Entries Written By mattsornson
After a few restless (but beautiful) days in Victoria, the morning of the start finally dawned. Josh’s wonderful family made sure we were fueled and provisioned. Then we were off to the boat for a few hours of waiting. We repacked a bit, drank as much water as we could bear, and then we joined the rest of the racers on the sea wall for the countdown. There was a pretty solid crowd gathered to see us all off, and there was a large local bike race happening on the other side of the harbor. Combined, it made us feel like sailing had a real fan base : )
The megaphone barked and we were off.
Leaving Victoria Harbor, they ask you not to raise sails in the inner harbor. It’s actually illegal… The wind was blowing at a solid 0.001 knots… so we didn’t really mind. It still felt great to send our beautiful new Smythe sail up once we cleared the buoy into the outer harbor. Not that it really did anything for our speed.
For the next 3-4 hours we peddled and paddled waiting for the wind to fill in. Mail Order Bride (F85SR), Broderna (F-24), and Por Favor (Hobie 33) were right next to us as we sweated away under the sun. We played leap frog with MOB for a good 2 hours, jumping ahead when one of their three stopped rowing, and falling back when they had all three powered up. We told ourselves that they were part grizzly bear to keep from feeling too depressed that three guys in their 60’s and 70’s were out paddling us. Some gentle ribbing about the stupidity of youth and the fragility of age made the lack of wind slightly more bearable.
The MOB team was one of the most knowledgeable in the race. Their captain Wayne founded the Van Isle 360 and has been racing in the Pacific Northwest for longer than our combined age. Knowing this, we decided to stick as close to them as possible as we worked our way through Haro Straight and Stuart Channel.
The wind picked up around 4 pm and we had some absolutely beautiful downwind sailing. We deployed the franken-pole, set our ugly (but huge) kite, and followed MOB’s every jibe. It was a fantastic first evening of sailing. The fleet split fleet at Boundary Pass where Pure and Wild, Golden Oldies, Blackfish, and Uncruise ducked out towards the Straight of Georgia.
We stayed inside the islands with Felix, MOB, Elsie, Mau, Por Favor, and the rest of the fleet following behind. Our pack lucked out and had great wind while those on the outside hit a serious calm.
After a great 4 hours of sailing the wind started to die off, and we snuck out Porlier pass at the top of Galiano Island. The straights of Georgia we as calm as could be. We followed MOB as the took the inside of a bell buoy. We cut in a few hundred feet farther than they did…. and managed to run our dagger board into a small rock… Matt was relieved from driving and we kept on peddling through the sunset.
A few hours after sunset, we were able to get past MOB and Freeburd by hugging the coast and riding the small puffs we found there. Around 2-3am the wind came back up to 10 knts or so and we started sailing. A few minutes after Josh came on watch and Matt went below, our main halyard splice parted and the main came sliding down onto the trampoline.
We spun to shore where we could anchor and go up the mast to retrieve it. We found a shallow rock that caught our hook easily. It was surprisingly painless to end for end the halyard (Nico is part monkey) and we were back in the race. The half hour detour did mean we’d lost sight of Freeburd, Elsie, and MOB. We didn’t see Elsie or MOB again until AK.
We sailed into the mornings building wind feeling pretty good about the first day and excited that the wind was coming up (in a big way). Little did we know that the next 5 days would give us more wind that we ever wanted.
Day 2 started with good wind and flat water. We had lost sight of our competitors after our minor halyard mishap, but we were working hard to reel them back in. The wind continued to build through the morning (as did the chop) and we ended up hugging the westerly shore to stay in somewhat flatter water.
Shortly after crossing paths with the Hobie 20 (Hexagram 59) we threw a second reef in the main and a jiffy reef in the jib. As we pounded through the chop we started to see some small spiderweb cracking around the center beam. Luckily these cracks never developed into anything larger.
Our tacking angles were pretty awful when we were fighting the waves, so we worked the islands and made pretty decent progress. We found some dead air behind Hornby Island and had to pedal for an hour or so, but it was a welcome change of pace after crashing through waves all day. We even saw a few orcas on the backside of the island.
As we rounded Hornby our options for cover ran out. Matt made a quick dinner in the building chop, then somehow fell asleep as we crashed through the waves again. After a few pointless tacks where we made close to zero ground, we bore off and FLEW across the Straight. Josh and Nico called Matt up for an all hands white knuckled ride. Nico was driving, Josh was on the mainsheet, and Matt was ready to blow the jib. The Warrior 29 is a bit too heavy (3000lbs) to be righted after a capsize. She skips her hulls nicely, but flying is no bueno.
