Our website broke…. Sometime last summer (maybe June?) I tried to post something but I couldn’t sign in as admin to the boatsteading site. I kept thinking that either Pete or I would get around to fixing it but then…. months and months went by. Well, I’m happy to report that Pete fixed it yesterday!!!
Our visit with Pegi in Picton was sometimes painful – she was clearly so uncomfortable. She called the experience of ALS “torture”. She didn’t want to live like that anymore….
I know she was happy to see us, especially Liam and Neli. Her face would light up whenever they were near. Overall, I know it was important. Being back at her house again felt comfortable… nostalgic…. Many things were the same as I remembered, but more things were different. She was different, I was different, everyone was different…
There it is: In life, we can never truly go home again.
Pegi and I talked a bit about what might happen ” in the afterlife”… For a long time she had believed that when you die, that’s it, lights out, that’s the end of everything. I told her of the book I read recently, by Deepak Chopra, Life After Death. In it, he provides stories, anecdotes and analysis of various peoples’ near death experiences from many countries and cultures around the globe. The conclusion that seems to be drawn at the end of the book is this: whatever you believe will happen to you after you die, that is what you will experience. Pegi liked this idea. She decided to believe that she’d be with my dad again, that’s what she wanted to believe would happen.
Maybe that’s the difference between life and death, in death you can go home again, yet in life, the natural changes we experience cannot allow us to feel we ever get there.
Pegi passed away on March 10, 2016. This came as a shock, especially since we were just there visiting her at the end of February.
I travelled to Picton again at the end of April for Pegi’s memorial service, just me this time. My good friend Mary-Kate Gilbertson from Guelph came with me for the weekend. She was my “memorial midwife” for sure… She helped me with many things but especially helped me to allow myself to feel included in the Pickering Clan. This had been one of my great fears, and the story I made up was that I wasn’t really part of Pegi’s family. As I held onto that story, over the years I was committed to finding lots of evidence to support it…. I had to say goodbye to that story and also say goodbye to most belongings that I’d had at Pegi’s place. All these things that helped me feel connected to her home, my home, were now unnecessary clutter… The phrase “Does this bring you joy?” became my mantra as I went through the process of deciding which items would be let go… Digital photos became my saving grace – into the cloud!!
I can’t share all of the details on the specifics of it all, but I can share what I’ve learned so far, which is this: 1. The stories we make up and hold to be true (our beliefs!) dictate our experience, 2. Home is an idea in the heart that changes over time, and yet we all yearn for reunion, and 3. Love is what matters most and it’s there to be felt if we allow it.
This sailing lifestyle is suiting me pretty well…. And by that i mean it’s fairly effortless. I love sailing… The wind and water are elements I find very comfortable… Therapeutic even… Showing up here is easy for me. Some people think I must have a lot of courage to set off across oceans… This is laughable to me. And leads me to face a reality I don’t like to look at very often.
I’ve just learned that my stepmother has been diagnosed with ALS. As long as I can remember, she has feared something like this. Her appearance has always been impeccable, her idependence extremely valued and her social graces always something I admired. Apparently now, she is living with the fact that she cannot show up in the world the way she wants to, the way that’s been so easy for her… She’s been forced completely out of her element.
We are going to visit her in a few days. This upcoming trip being the passage that I don’t feel prepared for… Don’t feel equipped to respond to appropriately… I recognize the irony here: this passage that seems to be a part of so many people’s ordinary experience is what feels like a scary ocean crossing for me. This is the epitome of effortful, for me.
Brene Brown is a (famous) researcher in Texas. Her work focusses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. You might have seen her TED talks or seen her on Oprah. One of her quotes is yelling at me right now through a megaphone
“Normally, when someone we love is turning away from a struggle, we self-protect by also turning away. That’s definitely my first response. I think change is more likely to happen if both partners have common language and a shared lens to see problems. “~ Brené Brown
I think this often happens in families… It’s happened to me… Distance grows… And sometimes grows so vast that it becomes the largest, most frightening ocean in the world. How do I prepare for this one? I feel like I might not be able to weather the storm of judgment by some people I know I’m going to see soon. Brene Brown calls it a shame storm… How can I possibly respond to it so it doesn’t sink me?
I am provisioning for these things… Crossing this ocean… Unsure how it might unfold… Worrying that I might not be worthy of the situation… And yet I know I must summon the courage to try. Maybe we’re all in a sinking boat anyway, and the whole point is to recognize it!! And to try to be that “good mariner” who will offer assistance wherever and whenever in a position to do so..
I think Brene Brown tends to start with this one, but I’m inclined to bring it to my ending here:
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. “
Together with our friends on Yare, we traveled and explored the islands for 10 days. Beginning at Playa Bonanza on Isla Espiritu Santos, our next anchorage was Caleta Partida. It was very protected from the northers that were strong at that time. There were two fishing camps there but no one was actually there when we made it ashore to meet them…. A fantastic cave was found just north of there on the southeast corner of Partida.
