We slipped our lines on Tuesday and motored out of the harbour on our way to Sidney. I needed an oil change and wanted to get someone to look at my stuffing box, so I had booked Vector Yacht Services in Tsehum for 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Also my parents were flying into Sidney for a week on Wednesday evening, so it looked like it would all work out. We timed our departure to hit Enterprise around slack and planned to ride the flood all the way to Sidney. Luckily the bizarre currents off Victoria were in our favour and we got an almost 2 knot push all the way to Trial Island as well. If we were staying in the area I would definitely be buying a Current Atlas so these things wouldn’t be such a surprise. But, as a result, we cut almost an hour off our estimated time. The wind, as usual, was on the nose the whole way.
We had a nice stern-in berth waiting for us at Sidney and since they are still on winter rates the price was right. As soon as we were tied up and settled, we grabbed the grocery cart and backpacks and headed off to the convenient Fairway Market to provision. This was really our first taste of having guests aboard because after having the boat to ourselves for almost 10 months we had to consider other people’s tastes and of course work out portion sizes. My parents — both circling around the 70 mark (although mom was a bit of a cradle robber) — were going to be here for around a week and —weather dependent — we might be away from dock the whole time. So we had to consider both amount and tastes when getting perishables like milk, bread and greens and had to double up on meat portions and other produce. The corollary to this of course, is that our finely-tuned storage methodology was thrown out the door and we had to start stuffing things in a bit willy nilly. It’s amazing how much an extra litre of milk or loaf of bread can change how you usually stow things in the fridge or freezer, to say nothing of where you put all that extra beer.
The next morning we were up early and had cast off by 7:30 to make the 2 or 3 nm trip over to Tsehum. The entrance to Vector’s docks is buried in amongst the public wharfs and boat houses and we gave up searching eventually and phoned in for directions. Then we had to back into a tiny slip around a 100° corner, but there were plenty of hands on the dock to make sure I didn’t screw up. For the next hour or so I watched the pro’s change my oil and oil filters and install the two new fuel filters I already had. It came to a grand total of $200 and change including tax; a bit more than I wanted to pay but it was good to watch someone change the racor (fuel filter) as there was a bit of a trick to handling the gravity feed. And it saved me buying the tools. Then we cast off and were tied up back in Sidney a little after 10 a.m.
I had been delaying laundry since I knew Sidney had great facilities with lots of machines so that was the next chore. We did all the blankets, sheets and towels as well as our regular accumulation of clothes. Sidney is also only $2.50/load which saves us $.50/load over our Wharf Street facilities. However the machines wouldn’t take twoonies so that rendered my loonie/twoonie stash useless and we had to buy a bunch more loonies and quarters to get all five loads done. The marina office is great and was able to provide all our cash changing needs.
The next chore was to rearrange the boat to accommodate two more people. We decided we would move into the “garage” (v-berth) and give up the aft cabin for our guests. In addition, we would have to raise the salon table to eat on thus giving up our “lounge” with it’s blankets and pillows. What this means is that even without worrying about the additional bodies and their gear, we had a lot of rearranging to do to find stowage for cushions, pillows, charts and sundry gear that normally was just stored in the v-berth. Then we had to clear out shelf and locker space so they would have a place to unpack and find room for our stuff in the smaller forward cabin. But a couple of hours of rearranging resulted in something that was serviceable and sailable, albeit a bit cluttered looking.
Then we wandered beautiful Sidney by the Sea, enjoying the warm day before grabbing a bus to meet my parents at the airport. After all the arrival greetings and rituals, we grabbed a cab back to the marina and started to settle them in. First up was my orientation and safety lecture. I had been working on a check list for guests, so this was my first opportunity to try it out. All in all I think it went pretty well — at least everyone stayed safe and the visit was relatively drama-free. Dinner was bbq’d burgers, beer and great company. The weather has turned so we are back to eating in the cockpit. Later I baked raisin bread for breakfast and then we chatted for the rest of the evening. I grabbed a late-evening shower before we all hit the sack.
And we’re off
The weather looked like it would hold to Sunday so we cast off the next morning for Butchart Gardens after topping up the water tanks. The wind was negligible so we motored most of the way around the top of Saanich Peninsula. Along the way my dad screwed with my Garmin fish finder — which I had never used —and we spotted a few fish, which gave us some hope for later. Soon enough we pulled into the small inlet across from Butchart and started for their free mooring balls. I noticed that most of the dock was roped off with plastic yellow tape but didn’t give it much thought. So we grabbed a mooring ball and my dad and I rowed ashore to set the stern line; having a coxswain sure makes that exercise easier. But about 2 minutes after we had got back from securing the stern tie, someone hailed us from the dock and told us the back entrance was closed and we would have to either go over to Brentwood Bay and take the bus or around to Tod Inlet and hike in. Disappointed that the famous “back door” was closed, we lowered the motor onto Laughing Baby and then gently loaded our passengers before taking off. With a full load of 4 passengers the trip was neither quick nor dry, but we made it down to the park docks with little drama.
