Gasoline, Spinnakers and Ferries Galore

Across the Strait of Georgia

Departed False creek under a cloudless sky, with no wind. Nothing. Not a fair breeze anywhere. Under power. Across English Bay. Through the freighters at anchor and then past the bell buoy at four and half knots.

There is a deadline to passage to the gulf islands. The deadline is slack water on the ebb tide and it’s 3pm. Presently, it is 8am. That should be plenty of time. 20 NM across at 5 knots is only four hours. Or at 4 knots, it is 5 hours. Either way, I should be across within the time allotted.

No wind, motoring only. The motor is an old 2 stroke, but it has enough power when I need it and that’s when it gets thirsty. At full throttle, it will push the boat at a steady 5.5 knots. Anyway, I have the fuel.

The sun is hot and it is a shorts and t-shirt day, even out in the Strait. I love the heat. I love the sun and even though there isn’t a breath of wind and my little boat and I are bobbing around the strait at 4.5 knots, slowly racing the ebb current to the Porlier Pass, I feel great. Almost all trips begin this way: feeling great, on an adventure, leaving the land-based nonsense behind. Though when travelling with another, there is always the traditional early voyage squabble on any given topic, just choose one.

It’s a long way – let’s put it this way, it’s a slow time to pass when there is no wind and there is no autohelm and I have to sit there and watch the wobbly ocean rocking the boat in any direction it chooses at whatever moment suits its fancy. The sight of logs, threating to bang into the hull and do some ridiculous damage, give me some distraction from the slow passage of time. The waves lap the bow and I focus on using core muscles to maintain an upright posture in this burbling sea. The compulsion to slouch and not sit up straight is, at times, overwhelming. Good posture in a sailboat cockpit is hard to maintain. No matter what boat it is, it’s never a very comfortable place to spend many hours. This is largely due to the fact that cockpits are not designed to be sat in, at least not for any extended period. They are designed to provide accommodation to those who wish to or are forced to, sit. Often, cockpits are designed like a park bench: they provide seated or crouching accommodation on a hard surface, are fairly resilient when it comes to the outdoor elements and most importantly, drain water easily. Provisions for comfort in a sailboat cockpit are always secondary if not tertiary. This is because being comfortable is only part of the experience. The other part of the experience is being uncomfortable and learning to get used to it. My theory is that if a sailor is too comfortable, he will stop focusing on all the obstacles in front of him. His comfort will lead to complacency and eventually to boredom, instead of being on lookout or navigating or trying to determine in which direction a freighter is really going and can they really see me and do they even care?

About 2/3rds of the way across, though it is hard to tell because I cannot stop the boat to get a fix and there is no autohelm or indeed anyone else aboard, to take over, I start to panic and think that I should really alter course and make for Gabriola passage instead. At least if I miss the slack water, I can anchor in Silva Bay or God forbid, Nanaimo. On the other hand, if I miss the slack water at Porlier, I’ll be stuck on the wrong side of Galiano for the next 6 hours sans break, sans autohelm, etc. etc…

After becoming irritated by the bouncing around for the next few minutes at a dead stop as I decided to finally take a fix, I discover that I’m equal distance between both passes. I alter course and strike out for Gabriola. 15 minutes later, it appears through the binoculars that Gabriola passage has not gotten any closer and that the tide has other plans for my destination and I should really have considered that any notion that I am master of my own destiny is a total fabrication and is in no way based in reality and should always be observed when boarding a sailboat, no matter what the outing.

It’s 2 o’clock and I’m pretty close to Porlier Pass, much closer than I thought. The throttle is full and has been that way for the last 2 hours. I’m powering my way toward Porlier pass at 5 knots and the engine is slurping up the gas. The pass is in sight and I move through it at 8 knots over ground. Swirling whirlpools and currents of water under the boat move the bow this way and that and throw it off course every second or two.

It’s fine with though. It’s half past two in the afternoon and I’m through the pass. The sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful blue and this calm vista is only occasionally disturbed by the sound of chainsaws echoing around the gulf islands.

