Saturday, August 25, 2007

Discovery Islands Day One

Once the gear was dried out from my wet trip in the Gulf Islands, I still had a handful of days before I was called back to the 'job.' Diana and I loaded up all the food and tent etc, again, and this time included her kayak so she too could have the satisfaction of self propelling her way through passages and crossings. The trip is much more intense if you put some effort into it!

We caught the ferry to Quadra and drove across the island to launch at Rebecca Spit. Once the boats were in the water and all our gear on the beach, I drove the car to the storage compound at a near-by campground. Great hosts!

I walked the road back to the boats and got all the gear back into the storage tanks, sails up and rigged. We had a little crowd waiting to see us off. Despite the lack of any real breeze, I raised the sails to allow the photo opportunity then put them to bed and spent the rest of the day rowing! I followed Diana out and around the point then we headed off for the tiny Breton Islands. Waters were calm and it was easy to talk across the few metres between us. It was wonderfully exciting to be back on the water, setting out on another adventure, but this time, I had someone to share it with and that makes it better yet!

We stopped for lunch on the first of the Bretons and met a few kayakers out for a day paddle.

Once we left that rocky shore, we passed a group of seals basking on some exposed rocks, then made the long crossing to the 'bottom' of Read Island, at Viner Point. There we stopped for a rest and a change of crew positions. Diana's wrists and shoulder were seizing up, so she moved to the stern of my boat and we tied her kayak to follow on behind! I was pleased that this extra weight and drag didn't seem to increase my load, but I didn't have the GPS on to give me any idea of the changed speed.

Along the coast of this island, we saw one of the whale-watching boats approach, pass us by, then stop further along for a few minutes. He motored, then paused a few times but it never dawned on me that they might be watching a whale. Not until the whale surfaced a short distance away from us! The orca was travelling solo and he was a big one! Giant dorsal fin and a great spray of breathing! By the time I was able to grab my camera, he was quite a distance, but I took a short video anyway. Watch for the tiny (very tiny) bit of spray in the center of the frame.

Hours later, we arrived at Evan's Bay. The campsite I used years ago looked pretty rustic and inaccessible. I rowed us back to the main beach where there seemed to be a large party of campers. Turns out they were locals and just using the beach to do some work on an aluminum skiff! They were very welcoming and showed us the tent site, where the fire circle was, how to find the out house etc. Told us to make ourselves at home and they would be on their way after an hour or so of noise making. True to their word, as we ate our supper on the beach, the generator stopped and all the gear was tossed onto the old truck while the skiff motored off too.

The first photo at the top of this entry shows our approach to the Breton Islands. The second shows the boats pulled up at our rest stop at Viner Point. The third photo is me, resting my tired arms after that long crossing.

This is the video I mentioned above.

Discovery Islands Day Two

Last night's sleep was great! No rain and no bugs in the tent. Sure, the tent was on a bit of a slope, but it was even and stoneless! We had time for an egg-on-toast with fresh coffee breakfast and after a clean-up, set off for a day trip of exploring in the Walkabout only. Our goal was to have lunch in VonDonop Inlet, across Sutil Channel. Ripples on the water promised to make it an easy sailing trip and I was very happy with that! Once I had the sails up we tacked our way out of Evan's Bay, crossing paths with a couple of sailboats; one an older wood boat with a wood mast. Hull shaped like a Friendship Sloop. Before I could tell the skipper that I liked the look of his boat, he paid me that compliment!

The winds lasted until we got well into the channel, but nowhere near our goal. I set up the oars after dousing the sails and began the long haul to VonDonop. It was a beautiful, but hot day. I counted the strokes in sets of sixty, as each one of those sets clicked another tenth of a mile off the GPS. I tried singing, but ran out of songs with the same rhythm as I was pulling.

Finally the wind picked up again as we were just outside the Inlet. I raised sails and let it take us nearly to the top. Glorious rest.

We had lunch in a tiny cove with warm water, then when the tide was drowning our little island, returned to the boat and the long pull against the wind and the flooding tide. This turned out to be a very long trip without a breath of wind to even cool my sweaty face. We arrived back at our campsite at nearly suppertime. Total distance travelled today was close to 12 nautical, with maybe four of those under sail.
Pictures at the top of this entry are of some of the Penn Islets and a view of one of the banks on our way into VonDonop.

