June on the Hook – Day 15 – Recreation Day in False Creek, Vancouver

False Creek

It was Day 15 of my 2017, June on the Hook Expedition, in Sampaguita, my Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20 sailboat and a leisure day in False Creek in Canada’s Vancouver, British Columbia. It was at here that I considered the international past-time of “the boaters’ gaze.”

In False Creek it is at its extreme. Most boaters do “the gaze” whether they accept it or not. Being outdoor folk by nature, the cockpit of a boat, which I’ll stylistically call the porch, is typically an open viewing platform for the surrounding world to see, as well as to see the surrounding world. The nature of the porch lends itself to watching other boaters in particular. We, and I’ll use we because I observe this in other boaters too, watch vessels arrive and depart, set and weigh their anchors, flake their sails, and come and go in their dinghies. They make repairs, set out the drying, shake out their rugs, eat their dinner, drink their drinks, and countless other tasks. We question or applaud their intent, pass judgment on their skills, critique their boats and have a running commentary with our crew (or ourselves.) We wonder “what’s he doing over there, what will this lead to, why in the world,” or “isn’t that clever?” We even watch them watching their neighbors, knowing all along we are someone’s neighbor too. It goes with the territory of the small world, relaxed lifestyle of boating, and a tradition easily upheld.

One sub-category of the “boaters’ gaze” is the “anchor stare.” While much of the gaze is simply observational and passive, the anchor stare is one of participation. We watch someone come into the anchorage and we are on the alert. “Are they sailing or motoring in, and is it a big boat or little boat?” “Are they younger or older and where will they decide to drop the hook?” As they choose their spot, the closer they are to us, the keener we are to observe and participate. If we don’t see them come in because we are down below, we might hear a motor near us, or more telling, the sound of an anchor chain through a bow roller. We pop our heads up and assess the situation. “Are they really going to anchor there?” “How will they lie to the wind and current and will our swing circles intersect?” “Will they drag down upon us, what kind of rode do they have, who’s on board, and are they experienced?” We use the “anchor stare,” letting them know we are assessing the situation.

Etiquette is that any new boats arriving to an anchorage are to respect the space of already anchored boats. This can have many dynamics and nuances, both for the new arrivals and the already present. I may not like your loud parties, your screaming children, your barking dog, your music and your generator but these are emotional considerations that I can bear with if imposed upon me. For me, the most important and most stare worthy, is that I have room to swing appropriately. I have a small boat so my rode is 25′ of chain with the remainder nylon line. I would love all chain, but my boat might trim and handle ridiculously with another 230 lbs. in the bow. Therefore, physics and safety dictate I need to let out more rode than an all chain set up. A Flicka has a high bow and with the nylon rode, she tends to sail around at anchor rather than hold steady with the bow to the wind. Add to this a full keel heavily influenced by water current and you have a boat that needs a little stretching room. Furthermore, with a bowsprit off the front and an outboard off the back, which are vital(and expensive) appendages for the boats successful operation and structural integrity, combined with a significant dose of the owners anxiety and paranoia, it’s in my best interest that I have enough space. When I arrive at an anchorage I take all of these elements into consideration in choosing my spot. The troubling part is that later arrivals often do not. Etiquette is not law and in our over populated world, space is at a premium. You can ask someone to reconsider their anchoring choices, but they do not have to.

In False Creek, the anchor stare is in full force and proof it is an international boaters past time. Due to the overcrowded anchorage and the obvious clash of interests between live-aboards and visitors vying for the same space, this is not a peaceful anchorage. The locals will tell you the False Creek norm for scope is 2:1. This is compared to a generally accepted norm of 3:1 for chain and 5:1 for nylon rode in settled weather everywhere else. The 2:1 scope is to provide more room for more boats and regardless of whether you agree with this, you will be anchored next to with the assumption that, if you are not at 2:1, you should be.

The day before, I gazed while one fellow came in from Gabriola Island on a very salty looking boat of about 28 ft. I liked the boat very much and I told him so. He then told me it was constructed in the 1940’s, he bought it sight unseen from New Zealand on eBay and had it shipped over to Canada where he rebuilt it. Wow. I left it at that and will leave it to the reader to decide whether that would be something they would consider. First, he circled next to me but finally settled on a spot downwind and another anchored boat away. Good by me, however, when the owner of a 40 ft ketch returned to his boat in his dinghy and saw how close the 28 footer was to him, he said clear as day, “Hey, don’t you think you are kind of close?”  There were some other discernible words exchanged and the 28 footer weighed its anchor and then returned to my vicinity and anchored close to me, all be it, not as close to me as he had been to the 40 footer. Really? was what came to mind. I had chosen a spot on the edge of the field to minimize being surrounded by boats, but as more and more boats arrived, the anchorage filled up, and I knew I would not be able to hope them all away. At least he was still downwind and I determined I would be alright. The downwind part would be the important part, because the next day, when the afternoon wind picked up from the north, the 28 footer dragged clear across the anchorage to within 40 ft of the rip rap shoreline where the anchor must have finally reset. The fellow was obviously not on board. My sympathies were for the boat, so I paddled over, but it was all locked up and there wasn’t much I could do to help at the time. The fellow finally returned to, of course, not find his boat where he had left it. Now, anyone and everyone can drag anchor at some time, but this poor fellow became a leper of the anchorage on that day. When he weighed anchor, it looked as if he got a plank jammed in his Danforth anchor which likely caused the problem. There was a particular boat that arrived earlier in the day(a live-aboard as evident by the planters about the deck of the boat and the wadded up sail) whom the 28 footer barely missed in its dragging course. The couple aboard were hard-core “anchor starers” and they gave him hell when he attempted to re-anchor in the same spot as before. They were very vocal about their distrust of him and his anchoring. This was fine by me too and I let them do the dirty work. I watched them staring at everyone who came into the anchorage the rest of the day, meanwhile, the 28 footer finally found a spot on the other side of the anchorage.

