Chuck is an individual with the rugged good looks you would expect if you crossed Homer Simpson with Sponge Bob. You might think you see the glint of intelligence in those steely blue eyes, but you would be wrong. Chuck is a total airhead. That’s right, zippo between the ears. In fact, zippo ears. Chuck has the dubious distinction, and extreme bad luck, of finding himself overboard at inopportune moments. That’s right, in the drink. If the truth be known, he actually gets chucked out of the boat, and thus the name.
Whenever we have company aboard the boat, we try to be good hosts in the extreme. We consider it our solemn duty to make sure everyone knows their way around the boat, and knows what to do in case of emergency. We give short lessons on how to operate the radio to call for help. Guests are told where to find the first aid kit. Finally, they are instructed on procedures for getting someone back on the boat, should they fall into the water. This is where Chuck comes in.
One never knows when Chuck will make his move. Attention grabber that he is, he likes to wait until everyone is comfortable and unsuspecting, but he always makes sure someone catches a glimpse of him going over the rail. Once Chuck is in the water, the crew leaps into action: First, a flotation device is thrown in Chuck’s general direction. You might think that Chuck could just swim and catch up, but alas, he has no limbs. Even if he did have them, the breathtakingly cold water would render them useless in fairly short order. A flotation device will help him stay afloat until we can reach him.
The next step is to alert the captain. Some shrill blasts on the nearby whistle, followed by yells and screams of, “MAN OVERBOARD!!!” will do the trick. The captain’s job is to turn the boat around and get close to Chuck. Our sturdy big girl, Voyager, is known for her solid stability and dependability in the water. She is not, however, known for turning on a dime. Mike gets that turn down to a pretty good half dollar, but a dime is out of the question.
While the turn-around is underway, the trusty crew must keep their heads and make preparations for hauling Chuck out of the water. Everybody dons life vests, in the event that they also fall out of the boat during the rescue attempt. One of the crew stands on deck in sight of the captain, never letting Chuck out of his sight, and pointing his finger at Chuck’s location. Another crew member makes sure that all obstacles are out of the way in preparation for hauling Chuck in. This person also fetches the boat hook. A boat hook is a long extendable pole with a rubberized hook on the end. A person in the water can grab on to the pole when we get close enough. Chuck, having no limbs, needs to be “hooked” with the boat hook, and brought aboard.
The operation requires everyone to keep a clear head and do their part. The current record for a successful haul out belongs to the crew headed up by our granddaughter: 4 minutes. Future guests on Voyager are invited to try and beat the record, but be aware that points are deducted for falling in, hurting oneself, hurting someone else, or insulting the captain.
A successful rescue is a cause for….. Celebration! Glasses are raised in honor of Chuck. The glasses are empty, because, you know, so is Chuck. Chuck is lovingly dried off and stored in a safe place, where he will hopefully remain secure until the next, “MAN OVERBOARD!!!”
Life on the boat includes celebration. It isn’t as though every day is a party, but I try to live as if there are noteworthy, important events that might be missed if I were rushing off to work or even just being at home. We try to enjoy the small things – a bird that comes to visit whether by sea or by air.
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There are also the normal big events that are always worthy of celebration. They come on the calendar like clockwork. I have come to realize that these times punctuate our lives. Our forty-fourth anniversary is one date I didn’t want to miss. We evaluate our life together – the year in review and the year ahead. The joke is that men need to be reminded of their anniversary. Woe to them if they forget! But the reality for me is a sense of fortune. I want to celebrate our great fortune. This year was no different. I had a really great restaurant picked out. I had to “stack the deck” in my favor because the end of the evening would include a proposal for another year together. (She said ‘yes’).
This year was different because Beth beat me to the celebration. A couple of days before my big plan, I woke up to a float plane parked just behind Voyager. This is not unusual in that float plane travel is common in the islands of British Columbia. This was a special plane however.
