Thursday, October 4, 2012

Yikes! Tribune Bay to Nanaimo

We talked to several people who warned us that if you are in Tribune Bay when a southeasterly starts to blow, it's time to pull up anchor and head out because it is hugely exposed to the Strait of Georgia. We wanted to revisit Tribune because we were rushed last time and wanted more time playing on the beach. I'm sure you can see where this is with nothing but sunny skies and calm winds in the forcast we headed out from Comox to the sandy beach of Tribune Bay. We spent two nights there, where we played on the beach and the rocks, jump-roped with long strands of kelp, and went for a long hike out over the bluffs. We noticed in the middle of the second night that the anchorage had gotten rollier. At 5:30 we heard a halyard banging like crazy on the mast so I climbed out of bed to tighten in hope that the boys would continue to sleep. I noticed at this point that the wind was distinctly southeasterly. We laid in bed just a little while longer as the waves built. At 6am, we were out of bed and I was at the front of the boat pulling up anchor. The forcast had changed and now we were looking at gale force southeast winds for the morning, strengthening and backing to northwest in the afternoon. Doh! The tricky thing about Tribune is that it's a haul to get anywhere protected. Our destination for the day was Nanaimo, forty miles away, down the Strait of Georgia. The the first hour or so was not so bad. We were sailing along with 8-10 knot winds at about 6-7 knots with 1-2 foot waves, comfortable enough that Aaron was still in bed. Then things got crazy. Wave size and wind increased, thus the angle we were heeled increased. Spray from the waves doused us as we have never been doused before. Aaron became very unhappy, as yells emmanated from below that things were flying everywhere, something that normally doesn't happen on our boat. At one point we were so heeled over that the kayak that is attached high up on the lifelines began to float. I was supremely unhappy at this point and we decided to reef. Carefully, I headed forward on the heaving deck and put two reefs in the mainsail. This helped for a while but wave size and wind kept increasing. This is where I crossed the line from squawking to flipping out, so we reefed the jib. Things were still really crazy as we pounded, on our side, through 5-6, closely spaced  foot waves....Aaron and I were so very sad. At this point we decided to drop the mainsail and run under jib alone, so again I headed out to the slippery, heaving deck to drop the main. With the wind so high, it was a fight to get it down as we pitched up and down. I then wrestled, as my feet slipped around, with spray from the waves dousing me again and again, to try to tie up the violently flapping sail so we could see properly....did I mention that I was unhappy...and flipping out? For sailors with a lot of experience, I'm sure that this was probably not a huge deal, but for a girl who grew up in Montana who is not used to water sports, it is cause for freak-out. Rationally, I know that the boat can handle just about anything. Me? Not so much. Sailing under jib alone was much more comfortable, but we were only making 4 knots and if we wanted to be out the Strait of Georgia before the winds shifted and got even stronger we needed to make much better time than that, so much to Jason's dismay, we furled the jib and turned on the engine to motor since we could make 7 knots that way. The waves remained around 5-6 feet, but hitting them upright made it less scary than plowing into them on our sides. As we neared Nanaimo, the water was more protected so were actually able to raise sails again for the last bit.  With much relief, we  safely made it to Nanaimo around 1:30 where we tied up to a dock and headed to a French bakery to drown our jitters away with coffee and pastries followed by bookstore browsing, before heading to an English pub for a couple of pints to chase down our comfort food.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Grace Harbor to Comox

We had a short overnight stay at Grace Harbor, dashing out to find cell phone reception so Jason could make it to his many meetings scheduled for the day. Luckily, on the previous day, we had taken the hike up to a lake where we met a super-crusty, old sailor who spends summers on his boat in desolation sound and winters on his motorcycle in Mexico, Guatamala, and Belize. Jason took a "freshwater" dip but I wimped out when I witnessed the muddy, murky waters and was reminded of the resident leech population, even though I was desperate for a rinse since I was on day 11 without a shower. Early the next morning, we headed to Comox where I took the helm and Isaac worked as navigator through the patchy, morning fog while Jason participated in work meetings below. We retraced our path past Mitlenatch, pausing to watch and listen to the sea lions before heading on. We were on day 12 since our last water tank refill and so I was anxious to get to Comox so we could shower (and refill our tanks). Our spacing between refills was perfect as we drank the last drops along the way. After a whirlwind of watery, cleaning activities (showers, six loads of laundry, boat wash down), we headed to the Victoria Volunteer Search and Rescue to be reunited with our dinghy, Rosebud, after long last. We were met by Charles, a cheeky fellow, who retold the story of Rosebud's rescue and showed us on the chart where she was found. After being introduced to the whole crew, we were then treated to a tour of their rescue vessels, with lots of laughing and joking along the way. We had plans to row her back to our marina (which would have been quite a long row) so they told us not to worry about it, they would put her onto one of their vessels and drop her off. We liked Comox so much, we decided to stick around another day so we could explore a little. During the course of two days we managed to get most of our back-to-civilization errands done, eat at a family-run sushi place three times, visited several different book stores, gathered pears from a pear tree, bought salmon (frozen with a saltwater glaze) from a fisherman off the dock, as well as shrimp from the Big Shrimp Rancher who pulls his fishing boat into the docks every night at 6pm to a line of anxious customers ready to slap down $5 for a pound of hour-old shrimp. Yum.

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