English Bay

The Small Boat Anchorage in English Bay

It may be hard to believe, but I did not spend all day gazing and staring. In the AM I took a paddle in the kayak and headed out to English Bay. I ate a snack, window shopped at the Maritime Museum and checked out the boats tenuously at anchor there. It’s a good bit of exercise to get out there against the north breeze but an easy ride back. Its fun to check out all of the boats and shoreline attractions. I guess it is just another form of the boaters’ gaze. Back on the boat, I did some chores and ate lunch. I tightened some of the bolts on the stern pulpit as they seemed a little loose, I think due to using the pulpit as a handle for getting in and out of the kayak. I took note of this and have revised my technique. Getting tools for the job means moving some items stored on the settee, like water jugs and pots and pans, so I could access the storage underneath. This quickly creates a bit of chaos on the boat. The small boat disadvantage is that you always need to move something in order to get to something. The small boat advantage is that due to the minimalism, it is easy to tidy up afterwards.

Stamps Landing

Searching for Simon’s Flicka.

During this chore, I was visited by Simon, a local Flicka owner who saw me anchored out when riding his bike shore side. Simon is a young Englishman who immigrated to Vancouver to work in the flourishing film business and bought his Flicka from someone in Seattle a couple of years prior. He came by on his inflatable stand up paddle board with his dog. Unfortunately, I do not recall the name of his Flicka or the name of his dog. His boat is also a 1985 so we were able to compare features, layouts and modifications and talk about our travels with the boats. This easily turned into a lengthy and enjoyable meeting and he invited me over to check out his Flicka. After he left, I finished up the boat chores and tidied up and paddled over to Stamps Landing where he was docked. We have the same hull with vastly different features. I have an outboard with no head, he has an inboard with an installed head. He has a dodger, radar, roller furling and an anchor windlass. I have none of those. His previous boats owner invested quite a bit of money into his boat while my Flicka has had little modification since its initial build. Still, they are clearly the same boat in the era with, in my opinion, the coolest oval portholes of all Flickas.

Granville Market

The Granville Island Market from Satellite

Granville market

And from the docks. The purple kayak is my tender.

Granville market

And from the docks too.

I took leave from Simon in time enough to get to the Granville Island Public Market. I wanted to get some provisions as I was running low on fresh food and was planning on leaving the next day.  I had decided I’d had enough of the False Creek anchor show and the urban lifestyle of Vancouver was reminding me too much of Seattle. Simon had mentioned there was a grocer a few blocks inland that might offer quality goods for a more competitive price but I found the market suited me fine. The produce was fresh, picking up some carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, grapes and the like, all satisfactorily in my budget. I also picked up some cod-fish for the evenings supper. The Granville Public Market is like the Pike’s Place of Vancouver and provides a large number of shops selling a variety of foods and artisan wares, as well as a variety of wares and artisan foods. It’s nice to be able to kayak to the store and they have temporary moorage for shoppers. Still, I locked my tender up while I was there as I have limited trust for leaving gear unattended in Vancouver.

Flicka 20 Outboard

A New Anchoring Technique. Using the chain of my stern anchor for added outboard security in the city.

Flicka 20 Kayak

Bicycle Locks Doing Double Duty for Tender Security.

Back at the boat I fixed supper while I watched another boat anchor awkwardly close to me. I mentioned it but he didn’t seem to care what I thought, locked up his boat and took off in his dinghy never for me to see him again. This was followed my a huge mega-yacht who temporarily anchored in order to take a moment to secure their tender. The hard-core “anchor starers” I mentioned earlier were in disbelief at this maneuver. This large yacht had threaded the needle in the anchorage and was actively using its thrusters to hold the line. Once I realized it was not permanent, I relaxed and was ultimately impressed by the finesse. The rest of the evening remained peaceful and uneventful and all the boats stayed where they were supposed to and the way they were supposed to.

False Creek

A Beautiful Sunny Day on False Creek. Sampaguita is Dead Center, Stern to. The boat on the right is the hard-core “anchor starers.” Notice the sails uncovered and wadded on the boom and deck. An almost sure sign of a live-aboard. The extra jerry cans are not a sure sign, but certainly helpful, and you can’t see the potted plants in the veranda, but I assure you they are there.

False Creek

In the Other Direction. Sampaguita is Side on, Dead Center. If you look closely you can see the snow-covered mountains in the distance. If not peaceful, it is at least picturesque.



2 Comments on “June on the Hook – Day 15 – Recreation Day in False Creek, Vancouver

  1. Josh, thanks for your blog, your adventure writing style, flows naturally and probably tempts some non-sailors to get out there. Keep up the good work on the blog. Jim on S/V Endurance


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