Butchart was stunning as always and the tulip beds were pretty phenomenal considering the ones in Victoria were almost gone. When we were entering, I checked in at the info booth and it turns out there was some question about whether or not they would let us stay at their mooring buoys, but eventually after passing the buck a few times, someone ok’d us to spend the night. We wandered the gardens for a few hours before heading back to the boat.
Back on board, dad set up the fishing gear he had brought along and mooched (?) off the bow while the rest of us relaxed. I made some more bread for dinner and did a small pork roast in the oven. It was a quiet and calm evening except for the Canada geese and we relaxed and visited in the fading sun before calling it a day.
The next morning was coffee on deck (perk’d for the special guests) and general relaxing. Eventually everyone was up and around, so it was time to cast off. We decided to make use of all the extra crew, so I put my mom at the wheel while I cast off the stern line and my dad and Leslie took on slipping the bow line. Mom manoeuvred us around the mooring balls and took us out of the bay, and we headed up the inlet for Portland Island.
The winds were about 6 to 7 knots on the nose but we decided to sail anyway since we had all day. And since we were only making about 3 knots, my dad broke out the fishing gear, while my mom tacked us back and forth for an hour or so. Eventually we decided we weren’t making enough way ( I think we were going mostly sideways) so we furled the jib and started motor-sailing towards Patricia Bay — but we kept the revs down and continued to troll as we slowly made our way north towards Satellite Channel.
Despite the presence of three or four other boats trolling we didn’t even get a nibble and, as we we turned east at the top of the peninsula, the winds started to climb. So we hauled in the fishing gear, killed the engine and started to sail towards the north side of Portland Island, our destination. The winds quickly climbed to 12–15 knots and we were racing along close hauled for a while, but after about 3 or 4 tacks the slightly alarmed look on my mom’s face convinced me that heeling just wasn’t her thing. So we turned into the wind, furled the sails and motored the last 15 minutes to Royal Cove.
Stern tying again, we dropped anchor this time and Leslie was thrilled with our newly renewed chain markings. Once again the extra crew made the whole process easier and more stress-free; turns out an extra set of hands is a good thing. The winds were out of the north and it would turn out to be our bumpiest stay in Royal Cove ever. But it was never that bad and it gave my parents an opportunity to experience a little boat rocking. We settled in and decided on a small hike. So we loaded up the dinghy and rowed over to the dock to hike out to Arbutus Point. Turns out that loading 4 people in a dingy off the transom is not the easiest operation and it took some shuffling to keep everything balanced.
After a 10 minute hike, we spent an hour or two exploring the midden beaches and shoals in a flood tide, spotted some ducks, otters, and anemones and generally soaked in the atmosphere. The point was also populated by tons of kayakers enjoying the spring weather. On the way out and back we saw plenty of new wildflowers but unfortunately none of my pictures turned out.
That evening we enjoy another lovely sunset while I cooked up some baked pasta. Later we retired below and broke out the crib board and played a few hands of fourhanded crib — it didn’t go well for one of the teams.
We had intended to spend the day on Portland and either head home late in the day Saturday or perhaps see if the weather window would stretch to Sunday. But Sunday’s forecast never improved and it started to look like the winds Saturday afternoon were swinging south and were going to be higher than predicted. Since I wasn’t sure about the sea legs of our guests and really didn’t want to have to fight the winds all the way, we decided to catch the last of the morning ebb tide and head back to Victoria. Before we cast off, I took the leftover red spray paint from marking our anchor rode ashore and sprayed the 5 metal stern-tie rings that are permanently embedded in the rocks. Hopefully that will make finding them easier for others.
Once again all hands on deck made casting off a breeze and my dad motored us out of the cove and around the east end of Portland, while Leslie and I joined my mom on the foredeck to enjoy the sunshine and views. But as soon as we turned south the wind came up and it got a bit too cold for sunbathing so we carefully made our way back down the side decks and cosy’d up under the enclosure.
I decided to grab a shower since the engine was running and left Leslie and my dad to navigate us among the islands and rocks off Sidney. At one point the current was so strong we hit 9 knots over ground. After that we figured it was just a few hours of motoring south. But unfortunately the forecast was wrong and the winds picked up to 15 knots or so almost immediately and, of course, were right on the nose. The wind over current meant the waves were pretty short and steep and it turned out to be a bouncy few hours with some spectacular spray over the bow. But everyone seemed to have the right constitutions for sailing and it turned out it was a fairly enjoyable passage despite the bumpiness.
