We have been living on the boat and cruising around the British Columbia coast now for about a month and a half. Each day has been filled with new experiences—some fun and others stressful. And in the last day or so I’ve been overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I mean, what are the odds of me, a Missouri farm girl, and Rob, a suburban guy from Athens Georgia meeting and falling in love in Colorado, adopting a desert dog from Arizona and then selling everything to start living on a sailboat in Canada? Sometimes I just start laughing out loud when I think about the absurdity of it all.
So where all have we gone? Since leaving Vancouver we went almost due west to Gabriola Island which is part of what is called the “Gulf Islands”. We stayed in this area for a while spending a few days in different anchorages and then worked our way north towards Nanaimo. To get there we went through Dodd Narrows which is a narrow spot where the water is funneled creating a strong current. It’s important to time your crossing so that the water is with you or at least at slack so that you can get through it quickly. We hit it at the right time and didn’t have any trouble thankfully!
Nanaimo is a busy city but we anchored near Newcastle Island which is across a channel from the city. The Island is a park with lovely trails and the city is just far enough away to not be bothered with traffic noise at night. We ended up staying several days as we worked on different boat projects (including climbing the mast) and got to know some great people.
From there we went east towards other islands and eventually hit the “main land” north of Vancouver. This area is known as the Sunshine Coast and we had great weather. We continued to hop north along the coast stopping at fun places like Smuggler Cove, Buccaneer Bay, and Secret Cove. One really nice spot was Pender Harbor where there are several small communities around the harbor and the best way to see them is from a dinghy. The landscape was lovely and from where we moored it was a short walk to a lovely fresh water lake where we went swimming.
We continued north and made it all the way to Desolation Sound which is a pretty big destination for the cruising crowd. We had taken our time to get there hoping the main summer crowd would dissipate. I think our plan worked but we arrived around the last full week before Canada schools started up and there were still a lot of people there. The water was warm enough to swim, the mountains were steep and beautiful, the trails were in wilderness (no houses around), plentiful and fun, and the anchorages were easy.
We even did our first stern tie—you anchor as normal but as close to shore as possible and then jump in the dinghy to run a line from the boat to shore so your boat doesn’t swing around. When boats do this you can pack boats in closer together without worrying about hitting each other as they swing with the wind. It’s a little nerve wracking the first time though, let me tell you! Anyway, we played in the Desolation Sound area for quite a while. We really enjoyed circumnavigating Cortes Island as it had many very nice anchorages and trails.
Currently we are debating if it is time to start heading South towards Port Townsend, Washington where we have a reservation in a marina for the winter or if we want to stay in the North a little while longer. If we head North the idea is that we might be able to make it up to Octopus Island Marine Park which we hear is exquisite. It’s all up to the weather though. This area is heavenly when the sun is out, the days are hot, and it’s easy to get from place to place. We hear winter is much different with cold, rain, and heavy winds (always from the wrong direction).
Anyway, here we are. Two land lubbers on a boat floating around British Columbia. And today is the first day where we both found ourselves sitting down looking at each other and asking, “shouldn’t we be doing something productive?” The answer to that question for once was no—everything that needed to be done had been done. Leaving us with the question, “now what do we do?” We laughed and shook our heads. Neither one of us could remember the last time we didn’t need to do something. So we sat on the poop deck of the boat and watched the water reflect the light on the trees and talked about nothing. It was nice. It was exactly what we both had hoped to find on this adventure. Time to do nothing.
Of course there is always something that can be done on a sailboat—cleaning, organizing, laundry, cooking, researching the weather, reading about where to go and how to get there, tweaking rigging, etc. And sailing with a long haired dog means daily vacuuming up hair so it doesn’t clog drains. That’s right, we vacuum our sailboat daily—another thing that makes me laugh.
Most days at anchor look a little like this: wake up, stretch, eat breakfast, check the weather, wash dishes, feed the dog, pack lunches, load up into the dinghy, take the dog on a nice hike over lunch, dinghy back to the boat in the afternoon, work on boat projects or read books to relax, eat dinner, wash dishes, load up into the dinghy, take the dog for another walk, check the weather, sponge baths, go to bed.
Days when we are moving locations look like this: wake up, stretch, eat breakfast, check the weather, wash dishes, feed the dog, load up into the dinghy, take the dog on a walk, dinghy back to the boat, prep the boat to be “at sea” (attach the dinghy, stow everything, check engine fluids, plot our course, get sails ready to be raised quickly, etc), raise the anchor, sail as much as we can but often winds or light or our batteries need to be charged so we motor to our destination, check the area looking for a good spot to anchor, drop the anchor and make sure it catches, stow the sails, pull supplies out, launch the dinghy, take the dog to shore, dinghy back, eat dinner, wash dishes, check the weather, sponge baths, go to bed.
We’ve managed to figure out we use around 5 gallons of water a day when we are being careful and do laundry ashore, we need to get ice for our YETI cooler about every 4-5 days, the dinghy’s gas tank lasts around 20 days, our engine “sips” diesel so our 180 gallons is lasting a long time, our batteries last about 4-5 days before needing to be charged but we try to charge them every 2-3 days so they never drop too low. The refrigeration system takes the most energy but keeping all our electronic devices charged is also a drain. We end up putting devices on “airplane mode” so they don’t waste power searching for a signal all day. We turn them on a few times a day to check in and make sure we aren’t missing important emails, phone calls, texts, etc.
Now that we know our needs on the boat the list for what we want to change/add over the winter is starting to come together. So far it includes adding solar panels so we don’t have to run our engine to charge batteries, investigating composting toilets onboard (the traditional “head” is messy and smelly!), looking for a bigger dinghy and other ways to get off the boat (kayaks, SUP boards), improving the helm station so it fits both Rob’s 6’4” and my 5’6” frame, maybe a water maker so we don’t feel like we have to ration our water so much (Rob would like to shower once in a while!), and researching satellite communication vs. cellular communication. I’ve realized that keeping in touch with friends and family via phone/text/social media is very important to my sanity. We’d also like to take courses on weather prediction, piloting (reading charts, symbols, bouys, etc), and celestial navigation. Rob is also interested in working towards a captain’s license.
So there is still a lot out there that we to research and learn. But today, just for a little while, we didn’t have to do anything and it was nice.