Vancouver to Vancouver Island 26th May to 5th June 2004

Totem Poles near Vancouver

Days 1 to 8
Wednesday May 26th to Wednesday June 2nd

The management stowed all we needed into the hired small hatchback for the trip to Gatwick. Having stopped on the way to bid farewell to Ken's family we had dinner with Anne's son and girlfriend at Gatwick. We checked into a hotel and the management set the alarm for 7am.

The baggage check in went fine. It is always a tense time but it went without a hitch thanks to the helpful Thomas Cook's staff. The stoker seat on the plane had been specially acquired at great cost in an attempt to avoid any possible damage to her ability to pedal. Front seats enabled her to stretch her legs. She did not even need the special device constructed by a worried management to support her leg.

The flight went well with many trips down into the squalor of the steerage class brought on by a constant intake of water. The driver stopped at Calgary but the crew apparently failed to put out the fenders in time. This resulted in a slight damage, presumably to the gel coat, and involved a two hour delay. It took about 15 minutes to fill the hole with plastic padding and the rest of the time to complete the paper work.

Eileen, Anne's cousin, welcomed us to Canadian soil at Vancouver Airport. We managed, with some difficulty, to wedge all our luggage and ourselves into her car. It is a largish car by UK standards but still something of a squeeze. She lives in a very pleasant condominium about five miles from the airport and beside a commercial river. She had prepared a very nice meal for us which we ate while chatting and watching the tugs go by with their huge tows. We managed to stay up till dark and once in bed fell into the deep sleep of the exhausted. We had been up for over 21 hours.

As usual in these diaries we say little about touristy things, preferring to record the realities of travelling by bike and boat. Vancouver is a beautiful city on the sea with high mountains almost within the city limits to the north. Although it is large, at least 15 miles in diameter, it is surprisingly bike friendly. Like most large conurbations cyclists need to have their wits about them. Having bought a map with all the bike routes on it we had little trouble getting about. The city's hilly location stretched our legs not a little but we were rewarded with some lovely views and pleasant sunshine. The main thing we have learned is not to go through traffic lights as they change to red. We have learned to brake very hard rather than do this. The drivers here, mainly with automatics, drive away as soon as their light goes to green. They don't expect to find a tandem halfway across "their" three lane highway.......

An amusing side effect of the jet lag is that the management seems to have lost his almost infallible sense of direction. He seems more or less OK with a map but the stoker has corrected him (correctly) on several occasions. Not only would this normally be unnecessary but it would be looked on with great displeasure.

Cycling, for us at least, never seems to be without its problems. Braking going down the ramp to the condominium's underground parking we heard an ominous knocking. There was something seriously wrong at the stoker's end of the tandem. During the long descent to sea level near to the North Arm of the Fraser River we had worn through the side of the rim of the rear wheel. Robin Thorn at St John Street Cycles had assured us when we bought these rims that they were unbustable. They would last a lifetime. It just goes to show, never trust a salesman. Actually the management had not believed him and had contemplated buying new wheels a couple of trips ago. But the old ones looked fine so he just regreased the bearings. Big mistake. It really is, however, about time the cycle trade sorted out this common fault. Such an inherent, predictable and dangerous weakness would not be permitted to exist in any other road vehicle.

So 1st June dawned with the management, rear wheel in hand, heading for Vancouver Broadway. This is the home of all things outdoors in the city, including bike shops. He went, full of optimism, into a shop called la Bicicletta, a dealer for the famous Santana tandems. But did they have a new back wheel.... or could they even get one in ten days.... or were they any help at all? The dispirited management wandered off with ideas of phoning St John St Cycles at gone midnight with a sob story. After aimless wanderings among the hairy outdoor freaks of Vancouver he came across a little shop called the Bike Doctor. Might as well give it a try. Yes he had some tandem wheels, but in his other shop. Not quite the right ones but with a change of freewheel and axle he would have them ready for us first thing in the morning. Relieved and very grateful the management caught the trolley bus home to Eileen's. She in her turn had arranged a very pleasant Japanese meal with her friends to wish us bon voyage.