This is a De Haviland DH-2 Beaver. It is powered by a Pratt Whitney Wasp Junior nine cylinder, 450 hp radial engine. This may not mean much to you, but Beth knows that it means a great deal to me. I am a pilot. I love planes of all varieties, but a Beaver is pretty much at the top of the list. They are practical, solid; some say iconic. Even though I have a float plane rating, I had never been in one until Beth said, “You had better get dressed because that is your plane, and it takes off in an hour.”
Needless to say, I had a blast. The scenic tour is usually a shared thing with the company attempting to fill all six seats. We had the plane to ourselves, with an excellent pilot who treated our time as sort of an instructional check out flight. Having the boat gives us the opportunity to tour all around the islands, so we didn’t want the usual air tour. Instead we spent the time with startup, magneto settings (you don’t start a radial with the ignition on at first…), power and flap settings. How fun is that?
Another cause for celebration this summer was a visit from our granddaughter, Fern. As every grandparent will tell you, their grand kids are the best. I am no different. She’s the best! Since she lives far away, our visits are infrequent and too short. But this trip was going to be almost two weeks. Since we’re talking about celebration, I must confess we celebrated her birthday even though it was more than a month away. Usually one week off the real date is as far that is allowed, but we celebrated anyhow.
Retirement has given us the opportunity of time. In our daily routine while working there wasn’t the freedom to go places that were far away or would take too much time to explore. I made the mistake of thinking that those far away, exotic locations would somehow be more satisfying than the work routine. What I’m discovering is that a beautiful setting is great, but there is a longing to share this beauty with with family and friends. Place can be important; those who share your life – even more so. So for us, good cell phone coverage for Face-time with my sister, text messaging with our granddaughter and staying in touch generally is a priority.
Celebration happens regularly on Voyager. Any excuse at all, whether we just made a good anchor placement, a successful dinghy ride where nobody fell in or got excessively wet, or just the end of the day – life is good; we celebrate. Gratitude is good for the soul.
After taking leave of our friends, we headed north in earnest. We wanted to check out the area of Desolation Sound, which we had heard is quite beautiful, with lots of anchorages. In order to get there, we would have to cross the Strait of Georgia, a large body of water susceptible to rough water. Checking the weather is very important before crossing, because high wind can whip up waves and make for an unpleasant transit. We were fortunate, and all was calm in the Strait. We had a long day of travel: 50 miles at 7mph takes time. Just as we set out, we had the almost mystical pleasure of watching a pair of orcas swimming near us. They didn’t jump or do any fancy tail flops, but we enjoyed their majestic dorsal fins rising and falling through the water as they swam.
We docked that evening at the charming little town of Lund. Lund bills itself as the “Gateway to Desolation Sound,” and has the added distinction of being located at “Mile Zero of Highway 101.” For all you Californians who’ve spent time on that particular highway, if you follow it to its end (or its beginning), you will find Lund.
We found a great little store in Lund where we were able to purchase charts of the areas we’d be visiting. Charts are like roadmaps for bodies of water, and most importantly, they tell you where unseen obstructions lie beneath the innocent looking water. We were happy to have these charts to help us on our journey. We stopped by a pub and sat in the sun. Our waitress said we simply must try a Canadian favorite: Poutine. She couldn’t believe we had never heard of it. We are always game to try something new, so we ordered it. Imagine a pile of French fries, topped with a couple of cheese curds, some pot roast and mushrooms with a thin but tasty gravy. We enjoyed it, but decided that it couldn’t be a frequent treat. Poutine isn’t for the health-conscious!
The next morning we got underway and headed into Desolation Sound.
A grand view of magnificent mountains awaited us around each turn! We anchored for the night in Laura Cove, where we had to stern tie. Stern tying means that after you anchor, you run an additional line from the stern (rear) of the boat, and secure it to shore. This keeps the boat from swinging around. Why would this be necessary? Because the bay was small, and with several boats, there would have been some collisions without a stern tie. Even though we’d stern tied before, it finally occurred to us to “slip” the line and bring back the end to be tied to the boat. The tidal change is about 16 feet here, so a knot tied on shore might be too high to reach at low water. Each time we do something, we learn how to do it better and easier the next time.
