Day Eight: Saturday Social

Well it’s Saturday morning and Carmen’s not here. So it’s appropriate we are headed to ‘Desolation’ Sound. I turn to my instant cup of Nescafé French Vanilla and add an extra scoop of sugar for its sweet, sweet comfort.

I got an email (albeit a very short one) from my mom. They passed us last night on their cruise ship on the way back from Alaska. They disembark this morning in Vancouver–a trip that took us 5 days.

Today is more groceries, but we will likely have to take a cab because of the distance and L’s stalwart refusal to mush like a sled dog. See what a PhD does to a person? We also have a Skippers’ meeting and a social planning meeting at 5. Leslie wants to go to the skippers’ and I want to go to the social but since it’s more feasible for me to do the skipper thing (since I did the legwork) we might have to toe the traditional gender lines…sigh.

Other than that, we might try and find a toaster, I might do some laundry or there might be some napping. Who knows what exciting adventures a day in a strange port might bring…

We grabbed showers and I washed out some shirts and skivvies. Then we grabbed the shopping list and headed up the hill on foot. The hill itself wasn’t too long but the walk tuckered poor L’s trigger points all out. She stopped at Safeway whilst I continued to the Canuck Tire and the bank for toasters and cash. On the way I noticed a Save-On and texted L. She decided to abandon the dirty stinking capitalist Safeway for the nice, revolution-friendly, right-thinking Save-On. Or something like that.

Then she got lost. For the 50 billionth time in our relationship I waited and waited and texted and called and started walking back and waited and worried and now I guess it’s obvious she must be dead or kidnapped by white/PhD slavers. What else could it be!

So it turns out she said “meet you here,” not “meet you there.” Huh. One little “t” makes a difference, doesn’t it? I’d eventually rechecked my texts and discovered that rather than lost, she just plain had no intention of coming. Now an editor would look at her phrasing and mark it up as ‘unclear’ but I’m not an editor–although funnily enough she is. So I guess we will just leave it at my mistake and move on.

Even though she’s done it before. But as I said, I’ll move on. Yup. My mistake. Move on. Moving on…

Anyways, we managed to pick up supplies and called a cab for the ride home. Delivery would have been $7 and we would have to wait till 3. The cab was $8.60 plus tip and we didn’t have to walk back. All is good.

Back in the boat we squirreled away the groceries in all the nooks and crannies. Including our newest crew member: a fresh potted basil we’ve (I’ve) named Carmen. That done, we planned our next and most important expedition: booze!

Down the path and up the hill, we first popped in the chandler and grabbed a wool touque because I think we (I) might need one. Tuesday was cold. Then we raided the booze store and loaded up. Beer, cider, wine: we got enough for a few nights if C was along, but it should last us the first week of the trip.

Back at the dock the Corus, a monstrous 50′ sailboat and our lead boat, was now docked two fingers up. So they’re here. I guess this is all a go.

Lunch, a beer and I decided to wash the boat while Leslie decided to refresh her memory on how to make toast. After I made Leslie toast, I went back to washing the boat. PhD’s and Toast: my next children’s book.

Boat clean, I went for a walk. And I finally met Larry. Nice guy. We chatted and discussed the squeaky belt as well as the uninflatable inflatable. He agreed that the inflatable needed inflating and the belt shouldn’t be squeaking. Like I said, nice guy, but not looking to volunteer help. I didn’t press him because it was easier to deal with it myself. But in a Sam vs Larry knockout round, Larry wouldn’t last a minute.

And that’s all I got to say about that.

I wandered over to Corus and borrowed their air pump and now suddenly our dinghy inspires a (small) bit of confidence. On the way back I complimented a fellow on his boat, the Half Moon, and he invited me aboard. It’s a late 70s Albin although I have already forgotten the model and I’ll have to look it up. A mid cockpit with both a wheel and a tiller, it was one of those well-designed, well-thought-out packages. He likened it to the old Volkswagen Westfalias and he was absolutely right. The same economy of design and simplicity that produces quality rather than curb appeal. A boat to remember.

Relaxing ensued. At 5 we headed to the Corus to find the meeting was changed to 6. Back to the Shearwater. I whipped up some oil and vinegar, a smidge of garlic and a pinch of sugar a la Moosh and then added sliced baguette for the required appies.

While we were waiting a Fisheries Cutter (a huge monster Coast Guard boat) started backing down our finger; turns out they intended to raft to the powerboat behind us. Of course they were so big they would have also rafted to us. GULP

After easing the behemoth in, the pilot changed his mind. He was worried his big bow flare might swing over in the night and crush our rail. I was worried the big f*cking boat might roll over in its sleep and sink me in the middle of mine. Different worry-sets I guess. So they eased the lines and tried again one finger over. Not sure if I’m happy or sad about that. Forgot to take a picture.

One finger over, they eventually gave up on that attempt and moved even further into the harbour. Good luck Sooke Post! It was nice chatting with you. While you tried to crush me. Talk about your repressive state apparatus!

So six o’clock found us grabbing the last half of my 1 litre local brew and a Strongbow for L, the bread and oil, and off we go for social hour. Have to say this was the epitome of what’s difficult about being social beings. Strange people, strange culture, strange place: what could possibly go wrong?

So it wasn’t so bad. We weren’t the last to arrive, but also not the first. Andrea, crew on the Corus, was one of those gregarious people who just talked and roped people in. We found ourselves perched in the cockpit and munching away, smiling, nodding and trying to remember names.

Syd is quiet. Very quiet. The Hartleys brought their daughter Shannon (probably late 20s, early 30s) and she’s got that natural frown that is bait for people like me. Make Shannon smile is now on my official to-do list. Ian seems cool, Laurence is dry, Anne is friendly and practical, the folks from Mariners Compass have a bit of a quirk to them that might prove very likeable: all in all, not the worst crowd to hang with for two weeks.

There are 30 people in total. On a boat with a prominent plate stating its max capacity as 12. Gotta love breaking the rules; we’s just one big pack of rebels.

As the gathering was breaking up Dave and Margaret from R Shack Island came up from below. Did I mention there were a tonne of people below that I didn’t actually meet? Well, there were. Anyways, they came up and we formally introduced ourselves. And then Dave started talking about something that sounded vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t quite connecting with.

In my third year of university, in a very dry and boring English course that I have completely forgotten about except for this one small instance, the prof started berating the class because they didn’t know how to write an essay as part of an exam. Eventually he finished up by starting to read what he considered a ‘good’ example of how to do it. I remember metaphorically rolling my eyes back in my head while I doodled away in my binder and thinking something along the lines of “what a wanker” at the author of said example.

The prof concluded his reading from the Book of Perfect Student by saying it was a pity that said student had obviously mismanaged his time and failed to complete the essay. “Wait a second. I had screwed up and not got my… ” Sure enough the dude had been reading my paper. I hadn’t recognized a word of it.

So back to Dave. It seems he was actually quoting me to me. It was, as L said, like something out of Harry Met Sally. My brain eventually caught up and sorted and filed the relevant data and I realized he said he’s been following along on the blog.

Hi Dave (and Margaret)

I’m so used to being the creepy internet stalker guy that I forget that other people can actually follow links too. I’d googled everyone a few weeks ago and started following R Shack’s Twitter feed. They’d followed back and I had assumed that was the end of it. Anyway, seems he found the blog and started to read along. I guess I will need to be less self-referential if I’m going to have a real audience.

In another moment of self-aggrandizement I mentioned my work on Lois’ books to Ian and he was thrilled (on behalf of his wife) to meet me. Gosh and C’s not here to deflate my head… I’ll guess she’ll pay when I get back.

So in the end, our hors d’ourvres were not so bad. Not as fancy as some, but better than the store-bought muffins. So while we didn’t win and crush, we were solid mid-pack. The people were nice all round and we left without any serious missteps.

Back aboard we opened the red, I fried up some dogs and we pigged out on things-that-aren’t-so-good-for-us. And chocolate.

Tomorrow we are off to Rebecca Spit. It seems the order of the day is boating free-for-all. Laurence passed out some info sheets and layed out his intended course and we are all to meet sometime later in the day. Talk was it was only 3 hours or so cruising, but I had it pegged as 5 plus. I’m sticking with my pessimistic view to be on the safe side.

Laurence says there is usually one good sail on his route so we will follow the inside. They are stopping for lunch at a sandy spit and I’ll have to see if my must-get-there-now brain has slowed down enough yet.

