The idea of sailing off first entered my mind in the mid 60s while messing about in my first sailboat. I was in the Royal Canadian Air Force then, serving with Search and Rescue in Comox, on Vancouver Island. But the spectacular mountains on both sides of the Strait of Georgia soon distracted me from sailing, and my spirit of adventure was instead quenched by exploratory and expeditionary mountaineering. Over the next twenty years my hunger for adventure took me to hundreds of summits, including over six dozen first-ascents on four continents.
But my thoughts of sailing around the world never left. I transferred to the Navy in 1969, where I was eventually granted my Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and was later granted a Certificate of Service as Master, Foreign-Going, unlimited. During my many voyages, I crossed the Pacific and the equator six times each. My last few years in the Navy were spent in the training system, including designing and implementing leadership programs for junior officers using mountaineering and ocean canoeing as vehicles.
But my thoughts of sailing around the world would not be stilled. In 1981, at the age of 36, I resigned my naval officer’s commission, bought a boat, moved aboard and began making plans to sail off. However, during my fit-out, I met a woman...
Fast-forward through a number of boats to the spring of 2006, that woman and I were still together, a quarter century had passed since I had retired and I had not yet sailed off. I told my wife I wanted to sell the canal boat in France, buy another sailboat, fit it out and sail off before I was too old to do it. She had never been comfortable with the idea of sailing too far away from land, and she still didn’t want to go. We talked seriously, then we searched for a house for her to buy and I ordered a new boat.
The boat arrived in Vancouver in early February 2007, and started the first stage of its fit-out. I finally took possession of the boat in early July 2007 and commissioned her Sequitur. I then spent the summer, autumn and winter shaking her down and single-handing her in fair weather and foul. Realizing that it was time to begin seriously searching for a companion to share my dream of sailing off, I posted on a couple of internet sites that focus on crew looking for boats / boats looking for crew.
After months of communicating with the many respondents and flying, driving and sailing to meet over a dozen of them, I was still without my desired companion. I continued to search, knowing that somewhere the right woman was looking for me. At the end of April 2008, while scanning through lists of "boats seeking crew", Edi came across a Canadian boat in Vancouver and she decided to contact Sequitur and her skipper. I was interested in meeting, but Edi was leaving a few days later for two weeks on a boat in Mexico and had also committed to join a boat in Trinidad in early June. A flurry of emails ensued, and after her return three weeks later from Mexico, Edi and I met in Vancouver. We clicked immediately, and we began to reorganize our lives.
Then with more than a year-and-a-half cruising the local waters in Sequitur, I had plenty of time to determine what needed to be added or modified. During this time I also kept track of the ongoing technological advancements in such things as watermakers, communications equipment and alternate power, and by early March 2009, we were ready to begin Sequitur's final fit-out. We listed our houses for sale and to give us a place to fly home to from time to time, we bought a new loft conversion in a century-old building in Southeast False Creek, slated for completion in May, then August, then September and finally late October.
My house sold in August and we scurried to list and sell all of our unwanted furniture and stuff on Craigslist. When I gave-up possession of the house in mid-August, we moved aboard Sequitur, moored at the False Creek Yacht Club. Edi sold her car in August, and I waited until the last week to list mine; it sold immediately, and we spent our last six days in Vancouver on foot and public transit. Edi’s house has not yet sold, but it is priced well and the market has strengthened dramatically the last while.
The final bits of Sequitur’s fit-out were completed on the 30th of September, and at 1100 on Thursday the 1st of October, we slipped from the float at the False Creek Yacht Club and headed out, beginning our cruise on a bleak day, in a cool drizzle with no wind to help us along. Edi’s ‘son-in-law’, Bram braved the drizzle and walked out to the middle of the Granville Bridge to shoot photos of our departure, and as we motored out under the Burrard Bridge, Edi released thirteen helium-filled balloons.
