Part 21: San Juan Islands, WA to Tofino, BC


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The Trip

We had decided to visit Vancouver Island by taking the ferry from the Washington mainland via the San Juan Islands. We did an overnight stop in Friday Harbor, then continued on to Sidney, BC on the afternoon ferry. From there, we planned to head to the western coast of the island and camp. But, a broken air line would change our plans.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Friday Harbor is a nice little town that derives the majority of its income from the tourist industry. There were plenty of quaint buildings along the main street.

The sky was clear and the weather hot, so the harbor was crowded with weekend fun seekers and boaters.

There were gardens along the main street that had excellent flowers.

Some of the flowers had complex structures as well as nice coloring.

Window boxes had large collections of blooms.

In addition to boats and car ferries, tourists were coming and going via float planes that operated off the dock in Friday Harbor.

We boarded our ferry and headed out for Sidney, BC. The clear weather gave us good views of the other islands in the chain.

Nearing Sidney, we spotted a number of large nice structures on the smaller islands. This one seems way too big to be a private residence; it is more likely a lodge or convention center.

We had a close over-flight by another float plane on final approach to the Sidney harbor.

We headed south from Sidney, then west toward the Pacific coast of the island. Near the small village of Sooke (rhymes with "cookie") I noticed that my air pressure warning light was coming on. Many subsystems are dependent on air pressure, like the brakes, so it is vital to have high pressure air. I pulled over to investigate and noticed that the braided hose that connected the pump to the balance of the hard lines had fatigued and failed. I removed the hose to investigate the possibility of a repair and was not happy with what I saw. Above is the aft end of the hose. The failure is on the other end, but what is visible in the photo is the improvised fitting that was welded onto the end of the hose. The history of this situation is that the outboard air compressor was one of the first failures I had on my truck after I bought it in 1996. Before I became aware of the Unimog community in San Diego, I took my truck to Freightliner. They replaced the high capacity outboard pump with a smaller, engine mounted pump. They also created the non-standard hose above to connect the components together.

I cleaned the broken end of the hose in anticipation of devising some kind of patch. Patching a stainless steel mesh hose would be a difficult affair, but I had a plan. While thinking about the issue, a local, Chris, stopped to see if I needed help. After some discussions, he offered that we could stay in his driveway for the night while we came up with a plan. Since we were in a dirt lot along side of the road, we accepted his offer. Luckily, his place was right across the street. Since the air supply hose was removed, I would have to make do with the air that I had in the supply tanks. We made it to his yard without incident and set up the camper for the night.

Next morning, Chris and I visited several shops in the village of Sooke and got the same story at each location: go to Coast Industrial Supply in Victoria. They can custom make any hose you need. I called Coast, they verified their capabilities, but also added that I would have to get to them early in the day to implement the repair. Plus, since the hose was non-symmetrical, I would have to have the hose with me. Chris had a job, so he could not spend all day driving us around, so we had to act fast. I decided to implement a temporary fix and drive the truck to the hose place. Then, I would remove the hose in the parking lot so they could fabricate a replacement. Then, we could test it right there in case some modification was needed. My patch consisted of a slice of a water bottle and a slice of beer can. I cut and cleaned the beer can the previous night in anticipation of having to fully repair the issue myself. The plan was to roll the cut plastic bottle around the wound to seal it. Then the beer can would be wound to provide mechanical strength. Finally, the entire assembly would be bound with hose clamps.

First, the plastic bottle was wrapped around the damaged portion of the hose and over the coupling on the end.

Next, the aluminum sheet was wrapped over the plastic.

Finally, the whole assembly was secured with hose clamps. If I had to implement this repair without hope of outside assistance, I would have omitted the plastic bottle and used JB weld and the beer can. I strongly feel that approach would have gotten us all the way back to San Diego.

The hose was installed and the fix worked. The dials above show 13.5 bar and rising at idle. I was happy. We thanked Chris and Maggie and broke camp and headed for Victoria to get a solid replacement part made. The truck held 17 bar on the entire trip, so there were no issues.

