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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Whale of a time!

Well, today is the BIG 6 OH! I don’t feel old so that’s good. My good friend from Nova Scotia Lady B sent me this nice card today and I think its quite appropriate!

I’m going to live by this one! That means I’ve still got a lot of years before I feel old!

Thank you to everyone who sent me well wishes for my birthday! It has been a great day day to celebrate!

I heard from my talented friend Linda from St. Catherines who was inspired by a photo I had shared the other day from our sunset walk on Chesterman beach. She does watercolour paintings and this is her version of the photo I took.

My photo:

Linda’s watercolour painting:

It’s so nice to be so talented to take a photo and turn it into a painting!

The weather in Tofino looked ‘ok’ this morning from the window of the condo. We arrived at Ocean Outfitters at 10:30am for our temperature checks, personal floatation device fitting and safety briefing, before heading out on the whale watching boat.

Waiting in the lobby of Ocean Outfitters in Tofino.

We met our Captain named Tony, a long time Tofino resident on the dock and he helped us onto the smallish boat. Tony is also a helicopter pilot and has sailed from Japan to Vancouver Island 3 times - which took him 70 days one way! Tony gave us a safety briefing and explained we had to wear our masks at all times. There were 10 of us on the boat which was open to the rear, but had a windshield and sides.

Tony showed us a map where he would be taking us today and explained that the whale watching boats in Tofino, although they are competitors, share where there are sightings of whales, so everyone gets to see the whales, if there are any. Tony said we wouldn’t be heading out into the open waters of the Pacific as the swells were very high today. Winds were 25 knots and swells were 3 feet.

We started out from the dock in Tofino and immediately we were crashing into waves that were washing over the windshield and down the side of the boat. I thought to myself “What have I done? Why did I want to do this on my birthday?” I didn’t dare even look at Richard. Richard had taken Gravol last evening and this morning to prepare for this trip as he does not do well in small watercraft with choppy waters. We had also bought the wristbands that work on the seasickness pressure points on our wrists. I had chewed a ginger Gravol this morning which was ‘non drowsy’, just in case it got bad out on the water.

Leaving Tofino harbour the ‘chop’ has already started!

The first wildlife we saw on our Whale watching trip was a pair of bald eagles hanging out in some old growth cedar trees that our guide Tony pointed out to us.

The old growth trees on this island have never been logged. It was beautiful to see such a massive forest of old growth trees from the water.

Despite telling us we would not be heading out into the open ocean waters, our guide Tony decided to try and take us out to see grey and humpback whales. The waves were so HUGE and the boat was crashing on the waves and we were being tossed from side to side! It was quite an experience! I was holding onto the seat in front of me with both hands, and white knuckling it! It definitely was intense! The journey into the pit of oblivion seemed to last forever, but finally Tony decided to turn the ship around and common sense prevailed and we headed for calmer waters. Just then we saw a sea otter playing in the water in the distance. Tony stopped the boat to tell us a great story about sea otters.

Sea otters have the densest fur of any animal on Earth- with about 100,000 hairs per centimenter squared. Their coats have pockets - loose skin under each forearm. Sea otters use the pockets to stash prey during a dive, leaving their paws free to hunt some more, or to stash their favourite rock to crack shelled animals like clams. Sea otters are known as keystone species. Their presence keeps their prey populations in balance. By eating kelp - grazing sea urchins, they are vital to the health and stability of the kelp forest, and in turn all the species that depend on kelp forests for survival. In the olden days top hats were made out of sea otter fur. Before environmental practises were a thing, the removal of sea otter pelts was done more quickly by using mercury to remove the pelts. Once the pelts were made into top hats the term ‘mad hatter’ came into being as the men wearing the top hats were actually getting mercury poisoning from wearing the top hats!

We finally were in calmer waters and Tony was listening to the radio transmitter and using his binoculars to try and find us some whales. He brought us to a salmon fish farm which had a lot of sea lions hanging around figuring out how to get at the salmon.

Sea lions hanging out at the salmon fish farm. After seeing and hearing about all of the salmon fish farms, we will not be eating farmed salmon....ever!

We kept driving around in calmer waters looking for whales, but it was a disappointing day on the water, and we didn’t find any...and then our time was up!

While we were coming into the dock in Tofino we went right by the condo we are staying at. Our spot is the top right floor of the building on the right. We are at the end, so we have a nice wrap around balcony and more windows since we are at the end of the row of condos. It’s been a wonderful place to stay for 5 days, 4 nights. Nice and quiet and close to everything in downtown Tofino.

