Sunday, August 31, 2014

Georgia On My Mind

Distance traveled:  35.8 miles

Travel time:  4 hrs, 32 mins


We’ve crossed the Strait of Georgia half a dozen times, and none of them have been what we call fun. We thought Sunday might be different. The Strait is 110 miles long and 15 to 20 miles wide, so there’s a long of fetch in which the typical northwesterly winds can build. As always, if the current opposes the wind, watch out. We pulled out of Pender Harbour at 6:30am in dead calm conditions, following the 68-foot “Paige Marie” who was on our AIS all day yesterday as we traveled south. The forecast called for a calm morning with wind building in the afternoon.


Contrary to the forecast, as we rounded the south end of Texada Island, the wind rapidly built, the seas grew to 3-4 feet, and because we were traveling north to south, we wallowed in beam seas. We moved to the lower helm where items had begun to fall over (yes, we know we should tie everything down before big water crossings, even if conditions start out calm). For an hour, it was safe and not scary, but no fun either. The song “Georgia On My Mind” came to mind, and even though it doesn’t apply at all to how we feel about the Strait of Georgia. But it made us laugh when Bob cued up the Eric Clapton/Stevie Winwood version on his iPod and we tapped our toes as we rocked and rolled in the waves.


After one rough hour, conditions calmed as rapidly as they’d arisen, and the rest of the journey was relaxed and pleasant. Go figure.

29 years ago Cathryn met Nancy at work, and over the next decades Bob and Cathryn hiked in the Cascade mountains, skiied at Whistler, went scuba diving in Puget Sound, shared meals and attended parties of mutual friends with Nancy and her husband Kelly. And Kelly taught our daughter Mackenzie and her husband Matt to scuba dive. For years, we heard stories from Nancy and Kelly about their boating trips in Alaska with their good friends on “Sandpiper”, a 37-foot Nordic Tug.

Sunday an hour out of Nanaimo, we heard two boats on the VHF radio, one named “Sandpiper”. So we hailed “Sandpiper”, asked if they happened to be the folks who were friends with Nancy and Kelly, and they said yes! They were an hour behind us on the Strait of Georgia, returning from Alaska and headed to Nanaimo. We agreed to meet at the marina.


Nanaimo is not a big city, but it’s busy, pretty and every convenience you could want is within walking distance of the Port Authority Marina.


An hour after we tied up to the dock, “Sandpiper” pulled in across the fairway.


Carolyn and Hank invited us to dinner on their boat. They’re both good cooks if our dinner was any indication (halibut they’d caught themselves), Hank is a wood carver and hunter, they’ve been married 57 years, and Hank had open-heart surgery last spring then defied doctor’s orders and left for Alaska two months later. Carolyn has been boating and fishing all her life. We heard lots of great “boating in Alaska” stories, including some about their time at Haida Gwaii (formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, now having it’s First Nations name again.) They’re knowledgeable, very experienced, tough boaters. We’d love to have their skills someday!


Their boat has dozens of unique features they incorporated when they had her built, an amazing design. We particularly envy them their hydraulic bow thruster; it could move that boat! We ended the evening over cappuccino with a dollop of Kahlua. It was so nice to finally meet these folks we’ve been hearing about for years.


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