A comparison of the patched part and the new, custom hose. The new hose is much more robust than the original and should provide many years of service. That said, I bought 2 since they were only $60 each. Now I have a spare.

We had lunch and bought a birthday gift for Maggie and stopped back at their home to deliver the gift. While there, we ran into Chris again as he was on his way north to go camping. Above, he gives me some local intelligence on camping spots and what is popular.

Just like Chris stated, the camp areas in the Provincial Parks were full. But, we were lucky and got a nice place on the Jordan River right on the coast. The weather was still hot and clear. Jordan River is approximately due north from Port Angles in Washington State, but on Vancouver Island.

The weather was hot, so I decided to go into the ocean. The ocean, however, was not hot, so, with cocktail in hand, I was forced to retreat from the icy water. Cold water makes no smiles.

Next morning it was foggy and overcast. But, we could see whales off the coast as they traveled out the channel.

At our camp, one of the locals stated that there was a back road to a nice lake in the interior of the island. So, we got our map book out, located the road and headed out. Along the way, we passed Port Renfrew. Near our parking spot was this plant with these huge leaves. Note the size of the leaves relative to Kathleen.

Port Renfrew had a nice dock and restaurant.

From the dock, we could see kelp pods in the clear waters of the channel.

From Renfrew, we headed into the forest and went past a place called Fairy Lake. The defining structure of Fairy Lake is the rock outcropping above.

By Fairy Lake, we encountered this grouse that would not get out of the road. I stopped, but only when I was nearly on top of the bird did it move.

It was a 3 day weekend in BC and after encountering many, many full camp sites, we finally found a spot at Kissinger Lake. The last remaining site was big, flat and grassy, so we made camp, relaxed and went for a swim in the lake. As you can see above, the locals bring all their toys when they come to the lake.

We had a nice dinner and a great night. Next morning was somewhat foggy, but there were still fishermen on the lake trying their luck.

I have heard it said "...nothing is really broken, it just lacks sufficient duct tape." and I am familiar with its many uses. While I am not sure of its application in thoracic surgery or childbirth, the locals did seem to devise a use for duct tape in child discipline. I am not sure why they did not finish the job and put some on his mouth as well; that would have fully addressed the issue.

One of the campers at Kissinger Lake told us of a back road that went to Port Alberni, so we decided to check it out. The route was a forest road that went past areas that were being actively logged. Above is a photo of one of the clear-cut areas that the loggers are working.

Along the route, the road passed this deep, clear lake so we decided to go for a swim. The water was very nice, but the beach was steep.

We got to the Port Alberni area without incident and got supplies, diesel and ice. Along the way, we found a great camping site at China Creek. It was big, clean, and had hot showers. And, there were plenty of spots available, so we took one right on the beach. While we were setting up, this large timber ship sailed past our position up the Alberni channel.

The view from our back door.

I went down to the beach and discovered this large root ball on a driftwood tree. Note the mog/camper in the trees.

It was quite windy during the night, but calm the next morning. In the distance, you can see the fog bank and the many private boats that are fishing the salmon run that had just started.

We left China Creek and went into Port Alberni for breakfast. After breakfast, we spotted this classic car coming into the parking area.

The breakfast spot was right on the dock and some of the local ships were visible.

Looking south from the tourist dock, we could see the timber ship that we spotted the previous afternoon. The ship was being loaded with raw logs destined for the far east.

The tourist dock had a nice carving of an eagle.

I laughed out loud when I saw this sign.

From Port Alberni, we traveled west toward Tofino and the Pacific coast. The road was very steep in places, 18% at one point and narrow as well. Our progress was impeded by a large boat being towed to the harbor at Ucluelet. Plus, there were plenty of tourists returning to Victoria and the mainland from the coast.

When we got to Tofino, the place was packed. It seems that this area is very popular with tourists. In the end, we could find no place to camp, so we stayed in a motel and ate at a nice restaurant for dinner. Tomorrow, we will head south to Ucluelet.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.