L’s doing dishes, I’m exercise my right to free speech and slurping blended Californian red and I fear very soon she intends to take advantage of me. It’s Yahtzee time.






Day Nine: And so it begins

Well today we are off for our great northerly adventure, which, when you think about it, isn’t very northerly. We’ve got a few thousand miles more north to go if we want to hit Alaska some day.

I don’t know about internet availability as we go forward. I am pretty sure there are going to be places without cell coverage, so all y’all will have to be patient if you want to follow along. I’ll keep up though so you won’t miss an exciting moment.

Morning started too early courtesy of the damn main halyard. I tightened it up yesterday but wasn’t really focused on it. The winds came up and when something woke me around 6:15, all I could hear was the halyard banging. I got up to tighten it once but it was no good. I was up and every little bang and whack wasn’t going to let me fall back asleep.

So I got up, flipped on the heater and boiled the water. And now it’s time for, and in no particular order…

Boat Notes

  • The S/V Shearwater is a 2006 33′ Bavaria
  • She is a sloop with a 120% genoa
  • Her wheel is big. I say too big; makes getting around the cockpit difficult
  • She has a list to starboard. No big deal except maybe when you sleep on the high side and there is a tendency to try and brace yourself. I’ve noticed a few times my back twitching because I was tensed up
  • The fridge is finicky. On shore power we have it dialed right down and I am still drinking ginger ale slush. On batteries it seems to run a bit warmer.
  • The hot water is dangerous. Seriously. I melted a pop bottle with it. Someone could suffer serious burns from that thing and it’s so easy with those taps to have it swing over to the hot side. I repeat Danger
  • The salon is spacious and almost more comfortable than the 38′ Dufour. Of course we were 4 on that boat.
  • The shower/head is pretty spacious too. Lots of room. I think that’s because this is the two cabin model.
  • Shearwater sails well and I like the positioning of the winches. Leslie and I have been able to tack pretty efficiently.
  • The hook on the forward cabin door necessitates me getting on my hands and knees and twisting my arm through two 90 degree contortions to latch or unlatch. I’ve just started leaving the door closed.
  • There was no toaster
  • The galley is small. Between the sink and the fridge there is no counter space when you are cooking. It would be nice to have at least one surface to use.
  • The water hose not only leaks, it has the worst kinks I have ever seen in a hose
  • The inflatable foot pump has a small leak in it so it is well nigh impossible to fully inflate the dinghy.

So up it was with toast (yeah!) for breakfast. I hit the showers and came back to start tidying up. L wandered off while I took the garbage out and returned the washroom key. Back at the boat I topped off the water tanks and started stowing things for the trip. Winds are predicted at 10-15 rising to 15-20 and we will be heading strait into the wind. Bumpy but probably not too.

I rigged the lines to cast off, unhooked shore power, brought out the winch handles and remote VHF, then started double checking latches and hatches. When Leslie got back we talked it over and since it was a pretty easy exit with the wind pushing us off the dock, she took the helm and I cast off.

Out from behind the breakwater we turned into the wind, revved her up to 2400 rpms and headed out on about 290 degrees. A bit bouncy but fine. I’m nice and warm in the sunshine and the lee of the dodger, but Cap’n Doc is bundled up in her hoody at the wheel.

We were the first boat out of our group, with the Corus about half an hour behind and Intrepid 4 behind them. By the time we’d hit Savary Island the superior speed of the Corus had brought her up off out starboard side. We just can’t compete. A little later Mariners Compass, a 46′ powerboat, passed us as well. I lost sight of the other sailboat so I’m not sure what happened to them.

We motored up the Malaspina and eventually turned west into Baker Passage. Around Sutil Point and we ducked into the lee of Marina Island. Corus had stated they were going to lunch on Shark Spit at the north end of Marina Island. By the time we got there they and Mariners Compass were anchored up but the dinghys were still on the boats. We decided too forgo the stop and weaved our tortuous way through Uganda Passage and back into the Strait of Georgia. The wind was favorable for a good crossing to Rebecca Spit (tonight’s destination) so we raised sails and shut down the power. And the wind died. After 4 plus hours of 9-15 knot winds, they die as soon as we raise the sails. Oh well, 4 knots of wind is plenty. And then 11. And then 4. And so on.

You know that thing about speaking too soon? Well I spoke too soon. No sooner had I typed the above then the winds picked up to a steady 12-15 knots, and then a steady 15-18 knots and very very soon we were heeled over like Abraham Lincoln after he chopped down the cherry tree for a second timeOr was that George Washington? Anyway he got a good paddle). I had asked Les if she wanted to reef and she said no it’s just gusting. About the time she had two hands on the wheel and was hauling on it like it was a 500lb tuna, I told her I wanted to reef. After some ‘discussion’ we hove to and threw in the first reef. Stubborn, stubborn Dr.

So we zoomed along at a glorious 6-7 knots and it was…. well… glorious. About 3/4 of the way to our goal of rounding the tip of Rebecca Spit into Drew Harbour I said we will either have to tack or drop the sails and motor, because we were gonna miss it by the width of my Ukrainian friend’s chin hair. Leslie was too busy sailing the perfect point of sail to listen to me. So the wind gods smacked her upside the head and cranked the wind up to 19-22 knots. Our port side dipped in the water and things went flying in the cockpit. So I repeated myself and added the ‘option’ of throwing in the second reef if tacking was the choice. “It’s gusts,” she repeated. There was a pattern emerging here.

Those of you that know Leslie, know that bending isn’t her strong suit. Seems she hasn’t yet internalized that old sailing adage: you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails. Anyway, for a second time I told the skipper what we were going to do, and, predictably, a discussion ensued. Thankfully said discussion occurred when we were hove to so I had more time to make my case. What really settled it was this rogue wave that broke over the bow and soaked us way back in the cockpit. We both were soaked and it made the whole situation a bit ridiculous. We dropped the sails and proceeded to motor into the harbour.

We settled on anchoring as far away from everyone as possible. Mostly this was because it looked like a likely spot, but a lot of it is anchorphobia. Anchorphobia is a phenomenon that occurs when the following conditions join together: fear of dragging, fear of anchoring too close, fear of anchoring while being observed while anchoring and fear of failing in one of a million other unknown ways. Besides the wind was strong, the beach was close and I am so bad at math. Long story short, we eventually switched roles and Leslie dropped anchor while I tried to hold the boat steady. Since all our practice had been the reverse of this, it makes it seem like a bit of a waste. what was that French saying again? Oh ya, c’est la vie…

6h51m 37.6nm

So anchored. Huh. With a roughly 4 to 1 scope and 125′ of chain out. It bloody well better hold. Debriefing consisted of me saying “OMFG, you sailed in a 20 knot wind,” and her saying “Well, we aren’t dead.” As you can see we react to stressful situations differently. But hey, she’s the smart one, so maybe I should rethink my position 🙂

We tidied up and I put the outboard on the dinghy because I think we will have to do some visiting tonight. And now we relax, drink beer and wait and see.

Eventually I took a circuit of the harbour. Everyone was here but Corus and Intrepid 4. Back at the boat I whipped up some tortellini and we feasted. Just before we sat down Anne and crew came by in their dinghy and let us know they were hitting the beach for a fire and BBQ. We joined them briefly, before returning wet to the Shearwater. Tomorrow is a late start around 11 and we hit Beazley Passage at slack around 1:30.

Reception is shite so no pics today. Sleep well!

Day Ten: Rapid Octopi

NOTE: published Tuesday in the Johnstone Strait with weak cell reception. Pictures to come later today

8 o’clock and all’s well.

Cell reception is really flaky here and I don’t anticipate it getting better. Tonight it’s Octopus Islands, half way up Quadra. Then on to Port Neville up the Johnstone Strait and I figure we might finally have good reception the day after in Port MacNeil.

This morning’s post is dedicated to our dinghy, the uninflatable inflatable. While we have currently managed to fill it to some level of stability, it seems we need to acquire dry suits to use it.

Let’s start with the beam. I figure it’s less than 3′ from pontoon to pontoon. The pontoons sit up atop a deep V hard bottom that is deeply dissatisfied with its lot. My current theory is that the bottom wanted to be a top and when it proved unsuited to its role, it was assigned the deeply unsatisfactory job of holding the two pontoons together. Alas it was too small for the job.

Nevertheless the dinghy gods persisted and attached a much too shallow transom and capped it off with a seat perched way, way up high. All in all a masterful design if one was attempting to win the world record in tippiness. I’ve been in canoes all my life and nothing compares to this monstrosity.

