July 20, 2012

Boat Tales

I get a lot of cool email thanks to the blog: I’ve heard from people we’ve met in passing; been given ideas about places yet to come; we’ve been given tips and kudos; and occasionally even been told off; I’ve heard from people who know of my ancestors; and people who think they might be related; I’ve been asked for boat advice, cruising advice, parenting advice and writing advice (and been given loads of the same); and I’ve loved reading them all. But possibly my favourite letter so far came from the grandson of the man who originally built our boat:

Have I found my granddad’s boat—Dreamtime?” the email from Ireland started.

Learning the history of a boat can be a tricky thing. Being mobile, rename-able, paint-able and in our case completely renovate-able—it’s easy to lose track of a boat’s history. Especially once they’ve sailed through a few owners.

Ceilydh--shortly after buying her
We knew a few things about Ceilydh (ex-Dos Cerveza (sigh), ex-Dreamtime). We knew she had been built in a small yard on Gabriola Island and launched in 1987. We knew she cruised to Alaska at some point in her early life. Then we knew the owner died at some point and the person who bought her tried to charter her as a party boat to indifferent success. By the time we found her in 2004 she was mossy, mouldy and a refuge for wasps.
moss and heaps of 'stuff' showed her neglect
but the pretty varnish (old settee area--now main bunk) showed she'd been loved
 As we brought her back to life we learned things—we met Richard Woods, her designer and consulted him on our modifications (he suggested the cabin was too boxy—we agreed, but we’re tall). We met Grey Davis—who worked in the yard where she was built and learned about the construction methods and materials.

All excellent stuff.

But if you’ve ever owned a boat you know they are so much more than systems and construction techniques. You know that the galleys hold the memories of meals cooked underway, and celebratory dinners when you hit that special anchorage. The settees hold the echoes of tall tales and stories told. The wheel holds the imprint of white-knuckle moments and sublime bliss. The decks hold the stamp of hard work and quiet contemplation.

"My Granddad’s passion was sailing - more specifically - he loved Catamarans. He knew Richard Woods from his time in the UK - and that's why he chose the Meander design. Before Dreamtime - he owned a 25 foot Cat.

I remember being shown home movies of the launch of Dreamtime. The launch was at a place known locally as "The Brickyard" on Gabriola. Roads had to be closed to enable her to drive the short distance from Grey's yard to the launch site.”

 Her first big voyage was to Glacier Bay, Alaska. My Granddad, Nan, two cousins and myself all set sail for a 3 month trip. (A trip I hope to repeat some day with my wife and 3 kids!!!)

I have some wonderful memories of my time with my grandparents on board Dreamtime. I know when you found her she was a little sore on the eyes - but when my Granddad was alive - she always looked great.”

While these memories might somehow be part of the boat, I think things like the echo of long-ago laughter is usually mistaken for wind in the rigging. It takes being told the stories for a boat’s past to come back alive.

 “You may notice a little damage on the Starboard Dagger Board - this was caused by an error in navigation - and a 4 hour wait until the tide came in (my Granddad's excuse was that the chart was out-of-date!!!!)

Does the fresh water erupt like a volcano when you fill it up? - Apparently this was due to no breathing holes being present in the tanks - it was always a good joke to let someone fill her with water and watch them get a good soaking!”

Working hard
 Perhaps I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, but it makes me feel good that we rescued Dreamtime and gave her a new life. And I love the images I now have of her early days—of three cousins and their grandparents on a life changing trip to Alaska…

Curious how many people know the histories of their boats? Any stories out there?

July 8, 2012

Sailor or Traveler

This month’s raft-upquestion is a good one, if a little self-indulgent;) Was I a sailor or a traveler first? Jane asked us to take a stand so I will, sort of.:
The answer is cruiser—I think I’ve always been a cruiser.

