Sailing ……..FINALLY !

OMG never did I think that the main sail would give us this much grief. In our last post we mentioned how we had come to an agreement with the original sailmaker and handed the project over to sailmaker Number 2. UK Sails in Sidney BC. Well, a week later we have a fixed and now working new main sail.
We’re a sailboat again! Everybody do a happy dance!
Must have been the good boat Karma we earned on our way back from the Blue Water Cruising rendezvous on the long weekend. We were headed back to Sidney (anyone surprised) when were heard a request for assistance on the marine radio. The boat was not far from us and headed to the same place we were so we U turned and headed to where they were broken down. We took them in tow and brought them into the Marina.

Stray Cat to the rescue

Finally, we are back on the program and have left Sidney behind. I thought if we spent anymore time there, they would be wanting me to pay property tax. We made a quick run up to Nanaimo to pick up the new life raft. Stayed overnight and met up with our friends John and Marina and Ken and Cheryl.
We will meet up with Ken and Cheryl later this year as they are sailing south to Mexico as well. John and Marina have a boat on the east coast so maybe we will meet them again in the Caribbean in the next year or two.

Back underway it was a long day up to Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island where we anchored for the night.

Gorge Harbour entrance

The next day it was a run to Blind Channel Resort on West Thurlow Island. This is a bit of a challenging passage as you have to time 3 sets of tidal rapids that can flow at up to 10 knots. Even when we arrived an hour before slack we were running with a 3 knot current pushing us through.
Imagine driving your car on a road that moves side to side, is covered with black ice and has whirlpools and you can, kind of, get an idea of what boating through these can be like. While dodging the whirlpools, the current pushes you sideways. Timed right it’s a piece of cake. Timed close and it gets “interesting”. Timed wrong and it can be deadly.

We saw our first humpback whale on this passage. Sorry no pictures. If you could script these creatures it would be a lot easier, but they seem to sense where the camera is pointed and surface somewhere else. By the time you have the camera there they have gone under again. We’ll keep trying and post as soon as we have something other than a distant splash.

Blind Channel resort is on its third generation with the same family as owners. The office includes a feature wall of bottles imbedded in the concrete. There are hiking trails up and around the property including one that takes you past a nine hundred year old cedar tree.

Bottle wall

900 years old – the tree not us

Next up, the transit of Johnstone Strait. A passage of water between the BC mainland and Vancouver island, that on a good day, is nice and easy and on a bad day will leave you curled up in the fetal position calling out for your mommy. Were hoping for the first example.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

After 40 years with someone breaking up is hard to do. Then there is the new person and all the awkward questions. How do you like it? Do you like it this way? How did you do it before?

At least that’s what Barb went through the first time we got our haircut since we have been away. After 40 years of having Gary cut her hair, having someone else do it was ” almost traumatic” LOL.

Some things you just take for granted. All kinds of new experiences with this life.

We heard that shortly after we left Gary retired as well. Congratulations Gary and Maryke


Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Ok its not quite that bad. So, here’s the update on the sail. Last Wednesday we came to an agreement with sailmaker number 1 and new sail number 2. He could not figure out why it was not working and had no further ideas on how to make it work, so he gave us the sail, refunded our money and paid our bill for a week’s stay at the marina while he tried to get it to work. As a vendor I feel he did everything right, except give us a sail that worked, and I feel bad that we had to move to a different supplier but that’s what we did.

Thursday the new, not working, sail and the old original sail were picked up by UK Sails in Sidney. They think they have a few tricks up their sleeves and can make the necessary changes to the new one to make it work. So hopefully later this week we will know. If they can’t, we will take both sails and head north while they make us a new (number 3) main sail that we can pick up when we come back south in August.

Disappointing is the only printable way I can sum up the situation.

In the mean time we have checked out some more of our favourite anchorages on Vancouver Island and in the Gulf Islands.
We spent a week in Sidney on Vancouver Island. Now it is often said that Victoria is the city of the newly wed and nearly dead and if that’s the case then the nearly dead retire to Sidney. I say that in jest as Sidney is a very cute town but how many other places will you see this in the pub parking lot?

Parking in Sidney

And this is the closest thing to a car dealer we saw

Sidney Scooters

Really, it is pretty, and in the summer, they shut 4 or 5 blocks of the main street down on Thursday nights for a farmer’s market that features different entertainers playing at the intersections along with Island farmers goods


We were able to stop and spend some time at Sidney Spit which is a cool Parks Canada marine park.

From there we went to Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island and the Poets Cove Marina where we spent the May long weekend with about 40 other boats from the Blue Water Cruising Association. It was great to sit with the Doners (the title of those that have cruised to distant shores and returned) and hear their stories and get their advice.
Of course we had to dinghy through Pender Canal and over to Port Browning for ice cream at least once during the weekend.

