Ship's Log
Saturday, July 22, 2000
Pender Harbour to Northeast Bay

The Sea's a callin'

    I woke early to the sound of the motorboats firing up the twin V-8s and heading for the next resort. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and walked down the road, along a foot bridge and up the hill to the Sundowner Restaurant for breakfast. I was the only one in the place and sat on the deck overlooking the bay.

It was a beautiful day. The wind was picking up and I wondered what the weather out in the strait was doing. After breakfast I called my friend Chris to confirm that we were meeting on Monday the 24th in the town of Bliss Landing. He said that according to Paul, the road ends in Lund, so we should meet there. Paul seems to have a knack for changing my plans, and he’s very effective, even through a third party. Although the chart seemed to indicate a road leading to Bliss Landing, the fact of the matter is that I’ve never been there…so, we agreed on Lund. This gave me extra time. Now, in three days, I only had to go about 40 nautical miles north. Back at the boat I couldn’t really decide if I should stay another night in the comfort of the marina, or sail north and anchor out. Regardless, I needed to pump the holding tank so I cast off the lines, and maneuvered my way to the fuel dock. 

Once docked there, I began to pull my anchor rode from the bow locker to get at my holding tank fitting. A guy walked over and said, "diesel, or gas?" I told him I just needed to pump out. He looked at me a bit puzzled then said, "Oh, right. You got a holding tank do ya? Well then here’s what ya do, you go right out of here and around the corner to the public wharf. They’ll fix ya up." I thanked him and started my engine. As I was leaving he said, "Ya know…they let ya just pump it overboard out in the straight." I nodded and headed out, to the right until in got to another cove with three marinas in it. I tried to look with binoculars for a pump out station but couldn’t find one. The wind really began to pick up from the south as I approached a dock with some people standing on it. I slowed and asked if they knew of a pump out around here. They shrugged and suggested that I just pump it overboard in the straits. I moved on to the next dock and tied up once again. Two people were returning with grocery bags and I asked once again. The man just looked at me wondering if I was an alien. The woman said, "We don’t really know what your talking about. But, have a nice day." The grocery bags did manage to catch my eye though. I walked to shore to see if I could leave my boat where it was so I could run to a real store and maybe find a cash machine. I was down to $12. 

Wendy was gardening at the park directly on shore. I asked if I could leave my boat their and she said sure, as long as I was back in two hours. I began to walk away and then I remembered, "Oh…do you know where I could pump out my boat’s holding tank?" She perked right up. "You gotta holding tank do ya? Well I can pump you out with my new pump out station!" I have the feeling that I am the first person to pump out there. And judging by the response from the locals I think I was the first to ask. So, once again I moved the boat to the special dock to pump out and tied up. We introduced ourselves and chatted a bit. She saw the driftwood I found on Lasqueti and said she collects it when she kayaks in the winter. She’s too busy to kayak in the summer. Then she explained that the government doesn’t provide the pump out equipment or subsidize it in any way like in the U.S. That’s why it is so expensive. "How expensive?" I asked. "Well it’s $12 for the first 30 gallons." "That’s good. I said, "Because that’s all I’ve got." I asked if there was a cash machine close by and she gave me directions then said, "But, I’m gonna have to ask ya to move your boat over to the other dock if you are going to leave it unattended. Just in case anyone else wants to use the pump out station while your gone." So, once again I casted off and motored over to the first dock I was at and rafted up to a fishing boat at the end. I got off and went into town. In the grocery store I asked if there was any place in town to get internet access. It was like asking for directions in Mexico. Everyone gathered around and all began to tell me different things and pointing in opposite directions. I didn’t even really hear what they were saying. I was focused on the Canadian flag at the school across the street. It was blowing pretty good on the bluff. I'll bet it’s screamin’ in the straits. 

