Mayday Mayday Mayday

We left Maple Bay 10 days ago heading south into Samsun Narrows when the radio alarm went off.

MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY.  Listening to the details we learned the call was from a boat who had just hit a rock in Samsun Narrows.  Another power boat was near by and able to respond to the distress call.  They were standing by and reporting back to the coast guard on the status of the boat’s occupants.   As we approached a working boat, meaning a fast trawler came whizzing past us, backed up to the boat on the rock and attempted to pull them off the rock.  It appeared the occupants were not hurt, thankfully, and damage to the boat is to be determined.  It was still floating!!

This incident is reminding me when I did the very same thing in Canoe Cove years ago on my 27′ sailboat called Nomad.  I was headed in for a haul out when my engine died.  There are heavy currents and numerous rocks in the area.  I could see them next to my hull but the keel had not touched bottom yet.  I panicked and called MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.   This also brought a working boat to the rescue.  He quickly tied me onto his boat with bumpers and lines forward and aft and towed me away with his powerful engines.

Recently we had a near miss with OMOO.  Our route from Gabriola Pass to Princess Cove took us near Secretary Islands and the Skipper took a little turn to pass Jackscrew Island when his temperature alarm went off for the engine.  This is nothing new, especially when pushing the boat up to 3000 RPM.  He backed off on the throttle and the alarm stopped, but he was leaning over and checking his RPMs and when he looked up the chart plotter was showing rocks below us at 5.9 feet.  Our keel draws 6.5 feet.  The only thing that saved us was high tide.

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These experiences happen to all of us at one time or another.  It’s a constant source of worry when navigating among the Southern Gulf  islands and anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.  If it’s not rocks, it’s logs.  Extreme vigilance and luck are key elements to avoiding catastrophe.   We’ve had many friends whose summer is ruined by some rock sneaking up on them.  The saying among boaters is “there’s those that have hit rocks, and those that are going to.”

The captain on the working boat that came to my rescue was very kind.  When he had me safely tied to the dock he quietly told me, “Mam, when you called Mayday Mayday Mayday, it was really a Pan Pan Pan.”  This means that I was in urgent need of assistance, but not in danger for my life.  I think I panicked and it was the first thing that came to mind.

I’m glad the power boat in Samsun Narrows was rescued quickly and that the occupants were safe.  This also makes me very grateful for the boating community on the water and how we all help each other.   So whoever you are, thanks for the reminder.

The Skipper on OMOO states regularly, “BOATING KEEPS US HUMBLE.”

Canadians are weeping, I am weeping.

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I’m standing on the bow of my floating home, a 43-foot sailboat, ready to haul anchor in the peaceful bay of Port Browning on Pender Island. It’s one week after George Floyd was murdered. I kneel to my task on the bow and lift my head to look beyond the bay to the horizon facing south. The San Juan Islands of Washington State are visible across Boundary Pass. Waldron Island appears out of the mist. Beyond that the islands stretch into Puget Sound and attach themselves to the shores of Snohomish and King Counties and the cities of Tacoma and Seattle.

The country to the south of the Canadian Border stretches to the east, thousands of miles further than the curve of expansive southeast horizon. I have lived within kilometers of this border my whole life. Like my southern neighbors, we are a melting pot of Indigenous generations and descendants of immigrants who came willingly, or unwillingly to a new land and a new life. Simmering beneath the gray sky, the nation to the south has boiled over after decades of trauma, it’s flash point took 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

I crouch on the deck, looking over the anchor roller, watching in the depths of the bay, waiting for the anchor to free itself from the muddy ocean floor as the chain is hauled back over the bow into it’s locker. Kneeling, I’m reminded of the images from the days before, images of the officer kneeling on another man’s neck, stealing his breath away, of images of crowds kneeling in humble protest, waiting for something, anything, to lessen the pain, for something hopeful to tell the children. The thought comes to me, what can we say? What can we do? To say or do nothing seems unthinkable, to post slogans or black out my social media sites soothes the little voice in my conscience momentarily, but accomplishes what?