If one is alone in this supposed 3-person craft and rowing, then it is a reasonable facsimile of a boat. Add a second person and you now combine the side-to-side tippiness with fore and aft verticality. Perhaps the rating suggests you must have three people to attain the proper equilibrium but I remain wary of its capacity to act as anything other than a floating bathtub at that point.

Which brings us to its affinity for water. Now I freely admit we’ve been stressing its capabilities by attempting to motor in large choppy water, but this thing seems to take every opportunity to take in water. Sit too far forward, water rolls over the bow; sit too far amidships and it spills over the transom. Don’t even think about sitting too far aft. The self-bailer doesn’t let water out unless you haul it out of water comletely, but it’s happy to let water in the moment you stop moving. We have been soaked every time we’ve used this silly contraption.

On top off all this, the narrow, deep bottom and high pontoons, combined with the tiny swim platform in the Shearwater, have inevitably caused me grief every time I try to put the motor on. There is a fender at the rear of the Shearwater to protect marauding dolphins and the occasional cheeky sailboat from the edges of the swim ladder. This additional six inches, the depth of the dinghy’s bottom and the fact I am no longer young enough to even consider doing the splits have made manhandling the 5-hp outboard an exercise in inevitability. Inevitably either it or I or both are going overboard.

Stupid dinghy.

Oh and the ‘manual’ says to tie off the dingy on the side opposite from the exhaust. You know, the starboard side, where the life ring, BBQ, rescue collar, back stay, winch and the big honking wheel live. That’s been a smooth-flowing operation every time we do it. Not. So here I sit in my mostly dry, salt-stained pants from last night’s soaking, whining and whinging about a piece of equipment that will, I am most confident, continue to haunt us for the next two weeks.

Stupid dinghy. But I’ll grow to love it…

Last night we joined the crew of the Corus, Intrepid 4 and Ocean Grace ashore and chatted around the fire pit for a bit. A beautiful sunset that we left half way through as it occurred to me that the sunset signaled the sun going down. SD (stupid dinghy) and I weren’t ready for nighttime maneuvers quite yet. Back aboard we cleaned up, dried off and had a late-night hot-choccy.

Speaking of drying off, I did some laundry the other day and, as some of you may have seen, hung it off the back stay to dry while we motored down the Malaspina Strait. Unfortunately for me, the Dollar Store clothespins were not up to the job, and after one particular gust of wind the middle pair of underwear flew off into the sea. While I considered an emergency man-shorts overboard drill or even an all-stations Pan Pan call, it was decided to simply salute and sail on.

This is particularly of significance because while I packed a good week of clothes in all other areas, for some reason I counted 5 days as a week in the underwear department. I’m not sure how, but I am sure that this is some how a function of associating with Carmen for so long. Be that as it may, I am now down to 4 pairs. Heh.

So back to today. We started getting antsy around 10:30, so decided to up anchor a bit early. Everything went smoothly and we pulled out just behind Intrepid 4. The winds were 15-20 knots for a bit, but we were motoring. Halfway up Hoskyn Channel, Intrepid swung into the wind to try sailing. I think right around there the winds died to 6 knots or so. Heh.

We arrived at the Settlers Group ,where Beazley Passage was, an hour and a bit before slack. Coasting along at a knot or two, we toured the bay as more and more boats arrived. Eventually Corus showed up with Mariners Compass close behind, about a half hour before slack. They headed right into the passage and eventually everyone followed. Since we weren’t anticipating this, we were out of position and transited last of 8 boats. I have no idea where Simply Irresistible or R Shack Island were (or are).

After transiting behind Arcturus (a newer Bavaria 32) and Intrepid, our superior speed allowed us to overtake them and we eventually entered the Octopus Islands just behind Ocean Grace. We came in on the north side from Bodega Anchorage down this long narrow passage. L was in the bow watching for rocks and bottom and I was dead slow and peering anxiously about. We swung around and spotted Corus amongst the islets and headed to a space a bit away from them.

We dropped the anchor and I rowed ashore with the stern line. Basically I had done a good job of missing any tree or rock that we could tie to. I found one and we were stable, but then Laurence suggested we move to the other side of him. Since I was not all that pleased with my position I agreed and we cast off, up anchored and moved on.

This time Ian and Howard from Corus volunteered to pick up our stern line and I said ‘What the hell.” Ironically it turns out I should have done it myself as Howard ended up doing quite a climb: 5.6 or 5.7 at least. In the end we were stern anchored successfully and it was time to break out the beer.

No sooner had Ian and Howard made or back to their boat and settled in than I discovered I was missing an oar (from stupid dinghy). It must have dropped off somewhere between anchoring attempts. I called over to Corus, and Howard dropped into their tender to come get me so we could search. Just after he got his motor started, the oar floated out from under the boat. I jumped in our dinghy and grabbed it. Meanwhile Howard’s outboard cut out and he was now drifting away. I called for two cold beer stat and rowed off to the rescue. Beer delivered, I took their tender in tow and started rowing for home. Three or four pulls and suddenly the outboard came back to life. Kismet was definitely playing games with us. A tip of the hat and it was back to our respective beers.

The Doc went for a bit of a lie down and I wrote a bit and then decided to row over to Corus for a bit of wtf and how do. Seems tomorrow has been put off until tomorrow: 6am to be precise. Laurence will listen to the early-morning weather and formulate a plan. Upper Rapids are slack at 7:30 am so we will make a go / not go decision in plenty of time.

I also found it they’ve all been chatting on channel 68. Seems the lack of communication was simply a lack of communication. That makes me feel a bit better. So tomorrow is an early day. I rowed around the islets and checked out the crowd. Raven’s Magic is having windlass troubles so they are rafted to Mariners Compass. Ocean Grace went way down Wiatt Bay. R Shack Island is due in after afternoon slack. Back at the Shearwater, Corus, who is also having windlass issues, decided to up anchor and move further down the cove. Right after my visit. Coincidence?

Actually I think their anchor was dragging and they didn’t want to be beam on to the wind.

Not much planned for tonight except to watch the bald eagles fish and the kelp float by. Definitely no service here so you’ll be reading this later. We’ll be drinking in your past. And probably present…

A cleansing shower made me feel human again and it was time to cook. I decided to make tomato salad, so supper ended up as pancakes and Zinfandel, a time-honoured tradition. I blame it on the small galley. The fact that my pancakes tasted more like crepes I blame on the organic jumbo eggs from Granville Market and the total lack of any kind of measuring device on this boat. How hard would it be to toss in one Pyrex measuring cup, for god’s sake?

After cleaning up I did some laundry and hung it out to dry. Then it was time to threaten Leslie with my superior card skills. So she decided to read…

4h27m 17.6nm






Day Eleven: Early Bird gets the Lead

NOTE: pictures to come

We were up at 5:30 to hit the heater and the VHF. I crawled back into bed while Leslie indulged in a lukewarm shower–more to the luke side to hear her tell it. [Editor’s note: it was rather less than lukewarm: it was just plain cold.]

Eventually I got up to put the coffee and tea on and started to dress. At just after 6 we all checked in and Corus said Port Neville was a go. So we cast off the stern line, raised anchor and were first in a long line of ducklings out the channel and into Okisollo Passage.

In the ongoing comedy, it seems Simply Irresistible was having windlass issues. A radio comment from R Shack Island revealed they had been late coming in because they had had windlass issues. Right now I am hoping the mild issue we had back before we ever started and Sam fixed counts as our turn. It’s like a bad cold…

So we all headed to the upper rapids for slack. Corus and Simply Irresistible stayed behind and Ravens Magic seemed to be dawdling. I slowed down a bit to see whether the power boats wanted to take point but had no takers so I pulled up my pants and cruised through a little before slack. The water leading up to the rapids was pretty turbulent, but it had calmed right down by the time we hit the narrow bit.

By this time Corus and company had resolved their issues and were catching up. Again I slowed to see if Mariners Compass wanted to lead, as we had two choices ahead: through lower rapids and the narrow channel or around the long way and through Barnes Bay. Again no takers. So I chose the long way.

Eventually we turned up Discovery Passage and around Chatham Point into Johnstone Strait. L took a turn at the helm while I warmed up. Mariners Compass had decide to race ahead and eventually we started to approach a more difficult area. Corus had already taken us past the last duck-out point, so we were committed to Port Neville. I decided to throttle back and let Corus take over the lead. About a half an hour later they passed us with a wave and we tucked in behind.

