Vancouver Island yacht charter and tandem to Comox 6th to 14th June 2004

The management making sure that the red duster flies higher than the makeshift US courtesy flag.

Canada 2 - Sunday June 6th to Monday June 14th
Day 12 Sunday June 6th

We awoke to an excellent sailing day with a good strong breeze from the northwest. It was also pleasantly sunny even though the weather forecast had threatened thunderstorms and all sorts of nasties. The stoker in particular was happy to have a Sunday lie in. For once the management, who always wants to get going, was happy not to disturb her.

Michael, Joyanne, Seamus, Andolie and Larissa arrived soon after noon having just had breakfast. They were keen to go for a sail as were we.

The management was perhaps the most apprehensive. He has little experience of sailing with such a large crew of non sailors. He was also aware of the sea conditions which were likely to exist outside the sheltered Silva Bay harbour.

He tried to do things properly. Insistence that anyone going outside the cockpit wore a life jacket. An explanation of how to make an emergency Mayday call on the VHF radio etc. And most importantly not to get in the way of the echo sounder or the helmsman's view.

It was one of the nicest winds we have had. We were making a good six knots with a bumpy sea and bright sunshine. The boat performed well with just the foresail, which was just as well since the management had lost the end of the main halyard. This is the rope which raises the mainsail so it could not have been used anyway. Despite acrobatic efforts on the cabin top he could not get the main halyard back. We returned to the dock, some of the crew having had a nicer time than others but none were actually ill. The day ended with a very pleasant alfresco tea/supper in the cockpit.

Day 13 Monday June 7th

The passage plan was to sail with a strong north westerly down the outside of the islands. Given a decent following breeze even this elderly old caravan should be able to move.

Everything looked fine as we left the jetty and set the sails and cut the engine almost straight away. The management was even concerned that we would get to a tidal gateway too early. The tidal gate here is called a pass and we could only get through between 1pm and 2pm. As it turned out we had to motor the last half an hour to make it in time.

Once through we motored and sailed south. We are beginning to get used to the spectacular scenery which surrounds us every day. The near coast is normally steeply rising and covered in dense pine trees with the occasional cabin visible. The foreground sea is scattered with dome shaped tree covered islands with plenty of rocks to keep the management busy. In the background both towards Vancouver Island to the west and mainland Canada to the east are formidable looking snow capped mountains. All magnificent especially when the sun shines as it has done today.

We went into Montague Bay, another almost landlocked tidal lake, and tied up at the marina. We were one of only three overnight visiting yachts. The best technique for getting a berth is to come into the fuelling jetty and ask. We are supposed to radio in on channel 66a but this does not work. The main reason being fairly fundamental is that we don't have channel 66a on the boat's radio. But the other one is that we have yet to see anyone at a marina with a radio.

Day 14 Tuesday June 8th

These small island marinas indicate the very serious inadequacies both of capitalism and the throwaway society. Even though there are plenty of millionaires' houses and yachts there is a water supply problem. This is not because of water shortage. We guess it rains here more than in England. It is because the rich are not prepared to provide a clean water supply for the community. This is made worse because the same principle applies to sewage which often pollutes. As far as waste is concerned it is down to the individual. In a North American society where waste is even worse than in the UK this is serious. The result is that we paid about $30 to moor, there was no fresh water for the boat, we could not have a shower and we could not dump our rubbish. And that is how the locals live, i.e. those who are not seriously rich.

We set sail for the USA. The wind was blowing hard across the lake. The weather forecast was again for a strong following wind. We made the mainsail smaller by reefing it down before we set off. Again all this was a waste of time as the wind reduced quickly and eventually failed altogether. For the first part of the day we had a strong favourable tide under us but as we turned towards the Boundary Pass we had to fight a strong adverse tide.

It was easy to tell when we crossed into the USA. The GPS reverted to just Lat and Long as we had not loaded a map for the States. Just to be sure the management had set a waypoint well over the border to ensure that we did go in. We did consider landing illegally on Stuart Island just to say we had done it but the tide was not on our side. To go in legally would cost us 25 US Dollars for the boat and we are not sure whether they would be geared up to deal with British nationals. Their immigration officers are also usually more rude than we are prepared to put up with. The stoker took the opportunity of emptying our sewage holding tank into US waters. This is hardly sufficient to express our contempt and nothing more than they deserve. That is if the Canadian radio here is correct. They are reporting that Bush and Co are saying that the appalling tortures in Iraq are permitted by international law. And it was only 60 years ago today that the Allies started to rid Europe of the Nazis.

We motored back into Canada to the huge marina at Tsehum Harbour on the Vancouver Island shore.

Day 15 Wednesday June 9th

In contrast to the tiny marinas on the Gulf Islands this one is massive. At 31 foot we are amongst the smallest boats here. Many of the yachts are really small ships and most are registered in the USA. The motor yachts tower above the jetties with flying bridges and James Bond type motor boats as tenders. Sailing yachts vary between ultra modern boats up to about 100 feet long and vessels we would call tall ships.