After the anchor is up, we get underway. I’m sitting at the wheel, motoring around the southern tip of Saturna Island, the closest point in these waters to the Canada-US border. My thoughts continuously drift south, like the current beneath the boat, my mind is pulling and tugging, bigger and stronger than my will to look away, to not think, to not watch. I can’t even try to imagine the level of angst, confusion, and despair my neighbors are living through. Like a pot of simmering ingredients, bubbling, being stirred, swirling, heating up and melting together, there was something meant to be good, something palatable. A calm hand, practiced and attentive, would have reached out and turned down the temperature under this simmering pot, would have prevented the flash point with taking necessary action, would have added necessary ingredients, tested the mixture. But it’s too late. It’s boiled over, it’s messy, it stinks, it putrid, it’s fills the room with its stench, it’s failure, it’s ruin. It has to be removed.

The fine mixture of ingredients: freedom, acceptance, understanding, hope, forgiveness, faith, love, intelligence, the willingness to learn and grow together is what the recipe called for. It’s been tried and tested and retried, always adding something new, something that looked and felt better, but never succeeded. Now something different was tried, something that promised a better outcome with new ingredients. Some ingredients that could not turn out good. Greed, selfishness, hate, condemnation, heartlessness, corruption, abuse, a will to harm, betrayal.

Canada is weeping, your trauma shines its spotlight on our own faults, our own failures, our own need to do more, be better. We are watching the USA’s reaction to compounded trauma, the flash point was a needless, pointless, brutal tragedy. People react in unpredictable ways to senseless trauma. The harm creates scars that last forever.

The healing is a long, slow process. We are good people, good friends, watching and weeping. You are good people, good friends going through a horrible time.

We are not far away. Good will happen again. Better times will shine on a brighter day. We bond with you, like our border, we’re not going away. We will always be here. We will always love and care for our southern friends and neighbors. We will stay calm, and stand beside you. From today on, and everyday we will weep, and bend our knees with you. You are our closest friend. We will not look away.

Kaliedoscope of Colors

Woken by the gentle lapping of waves on the hull, I feel the boat turning, dancing at anchor. When I open my eyes the soft glow of sunrise on the water is caught in the hatches, shimmering reflections land on the cabin ceiling. The smell of fresh coffee wafts from the galley. The Skipper is up, but it’s pure luxury to stay nestled in my bunk while my mind returns from a deep slumber. We left our home port of Maple Bay the day before and drifted under sail on a steady 10 knot breeze, tacking our way north on Stuart Channel between Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. We dropped anchor in Clam Bay for the night, a spacious and protected anchorage between Thetis and Kuiper Island.

It takes a few moments to remember the late night visitor we had on the stern. I had startled to the sound of bubbles hitting the hull beneath me, then the Skipper yelling out. After inspecting the cockpit and surroundings the only sign of any intruder was saltwater on the stern. Whatever had been using our swim grid for an safe landing had been frightened back into the ocean, and we returned to our berths. I imagined the predator at night waiting for it’s prey, unable to escape in the murky darkness below the surface of the ocean. It could have been an otter or a seal, hunted by a sea lion or a whale, swimming for it’s life.

Forcing myself out of my cozy nest, I pour my coffee and climbed into the cockpit, the day greets me with a kaleidoscope of colors. There’s a pair of young eagles feasting on the shore at low tide. Their darkening brown and downy white feathers ruffling in the wind. Beneath them the seaweed is a bright yellow and green contrast to the blue water, sparkling with sunlit diamonds shimmering off the ripples. Their parents perch at a distance, keeping watch and chirping attentively. The bright white of the bald eagles’ heads on the majestic bodies of dark brown with yellow talons and matching beaks stand out from the various shades of green trees surrounding the bay.

On the opposite shore, a group of First Nations people from the local community on Penelakut (Kuper) are collecting clams, filling their red nets and stacking them in neat piles, ready to load onto their skiffs when the tide rises. Lawn chairs are spread out on the muddy beach, and colorful jackets are strewn about as the sun warms them while they toil, bending to their task. A small child in a pink shirt with her bright red bucket sits in the mud, digging for clams alongside her mother. As the tide rises, they load the clams into their skiffs along with all the jackets and chairs, and make their way through the cut between the islands, disappearing from view as they are swallowed up in the curve of the channel.

