As is often the case in September in the Pacific Northwest, the weather got really good and we enjoyed some fine sailing days with family and friends. We’d been wanting to take Saxony’s uncle Jason and Aunt Elyza and her cousin Simon out on Leela since the day we purchased her. They made a special trip down from Squamish and we took them out for an evening sail and BBQ in English Bay. There was no wind so it was more of a swim, BBQ, and gentle bob along.
We did one last trip to our favorite local hideaway, Port Graves on Gambier Island. For us, it’s the perfect spot. About a 5 to 7h sail from downtown Vancouver yet feels like a world away. There is TONS of room to anchor in fantastic holding. The water is beautiful to swim in and the crabbing always delivers. Especially if we use the carcass of fish we caught fishing earlier in the day. There is also apparently a nice hike to a freshwater lake but we’ve never taken the time to do it. Someday perhaps.
Did we ever share our happy hour sunset ritual aboard Leela? It’s one of our favourite things about boating. Emmanuel will make two fairly big (Saxony always says way too big) dirty Gin Martinis. We’ll setup on the side of the boat which is facing the sun, lay our cushions and sit with our feet dangling over the edge. The beauty about boating is there is usually enough wind or tide-induced current that Leela will end up “sailing” on anchor. That is she presents one flank and then the other to incoming wind/tide thus resulting in a bit of a back and forth movement, which means our view changes every 10 minutes or so. Not too much, maybe 45 degrees total but enough that the always incredible scenery stays fresh and captivating. So we’ll sit there, slowly sipping on our Martinis, congratulating ourselves on how smart we are to own such a beautiful sailboat until the sun disappears behind the nearest hill, treeline etc. Then we go and make dinner. Blissful.
Emmanuel took his team from Leavetown sailing and we invited our friends at Cozystay for the evening too. Always fun to use Leela for a bit of business development. Her beauty always touches people, sailors or not.
The final big hoorah of 2016 aboard Leela was a continuation of a stag celebration for our friend William from Portland who was getting married later in the fall. My great friend Nicky6 reached out and asked if I would be willing to take some of the boyz out for an overnighter somewhere around Vancouver. We set our sights on nearby Bowen Island and some of the guys’ reserved rooms on the island as well as there was no way Leela could accommodate everyone sleeping-wise. It was a really cold motor sail there but once we docked up the cold didn’t matter anymore. We lit it up on Bowen Island and laughed so much together I think I stocked up on a few year’s worth of laughing. This is a really special group of international friends who appreciate one another’s quirks and differences. I love them all for it.
In Early October we moved Leela out of False Creek to anchor in front of Kitsilano Beach in preparation of the sail down to Bellingham. False Creek is a beautiful downtown protected anchorage in front of multi-million dollar condo buildings. The city allows boaters to anchor within the shelter of False Creek for 2 weeks in / 3 weeks out in the summer and 3 weeks in / 2 weeks out in the winter. The idea is to stop people from abandoning derelict boats as used to happen before they put these rules in place. We had more than overstayed our welcome in the harbour so we had to move out and anchor in front of Kitsilano Beach. A rather unprotected anchorage that leaves one exposed to strong northwesterlies.
Our plan was to wait for a few days of high-pressure weather (read good weather) which always yields northwest winds that would help push us down to Bellingham. However, mother nature had other plans. Starting early October the Vancouver rain started and no word of a lie, it rained for 57 days straight. Not necessarily all day long but at least a few hours a day. This means south easterlies for 2 months straight. And Leela, as mighty as she is, doesn’t do too well sailing to weather. So we waited and waited until December 6th, when a small window of decent weather / NW winds presented itself.
Saxony was sick and couldn’t help take the boat South so my friend and business partner Mike and hatched a plan to do a quick overnight run down to Bellingham. We boarded Leela at 7pm on a Wednesday night after work. It was pitch dark and as usual for quick high-pressure systems, really windy. We motored out to English Bay with big swell on the nose, rounded the point at UBC and hoisted the yankee. There was no way we would raise the main as it was blowing about 30 knots, it was pitch black and that would have been a scary proposition out exposed on the deck. At that time of year, with 50F water temperature and in big swells on a moonless night, falling overboard would have been a really sad end to it all. Oh, and we had no navigation lights making us invisible to other boats. No sooner had we raised the Yankee that we were doing 7 knots rolling in the big swell. Hooooooooooooooooooorrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!! came a loud horn sound out of the darkness. We tried to make sense of the little navigation lights we could see and quickly realized a massive container ship was quickly barreling down on us. The captain kept on honking at us, crazy fools, to get out of the way!! We were able to zip out of there fast and were then on high alert for the rest of the trip to Bellingham. It was our first overnight sail and a real learning experience. We used the radar to help see ships around us. We learned the correct channel to be listening to for commercial traffic (Channel 13, not 16!). It’s incredible how much commercial activity happens during the night on Georgia Strait.
We both got kind of queasy as the motion of the boat was quite erratic in the confused seas and we couldn’t see anything around us. There was no horizon as a frame of reference. Eventually, the wind died down and we both got a few hours of sleep. I was dozing nicely when the sun rose and Mike came down the companionway excitedly shouting we should be sailing. I begrudgingly rose from my sleeping bag, he was right. It was now or never. We lifted the sails and we were treated to a most wonderful last little bit of sailing of the season, sun shining, Mt. Baker in the distance. It was glorious.
Saxony drove down to pick us up. We hauled Leela out and tidied her up for the next few months on the hard. As soon as we packed up the car for the drive back to Vancouver it started raining and just like that, the weather window was over and Sailing Season 2016 with it.