It’s gorgeous here. High snow-covered mountains, tree-covered slopes and sandy bays. The advantage of seeing it from the water is you get to see the vistas. On this part of the trip we are backtracking the same route my parents came down last week on their cruise.

Conditions were good. Some sun, some clouds, lots of wind. Sitting under the dodger in the sun is pleasant; sitting at the helm is tolerable. L and I switched off so no one got too cold. Watching the powerboats like Electra, we wondered if that might be a more pleasant experience, but in the end I think they are missing half the fun.

The last bit — crossing the Strait where it widens — had lots of swells and we whooshed up and down a lot: great fun.

As we pulled into Port Neville, Mariners Compass was already at dock and Corus decided to go further in and anchor. L and I opted for a night on the dock so we could walk the beaches without SD being an issue. The wind was strong but I brought her in and stopped where we wanted. Almost getting the hang of this docking thing.

Most of the rest of the boats streamed by, but Ravens Magic decided to come in on the downwind side. Their first attempt failed but we got them tied up on the second try. Ravens Magic is the only boat with a load of people in her. Seemed like 5 or 6. Not sure who was in charge either as it seemed like one of those chicken-with-a-head-cut-off scenarios right at that moment. They needed to get their dinghy off the starboard side but that was unfortunately the side they were tied on. Then they couldn’t shut down an engine.

One fellow decided to abandon ship and head for shore in hope of buying cigarettes. Two ladies debarked muttering something about not coming back. Two gentleman were in the engine room trying to, I think, disconnect something to stop the engine.

At this point L and I looked at each other and decided to cede the dock to them. At least that way they could get the dinghy off. They seemed so…sad? Frustrated?

Anyway, we set a spring line on the stern, threw her into reverse to force the bow into the wind and zoomed off the dock like I knew what I was doing. As we came about, Ocean Grace made motions towards the dock and I let them know what was what. They either took our spot or traded places with Ravens Magic.

Meanwhile we headed for the anchorage. We dropped anchor aft of Electra and backed up on the rafted Corus/Simply Irresistible. Then it was time for a beer. Cause we were anchor pros.

After the beer, we more soberly decided (after soliciting advice) to move as we were a bit too close to the rafted pair. Anchor 2, The Sequel! L had found the anchor snubber earlier in the day, so we snubbed the rode up properly and retired to the cockpit for another beer and some cookies.

It had been a grand day with beautiful sights and fun times and very little misery. Even Leslie enjoyed it. I know because as we were relaxing, she declared “Today is a fourth-cookie day.” So here we sit swinging in the increasing wind surrounded by 6 other boats in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception and no internet. Grand. Definitely a 4th-cookie day.

7h04m 41.3nm

Tonight is BBQ chicken thighs, potatoes and tomato salad…if I can ever drag my ass out of the warm sun.

Thankfully I couldn’t. Andrea and Cheryl were sitting in the bow of Corus and suddenly got all excited. I grabbed my binoculars and lo and behold, a small black bear was beachcombing on the very shore I am too lazy to go visit. L and I both got a pretty good look before he headed back to the bush. We thanked Carmen (the basil) for her surrogate bear-attracting powers and I resumed the previous schedule of sitting on my ass.

Eventually I trudged off to the galley to slave away (Get it? Get it? Galley. Slave away…) and supper was born. This BBQ is making me nuts, but I figure after 3 weeks I’ll master it. The regulator is screwed because it’s impossible to shut the gas off from there; you need to turn it off at the tank. And low heat is no heat; med heat is high heat, and who knows what high heat would bring. Towering Inferno?

No one else in the flotilla is bbq’n… Cowards, one and all!

Supper was a success. W00t! Got the lemon-to-salt to-oil ratio right on the salad, potatoes were done and savory, and the thighs cooked perfectly. Thanks C.

Right after dinner Corus called on 68 and it seems we are go for a 10am departure for Port McNeill. It’s another 5-6 hr day but if it was like today it will be tons o’fun. The plan is to try and slip in with Corus and tag along like the later part of today.

Port McNeill will have wifi, laundry, showers and provisions. Probably our last major provisioning port until we get back. We are pretty good but could use some milk, bread etc. Oh and olive oil. And salt. Seems my cooking style has been influenced. Anyway, it should also give us a chance to chat to our fellow flotilla mates a bit more. At this point I seem to have met the same 8 or 9 people over and over and have no idea who the other 10 or so are.

Anyway, it’s 7pm, I’ve gone through a couple of beers and a lovely New Zealand Merlot and been up since 6am: I predict an early night.







Day Twelve: Holy Heart Attack, Batman

This morning start with a jolt. We’d retired really early last night and shut down the radio. Somewhere in the vicinity of 7:30, as I was dozing/thinking of getting up, I heard a series of “Ahoy Shearwater”s… I scrambled out of the berth, lurched up the companionway and slid back the hatch. In that moment I saw Electra, a bay empty of boats and Dave from R Shack Island just off my port side. This didn’t seem right.

Luckily, before my sleep-filled brain could start to actively panic, Dave shouted that slack was now and everyone was going. He headed over to hail Electra and Leslie and I tried to filter the info.

Since we had decided to tag along with Corus, and Corus was just round the curve and disappearing from sight, it seemed we needed to up anchor ‘Right F*cking Now!” as the 20,000-lb. parrot said. I grabbed pants and a shirt, fired up the motor, hit the windlass switch, grabbed the controller and headed for the bow. Leslie got dressed and we were up anchoring in less than 10 minutes from the first shout.

At this point our brains started to function a bit quicker and we saw Intrepid and R Shack Island ahead and only Electra still in the bay. After Les had finished getting ready, she relieved me at the helm and I hit the head, finished getting dressed and put the water on. While waiting for the water to boil I finished up grabbing the day’s charts and gear and double-checked we were good to go. Luckily the water was still as glass so that was one less worry.

Passing the docks we saw Mariners Compass still there. Later I saw another sailboat behind us, so I suspect Ocean Grace was also there tucked in behind the pier.

Time to breathe. I remember checking the tides and currents last night and thinking something was off with the leave-at-ten-o’clock plan, but I brushed it off and let them take care of it. Too many cooks… I thought to myself. Well, I don’t know if we turned off our radio too early last night or everyone else left theirs on all night, but we sure as hell missed something. Very disconcerting to contemplate being left behind. I guess we will find out the rest of the story tonight. In Port McNeill… Unless this was some sort of Star Chamber ploy to try and ditch us, and then who knows… 😉

As we were blasting past Intrepid and R Shack in our pathetic attempt to get Corus back in sight, it occurred to me to wonder whether there was some sort of etiquette that we are tramping all over.

Last night when we shifted to the anchorage those two were also ahead of us, but on an indirect course to the other boats. I just cut the corner and arrived at our chosen anchorage ahead of them. I didn’t actually know their intentions, but I’m thinking now I was rude.

Same thing this morning. We passed Intrepid in the channel out of Port Neville and I revved her up to 2600 as soon as we hit deep water to zoom past R Shack Island. Maybe I should have played tagalong until we were well and truly underway? I have about a knot on those two and an anxiety disorder about being left behind, so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The infamous Johnstone Strait was as smooth as glass and we, as we sipped our coffee/tea, were having a beautiful followthrough to what was a shocking start.

We got talking about orcas and dolphins and feeding and I glanced over my shoulder to see a whale fin. I think. Maybe. It never came back. Leslie swears she doesn’t think I’m crazy, but I think she thinks I overthink the thinking. Anyway, maybe I saw a whale or maybe I am now seeing things. We’ll never know.

Leslie took over after I got chilled and we are now 30 km in and the tide changes in an hour. We’ve caught up to Arcturus (I know we have one knot extra speed on them, according to the Cooper spec’s) and still have Corus in sight, although they are pulling away slowly still.

We passed Robson Bight, which is an ecological preserve with whale-rubbing rocks, but no sign of the wee beasties anywhere.

The rest of the trip looked to be calm and beautiful with the temps rising and falling and L and I taking turns warming up under the dodger.

My second near heart attack of the day occurred when a Pacific white-sided dolphin popped up about a foot away from the starboard beam. It took Leslie’s literal squeal of delight to figure out what I was seeing. There were four or five of them and they zoomed and whooshed around the boat, hopping the wake and diving under the bow. This lasted for 3 or 4 minutes and they dropped back into our wake. It looks like they were hanging out in a particular spot (probably hunting) and we watched them cavort as we slowly pulled away.