Next anchorage was Ensenada Grande, just to the north. There was an awesome beach and maintained hiking trail that lead to a lookout over 100m up over the east side of the island. Jess and I (the moms) made it all the way to the top while the others were ready to get back to the beach.
Before heading back to La Paz to reprovision, we made it to Los Islotes to swim with the sea lions. They are surprisingly friendly and accepting of swimmers and snorkelers! It was magical to get to touch a real live WILD animal in its element. They swam nearby often nibbling on Liam and Pete’s fingertips, apparently amazed that they don’t have webbed hands 🙂
Once back in La Paz we were eager to stock up again on items from the grocery store Chedraui. It felt familiar to go there then… Ice cream at Fuente’s was a treat too. Although our little buddy Odin had to stop by the hospital to get stitches to mend his chin while on the way!! More info here : http://svyare.blogspot.com/2016/01/la-paz-medical-care.html?m=1
After only a couple days in La Paz we set off bound for La Cruz. We really miss our friends on Yare. Traveling together through paradise has been a fantastic experience. We hope to see them again in the spring overe here on the east side.
On the way, we stopped at Bahia Falsa and also Belandra (north of La Paz) and got to reconnect with our friends Scott and Tanya from Kialoa. We’ve known them for three years, were in Fleet together (Bluewater Cruising association).
And then, like a dream, it was over. We set off across the sea towards La Cruz.
We arrived in La Paz December 11 just in time to go for ice cream and dinner with our friends on SVBanyan. They were heading out the next day so it was great to have a chance to visit with them before they went. We also met up with Linger Longer finally! After years of trying ;). Kris and Kirk were neighbours from the inner harboir in Victoria.
La Paz has all the services you might expect in a city…But finding them might be tricky. The morning cruisers net on vhf channel 22 is super helpful. Also Club Cruceros, a little expat community cruisers club running on the grounds on Marina de La Paz, is super helpful too.
Christmas dinner complete with our 2nd ever puzzled turkey (so it can fit in the oven) was fun. We got to share it with our new friends on SV Yare (kid boat!!). And it was really great.
Liam’s birthday party, by the Club Cruceros playground was fun too. All the kid boats came :). Made for a special time – piñata and all!!
I think due to sugar overload (Christmas then birthday) we got knocked down by a nasty cold or virus of some kind… Not fun but didn’t last forever. This has led us towards a much healthier diet in the hope of staving off future illness… We’ll see how long that lasts 😉
The last day of 2015: Horseback riding at Rancho el Cajon was fantastic. Neli and Liam were in heaven. Kim, the guide, originally from Oregon, was excellent and we had a fun time. A three hour ride was only about $28 CAD each.
We left La Paz January 5 to head north into the islands for a bit before heading towards the mainland and Banderas Bay. We are buddy boating with SV Yare.
Surprising that we have cell coverage in Isla Espiritu Santo area, but that’s Mexico it seems… Surprising.
Please remember that when Pete returned from fishing, his mind was on the fish he caught… And it was calm, no waves or wind, so he was not putting much attention on how he secured the dinghy. We feel quite strongly that the dinghy got away for this reason. In those dark moments in the night when the dinghy was gone, (which also had Pete’s bag full of things like his wallet, credit cards, driver’s license, etc.) if someone where to ask, would you pay $50 to have it all back again, like it had never left? We would have been so happy and relieved. This is what José did for us – he made it so all was as it was before… And so, $50 is the value of Big Dollar in this case :).
This experience has invited us to realize how much we value our dinghy. We are taking much better care of it now!! And have also finally found a name, which we will soon have put on the transom: Big Dollar.
After Pete’s awesome catch from fishing in the lagoon at Bahia Magdalena (two spotted bass and a finescale trigger fish) he was so excited! The kids were excited too, Neli wanted to begin dissections and Liam was keen to clean and fillet…
After dinner I was sleepy, my bedtime has become 7pm or so since I was used to beginning my watch at 3am. I heard the fenders banging a bit so asked Pete if he could move the dinghy back to the stern and pull the fenders right out of the water for the night.
Pete: Where is the dinghy?? The dinghy isn’t here!!!!
I went out on deck and sure enough no dinghy to be seen. It was dark by this point. No use even trying…
In those moments before sleep came, Pete and I both realized how much we rely on that dinghy!! And now it’s gone… How could we even replace it in rural Mexico? We didn’t know…
Luckily it was a northeast wind that night, so theoretically it might just have washed up on the beach closer to the town of Puerto Magdalena… There was a little hope… But maybe it was stolen… We were right there the whole time but over dinner or who knows when, maybe someone took it?
I woke up at 4:30am (slept in!!) and began writing out phrases to ask Gregorio’s the port Captain.
My dinghy is missing (mi dinghy ha desaparecido)
Have you seen it? (?Ha visto mi dinghy?)