Suppose I should start making my way toward Clam Bay and find a good spot to put down the anchor.

The VHF radio blares into the boat. There is a pan-pan call. A non-life-threatening emergency. A sailboat has lost power and is drifting down the channel not far from my location, afraid they might end up on the rocks. I listen and wonder how long it would take me to reach them and what help I might be able to provide. The coast guard and the powerless vessel exchange information. Other mariners contribute and before long, there are at least two vessels en route to help. Other vessels that are closer and more capable. Altering course to find my anchorage, the last communication I hear is a lament at just how little wind there is in the Trincomali channel and just how little one can do to remedy the situation. That situation happens all to frequently in the Pacific Northwest. Currents can be very strong and if the wind dies, then life can turn rather frantic, rather fast. There but for the grace of God, go I, I think to myself and look wonderingly at the engine.

Down with the anchor and down into the cabin. It’s still hot and it’s 4 o’clock. I stretch out and rest for an hour. Rest my head. Even when fatigued by a long day at the steering station with few breaks, I find it hard to completely release myself from attention.

After dinner, I set my alarm for midnight, 3am and 5am. Thankfully, the anchor watch is uneventful. At 6, I am up and by 8, I am underway toward Tsehum harbour, 35 nautical miles away.

The promise of wind and the reality of the engine

I only brought 60 litres of fuel with me. Was it 60 litres (15 gallons)? I think so. Maybe it was 40. I check the cockpit locker and discover it is 50, give or take. That was yesterday. Now, its to 30.  I have been underway for 2.5 hours now and have been flirting with the wind and the current. Sometimes, I can just kick back and relax and enjoy the beautiful sunshine. Sailing at any speed in this weather with Salt Spring Island to my left and Vancouver Island to my right as I make my way toward the Sansum Narrows is just fantastic. 4 knots. Okay, it’s not 5.5 knots which is what I was doing earlier with the spinnaker up, but the boat is sailing. Let’s feel good about that. 3 knots. Hey 3 knots is 3 knots. Take it for what it is. It is still beautiful and it’s hot. 2.7 knots. The wind is going to pick up. It’s always fickle at the mouth of a channel. Once we get in there, the wind will be behind us, which is why we are flying the spinnaker despite the effort to do so. 1.5 knots. Dude! You have got to be kidding me. (I’m one of those people who still says “Dude” in exasperation). What am I supposed to do with 1.5 knots? 1.3 knots. 0.0 knots. Dead in the water. Okay, I could see that. Time to go forward and lower the spinnaker.

On Spinnakers

Spinnakers are not like white sails that attach to the sailboat’s rigging. Using a spinnaker (single-handed) takes planning, focus and more focus. It’s a difficult sail to raise and control. All manner of getting the ropes attached to the sail and led to the cockpit have to be exactly right or there will be an unholy mess trying to hoist the sail in the first place.  However, in light air and calm seas, flying a spinnaker is one of the most enjoyable ways to travel.

To give an analogy for non-sailors, white sails are like an umbrella: large sheets of material attached to a metal frame that can be efficiently controlled in helping one reach a goal. Using a spinnaker is like flying a kite. A person must have enough wind to get them flying, they can be tricky to maneuver when they are flying and bringing them down must be timed perfectly or there will be an almighty crash. Despite looking pretty and taunting sailors with the promise of speed and sophistication, there is always some suspicion as to the benefit of their use.

Fossil Fuels

The engine is on, and sucking up more precious fuel. 5 minutes into the mouth of the Sansum Narrows I feel the wind behind me. Up goes the spinnaker, and off we go. 6.7 knots! This is just what we want. Rounding the first bend, the wind gusts to 15 knots. Each time it does so, the boat, now beam-on to the wind, lays right out on her side. Rounding the next bend, the wind eases. Then the wind eases more and suddenly, there is no wind. The boat and I drift for 10 minutes covering very little ground. Power boats overtake me and and wave hello at me, no doubt pitying me and remarking to themselves on my form of transport, unaware of the massive wake their boats create, that bounces me up and down and back and forth in the cockpit. The sail complains and flaps loudly. Up to the foredeck I go and drop the blessed, blasted spinnaker, vowing to not raise the wretched thing again.