As we approached Baynes Channel and Cardboro Point we noticed about 10 or 15 sailboats headed towards us with spinnakers flying. It seems we were about to motor straight into a regatta or race out of Cadboro Bay. It looked like they were using the V29 lateral buoy off Johnstone reef as their turn point and sure enough, just as we passed it, three boats doused their spinnakers and came racing around the marker pretty much on a collision course with us. I really had no idea what the etiquette was in these situations other than the knowledge they had the right of way — and that I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s race. So I went hard to starboard and pointed at the stern of the last of three boats and watched them cross my bow meters away. Then we turned back onto our original course and dodged the oncoming boats that hadn’t made the turn yet. One of the original three decided to short tack and they came screaming back across our stern, the sides covered in rail meat (crewmembers whose job is primarily to be portable ballast). They tacked back and forth generally on our course off our stern and as they turned into Baynes channel they weren’t that far behind us. Just goes to show sailing in good wind can be faster than motoring. I altered course one more time in Baynes Channel to allow the other two boats who were again on a collision course to slip through ahead of us.
The current was against us the rest of the way in and was running about 3 knots in Enterprise Channel so we had a bumpy and slow transit through there. My phone rang just about then and it turned out to be the GVHA informing me that the search and rescue guys had found a huge (40′) floating log in the harbour and decided to tie it up to our spot. This meant we were going to have to tie up on the outside of D dock until someone could arrange to move it — not likely until Monday. So an hour and bit of motoring later we turned past Ogden Point and entered Victoria’s Inner Harbour. I did a slow circle around to show off the sights from the water. Then we nestled in between two big boats on the outside of the Wharf Street and tied up. It’s really exposed out there and the winds were up so it was a bit of a rough night; but everyone survived and it was another “great” introduction to the cruising lifestyle.
Sunday morning we spent relaxing, then visited Capital Iron for some last minute fishing gear and then in the afternoon, we hit the RBCM (the museum) for some edumatcation and an IMAX film; we have season’s passes to both so it was a cheap date. A nice sushi dinner finished off the night and then there was some more closely fought cribbage.
Monday we were up and ready to go early, since we were going to try and do some fishing off Constance Bank. I don’t have a downrigger but we hoped that the gear my dad had brought with him would be enough to get some action going. Rumour has it that the springs are right on the bottom this time of year, so it was not going to be a sure thing. We motored out of the harbour and then spent four or five hours bouncing around outside generally enjoying the sun and the company. The HMCS Calgary joined us for a while doing manoeuvres, and at one point we saw them do a high speed turn in which I am sure they had 20° of heel. It’s one thing to do that in a sailboat but in a 5000 tonne, 450 foot warship it must be something else. We didn’t get any bites, despite having bought the the flashiest flasher you ever saw, but it was a great day to spend the day.
On the way in we stopped to fuel up and I hailed the GVHA on 66A to make sure they had cleared the log from our spot. They had, so we tied up in our regular berth and went through the steps to set the boat up for land-life again, including getting our highspeed internet back. I am really going to miss that when we cast off in the next week or so.
In the afternoon we toured the grounds of St Annes school, popped into the duck pond at Beacon Hill and slid by the Spinnaker’s beer store in James Bay. It was a bit too long of a walk for everyone involved (except Leslie the spring chicken) and we started taking rest stops as we made our way back to the boat. But where better to sit and watch the world go by than in Victoria in the spring. There were roses and lilacs and peonies blooming and it still isn’t even May.
Dinner was on mom so the rest of us relaxed while she prepped some stuffed chicken breasts for our last big meal together. Monday night ended with a few more crib hands, solidly consolidating the lead for one particular team and then we tucked in for the last night aboard.
On Tuesday my parents grabbed a cab at the Harbour Air terminal for their trip back to the airport and we went back to the boat to spend an hour or two trying to put her back into shape for the two of us. But since we are planning on leaving Victoria for good in a week, we ended up with a more hybrid configuration than normal because we will be making her cruise ready soon enough. And that was pretty much it for our guest adventure.
While I was surprised at how much we had to rearrange to accommodate guests, I was even more surprised at the fact that two extra bodies didn’t make the boat seem crowded. It helped the weather was mostly good and we spent a lot more time out in the cockpit than we had during the winter. Morning coffee out there was especially pleasant as it allowed people to wake up at their own pace and gave every one some space. But overall the fact that everyone was cheerful and cooperative went a long way to maximizing the personal and social space aboard. It would depend on the guests, but I think 4 people wouldn’t be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks or, if everyone was of the right mindset, even longer.
And despite being inexperienced, it was still amazingly helpful having an extra set of hands to take the wheel or keep a watch. And stern tying is 200% easier with a couple of extra bodies. Still, Never for Ever is not just our boat, she’s our home, and it’s nice to have her back the way we are used to.