Our dinghy is adrift (my dinghy esta a la deriva)
Can you please help me? (?Puede ayudarme?)
And so on…. I wanted to say “we” but the phrase book we have seems to prefer the 1st person singular….
Then sunrise came. Daylight!!! I was out on deck with the binoculars scanning the entire horizon… Nothing.
7am Pete got up and we started to mobilize. We’d go over closer to the town, drop anchor, go in the kayak to shore to plead for help from Gregorio.
We were getting underway when Gregorio’s panga came roaring up to us. Once he was close we could hear him saying “tu dinghy!!!!”. Yes!! He knew who’d found it, José at the palapa restaurant, we should go find him, he had it pulled up there. But don’t give any money, we thought we heard him say… And then he was off, to the town of SanCarlos on a fuel run.
Relief! Off we went to find José 2 miles away.
We dropped anchor near the palapa and got the kayak in the water. Liam and Pete went to shore and pulled up near the palapa restaurant. Liam was holding the “Spanish for Cruisers ” book.
Pete: Buenos dias!!
José: (in Spanish) is this your dinghy?
Pete: Si! Muchas gracias!! We were worried!
José: No problema (points at dinghy) Pete thinks he then says, big problem)
It was just 70 miles or so to get to Ensenada from San Diego so we thought an overnight trip would be best. We also wanted to get there early enough in the morning so that we could complete all of our check in procedures during office hours. We arrived at Baja Naval marina at 9am. Jose the man at the marina ofice was very helpful with getting us organized to present to the harbour master and all of the other offices. Luckily the offices are all in the same buikding in Ensenada as opposed to scattered all over the town like in many other Mexican ports of entry. Our friends Doug and Lyneita Swanson from Comox, BC on board their Coast 34 Ka’sala were at the marina too! In Ensenada we were surprised by how much garbage was strewn around the streets, sidewalks and harbour… Everywhere we looked, it seemed, there was garbage. And nobody seeed to mind or even notice! So we tried to stop noticing too… when in Rome, as they say….
The following day we went to the bank (Scotia Bank no less!) to get pesos and also go grocery shopping. We thought we lost our hand cart in the grocery store at one point (panic!!!) but we found it again. The walk back to the marina all loaded down with our stuff was an adventure. The sidewalks were cracked, uneven, had huge potholes and sometimes were nonexistent… but we made it and it was fine. I wish we’d known how much cheaper provisioning would be in Ensenada… they have everything we expect in a grocery store… and much much cheaper than San Diego…
The idea was to leave for Turtle Bay the following day. Our friends on Ka’sala left the marina at 10am on Nov. 28th while we left at 11:45. Once we were out there, and the weather was so good (north wind 10-20 knots at various times) we decided to keep going to Magdalena Bay. Pete and I decided to do 6 hour shifts through the night. This would allow each of us to get 6 hours of uninterupted sleep at a time. I think this worked better than our 3 on 3 off from before. Three hours of sleep at a time over many days becomes very difficult to live with… Even though Pete took maclazine for this part of the trip too he still felt seasick most of the time… he’s noticed that wheat (gluten?) makes him feel worse,which made for limited options for snacks and meals… this was difficult.
We arrived at Bahia Magdalena around noon on December 3. It is like a desert oasis here. Sand dunes right beside the sea shore… White powder sand…we have been swimming and snorkeling near our Anchorage in Puerto Magdalena, hoping to get over to Bahia Maria for a bit of boogie boarding later today…. Surprisingly, there is cell coverage here so our T-Mobile service is working. Its spotty though so we are not renewing it. We’ll probably get a telcel Sim card in La Paz. I can’t load any photos right now so that will have to wait too… Hope to add them in La Paz. Not much farther now 🙂
San Diego was comfortable. Although the port authority is quite strict, regulating every boat’s anchoring activity, it was easy enough to get the various permits required for both the cruiser’s anchorage (A9) and the La Playa anchorage (closer to yacht services at Shelter Island).
First, some of the not so-fun-stuff:
Saying goodbye to Jocelyn. Joss became a much beloved member of our crew and we were sad to see her go… It takes a very special person to join a family of 4 on a small sailboat for almost a month. Joss, you are one of a kind and we love you!!! Hopefully she’ll be able to join us again at some other point along the way…
Air pollution. The A9 is close to the huge airport… Major fumes were aggravating for us all but especially Liam and his environmentally induced asthma. We thought we’d be free of that after leaving the inner Harbour in Victoria… ahem.
The exchange rate. Ouch. The Canadian dollar has been quite weak lately… this makes everything 30% more expensive.
The zoo. Our hearts felt heavy after witnessing so many large, majestic wild animals in captivity… From the perspective of the animals, how is their experience any different from imprisonment? I can’t see the difference… Anyhoo…. Apparently it is impolite to frown upon the San Diego zoo too much.