We motored in still airs and fog out of English Bay, passing the bell buoy at 1202 and turned left to begin our southings, the first of what we anticipate to be many. Winds remained very light the whole day, so we continued to motor, transiting Porlier Pass at low water slack at 1530. By the time we had secured alongside the False Creek Yacht Club float in Ganges, on Saltspring Island at 1805, the skies had cleared.
Friday dawned clear and it had warmed nicely by the time we left Ganges at 1055. There was virtually no wind, so we motored again, all the way to Sooke, arriving at 1805 to find the marina full. We were invited to secure alongside a large sports fishing boat. The three onboard had just returned from a day of fishing, having quickly caught their limit of salmon and spending the remainder of the day doing catch and release. We chatted and sipped wine as the skipper cleaned the catch, and he gave us a lovely filetted spring.
Edi and I then walked over to the Sooke Harbour House for dinner. We ordered the seven-course Gastronomic Adventure and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to celebrate our departure from Canada and the beginning of our adventures. By the time we had finished our superb dinner, we were the last diners in the restaurant. We walked back to the boat in the moonlight.
We slipped from alongside The Rig at the Sooke Harbour Marina at 0750 and headed out in clear skies, calm seas and not a breath of wind. As we motored across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Edi brought up the bagel toaster and we enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit. At 0955 we crossed into the US and at 1110 we secured alongside the Customs float in Port Angeles. We were quickly cleared and for US$19, were issued a Cruising Permit.
We moved to the fuel dock and took on 725.8 litres of diesel for US$502.36. Then we moved over to the guest float and walked about a mile up to the Safeway and bought fresh provisions for our passage to San Francisco. I hanked-on the US flag on our starboard halyard and we were ready to go.
We slipped from the guest float in the Port Angeles Boat Haven at 1505 on Saturday, the 3rd of October and set off for San Francisco. We caught the tail-end of the flood, then washed out the Straits on a strong ebb, rounding Flattery at 2147 under a full moon and clear skies.
We headed south west to clear the continental shelf and find strengthening northerly winds. We sailed southward in following seas and winds, which were generally 20-25 knots from the N and NW. By mid afternoon on the 6th, we had crossed the latitude of the Oregon-California border, and we were about 100 miles northwest of Cape Mendocino. The winds were up to 35 knots, the swell was in the 4-5 metre range and we were surfing off every second or third wave. In the evening, the winds were up over 40 with spikes above 45, and the seas were 5-6 metres and continued thus through the night. We kept watching the boat speed gauge as it went from the mid-5 knot range to up in the 12 and 13 knot area as each wave passed under us. We saw several surfs in the 14 knot range, and the fastest we saw was a 15.3 knot spike.
Throughout the blow, the skies remained clear and with the bright sun and full moon, we were very comfortable. It was not a storm; it was simply a funnelling of winds down the inside of the huge high stationed off the coast from northern Vancouver Island down past the tip of Baja. It seems we passed through the throat of a venturi.
During the trip we continued our breakfast routine of bagel toaster in the cockpit for bagels and cream cheese with capers and lox, dishes of yogurt and mugs of freshly brewed coffee. Our lunches alternated between hot paninis and arrays of cheese and crackers with fresh fruit, olives, artichoke hearts, nuts and so on. We made water to ensure the watermaker worked in rough weather and we even ran a couple of loads of laundry through the washer/dryer.
We maintained a course that kept the seas just slightly off the port quarter and the auto pilot was able to hold us with only two broaches in the 36 hours or so of the worst of the blow. Our speed made good was in the 8.5 knot range for much of Tuesday and through Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, the winds started abating, and the seas eased so that we could start bending our course back toward the coast.
At 0305 on Thursday morning, exactly four and a half days from our departure of Port Angeles, were at the entrance to the traffic separation lanes off San Francisco, and we were in the lee of the land and protected from the northerly winds. Edi made a wonderful Ghirardelli hot chocolate to sip as we dawdled north eastward into Drake's Bay to kill time waiting for daylight and a tide change to make our transit under the Golden Gate. We motored into Sausalito Harbor and secured to a mooring ball at the Sausalito Yacht Club, a free reciprocal of the Bluewater Cruising Association.