We arrived back at the Ocean Outfitters office after climbing up a ton of stairs from our boat. It was disappointing not to see any whales today on my special day, but Richard was more ‘bummed’ out about it than I was. He felt it was his job as my ‘Trip Director’ to make sure that I was a fully satisfied Executive! Meanwhile, I was happy with the journey and the experience.

We came back to our little condo for some leftover pizza from my dinner last evening. I started the blog while Richard rested. He really had too much ‘Gravol’ I think and it made him sleepy!

After a little rest in the condo we headed downtown Tofino to visit an art shop. I really wanted to get a print by a local Tofino artist who does illustrations which are very popular in town. So because we didn’t see any whales today, I had to buy some whales!

This is the illustration that was at Ocean Outfitters that inspired me to seek out Claire Watson’s prints.

This is the print I purchased today at ‘Lovecraft’ in Tofino. While we were there I also found an adorable Cowichan hat that matches my sweater.

I can’t wait to wear this hat to match my sweater!

After visiting downtown Tofino we headed to McKenzie Beach which was supposed to be sheltered from the stormy winds we were experiencing today.

What a beautiful sandy beach at McKenzie beach Tofino, which is known for pleasing families, because it is sheltered.

We headed around the corner from the blustery, windy conditions on McKenzie beach to try and get some shots in, in a more sheltered bay.

Richard was not ‘digging’ the windy conditions after having been bounced around in the whale watching boat this morning. It was quite chilly and windy on McKenzie beach.

A cute little girl was blowing bubbles on the beach today. She and her sister were in matching full length outfits to keep them warm against the strong, cold winds.

The nice looking family cottages in the background on McKenzie beach.

Quite a few families were building fires and roasting hot dogs on the beach today.

Lots of fires in this sheltered area of McKenzie Beach.

I like this rugged Black and White photo from McKenzie Beach today.

After walking around McKenzie Beach we were pretty chilled, so it was time to come home and have a nice Earl Grey tea and get ready for our special dinner this evening!

Richard had arranged to have us picked up by Tofino’s own ride hailing company called ‘Whistle’. B.C. does not have Uber, so this is their version of Uber. We had a 6:45pm dinner reservation at Long Beach Lodge Resort and our ‘Whistle‘ driver, who was from Quebec originally but arrived in Tofino 11 years ago for the surfing, arrived at 6:30pm.

The mask that inspired the owners of Longbeach Lodge. 18 months prior to the construction of Long Beach Lodge Resort, the owner Tim Hackett found himself within the local House of Himwitsa Native Art Gallery and he stared at this mask and found it so powerful, that it conjured up a design inspiration for what would become the crown jewel of the resort. A space deservedly named after what it simply was.... a really Great Room!

The ‘Great Room’ at Long Beach Lodge Resort. The timber beams and real wood burning stone fireplace sure ‘wowed’ us. Such a beautiful ambience overlooking the beautiful Cox Bay Beach.

Enjoying our champagne courtesy of Ron & Lenore Porter who surprised us with a beautiful welcome read to us by our server Catherine! WOW! We were both in tears we were so grateful and surprised! Thank you!

I stepped outside on the upper balcony off the great room to capture a few photos of the beach at sunset. Unfortunately we had a cloudy day today and the sunset was not too inspiring.

The cloudy skies over Cox Bay, Tofino, from Long Beach Lodge Resort.

The chairs around the fires looked so inviting. There were still quite a few brave souls walking the beautiful beach this evening.

We had such a wonderful meal for my birthday!

Caesar salad with the nicest lemony, garlic dressing!

Coconut crusted halibut for two, with prawns and black rice. This dish was a special ‘off menu’ feature, since the halibut is back in season on the Island! We couldn’t finish the halibut, but we made a really valiant attempt. It was delicious!

A special cake that Richard had made for me at ‘Oest’ bakery in Tofino and had them deliver to the resort for my birthday.

Not so great a picture, but I did manage to make a wish and blow out all of the candles at the same time!

We brought most of this delicious cake home with us since we were really stuffed form our other dishes!

Richard called our ‘Whistle’ driver who ended up being the same guy who brought us to dinner. We arrived home full and tired from such a long, wonderful day! Thank you to Richard for making my big 60th birthday so amazing! I had a ‘whale of a time’, today with you celebrating my 60th, despite not seeing any whales. I’m sure we’ll see a whale one day when we’re not expecting it, as that seems to be how we roll!

We’ll be sad to leave Tofino tomorrow. It’s been an amazing trip to the West coast of Vancouver Island. If you’ve never been here you must come! After you’ve had your vaccine, make it a point to come and experience this little piece of paradise on Vancouver Island.

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