 the site remained dormant for years before five western universities banded together to create the Bamfield Marine Station in 1972. It later became the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, or BMSC as it is known today.
We tracked down Brad Anholt, the director, and Phil Lavoie, who worked in the Whale Lab, for a couple of very interesting interviews and would like to thank them both for their time and enthusiasm in helping us out. The BMSC is an incredible facility and our look inside was a real bonus. Thank you!
We finished off our day with a walk on the board walk and a natter with Bamfield's postmistress, Rose. She came to Bamfield 34 years ago for the weekend and hasn't gone home yet and doesn't look like she will any time soon. When I asked her why she looked at me, then her surroundings and said, "Why."
The next morning Dominik managed to wrangle up a tour of the Coast Guard Base. Matt, the base commander, gave us an excellent walk-though and though we couldn't film, we didn't have our clearances in place, it was a very impressive visit. The state of the art base is one of the oldest on the West Coast and it was a real treat to see the level of gear present and acknowledge the upkeep at the base. I was having flashbacks to my time in the military. It's always pleasant to see such high levels of professionalism and we take our hats off to all those that serve with the Coast Guard, definitely an honourable profession.
Then it was back on the Barkley! We could have ridden the Bamfield road but we've both done that before and whenever one has a chance to get on the water and see humpbacks in action the opportunity shouldn't be missed. Four hours later we were back in Port Alberni and heading on to our next destination: Ucluelet.....or Ukee as it's know to the locals.