Arm-in-arm with the engine, is the name of this trip. Finally clearing the Sansum Narrows, I make my way into Cowichan Bay and find the only gas station that seems to be open on this long weekend, pun intended. Filling up the jerry cans, makes me breathe a sigh of relief. All set. Motoring out of Cowichan Bay, with full tanks of gas, I begin again the last leg of my journey to Tsehum harbour. It is somewhere around 3pm and I feel rather tired. Travelling at my present rate and taking into account the direction of the tide and the wind, I reckon there are about 3 hours ahead of me. And there is.

And there is more ferry traffic than I care to think about. But I do think about it. Looking down the barrel of a BC ferry in 26 feet of plastic is nothing like being on a ferry looking down at the 26 feet of plastic. Ferries move with purpose and move with purpose at 20 knots. Even if the rules of the road state that boats under sail are the stand-on vessel, it’s not wise to fool around in the path of a BC ferry. Keeping clear is the best method of staying afloat.

Into Tsehum harbour at last. In some ways, it feels like home. Some of the most beautiful views I have can recall, are on the horizon. Mount Baker is never so majestic or so clear as it is when seen from this place. The white beach of the Sidney Spit and an upcoming circumnavigation of James Island with the arrival of the first mate on tomorrow’s ferry, await.

Water is Greener on the other side of the Shipping Lane

“If we go over to the other side, we can get away from all this noise and wash from a hundred boats rebounding around the bay.  It’s much more peaceful over there and it’s protected from the wind.”

Haha, says Neptune, I’ve got you! I have much better things to do with my time (Neptune is constantly nattering away to himself), what with hurricanes and tropical storms galore, but today I’m going to make life difficult for you here in this tiny bay near Vancouver. Oh Yes!

All too many times, I have sailed to a bay or anchorage outside of my tried and tested routes and thought that it was going to be different. Or I have thought to myself that the tiny island I’m looking at is somehow not identical to the one I am on. I then row over to it in my dinghy and discover that the one I have just left looks just as inviting as the one I have arrived on. Well that happened yesterday after we sailed across the bay and discovered that the lack of boats at anchor was due to rather deep water. We ended up dropping anchor around 60 feet from a boat with a group of young guys talking and drinking. Well, that ruled out going skinny. I was going to go in anyway until I got my feet into the water. It was bloody FREEZING.

That’s the problem with deeper water. It’s colder. I dove in and was immediately reminded of how much warmer I was just a second ago. I swam around for about 2 minutes and decided upon mature reflection that I was losing body heat per second at a rate of knots per hour. My bald head began to get cold and then my feet. I got out of the water and sat on deck for a few seconds before going into the cabin and sloshing all the water with me. All further considerations about excursions into the water without linen were put on hold and I hastened to cover my body with as much as I could find on board.

After drinking a lovely cup of tea, the preparation of which was interrupted by the wash of a hundred boats rocking the boat from beam end to beam end and the occasional thunk of the local mooring ball on the hull as we swung into it, we were done. There was no way that any possible enjoyment of dinner could be had when it took more exertion to stay upright in the cabin than to climb a flight of stairs while clutching a small elephant.

I even tried to read my paperback, but I was more focused on not falling over by jamming my feet on the opposite side of the cabin than reading the words of the great explorer in front of me.

My partner was in agreement that we should leave. The only other sailboat in the anchorage seemed also to be in agreement and they weighed anchor a few moments before we did. We sailed out and made it across the shipping lane in time to avoid the cruise ship traffic bearing down on us. The wind which had been fairly ambiguous all day, took up residence off our starboard quarter and we sailed back to our marina on one tack. It was a lovely sail and seemed to make up for the cork bobbing we had endured for the last two hours.