I thanked them and walked directly back to the boat. The website would have to wait. The sea was calling me. I don’t know what that was about. I just knew I had to sail. Once on board, I listed to the weather again: strong winds from the south. Sounds good to me. I battened down everything, stowed the food and donned my foul weather gear. The sun was out and the wind was up. As I rounded the corner towards the opening of the harbor, I could see the whitecaps out in the Malaspina Strait. I could also see Fisherman’s Resort looking like the proverbial lazyboy chair. A new set of RVs were just settling in for an evening of bad jokes and cocktails. I turned toward the sea. There were several boats on their way in looking a bit beaten. I went below to double check the cabin. I don’t want to have to go down there when the boat’s rolling. Then the swells came. Up and down as big as last Saturday and I am only at the mouth of the bay. Following the markers, I rounded the islets and left the protection of the bay behind. The wind came up and I was healing to starboard 15 degrees and I was still motoring. I crashed through the waves and noticed the engine working hard to push up the steep swells. I set the jib, brought the bow down and off I went. I killed the engine and romped downwind across the strait toward Texada Island.
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After a while, I could see more detail on the island as the mainland faded. I knew I was about halfway. The seas were rough and the autopilot couldn’t hold the coarse downwind. When your sailing with the waves it is very important not to get pushed sideways from behind. Once sideways to the waves, you could easily get rolled. After taking a couple of waves right in the face as I sat in the cockpit, I decided to take the helm. pender08.jpg (37174 bytes)

This photo illustrates how far we were healing over. The clothing hanging is strait up and down...

I surfed as best I could, but the waves were moving faster than I was with just the jib set. But there was no way I was going to fly any more sail in this blow. The waves were crashing and the wind was blowing white streaks of foam behind them. pender11.jpg (50228 bytes)

They were much bigger than before and it made me wonder what it must be like rounding Cape Horne. The sun was gone and I was wet with spray. At one point the dingy I was towing surfed a wave right into the transom. It startled me enough to take my attention away from my heading and I caught one athwartships the boat seemed to take the water well although. I just remembered that I forgot to close the head porthole. Saltwater was splashing all over my newly oiled teak. I laughed out loud at one point thinking of the part of us that likes roller coasters and scary movies and driving too fast and sky diving and budgie jumping and white water rafting. It felt like God was kneeling on my arms and tickling me. And there’s nothing I can do to make him stop.

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I laughed out loud again, felling a bit mad and changed. As I got closer to Texada, the waves subsided. But the wind seemed to the increasing.
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A voice from the Canadian Coast Guard came over the VHF. "Pan, pan. Pan, pan. Pan, pan. Attention all stations: The weather conditions for the Malaspina Strait has just been upgraded to gale force winds from the south. Mariners are advised to exercise extreme caution." And here I am in the middle of Malaspina Strait in my first gale.

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I could see the light off of Northeast Point ahead. On the chart I noticed a tiny cove just past the point with only enough room for one boat to anchor. There was small islet on the south eastern side of the cove. I thought this would give me ample protection from the wind, so I set a course for the shelter of Northeast Bay. As I approached the bay, the waves wrapped around the islet from the east and wind wrapped around it from the south. But right there, in a space the size of—well…my boat—was flat, windless water. 

I set the big anchor off the bow as it began to rain. Then I took the other anchor into the dinghy and rowed about 100 feet to the stern and dropped it in 20 feet of water. I pulled the stern anchor line to bring the bow into the gentle waves and the wind rocked me slowly from the starboard side. The anchors set in the soft mud perfectly. Once I was satisfied that I was out of danger, I headed below to dry off. The cabin was trashed. The floor was soaked with saltwater. Books and photos were strewn about with pots and cans, clothes and charts. In the turmoil, a can of pop punctured and sprayed my bed with coke. After an experience like this and only 4 hours of sleep, I was too exhausted to clean. I grabbed a blanket and laid down on the portside settee. It was nice to close my eyes and listen to the rain wash the salt off of the deck and bike and windows. Just as I began to nod off.. drip…drip…drip…frop. Right on my head! The rain was leaking in somewhere around the window. I didn’t have anywhere else dry to sleep. I put a jar under the leak and went outside in the rain to put a tarp over that side. The leak slowed, that is to say that the frops now occurred after about 10 drips. I taped the jar to right under the window and went to sleep underneath it. I woke once in the middle of the night to a thumping against my hull. It seems a log was trying to cuddle. I went out in the rain to push it on its way when I noted the bioluminescence in the water. There are critters or plants or something (I really should know this) but anyhow, when they get agitated they light up. Like lightening bugs, but in the water. Any movement in the water makes the surrounding water light up. Not only the log moving but the rain was making the surface of the water sparkle like a sea of stars. After a while I went back inside, emptied the drip jar and went to sleep.

It's a small world after all. It's a small small world.

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