We got across to Harwood Island in record time, rounded the eastern edge of the island and started working our way north again. About 10 minutes after we came back into the straight we turned around, dropped the jib, and flew back to the lee of the island at close to 20 knts. We were knackered and weren’t able to make any real progress against the chop. We had also put a small hole in the jib that needed repair before we thrashed it again. As we rounded the island, we were pleasantly surprised to find Golden Oldies dropping anchor. We followed suit a few hundred feet away and got to work drying out and making some hot chocolate.
As we regrouped and began to warm up we saw aerial flares over Texada Island. It was a somber moment thinking about how easily that could have been us and how grateful we were to be safely at anchor. We heard Golden Oldies check in with the Cost Guard and mention that we were anchored nearby. (Much appreciated guys!)
Matt’s sister Rebecca had given us 7 chocolate bars in Port Townsend. Each with a poem attached. We unwrapped the first one and read an excerpt from the The Walking Drum. Satiated with chocolate, we fell asleep thinking about how lucky we were to be on that little boat, safe from the weather (temporarily), and finally warm. There may also have been a few thoughts of “what have we gotten ourselves into,” and “I really hope our tiny little anchor doesn’t drag.”
The anchor did indeed drag. Matt, who was asleep wrapped in the mainsail, noticed quickly and we were able to pedal into slightly shallower water where we had better scope. We held there for the rest of the night.
We got off to a slightly late start on day 3. Nico went back up the mast to play with halyards, Matt sewed our ripped jib with some duck tape and twine, and Josh made sure we had a few thousand calories each before we pulled anchor.
The wind was somewhat down, so we set a course for Discovery Passage and just went for it.
We held 10-14 knts for the next 8 hours or so and made fantastic ground across the straight to Discovery passage. We entered the passage with the ebb tide and had the current helping to sweep us down the Discovery, towards Seymour Narrows.
We arrived at the entrance to Seymour around 3PM. The ebb had just hit it’s peak and the wind was up to a steady 18. We had been thinking about Seymour Narrows for months, this was reported to be one of the most challenging parts of the journey. We decided stopping was slow. Threw a second reef in the main, and sent it.
Around this point, we ran into our friends from the previous night, Golden Oldies. They’d had an issue with their main halyard (we empathized) and had to turn back to attempt to fix it. They waved us through and cheered us on as we lined up to make the plunge.
We charged into the Narrows with adrenaline pumping. Nico calling tactics, Matt at the helm, and Josh handling the sails. We flew through, blasting across whirlpools, short tacking, and avoiding the wicked looking eddies along the rocky shore. We made it threw pretty quickly and we were into Johnstone Straight.
The ebb tide was flowing against the wind, which was up to 25-30 knts, and the chop had built to 5-6ft square waves. The boat was getting battered, and we learned something fun about our rig. Our diamond wire configuration was not designed for a double reefed modern flat topped mainsail. The diamond leeward diamond wires were going fully slack at the top of the wave as the main filled up suddenly. Watching the mast make S shaped had us properly freaked out, so we dropped the main and sailed on jib alone. We fought our way through the waves and got thoroughly wet. We lost a leeward hatch cover on a particularly big wave, but didn’t notice until some time later. By the time we were looking for it, it had disappeared or sunk.
We eventually found a nice place to hide out for a few hours. There was a 30ft cruising boat sharing the cove with us, but they were a good mile or so away. We ate, built a new hatch cover out of plywood, and waited for the wind and waves to settle a little bit.
We left our cove around 9 pm and made some good progress up the channel. Once we turned the corner south of East Thurlow Island however, the wind was up to 30+ and our mast stared to make the scary S shapes again. We spun back and found shelter in Rock Bay. We slept the night through there.
Day 4. Brutal. We only made it ~10 miles in 24 hours.
After spending the night in Rock Bay we set sail early in the morning, and tried working our way back up the straight. We ran into 30+ knts as soon as we rounded the corner and headed west. Ducked out of the wind in a nice little cove on the south side of West Thurlow Island.
An absolutely beautiful spot, but we hated being stationary. As peaceful as this video looks, it was absolutely ripping just around the corner.
We stayed in the cove for most of the day, had a small fire that evening. Drank some coffee and left around 8pm hoping the wind had quieted some. It had, but by 1am it was piping again. The gusts were unpredictable and well over 30Knts. We found some shelter behind Helmcken Island, and slept the night through there.
One interesting discovery while we were at anchor was the fact that one of the bolts that held the forward most beam to the deck had sheared, and the nut was floating around the starboard bunk. We replaced it with a spare, and went about our day… We would come back to that multiple times over the next 4 days…
As we woke up on day 5 the wind was still up in the high 20’s outside our protected anchorage, so we hung tight for a few hours.
