Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Final Leg Home

Sep 13: We wake up to a beautiful sunny day with a good forecast for the crossing of the Strait of Georgia on our way back to Vancouver Island. For the first time in a while now, we enjoy our breakfast outside and afterwards have fun videotaping Karolina explaining all of our safety gear including her getting into an immersion suit. With the military torpedo testing area Whisky-Golf closed today for practice I pick a route straight across to Nanaimo with light westerly winds allowing me to motor-sail at a good pace. Karolina enjoys the sun and the very calm Strait of Georgia by giving herself a pedicure in the cockpit which includes soaking half a foot at a time in a bowl of warm water and spilling nail polish-remover on the floor. Luckily the remover is acetone-free but as penalty I send her to the bow to watch for shipping traffic. As she falls asleep wrapped in her sleeping bag, I try again to fish for salmon while the auto pilot keeps us pointed towards Nanaimo. Nine hours, lots of sun, and many pictures later we reach New Castle Island, a beautiful park across the water from downtown Nanaimo. Fall has clearly arrived as we notice on the trees strolling across the island. We also run into a group of deer grazing as the sun set. Not being able to find any loonies for a shower we go to sleep mutually smelly but knowing that home and unlimited hot water is just around the corner. Distance: 38 nm.

Sep. 14: Dodds Narrows hits slack at a convenient time in the morning and we motor through the tamed narrow passage leading into the Gulf Islands with another twenty boats or so in front of us and following behind. I’m having trouble getting used to this amount of boat traffic on the water, and every boater seems to annoy me as I’m feeling possessive about the mile long radius of sea room around me. This left over feeling from up north of endless free space will have to abandon me soon or I might have issues being around crowds. Our options for today are Galiano Island which is close by, or Saltspring Island bit further, or something even closer to home. But the decision is quickly made for me as the engine unexpectedly starts smoking out the exhaust a bit more than usual. The blue smoke comes and goes but checking the oil level I notice it’s low, and after noticing that I have no more spare oil to add, the decision is made to head to Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. The weather on the island is great. Karolina claims it’s the warmest day we’ve had and I decide we spend the night here. We park at the dock within the marine park and explore the island, enjoying the sun tanning on a beautiful white maiden beach, getting ice cream and looking for oil for the engine. After finding out that all restaurants are closed we return to the boat and Karolina prepares a great meal, our classic of ginger and mango with rice, while I setup the hammock that I got in Peru in the boats rigging. We enjoy our dinner outside with the last bottle of wine while taking turns to swing in the hammock. We are a bit sad knowing that this could be our last evening of the trip, that is, unless the engine has more surprises for us. Distance: 30 nm.

Sep 15: Maybe we wished too hard for this trip not to be over, but this morning while I was performing a final check of the engine and all its fluids before departure, I discovered that what should be green was now brown – a very bad thing – we had oil in the coolant. Worried, I called my “land crew mechanic”, my Dad, who verified my concern with his car mechanic that the head-gasket in the engine was blown. After motoring a huge chunk of the 2600 kilometres of this trip, and only a day away from home, the engine had it. But all was not lost, as the mechanic advised that I could slowly motor while keeping an eye on the oil level. So under dark cloudy skies and with my nerves slightly on edge we started our final leg home. The weather wasn’t the greatest, with heavy rain coming down at times and a bit of spotty fog. I picked the open water of Haro Strait hoping to catch a bit of wind to help the engine out, and was able to relieve it from its duty for a couple hours of nice sailing in moderate winds despite a downpour. Karolina kept me company hidden out of the rain in the companionway - maybe that’s how the boat entrance/steps got their name. We listened to an audio book on the ipod about truck drivers and their CB radio culture while watching cargo ships in Haro Strait going in and out of the distant fog indicating the busy metropolises of Vancouver and Victoria close by. By 7 pm we were in Oak Bay, with its shores engulfed in thick fog and a dead calm all around without a single vessel on the water. We slowly motored towards the marina careful of the many rocks around and noticed a single figure on the breakwater, it was my Dad photographing us coming in. My Mom was waiting for us at the familiar slip, and like this the trip was over. With joyful embraces, my parents greeting Karolina for the first time in person and my Dad commenting how I hadn’t reached Alaska but caught a Zlota Rybka – a Golden Fish, that grants all wishes.

Sep 16-26: The following days were spent exploring my hometown of Victoria as well as Vancouver on the mainland. Showing Karolina our inner harbour downtown, our float planes the float homes at Fisherman’s wharf, and then taking her over to Vancouver on our ferry and exploring the waterfronts of the city, I realized how large a part our ocean plays in our daily experience. Karolina replied that had she lived here she would naturally enjoy life through a sailboat as well.

Reflections on the trip:

Total distance covered by Corsair on the water: 1400 nautical miles = 2600 km. Average moving speed 4.4 kts. 69 days. Around 600 L of gasoline (hey, moving over 6500 lbs. through the water). 7 days and 760 nm in Alaska by ferry. Strongest wind: 35 kts (65 km/h). Thickest fog: <1/8 nm visibility. Coldest temperature: Just ask Karolina, we didn’t have a thermometer.

In retrospect, I should have called this blog “motoring to Prince Rupert”, nonetheless, witnessing the entire BC Inside Passage from the perspective of my sailboat was amazing, unforgettable, thought provoking and inspiring. And If I could, the trip would be repeated in a heartbeat in a boat with a solid diesel engine, a dodger and a hot-water shower, and of course, the company of Zlota Rybka.

1 comment:

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