I radioed back to Arcturus to keep an eye out as they were headed straight for them. The encounter with the dolphins pretty much paid for the trip in my mind. I could have reached out and touched them. Simply delightful.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Nothing but beautiful snow-covered mountains shining in the distant sun, eagles fishing and miles and miles of peaceful wilderness.

We caught Simply Irresistible right around the entrance to Port McNeill. We were both headed directly into the approaching ferry. They broke left, we broke right and we met in the rolling waves of the ferry’s wash.

North Island Marina is the expanded and rebranded Port McNeill fuel dock. They have a terrific staff and they handled ten boats staggering in with grace, charm and a sense of humor. They offer on-dock fueling so there was almost comic ongoing confusion as each incoming boat requested a slip and directions to a nonexistent fuel dock.

Soon we were all tied up. L took refuge from the day by tidying up and I took care of fueling, filling the water tank and socializing.

5h50m 42.1nm

A note about fuel. We’d used 65 litres since Powell River and that seemed high. The ‘manual’ on this boat says cruising speed is 2400 rpm with a max of 2600. We ran at 2600 quite a bit today to get caught up to where I wanted to be, so I guess I may have been burning a lot of extra fuel. I checked Cooper’s website, however, and the specs for Shearwater there have the cruising revs at 2200 rpm with a fuel burn of 3 litres/hr. Given that quite a few things in the ‘manual’ haven’t applied to anything in this particular boat, I wonder if the 2400 is also inapplicable. Might explain our speed in comparison to other boats in our size class.

Anne came by looking for cash and I made her sign our Desolation Sound book. She stated there was a 5pm skippers meeting onboard Corus.

We settled up at the marina office and walked up for groceries and more booze. A list of 6 items became 6 bags. We better have one if these potlucks soon or we are going to be donating a lot of groceries to the foodbank when we are done.

The long-awaited skippers meeting produced mixed results. But I brought a beer so that was a strong point on the plus side. There were a lot of strong personalities, too much side-tracking and a lack of detail that took away from the basics I was hoping for. But then I don’t like meetings and have never felt group anything was much good for producing desirable results. In the end I got what I wanted out of it and I’ll corner Laurence later about any details I’d like clarified.

In fact a later conversation with Ian cleared up a few misperceptions on my part. Seems most of my impressions are based on descriptions of Mediterranean flotillas. They are much more involved in route planning and anchorages. Ian said our scattershot approach is more typical of a local flotilla.

Good to know; I’m not dissatisfied per se, but a later conversation with Dave in R Shack Island revealed that his waking us up was on his initiative, not the lead boat. I think I would have been quite disturbed at being left behind. All I really want out of this trip is confidence based on minimal guidance and leadership. Being left behind wouldn’t have fit those criteria.

But thanks to R Shack, all turned out well. It seems Simply Irresistible wanted an early start due to their mechanical issues and Corus decided, quite reasonably in hindsight, not to bother going back to bed after hauling up the anchors and unrafting. And it was invigorating.

Anyway, due to high winds and needed repairs (Windlasses R Us are going to make a killing off of us), we are staying in Port McNeill tomorrow and then heading across the Queen Charlotte Strait Friday. So L and I will probably catch the ferry tomorrow morning for her long-awaited trip to the socialist Mecca of Sointula.

Back on board I poked L until she was up and about (not that she was sleeping!) and dragged her off for sushi. Come on, sushi 100 yards from the sea? What could be fresher! We stuffed ourselves. Mmmmmm.

Back to the boat in a light mist. We stopped and took a picture of Carmen’s monkey puzzle tree. It remembered her and said to say hi. We stopped and gossiped with Ian on the way back and then settled in with the heater on to catch up.

I’m eyeing another bottle of wine and Leslie has been eyeing the cards. I’ve skunked her 3 times this trip, so crib will be a hard sell but maybe some rummy…

[Editor says … No.]






Day Thirteen: Finnish Radical Day

I woke up around 7, crawled out of bed around 7:30, made heat and hot water and then settled in to tucker down on my much anticipated sweet cinnamon buns. Mmmmm.

L crawled from her berth and I made tea while she delicately nibbled on a cinnamon bun, then vacuumed up an entire bowl of strawberries. I swear, getting between her and fresh fruit is taking your life into your hands.

After reading for a bit, I decided to walk up for a shower. The office was locked; I called and stood in the cold wind until someone came down. Then she couldn’t find any keys. I blame the scalawags and reprobates that make up the rest of our flotilla. They probably have them hidden away in a feeble attempt to deny me hot water and soap.

But I emerged victorious by wandering up to the harbour master’s office and collecting a key of my own. Mine! All Mine until I choose to return it. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Then I had a shower.

Back at the boat I collected L for our trip to Sointula on the 10:35 ferry. Sointula is probably the whole reason we boat at all. Years ago L came across this tidbit about a socialist experiment from the early 1900s that a bunch of Finnish settlers participated in on Malcolm Island. She suggested we could go sailing there. Eventually we settled for chartering the Naughty Doc out of Vanvouver and our boating holidays began.

A few years later, on our Vancouver Island road trip, we stopped in Port McNeill so she could gaze longingly across the water at Malcolm Island, but we drove on and again she lost out.

As of early yesterday, our extra night in the Octopus Islands had made it look like that, for a third time, she would literally sail right by this elusive shangri-la. Then, suddenly, high winds and boat breakdowns were the route to L’s dreams. We were staying over an extra day.

We ran into the entire crew of the Corus (minus Laurence and Anne) at the ferry dock. They had the same idea as us. I chatted with Howard and Judy on the trip over. And then we were at last setting foot upon the fabled socialist paradise.

Apparently Sointula was founded in 1901 by Finnish coal miners from Nanaimo looking to build a place based on egalitarian socialist principles. They invited a visionary named Matti Kurikka to travel from Finland and lead them in their little experiment. Predictably (to cynics like me) the experiment failed several years later, and Matti and about half the colony left to try again in the US. The remnants reorganized and the colony survived with its basic principles still guiding its future.

Residents of Sointula helped found the BC fishermen’s union and in 1909 built one of the first co-op stores in BC (still open and going strong). The community still has a strong focus on arts and culture, and all the public and civic planning remain intact.

Interestingly, as the woman at the info booth mentioned, it’s a very tight community and very much an island of women. Everyone is cheerfully friendly–reminds me very much of Newfoundland. We walked and admired the beautiful but simple homes and chatted with the horse in someone’s front yard.

We popped in to a local artists shop and talked sea glass and screen printing. L picked up a few souvenirs and we headed for the local museum. Typical of its breed, it was chock full of old, old photos, older equipment and idiosyncratic signage. Wonderful.

On the way back we noticed the equal-sized lots and well-organized civil design. There’s a lot to be said for egalitarianism even if you’re not a dirty rotten traditional Marxist like Herr Doktor. All in all a very lovely community in every sense of the word.
With some delicious cookies from the bakery we sat under the eaves of the co-op on a bench, greeted locals and watched the ‘busy’ life of islanders wash by.

We met back up with the Corus crew at the ferry. They were staying on after Port McNeill and heading to Alert Bay and the awesome native museum there. Round trip won’t bring them back until 6:40 so we decided to decline that portion of the trip. Maybe next time.

The expected rains held off until just before we boarded so our day was pretty pleasant. I turned in my super-special shower key on the way back to the Shearwater. L sat down to devour BC cherries and I toodled around the docks gawking at boats. Finally when I convinced myself that knocking on everyone’s hatches and asking for a tour was trés gauche, I gave up and headed home. I think boaters should be forced to post a brag/spec sheet on the sides of the boats so I can learn what I’m looking at. So many pretties…

Back at the boat I ate the last cinnamon bun, boiled water for coffee and then decided that Spanish red was a better choice. Herr Doktor is headed for nap time after the socialist overload of Sointula, and I’m going to watch the rain for a couple of hours.

I drew a few bunnies for old time’ sake. Only one turned out, though. I watched people come and go and even one fellow washing his boat in the rain. Seemed natural, though, so I won’t judge. Eventually Leslie emerged and it was 4:40: time to make some appies for the communal happy hour.

I grabbed some sausages and sliced ’em up while L found the toothpicks. Ten minutes of frying and then we skewered the sausage bites to the styrofoam container the cinnamon buns had come in (I cleaned it first so as not to confuse the tastebuds of our unsuspecting fellow attendees). We were good to go. We mulled over our shoe choices (Leslie opted for flip flops and I went with boat shoes), filled our glasses to the brim with red and headed out to be the other kind of socialists.