On a happier note, some of the fun stuff included:
Legoland. One thing about southern California is wow! (as Pete’s friend Wes pointed out) they really know theme parks! Legoland was excellent and surprisingly not over the top! Lots of fun there!!
Sunroad marina and visiting with Gramma Reen. We stayed here while my mum (Gramma Reen) was visiting for 10 days. Our new friends on s/v Mei Cheng were super fun and also the swimming pool and hot tub were definitely enjoyed!
Meeting and hanging out in the anchorages with our new friends on s/v Banyan.
Liam would say San Diego Games and Comics. And meeting his new friend Scott, who seems to like Magic the Gathering as much as he does.
The playground and fountains at the county administration building.
Trader Joe’s. Wow!!
Receiving mail and packages at Downwind marine.
On craigslist we got a small sailing dinghy, a Naples Sabot. Super fun!! It lives aft of the mast and forward of the dodger when we’re underway… On deck there are now: a tandem kayak with 2 paddles, RIB dinghy, and sailing dinghy… I think it will be hard to put any other craft up there.. although I should never say never 😉 [tried to post a photo but after 25 mins of trying I’m giving up]
We said farewell to many beloved friends in BC in early September. We knew that the window was closing for sailing from the BC coast… Typically the book end for the season is September 15… We left Sept 17.
In Esquimalt we did the last of our provisioning (thanks Holly!!) And picked up Jocelyn there. We were then a crew of five. Next we set off for Port Renfrew. The plan was to sit there to wait for a favourable weather window to carry on to San Diego. As it happened, we waited there for 2 days. Warren came up with an awesome grocery delivery and lent us his computer!!
We left Port Renfrew Sept 21st bound for San Diego.
Pete is a certified HAM in more ways than you can imagine, including with Industry Canada. With the help of Warren’s computer and mono cord, Pete was able to pull in weather fax info everyday.
The crew morale at this point was quite good. Seasickness was only moderate… Kids were getting a bit of gravol (called Dramamine in the US) and Jocelyn and Pete were taking Meclazine, of which I got 200 tablets in the States in late August since it can’t be purchased in Canada anymore (?).
Up until this point Pete has tried everything else for seasickness,; Sea bands, garlic, ginger, Gravol, scopolomine… Nothing seemed to ever be effective.. Until Meclazine!! This was a blessing beyond measure. For both Joss and Pete, the side effects seem to be dry mouth, ear pressure, slight mind fog, but compared to seasickness, much *much* better.
Near Newport, Oregon we learned that the weather was forecast to come up big and strong from the south… We dicided to wait it out in Newport.
Checking into Newport was straight forward. While approaching, Neli thought we were going to get to meet the President, since she thought that was who would be the official greeting us, who we were busy preparing for… Turned out it was Officer Hanna who came. Happily, he allowed us to keep all of our food stores and provisions which was a good thing since the only grocery store in walking distance was a truck stop like place that sold mostly beef jerky, soft drinks, cigarettes and lotto tickets.
The weather was favourable by September 23 so we set off again. We knew we wanted to give Cape Mendocino lots of room, since the wind seems to get accelerated there… We chose to stay 150 nm offshore at that point. As it was, we still had gale force wind from the north around the latitude of Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino. The tow generator was excellent, as was all the equipment actually. The only issue was that the staysail window blew out since there was such back and forth force on it with rolling in some of the waves with gusts up to 40 knots.
Pete, Joss and I set up a night watch system of 3 hours on, 6 hours off, with Joss taking the first shift til midnight, then Pete when he’d pull in faxes at 01:00 followed by my watch 03:00 to 06:00 and Joss would come on again. Throughout the day Pete and Joss would get naps as required. I didn’t seem to nap much although my memory is foggy on that now….
What did the kids do? Lots of audio books helped. And movies… And seeing dolphins :). We had a halfway party when Neli and I made carrot cake muffins with icing and everything, but most people were too seasick at that point to enjoy them… A few days later though once things calmed down a bit we had a nice evening meal out in the cockpit and got to savor it all a bit.
On October 4 we arrived at San Diego :). We had only used half of our fresh water (~150 L since our capacity is 300L) and we still had about 100L of diesel fuel. At the police docks which is right beside the customs and immigration docks, we tied up and breathed a big sigh of relief. We had made it!!! We did it :).
So Pete decided he wanted to join the offshore part of the trip. This meant we’d all be together and this meant changing the crew plans a bit… Jocelyn was amazingly accommodating, shifting her plans a bit to join us from Victoria to San Diego. She and Matt even helped us with some work during the haul out at Van Isle marina early September.
The main jobs that needed to be completed before we went offshore were changing the bellows on our dripless seal on our propeller shaft, and putting a barrier coating on our propeller to stop so much growth from attaching there (slowing us down). These jobs required RTT to be out of the water since the entire prop shaft would need to be removed. The third job, not completely necessary but definitely useful, was replacing the Wema meter gauge in the holding tank. This can only be done when the CV joint on the prop shaft is removed. This would definitely be the time to do this job. And of course replacing the 2 zincs.