Evans Bay Back To Rebecca Spit

This was the third and last day of our short trip into this set of islands. I woke a bit later than usual knowing there was no rush. But, when I walked out of the trees, I saw the wind had blown the boat too close to the shore when the tide was ebbing. I called for Diana to help then walked over the large stones to lever the boat back into the water. Thankfully we had only a few feet to go. I used a few chunks of driftwood as pivots and we 'walked' the boat back to the sea. Sounds simple, but she weighed over two hundred pounds empty! After a half hour of struggle and a few cuts from the barnacles, we had earned our coffee on the shore.

The marine forecast predicted winds to remain from the north until about noon, then calm. We decided to pack up and try to catch that wind to avoid having to paddle and row any great distances after yesterday's long stretch of rowing. I thought my boat could easily sail the two of us and pull Diana's kayak, so we set out with that arrangement.

Once we got launched and felt the wind pushing us toward the mouth of the bay, I raised sails, but found our struggles with the grounding had dislodged the rudder from its position. A few minutes of lying on the rear deck and using my fist to drive it back onto the pins and we were in action!!! The wind blew us out of the bay and towards home, but slowly lost its vigor. After an hour or so, it was no longer much wave action. It didn't take much coaxing to unearth the stove and brew us a second pot of coffee and find a snack or two.

Our optimism faded with the last of the breeze. Back to the rowing station after the sails were furled. My muscles were not happy as the extra drag of the kayak wandering back and forth slowed us to about half my solo speed. I pulled into Twin Bay to let Diana climb back into her kayak, then we rowed/paddled our boats back into Sutil Channel for the long trip home.

Great news greeted us once we cleared Viner Point and felt the breezes. We thought it was best to not toy with the wind diva by having Diana move back to a sail-rigged boat. Instead I tied her throw-line between us and raised my sails. Oh Joy! The wind was on the beam and with enough force to pull us along at a speed of about 2.5 knots! Perfect! That wind increased a bit once we entered Drew Harbour on Quadra Island. I set the kayak free then had to let the Walkabout have some playtime! I tacked up the harbour with three long runs, arriving long after Diana, but with a big grin!
The pictures at the top of this entry show first, my favourite kind of view with receding islands and overlapping passes that invite the eye and the explorer to come and see what is just beyond. Second is a picture of the Walkabout 'mother ship' taken from the kayak, being towed back to the launch. Third picture is a beautiful rock face in Twin Bay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gulf Islands adventure Day 3

Sunday, August 19. It rained through the night. While the real rain rattled on the water and tent, all the moisture from my damp gear condensed on the underside of the poly tarp and rained back down on me too. The sewn-seam leaked badly, soaking the foot of the sleeping bag. Every now and again, a drop would land on my face, waking me abruptly! I'd sit up, take the sponge and wipe down the inside of the tent, shake loose the drops I'd missed then try to go back to sleep.
About 7:00, I was swaddled in wet clothes and a damp sleeping bag. I worried about the continuing rain and could not get a forecast for other than wind conditions. I doubted I could keep warm during the rainy day and even if I could, the next night in wet gear would not be safe. I phoned Diana and asked for a long-term rain forecast. That prediction said rain for that day and the following two. I made the decision to rug up and row to the launch ramp at Chemainus.
For the next hour and a half, I studied the chart, ate a hearty breakfast and packed all my wet gear. Once I removed the tent and rolled it up, the rain seemed to increase. I felt foolish as I rowed past the stares of the yachties, despite being as well prepared as I could be. One old man stepped out onto his deck and chatted about the old days. Days when he made his living working on the water in the rain. He saluted me with his coffee cup and I felt better; stronger.
No wind again, and just as well, as I was counting on the rowing to keep me warm. I crossed Houstoun Passage, keeping my eye out for big boats. One of them came dangerously close and as it approached, I stopped my rowing and even backed up a few strokes. There was no one at the helm.
Once I passed the top of Saltspring Island, the sun came out and a light breeze followed. I raised my sails, then had the bright idea of unpacking the sleeping bag and draping it over my chilly legs like some old man on a cruise liner. It would help dry the bag as well as warm me up! It was luxury itself to lie back and let the breeze take me along for awhile. But it was a short while. Back to the oars.
I rowed a total of 6 miles that day, but it was enough!
Though the trip was about half the length I'd planned, I was thrilled with the time I had! The boat is wonderful. My old body is able to row for some distances. The scenery is amazing. My support crew is just that - great support! What more could a man ask for?

Gulf Islands adventure Day 2

Weather forecast this morning said no wind, but suggested rain. So. I thought I'd go for a day trip. I left Pirate's Cove about 8:00, rowing past the waking yachts, trying to read their thoughts as I slipped by in my tiny rowing boat. I rowed a direct line for the cliffs of Valdes Island. They are stunning and I must send you to this link to view them:

I was so happy and thankful for being there. I was in the perfect boat for this adventure. I felt strong and was given the gift of contentment. All very spiritual. I rowed along those walls for about 2 miles before they became less steep and trees were able to grow down to the water's edge.

