June on the Hook – Day 16 – The Return to Bowen Island

Sailing HARD

It was a beautiful day the morning I left False Creek. The wind was forecast from the northwest and I decided to go up to Howe Sound.  This would mean a bit of beating until I got out beyond Point Atkinson where I would hopefully be able to catch the thermals up the Sound. I had set my destination for Port Graves, which is the middle inlet on the south side of Gambier Island. I had fantasies about climbing Mount Artaban on the island and getting some good exercise and a great view.

Flicka 20

A Friend in Vancouver

Flicka 20

A Friend in Vancouver Too.

I weighed anchor at 9:15am and headed over to Heather Civic Marina. The slip next to Simon’s Flicka was temporarily vacant, due to his neighbors’ boat was being hauled out. He offered that I stop by on my way out and fill up on my water tanks. I had decided to take him up on it and took the opportunity to offload my garbage too. I captured a few photos of the sisters together.

English Bay

The Northwest Fetch into English Bay?

English Bay

The First Reef.

I then motored on through and out of False Creek. When I reached English Bay the northwest breeze was blowing, upwards of 15 knots. I raised the main and the working jib and began my beat to Point Atkinson. After a couple of short tacks, the wind continued to build to about 17 knots (yes, I am guessing here, as wind speed is “by feel” for me,) and I sensed I should put in a reef, so I followed through. This made the boat feel  more comfortable as the seas in the bay began to build impressively. The fetch coming down the Strait of Georgia into English Bay is about 37 nautical miles for a northwest breeze and the waves rolling in showed it. As I was reefing I could see several small boats in the anchorage hauling in their anchors and making a run for the Creek.  I certainly would have too with the dramatic pitching and rolling that was going on. It was a “hold on!” anchorage by this point.


English Bay

The Second Reef

I made a long tack across English Bay with the wind and waves continuing to build. It was exhilarating. There were only a few other sailboats out and I was certainly the smallest. There was some freighter and tug traffic to add to the dynamic. Some of these were anchored, while others were on the move.  Every wind and wave event in a new place brings a new experience unlike any other experience you have previously been in. Heady, right? The boat was doing a great job. I just had to move some lines here and there, push and pull a little bit on the tiller and hold on, tangled in the joy of doing it and the fear of breaking something. I feel confident in the boat, so this is really about me.

It wasn’t long before I was considering putting a second reef in the main and the only hesitation was finding the right moment in the seas to do it. With waves this large (how large? gee I don’t know, 4-8 feet?) and the boat rolling and bobbing, I wanted to make sure the boat was powered up enough to maintain speed and maneuverability in order to get up and over the waves. Reefing too early is not much better than reefing too late. I chose my time on the port tack as that felt like the better side in relation to the waves. Rarely are conditions acting with symmetry on the boat and there usually is a better tack for both making headway and, in this case, adding a reef. Most of my lines are rigged back to the cockpit, but I do need to go on deck to adjust the tack of the sail. It is a very quick job that only takes seconds, but it does mean de-powering the main in order to bring the sail down. This will take the boat a bit more beam-on to the waves.

Point Atkinson

Rounding Point Atkinson

I got the second reef in and wouldn’t you know, not long after the wind settled down a bit. I actually had to hurry and shake out a reef going around Port Atkinson because there was a tug (no tow) coming in the other direction and I needed to be able to maneuver around it. This, while the tide was pushing me towards the Point. Note to self, give Atkinson Point a wide berth henceforth.

Going around the Point and headed up Howe Sound, the wind fell back to our port quarter. The thermal in-flow had not kicked in yet here so I had a bit of time to tidy up the cabin, brush my teeth and eat a little something. The cabin was secured for most days of sailing, but todays was a little beyond my preparation. Some water jugs fell to the cabin sole from the settee (one was leaking) and a few clothes had fallen from the shelf onto the v-berth. The fire extinguishers went a little awry and the guide books were sliding around on the navigation table. The last of which is also the two-burner propane stove covered with a cutting board. Small boat disadvantage.