Initially we felt daunted by trying to do all this ourselves… The costs associated with hiring them out though were prohibitive… So expensive!!! So we decided to learn. The guys at PYI in Washington state were amazing, talking us through various aspects of the job with the bellows. I was able to talk on the phone, send photos in email and generally feel completely confident that they knew what I was desctibing. So impressed with their customer service.
We opted for the product Propspeed on the propeller and lower aluminum pieces under the waterline. It was super simple when just following along like following a recipe. Not necessary to be done by professionals at all! Don’t believe the hype! Some planning and set up were important, that’s all.
We managed to do it all in 3 days. Not too bad for a couple of hacks :). And thankfully no leaks when we launched.
It was empowering to have completed these jobs as a team. We saved some money too, which is obviously welcome. It felt good to get to know our boat more intimately too. Important confidence booster :). If you’re thinking of hiring out jobs on your boat, I hope you’ll consider trying to do it yourself next time. I think you’ll be glad you did.
We are trying to attend to some aspects of Riki Tiki Tavi that need attention from time to time. One of the issues we face is galvanic corrosion.
When two dissimilar metals are in contact with each other, there is a tendency for electrons to move from one to the other. In this case salt water is the electrolyte, the aluminum Lewmar block housing is the anode, and the stainless steel support is the cathode. The remedy is to separate the metals thereby not allowing them to touch each other, stopping the flow of electrons and hence the corrosion. Originally this was done with a piece of rubber mat, but over time this began to fail and have small holes, and then let the electrons flow… We found a replacement in our recycling bin.
It looked like this:
So first I took it apart. Here you can see all the nuts and bolts and also the rubber mat that needs to be replaced. The white powder is corroded aluminum.
I then cleaned the stainless steel support as well as the hardware and aluminum piece.
Then came selecting a suitable new separator…. we had an old yogurt container on hand, as well as an empty milk jug. Good enough.
Next we had to trace where the bolt holes would need to be as well as how large the entire piece needed to be to ensure no touching of stainless with aluminum.
To punch the holes, I used a single hole punch like you’d use for paper.
After everything was clean and dry, I liberally applied some Lanocote which helps protect and neutralize corrosion products, should there be some corrosion developing in the future (always seems to be happening).
We have new neighbours here in Sidney – a kid boat!! YAY!!! As we were hosting our new friends for some tea we all got to reflecting on why we’ve chosen this cruising path. We’ve had to downsize a lot and sometimes forgo seemingly average luxuries like having a hanging closet, or instant hot water.
By most people’s measures we now live in a state of comfort that is far below average. By most people’s standards we have less than they think is appropriate. So what is the pull? What is it that I find so satisfying? The answer, I find, can best be articulated by an event from the summer of 2013, the time when I fell in love with Tofino traffic.
We were on the VICE with the Bluewater Cruising Association, returning from the offshore waypoint, maybe still 70 nautical miles from shore. It was windy, maybe 20 knots from the northwest and we were beam reaching. I was on watch at night, Pete was asleep. I looked up and saw our radar reflector had broken off. I don’t know, I mean it just wasn’t there anymore. We were in the part of BC waters where many huge ships were converging either entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca or leaving it, heading back the other way across the Pacific Ocean. We needed to be on our toes to avoid collisions. I went down below to check the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to see what was coming our way. The AIS is amazing, I can see lots of info on the approaching ship like it’s name, home port, destination, speed over the ground, course over the ground, etc. We only have a receiver, not a transponder so they couldn’t see us. There was a target the AIS calculated was on a collision course with us, CPA (closest point of approach) 10 ft! Yikes! That’s ok though, I thought. I’d just call them on the radio to make sure they saw us and we wouldn’t have to change course. We were the stand-on vessel. No response. I tried again. Nothing. Time was ticking, we were getting closer.
Airports have air traffic control towers. Busy shipping areas have something similar, and in this part of the world it is called Tofino traffic. They communicate on VHF channel 74. I gave them a call: “We are a little sailboat at position…. at a speed of… We’ve lost our radar reflector and I think we’re on a collision course with ship “X” and they’re not responding. Can you help us?” Their response? “Absolutely. We’ll call them.” And they did. And then ship “X” called us and together we ensured that there would be no collision. But that’s not all. Tofino traffic put us in their computer system to ensure that there would be no more close calls that they wouldn’t know about. They requested that once we got to our destination we let them know so they could take us out of the system, which we did, and when we did so they said “Glad to hear you’ve had a safe journey. Tofino traffic out.”