The first mate took the helm and guided us safely back to our slip. With our boat stable, our moods calmed and the earlier two-pronged conversation attempts, eased. We made a chicken curry and ate our dinner in the cabin to the sound of the seagulls having a town hall meeting. We sat munching in silence, staring into the middle distance of the other side of the channel while the sky slowly darkened.

Neptune had give us a respite.

The POWER Boat vs. the SAIL Boat

Is there such a thing?

I am a sailor i.e. I sail my boat. A boat of which the primary means of propulsion are sails. The secondary means of propulsion is an outboard motor. A small one. A motor so diminutive, that to a power boater it would be considered a trolling motor. Many a time I have looked at power boats and wondered (depending on the weather): what is the attraction/I wish I had one of those.

Pwerboat
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The other day I was talking to another boater at the marina. He was explaining to me the time it took him to get from Vancouver to the Sunshine coast.

“About 45 minutes,” says he. I marvelled at that fact. It takes me about 8 hours to go the same distance, provided the weather is in my favour. He in turn, marvelled at that fact. We stood there in silence for a few seconds, marvelling at each other’s situation, no doubt with a bit of sympathy for the other’s misguided ways.
“Well, I have never been on a boat that goes that speed,” says I.
“Wanna come out for a quick spin?” He asks.
“Absolutely!” says I and make haste to climb aboard.
He maneuvered us confidently out of the slip, missing other boats by inches in a way that I would not dream of on my boat. Due to displacement more than anything.
We obey the speed limit until past the lateral marks.
“Let’s see if we can convert you to power boating,” says he looking straight ahead and proceeds to open up the engine.
We reach 36 knots in the time it takes me to catch my breath. The boat is making those long leaps from one wave to another. I thought we were going to go into orbit.
I hung on to the handle on the dashboard in front of me (the boat had a dashboard). The sea slammed beneath us.
Suddenly it all became clear. It was an epiphany. We were on a highway, driving at a good clip, making good time. We had a destination and we were using the water to get us there. Travelling from A to B. I was astounded.
I understood ALL OF IT.
• The big engines
• The big cooler
• The down riggers
• The stereo
When we slowed down again to 5 knots, it felt like we were standing still. I looked on at the other boats and sailboats and wondered how they could enjoy going so slow and why were they making such a fuss about us getting too close to them. I could definitely feel the comfort of the shoe being on the other foot.

After getting back to shore, I thanked my neighbour and extended the invitation to join me on my boat for a quick spin some day. He smiled good-naturedly and every part of him seemed to say,
“No thanks.”
Fair enough says I. It’s not for everyone.

I wasn’t really converted. I went back to my heavy displacement, long, thin means of transport and reflected on my recent experience.
I was very grateful to get that insight into boat travel.
I have always thought that travelling by sailboat is quite a remarkable experience. I don’t often think of my destination until I’m either really tired or wet and cold, even then I might just reluctantly say good-bye to a day of travail. That’s not to say that I don’t get frustrated when sailing to a schedule, which for a coastal cruiser is more of constant than an anomaly. Sailing to a destination to get a good spot in an anchorage or to make a timed passage at slack water or to beat the weather (before the weather beats me) can lead to wishes of a stronger engine or the desire to become a hovercraft. Indeed I have had those days when the wind has died and I end up motoring for hours on end at a steady 5 knots. For the most part however, I don’t mind the variables leading up to my arrival at a destination. For the most part, I enjoy them. There’s a lot to keep me busy.
• The sound of the waves lapping against the hull
• The attention I must pay to being a look out and a navigator
• The detoxification of mental process that occupies me on land
• Dealing with the inevitable list of things that go wrong on any given day

When I have people out on the boat for the first time, they ask me if they can bring wine and snacks. Sure thing, I say. You may find that you don’t actually need them. There will be enough nature occurring to occupy your senses that you won’t need to dull them or fatten your body. Indeed afterwards, you will feel slightly tired from breathing in all that fresh air and concentrating on the tasks at hand, even if what that means is sitting on the fore deck for a couple of hours.