Howe Sound

Howe Sound and Port Graves

As I approached the top of Bowen Island, the wind continued to decrease until the sails were flopping. No need to wait too long though, as once around the top, the thermals kicked in and it turned into a beat again as I worked my way to Port Graves. I hadn’t expected this sort of wind, but in hindsight, I see how that was my oversight. 20-25 knots of thermal winds were rushing up behind Bowen Island and then up Howe Sound. While I had known there would be thermal winds, I did not have the experience and the local knowledge of the particular patterns.  This created some short and choppy waves which made it a wet experience on the Flicka. With the sailing and wind intense as I approached Port Graves, I questioned whether I really wanted to chance going into the Port. The wind and waves were streaming straight into the inlet and I considered whether I might not like the conditions once inside. If I needed to exit, the wind and waves would make it quite uncomfortable.

So I decided to retreat back to Snug Cove. It had been a very intense day of sailing, however I was not going to make my goal and I was not going to get to the top of the mountain. I had not read the conditions very well and so my ETA’s were poorly judged.  The day was getting on and I was hungry and tired. Hard solo sailing doesn’t leave much time for eating. Time passes in an odd way on a small boat, traveling at a joggers pace in a zigzag, the scenery changing very slowly. Time seems to crawl until you realize you have been doing it for hours. Refueling and rehydrating get neglected. This is poor planning as it is easier to maintain refreshment than to play catch up. I had a vision of the pub, with internet, a burger and a beer. That’s just like hiking to the top of a mountain, right?

I arrived in Snug Cove as the Queen of Capilano, the ferry from the mainland, was taking on passengers. I wanted to wait until the boat was long gone as the ferry created much turbulence from the prop wash and the wind was blowing quite strong off the dock. I asked a boat owner already on the government dock to move his boat down a bit to make some room for me. After this, there was just enough room for the Flicka to fit (a small boat advantage) and he also offered to help me land. I circled about and waited my chance. Once the wash appeared to settle down, I made my approach. It didn’t bring me close enough with the strong wind, so I aborted the move and circled out again. This first move seemed to confirm the turbulence was well gone so I made another approach. This second move brought me up along side a power boat that I was aiming to dock in front of. I was doing between .5-1 knot when the boat began moving sideways into the power boat. My best guess is there was some lingering turbulence and my second best guess was a backwind or negative air pressure created by the breeze around the power boat. Either way, my boat went sideways into the power boat. Unfortunately for me and the Flicka, the power boat had very high rub rails which lined up much better with my stantions and rigging than with my hull. I tried to fend off, but the forces were too great. The terrible screeching sound I heard was ominous and heart wrenching and I could not identify at the moment what caused it, the power boat or the Flicka. After the contact I was able to get the boat into the spot and get her tied up and to inspect for damage.

The other boat appeared to be fine. Its high, sharp angled rub rail protected it as it was supposed to, however Sampaguita fared a little worse. The slight scratches on the stantions were cosmetic and they were not pristine before. However the starboard main shroud had a bent swage fitting. This was the horrible screeching sound. I was instantly both amazed and alarmed at the force required to do this damage. Upon closer inspection, the chain plate also was bent slightly inward in the process. The lateral pointed load on the swage had maxed out the stretch of the wire until the stainless steel swage and chain plate were the most giving pieces of the rigging.

Flicka 20


My heart sank. It was my own fault and I quickly began to think about what I should have done different and the trip and how this would affect it. I very much needed to eat and step away for a moment so I followed through at the pub, used the long-lost internet,  ate a hamburger and drank a beer. These were all a success, so at least I had that going for me. Back at the dock I spoke to the woman who had given me the shower tip 3 days previously. We swapped sailing stories and debated the merits of the Vancouver Anchoring Permit system.

I finally settled down enough to get to sleep.

Stats: – TO – 32.51NM, MS – 7.2kts, MA – 3.7 kts, TT – 9hr 41min.

Misc.; Think twice more. Secure items better for more range of motion. Predict weather patterns better. Don’t break your boat.



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