A pause in the climbing-themed blogging as I take a moment (well, a couple of weekends) for a sailing interlude… I will resume my climb through the alphabet soon, but at the moment, my world has taken a decidedly watery turn.
The docks at Newcastle Island. Oh, we do live in paradise.
Not long ago I joined the Bluewater Cruising Association, a group of offshore sailors who have either been-there, done-that or who are planning to go-there, do-that. I am in the latter category, obviously – my open water crossings between the BVI and the Dutch West Indies hardly qualify me as a blue water sailor even though the crossing to Saba was decidedly awful (probably deserves a blog post all its own at some point).
Storm clouds gather last year in the Caribbean…
Despite my recent land-based exploits, I have never stopped hankering after a long sailing expedition – and, by long, I mean a circumnavigation. I have no idea if I’ll ever actually get all the way around the globe, but I certainly would like to get on a boat and go somewhere far away….
With this in mind, I figured it would be a good idea to re-join the Power Squadron, take some navigation courses, and try to connect with some legitimate sailing types (as in, people who currently have boats). The Bluewater Cruising Association turns out to be a treasure trove of boats of all shapes and sizes (and their crews, who come in all shapes and sizes, too).
Last weekend Fabio and I joined the group on Newcastle Island (in Nanaimo’s harbour) for a weekend of learning about on-board safety. We joined Denis and Rosario aboard their boat Counting Stars, a Whitby 42 ketch.
We practiced fire drills (blindfolded, we took turns simulating putting out an engine fire and then exiting the vessel via a hatch), pumped out the bilge by hand, and prepared to abandon ship. Each drill underscored the need to have a plan, be prepared, and not panic. There was lots of laughter as we learned some pretty serious lessons about the importance of knowing how to get off the boat in a hurry but also realizing that in most cases staying aboard was actually the safest place to be.
After our dockside exploits, we set off on a blind navigation exercise in which we had to locate a buoy a few nautical miles away without using our electronic navigation systems. We’ve all become very dependent on iPads and chart plotters to find our way around, so it was pretty cool to see our ‘blind’ navigator, Rosario finding her way to the buoy even in a simulated thick fog without the benefit of radar or other hi-tech gadgetry.
We had so much fun on that weekend (I wrote a bit more about it in an article over on the Bluewater Cruising website – I’ll add the link once that’s been posted) that I decided I really didn’t want to miss out on the following weekend’s fun at the group’s rendezvous to be held on Pender Island over the May long weekend.
Which is why I’m sitting aboard Counting Stars once again, typing this as I await our boat ride over to Nanaimo to pick up a few provisions for our trip down to Pender.
Happy, happy, happy is how I’d describe my mood at the moment, despite the fact it’s chilly and the rain is pouring down outside. There’s something sort of cozy and reassuring about the sound of rain pattering down on the canvas dodger over the cockpit, the main companionway hatch open to let in the fresh morning air. Not that I’m happy about the rain, more like I’m so happy to be on a boat not even the rain can dampen my mood. This may change by the time we’ve spent the day sailing (or motoring, there’s no wind… of course), but for the moment I am thoroughly enjoying all the familiar smells of diesel and salt air, fresh coffee and seaweed.
It’s also a lot of fun to be reminded of all those things about living on the boat that one forgets about until it’s time to find something in the very bottom of the fridge (fishing out the milk for this morning’s coffee caused an avalanche of smaller items that slithered into the hole left by the jug), flush the head (or walk up the hill to the on-shore facilities), or move piles of life jackets aside to find a place to sit.
And, there are all the wonderful aspects of life aboard, including good company and the extra good taste of coffee when accompanied by the background music of shorebirds greeting the day!