Pender Canal

Its disappointing that the sail is such an issue. We’ve blown our timeline to pieces and will have to reconsider how far north we can get but here’s the reality check. We are on a boat, the weather has been outstanding, and we are in one of the greatest cruising areas on the planet.

Kind of makes the sail issue the epitome of a first world problem.

Sea Level

One of the interesting things I have realized about this cruising lifestyle is that when you come into a town by boat you are, by its very nature, at sea level. Anyone who is familiar with the BC coast knows its built from mountains and therefore any activity off the boat requires an uphill hike.

Ladysmith is a prime example. We anchored near the head of the bay and took the dinghy to the city marina. They have a guest dock with free moorage for a few hours while you visit the town. From the shore end of the dock, look up, look way up and you can see the town.

Often described as the town time forgot the city has an old town feel with restored buildings and bright colours. The town has taken the time to give the history of some the buildings, some dating back to the early 1900’s, on placards attached to the front of the building.

Ladysmith buildings
Ladysmith Pizza

The hike is worth it when you find the Old Town Bakery. Famous for its varied selection of cinnamon buns amongst the normal bakery fare. The strawberry rhubarb ones were very good. The hike up to and walk through the town probably didn’t burn the calories consumed. But still worth it in my books.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cinnamon Bun
Old Town Bakery

Cowichan Bay was another stop this week. This time we took a slip at one of the marinas. The bay has a large mud flat that dries at low tide and many private mooring buoys, not leaving much room to anchor.

Cowichan Bay mud flats

On the foreshore there is a half a mile of shops, restaurants and the maritime museum which incorporates a long pier with sections describing  the history and development of the area.

Cowichan Bay Float Homes

We’re still trying to get the mainsail working and hopeful that this will be the week the puzzle is solved and we can get headed in the right direction.

Never Have A Schedule

One of the most basic rules you learn when you go cruising on a small boat is never have a schedule. The theory being that once you set a deadline you limit the options and you may make poor decisions just to keep to the schedule. Leaving in poor weather because you must be at place x by a certain time for example. The other reason of course is that you never know what might come up.
That’s our situation right now. We were supposed to be well on our way north yet here we are still dealing with a main sail that won’t roll up right.
I’ll be the first to admit this is not the part of the equation I thought would give us any grief. Of all the things we had done or changed on the boat I thought this one should be a snap. The old sail and furling system worked well. We provided the old sail to the sailmaker to work from and use as a template. I thought it would be a simple case of cut, sew and voila we have a new sail. Ok it was that simple for me. Maybe slightly more complicated for the sailmaker but still, this is just weird.
We were back at the marina in Sidney today and the sailmaker was confident that we had it beat and the changes he made were going to work. Almost. We have all but about a foot and a half that works well but then we get to this section and it, for lack of a simpler description, falls out of its track. Of course, this troublesome section is in the middle of the sail so once it falls out of the track the rest follows.
The sailmaker has one last trick he wants to try so we are back in our holding pattern for another 5 days. We’ll use this time to meet with the high frequency radio guy and get that setup, so we can get weather faxes and send and receive emails. We’ll check out some more spots in the Gulf Islands and we are having a new life raft we ordered sent to our friends in Nanaimo so we can stop there and pick that up.
Ever follow one of those cars that had the licence plate frame that said, “I’d rather be sailing”?
So, would we!
I’m starting to get tired of lemonade

Visitors And A New Toy

We had our first boat stay visitors since we left. Megan, Martin and Bailey the dog, walked on the ferry and we picked them up In Nanaimo. They stayed with us for the weekend. Five days of glorious sunshine from Monday to Friday and then 2 days of clouds and rain over the weekend. Oh well what can you do.

We took them to Pirates Cove on De Courcy Island. Pirates Cove is a Provincial Marine Park and a neat little anchorage that can get very crowded in the summer but only had 6 other boats in it this weekend. There are a few walking trails that are a great way to stretch the legs and walk the dog.

M, M and B

There is a storied history on De Courcy island. It was the home of the Brother 12 cult. if you want to read more

I forgot that having a dog on board meant someone, that means me, had to get up in the morning dinghy to shore, walk the dog and dinghy back to the boat all before the first cup of coffee. Did I mention it was raining all weekend?

We did have a project for the weekend. I had ordered a drone and had it shipped to Megan and Martin’s place. It literally arrived at their place ten minutes before they left to catch the ferry and come over to see us. Perfect timing. We spent a few hours getting it all put together and then took it on its maiden flight.

Now, not only do I have to practice my sailing skills, I need to learn how to pilot a drone. Hopefully we can add some cool aerial shots to the blog soon.