Pacific Shakedown – Karin’s Perspective
Tony and I returned yesterday from our week long sailing trip on Mayaluga to Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Really glad that I didn’t know at the beginning of the trip how it would end. More about that later. I’d like to blog about what I learned during this trip….about myself, Tony, sailing and this place we call home. (I have a video to post along with some interesting observations about waste and sailing but these will have to wait til another day).
Home, Coastal British Columbia, is really beautiful and worth protecting. I guess this isn’t something that I learned but it was really reinforced during this sailing trip. The view from Juan de Fuca Strait depicts a pristine environment, green, watery, teaming with wildlife. We saw Harbour Porpoise (the shy ones) Harbour Seals, Stellar Sealions, and many sea birds. On two occasions we were blessed to experience whale sightings – humpbacks on both occasions. And, close to Mayaluga, really close, as in 20-30 feet. The second time, during the night out in the Pacific Ocean in calm seas, one surfaced right beside the cockpit swimming in our direction. The sound of the blow was such a surprise catching both Tony and I off guard. A sound we so commonly associate with coastal BC and a species that we hold in such high esteem. This is not a part of the world that should be monkeyed with particularly when it comes to oil tankers. Bamfield, like many other coastal communities, would cease to exist should there be an oil spill. Their whole existence depends on a clean environment – fishing, it is home to one of the ends of the West Coast Trail bringing many tourists each year, not to mention the Lady Rose coming in from Port Alberni and the multitude of paddling trips in the Broken Islands, a few miles from Bamfield.
I have known for sometime that not only does Tony love sailing, he is an extremely competent sailor and that was really obvious this trip. He is always so conscious of safety and takes his role as skipper very seriously – always. After leaving Bamfield, we anchored out in Dodger Channel which runs beside Diana Island. (The carcass of a humpback whale was on the shore, apparently towed in by DFO after being hit by a ship. Not sure why they selected that spot but it might have had something to do with the fact that Bamfield is home to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre www.bamfieldmsc.com). We motored around for quite some time in this very small anchorage looking for just the perfect spot to “drop the hook”. I must admit, I said on more than one occasion that I thought this place should be fine – maybe getting just a bit impatient. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful afternoon, and what I really wanted to do was sit out on the bow of the boat with a cold beer. It was a very calm afternoon, a bit of wind but nothing much to speak of. Lets get on with it, I thought. Boy, was I wrong. That night it blew and blew hard. Our 120 feet of achor chain was good to have down. Even with that much chain and a very precise anchoring protocol, we both lay awake during part of the night wondering whether Mayaluga would lose her grasp and possibly drift onto the nearby rocks. She stuck due to Tony’s diligence, skills and attention to safety and detail. We lived to sail another day! J Another thing that I came to appreciate more deeply about Tony is his care and love for me. He pushed himself to the limit to make sure that I wasn’t. Gosh I love this man and am so grateful that he loves me.
Sailing can go from really quiet to really exciting, sometimes a bit scary, really fast. Most of my sailing experience during the past few years has been day sails with stops overnight at anchor or on a dock. Overnight sailing is different. It is really a means to an end – to get to your location more quickly or because there is nowhere to stop enroute. Its tiring. It made me feel really lethargic, tired, not really wanting to do more than was absolutely necessary. This is so unlike me. Typically I lead a very busy life, on the go getting up to something. It felt like, since the future was really unpredictable, I just needed to do as little as possible to preserve myself for any possible unexpected demands. It made me contemplate, during our big sail to New Zealand, how was I going to stay productive? I have lots of things on my to-do list – movie making, writing, food preparation, research. Maybe I will have to be more regimented, more strict with my own time and schedule? Or will that even be possible? Maybe we need more crew during long passages especially since my sailing skills are so weak compared to Tony’s. During this trip, this was really apparent during two long nights where Tony spent most of the time awake and manning the boat because Mayaluga’s needs far exceeded by abilities. I felt useless but so tired that I didn’t argue much about climbing into the quarter berth and sleeping. I need to up my sailing skills between now and May 2016, our departure date for New Zealand.
This trip to Bamfield and back provided the whole gamut of sailing possibilities, most of which I had experienced before. Cold, windy sailing, lovely warm sunny sailing, calm wind sailing, brisk wind sailing, anchoring out, docking, and trip provisioning, . None of this came as a surprise and I felt comfortable and prepared for all of these things. Experience has prepared me well, or so I thought. That was until we were heading back to Victoria and just off of Sooke. That’s when everything changed. The wind and sea was calm, so I decided to have a quick shower before we arrived home. Good thing that I didn’t wait 30 minutes to make that decision. With all sails up and main and jib out quite far to the port side, Mayaluga was suddenly hit with very strong winds from the west. No warning. Mayaluga went from sailing flat to heeling at least 30 degrees. In that moment I felt fear for the first time during our trip. We turned the boat into the wind. While I tailed the port genoa sheet, Tony furled the sail with great difficulty. The wind was so strong that it took the starboard sheet around to the port side and tangled the two. No time to worry about that now. As I held Mayaluga into the wind, Tony snapped his harness to the Jack lines and went forward to reef the main. I stared at the wind vane to make sure that I didn’t allow Mayaluga to turn. It could have meant a jibe – the boom could have come across and hit Tony. Tony, being the star he is, put 3 reefs in the main and made his way safely back to the cockpit. Turing back into the wind, things were more settled but my heart was pounding. Besides a tug and a tanker, we were the only vessel on the strait that I could see. Next obstacle was Race Passage. We started the engine just in case. Standing waves and whirlpools on the Victoria side. Success number two. I thought we would be home free now but I was being premature. Little did we know that we were heading home during the worst wind storm that Victoria has seen since 2006. As we sailed closer to the Inner Harbour, the wind and water just got worse. Some reported winds of 59 knots, or almost 100 km. Tony estimated at least 50 knots. To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have maximum sustained winds of at least 64 knots! He suggested that I take the wheel to see what these conditions felt like. The water and wind exibited such force that our 34,000 lb sailing ship was pushed sideways like a toy boat. It was impossible to stay on course to the inner harbour, having to correct virtually all of the time. We were caught on the Odgen Point webcam. I kept my cool. Actually, after the 30 degree heel, it all felt pretty OK (although when we tied up back at our own dock, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed). I’m glad that I didn’t know this was how our trip was going to end but I am really happy now that we had this experience, especially since Tony was my skipper. I learned that I can cope under circumstances far more intense than I had imagined. This is a good thing and something that I think will serve me well in the future, especially during our travels offshore.
One last thing, Mayaluga is a fine vessel. She is the only boat I want to sail offshore on!