It was a nice gathering. I chatted with Margaret of R Shack Island and then got L going on her research. Margaret’s eyes didn’t glaze over so I didn’t feel too bad; she might even have enjoyed it. But since I frankly believe in L’s conclusions I don’t actually feel too bad about bending people’s ears. It beats the hell out of talking about the weather.

We had another brief skippers meeting and concluded we would be off tomorrow at 8 and sail across the Queen Charlotte Strait as a group. Sounds grand.

I headed out to pay my marina fees before the office closed and met L coming back to the boat. Some quick hotdogs for supper, another glass of wine and cleanup.

I topped up the water tanks and then thought I would mosey over to R Shack Island and see if they had a laptop. I had let the spare ereader sit for a week and by the time Leslie went to use it it was half drained. The next morning I plugged it into the inverter and that drained the battery. The thing charges fine off my computer at home but has had lots of issues with charging from wall plugs or 12 volts.

If I don’t get it charged, it’s not the end of the world, but the only book Leslie has left is Shogunand she’s starting to grunt like a samurai and whirl sharp things around her head. Better for everyone if I get her access to the ereader. I suppose I could give her mine and read off the iPad, but I hate it when technology tries to get the better of me. Better if I just persevere and crush.

Anyway Dave did not have a laptop, but he did have an external battery for charging. I plugged it into the reader and the light lit, so maybe I will get better results; I guess I’ll find out in a couple of hours.

While there I got a mini-tour of their boat. Beautiful and well laid out. A Tartan 3400: something to do some more research on.

Back at the Shearwater, we folded and checked charts, checked tides and currents, and went over tomorrow’s route. All is ready. So now we sit and listen to the winds howl and the f*cking halyard bang. In a few moments L will voluntarily offer up her throat to my masterful card play and the day will be complete.

We will likely be out of cell range for a few days so stand by for more updates.






Day Fourteen: Sails, Whales & Otters Oh My

Well Dave’s battery pack didn’t work. I guess L will have to suffer through Shogun. As long as she doesn’t start doing her hair in a topknot, I should be safe.

Up with the alarm and some yummy toast and coffee to go with the heat. Cold night last night! I returned Dave’s battery and started getting ready. In a moment of cluelessness I switched out the stern line for a spring line I preparation of leaving and watched my boat’s stern float away and the bow head right for Intrepid. I revised my plan. With the Shearwater properly tied up again I stowed the power lines and grabbed winch handles, radios etc.

We weren’t the first off the dock, but I slipped her out prettily enough and we were in line astern with Ocean Grace and R Shack Island.

Some boats are heading to Sullivan Bay tonight and some are going to Claydon Bay to anchor. Electra headed off around the south side of Malcolm Island to try to avoid any beam seas and the rest of us collected off of Pulteney Point and the picturesque lighthouse before heading across the strait.

It was a rainy, cold morning but unfortunately not much wind. R Shack Island raised sails first followed by Intrepid, us and then Corus. Eventually everyone settled in on different tacks. Eventually, eventually, far up ahead, I saw Ocean Grace raise her sails at last. Everyone else motored across leaving us far behind.

For the first bit winds were 6-8 knots but eventually they dropped and dropped, and we bailed first, firing up the engine after cruising 0.1 knots for four or five minutes.

After about 5 minutes of motoring I was staring at the Numas Islands off the port side and saw a big black shape pop up and then submerge. I grabbed the binocs and sure enough, we had our first whale. When he dived after 4 or 5 breaths I knew I had a humpback. Corus came up in our stern and told me belatedly to shut off my engine. Duh. We spotted Mr Humpback about 3 more times before he disappeared for good. Unfortunately for R Shack, they caught up just after the last sighting.

We raised the sails again to glide quietly in the direction of the whale and the winds picked up to 4 knots again. This time R Shack Island bailed first and we and Corus gave up almost simultaneously. I think it was R Shack passing us that spurred us to start our engines.

So we pointed ourselves in the direction of Wells Channel and motored in with our mains still up. Smiling and smug we were celebrating our awesome whale sighting. It hadn’t been on my wish list; I thought humpbacks too rare to hope for. So what could possibly happen but as I was coming back up from warming up below, that I should spot over L’s shoulder what looked like a big blob of kelp trucking speedily across our wake.

I told her to slow down and grabbed the binoculars. It weren’t no kelp. Sleek head, webbed feet, long tail, floating on its back…it was a freaking sea otter! Talk about things not in my list. I shoved the engine into neutral, then slow in reverse and we took turns watching the otter motor by. He ducked down and then came back up again several times and then we were too far away. A freaking sea otter. Man, I wish I had bought that new camera.

So, no pics of whale or otter but some awesome memories.

Right about then Ocean Grace radioed back they had spotted a humpback in Wells Channel off a fish farm. I have a funny feeling if Dave doesn’t spot it when we go by he’s going to be gnashing his teeth when he reads this.

The wind was gone when we entered Wells Channel and we were last in a line of three boats. Most of the power boats have radioed in to state they have arrived at their destination, but we’ve likely got an hour or more to go.

I forgot to mention two things about the Sointula socialist paradise that impressed me. One was the free bikes. They had a place where you could just grab a bike for the day to use as you will. Not a new idea, I know, but particularly appropriate on an island served by ferry. Why pay to ferry your car when you can grab (and return) a bike at your destination?

The other thing was a garden market box. Gardeners sign up and then deposit any extra produce or preserves in the box with a price tag. People come along, check the box, take what they like and leave the money in the slot (in an envelope indicating who the money is meant for). When we were there it was empty except for a few bundles of rhubarb. If we had this in Greisbach we wouldn’t have to go on clandestine raids to ‘borrow’ (i.e., liberate) rhubarb… Terrific idea!

Corus up ahead spotted Ocean Grace’s whale entering the narrows to Drury Inlet, but by the time we arrived it (he?) was gone. Down came the mainsail and L and I slowed to motor into Claydon Bay.

On one of the rocks that was exposed by low tide, there was a passel of seals sitting in the sun. Lazy buggers, they were on the only rock that would slowly be submerged by the incoming tide. Indeed one or two seals were already half sunk and one looked ready to float off at any minute. The rocks beside them that would remain dry were bare of their cute little bums. Like I said. Too lazy to haul their cute little seal asses up and down the rocks.

We dropped anchor at the east edge and fussed until we were satisfied we would stay put. Then we fussed some more as the current pointed us in the opposite direction we thought it would. Then we sat and watched while the damn boat did whatever the hell it wanted. In the end it looks like we will have plenty of room to swing.

8h27m 33.7nm

Then it was beer, cider, sausage and some Trio, Tori & Toto. No, L has not left the 80s behind. Or the 70s. Or even the 60s for that matter. But I managed to relax despite the odd music. I’m used to it by now.

We did 32.7 nm today in 8 hours and 27 minutes. I’m gonna say that sailing is not for the are-we-there-yet crowd. But it was a great day nonetheless with some spectacular scenery at the end of it. Rocky, snow-covered mountains, small tree-covered islets, narrow passes and calm, glistening bays. Makes me wish I was a painter or artist or maybe one of those poet-type guys. Suffice it to say the scenery lies somewhere between seals sunning on a rock and sea otters floating on their backs.

The sun and rain come and go every few minutes. We have no bimini so I’m moving from the cockpit to sitting in the companionway and back, putting my jacket on and off and the temperature appears to fluctuate 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) each way. Occasionally I stare enviously over at Corus with their huge covered cockpit, but all I can do is say next time get a different boat. Of course we’ve had no trouble with our boat so maybe I should count myself lucky.

Tonight we have Ocean Grace, Corus, Electra, R Shack Island and us. The rest opted for the docks at Sullivan Bay where we will join them tomorrow. We are sharing our end of the bay with about four other boats as well.

Supper was garlic pita chips, tomato salad and some extra thick bbq pork chops. And a French red. I’m stuffed, tired and happy. And way too garlicky for polite company. No idea what the plan is for tonight. Maybe we will go for a row. Or maybe not.

So i sat up on deck and watch the boats twist in the currents and sketched a few boats for practice. Then it was down below and turn the heater on. Tomorrow is another day.