Relaxation for me is not a form of work, rather it is the freeing of my mind from the daily chores and mental processes. Sailing a boat, even though it is my second nature still finds a way to challenge me and shake me up a bit. Perhaps shake me up just enough to keep me in the moment and focus on all the variables and perhaps enjoy myself. Just a bit.

What we sailors and power boaters share is the unspoken joy of being on the water, of being in a different medium: air, water, wind. And deadheads. The land is beautiful to behold when looking from a boat. Sitting at anchor when a puff of wind catches the bow and moves us gently from side to side.
Often, it’s just being with friends experiencing the waterways in whatever form takes us.

All we are is Dust…

… in the 25 KNOT wind.

Single-handed race Vancouver to Nanaimo Saturday June 4th 2016

Wind Direction: NW
Wind Strength: Estimated 15-25 ec.gc.ca – 25 knots steady in Georgia strait
Sea State: 2.5 metre seas
Total Distance overall: 45-50 NM
Speed upwind 5 – 6 knots
Speed downwind 6.5-8 knots
Time on the water 15 hours
Time on the helm 13 hours

Skipper’s Notes


There is a time to persevere and soldier on and there is a time to call it quits. I went through both of these options many times during the first 6 hours of race day.

There were times as the wind piped up and I was forced to leave the cockpit and put a reef in the main, which involved losing up to 30 minutes of preciously fought ground as we drifted hove to, downwind. There were times when the mighty Ooviloo would careen down the backside of a wave with a tremendous crash and the whole boat would shudder. There were times when the boat would sail smoothly and powerfully over the highest of seas and I felt the thrill and excitement and whooped with joy. Some of the deciding factors to negotiate the decision to leave, were getting pooped twice and having waves breaking over my bow so often as to completely drench me in the safety of the cockpit. The decision to call it quits came as I considered the increasing wind strength, the punishment I was giving the boat and the fact that another 3-4 hours lay ahead. Maybe its my age or my wisdom – but something nudged me and said “If you don’t need to be out here, then don’t be.”

Also, the support boat was not being supportive as I couldn’t see it anywhere. When I tried to raise them on channel 68, my VHF chose to take a holiday and went off. Literally. With that last factor rearing its head, I turned the boat away from the west and headed toward Gibsons, an altogether more amenable sail.

Although competition brings out the best in some people, it tends to bring out the worst in me. The times that day when I felt fantastic and excited to be out there was when I didn’t feel that I was competing. A little friendly competition can be fun, but the longer I stayed out on that particular course of beating my brains to windward and punishing the boat – which is what it felt like more than anything, the only competition was with nature.

I know that competition all too well and I have great respect for my competitor. So much respect that I prefer to take second place or just sit it out.

I did have some wonderful fun that day and I learnt a whole lot about my capability and my boat.
• I learned about the different sail configurations that best suit stronger wind conditions.
• I learned about how long / short a tether needs to be so I don’t trip over the blasted thing all the time.
• Some healthy lessons on wearing foul weather gear even on blisteringly hot days such as that one, can reduce the moisture content of my sweater and my trousers.
• I learned that no matter how many times I washed the salt water off my glasses, they still got splashed to the extent that I had to take them off.
• I learned that even if my VHF radio is working when I leave the dock, there is no reason why it should not utterly fail halfway across the Strait of Georgia – I have a backup handheld, but still.
• I learned that even with polarized sunglasses, there is no way to read any electronic device that begins with the letter “i” : iPad, iPhone, iWishicouldseetheblastedscreen
• I also learned that it is better to have some kind of autopilot before leaving shore than trying to fanangle one in 20+ knots with ropes found in a cockpit locker
• Lastly I learned that I don’t like single-handing on race day because when things go wrong, which they invariably do, I have to do EVERYTHING MYSELF – though when I mentioned this last point to my partner, she finished my sentence saying “…when things go wrong, I HAVE NO ONE TO YELL AT” ~ Good point!

