Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
A week or two ago I started the tale of my most recent voyage, as first mate on a fishing boat delivery from northern Vancouver Island to Oregon … difficulty factor: we needed to use the fishing boat to tow a 30′ (9 metre)
trimaran. (A “trimaran” is a boat with three hulls, a large one in the middle and a small one on either side of the main hull.) Then after I published the first part of the story, we put to sea and I was without internet. And when I finished the voyage, I got distracted by work and a host of other good things. So, let me pick up the unfinished tale where I left off, just after we’d managed to get the trimaran into the water. What follows is what I wrote, day by day, during that voyage.
We were up early, and the Captain and I took the ferry across from Campbell River on Vancouver Island, to Quadra Island. We were there to pick up a fishing boat, about 45 feet (14 metres) long.
We checked the boat’s vital bodily fluids, engine oil and water and hydraulic fluid and diesel, started the engine, checked to see if the electronics were working (some actually were), and looked the boat over. After the survey was complete, we started the engine and listened to it running for a bit. Then we cast off and started back across to Vancouver Island to get fuel at the fuel dock there. The morning was sparkly, lots of traffic on the water.
We put on over a thousand litres of fuel, 300 gallons or so. While we were waiting for the rest of the crew I walked over to a local Campbell River cemetery, where only some of the graves have crosses, while others have strange totems and symbols instead. Oddly inspiring.
We picked up the rest of the crew, and started motoring the boat down the coast of Vancouver Island to where we’d left the trimaran. As we steamed south along the coast of Vancouver Island, I saw the first frontal clouds I’d seen on the trip, the “mare’s tails” of sailor folklore:
“Mackerel sky and mares tails
Make tall ships carry small sails.”
The “mare’s tails” are the cirrus spissatus, the wispy hook-shaped high clouds that foretell the advance of the front.
Now, things happen slowly at sea. The boat only cruised at seven knots, eight miles an hour, call it 13 km per hour. And we had about 40 nautical miles to go, so it was about a six-hour run down to where the trimaran was anchored up. After about four hours running, I was at the wheel when a lovely orca, the black and white “killer whale” of the Pacific northwest, surfaced maybe 200 feet (60m) in front of the boat. “Orca”, I sang out, and in a few moments it surfaced again maybe a hundred feet in front of the boat. Everyone was back aft, and as they came around, to my surprise and joy the whale came up right alongside the boat, maybe 20 feet (6m) away. Whales are very inquisitive, and this one was no exception. He (she?) rolled away from us when he broke the surface, with his great floppy back fin leaning outwards from the boat, and that brought his eye up where he could look the boat over. I’ve often wondered what we look like to the other creatures of this amazing planet, and whatever the world looks like from his side, he got an eyeful of me and I looked just as closely at him. He blew a misty breath out, and sucked a quick breath in, his black-and-white paint job glistening in the sunshine as he flashed by, and was gone in an instant, vanished again under the surface.
Of course, by the time I’d gotten over my amazement and gathered my wits enough to grab the camera, he was well away and on his path to the horizon …
So we motored on, in through the break in the bar at the river mouth and along the coast to the trimaran. We got the dinghy inflated and in the water, and I rowed in to shore to get the other crew member. Here are the two boats from the shore, the trimaran on the right.
In the evening, I went and sat out on the stern of the boat, by the landing stage in the back. It’s a great spot for writing, and for watching the sunset. Near dusk, fulfilling the warning of the mares’ tails, I could see frontal clouds with “virga” to the south of us, the rain that falls but evaporates before hitting the ground, but it was clear where we were.
As the evening went on, there was one of those lovely long northern sunsets. In the tropics the sun drops vertically down into the ocean, and as a result twilight and sunset are quick. But nearer the poles, the sun approaches the horizon at more of a grazing angle, and the light lingers and lingers.
So on to dinner and an early bed. Tomorrow, we’ll start towing, the beginning of the actual voyage. Good night, dear friends. I can only wish that your days be full of joy and sunshine and your evenings glowing with light.
My best to everyone, I’ll post this when I get back to wifi,