Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Home
By Michael

The girls raising our Canadian courtesy flag
after clearing customs.
The time for safe and comfortable passagemaking in the northern latitudes is past. Del Viento and her crew are going to settle in for a period. We made it to 48-degrees north, a 3000-mile leap from our 20-degree starting point in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We’re two degrees north of Fargo, North Dakota, though we expect a temperate winter here in coastal Victoria, British Columbia.
Since embarking on our voyage we’ve been either working, working, working on our boat or moving, moving, moving in our boat. Our time in Victoria will be a welcome respite—assuming Victoria is where we settle…

We cleared Canadian customs here in the inner harbor late yesterday and began seeking a home, a spot on the water we can park Del Viento and live aboard through the long, dark winter season. From afar, and months in advance, we attempted to secure a Victoria slip without success. We decided to arrive and see what doors would open for us.
With the recommendation of our friends aboard Nyon, I pinned my hopes on the Canoe Pub Marina. It is a collection of about 15 slips behind the Canoe Pub, a warm, wood place where I could spend hours off the boat, sitting in front of a fire with a stout—or maybe it’s a brandy and a book. People who worked there would know my name. I’d have a tab. When people asked where I lived, I could say, “Over there, on a boat behind the pub.” But alas, it is not to be. We met with the marina manager yesterday, a white-haired salt named Paddy who lives on a 65-foot topsail schooner. “The news isn’t good. They’re kicking us all out, removing the pilings tomorrow.” Despite his poor fortune, he regaled us with one tale after another and sang for us on the dock—no doubt a bit influenced by gin. He told us about his first guitar lesson from Pete Seeger and his close friendship and admiration of Utah Phillips. We wished him luck and continued our search.

Because of the extensive commercial
seaplane traffic in Victoria harbor,
it is important to heed these signs.
Planes taxied and took off
alongside us as we came in. There
is a control tower adjacent to
these signs.
Windy and the girls had their hopes pinned on the Coast Hotel Marina. It lacks a pub—or at least a pub with any character, but offers both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Approaching the marina, I was encouraged by the tell-tale sign of a live aboard community: potted plants on decks. As we pulled in, a resident on his power boat put down his guitar and stepped around his inflatable palm trees and parrots to come help us secure our lines. He directed us to the friendly staff in the hotel lobby. “Nothing now, but if you’d like we can add your name to our wait list, it’s running about two years for a boat your size.”
We were already rejected by two of the three small marinas on the far western end of the harbor, in the Esquimalt township, and that left the three city marinas. They boast front-and-center locations, but we’d been warned away from each of the city marinas for various reasons: because the walk to the showers is long, because of the noise of the float planes, because the docks are open to curious tourists. But here we were and we needed a place to secure Del Viento for the night.

We side-tied to an expensive transient dock ($1.50 per foot, per night) and found it to be pretty nice. We walked up to the office to inquire about long-term moorage. “I don’t know. I know we have a wait list and everyone is coming back for the winter this week. Come back in the morning and talk to Michelle.” In the morning things were more encouraging. “I don’t know. Uhm, there may be a spot for you in front of the Empress—it’s a long walk to the showers and the docks are open to the public during the day—but you’ll need to talk to Thora to be sure.” I later talked to Thora and learned that we’d have to wait until Michelle returns Wednesday to get a definitive answer—but it sounds hopeful. We may have found home, a place to be until late spring, when we’ll be on the move again, charging up to Alaska to experience her wilds.

The famed and historic Empress Hotel in Victoria's inner harbor.
Seaplanes are everywhere, serving the 345,000 island residents who live in the
Victoria metropolitan area. There are at least three airlines flying seaplanes
out of the inner harbor. Because nearly all of them are turboprops, there is the
sound of jet engines and the smell of kerosene. I kind of like it. Apparently,
they don't fly after dark; they say that in the winter up here,
darkness descends at 3:00 p.m.


  1. Good to hear the crew of the good ship Del Viento has made it's way to Victoria, B.C. Hope you have luck securing a slip and enjoy your winter over.

  2. Lots of people winter over in Sidney. Do check out the marina there. Take the bus from Victoria, phone or take the boat. Anchor at Sydney spit. Great sand castle building.

  3. Welcome to Canada, I agree with Diane that Sidney is a likely spot for wintering over or even up at Maple Bay which is a beautiful but more rural location.

  4. You might also look at Nanaimo (home of the famous Nanaimo Bars) or the marina at the south end of Gabriola Island. Both protected dockage and mooring there. There is a car/walking ferry from Nanaimo (15 min. pass.) Don't know about buses on Gabriola. Nanaimo has seaplanes, but not so much.


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