Day 1, Saturday, June 1 Nanaimo – Comox
Most of the crew stayed overnight with a very nice lady in Nanaimo, who not only put up six or eight of us, but loaned us her van to transport us around on last-minute pickups and treated us to a barbecue on her deck. Last chance for civilization be fore the trek.
Greg (the skipper) and I slept on the boat. I got a decent enough sleep, and we were up at 7 to get organized for a 9 am start.
We got off to a good start, cruising through the fleet and breaking away with the TransPac 52s and a couple of other light-wind boats.
This was a rather strange race. In order to keep it short, the race ended just south of Fanny Bay, and then we motored for 2 hours into Comox.
We got into Comox and hit the campsite, which was in the next field to the marina, and our roadies already had the trailer emptied, the kitchen set up and pizzas on the barbecue. After a great supper we partially packed the trailer for the morning, the crew pitched their tents, and four of us went back to sleep on the boat.
About the Race
This is a unique sailing race in the world. It is both a distance race and a regatta, sailed through some of the most pristine wilderness scenery in the world. But that means incredible logistics problems. Some of the overnight stops don’t have accommodations. Many don’t have campsites close to the marina where we moor the boats. As we go through the race, I’ll give these in more detail.
Day 2, Sunday, June 2, Comox – Campbell River
Off to a great start. The wind was completely squirrelly, very light and shifty. We started under the light #1 jib, but the moment we crossed the line Greg said “Spinnaker up!” So up went the spinnaker. then the wind died down even more, and it was “peel to the light spinnaker.” Which means you raise one spinnaker inside the other, then peel the old one off and bring it down. Then the wind died completely, and it was “Spinnaker down, up with the drifter,” which is a small, light nylon sail you actually fly by holding the sheet in your hand.
All of this paid off, and we pulled out on the heels of the TransPacific 52’s. We followed them all day,right down the middle of the straight with the tide behind us, gradually pulling away from the rest of the fleet, until at one point we were 5 nautical miles ahead of Jam, our competitor for line honours in Division 1. .
And then the wind died. Completely. The boat sat dead still for half an hour, and it didn’t even turn in circles. Then we got some wind, and tried to get out of the middle of the straight, because the tide was changing. Then we noticed Jam and the other boats in our class easing up the west side of the course, pulled along by a serious back-eddy. Over the next two hours we sat, dead still, while most of our division caught up with us, and some passed us.
Then we got some wind, and tried to work our way over to the side of the course. At one point we went through a strange tidal swirl where the tide was flowing against the wind and all the surface of the water was covered with sharp little prickly waves, all going in different directions, making a sound like a stream flowing.
We cruised through the “prickly water” and then the wind died, and the tide pushed us backwards through the swirl.
Anyway, we finally got over to the tidal stream . The wind rose to our favourite speed, about 6 – 8 nautical miles per hour (10-12 km), we proceeded to pass everyone again, and the game continued to our satisfaction.
And then, about 2 hours from the finish line, the wind began to build. We changed down to our #3 jib, but Jam and the other heavy-weather boats continued to creep up behind. Finally, a hundred metres from the finish line, they passed us, running under a much larger #2 jib, and going like a train.
Just to make things interesting, Cheeky Monkey, (high-tech racing catamaran) came screaming up from behind, headed straight for the same point where we intended to cross the line. We held our ground, and they swung behind us and surged ahead, but they didn’t quite pass us.
Our support team was in an RV park about a kilometre from the docks. I have a blister from walking in my sailing shoes. We had a good burger barbecue and left the trailer half-packed for the crew to finish with their camping gear in the morning.
We made salami and cheese wraps for tomorrow’s lunch, and also packed enough food for two breakfasts and Wednesday’s lunch, because the next night we were staying at the Marine Harvest Fish Farm at Deepwater bay on Hardwicke Island, just rafted up to the dock. No road access for our indomitable roadies and their motor home.