I paused for a bite and some juice at Blackberry Point. There I found three groups of kayakers, and none of them in any hurry to start their day. The beach was made of broken shells and about as long as a city block. Lots of room for more lounging paddlers.

The bottom photo attached was taken at that point. Once again there was lots of interest in the boat, but instead of amazement at my being on the water in such a tiny boat (typical reaction from skippers of the giant yachts) I was greeted with the respect of beginners in small boats. Some jealousy for the amount of gear, and stability as well as the sails too. When they asked where I was headed, I casually waved towards the south-west and said, "It doesn't matter." They gave me the look reserved for great and fearless explorers.

Truth was, I didn't know where I was headed. I just knew there was little point in going back to the mosquitoes and I had my campsite right with me! I rowed in the direction of Reid Island and crossed back across Trincomali Channel. No wind, but rowing was fine. Once I passed the north end of that island, I checked the GPS and found I'd entered the wrong data for the nearest provincial marine park. I 'd have to start paying attention again to where I was. The wind came up and I gratefully raised sails. After about fifty metres, the wind changed to rain! DANG! The rain poncho kept me dry enough as I doused the sails and continued to row. By this time, my hands were getting very tired from the constant gripping of the oars, trying to keep the blades properly oriented to the water. As my hands tired, the approaching wakes seemed to more seriously throw off my stroking. Beautiful and rugged shorelines with very handsome houses all along. But I was worried about taking the camera out of its tunnel home beside the tiller and exposing it to the rain. That rain paused for a few moments just as I was rowing between the shoreline of Wallace Island and a ridge of rock just offshore. Like the spine of some giant sea creature! That would be the top picture posted above.

I arrived at Conover Cove mid afternoon, after rowing off and on for about seven hours. The GPS said I'd rowed about 12 nautical miles (straight line) but my scenic detours must have added another three. I tied up at the dinghy dock and went for a walk. Oh yes, the rain returned. A link to information about the park is here: A year ago, I read the account of the man who owned the resort here during the fifties and it was eerily satisfying to walk among the old cabins.

Once again, I anchored in the solitude of a tiny cove. I'd done my day's exercise so after a late supper and boat organizing, off to sleep!

Gulf Islands adventure Day 1

Diana and I drove from Comox this morning to the launch ramp at Cedar. I didn't check the launch time, I was so excited!!! I launched the same time as a large group of novice kayakers. All of us bound for the provincial marine park at Pirate's Cove on de Courcy Island. I was sure I would get there long before they and I was confident I would get a prime campsite. But they ignored the stunning scenery and paddled a straight line for the park while I mooched around the rocks then found some delightful wind and went to play in that! For some sailing action, check this: I also ran through a couple of heavy rain areas, and I sat there at the tiller in my soggy fleece and water-proof maps draped over my knees!

The boat handled the wind and water beautifully, including some huge wakes from passing yachts. The day's distance, mostly sailed was about four nautical miles.

I arrived far too late to get any campsite but was happy to spend the first night within the walls of the new boat tent! Leave the kayakers to feed the billions of mosquitoes! A link to the park's site for more information is here:

It was a great sleep in a quiet cove, far from the generators on the 'real' boats. The tent worked perfectly, with no condensation but lots of fresh air!

The pictures and video with this post were taken with a new treasure from Diana. So, I sat in the tent she sewed, grateful for her generosity.

Monday, August 06, 2007

wonderful conditions

Last Friday evening, Aug 3, was one of those rare occurrences of high tide, nice winds and my being free to go sailing. I launched at the Ken Forde ramp south of Campbell River just after supper. I saw that the flags in the area were blowing on-shore and there were no white caps to worry about. After I launched, I rowed out into the strait and raised the sails. The wind seemed to have died despite the flags still being blown inland. A few minutes of lazily drifting about and the wind increased to about ten knots. Stayed at that strength for the next hour and a half! Wonderful sailing toward Quadra Island until the tides carried me down island, then I could tack back and forth until I was upstream of the ramp then sail back out for another run down island. I was so pleased with the boat. She easily tacked and sailed with so little heeling that I was able to sit on the floor of the boat for most of the evening. In the last half-hour, the wind increased and I sat on the benches but was not tempted to put in a reef! I took the boat out of the water as the sun was thinking of setting and I was dreaming of longer trips.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rowing on the ocean

Yesterday, There was a rare occasion when the tide was high enough to use the launch ramp South of Campbell River. This ramp is out of the main tidal rush between Vancouver Island and Quadra Island. I saw the flags were promising sailing winds too, so I launched with great anticipation. Once I was in the water, I raised the sails and wondered where the wind had gone? I slowly drifted in the back eddies of the tidal flow until I gave up on the idea of sailing. I thought I would instead, treat the people walking on the Sea-Walk to the sight of a beautiful boat being expertly rowed against the tide. I furled the main, raised the rudder and the dagger board.