There were factors that I could have prepared for –
• Unload all and any unnecessary weight
• Prepare below decks for a heavier ride
• Make all my sandwiches in advance
• Wear my foul weather gear
• Empty my water tank – which sits under the v-berth
• Anticipate that the radio will spontaneously fail
• Determine that I am not drawn to racing particularly

It is interesting that the reasons I didn’t turn back earlier, had little to do with wisdom and much more to do with not wanting to give up or not wanting to give up because of what others might think of me if I did. Perhaps it was a bit of both. Although I did soldier on at first and had some good lessons from it, I am glad I turned away when I did as the boat was taking a beating and it had ceased to be challenging and fun and had become increasingly annoying. I was beginning to consider changing the boat’s name to dolphin as I felt I was riding on the back of one.

The upside of single-handing with no functioning electronic instruments that I can speak into or read is that I am forced to focus and to focus on the matters at hand: balance, balancing the boat, balancing the sails, the wind direction, the wave direction and the number of floating logs and deadheads around me and how badly it could damage or sink my boat if I hit one. Beyond the immediate concerns of navigating and sailing and being the lookout, there is the wonderful release from all land-based concerns. The filters are removed and the big picture comes into view.

When I sailed through Shoal Channel and found myself abeam of Gibsons, I sat in the sun on the cockpit cushion. All around me people were on their boats: fishing, sailing, kayaking. I relaxed for the first time that day. It felt wonderful. An hour later when I ventured out into the strait again, this time with the wind at my back, I felt more experienced and almost spiritual in a good way. I had braved the worst of the weather and now I was going to enjoy it.

The Expert Guide to Boat Repair…

…when you find it, let me know

Owning a sailboat can be compared to having a child. A lot of time, patience and money goes toward keeping eveyone healthy and happy. Of which the rewards can be spontaneous, fantastic and unexpected. When the rewards come, one instantly forgets about all the toil, patience and financial commitment that went toward it. There are those moments when all is going well, of planning for the future, of how all these wonderful additions will be added. Interrupted only by the next breakdown and everything is put on hold while the immediate situation is dealt with.

There is also no rulebook on how to do it right. Parents and this analogy aside, it can be frustrating determining the best course of action to follow for upgrade and repair and there is an inordinate amount of information to gather before the repair or upgrade is attempted. Not to mention all the material that is needed.

However, it was in the moment of everything going well that I decided to get to work on one of the projects that I had been saving. I needed to remove some staining on the bow of my boat near the waterline that might be UV or something else. I needed a strong solvent and explained this to attendant in the marine store.

“Xylene? That’s a very poisonous substance. Why do you want that?”

I explained that I had been doing some research.

“Where did you get that idea?”

I told him that I read it in ‘This Old Boat’.

“Ohhh crap,” he said.

A smile crept across my face as the attendant turned and lead me to the solvent and cleaning aisle. He explained that I didn’t want to use Xylene, I wanted to use another product like a ‘Cut & Polish’ .  I got some more advice from the attendant.

“Stay off the internet.”

I couldn’t agree with him more, though I’m not sure if he was only referring to advice given in sailing forums. I can’t think of a group of people who have more opinions about any given topic than those post advice about sailing and boat repair. It is quite an extraordinary phenomenon.

In a sailing forum, one person will pose a question about say replacing chain plates. There will be some common discussion about how the repair ought to be made and then one person will recommend using 5200 as a sealant and here are the reasons why. The next post is bound to be another person stating that there are a number of sealants to use and one should absolutely not use 5200 and here are the reasons why. Then another person will post that they are a shipwright and have over “X” many years experience and as an expert, explain the different uses of 5200 and the different uses of say 291. Inevitably, another post will snidely remark that the user recommending to not use 5200, frankly, doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about and also partially agree with the shipwright post. Another person will chime in asking which part of the post the snidely remarked user was referring to and perhaps he should refrain from uttering his ill-informed opinion and stick to the facts. And then wish him Fair winds and a Following sea.

At which point someone will politely ask just what the blank is going on and adding that clearly certain sealants work for some people in different situations.

