Beyond Boating: When Cruising Gets Ridiculous

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What is it about boating that sometimes makes even logical people do the most illogical things? When does it ever make sense to turn a gorgeous, calm, sunny summer’s day into an epic marathon of avoidable toil when there is absolutely no reason to do so? I’m still not sure if there’s an answer to that question, and I may never be, but one thing I do know is, it’ll probably happen again.

There’s a tiny little anchorage called Wallis Point, between Nanaimo and Parksville, in British Columbia. It’s just southeast of Schooner Cove Marina. If you didn’t know it was there you could pass it by quite easily, I think. And if you weren’t very careful in how you entered the anchorage, it’s quite conceivable that a skipper on an off day could bump into underwater things that don’t move for boats.

Encountering underwater things that don’t move for boats is always expensive. And dangerous. But on the day my first-mate and myself decided to hole up at Wallis Point for a night, we crept into the little bay at a snail’s pace and had no issues.

Wallis Point Anchorage

Leaving the next morning before sunrise posed no issues either. In fact, the only challenges that navigating out of there on an early morning tide did pose was when and where to break out the camera for the best photos and videos. I think we did fairly well in that regard.

Up Before the Sun

Before heading out, we had planned to do our usual four to six-hour cruise and anchor up somewhere nice, with plenty of time left in the day to either go ashore and do some exploring, or just paddle around a bit, or maybe just hang out on the boat and relax.

It’s nice to have a plan. But because life can often be unpredictable, sometimes even the best-laid plans go right overboard. And this was a day where we overshot our estimated travel time by a huge margin. Welcome to boating.

I’m not sure what drove me to glide by one perfectly acceptable anchorage after another in what turned out to be an easily avoidable marathon. Maybe it was because the day was so beautiful I couldn’t stop. Maybe it was because the day started out so unbelievably perfect and didn’t let up one bit all day.

Like I’ve mentioned in a few things I’ve written, and in countless conversations, the coast of British Columbia leaves nothing to be desired as far as nature is concerned. It often wildly exceeds expectations on a regular basis. Even after living there for over 30 years.

A perfect morning for boating

There are many factors that could have pushed me past the point of reason that day. I do also happen to suffer from “what’s-around-the-next-corner-itis” as well as “just-one-more-osis”, which could also rightfully be called “moron-syndrome”. I suppose the symptoms were particularly acute that day. Again, welcome to boating. I can absolutely guarantee that I an nowhere near the only one afflicted so. Many a wife would concur.

It’s not a wonder that so many wives don’t go boating with their insane husbands. Who in their right mind would choose to regularly subject themselves to unnecessary, easily avoidable hardships based on some inexplicable sense of mariners pride or aquatic insanity? And if that isn’t enough to deter a sensible wife, there’s also a common condition among many skippers that causes an inability to communicate in any form but verbal abuse while the sails are up.

Yup, boating.

Maybe we didn’t get the memo that happy wives are helpful wives. Also, you don’t have to worry about happy wives killing you one day while floating about, unobserved, on the deep blue.

Sailing from Wallis Point to either the north (or south even) end of Thetis Island would assuredly have been a good day. Wallis Point to Burgoyne Bay on the south-west side of Saltspring Island is quite an ambitious target for motivated sailors on a boat such as ours. As it turned out, the trip ended up taking us from Wallis Point to Mill Bay, a voyage of between 50 to 55 nautical miles, depending on little detours and alternate routes, which we always take.

On a boat that cruised at around 4.5 knots in fair weather it should have taken somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12 hours. Not overly arduous. But, because we were against the wind almost the entire way, and we were bucking the tide for around half the journey and also had to pass through two sets of narrows (both flowing against us. Not ideal planning there), the day took just under 16 hours. Albeit 16 hours of cruising along in paradise in our recently-purchased little gem of a vessel.

She only once stuttered, ever so slightly. The depth-sounder began giving strange readings and almost caused us both mild heart attacks while we momentarily flailed about, desperately trying to avoid rocks that weren’t there, until we realized this vicious little bit of vital electronic equipment was only toying with us. Boats!

We arrived at Mill Bay well after the marina reception had left, so we tied up to the public wharf and walked the ten minutes to Mill Bay Center for a few snacks and some well-deserved drinks. Then we strolled back to the wharf, motored off-shore a couple of hundred meters, set the anchor, flipped on the anchor lights, and fell asleep after two ciders and no food, exhausted.

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