So much kindness. So much concern for everyone’s safety. So much courtesy. And that’s when it hit me: This is what I love about the sailing life. Out there, 99% of the time, people aren’t the bad guys. Out there, if in any way one is able to, people help each other. The most threatening element is not another person, it is the weather, or the waves, or the sea, or a ship or rocks or the boat is sinking, or corrosion, equipment failure, or, or, or… it’s not an other person though. Other people are not to be feared out here. Tofino traffic epitomized that for me at that time. What a feeling!
Our new neighbours shared that their old neighbours in Vancouver sometimes wouldn’t even speak to them,, they would just drive into their garage and not try to connect at all. For years. I feel so heartbroken by that prospect.
But not out on the water. Not here. Thank you again, Tofino traffic, for helping us that night and also for helping us keep people in perspective. Yes, the world can be a dangerous place sometimes, but we are so much safer backing each other up, knowing we can ask for help when we need it and knowing that help will come. It seems to me that we could all enjoy some more connection in our lives, wherever we are. Our connections with other people make us stronger, and our hearts warmer.
It’s starting to get cold here in Sidney… the fierce south-easterlies are starting and it’s feeling like we are back at sea although we are securely tied to the dock. In September, when we made the decision to postpone our Mexico travel plans, all the momentum leading up to that point made it feel like a part of me broke off and carried on, and then for weeks was drifting around somewhere in the Pacific… I’m now able to safely say that all of me is back together and is able to reflect on the summer’s travels without feeling the sting of longing for traveling…
Firstly, if we haven’t yet said so, Haida Gwaii is very far from here! It is surprisingly remote. Beautiful, but very remote. This might be a trip more suited for adults who enjoy solitude, serenity and sunsets. Traveling with two young children however, we definitely questioned our choices with them this summer… there were very few opportunities for them to play with other kids their ages… there were few opportunities to meet any other people. Period. So we had to make our own fun.
Introducing the spinnaker pole swing set:
The swing was awesome! Neli especially loved it and would sing at the top her lungs as she swung up there, back and forth and back and forth…. So much fun!
We just had Neli’s birthday party on the weekend. She was thrilled to be having a waterslide party with many friends. It was a lot of fun – made us feel thankful for being part of a community full of people we love and who clearly love our children too. This is the element that we all most missed this summer. There it is. I said it. For those of you who are thinking that the full time cruising life is one extended vacation full of uninterrupted fun times and laughs, well, I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but all that freedom really means sometimes feeling lonely. Or bored. But there is also the opportunity to let that boredom transform into a creative moment. A creative moment to build happy memories for you and your children… but, full time extended vacation? – it is definitely not.
As I’m writing this, the children are coming down with a cold and aren’t in the mood to get out and play. They are bundled up in their blankets on the port side settee watching “Charlotte’s web 2”. Things don’t feel very different from the summer at this moment actually. Except that it’s a lot colder and rainy now.. oh wait. The sun’s peeking though. It might be a sunny day after all.
Yay! We had an awesome time with my mum. We rented a car for a few days to get to Masset, Port Clements and Queen Charlotte City. The older I get, the more I’m able to admire her and see her as a remarkably courageous and loving woman. For those of you who don’t know, she has only 5% of her vision (so she’s legally blind) and she is 77 years old. She is a trooper to have come visit us in such a remote place, and she did it all on her own. It was an epic journey. And we also are short or space in our boat, but she was remarkably flexible in our mini space. She says “We all have a choice in life, we can choose to say I can’t or we can choose to say I can.” I’m glad you choose that you can, Mum. Your example helps me choose to say I can too… And I’m so grateful…
We had a good season in Victoria and have decided to keep sailing. We cast off from our land life May 16th, spent some time in the Gulf Islands, had a haul out in Nanaimo, then went to Princess Louisa inlet, Comox, then the Copeland Islands on our way to Teakerne Arm. Then it was on to Shoal Bay, East Thurlow Island, then Helmcken Island, then Port McNeill for a provisioning stop. Then it was on to God’s Pocket to set off to cross Queen Charlotte Strait. We made that trip yesterday and now we are anchored in Pruth Bay, Calvert Island. We are currently en route to Haida Gwaii (formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands). We’ve a few dock jam opportunities along the way 🙂 Nel and I do more dancing than playing but Pete and Liam play a few instruments… Fun times!!
I hope to add posts more frequently than once a year…
We are trying to be travelers…. and finding ourselves in transition.