I worked on my technique and vainly tried to keep the boat going in a straight line, despite the cross currents. I was in shallow enough water that I could see that I was making progress and could see from my wake that I was really moving in relation to the water. Now and again I gasped as I glided over some boulders. I lasted for a half hour then paused for a water break. I let the tide move me back south then turned the boat and rowed out to where I thought I saw windy water. Found it was tidal turbulence and had a few minutes of rowing in a choppy river. Twenty minutes brought me back to the ramp. Despite it being as calm as the lake, it was great to be on 'big water' as it added to my confidence.

Small Improvements

It has always bothered me that the oars have no place to go when I am sailing. I think I have found an answer that is useful for most of the conditions I will be sailing in. When it gets really nasty, I may be in trouble.

I made a keeper strap with a loop at one end that slides over the handle of the oar. The other end has an 8 oz. fishing weight. When the oars are being used, this strap and weight slide up the handle and rest against the oar lock. When I am not using the oars, I slide the handle of the oar toward the bow of the boat and once there, slide the weighted strap up the handle too. The weight stays inside the boat countering the handle of the oar on the other side of the gunnel.

I have used this system for quite a few of my trips ad have had no problems. I find it is wonderful to have the oars already in place when I need them. Saves a few seconds of reinstalling them in the oar locks, and frees up the floor space as well as the side seats.

Second thing is the installation of a handful of the lashing hooks on the foreward side of bulkhead number two. We sewed up some 'restraints' to keep the gear stored under the deck from wandering around in rough weather and washing away if I do ever swamp or roll the boat. I used pieces of the tarp left over from the tent experiments.

Another Inversion Test

July 24, Diana and I took the boat back to McIvor for the afternoon. There was very little wind, so we lazed around trying to ignore the very loud motor boats and their annoying wakes. Instead of going to the shady swimming beach, I thought we might try tipping the boat over again. Once we returned to the launch ramp area and set all the gear ashore, I swam the boat with Diana aboard into deeper water. I left all sails up.
She stayed on the high-side while I pulled on the topping lift. It took much more effort to capsize the boat with the extra counter weight. Once the sails hit the water, they stayed afloat for a few seconds then settled into the water. I then saw that we were still too shallow as the boat came to rest at an angle instead of turtled. I swam around to the backside of the hull and grabbed the dagger board, leaning back with all my weight on the rub rail. I was not able to right it. Turns out that the mast had impaled the muddy bottom and I presume, worked its way into it. Diana had to help lift the mast, and once it was freed, the boat slowly came upright.
Once it was on its feet, I saw it had taken much more water aboard too. I wonder why. I was able to pull myself over the side, noting the gunnel went under water, but the air tanks on that side gave enough buoyancy to allow me to pull myself in. When I was in the boat, the water was above the seat tops, but the boat did not feel like it was in danger of going over again. If I had dumped it out in big winds and waves, I would have been very fearful. See then if my tiny brain can remember to bail as much as I can before getting back into the boat, and set the mizzen to keep me pointing into the wind and waves. Drop the mainsail.
Took quite awhile to bail the boat out, and by then it was too late in the day to try it again in deeper water. Next time. Final reminder of being too shallow came when I took down the main mast and a great muddy blob of mud hit the deck. At first I thought I was in the flight path of some enormous gull!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Sail