There is a chance I may not have been either and sailor or traveler.  But when I was five and was walking the docks at Comox Harbour with my dad I discovered a different future. Most of the dock was taken up by fishing boats; their wooden hulls bright white, their trim painted in jaunty contrast. Here and there were little sailboats. It was those we stopped for most often. “Sweet lines,” I remember hearing, when we stood in front of one just a little longer than all the rest.

The one with sweet lines seemed nice, but there was a different boat that really caught my eye: Strong and long and dark, where the others were light and graceful. I sounded out the hailing port as a question for my dad: Hawaii. With his explanation I understood that small boats could cross oceans. And as pretty as my little town was; with her mountains, winding river, white sand beaches and dense forests, I knew in that moment I was destined to leave.
17 years ago we set sail on this little boat-- after eight years away we came home with a baby

I’m not the first in my family to suffer from wanderlust. Family genealogists place Alexander Selkirk (the ‘real’ Robinson Crusoe) in our lineage. But no one else in the family (at least in the modern bunch-I’m a 6th generation Vancouver Islander) is a sailor and most are confirmed homebodies. That day at the dock was more than likely the result of my mum kicking me and my dad out of the house so she could vacuum, than any real desire on my dad’s part to look at boats.

But the result—the planting of a dream—is one that most sailors can relate to. Every cruiser (and wannabe) can tell you about a moment, a book, a boat, or a sailor who opened up the world of possibility to them.

Where Did Cruisers Come From?

Knowing that cruising exists is different than packing up your life and moving aboard a boat though. And I wonder if part my answer lies in the fact that so many of the cruising pioneers have Canadian roots: Joshua Slocum who circumnavigated the world between 1895 and 1898; John Voss who sailed the Tilikum from Vancouver to England in 1901; Miles and Beryl Smeeton; Larry Pardey, who along with his wife Lin taught us simple boats and small budgets weren’t a barrier to cruising; the Copeland family, who inspired couples with children to set off.

Or perhaps my inspiration came on a school visit to the Maritime Museum in Victoria when I saw the Tilikum on display. Maybe seeing this small voyaging boat somehow colluded with my glimpse of that first tantalizing boat from Hawaii--and rather than setting off on a practical path (which would eventually result in a land-based home and a decent retirement fund) I was compelled to follow in Voss’s rather riskier wake.

I might credit Voss. But Voss credits Joshua Slocum’s three year circumnavigation for prompting his own 40,000 mile trip. Slocum set off alone from Boston in 1895 in Spray, a “rotting old oyster sloop” that he had rebuilt. His achievement, becoming the first man to sail around the world single handed (and for the fun of it) brought him fame. And the book he wrote, Sailing Alone Around the World, encouraged throngs of small-boat voyagers and adventurers to set sail.

 I went on to learn to sail. Initially it was just so I could race. Then I learned more so I could teach. But the plan was always to follow in the wake of those early sailors—to ghost into a village at dawn; to meet people in their homes, not at tourist attractions. I never actually left my little slice of the North West until I sailed off. The furthest I’ve ever travelled has been while under sail.

Dana asks if my view on travel and sailing has changed at all since I started? My answer to this is no, it’s as magical as I expected. And yes, I could never have imagined what it would truly be like to be on a small boat in the middle of the ocean before we actually did it. 
Travelling this way has always been all I ever hoped for and now it's even more as it expands to encompass our daughter.

Check out how the other raft-up members answered and are answering this question

July 2, 2012

Is Australia Expensive - only if you're Canadian

The prices for a recent skating trip on a very wet (like 1/2" deep puddles) open air, small skating rink set up downtown.  Thankfully Di got a Groupon coupon so Maia and I skated for only $20.  That was for a 45 minute session only. But imagine if you were a family of 4 and wanted to rent an orange plastic seal for your little one- for an additional $10.

And Maple Syrup is about $7.95 for 250 mL.  But we grit our teeth and buy it anyway. It's hard to be Canadian here :)
Canada Day in Brisbane