To be sure, getting ready to go offshore and then exploring the west coast of Vancouver Island has been an amazing experience. From the beginning we knew we were testing ourselves and the boat, and I do think we have learned a great deal from our experiences so far. One thing has become clear as well: It is not always easy for four different personalities to be in happy agreement all of the time. And so, we are faced with a few dilemmas… As we grapple with how to best face the next phase, we have decided to stay in Victoria for another season, at least that is the idea at the moment…
Here’s a little gem of a sailing day (video clip) when we were south bound in the Juan de Fuca Strait…
After the swells and motion of our offshore experience calmed down we decided to set a course for Cougar Annie’s garden. According to Wikipedia, Cougar Annie (Ada Annie Rae-Arthur, June 19, 1888 – April 28, 1985) was a pioneer who settled near Hesquiat (pronounced Heshkwit) Harbour at Boat Basin in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1915 after having lived in England, South Africa and the Canadian Prairies as a child. She arrived with the first of her four husbands to save him from an opium addiction and ensure that the remittance cheques that came from his family in Scotland would continue to arrive. At the time she and her husband settled on the coast, they had three small children. She gave birth to eight more children in this remote location. She acquired her nickname because of her famed marksmanship. She shot dozens of cougars during her long life. You might wonder why we would want to go to a remote place that is full of bears and cougars… all I can say to that is: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
First we would need to go to Tofino and from there make our way to Boat Basin. Once in Tofino, surrounded by surf shops, my little people and Pete became surfers too!
South Chesterman’s beach provided some fun times. Tofino has a great bus service with a route that takes you from town to the various beaches in the area.
On our first day the waves were small but on subsequent days they were much larger!
Near Tofino is the wonderful “Big Tree Walk” on Meares Island. We hadn’t seen trees so big EVER… pretty amazing.
After a few loads of laundry, filling up with fuel and water, we were ready to leave for Hesquiat… As we approached, the clouds hung over the mountains like a big cozy blanket.
There were no other boats around as we crossed the infamous Hesquiat Bar… once at the anchorage there was one other boat… a large power boat with an older couple on board with three small barking dogs. It was calm and peaceful. We awoke in the morning alone. They must have woken up early to get to their next destination. You have to look very carefully and closely to see our little boat in this photo… magnificently remote and expansive… full of cougars and bears. But the beaches….
The kids want to go to the beach. I was warned by some experienced people in Tofino: “Do not let your kids go off on their own on the beach. The cougars wouldn’t try to get you, but if your little ones are on their own, they’re just the right size to get scooped up.” I don’t have a gun like Cougar Annie did… I don’t feel entirely comfortable here… The open ocean is suddenly feeling like a remarkably safe place now… “ok – to the beach” I announce after a 10 hour marathon of playmobil in the cabin (new level of cabin fever).
As we got close to the beach Nel announced it was her turn to get off first. Fine. She did a great job getting the bow line organized and then stepped off onto the sand. “wow Mummy, my feet are going down!” laughter and amazement… “Mummy I can’t move my feet!” laughter stops…. “what?!?” I step off, and it was the most surprising thing – foamy sand that behaved like quicksand. “Great, afraid of cougars and bears but what got them in the end was the quicksand!” runs through my mind… As it happened, it was only foamy for about 5 inches, then there was something solid – resistance of some kind, we wouldn’t be consumed by this place after all…
The kids had a great time racing around the beach au naturel laughing and giggling and having a fantastic time. Everything was wonderful, until suddenly it wasn’t. “Mummy, my foot’s bleeding.” says Liam calmly as he sits on the side of the dinghy to show me… a huge cut on his foot dripping with blood and also caked with sand. There must have been a sharp shell just beneath the surface of the foamy sand that cut him while he was running around… cougars aren’t like sharks, are they? drawn in my the smell of blood? Alright kids, back to the boat. First aid was easier on the boat than on the beach. Liam was so keen to get back to the beach where there was warm water for swimming that we created this special boot for him that would keep his foot clean and dry while allowing him to swim, run and generally have fun on the beach. This foamy sand was very good at hiding those little sharp shells… It wasn’t long before Neli got a cut on her foot too. Both cuts, with cleaning, antibiotic ointment, bandaids, and time healed well and didn’t stop them or slow them down at all.
I had to see Cougar Annie’s Garden… this place was so full of mystery and dangers (real and imagined). I had to see where this strong woman survived here for so long. The guide book was a bit vague… but on the second try we found the road that lead to the beginning of the property.
OK. So we went back to the beach to try to find someone. Nobody around… NO ONE!
Alright, so this shouldn’t be a huge stumper, right? So we went back to just show ourselves around. But wait, then there’s this:
It was so strange to realize that there really was on one here. Even the one person who might have been here was gone… and now we were being told that we weren’t allowed to see the one place that had drawn us up to this remote wilderness. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t forgo the opportunity while Pete on the other hand is so passionately rule abiding that he patiently waited for me to go quickly in, snap spme photos and then come quickly out again. Surely if we couldn’t find anyone around to ask permission, there wouldn’t be anyone around from whom we’d have to ask forgiveness… right? Truth be told, I do feel a bit guilty, but only a bit.
We left the dock in Victoria in the morning of June 21st. We were on our way to Ucluelet to meet up with the other Bluewater Cruising Association members who would be participating in the annual Vancouver Island Cruising Experience (VICE) which this year was meeting in Ucluelet to the head offshore to a waypoint 150 miles and then we would meet up again afterward in Bamfield.