Day Fifteen: Short short run

I awoke at 6:58 after hearing the noises of the entire fleet raising anchor. I popped up, checked the time and glanced around to see all the boats floating gently in the soft rain. I guess I’m getting paranoid. So I flipped on the VHF and crawled back into bed. 2 minutes later, yesterday’s alarm went off–I guess I forgot to turn it off. Up again, I decided to give up. I turned on the heat and started the water.

The day has officially begun.

Some coffee and a bit of relaxing. A lukewarm shower and some more coffee out in the light drizzle and mist.

I must say that the canal boats had better insulators on the hot-water tanks. We could easily have hot showers the next morning in France, but the Shearwater has consistently given us lukewarm to cool if we don’t have a shower at the end of the motoring day. But we survive these depredations with poise and confidence as we are Canadians and thus sufficient unto the cold.

We’ve got a little over 4 nm to go today. Should be an hour or so. If it wasn’t raining I would be tempted to go whale looking. It’s not yet 9 and Intrepid have pulled up stakes (anchors actually–but that’s not as poetic). I’m getting antsy so my money’s on us being next.

I was right. We up anchored and headed out into the bay, with a brief pause to chat with Dave on R Shack and Larry on Ocean Grace. I left the rpm way down and we headed out at the leisurely pace of 1.5 knots.

Soon the rain stopped and at such a slow speed we were warm and comfy and admiring the scenery float by. The current picked up at narrows by Watson Point so I revved her up for about 5 minutes to get us through. Turning into Turnbull Cove we toured yesterday’s original destination and admired the landslides.

On the way out of the cove we passed by Ocean Grace, and Sheila asked if we’d seen the pod of dolphins. “No,” I replied quite brusquely. “We followed them all the way,” she returned. “No,” I repeated myself, “No dolphins.” I felt a little cheated.

“Huh,” she concluded.

Huh indeed. No pod for us. But we saw seals… Sigh.

Coming out of the cove I noticed the steering was acting up again. I did a little dance with the boat and eventually threw it full power into reverse, only to dislodge a huge frond of cedar. I have no idea how I ran that over without noticing. But there you are.

We meandered by the entrance to Kenneth Passage but declined to enter as we would have to fight the current on the way out. Curving back the way we came we fell in behind Ocean Grace and retraced our steps towards Sullivan Bay. Down Grappler Sound and through Dunsanu Passage we slowly motored and kept an eye out for the “supposed” dolphin pod. Huh indeed.

As we exited on to Sutil Channel, the wind came up and it started to get chilly. Rather than add layers I sped up and less than half an hour later we entered the floating community of Sullivan Bay. As far as I can tell, the fuel tanks are the only thing actually on land here.

There are close to a dozen private floating homes; one even has a helicopter on its roof. A restaurant, a general store, the fuel dock, a party tent and even a driving range round out the amenities, all afloat. At the driving range, if you hit the floating ‘hole’ you win your moorage for the night.

We came in behind Ocean Grace and tied up. I brought her in sharply between Ocean Grace and a big invisible boat astern and garnered some weird looks. But hey, you gotta practice while the practicing is easy.

3h47m 12.4nm

Showers here run $7 and the laundry is $11/load for a wash and dry. A bit outrageous until you consider where we are. They have wifi but it’s currently flaky. Hopefully it will settle down and I can post this.

We made reservations for dinner: fresh halibut in orange butter sauce (fresh halibut not in orange butter sauce for L) and toured the docks, stopping to gossip and chat as we went. Sandy and her husband John (Simply Irresistible) are from New York and come west every second year. Richard (Mariners Compass) hit a log yesterday and are having their boat dived to check for damage. Dave and Margaret heard rumours of fresh-baked cinnamon buns every morning, but only with reservations, and Syd burned out an impeller on his generator but got it fixed with a part from Dave.

At 3:30 Corus is the only one not in as they decided to go sailing. Likely they had to head back out to the Queen Charlotte Strait to find wind.

We had a skippers meeting at 4:45, about 20 minutes after Corus showed. Apparently they went all the way back to the Strait, but no wind. Tomorrow is Waddington for most, although some will peel off and head to Echo Bay (the next night’s destination).

After the meeting Leslie headed to a good read with her eyes closed and I went golfing. Every night our hosts offer up two balls per boat and you get your selection of clubs to try to hit a target float about 3 feet wide and 150 yards away. Since there were a lot of non-golfers, the results varied from dismal to downright hilarious. Everyone enjoyed themselves.

My first shot with an eight iron was perfectly aligned but fell about 10 or 15 feet short. I tried again with a 5 iron (on Howard’s advice) and got the distance but was probably 15-20 feet too far to the right. Not the best shots but respectable. Anyone making their shot got a free night’s moorage. No one got a free night.

As we all trudged off laughing and crying, the young man running the show invited us to take one more swing. Closest to the hole gets a free fresh-baked turnover tomorrow. This time I looked like a shoe-in as Howard deferred to Andrea who had never golfed (like several other crew). Since Leslie was, ahem, ‘reading’, I wasn’t forced to share. My shot plunked in the water 15 feet or so short of the target setting the bar. Then came Dave. An obvious golf sharp, Dave had underplayed his skills in the first round realizing he couldn’t make the target anyway. Those shots sliced off or fell way short. But now, oh but now, the blood-red turnover cherry juice was in the water and out came the skills. With one masterful stroke he deposited the ball within 5 or 6 feet of the target and relegated the rest of us to the turnover-less dustbin of loserville.

But I was munificent in defeat and held my head high as I slunk away from the pier of battle.

Back at the boat I collected the sleeping reader and we grabbed cheezies and a beer/cider and headed over for happy hour. The fellow who a few hours ago had been diving Mariners Compass to check for damage was now sitting behind his electric piano and doing the lounge-singer thing. Pretty good, too. A bit of socializing and then he had a Name That Tune contest. He described it as a theme song from a 70s tv show that was on every night of the week. I guessed the answer before the first note.

Sure enough I yelled out Theme from M*A*S*H after the first note and won, for my pains, a free car and the opportunity to stand up in front of everyone like an idiot. Me and my big mouth.

Next he made everyone introduce ourselves so I was blessed with yet another chance to speak in public. Joy. A bit later it was 6:05 so we trucked off to the restaurant to eat. Fresh buns and a bottle of Beringer Merlot to start. While we were waiting for our main, Debbie, the female half of the management team, came over to chat. She’d heard I was from Edmonton and wanted to reminisce. Seems she was Debbie Holt from Radway and was pretty sure she knew of the Hrynchuks from Redwater. Small, small world.

Dinner and desert was delish and I was thoroughly sated by the time we rolled out of there. I was even too full for more booze, if you can believe it.

After dinner I grabbed a $7 shower and chatted a bit more on the docks. Anne and Laurence will be popping over tomorrow before dinner for appies; I’m looking forward to picking their brains about their publishing experiences.

One other thing of note is that Richard from Mariners Compass lent us his Macbook over dinner and the backup eReader is once again charged. Quirky thing; there is no reason it should only charge from a computer, but apparently that is the way it is. At least Leslie can leave Shogun behind for a while.

Happy Solstice.









Day Sixteen: Fan-tack-stic sail

The morning had been wonderful right up until L, upon completing a picture-perfect tack, said that it was spec-tack-ular. Then she followed up by calling it fan-tack-stic. That was the end of a pleasant morning. Sigh. Punsters should be outlawed.

I wanted to mention the swallows yesterday at Sullivan Bay. There were at least 4 or 5 pairs swooping around. One pair have a nest above the entrance to the laundry and if you were patient, you’d see Mama (or was that Papa?) swoop in and these ugly (in a cute way), bulbous baby-bird heads that were 90% beak pop up for dinner. I’ve always loved swallows and miss our family from St Albert. They kept me entertained for our entire visit to Sullivan Bay.

We slept in and missed the morning call but no worries. I settled up. Moorage is reasonable, but power is outrageous, so it evens out to be a fair price. As L predicted, as soon as another boat started setting off I got antsy, and after my third trip back to the store, I started making ready to leave. Somewhere around there L noticed my activities and wondered what the rush was.

We cast off and headed southish. We are in the Broughtons and now working our way slowly back home. In fact, today’s destination is in the Broughton Archipelago itself. We will have to weave in and out of islands and islets to reach Waddington Bay.

As soon as we cleared Sullivan Bay the wind came up to 4 or 5 knots and by the time we rounded the point it was 10-15. Up went the sails, off went the motor and we merrily tacked our way up and down Sutlej Channel. Of course the winds climbed right off the bat, so after a couple of tacks and some nice heeling over we threw in the first reef. At which point the wind dropped down to a comfortable 10-12 knots.

