Monday, March 4, 2013

The Warm Cometh
By Michael

The Bluewater Cruising Assoc (BCA)
invited us to a cruiser's presentation
at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. It
was about voyaging from Japan to
Vancouver, a trip we may make
one day. Windy was in Thailand,
so Eleanor was my date. 
We’re in port and I’ve waited nearly six months (and counting) for nice weather. I don’t like waiting. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of the long list of topside projects that I’m aching to complete, but that I haven’t started because it is either too wet, too cold, or too windy—or too much of all three.
So I hunker down below and work on the engine or reorganize lockers. The other day I saw what I’m missing, on the side of a can of varnish:

Temperature should be between 60F. and 85F…air humidity below 85%...avoid too much wind or sun.
It nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I realize Canadians think I’m ridiculous for letting this climate slow me down. And to the Canadians we’ve met who vacation here, escaping from their homes in Winnepeg or Saskatoon, who walk around in tank tops because this feels like the Bahamas…yes, I’m a wimp.
I grew up in Southern California. Until I was 30, I could count on one hand the number of days each year it wouldn’t be nice to be outside. I may have grown a bit hardier during the decade Windy and I spent in D.C., but then we bought this boat in Mexico.

Glorious 2011 ended without a winter and 2012 began without a cold snap. After 18 warm months, I may have softened a bit.
But we sailed north, against the prevailing winds, currents, and traffic of other cruising boats with the sense to sail south. We knew what we were in for, but I think I was in denial. I arrived in Victoria with nothing to put on my feet but a pair of Tevas. I did not own any socks. I dug my cold weather gear out from under the v-berth and found only sweatshirts.

Sure, we get out every day (we almost need a spreadsheet to manage the activities the girls are involved in). And it isn’t just rushing around from one indoor space to the other, we’ve walked on the beaches and explored the parks, but for me it isn’t so joyous when you’re bundled up like a Siberian Yupik.
So why would I suffer through boat projects that force me outside under these inhuman artic conditions? Why taint what I otherwise enjoy? I couldn’t think of a reason either and so the projects piled up.

But we can feel spring coming, one degree at a time, the days are warming and getting longer. We are worrying less and less about condensation. Once, recently, when we forgot to monitor the heaters, it actually got a bit stuffy in the cabin.
And just this week I ventured out on deck and started installation work for our new hatches—just a bit, not to risk frostbite. There is a lot to do out there. Besides the hatches, I’ve got rigging to adjust, stuff to re-stow in the lazarette, and lots of cleaning to do. I’ll haul Windy up the mast to investigate a stuck halyard, re-run and secure our SSB antennae cable, and install our remote VHF mic. I’ll remind the girls how to polish stainless steel and run the new antennae for our fixed-mount GPS.

And when we’re done, a great adventure awaits.
We’re northbound. We don’t know how far. We’ll have a solid 4-5 months before we want to be heading south to Mexico again, but it’s 600 miles from Victoria to the Alaskan border. And in that 600 miles are hundreds of islands and 15,000 miles of coast. The shoreline is punctuated with deep fjords. It’s said the geography is akin to Norway or Southern Chile.

We’re immersed in a community that’s largely familiar with these cruising grounds. Weekly people learn we’re newbies with plans to sail north and they gush superlatives like I’ve never heard before. One local captain told us he’s spent a decade exploring this area and has neither seen it all nor grown tired of it. "It will change you," he says. We'll see—as soon as the weather on my varnish can comes.

This is the Parliament Building from our boat--it never gets
really dark at night, and forget about stars.


  1. This may sound ironic, as we sit here in the gin-clear water of a stunning Indonesian anchorage (air temp 80, sea temp 85), but... I'm jealous. We planned to head north from the Salish Sea before we went south, but life got in the way. Everyone says it is ALL that and a bag of chips! I can't wait to read about your adventures and dream about when our own turn back that way.

  2. North of Vancouver Island (and the west coast of Vancouver Island) ARE beautiful. Haida Gwaii is very special. But be forewarned: weather up north is "often" grey and rainy, until early July. So, if you've found Victoria's Winter weather tough....

  3. Pelagia, don't forget "fogust"...

    Sorry Mike, I know the rain and clouds can drag you down - We endured four winters aboard Nyon in Victoria and it can be a drag. But I loved sailing up there - it is incredibly beautiful, you will be rewarded. Perhaps not with as much sun as you'd like, that's the treat that awaits you when you come back down to Mexico! :)


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