The wind is strong today, and the weather site says it is still around 20 knots. I thought it was the perfect time to go to the lake and try out some of the high-wind skills. I made a few mistakes, but nothing serious. First mistake was in leaving the camera in the car. More about that later. Second mistake was in not reefing at the launch ramp.
I rowed out into the big winds then dropped the dagger board, cinched down the rudder and set the mizzen sail. The winds were blowing me onshore, so I had to row out into the lake again and raise the sail. I got it set just fine, but it was the full sail and again no room to pause and reef. As it turned out, the boat handled the full sail very well, scooting along without too much heeling. If I were braver, I may have left the full sail up.
I sailed up the lake to find some sea room then put in one reef. I was able to take my time with it as the boat was stable and drifting slowly back down the lake. Once that reef was in, the boat seemed to go faster? Can that be? Certainly sat up straighter and I was not at all spooked by the gusts! Great sailing back and forth until I waited until I was too close to the trees to come about, so I jibed and headed down-wind for a bit. It was then that I saw a disabled motor-boat trying to cross the lake, back to the launch ramp. The wind was on their beam and was sure to blow them far down the lake, past their ramp. I sailed close by and asked if they needed help. The skipper, stroking with a conoe paddle shook his head, but the two women on board nodded vigorously! So, one more tack and I was along side where they hooked their line to my stern cleat. I tightened the sheets and steered up-wind of the ramp and slowly towed them back to their truck. It was then that I regretted not having my camera! Who will believe me now?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Inversion test

It has been awhile since my last post, but I had not done anything significant in the past weeks. I have taken the boat to the local lake for some sailing and swimming, but nothing worth reporting. I now have the opportunity to do some longer trips in the next few weeks and realize that I have never dumped then rescued the boat. So, yesterday after a nice rowing session, I put on my old paddling wet suit and did it! I first emptied the boat of everything, tied an empty four litre jug to the top of the mast then, while in the water, pulled on the halliard until the boat came over. I saw the mast would have kept on going under water, so I was glad I had tied on the jug as well as tied the mast to the boat. I was able to walk away from the boat and grab my camera for the above shots too. It took no effort at all to push the mast back into the air and once it was clear of the water, the boat righted itself. The water in the boat was not up to the top of the benches. I pulled the boat over again, but noticed it took more effort to pull it over when it was full of water. Curious. I thought it would be less stable. This time, I righted the boat by pulling down on the exposed dagger-board. Hardly any effort needed again. Repeated the test with the dagger-board on the high-side of the upturned boat. I had to reach higher, but certainly not a problem.
Once the boat was carrying all that water, I pulled down on the gunnel and easily pulled myself over the side. With all my weight on the edge, I still could not pull the gunnel under water, but it came low enough to allow me to pull myself into the boat. I could sit on one side of the swamped boat and still have a few inches of freeboard. The boat holds a lot of water and would have been impossible to empty with my kayak pump, so I used a bucket.
I dragged the boat onto the beach and opened the hatches to the water-tight tanks. I was very disappointed to see how much water had seeped into every one. I brought it home and have it hanging one its side. I used the garden hose to fill the tanks and could see the water on its way out. Today I shall seal with epoxy the few areas and the funny corners that I missed before.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Another step in the life of the Walkabout! Diana and I just returned from an overnight trip to the Provincial Marine Park, Sandy Island. The weather was sunny and hot, winds on the way over were about ten knots. On the trip over, there was a lot of chop that slowed us down, causing the boat to lose steerage. We crept too close to a rocky shore, so I rowed for a few minutes to take us away from that shore, into more wind and onto a different tack. The waves made the trip over to the island take twice as long as the return trip this morning.
We took far too much stuff, but it was our first trip camping in many years and I'd forgotten what to leave at home, so I took a lot and packed very inefficiently too. However, the boat swallowed all the gear and left lots of room for lounging too. The large compartments with large hatches took sleeping bags and tent gear while the small hatches along the sides accepted water bottles, fuel bottle, and other smaller things. The huge stuff sacks and back packs stayed under the deck overhang at the bow.
The camping was great and the food and company were splendid too. Wonderful to be alone on such a beautiful island.
The tide dropped drastically between our arrival and departure times. When we landed, I tried to rig up a pulley line on the anchor chain, but the lines got all twisted and I gave up, deciding I'd roll the boat on fenders when we were ready to leave. I woke up at 3:30 this morning, determined to try again, recalling how much trouble we had rolling an EMPTY boat. So, in first light, I straightened all the lines, replaced the anchor and chain on the boat, rowed out about 100' then tossed the anchor overboard. Once I rowed back to shore, the pulley system worked very well, towing the boat out into deeper water! During the morning, we had to repeat the exercise twice as the tide retreated laterally about a hundred yards! It was a long haul of supplies and I was glad I crawled out of the warm sleeping bag to move the boat when I did!
The trip back was speedier though the winds were lighter, but we were still passed by a kayaker. No loss of face as we were touring and he was training!
Lunch was on an ocean-side sand dune about a mile from the launch ramp. Our last sail of the trip was speedy as the wind blows stronger in that bay. I played Joe Cool as we entered the crowded marina under sail and threaded our way to the ramp!