, the boat Wendy Hinman and Garth Wilcox sailed on their seven-year Pacific voyage that began with a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.
My friend Wendy Hinman just published Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey
, an exciting and insightful book about blue-water cruising. I was struck by how much it's messages apply to northwest cruising as well as blue-water cruising - Elsie Hulsizer.
CRUISING VANCOUVER ISLAND: AN IDEAL SHAKEDOWN FOR EXTENDED VOYAGING
by Wendy Hinman
As my husband, Garth, and I planned to venture offshore, our heads spun with everything we needed to do to get our boat ready. Magazines intimidated us with all the luxuries and potential safety equipment we might carry. Ads taunted us with "How much is your life worth?" Our budget answered that otherwise unanswerable question. We bought a 31-foot boat, simply outfitted because that was all we could afford at the time, and we were unwilling to postpone our dreams to some indefinite future which might never come.
We found that the best way to prepare was to use our boat to figure out what worked for us. The first two years after we purchased our boat, we tested both ourselves and the boat by sailing to nearby anchorages. But as the date of our offshore departure loomed, we sought a more rugged test of our skills and equipment than the familiar bays and islands around Seattle: we decided to circumnavigate Vancouver Island for a shakedown cruise. It was a good decision..
Our route north up Vancouver Island's east side tested our navigation skills by requiring us to estimate speeds and distances and time rapids so as to pass through at minimal currents. It also gave us a sampling of windy, gusty conditions, calms and thick fog. On the ocean side of Vancouver Island, I encountered ocean swell for my first time in years. A touch queasy after we rounded Cape Scott, I wondered aloud if something I'd eaten didn't agree with me. To which Garth flatly replied, "Maybe you're just seasick." I vehemently denied the possibility, my pride injured, but damn if he wasn't right. One Bonine and my stomach immediately felt better.
The island's remote west coast also gave us a taste of life away from stores and other boaters where we needed to be self-sufficient.
During our two month cruise, we lost track of time with the awe of small children immersed in the wondrous world of nature, spotting sea otters at play, whales breeching and dolphins frolicking. On days when we weren't sailing, we climbed rocks, walked beaches and hiked through rain forests dripping with moss. I watched bemused as graceful eagles turned into street brawlers over fishermen's discards in Port Hardy. Acting like a flock of oversized pigeons, their dignity vanished as they clamored around fish cleaning stations, revealing white pantaloons beneath awkwardly lifted dark skirts.
We lingered in Hot Springs Cove for several days longer than originally planned because I relished soaking beneath a natural steaming waterfall in a rocky basin that looked out over a bay sprinkled with islets. Twice a day I passed reverently beneath towering evergreens along a mossy boardwalk for an impromptu hot-tubbing social hour with other boaters in a stunning natural setting while Garth cherished moments alone with a book. I'd never been so clean.
We immersed ourselves in the history of the area. I wish Elsie's carefully researched book Voyages to Windward had been published before our visit to this fascinating place so we could appreciate its richness more fully.
We learned some valuable lessons: that I needed to stow things more carefully after a box of oatmeal disgorged its contents all over the floor, got wet and turned into a new form of cement; that store-bought cookies and crackers created an unsustainable amount of packaging, which we carried for weeks until we found a "proper garbage receptacle."
Mostly, we were profoundly struck by how much pleasure we got from just appreciating what nature had on offer. In an area where fewpeople live, we had no cell phones and no Internet access. With the complexities of our lives gone, we were left just to enjoy where we were at that moment. Nature provided vast entertainment, all for free--fortunately, given our budget. And we remembered once again the reason we were setting off on this great adventure. It wasn't about outfitting a boat, it was about living differently than we had at home. After all, that's what adventures are for: jumping into the unknown, taking risks and challenging yourself in new ways.
Though we went on to sail 34,000 miles over the next seven years, farther and longer than we ever imagined we would on that little boat, the lessons we learned on Vancouver Island proved valuable: They prepared us to be ready for anything, but also to appreciate where we were at the moment.
Wendy Hinman is the author of Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey
, about her 34,000-mile voyage to 19 countries aboard a 31-foot boat with her husband, Garth Wilcox, to whom she's still married and still happens to like. Wendy Hinman's stories have appeared in a variety of publications. One was published in the anthology, We Came to Say, and another won a Solas Traveler's Tales award for best travel writing.