TALL SHIP THANE'S FIRST VOYAGE
It's a a dark and stormy night. The kind of night where you are glad to be in a snug anchorage, feet before a glowing fireplace, Appleton's in hand, with time enough to reminisce about past adventures. This particular reminiscence goes back to the summer of 1977 when the ketch 'THANE' departed Victoria harbor on her first voyage to Desolation Sound. Five years previously, I'd found a 40 foot modified Spray hull under an apple tree in Saanich. This strongly constructed but unfinished project had been idle for some ten years, but the yellow cedar had weathered it well. I traded my Chevy station wagon and with limited budget and lots of energy built what became my home for the next thirty years. As THANE cast off from Fisherman's Wharf, she was well canvassed with new tan bark sails and well rigged with stout spars and homemade teak blocks. Her anchor gear consisted of one forty pound Forfiord, 4 fathoms of ½ chain and sixty fathoms of ¾ nylon braid. The electrics were a 60/60 flashing sounder, a hand held spotlight and a light in the galley. Oil compass and running lights completed the equipment list. Twenty tons of hopes and dreams towed by a 10ft lap strake dingy with oars past Shoal Point at 6:30 in the morning of July 19. I pulled strongly while Elaine, my partner, took the helm. We soon caught a bit of westerly and worked our way out of the harbour. Two tacks and we're past the breakwater. Ha! Think I, not bad for a gaffer. As long as there is wind we can go anywhere. We cleared Discovery Island in good form and then passed it again going west on the ebbing tide. The third pass was good as the wind picked up. Apart from falling asleep in the sunshine, the only event was finding my fishing line had caught a C.P.R.(Canadaian Pacific Railway) coffee mug by the handle. As the sun set, we drifted into Open Bay on Henry Island and set anchor for the first night away from the dock. At daybreak I rowed out into Haro Straight to catch the westerly, which didn't show. The big drift again but with freighters and tug and barges thrown in. Finally back at Discovery Island the wind materialized and we had the best sail yet. Turn Point at seven knots and on up Boundry Pass only to be becalmed again. I jumped into the dingy to tow THANE to the west end of Java Islets where we anchored in about 10 fathoms, lots of current and a constant roll from big traffic in the Straights.
The next morning we weighed anchor and headed east. Finally at Bedwell Harbor, the wind came up in earnest and allowed us some headway. After an uneventful day of dodging freighters and rowing to avoid Plumper Sound, sunset found us somewhere past Saturna Island in the lower Straights of Georgia. It's hard to say where for sure because of the mist which accompanied the very light southeasterly.
Using the smoke from the compass light gave me an idea of wind direction and a mop held over the side determined if we were making headway. It was a long night, frequently flashing my spotlight on the masthead to alert passing traffic. If nervous tension could be harnessed we would have boxed the compass much more quickly. However, all things pass and by dawn we had a nice 10-15 knot SE, and a fix on Entrance Island light. It was satisfying to allow Thane to steer herself on a quartering breeze and romp across to Gibson's where we rounded up and anchored near the Government dock that afternoon. Both Elaine and I grew up on the Sunshine Coast. I'd gone to school and taught high school at Elphinstone so we spent a few days relaxing and meeting friends before heading out again through the pass in a couple of tacks and into Straights of Georgia. Only a light westerly, so we short tacked up the coast, coming close to shore each time; Gospel Rock, Gower Point, Chaster Creek, Camp Byng , Davis Bay and finally the breeze failed at nightfall and we made our way into Thormanby Island and dropped anchor near Pirate Rock. Not your ideal anchorage to say the least, but we held there until dawn. Into the dingy again at first light to gain some sea room and just in time too. We cleared Bertha Island with a light SE that rapidly built to 20 knots. Thane, self-steering wing and wing, sailed past Thormanby and into Malispina Straight. This was great sailing. THANE showed her SPRAY heritage, running before a good breeze, steady on course with helm centered and untouched.
A fine day: dozing, reading, wandering about on deck, designing and redesigning. Lying on the bowsprit, planning topmast spars and genoas, I noticed we'd picked up a 2-meter long plank across the bobstay fitting. Talk about a bone in her teeth. THANE was doing at least six knots in spite of pushing the plank and still self-steering. After futile prodding with boat hook, we rounded up and cleared the flotsam. Back on course, we ran past Grief Point and West View. By 2 PM we were becalmed at Emond's Beach just north of Sliamon. While I read and drifted in the sun, Elaine rowed ashore to phone her father in Lund and to beg some ice for the gin and tonics. Now resupplied and with a favorable drift we carried on past Dinner Rock to the iron mines just south of Lund . About 7 PM, Jens, Elaine's father, showed up with his tugboat, the OBI and took us alongside. By 8:30PM, we were dockside at Lund Marine. So ended THANE's first voyage as a pure sailor. Lund Marine became our home for six weeks while I installed a 4 cylinder Ford diesel and transformed THANE into an auxiliary or motor sailor depending on one's point of view.
For all the safety and convenience the motor gave us in cruising further north, we gave up a certain pureness and pride of self-reliance that is almost unknown today. Now heading out has as much kick as driving to Costco, but the sailing has never lost its appeal.
Although building THANE was a monumental achievement it quickly became apparent that a source of income would be required to maintain the wooden tall ship. Immediately, Len like Slocum, looked for opportunities to "Make her Pay". Being a traveller, Len recognized that he lived in one of the most beautiful places on earth and wanted to share it with fellow travellers. THANE was fitted to passenger carry in accordance with Transport Canada regulations and the journey began. Over the next 30 years, as a home and business, THANE played host and cruised the BC coast's Gulf Islands , Chatterbox Falls , Princess Louisa Inlet , Desolation Sound, Broughton Archipelago and God's Pocket .
It wasn't all work, there has always been plenty of time for play. Len managed to incorporate many memorable events into his life aboard: the classic boat show, expo and the tall ship festivals .
Over the years THANE has developed a reputation as a SPRAY and as a charter boat. She has appeared in numerous articles, a couple of films, a documentary about the SPRAY and most recently on reality TV. Now, thanks to her supporters, THANE has found a permanent home in Victoria 's Inner Harbour offering daily tours from her berth in front of the Empress.