Bright and early next morning (that's 10am) we were off to the fine Bike Doctor. By 11.30am we had the tandem in its three bags and all our luggage in a taxi to the ferry port at Horse Shoe Bay. Here we assembled the tandem and with a few minor adjustments were back in business. Having taken a taxi when we would otherwise have enjoyed a ride put us back on schedule with two new wheels. We very much enjoyed our stay in Vancouver. Eileen, Anne's cousin, looked after us very well. We also enjoyed a one night stay with Anne and Earl, and lunch with Phil, cousins from the other side of Anne's family.

 The slow yacht Tranquility

Day 8 Wednesday June 2nd
Charter of Tranquility

We were met at the ferry port at Nanaimo by Michael, Anne's brother, and Andolie and Larissa his two daughters. We went then to Stones Marina to be introduced to our boat for the week. She is a rather elderly lady, a 31 foot Catalina called Tranquility, very comfortable and roomy but a lot less sprightly than our own Hobnob. Michael kindly took us five blocks to buy supplies and we settled in for the night at the marina.

Day 9 Thursday June 3rd

Today was a lovely day and we had soon slipped our lines from the jetty and were motoring north past the ferry port. We were wanting to head south but had been informed of a bad step to the west of Gabriola Island where tides ran at huge rates and there were standing waves, all of which frightened the management. Sea room looked much easier and we went to the east of Gabriola into the Strait of Georgia.

Now on all of the yachting courses and in real life if one takes a bearing of another vessel and as you go along this does not change then the other vessel will hit you. The difficulty was that the other vessel was a tug towing three huge barges full of wood bits over a thousand yards long. We were under full sail and going fine but the tug kept coming as she had every right to do. For once the management used common sense and even though he reckoned he just might have been able to cross the tug he went a thousand yards out of the way to be safe.

By Weymouth standards Tranquility is oddly equipped. She has no log (instrument that records distance travelled) and only a compass and GPS which has no instructions and which we can't work. She has a full complement of charts but they are inferior to those we are used to. If you add to this that the buoyage around here is fine where it exists and the waters are very dangerous you may have some idea of the management's problem. On the up side, especially for the management, is that the sea around here tends to be less bumpy than that in Weymouth.

We solved all we could of the above by keying frequent waypoints into our own GPS and also using the GPS as the ship's log. Having avoided the tug and found the passage through the little islands to the west of Gabriola we anchored in a pleasant creek for a late lunch. The management went off in the dinghy to investigate a nearby seal colony but they saw him coming. They all took to the water and he had the pleasure of being surrounded in the dinghy at about a hundred yards by seals with heads bobbing above the water.

Full of confidence from the morning's events we headed for the Gabriola Passage. These are treacherous narrows with swirling eddies where the tide runs at over six knots. Pride comes before a fall and cutting a corner rather than going to the waypoint we went aground. This was careless and unforgivable seamanship. Fortunately we had a rising tide and the bottom was not hard. Unfortunately it was a lee shore. The management lightened ship by taking to the dinghy and towing the bow round. The stoker stoically took the helm and steered the boat. She came off with the engine at full revs and for a few moments the dinghy was in danger of being capsized.

Having gone to the waypoint and being delayed about half an hour we found the current against us through the narrows too strong for us to make against it. We motored into a little cove which we thought sheltered from the wind and anchored. It was a lovely place but not well protected either from the wind or the current. With nowhere else to go and the anchor holding against the stream we settled down for dinner.

Our last event of the day made us realise how lucky we had been. Just as we were about to turn the boat's VHF off we heard a May Day (emergency call). It was almost certainly a hoax but was being followed up by the US Coast Guard. We were able to help by giving them our position and an indication of the strength of the May Day call. Had we gone aground a bit harder it could have been us.

Day 10 Friday June 4th

Before going to bed the management had observed and calculated that the next high tide would be at about 8.30am. That was the time when he expected a serious risk of the anchor dragging. He had also left the main halyard loose so that it would slap on the mast and wake him up if the wind blew. Happy in this knowledge he slept well but was woken by an unusual motion of the boat at around 7.30am.