A week or two will go by and someone will inquire what the outcome of the discussion was. The reply to which is that if the sailor is going offshore, they should consider one option and if they are not going offshore they should consider another.

The person who posed the question will then politely thank everyone for their opinions and decide on an option that he had considered in the first place.

A couple of comments will commence, usually at each other about who has more offshore miles than the other and the different stresses on boats and often stray so far off the topic that the comment will become more of an essay on storm strategies than a comment on chain plate repair.

6 months will go by and I will stumble across this page looking for the final, absolutely final, expert, recommendation.

Gulf Islands after Labour Day

Although we are blessed with the wonder and beauty of the Gulf Islands, the Strait of Georgia and the various routes to Desolation Sound, the crowded anchorages in the height of the summer months can be un peu trop! Two years ago, we sailed up to the island of Cortes and into the Malaspina Inlet. The water was warm, the sun was shining, it was August. And there were 20 boats too many in each anchorage. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it did seem rather busy and the more boats there are, the less room there is to anchor. 3:1 overnight scope is not my style. We did see some beautiful sunsets and shared some wonderful times and occasionally met some fantastic people.

This year, I decided that I would strike out on my own for a shorter 10 day trip to the Gulf Islands only this time in late September.

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Coming across the strait on a rainy Thursday, I glimpsed what I thought was a tug and tow, but it turned out to be the HMCS Chicoutimi. I had never seen a submarine underway before, let alone crossing ahead of me.  I tried to get some quality snapshots while steering and navigating, but with wet, cold hands on an iPhone, the challenge proved to be too great and thought it better to just get into Silva Bay before it got dark. When it did get dark, I was treated to a Lunar Eclipse.

A sunny day following, I headed west through the Gabriola passage. No other boats behind me, ahead of me, approaching me. Into the Gulf Islands at last, with beautiful blue skies, a warm sunny day and just a breath of wind. Enough to take me to Clam Bay.

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Clam Bay is a catch-all anchorage like Silva Bay for those who have just traversed the Strait of Georgia or who are about to traverse it. On arrival, there was one other sailboat. All told that windless night there were four sailboats including myself.

The following day — under motor and sail (mostly motor), I arrived in Montague Harbour and tied up to a public mooring ball for $12, a very reasonable fee.  Although nearly all public moorings were vacant, the private moorings were populous (nothing compared to Brentwood Bay, but I’ll get into that later).

I topped up at the fuel dock the next day only to discover it was the last day that it was open for the season. I was pushing to get as far south as I could before I had to turn back and visit friends in Sidney and on Salt Spring.

I am one of those sailors who would prefer to do anything other than motor. I would much prefer to sail in the lightest of breezes than put on my engine and motor my way to freedom. However, there are a lot of currents, traffic and navigational hazards in the pacific northwest that do not lend themselves to my schedule and when I am sailing to a schedule, I will use the iron genny. In the following days, I was forced to put up with the sound of the engine as I navigated around separation schemes, numerous ferry routes and strong currents with no wind. In this instance however I was “Under Sail

The fog in South Pender was so thick in places that visibility was no more than a hundred or so feet.

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Finally, I was able to depart making Brentwood Bay my destination. This has to be the most crowded mooring field I have seen. Boats are often not more than 20 feet apart, some even closer, which is too close for (my) comfort. Now I wish I had taken some pictures!

One (of many) of a sailor’s frustrations when under sail is the wash of other vessels. Anyone who has taken their boat out to watch the fireworks in English Bay can attest to this. On this cruise, I don’t recall ever having noticed the wash of another vessel save for the ferries that passed me.

Having picked up my first mate in Brentwood Bay, we pressed on to Salt Spring, arriving in the glow of the sunset and still waters of Ganges Habour. “Salt Spring Sunset” .

The return to Vancouver saw us at our last stopover in Conover Cove. The boathouse there is quite extraordinary as it has the name of each visiting boat carved on a piece of wood, adorning every available bit of space.

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We cleared Porlier Pass the next morning and crossed the Strait in good time. Back to English Bay. Back to False Creek for the beginning of the end of the cruising season!