 

In the background, low cotton clouds kiss the mountains, caressing the peaks covered in lush green forests with white splashes of winter snow lingering in shadows. In the opposite direction a sailboat comes drifting into sight from behind the point, it’s sails bright against the half blue, half green canvas, as if it were a painting hanging perfectly in nature’s galley. It floats past a sandy beach stretching lazily into the water, then disappears behind the next island, heading to a destination in the hundreds of welcoming bays in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Sailing into the “New Normal”

 

Sideways Sally thinks  about everything, all the time. When she thinks about the new normal, she’s feeling very grateful that social distancing is not that much different than when they are out travelling up and down the coast. They are self contained, self sufficient and when going to remote areas, don’t often see people anyway. So there Covid-19, you can’t bother her!!

Most of the beauty of living and travelling on a sailboat, apart from the thrill of sailing, is the sights along the way. After the second night back in Clam Bay, which we visit often, the Skipper whispers to SS just before falling asleep, “so tomorrow I’ll sit on the port side and you sit on the starboard side.” OK, she gets it. It’s time to go see something new and feed the wanderlust. Off we go again, haulinng anchor and heading out of the bay. Motoring north we take Gabriola Passage at slack tide and turn into Dogfish Bay on the east end of the passage.

New to OMOO and crew it turns into one of the best anchorages yet in the Southern Gulf Islands. It is well protected from the NW winds by Gabriola Island and tucked between Valdes and Kendrick Islands. The bottom is sticky and there was no problem holding on the hook. The current coming and going from the passage added to the milieu, swirling more, being pushed back and forth with the force of the water from Gabriola Passage. The tide rose and dropped dramatically, exposing the exquisite sandstone formations on the east side of the bay, and the beach which grew substantially at low tide.

Mother Nature finally gave in to a good weather break and the temps soared to mid-20’s. Out came the toys, SS pumped up the paddle board and headed off to tour the bay. Then out came the hammock and she swung back and forth, the view  constantly rotating as OMOO swings on the hook. The sunshine and the breeze drifts over OMOO, lulling her into a lazy happiness. The Skipper pulls the boom far over to port to give the solar panels more exposure to the sun, his joy rises along with the amperage feeding the batteries. Next he’s up on the deck with a bucket of soap and water washing off the solar panels and checking the increased voltage. Up and down, up and down, getting his exercise just squeezing every ounce of power he can out of the May sunshine.

There are half a dozen other boats anchored in the bay, all shapes and sizes. A boater’s favorite activity is to inspect all other boats, so evening happy hour and boat gawking go very well together. The third day most boats have left the bay, the clouds return, decreasing our solar power so it’s time to move on. Clouds and showers are in the forecast so SS called Nanaimo Port Authority to check on the status of what’s allowed on the dock, and found out as long as boaters have not been out of the country in the last three weeks, that they were accepting transients on the dock.

Rounding Gabriola Island on our way to Nanaimo, SS is on the wheel and hears the raucous barking of Sea Lions on Entrance Island. One can usually smell these large animals long before hearing or seeing them but the wind was in the opposite direction.  Getting closer, and cutting the engine to drift by and observe the large colony is spectacular.  At one end of the island  there are much larger males, while in the middle it looks more like mama’s and pups. It’s quite amusing to watch young pups try to climb up the rocks and slide back down with a big sploosh, and try again. More big males are guarding the opposite end of the island, barking and growling, protecting the herd in the middle.

 

Being a prairie girl, Sideways Sally is always amazed at the sights and sounds on the water. For a few hours, nothing but the ocean and it’s inhabitants occupy her mind, and it’s a very welcome respite of the worries of our times, Covid-19 and “the new normal.”

Racing into a Storm

Sideways Sally has been having alot of fun staying local and sailing in her own backyard.  So much fun that she didn’t want to come back to “shore shit.”  But it’s time to update the blog.

Here’s what happened while anchored in Nanaimo Harbor.  This was super fun to watch, ENJOY!!