The Bluewater Cruising Association has been a wonderful resource for us this past year. We have really benefited from the many people who have so openly shared their wisdom, experience and friendship as we’ve been preparing for this new lifestyle of bluewater sailing. Once in Ucluelet it was wonderful to pull into the dock and get hugs and welcoming that one would expect at a reunion or homecoming. The next day was spent getting our radio communications in order and some last minute provisioning and stowing. The group agreed to leave the dock at 7:30am the next day. There was no way we could get up and going that early. Clearly we were the only ones in the group on “family time” so we ended up leaving the dock at 10am. No problem. We initiated the first roll call on the VHF and managed to connect with half of the boats.
The first day out was the rockiest and most uncomfortable. La Perouse bank is shallow and subsequently the ocean swell that reaches it just gets piled up and lumpy… and in addition to that the wind was from the south which is unusual so there was a cross sea pattern as well… bumpity bump bump! I got bruises on my hips from getting thrown around the cabin as I tried to get anywhere. The simplest of tasks became so incredibly energy intensive. Poor little Nel could barely keep herself seated on the toilet (of all places) given how rolly the boat was at that time. It was also amazing to realize how many items we had thought we really needed that now, given how the boat was moving, turned out to just become annoying things in the way that we wished we never had. So quickly did the bonds of attachment break!
That night I barely slept at all while Pete took the first night watch. Our Monitor windvane (“Monty”) worked wonderfully! What a pleasant surprise and heartfelt wonder! I came on watch at 3am. Things had started to settle down by then. The AIS receiver was also a wonderful help as it gives you so much useful information while crossing the busy shipping lanes near the busy entrance of the Straight of Juan de Fuca serving the busy ports of Vancouver and Seattle. All those items that we all own that are made in China likely originate their journey in North America here!
The second day and night were better. We had all realized how we needed to move around the boat to minimize bruises and falls. The aft cabin turned into a catch all for all the detritus that had found its way onto the floor and was such a safety hazard. That night Pete let me sleep in til 5am before handing over the watch. At this point the wind became lighter and we had made it to the 110 nautical mile mark. We had to make a decision. To carry on would mean adding another day to our trip. We were only averaging 5 knots… We made the decision to turn around and head back to land. We sailed for quite a while but then when about 40 miles from Bamfield decided to just get on with getting in there! As it was we would arrive at 1am that 3rd night. The fog stayed away (thankfully) and we made it in without any event up until we were just about to drop the anchor… we ended up hitting what we would later learn was a part of a roof floating half submerged under the water. No damage done, just a loud bang! to welcome us to Bamfield.
The next morning we met up the crews of Falcon VII and also with Seadra. Papillon II had to get underway before we were able to meet up with them there. Kialoa would arrive in a few days and Woodwind I decided to head back to the Gulf Islands. It was great to share a meal with Falcon VII and Kialoa after a few days of clearing the boat out and getting rid of the items that had gotten in the way offshore. The Bamfield “Sharing Shed” graciously received all these items and hopefully some people of Bamfield will find them useful. We found Brady’s Beach to be a very magical place and enjoyed it for days!!!
After Bamfield we went into the Broken Group (Pacific Rim National Park). Effingham Bay was the first anchorage we pulled into. We explored some f the small islands and the kids loved finding various treasures that we could then identify with the books back on the boat. We then went to Joe’s Bay anchorage and enjoyed the campsite where we roasted wieners and marshmallows one evening. The other islands around Turtle Island were captivating – the kids developed a “bush house” that was kind of like a tree house but in the middle of a stand of bushes and small trees that had different rooms and spaces – they played in there for hours and hours. The only mishap here was leaving the dinghy for too long without checking on it. When it was time to leave the tide had receded and the dinghy was up on some barnacle covered rocks about 4 ft up from the sea…. Luckily I had the tandem kayak so all just got on the kayak and I went back for the dinghy at high water around midnight that night – no harm done.
Our plan once the VICE was over was to stay on the west coast of the island and get more ocean sailing in to then be better able to decide if we were ready (or wanting) to carry on with a trip to Mexico in the Fall. At this point we’re sticking with the plan. We are still in the process of testing ourselves and the boat. The inner journey involved with our plan was not completely anticipated… There are a lot of mind games that can (and do!) play tricks on ourselves and one’s partner…
We’re in calm water now, but in our minds there’s a bit of a jostling happening. More on that next time.
A year and a half ago we sold the 3 bedroom farmhouse on 24 acres in southeast Ontario, sold most of our possessions and traveled west. Once in beautiful Victoria, BC we rented a furnished suite and begin boat hunting. We decided on the gorgeous Riki Tiki Tavi located in Sidney, BC. We moved aboard in August 2012. We became members of the Bluewater Cruising Association, took many courses and have been busy getting organized to cast off from where we’ve been since mid October 2012. The date is set = June 21. And so now we get to the dirty business of actually doing it – sailing away and cruising the world. We’re pretty nervous now… and excited too 🙂