We stayed at quiet Laura Cove for a couple of nights, and took advantage of the time to do a couple of boat projects: Mike tightened the gland packing on the engine shaft, and I oiled the teak deck that Mike had spent so much time working on last winter. It is a great visual improvement over last year. But boating shouldn’t be all work, so we got in some good kayaking and eagle watching along with mountain gazing.
The next day was another 50-mile day as we explored Toba Inlet. We called it “waterfall day.” Every time we turned a corner, there was another waterfall. “Oooh, look at that one!” “Ahhh, that’s a beauty!” Superlatives were in short supply. There is just so much beauty to behold that words can’t convey. We ended the day at Roscoe Bay, another stern-tie day.
Roscoe Bay was a lovely spot to stay. There were eagles to watch, and we love that. There were harbor seals, and mother ducks taking their baby ducks on outings past our boat. We enjoy watching the wildlife, and there have been a few tussles over our one pair of binoculars! A couple of additional treats at this anchorage, were the wildflowers (foxglove), and a freshwater lake just a short hike away.
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A natural Foxglove garden
We’ve written in the past about the learning curve of boating. Roscoe Bay afforded us one more learning experience: When anchoring, our division of labor has been for Mike to lower the anchor and let out the appropriate amount of chain, while I operate the engine, backing up the boat, maneuvering into the wind, etc. As I mentioned, we then secured a stern tie. There is a flurry of activity at these times, and we have been starting to feel like a well-oiled machine. A little prematurely.
When we pull up the anchor, we have the same jobs, only in reverse. The next morning, we prepared to leave. We released the stern line, and I started up the engine. At least, I tried to. “Mike! The engine won’t start!” This precipitated an electrical track-it-down mission, with amp meters, screwdrivers, trips to the engine room, and general puzzlement. Finally, Mike decided to hot-wire the engine to start it, planning to head to a less remote area where parts might be available, if needed. The engine was successfully hot-wired and we were still kind of scratching our heads, when I looked up and saw us headed toward the rocky-cliffed shore. The engine was in gear! Yikes! Major catastrophe averted just in time, and lesson learned: Unless the transmission is in neutral, the engine won’t start. But if you hot-wire it, beware, if it’s in gear, it’s going to travel! You might say “Duh” here, but really, it’s an easy mistake to make. I provide most of the learning curves we experience, I’m afraid. I’m not naturally mechanically inclined, but I do learn – usually the hard way.
Since we’re on the topic of anchoring, we did have an unusual experience at Squirrel Cove. There were a number of boats present already, so we looked for a good anchorage far enough away that we wouldn’t crowd anyone. We found a perfect spot behind a small island, sheltered from wind and providing a good depth for anchoring. We let the anchor out and were backing away to “set” it. All of a sudden, the boat lurched, and just stopped in the water. Now, that’s unusual, we thought, as we looked at each other. We investigated, and found that the anchor had snagged on a submerged log of telephone pole proportions, and that somehow the chain had wrapped around it. Hmmm, what to do? Mike got in the dinghy, I hauled the log up vertically with the anchor chain, and using a screwdriver, little by little, Mike eased the chain upwards until it slipped over the top of the log, which dropped away – voila! But we got out of that spot and anchored elsewhere. You just never know what you’re going to come across in any given day.
After Desolation Sound, we explored the Octopus Islands, which were also beautiful, but tricky to navigate. There are lots of submerged rocks that you have to zig and zag through. Good practice.
That brings us up to date. We are still in Canadian waters, but will cross into US territory tomorrow or the next day. We’re just getting started, but we’ve had adventures already! We’re loving each day that comes.
This is Greg, who belongs to the Lummi tribe of First Nation People. He paddled his canoe up to our boat and we had a nice conversation before buying one of his carvings which were wrapped up in the towel. Can you guess which one we chose?