Behind us R Shack island was screaming along and Corus was behind them. Ahead we saw Ocean Grace also with sails up but they soon disappeared behind an island and we didn’t see them again until Waddington. After a nice sail the winds started to die in the lee of the island so we shortened up our tacks. Unfortunately the wind soon died altogether, and we were actually becalmed at one point. We fired up the engine with sails still up to try and find some wind, but it was all in vain.

In came the genoa and we motored with the main up for an hour until I decided to drop it. The passage was beautiful and as we passed Echo Bay (tomorrow’s destination), the passes and channels got narrower and windy. Soon we were in the archipelago and dancing around rocks and tiny islands. Eventually we curved around Fox Island and caught sight of a few masts in our anchorage.

Just before we turned into our last passage between the scattered islands, I spotted a small fin ahead. L popped up and we both maintained watch. A few seconds later we spotted it again and for a minute or so we watched the dolphin pop up and down until our approaching engine made him stay down for good. At the entrance to Waddington, I spotted him or his cousin again and we watched him surface two or three times as we passed by.

These fellows looked smaller and more greyish than the Pacific White-Sided dolphins we had seen in Johnstone Strait. I think they were porpoises but I will have to wait until I’ve got internet to check.

The first place L and I picked scared us so we moved back into a small bay and dropped anchor like we somehow knew what we were doing. Soon after Corus and then R Shack Island followed. Electra motored in not long after and everyone was here except for the perennially dawdling Intrepid, and Simply Irresistible, who would be meeting us tomorrow.

Time for a beer.

5h23m 25.9nm

Anne and Laurence were going to pop over before dinner so we cleaned up the place.

It was a glorious sunny day now that we’d arrived. The clouds burned off and the sun was actually scorching in the cockpit. We sat and basked in the sun until it became too much. L went below and I put the motor on SD and went for an explore.

Ian had brought a collapsible kayak that he’s never used before so he was up on Corus’s fore deck with 12 pages of instructions and more parts than a Star Wars Lego set. I left him to it.

I chatted with Dave and Margaret for a bit. Dave promised if we got Margaret drunk that she had some interesting tales to tell about the aberrant sexual behavior of sea otters. Now I still think the furry buggers are cute, but Margaret promises that after her story we will be quite put off. I await the tale with prurient delight.

Back at the boat we sat and relaxed and jeered when Ian finally launched his kayak. He made the rounds proudly showing off his creation, then headed out of the bay to explore. It started to get late so I went to work on supper. Pork loin encrusted with mustard balsamic, BBQ roasted potatoes in herbs and garlic and, of course, tomato salad. About five minutes after I’d started the Kayak Telegraph Service came by with a message that Anne and Laurence were begging off on account of the halibut.

It seems Single Guy (from Raven Magic)–that was how he had been introduced; his real name is Bill–had taken Howard and Andrea out fishing. They had come zooming back about 10 minutes earlier and you could hear the squeals for miles. Just as they were pulling up their lines she had a bite and successfully landed a lovely 10-lb. halibut.

Apparently this caused a bit of a problem as the necessary fish killing-cleaning-filleting skills were sadly absent aboard Corus. The entertainment from across the anchorage carried on for quite a bit.

So I cooked dinner and we chowed down on one of my better attempts. The loin was just about perfect: thank you, Carmen. After dinner we dumped the dishes in the sink, climbed aboard Stupid Dinghy, and went out to explore. In perfectly calm water, after a week of practice and absolutely no shifting of weight, SD is almost usable with two passengers; I still have major doubts about the rated three.

The sun was low in the west (although I swore up and down it was the north) and the light shimmered and bounced off the water to make the firs, spruces and cedars dance on the shorelines of the archipelago. Day shift was over, so we didn’t see any wildlife. I’m pretty sure the critters are unionized here, and the BC gov’t is tight with its overtime. Maybe tomorrow. We cruised some islands and islets and then gently puttered the perimeter of Waddington Bay, arriving back at the Shearwater.

I stowed the motor etc. and then went to wash dishes with L. After chores I grabbed another glass of red and enjoyed the dying light in the chilling air while writing a bit and snooping on the neighbours. Then it was time for bed and a bit of reading.

The days keep exceeding my expectations.




Day Seventeen: It’s Raining Meatballs

Predictably (at least according to L) I was ready to weigh anchor after R Shack started their windlass. Arcturus had already left, followed by Ocean Grace and Intrepid. I was sure we shouldn’t be behind R Shack. Dave says Margaret takes forever to get ready and if they were ready, then well… What does that say about us? I gently applied delicate coaxing and persuasion to Dr. SlowPoke and started preparing. Luckily wily laV was ready for my need to not be left behind and sped up enough to pull out just behind R Shack Island. Phew!

Morning started at ten to eight and no 8am check in. So I made coffee and sat soaking in the morning. There was some confusion (on my part) whether we were going to Pierre’s Bay or Echo Bay as the stated destination was Pierre’s at Echo Bay. Turns out Pierre moved to Echo Bay in 2008 and the book was just out of date. Problem solved.

L played follow the leader as we wove the twisted path of islands and rocks while I looked for morning dolphin. No such luck, but the morning seal was pretty friendly and generous with her smiles. I’ll take that and be happy.

Single Guy caught up with us in Raven Magic’s tender and stated his intention to head for Echo Bay and fuel. We said we’d keep an eye out and give him a tow if he ran out short of the destination. About 4 minutes short of Echo Bay, Bill (Single Guy) tried hailing Raven Magic with his handheld but got no response. I offered to relay and hailed Raven Magic and told them their dinghy was safe and sound in a Echo Bay. They responded by saying that their itinerary had changed and they would pick Bill up in three days. Just a little cruiser humour.

Right around Echo Bay, R Shack peeled off to the marina and we, espying the rising 6-knot winds, carried on to the passage in anticipation of some good sailing.

So the winds died.

We motored to Pierre’s old bay, did a few turns around and morosely putted back, sails between our legs. We grabbed a starboard tie, bow in on finger #3. Another fine dock at an empty slip. Pierre himself met us to take our lines and we were arrived.

2h06m 9.0nm

Up at the store we registered our boat and chatted up the girl there. She had a slight French accent so we talked québécois for a bit and then headed back to the boat.

There is a famous museum and museum keeper here — Billy Proctor’s Museum — that is a must see. There is one trail from the docks that is fairly steep or a gentler one over by the public dock if you care to dinghy over. So we readied SD and I rowed across the small bay. We tied up to the old, worn public dock and hiked past the now-closed elementary school in the woods. Through a small patch of dense forest and up a small hill and we were there.

Dave and Margaret were there; Billy, unfortunately, was not. Back at 2, the sign said. Still we browsed through his museum and small gift shop. It was similar to the one in Sointula, although Billy was a bottle aficionado and had an amazing collection of old bottles. We found out later that Billy was more than half the fun, so I’m sorry we missed him.

Lots of old books, pictures and artifacts from the long history of the Broughtons, even a whale tooth or two. We chatted with D & M for a bit longer and headed back.

Back at the boat I headed off for a shower and L killed some time relaxing. Then I made meatballs for tonight’s appies and settled in at R Shack Island with Dave (and eventually Larry) for some ‘man’ time. We didn’t just talk about sailing, but it was close. I think we hit on the topic of girls too for a moment.

I scooted off just before 5 to fry up my meatballs only to find Leslie in my galley. Gallant and reasonable, I allowed her to stay and finish cooking, and tried not to hover anxiously. Twenty or thirty minutes later we stuck toothpicks in the meatballs and headed up to the ‘party’ room. Only John was there from Simply Irresistible although Sandy, his wife, showed up momentarily. Gradually the rest of the crews showed up and soon it was a party.

Richard from Raven Magic announced he wanted to string up Single Guy for absconding with his dinghy and dereliction of duty, but Laurence pronounced that if the Yellow Eye Bill caught was tasty enough the sentence would be commuted. 30 minutes later when Andrea showed up with the tasty fish, Bill was safe.

Leslie is now playing Echo Beach about 100 feet away from the beach in Echo Bay. It makes her happy. And you know … Echo Beach. Far away, in time.

We visited for a bit then abandoned the social for the coziness of our boat. L headed for a shower and I did dishes. Then I caught up on some writing and watched the rain fall on a now-crowded harbour.

Maybe a little hot chocolate and Chips Ahoy before bed…