Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category

What happened next

Having brought you up to speed on why I was landlocked in Hawaii, I can spend a bit of time describing how everything came to be.

A few years ago I decided to pursued a dream that began about 40 years before that, when I was a university student in the arid, flat and decidedly ocean-less centre of Canada.

I took a little weekend crash course in Vancouver, basically to distinguish the front of the boat from the back, to learn which sails did what, and to memorize the names of the parts of the boat — keel, rudder, tiller, stuffing box, sheets, jib, genoa, main, boom, vang, halyard, guy, lazy guy (it’s a thing), Cunningham, leach, luff, foot, kite, head, galley, etc…. It’s English, but to me as foreign as Shakespeare.

I asked a neighbour who’d sailed for decades: “I took the course. Now what?” Next thing I knew I was on a race boat. Racing on Sunday afternoons. Racing on Wednesday evenings. Racing on long weekends.

Until that point, I didn’t even know sailboat racing was a thing. The Volvo (now The Ocean Race) yes, and the America’s Cup, yes. But all this club racing? I had no idea.

Anyway I jumped in fully and the rest, as you’ll know, is Facebook history.

With daredevil Ian on Wraith.
On Paragon in 2019, as we circumnavigated Vancouver Island

Two years ago, Covid happened and team sailing shut down. Some yacht clubs wouldn’t even allow people on the docks, much less encourage sailing together on a boat. Everyone I knew was pretty respectful of the rules and so that was it.

At the time I was sailing for a few different boats, big and small, feeling happy and humbled about being part of some sporty teams at such a later time in life.

With the wild and wacky guys from The Fugitive

Met some amazing women along the way, who’ve become great friends.

But poof, like that, like everyone else around the planet, life as we knew it had changed.

Repairs on Amazing Grace

One of the boats I knew used the opportunity to undertake some repairs, but for the most part, the vessels remained docked.

Finally last fall, and moreso this spring, things started to open up and some of the racing started up again.

Flying a spinnaker for the first time in a year….

One of the races back on schedule was the Pacific Cup, a 10-ish-day race from San Francisco to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. The start of the race would be early July 2022.

As not every boat lives in the city where the race starts, the boat owner typically arranges a ‘delivery’ — one delivery to get the boat to the start of the race, and another to return the boat home from the place where the race ended.

And that, dear reader, is how I came to have the opportunity to sail a great big boat on the great big blue Pacific.

I was asked (and interviewed) to check my interest and ability in doing the deliveries from Vancouver to San Francisco, and then back from Hawaii to Vancouver.

Amazing opportunity, amazing experience. Of course I said yes.

Aboard Shadow II

Shadow II is a TP52, meaning she was built for ocean racing (TP = Trans Pacific). She’s pretty, she’s big, and she goes fast. She also needs about 10 people as crew during big races, as the races run ‘round the clock. As such, there’s a watch system: Six hours on, six hours off, four hours on, four hours off, four hours on, six hours off, six hours on… and repeat over 48 hours. It’s a bit tiring at the start, but like everything, one gets into a rhythm and it works.

So in mid-June I was able to do the (first) delivery from Vancouver to San Francisco.

Shadow II

Ocean sailing. Prairie girl. Amazing.

It took a full day leaving from Vancouver, but eventually we were fully on the ocean — pure blue water and endless sky in every direction.

One of the guys, Andre, asked if I wanted to drive. Me. Big boat, big wheel, ocean, waves, compass.

After a couple of hours our watch was over and I thanked Andre for the opportunity to drive.

Hah! he laughed. You’ve got a lot more driving hours to come.

And so for the next five days, at least until the seas undermined my confidence, I drove as much as I could on every watch. Why not?

In the daytime we followed a compass bearing and at night, squinted at the glowing red of the compass, searched the sky to find a star (any star), lined up the star with some part of the boat and then used the star to remain on course.

It was all pretty remarkable. My watch consisted of three people (Andre and Doug) and it was just the three of us for five days. At the end of each watch, we’d touch base with the other group emerging from below, and then head down to prepare food, eat, brush teeth and sleep.

In the galley — prepping food for the next watch.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I have never been seasick. It may come from so many childhood years of reading in the car, but more likely it’s been good luck and good skippers. I haven’t been in the washing machine of mixed currents that I’ve read about, and I haven’t had to work on a computer below deck when storms are thrashing about (as navigators do) but I have texted and read a book and packed sails both above deck and below, so fingers crossed the luck endures.

Next stop: The first rule of sailing. If something can break, it will.


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