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.

Click here for photos.


  1. I hope you were tied in during the heave and ho reefing the sales. Sounds scary.

  2. ZOIKS! How scary!! Glad you calmed down with coffee and pint chasers.

    I'm so relieved that you made it through that experience and that you're safe and sound. I'd love to hear how the boys tell the story.