the Muchalat Inlet, 12 km south of Gold River, the MV Uchuck
lll provides a year-round freight and passenger service
for westcoast communities in Nootka Sound, Yuquot (Friendly Cove),
Tahsis and Kyuquot.
Uchuck 111 approaching Muchalat Inlet Dock
The route takes
you through Nootka Sound, up Tahsis Inlet and out Esperanza Inlet
to the ocean. From here you travel along the west coast to Kyuquot
Sound where the trip ends at the settlement of Kyuquot.
on the map to view a large scale map of the North and Central
Vancouver Island Ferry Routes.
ferry service to Nootka Sound/Yuquot/Tahsis is a private service.
B.C Ferries provides no information for this route.
Many visitors to
the west coast of Vancouver Island may never have had the chance to
boat in the wind, the rain, and the ever-rolling seas that characterize
the world of the 'outside' waters, as the open ocean here is often
called. Exploring the outside waters aboard the Uchuck III, a
former World War II minesweeper, which makes a weekly two-way round-trip
voyage to the fishing hamlet on Kyuquot, can be quite an adventure.
For many passengers, particularly in storm season, the high (or low)
point of the journey is the two-hour stretch each way spent tossing
about on the open ocean waters between Port Eliza and Kyuquot. From
the moment the freighter leaves the dock in Gold River and begins
its 10-hour journey the big question is whether your constitution
can handle the rise-and-fall motion of the ship in high seas. (At
such times it helps to remember that the world uchuck translates
as 'healing waters")
On a typical
voyage, ocean swells can run in the 2 to 3 metre range: plenty chaotic
for most voyagers, though the skipper will go out in anything short
of 8 m to make his rounds. Although the Uchuck III has sometimes
had to wait out a blow in Kyuquot or Port Eliza, she's never foregone
a regularly scheduled trip since 1982, when she was assigned to
the Kyuquot run.
If you're inclined
to be right in on the action during a bout on the high seas, the
wheelhouse is the place to be. Although not the roomiest place aboard,
there is space for several passengers to stand inside with the skipper
and first mate. When ocean waters are too rough north of Port Eliza
to negotiate a tricky inside passage called the Rolling Roadstead
north towards Kyuquot, the Uchuck III heads west of Vancouver
Island into the vastness of the open water.
down the Muchalat Inlet
In storm season,
winds often blow at 30 to 50 knots from the southeast, while ocean
swells run from the west; large breakers roll in from all directions.
The slender nose of the Uchuck III is the thin edge of the
proverbial wedge - a wave cutter par excellence.
The nose of the Uchuck III rises as the horizon line falls,
then slams down on a cresting wave. The horizon rises as the Uchuck
III drops into a trough, then rises again. The skipper looks
like a defensive lineman on a football team, braced for the onrush
of yet another surge. The mate scans the radar, recording the ship's
position in a logbook.
After two hours
of this, it's a relief to suddenly see the Mission Islands
and Nicolaye Channel's narrow entrance, beyond which lies
Kyuquot. As the vessel passes Aktis Island, there are signs
of a clearing and several homes. This is the original village site
where more than 2,000 Natives lived in the years before contact
with the Europeans. Today there are fewer than 30 full-time residents
here, who, by choice, shun such conveniences as telephone and electricity,
except that provided by a limited-use generator.
of Kyuquot is home to 300 Natives, and others, whose homes
are built into the forest above the tideline. To turn into a small
bay and find civilization after rocking and rolling for several
hours in open water heightens Kyuquot's value. Much of the architecture
here is identifiably Canadian West Coast style: modern and well
kept, a testimony to good years in the fishing industry. Despite
the overwhelming sense a visitor feels that the logging industry
is the only employer around, brought on by endless patches of clear-cut
on all sides coupled with an absence of other marine traffic, fishing
is the predominant vocation in Kyuquot. Here, on Walters Island,
in a series of small bays just beyond reach of the spirits of wind
and water, people have sheltered and drawn in living from the ocean
for generations. In recent years, with the fishing season becoming
more limited, tourism is seen by some residents as a viable alternative
In winter months,
cargo aboard the Uchuck III consists of goods destined for
a dozen or more logging camps. Come warmer weather, when logging
shuts down due to the threat of fires, ferrying passengers is the
staple business of the Uchuck III. Instead of offloading
heavy equipment in summer, the ship's deck is lined with kayaks,
and its towering Union rigging is busy wet-launching ocean-going
adventurers. Although much of the coastline is rocky and rugged,
there are choice campsites on beaches near Kyuquot, including Rugged
Point Provincial Marine Park. Not everyone comes this far. At other
times of the week, the Uchuck III makes day trips in the
sheltered waters of Nootka Sound to Tahsis or Friendly Cove, the
site of Captain James Cook's first contact with the Native people
of Vancouver Island in 1778. Today, only one family remains in the
settlement of Yuquot at Friendly Cove on Nootka Island.
River, Nootka Sound,
Tahsis and Kyuquot.
Service Ltd can be contacted for current schedules, fares and information.
P.O Box 57
BC V0P 1G0
Tel: (250) 283-2515