I’ve had this post written as a draft since the fall while I’ve been wrestling with how it should be concluded. I think I could debate that for the next 10 years, so ‘deep breath’ – here goes…
As I was getting the boat ready for a trip sail last weekend I had this blog post formulating in my mind.
I was going to talk about how amazing it is to do an overnighter and pretty much just go.
When I mean just go, I mean I packed my beach bag – yeah I said ‘beach bag’.
Inside it was clothes for both me and the young man. That was all I was taking. No food, no toys, no huge amounts of stuff. We were just going to head to Bowen for the night and enjoy the local food there. It was going to be simple and it was going to be beautiful.
This is not that kind of blog post.
It all started when I went for a run on Friday morning. I noticed it was pretty windy and the rollers coming into the bay were pretty big for Vancouver. There was spray crashing up the breakwater at the maritime museum which I don’t think I’ve seen before. I estimated there to be about 20 knots of wind or force 5 which isn’t too bad.
I got home, we discussed the conditions and checked the weather forecast. It was forecast to moderate so we continued as planned.
A few hours later we had loaded our very light load, untied the dock lines and hoisted the main in the double reef position as soon as we left the dock.
As we motored westward under the bridge we could see English Bay in front of us looking like a wave farm. Rows upon rows of rollers greeted us coming straight out of the west under a cold winter blue sky. It’s common for the wind to compress and get stronger at the bottom of the bay so we plunged ahead hoping to punch through the worst of it.
It’s often easier to sail in rough conditions than to motor so we unfurled the Genoa to one of it’s reefing points and began to work at getting the boat dialled in…. This is pretty much the point that it all went to hell in a hand basket really.
On our old boat , because it was a race boat, we had sailed it in all sorts of conditions and we knew without thinking how to set the sails for a blow. On the new boat I suddenly felt unsure. I wasn’t sure how much tension to put on the reef line. The sail draft looked to deep but there was so much resistance on the line I didn’t want to break something. Same story with the reef in the Genoa. I wasn’t sure where to put the jib lead on the track.
Mean while, the boat wasn’t going any where fast and we were drifting down on to the rocks at Stanley Park.
It was loud out there with all the wind so J. And I had to shout at each other to hear each other. We weren’t angry or sounding particularly miffed, but at this point I think A. wanted to hear calm voices and although we told him we were shouting just to hear each other he couldn’t reconcile it and was getting upset. He was in a safe place under the dodger but other than talking to him, I couldn’t help him as the priority was to get the boat working for us.
We tacked away from the rocks and continued working to get the boat dialed in. The wind gauge was showing 26 knots (force 6) which is still not a crazy amount of wind to be out in. The waves were not huge, probably 3-4 feet but very steep and close together making it quite a ride, in the way that you get when the wind and the tide are opposing each other. The air temperature was hovering around 2 degrees.
After much messing around on my part, I finally got the boat sort of dialled in and we began to make progress. I turned my attention to A. Who was very quiet and scared. He was too scared to go down below by himself, so I got him wedged in a spot next to me where he wouldn’t be thrown from, we had a cuddle and we talked about all the things that were worrying him. I knew that he needed an adult to sit with him through this and that I couldn’t do it because I needed to be sailing the boat.
J. commented that ‘things were better now, right?’ and they were… marginally. The boat was standing up better, and she was actually moving forwards through the water but it was still a long way to Bowen, we had a little one who was terrified and, you could see from the waves that the wind pressure was constant all the way out. I also realised that we had neglected to check the Howe Sound forecast – Howe Sound (where we were going) is a fjord big enough to have it’s own weather conditions.
The other thought that bothered me was the ‘what if’ factor. ‘What if something breaks under this pressure?’, ‘What if something gets jammed in this?’ I know that I don’t have enough strength to bail us out of a situation like that in this wind. Here we were 2 adults and a kid sailing upwind in 22-26 knots of wind, it’s not a crazy amount of wind, but my sense was that it would be a whole lot safer if we had one more adult on board. We’d have two to sail the boat and one to focus on the kid.
I turned to J. And said, ‘I think we should go home.’
I knew how much he wanted to learn the boat in these conditions.
I knew that ‘these conditions’ weren’t really all that bad, and that off shore we’d see far more ‘exciting’ things than this.
I knew that we were not in real danger.
I knew that this would be our second failed attempt to get to Bowen in as many weeks,
and I knew that he was really looking forwards to a yummy Bowen island pizza.
I really had no idea what his response would be.
Would we be one of those bedraggled families where the father /skipper/Ahab refuses to back down in the teeth of a gale dragging the whole family through hell and high-water?
At that moment In time I really didn’t know what his response would be.
What do you think we did? Stay tuned for part 2 to find out what happened next.