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Back to the Ocean
Around 2002, I took a cross-country road trip from Toronto to Vancouver with the goal to live by the ocean and very near mountains. I settled on White Rock, a small beach town, at the southern-most point of British Columbia bordering the state of Washington.
I felt drawn to the ocean and salt water with great intensity; reminiscent of many hours spent swimming in the Black Sea as a child. Despite modest resources, I acquired a sit-on-top sea kayak and became an early-riser to join a small group of retired kayaking enthusiasts. The age gap of several decades didn’t prevent my fitting in. Kayaking was a great way to exercise, catch fresh dungeness crab and be on the water.
Afer a while, a great interest developed in learning how to sail and shortly after I joined the Surrey Sailing Club and enrolled in their Dinghy sailing classes. The on-the-water focused curriculum was suited to my style of learning, while the fleet consisted of Laser, Laser 2, C420s and RS Fevas boats.
I completed the first three certification levels before a visit to the nearby Ward’s Marina that ended with my becoming a boat owner.
Ward’s Marina is a city-owned facility, located on the Nicomekl River - a short distance from its mouth: The Boundary Bay. I appreciated that Nicomekl, a word from Halkomelem used by the Sto:lo people, means the route to go or the pathway. My pathway was intersecting a 30+ year-old boat named Periwinkle.
As her builder, Terry Lawrence, wrote about her more eloquently than I will try, I feel a good summary quote is all that’s needed:
Periwinkle was designed to be 16 feet long and 8 feet wide because I could build that with just a few 4’x8′ sheets of plywood and some glue and fiberglass.
Having finished the hulls, I decided to convert the boat from a daysailer to one I could cruise around the Gulf Islands in, which meant building a cabin on the top. I considered various options that would look relatively sleek, but they all ended up with about as much elbow room as a couple of coffins. In the end I decided to go for some usable space and build a cracker box on top of the daysailer hulls.
The result was a pocket cruiser that looked like two logs supporting a squatter’s hut. Sort of a Canadian Kon Tiki.
Despite it’s odd looks, the little catamaran turned out to be reasonably seaworthy, and I sailed it all over the Gulf of Georgia, or Salish Sea, for the next 30 years.
His Cruising Under Sail website is a gem of rare writing about the adventures of a passionate sailor with a life-long dedication to the sea.
By the time I saw the catamaran (now close to 20’), I didn’t get a chance to meet her builder. She cost about $1,000 CAD, which I didn’t have. My employer at the time, a man who has the only boat house at Ward’s Marina, helped out the young me with a loan and a reasonable time to pay it off. For the next nearly two years of boat ownership, I ventured into learning how to operate and maintain a sailing vessel. I had achieved personal milestones, overcame challenges and, for a brief period, I lived free of financial ambitions and aspirations to climb the social or corporate ladder.
Cruising Full-time Origins
Incidentally, towards the end of my time in Canada, having met lots of cruisers, I was lucky enough to meet Rae and Sharon Simpson and their boat Mustang Sally, who left on a four-year journey to explore the world. They were an inspiration and proof that my crazy ideas had [community], and a dormant seed began to dream.
Life’s calling and the birth of my beautiful daughters brought me to the Pacific Northwest. Sailing adventures continued in the form of day-sailing on Lake Washington from Sail SandPoint.
In 2008, after securing a sailing charter in Elliot Bay, Seattle for a family member, I formed a short relationship with the captain and his wife (long term live-aboards and experienced boaters). Captain Bruce of Echo Charters and his wife, graciously invited me for several outings on Echo their beautiful 42’ Fountaine Pajot catamaran. We explored Bainbridge Island, Vashon and Gig Harbour as day sailing trips.
The highlight of knowing Captain Bruce was a passage from Seattle to Vancouver, BC through the inner passage and the beautiful scenery of the San Juan Islands. I had 1-on-1 instruction for the entire trip on all aspects of passage making: Weather, Traffic, Navigation, Watches, Clearing in and out of ports, managing local currents and tidal conditions (which can be quite challenging at the exit of the archipelago into Canadian waters). With our entrance into English Bay via the Burrard Inlet, the passage concluded with landfall at the beautiful Granville Island. The excitement lasted for months.
Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
In 2006, during a month-long visit to Thailand, I chartered a sailboat for three nights exploring the northern islands of the Andaman Sea (Phang Nga Bay). This experience was the closest to “cruising life” up to that point in my life. Beautiful scenery, sleeping at anchor in isolated locations, swimming at night in the bioluminescent waters and eating catch of the day from the early morning fishermen in their long-tail boats are but a few of the many memories collected over the short 4 days on the water.
In 2014, I found myself in Southern California where the ocean’s call is always close. After meeting Denise, our shared interest of sailing and adventure nourished the seed planted a decade prior.
Thanks to Denise, my almost non-existent sailing life was rejuvenated once again. I joined her in day sails aboard Mystic, a 36’ Catalina owned by the California Sailing Cooperative. We chartered several Catalina 22’ to 26’ from Blue Water Sailing, and I was even lucky enough to be part of a racing crew - all thanks to Denise.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to the Sailing Resume series with the final installment (a.k.a. the sequel).
Thanks for reading!
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