Day 3 Monday, June 3, Campbell River to Fish Farm
Had to leave dock at 5 to get through Seymour narrows on slack tide. Start was the other side. Very little wind. Found our own personal gust and started first. Gust died leaving us in our own personal hole, where we sat while the whole fleet passed us. So we spent the whole day fighting through the fleet from 35th to 10th. Which means we passed half our division, but only saved our time on two of them.
The fish farm is rather exposed to a westerly, and we were on an outside moorage with another boat rafted alongside, so it was all squeaky and bumpy. However, fatigue is a great soporific.
They provided a good meal of bean salad, Greek salad, and cold salmon steaks (farmed salmon, you think?)
Everyone sleeping on the boat, so it’s very crowded. Normal 9 am start tomorrow, just outside the bay.
Looking forward to “normal” tomorrow night, with only the four “old guys” on the boat and the partners in camp.
Day 4 Tuesday, June 4 Hardwicke Island to Telegraph Cove
Not our best day. We were crowded on the boat, Ang and Will commandeered my almost-double bunk, trading for their combined sleeping pads, so I was pretty comfortable, even if it was on the cabin floor.
However, when we turned on the motor and tried to leave the dock, nothing happened. Motor revved, but we didn’t go anywhere. No problem. We sailed out and started the race.
Which didn’t go too well. No problems on the boat, but the wind was around 20 knots, which is not our best speed. So we gradually subsided to our expected position with the slower boats in Div 1. The wind slowly died during the day, and we were able to claw our way up to fifth in our division, but even in the light air we weren’t overtaking them like we usually do. So we probably came in pretty far down in our class. Boo Hoo.
When we got to Telegraph Creek we had to tie up beside another boat and have them tow us in to the dock. Then taped a GoPro camera on a stick and took a picture. Which showed that the pin that holds the folding blades on the prop had failed, allowing the blades to fall off.
It’s 5:30 pm on a Tuesday night in Telegraph Creek. Not likely to find parts. So Greg got on the phone and called everybody he knew, which means a lot of people, and found someone who had a prop we thought was identical. Was in Nanaimo, and someone was coming up tomorrow to join a boat at Port Hardy, so we should be able to use the layover day to get it fixed. Cross the fingers!
Telegraph Creek is the neatest little place, originally a boardwalk on pilings, and all the buildings are there, each with a plaque detailing the people who lived in them.
Day 5. Wednesday, June 5 Telegraph Cove to Port Hardy
I was awakened at 5:30 by little scratchy claws on deck. I made some noise and it went away, but I was awake and I misread my watch and thought it was 6:30. I have to get a new watch. Nobody else was awake, and the race started at 7:30, so I went up to the washroom, put in my contact lens, and checked my watch in better light. Then I went back to bed for half an hour.
At 6:15 everyone else got up, and we got ready for the race. A passing boat towed us out, and we got going.
Despite the downwind aspects, the boat didn’t seem as fast as previous days, and we came about third in our division as usual. Not that it matters, because the race committee Dq’d us for racing without a motor. Which we expected.
Any way, we got some great spinnaker practice, and we’re in Port Hardy. If you want an outside take on the drama check the Vanisle360 report:
It was a short race, and we had the afternoon off to do maintenance, and because of the day off tomorrow it was party time. We have two guitar players and a professional-quality fiddler on board, so we had a foot-stompin’ jam. Have to do more of those if we have energy.
Day 6. Thursday, June 6 Layover day in Port Hardy
We didn’t get to sleep in much, because the prop showed up Wednesday night, and the diver was meeting us at the boat at 9 am. We started to work on all the maintenance required (sail repair is my specialty) and the diver started on the boat at about 1. The “new” prop sort of fit, although the cotter pins wouldn’t go through the holes, so he used wire. Obviously a diver, not a mechanic, but he’s a fellow racer working for a case of beer, so there’s no reason to complain. Hope it holds together.
Our next leg is 70 nautical miles, twice what we’ve been racing so far, so the pressure is building.