It’s been a while, but wanted to share a bit of the amazing experience I had in the Gulf Islands a couple weeks ago. Kyle and his dad left Alena (yes, the boat finally has a name) in Otter Bay on North Pender after their trip around Saltspring. I went out with the ferry Thursday morning joined by Jeremy to get it, and we stopped for lunch at James Bay on Prevost Island before continuing to Montague Harbour on Galiano. While fairly busy, Alena is conveniently small enough to get in tight spaces close to shore, somewhat of a necessity without a motorized tender.
Jeremy had to leave Thursday evening, but I picked up new crew in Pouya and Juan arriving on the ferry he left on. A couple good, longtime friends joined for a BBQ on the boat Friday before we continued to Winter Cove on Saturna Island. Navy Channel proved a good technical spot to work on tacks and the winds remained strong all day. The “nautical mile” map proved a bit deceptive as the “short” walk to the pub by the ferry terminal was actually a bit over an hour. But the view and ambiance made it worthwhile.
Our sail to Village Bay on Mayne Island started strong but winds and currents and rain in Navy Channel forced us to motor the last 20 minutes to pick up Jeff, the newest crew member arriving by ferry from Swartz Bay. We sailed down to Otter Bay for a BBQ lunch where we parted with Juan before continuing to Bedwell Harbour on South Pender. Surrounded by much larger, more luxurious yachts, we felt a bit out of place, but enjoyed beers and fish and chips at Poets Cove restaurant. By now we felt like real sailors and didn’t mind our modest set up, surely we were enjoying ourselves as much as any others around.
With uncertain winds for Monday, we set for Caddy Bay on Sunday morning, and except for some light winds around Stuart Island, had a fantastic sail taking just 6 hours to go the 48 km home. Reports indicated winds of 18 kn as we passed Kelp Reefs, so heeling and rocking over swells were in abundance all afternoon.
It really was one of the best trips of my life, and the guys proved to be perfect crew. I couldn’t bring myself to leave Alena when we tied up to our mooring Sunday, so one final sleep on board was just the remedy. Can’t wait to get up there again!
Manuel and I set out from campus today at 2 so we could pressure wash the boat and make it back for an early evening study session. We were heading to a guest slip at RVYC where we had already arranged with the foreshore to use a pressure washer for the afternoon. The (not so romantic) walk down the beach, the launch of the tender (our bathtub size boat to shuttle out to the real boat) went as planned, but that was about the last thing that went as planned this sunny afternoon. We were in the midst of a discussion (probably solving world hunger or something) as we drew up to “Her” when Manuel decided to hop on the boat without much of a warning. Without any warning, actually. The next four seconds passed very slowly to me as the tender rolled on its side and I elegantly flailed my arms in search of something to hang onto. Realising there wasn’t such an option and studying our bags of supplies I decided to take one for the team and abandon ship before the tender completed its roll. In my mind it was a graceful, back‑arching dismount like a humpback breaching the water. Manuel, however, didn’t seem to appreciate the show of athleticism, because as I tread water peering back at the boat, he gave me a rather quizzical look, as if pondering why I decided to go for a swim without inviting him. Luckily this was the warmest, sunniest day since we bought the boat so twenty minutes strutting around the deck in my European bathing suit (boxers) was as good as a towel for drying. Then I slipped into the only dry clothes I had, rain pants and rain coat, and we got on with the day. (Unfortunately, my phone was in my pocket during my swim and we didn’t have another camera so we don’t have pictures of any of this. On the bright side, the phone is dehydrating in a bag of rice and I’m looking forward to some sea salt‑infused jasmine rice tomorrow for supper.)
Chapter 2: Painting with a pressure washer
Our boat is pretty dirty. We bought it that way. And although we will have it out of the water in a couple weeks for a marathon weekend of work (and the occasional refreshing beer), we wanted to get a head‑start on the cleaning. The deck was so dirty and the pressure washer was so effective that the cleaning process actually appeared more like applying a fresh coat of white paint. At one point Manuel remarked “There’s actually boat under there!” It was also an incredibly effective sander, peeling away layers of green growth from the few pieces of wood Kyle and Manuel hadn’t detached for revitalisation at home. But why stop there? The inside had been stripped of everything so I ventured below deck with the magic diesel-powered wand, cleaving mould and grime and paint from the bits of the boat we want to keep. This is a rather wet process that I imagine resembles a child with an overpowered water gun stuck in a fridge trying to kill the boogeyman with his eyes closed. Manuel was jealous of the fun and wanted a go. He also wanted to borrow my rain pants but I couldn’t just give him them because they were all I was wearing. Naturally we decided to swap pants, but smartly waited until the teenage sailing lesson on the dock next to us finished rigging their boats and were busy tacking away.
We stopped at the grocery store on the way home at 9 pm (so much for studying) and during that awkward time waiting for my credit card to go through I noticed the guy at the checkout sizing me up (keep in mind it was a beautiful, sunny day) – rain jacket, rain pants, shoes making that squishy sound because they’re soaked – when finally he asked:
“What have you been doing?”
“I was just pressure washing the inside of a boat.”
“Oh… yah… ‘cause you have some paint chips on your face and in your hair.”
I grew up on a farm in rural Alberta, 1000 km from the ocean. Most of what I knew of water came as snow. In fact there were three bodies of water I knew growing up: the creek I could jump across, the pond I could walk across in my rubber boots, and the dugout that was so big I had to walk for a minute to get around it. So when my family would vacation to the coast I was fascinated by the ocean. A few years ago I wanted get to Bergen from Oslo and instead of the 500 km trip by land, I took a night ferry to Denmark, then another one back up the Norwegian coast. The only thing that matches my curiosity for the ocean is my fear of it. I blame it on watching Jaws when I was too young, but as I’ve thought about it, I think it’s just that we don’t belong in it. But on it is another story. And that’s where this story begins…
Email exchange, August 5, 2013 with Manuel:
Manuel to me: Subject: that boat Content: link to a boat for sale, $2500.
(I thought boats were like cars and cost $20,000. The newer, reliable ones do, but like cars you can get an old one that still moves for much less. So suddenly it actually seemed possible to have a boat and explore the ocean.)
Me to Manuel:
Looks like the outboard motor is extra, and not cheap… But still! We should get it. I’m serious.
Manuel to me:
you can’t be serious!
let’s talk about it in the next break.
That boat sold to someone else and we got busy with life. Six months later and on a similarly short exchange and a whole lot of whim, we bought a boat. Curiosity won.