The port heads and showers or, in Canadian, washrooms, or, in English colloquial, bogs, are very small for such a huge marina. They do however play musak at you and occasionally puff out perfume. As we walked the very long way to get there we had time to ponder. The huge yachts here would have superior facilities on board making the public bog irrelevant. We also feel that Weymouth residents should be aware of the huge amount of work a decent marina creates. At 9am in the morning there was a whole army of workers ranging from shipwrights to cleaners and yachtbrokers to chandlers making a living here. This cannot be sacrificed for the cheap mooring fees we have for Weymouth locals.

Having said that Weymouth has much better sailing. We put to sea in light rain and mist and no wind which seems to happen here more often than not. We left Portland Island complete with Chesil on our port side. Fortunately there was no sign of the Bill and the navigational difficulties it presents.

The management had got a bit careless with his waypoints. After we had been at sea a couple of hours we had to cross the busy shipping lanes used by the local ferries. These are quite frequent, are the size of small cross channel ferries and come at you at 25 knots or more. Seeing two of them coming he altered course to cross the shipping lanes at right angles. He says that this is what the book says one is supposed to do. It worked fine and the stoker was very relieved not to be run down. Afterwards the management had to get back on course. No problem - he would just sail for the next waypoint. The GPS gave the bearing. The management however is well aware that this should only be done after careful consideration of the chart. On this occasion both it and the GPS indicated that such a course would take us overland. Tranquility is definitely not a hovercraft so thought was required. He did grumble that if the Royal Yachting Association, who have little or no understanding of modern navigation, think that he is going to go aground they have another think coming. He sorted it and we motored on our way arriving at Ganges on Salt Spring Island without mishap.

Here we had a very pleasant evening with yet more of Anne's relatives, Frank and Susan Monaghan, who gave us a very nice dinner and took us to and from their lovely house in the forest.

Day 16 Thursday June 10th

Not being a very nice day again we were reluctant to leave the dock. We both went to look at the local village with its shops aimed at the tourist trade. When we finally slipped our mooring at about midday we had no expectation of a good sail. There was no wind, it was overcast and occasionally wetted us. A gentle breeze filled in and we cut the engine and drifted along under sail at less than two knots while we had lunch. We were close to the east shore of Salt Spring Island. It was pleasant to drift by looking at the houses scattered at intervals along the heavily wooded, steeply rising shore line. The wind did however pick up. It was a bit like lake sailing. A gust would come off the shore with considerable force. The boat did her lethargic best to accelerate and the crew reacted to make the most of it while it lasted.

Once we emerged from the northern tip of the island the proper force of the wind hit us. The management reckons it was blowing up to 25 knots and we were going to windward. This involved the stoker in winching in the jib each time we tacked across the wind. She enjoyed the exercise. It also resulted in a certain amount of chaos and breakage down below. We had been lulled into a false sense of security. We had not taken into account heeling and waves but to put your mind at rest (Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy and the Whale) the only thing to suffer was our teapot. It came into the world as a coffee pot and had barely become accustomed to being a teapot. It was dashed to the cabin floor and its broken bits ended in the rubbish bin.

The last couple of miles into Telegraph Bay on Thetis Island were a reach across the wind. We showed Tranquility no mercy and carrying too much sail managed to extract seven knots from her. On arrival at the tiny island marina we were pleased to see that all the staff had gone home which made coming alongside simplicity itself. With a couple of fenders out we secured the stern line and then powered gently forward to bring the bow in. The management was then able to take his time and walk forward and take the bow line to the jetty. Longshore persons are nothing more than a nuisance. The stoker carried out the traditional duties of her role and cut the engine when all the warps were attached.

 Tranquility's crew for a day

Day 17 Friday June 11th

It is a lazy day. A decision was taken to go back to Silva Bay on Gabriola Island. This involves going through a tidal barrier which is not properly open until 6pm. The stoker took all the management's clothes off him leaving him almost naked and went off to the laundry with them. We travel light as far as clothing is concerned and most things were dirty.

Some time later the outboard was attached to the tender. It was manoeuvred alongside a low pontoon so that the stoker could board. The management finds it hard to remember that unlike him she has not been in and out of boats for most of her life. What is second nature to him is a serious challenge for her. Once aboard we headed along a waterway called the cut. It is a dredged channel between two islands looking at half tide rather like a canal. The almanac says it can be navigated at high tide by yachts similar to Tranquility. There was a minor dispute about the meaning of "similar" and the stoker prevailed.

We finally put to sea via the main channel at about 2pm. The management was by now fully clothed. The wind filled in nicely and we had a very pleasant sail. We managed to avoid "dangerous reefs" on the chart. We also managed to navigate Ruxton Passage under full sail. According to the stoker's guide book this passage has been the downfall of many fine vessels.

We approached the tidal barrier at 5pm which was much too early. It was not possible to sail through because it was dead into wind. So with the stoker in charge of the wheel the management stowed the sails. With nothing to be gained by waiting we headed into the tide. The boat has a maximum speed of five knots under engine and at times we were doing less than one knot over the ground. Not only was the tide sluicing by but swirling in all directions. The management said that steering was difficult and the rocky shore close.