 

Thank you Nanaimo Yacht Club for an entertaining evening.  You racing sailors are amazing!!

More to come while we’re back on the dock.  Stay tuned,  SS.

STUART CHANNEL TO CLAM BAY

So that’s enough of being stuck to the dock!!  SS finished the cushion project, took a look at the weather forecast, listened to the marine weather channel and suggested to the Skipper that they get out, stay local and get in some sailing.  He took all of two seconds to agree and the next morning they let the lines go and off they went.  Into Stuart Channel with wind was steady at 10 knots and OMOO breezed along, tacking back and forth.

Sea Sparrow were already in the channel under sail so you know we have to race.  SS hailed them on the VHF and had a chat.  Len  said as soon as they saw OMOO they thought “when they pull out their new big sails they’ll run right over us.”   A few hours later and a lovely afternoon of sailing they were all anchored in Clam Bay.

When Sideways Sally thinks about the new normal, she’s feeling very grateful that life on a boat in isolation is not that much different than when they are out travelling up and down the coast. They are self contained, self sufficient and when going to remote areas, don’t often see people anyway.  So there Covid-19, you can’t bother her!! She used to look at boats from land, and think “what do people do all day on a boat.” Since sailing for the last 17 years, 7 on her own 27′ Coronado, and almost 10 with the Skipper on his 43′ Jeanneau, she’s learned there is lots to do on a boat, and it takes all day!

Stuck to the Dock

May 2020

Week One – Living and isolating on the boat from Covid-19.   We were stuck to the dock when normally we have taken off for the wild blue yonder.  Communities in remote destinations were not welcoming visitors, and under Government restrictions, boaters were urged to stay home.  May is our favorite time to leave on our summer trips when the days are getting longer and warmer.  In past years we’d be in the Broughtons or beyond, half way up the central coast, to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, or around Vancouver Island.

Sideways Sally has never been one for patience and dislikes waiting.  She has this “get it done” motto which has served her well over the years.  The boat had already been dug out and sorted from winter projects, which looked after April.  She was in trouble with May and all this waiting.  Not knowing what’s gonna happen next was even worse. Some days she wanted to cry, some days scream, but instead she sewed.  Haha, you thought she was gonna drink, right?  Well, there was a little bit of that, after the sewing of course.

Looking around the boat, SS and the Skipper decided the cockpit cushions could use a sprucing up.  Recovering them gave her some welcome relief from the ruminating inside her head, while hands are busy the mind is calmer.  A quick post on Facebook asking if anyone had a sewing machine they wanted to get rid of, and voila, a day later an answer from a neighbor who had three sitting in her basement.  SS picked up and dusted off her new “old Brother,” oiled it up and coaxed it to life.

WEEEEE.  She couldn’t have been happier, and same for the Brother.  Turns out this is the best Brother she’s ever had (apologies to her real brothers).  Hour after hour, enclosed in the cockpit, sheltered from the elements, accomanied by some country twang, a heater and load of coffee, she sewed the slips for the closed cell foam cushions that were showing 20 years of wear and tear.  Timing was good with the weather being crappy.  There was rain, rain, rain with infrequent spells of showers, wind and then more rain.  SS resigned herself to being ok with being stuck to the dock. Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating anyway.

It’s all an experiment, this new world we’re living in. For the most part, everyone seems to be trying their best to figure it out. Boaters in our home port of Maple Bay and the live aboard community kept social distance and worked away individually together on spring boat projects, preparing for summer sailing even though we didn’t know for sure if and when we’d be out there.

Towards the end of that week our live-aboards were all getting antsy to have some normalcy back, so for the first time since our 8 weeks of Covid-19 restrictions we gathered for a special celebration, on land, social distancing.  We had a very important person’s birthday to celebrate.  Boaters are unique people, and Vic is somebody who is selfless, caring and connected to all of us.  He is always there to help, or listen, or walk a dog.  So off to land we went, with chairs spread six feet apart, to sing and honor his 75th Birthday.  It brought tears to Sideways Sally’s eyes to be a part of the afternoon, sitting with our community, slowly getting back to something normal.  (B-day video in previous post)