Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Whale of a Tale

Every weekend on the boat had brought us to a new learning level, be it chores around the dock, sail skills on the water, or how we could better interact as a crew,  we both learned something new each and every time. This growth was pointing us toward our first longer cruise. Up until now 4 hours on the water seemed to be the limit of Charlene's tolerance. No matter how I planned the best case for this trip would take about 6.5 hours to transit from our dock at Horseshoe Bay to Schooner Cove on Vancouver Island. This would test us both. For her, endurance. For me, patience and being able to confidently pilot Corleto into a strange and new harbour.

We were making the trip to visit one of Charlene's friends, who had recently moved to the Island. I chose Schooner Cove as it was close to our final destination. The entrance into the harbour looked fairly straight forward and for my first "cruise" it appeared to be a good destination.

All we needed now was a good weather window to align with my vacation time and we would be off. For a week prior, I watched the weather and predicted winds. I was hoping for a steady breeze that would not be hitting me dead on the nose as we made our crossing.

We set our sails on the morning of Monday July 22. The reports called for diminishing winds later in the day. I was ok with that as there were no wind warnings in effect for our part of the Straight. I set up a couple of GoPro cameras to record our adventure.

On our way for our first crossing of the Straight

The wind filled our sails as we set our course toward a point on the charts just off Cape Roger Curtis. I wanted to use this passage to work on my Charting skills and kept busy making notes and recording fixes and GPS coordinates and comparing and plotting them on my chart.
Charlene kept watch, read her book and enjoyed all that surrounded her.

"Wouldn't it be nice to see a whale? " I said to her
"That would be fantastic." She answered.

We had seen dolphin on a previous sail within the confines of Howe Sound. But had never encountered a whale.

We were making decent speed as we headed int the Straight, Cape Roger Curtis now abeam of us. Charlene spots a curious seal checking us out just off our starboard bow. I make note of the GPS and time of the sighting. The temperature is rising as the sun gets higher in the sky. This is going to be a warm one.

Round about 11:00 the winds die right off, so much so that the sails struggle to capture it. I decide to take the headsail down, but keep the main up. It's helping us along but barely. If anything the main acts as a shade. Its shadow a welcomed post for Charlene as she keeps a sharp eye, on the lookout for wayward logs or if we're lucky a spout from a surfacing whale.

Charlene under the shade of the main- her favorite spot on the boat.

Corleto's Universal engine is pushing us along at about 4.5 kts. By now the Vancouver side is looking smaller, and Vancouver Island is getting bigger. We are definitely making progress toward our destination.
I glance at my watch, it is time to make another plot on my chart. I go below to extrapolate the numbers in my notebook and plot them on the Chart.

Suddenly, "Murray get up here quick!" screams Charlene her voice pitch nearly giving me a heart attack.
I scramble up to the helm. She's pointing to a dark object with a dorsal fin less than 25 meters directly in front of my bow! Its a WHALE!
"Oh my God, it's wonderful!" Charlene still in an excited voice marvelling at the encounter.

I immediately grab the helm and bear the boat off in a 90 degree turn to port and slow the engine down to almost an idle to avoid the great beast. It's shadow I can clearly see off our starboard beam as it swims around and away from us. I went below to grab my camera, but when I returned it was gone.
Charlene saw it surface twice, I only saw it arch its back and dorsal fin and its shadow.
I quickly made note of the GPS and wrote it down.
We both strained our eyes to see if we could spot it again. It did not show itself to us again, and just like that the encounter was over.

I was kicking myself for not having any of the cameras rolling at that moment. There simply was no time. Not even a shot on the iPhone. I now have to hold my News Photographer manhood cheap, not even a single shot, I suck.

But the encounter was the high light of the crossing. It brought a nice boost to the crew during what could have been the dullest part of the day. It brought smiles and a realization that we are only guests on the oceans and it reinforced the notion that we must take care of these waterways.

On approach

It was not long before we were entering the barrier Islands as we approached the entrance to Schooner Cove. The islands were a nice change as their features made for a nice contrast from dark waters.
Before we knew it we were tied up, without incident and our first crossing was now in the log book.

Here is the video of our crossing. Please enjoy.


  1. Murman, so great to see you have found your happy place! Looks wonderful!

  2. Thank you so much for that. It seems I have found that mythical happy place, even when I have to fix something :)