We were anchored (tied) to a log raft which wasn’t the best place to be, but around 10am we were able to set sail and started to make some serious ground. We spent the morning “racing” a cruising boat that was alternating sailing and motor sailing. It was fun to see sails again, as we hadn’t seen another boat in 48 hours or so.
Throughout the afternoon we passed fishing boats, cruise ships, and log barges. By far the most heavily trafficked leg of our trip. As the afternoon wore on the wind kicked back up to 25 knts or so, and we were pacing a few of the small (~40ft) fishing boats that were headed in the same direction.
As we neared the end of Johnstone Straight and entered Queen Charlotte Sound, the waves started to build. The wind was steady, and we finally were finally making some real progress. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon as we rounded Malcom island and started across the first real bit of semi open water that we’d seen in 3 days.
As the waves built and we started crashing into them again. Nico and Matt developed a pattern.
Nico would ask, “How’s the boat feel Matt?”
Matt would reply, “Fine – Look at that VMG!”
As it turns out the waves were a bit too big (and square) for our poor boat. Most waves were fine, but every 20th one we’d have a big crash that would bury the leeward hull and rattle the shit out of Josh, who was attempting to sleep through his off watch.
About 5 minutes after the last time Matt said, “look at that VMG,” we crashed into a particularly large wave. Simultaneously submarining the leeward hull entirely, ripping our sole remaining hatch cover off, and soaking Josh to the bone. We quickly ran a man (hatch) overboard drill and saved our luckily still floating hatch. Josh correctly and firmly pointed out that it was really stupid to be out in those waves and we bore off on a ripping beam reach over to the Polkinghorn Islands.
We dried out for an hour or so, had dinner and headed out again hoping for slightly calmer seas. A beautiful sunset, strikingly barren and rocky islands, and a small pod of humpbacks made it one of our most memorable evening sails of the trip.
We sailed into the night feeling happy to be alive, and lucky enough to be sailing one of the most beautiful stretches of coast we’d ever seen.
We made some decent miles through the night and the morning greeted us with good wind (16-18knts) and moderate chop.
As the sun rose higher, the seas built up to 6-8 feet again. Around 11am Nico noticed some flex in the forward starboard hull. He went forward to check it out. He came out white faced and said. “There’s a hole in the deck. Time to go in.” We made a beeline, yet again, to the closest decent looking duck out spot.
After over an hour working to find an anchorage that was doable with our limited ground tackle, we finally were anchored and had a chance to really inspect the damage to the hull.
After spending a good chunk of the day working on the boat we moved anchored to a slightly less precarious spot. Josh took one for the team and sacrificed his body to keep us off a particularly poorly placed rock. In doing so he also fell in the water and soaked yet another dry set of gear… This helped us make the decision to take a 2 hour nap, dry out clothes, and pound some food before heading back out.
As the sun was setting we set off into the night, and back into the swell. Over the next 8 hours we made only two tacks, going 12 miles out into the ocean, before turning north and aiming for Culvert Island. We were feeling pretty apprehensive as every crash through a wave felt like it might be breaking our new bodged fix in half. However, we made some good ground, and everyone got a few hours of rest throughout the night.
Thursday morning at 5:30am the race began.
Tom (the boat’s owner and our incredibly generous sponsor) drove us across the start. You can see us zipping around on these two videos. We we’re about 45 seconds late to the mark… but it’s a 750 mile race. It’ll be ok.
We had a phenomenal first 3 hours. We were able to keep up with just about all the fleet. However, we mis trimmed our giant jib and unfortunately didn’t check it out until we were quite a chunk below the fleet.
Quickly went from 2nd to 12th getting back up to the fleet. Lesson learned.
Once we entered Victoria harbor, we had a mile and a half peddle to get us to the finish line. We managed to catch a boat and walked away from the rest : )
Also, Nico went a bit too much beast mode on the paddles… Huge thanks to T&G for helping us land a replacement!
Colin Angus snapped a few photos of us as we pulled in to the finish.
Overnight sail-camping mini shakedown.
Got a bit wet on the trip from Oakland to San Rafael. But warmed up quickly cooking in the hull.
This was our first time sleeping on the boat, and it was a very comfortable night. A two person tent fits nicely under the boom on the aft trampoline. However, we’ll be sleeping in the hulls during the race.
Woke up and threw some oatmeal together, then picked up the rest of the crew for a day of sailing.
Wind was up again, and we saw 20+ kts by early afternoon. Really fun sailing. We’re hoping (but not counting) on seeing some of the same for part of the trip.
Getting our foul weather setups all sorted and shaking out some kinks with new control systems. We managed to break our mast rotation system, but we’ll try a new one this week. A bit beefier and with a better angle. `