A Travellerspoint blog

Preflight 2019

sunny 55 °F

Yogi Berra was exactly right: sometimes it is just like déjà vu all over again. Last year we sailed on the Salish Sea; ditto that for 2019.

Boating seems to require the acceptance of failure as a precondition for any success. Parts fail, systems fail, judgement fails, but most of all plans fail. The boating gods are a petulant lot, much given to inflicting mischief on those who dare to set forth on their hallowed waters.

To wit … last year we started at Bellingham, WA. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But the numbers were against us. The first day was basically shot with boat loading, boat familiarity and related activities. We only made it to the mouth of Bellingham Bay, a few miles from the marina. Then it took two days to get to the city of Vancouver to clear customs and “enter” Canada. Then it took a hard day north to get to where we wanted to be at which point, we hunkered down for a couple of days with a gale warning, which, of course, never arrived. That was the northern terminus of our trip; we stopped where we wanted to have started, spent a couple of days there accomplishing not very much and then headed south in order to return the boat as scheduled.

So, this year my bright idea was to skip the useless part of the trip and to start well north of Bellingham. Turns out that the farthest north we got last year was Nanaimo, on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, the second largest city there. When we passed through there on our first trip, we saw about a mile of marinas chocked full of every manner of boat including sailboats.

Not so surprising, some of those boats can be chartered, and paid for in Canadian dollars, a bargain at 75¢ USD. And, the good part is that this is exactly the right jumping off place to sail to the northern regions. In fact, there is not too much north of Nanaimo on either side of the water except empty places, just the places we have wanted to go.



The boat that we have chartered this year is a Hunter 38-ft. We were visiting boat friends that live south of Asheville and told them of our selection and it got a rousing: gag & yuck! Hunter boats are the reputational equivalent of the 1980’s Yugo car. Serious water people do not want one and, in fact, we have seen only a handful in our six years of cruising. But, for two weeks, I guess that we can live with it without loving it.

Boat names are interesting things. The name selected usually has some particular resonance for the namers, and is usually the result of a process that would have children with names such as Tweeven Dialop Smith. This boat is the Never for Ever, and surely has a story behind it.

At 38-ft. this will be, to date, the largest boat we will have handled. Ours was 36-ft. and our first two charters were 30-ft. and 34-ft., both too small. The smaller boat handled well when we engaged topside, but the sleeping and storage accommodations were just too tight. This boat has the exact same physical layout as did ours and the exact same rigging configuration as did ours. Plus, it also has a cockpit enclosure, something that we added to our boat and much enjoyed.

So, lots of stuff the same, save for one thing: anchoring, which has nothing to do with the boat or its configuration. I have been formatting our blog into a book format to publish next year. As I have read through most of the entries for the first four years there is one constant: issues and problems with anchors, their deployment and their holding power. For all of those problems there was, at least, a learning curve, increased competency and confidence, better at the end than at the beginning.


Now, we get to take all those years of learning and to chuck them overboard, port or starboard. That learning will not apply because the bottoms to which we had anchored were, basically, flat and shallow, rarely more that 25-ft. of water. The empty places we plan to visit have deep water, hundreds of feet and the only place to anchor is near the shore where the bottoms slope steeply up to the shoreline. The problem is that the anchor will hold as long as the tension on the rode is pulling it uphill, toward the shore which will not happen because of wind and currents. The solution is pretty simple on paper: tie a line from the stern to some object on shore that will keep the stern of the boat from moving very far from perpendicular to the shoreline.

As a captain I have studied this technique, ideated it, imagined it, analyzed it but never have done it. The choreography is complex, and the sequence of steps certainly matters. Set the anchor, get the dinghy ready, secure the motor, have one person on the boat hold the line while the other motors to shore without fouling the line in the OB motor or the boat’s propeller, secure the dinghy, secure both ends of the line, get back to the boat, re-secure the dinghy, have a very stiff drink, then worry like hell. It’s a fairly safe bet that I will be the dinghy guy and Carol will be holding the spool of line on the boat. Likely outcome: we’ll get killed or try to kill each other. But, like most dreaded things, it will probably work out once our energy is redirected from worry to work. Grappling with these issues usually causes them to diminish.

We arrived in Nanaimo on Wednesday, getting through the door of the room exactly 17 hours after having closed a similar door in Charlotte. The trip was brutal involving multiple planes, buses, boats and automobiles. Too much stuff to schlepp, too much time spent schlepping it, too many thousands of people ahead of us clearing customs in Vancouver. The phrase that best appertains to the hotel at which we are staying is: faded glory. Its saving grace is being across the street from the marina.

The newest cruising wrinkle this year is trying to do so while keeping me on a gluten free diet. Probably doable, probably not enjoyable in the doing. I expect that I will have shed all of my excess pounds by the time we return.

We are both a little beat up, Carol, more so, since she has been struggling with an issue that started before we left the house. We board the boat Friday and will have a walk through and orientation that same day.

Hopefully a couple of restful nights of sleep will have us both a bit more perky by Saturday morning.

Posted by sailziveli 09:03 Archived in Canada Tagged boats sea canada cruising sailboats salish

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