3 min read
Sailboat Ride

by William Thomas

September is always my favorite   sorry   favourite month. But God either didn't get the word or was unimpressed with an agnostic's ardor. The sadist sent two weeks of rain over my seagoing parade, on top of that shortened the days so that night starts early and is as long as the daylight. So all in all you could say it's not looking great for an end-of-season sailboat ride. But just minutes before October, I click on the 7 day forecast and see four sun icons all in a row. Clear skies. Temperature in the 20's - whatever that is in Farenheit. 

     Warm anyway. I open the weather window for the Pacific Northwest - Strait of Georgia north of Nanaimo. 10-15 knots max, each of those days. Crickies! as they say in those WWII Spitfire flicks. No Luftwaffe today!

     There's plenty of time to lose and none to waste. I start throwing camping gear onto the bed, food and ziplocs on the worktable. There's no junk food in the cabin, not even a cracker. So I hurry outside, mount up and ride as fast as a geared 500-watt hub motor will carry me, up over the spine of the mountain overlooking the Salish Sea and down to the co-op. All the stuff I'm not allowed to eat at home, I can grab for camping.

     There's two pieces of cooked chicken and some cheese in the fridge. I made two grilled-Swiss sandwhiches, cram spinach and green onions into another baggie, take two cans of baked beans from the carton under the bed. Then I start ticking off my Camping Out gear and food lists. Check, check, check. It takes two trips on my new fatbike to haul food and water, tent, sleeping bag, stoves, clothes and whatever down the hill to the cove. 

     Time, as they say, is ticking.

     It's a gorgeous day   real Indian Summer   though that apelation may have become politically incorrect. Light breeze out of the northeast. I take the empty bike home and park it in the shed, then call Michelle and file a float plan for Big Trib, Heron Rocks, possibly Lasqueti if I'm in the mood for the long, open-water crossing to our neigbouring island to the southeast. "I'll be back Thursday," I tell her. Then, because an outrigger cane is not a scheduled ferry, Saturday at the latest because the weather's going back to rain by then."

     "Have fun," she says. She means, Don't Die.

     I row out to Electra. As always, she's eager to go. I stow the tent, stoves and extra water jugs in the decked-over forepeak. Since I intend to sleep in the boat, food, sleeping bag and personal gear go into the forward of the boat's three main compartments. The light on the solar charger is blinking green, the digital readout on the aft battery reads 13.6. With the forward battery fully charged, we're fat electron-wise.

     The breeze is perfect. I secure the dinghy to the mooring and cast off. It's 3 pm. I'm guessing two hours or a bit more to that long crescent of sandy beach at Big Trib. If all goes groovy.

What I remember:

     The sound of the hull running up on sand. The ankle-deep water warm when I jump overside.

     Lying in down bag that first night, neoprene life-jacket for a pillow, hips deliciously clear of that raised centre thwart, watching the sky pale until the first star winks on.

     Sometime in the night, I poke my head over the gunnel for a look-sea... All is calm and nearly bright as daylight under a full moon shining like God's own streetlamp.

     Anchored in the keyhole cove off Heron Rock, late-night. A flock of Canada Geese have been squabbling all evening. Long after sunset, they're still squabbling. Fast Eddy wants to go flying. "Geese don't fly at night," they remind him. "Night?" he squawks. "It's light enough to read a newspaper. If geese read newspapers. You know the full moon makes all animals crazy. You know you aren't going to sleep. Come on!"

     So there I am, stretched out in my cocoon on my back on the floorboards of the Grumman, when there's a great sound of splashing, squawking and wingbeats and nine huge Canada geese pass in perfect, locked-in formation right overhead, winged shadows blanking out the stars. "Did I just see that?" I don't ask myself. "Did I deserve that?" more like.

     At daybreak, I remember going up-periscope with my sleep-rimmed eyes over the rail and seeing the sky to the east turn bright red against the black silhouettes of nearby islets and jagged distant peaks. The water is a mirror.     

     I snuggle deeper into my bag, soaked but still warm from last night's heavy dew. Done feeding on an adjacent pasture, the geese are back. I count nine big birds in their formation, wingtip-to-wingtip in the usual "V". Not one of them is moving its wings.     

     I am stunned. These are heavy birds. I have never, ever see nine geese fly over withouy flapping their wings, Instead, flight feathers out by their wingrips gracefully cup the air as the formation turns as one against the night sky.

     I wait for the downstroke. It does not come.

     I await the upstroke, If does not come.

     Wingbeats are not needed, with the birds in banking descent. In another moment, I realize they mean to alight. They do.

     I am so blessed.


     After two years of torrential rain   felt like two years anyways   the weather sites say four days of perfect sunshine warmth clear skies winds 10-15 out of the northeast in case you're heading south. One day already gone, makes three. I figure I better get out there or the weather gods will be pissed. But that's just an excuse. And who needs an excuse to be in their outrigger sailing canoe out on the big water?

Photo Captions:

Electra Approaching Hornby From Jedediah -Will Thomas photo

Electra heading to Ford Cove under solar electric power -Will Thomas photo.j