As he dragged on some clothes it was clear that we were dragging. He got the engine running and the anchor up and was pleased to be motoring down the creek. Once he got in the main channel it was clear that he had no alternative but to run the Gabriola Passage. The boat will only do about 4 knots under motor and the current was running at 6.5 knots through the narrows. At full throttle, in an attempt to have some control through the swirling water, we were soon through. Once the worst was over the management spotted a creek to port. He went alongside a tiny tug boat tied to a jetty.

At this point the stoker emerged from the cabin. She is the first to admit that she is not a morning person and she was happy to have missed prebreakfast excitement. She was however very pleased with such a nice place to be and we did not slip until 11am. Once underway the wind soon filled in and we had a pleasant beat against the wind all the way to Thetis Island. The stoker even managed to get some exercise winching in the sails each time we tacked.

As we motored slowly into the marina at Thetis we were given a very warm welcome by several people who took our lines and then introduced themselves. "Pay at the big boat" Roy said, "thirty five dollars for two nights including the T shirt". "We are only here for one night" replied the stoker. At this point we realised there may have been a slight misunderstanding. We had come across a rendezvous of the local owners of Catalina Yachts. The houseboat we are attempting to sail is a Catalina 31. Hundreds of the sailing caravans have been sold in North America. So we paid the normal fee at the marina office and enjoyed the company of many friendly Catalina owners. We even extolled the virtues of our propane furnace (cabin heater). We even explained that our cockpit cover was not a "dodger" at least not if you come from Weymouth.

Day 11 Saturday June 5th

It rained hard in the night and the cabin top leaked. Nothing serious but the leaks were both unexpected and untraceable. We were in the fuelling jetty by 9.45am to get water. We were right out as being an old boat she has a small water tank. The water boys, one with red hair and the other blue and complete with earrings etc helped us fill up. They were friendly but explained that drinking water is in short supply on the Gulf Islands.

Today we have a schedule to keep. We want to go into Silva Bay Marina on Gabriola Island to meet Anne's brother and family again. This means that we again have to run the narrows but this time under more control. On board we have a book at least an inch thick reminiscent of the Almanac sailors use in the UK. It does however have a major difference. It lists slack water, i.e. when the tide turns at various reference places, and also the time when the current runs fastest. To get back to Silva Bay we need to be at the narrows shortly after 12.45.

We were looking forward to a pleasant sail with the wind behind us. As the boat goes faster under sail than with the engine running it would also have got us to the narrows more quickly. We slipped the fuelling jetty and motored against a brisk wind. As soon as we turned to our proper course the wind fell away to nothing. It did however fill in when we had about eight miles left to run and eventually we were making over six knots according to the GPS. With this help we hit the narrows at about 1.30pm by which time there were already vicious eddies and plenty of speed in the current. The management kept the sails up until the last minute. As always we were reluctant to turn on the motor. He says he was disappointed not to be able to sail through but the high pine trees on the land blocked out the wind.

With the aid of some GPS way points we followed the depth contours on the chart into Silva Bay Marina. Although called a bay it feels more like a lake. It has only one very narrow deep water passage in and appears to be surrounded by land. The marina here is very small and pleasant and the peace only destroyed by the very occasional seaplane landing on the smooth water. It was dead low water and as we climbed up the very steep ramp from the pontoons to the land we saw a pair of otters. They did not seem particularly worried by us. Talking to a neighbour, rather than being surprised by their presence, she said she would have to watch out for her small dog. Apparently the otters take dogs from the jetty for dinner. Seems a good enough reason to reintroduce otters to Weymouth.

In the evening Michael collected us and took us to a Gabriola Island function organised by Joyanne, Anne's sister-in-law. Not only did we feel the remoteness of this island but also enjoyed an excellent Indian meal. The function was in aid of a Himalayan hospital and the community spirit of the islanders was obvious as they came together to support this cause.