By 6pm we were tied up in Silva Bay but this time at a different marina. The one we had stayed at last time was fully booked by a fishing contest. A mean lot they looked though we think it more likely they were like born again bikers in the UK. All week they work in nice safe office jobs. At weekends they put on mean gear and ride fast little boats in pursuit of fish.

Day 18 Saturday June 12th (stoker's birthday)

Last night the management took off and failed to return for some considerable time. The stoker became concerned particularly in view of the rickety nature of the jetties. She went to look for him and just as she was about to call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police he returned. He was clearly much the worse for wear from an excess of alcohol. His story was that while taking a constitutional along the far jetty he had fallen into conversation with the occupants of a boat identical to Tranquility. He was invited on board and plied with strong drink which it would have been rude to refuse. As usual the stoker's rebuke was mild though she may have had a lingering hope that he woke with the hangover he deserved.

The stoker got breakfast in bed and a nice card. Presents have to wait till we get back. The management, who claimed to have a clear head, set sail for Nanaimo to return the boat. The wind was force 4 to 5 and it was right behind us. The sea however was on the quarter making it an extremely uncomfortable ride. Normally we would have just gone somewhere else but we had to return the boat. At least having to concentrate on steering seems to have prevented the management's notoriously weak stomach from misbehaving. Or perhaps it was last night's booze.

We returned the boat, retrieved the tandem and cycled in the now heavy rain to Downtown Nanaimo. We had booked a "cottage" attached to a hostel. Again Michael and family came over and we all went out for a pleasant meal to celebrate the stoker's birthday.

Day 19 Sunday June 13th Nanaimo to Bowser

In retrospect we did two things wrong. We should have had a day off to rest in Nanaimo. We should also have planned an easy first day's ride.

As it was the management had his work cut out. He had to sort out a damaged wheel on the Bob trailer. We assume this had happened on the flight and we had failed to notice. Then he had to make sure that the tandem was working OK with its new wheels. Finally he had to fit the magnets for the cycle computers.

The final job he had to do was to attach the red duster we had been flying on the boat to the flag pole on the trailer. However it was no longer attached when we arrived at the end of the day. Either the attachment was not good enough or the flag objected to being on a land based vehicle.

We set off at around 10am on the busy roads of Nanaimo heading north. We soon found a cycle track which followed the single track railway. This got us out of town in a pleasant kind of way. As usual however when it ended we were dumped back onto the busy freeway. We saw a sign saying that this could only be used by vehicles capable of speeds of at least 60km per hour. As our maximum speed today was 69km per hour we obviously met this requirement. Anyway even though it was thoroughly unpleasant there was no other way to go. We did eventually get onto less busy roads. We would have been able to do it sooner if the computer mapping (and paper maps) had borne any resemblance to the road network. The management has long suspected that North Americans have no idea of geography, distances or directions.

Once we got back to the coast the traffic gradually eased. We were now cycling through pine forest interspersed with stretches of pleasant coast road. The wide roads and long steady ascents take some getting used to. From a practical point of view it was also difficult to get fresh fruit and veg.

Our evening digs exceeded all expectations. The pleasant self catering apartment is right on the beach with 180 degree views of the mountainous BC mainland. A lovely place to rest after a long ride.

Day 20 Monday June 14th Bowser to Comox

After breakfast outside in the sun we reluctantly set off again on highway 19. Fortunately the level of traffic had reduced. We are also getting used to the very wide road with a wide paved hard shoulder. In places it is so wide that one hardly notices even huge logging trucks coming the other way.

The route continued to follow the coast. The stoker frequently claims that she enjoys being on the back of the tandem rather than the front. The management of course would not be happy on the back and fails to understand why she enjoys being there. Unoccupied with routes, navigation and the like she has plenty of time to enjoy life. On this trip that has meant seeing all sorts of wildlife which the management has missed. Deer are here in plenty and don't seem in the least bothered by a bike. There are also all sorts of birds, many of which we cannot name. Much to our surprise a black bear ambled across the road less than 50 yards in front of us. It was probably about as big as a ten year old child and had the most beautiful glossy coat. It saw us and put on a bit of a spurt into the undergrowth. Even the management got a good view. The stoker tried a photo but was a bit slow. She had also not attached her bear bell which is supposed to jingle all of the time keeping the bears happy somehow. All it would do is to annoy the management but there is no accounting for taste. Mind you we do hope the bears do not have a taste for us. On this occasion the bear must have been wooed by the creaking noises coming from the tandem frame.

We arrived at Comox in the pouring rain which fortunately had not started until after lunch. The afternoon ride involved the aluminium meths bottle falling from the bike and being run over. The stoker blamed the management and vice versa. After all it was at the stoker's end of the bike. The management reluctantly accepted responsibility for running it over and for attempting to return it to its original shape. So far it shows no sign of leaking.

On arrival at our B&B we were welcomed by tea. We also enjoyed a hot tub or jacuzzi in Swedglais. It was a very nice way to finish a pleasant ride.