Walk into the Web

Some time ago I watched a TED talk given by Chris Hadfield, our astronaut that had commanded the international space station.  The topic was fear and how to overcome it.

He spoke about the training he and others had gone through to not only prepare themselves for every conceivable situation but also to prepare mentally.  By putting themselves through the same scenarios over and over, fear was not a factor, only logical thinking.  He said the way to overcome fear is to “walk into the web” over and over and then gave the example of how we all walk into a spider’s web that we have not seen and usually give a horrible shiver and say ugh! and fear the worst.

Chris went on to tell about how he went blind while spinning around the earth, in space and while on a spacewalk. First one eye went completely blind and then the next. He did not panic but thought ok, I cannot see but I am safe, I am still attached to the space station and I have another astronaut outside with me. It was determined that fluid had leaked from the suit, went into a tear duct and then travelled over to the next eye. Incredible!

His talk about fear made such an impression on me that I have said to myself “walk into the web, walk into the web” on a few occasions.  It has not always been successful and most times far from it.

On this journey, I have had to rappel down a cliff face (it was more like being tied to a rope and lowered down like a sack of potatoes), walk a very high narrow rocky ridge (could only do it in a crouched, OMG, position), learn to roll a kayak (rolled straight over and stayed under, trust me I popped up to the surface in no time, amazing what fear does!) and to kayak in more open ocean water (handled that one just fine).

To overcome fear, we must walk into the web until it has no meaning.

I don’t mind baby webs.

Tracks and Poo

Last year during our sailing trip to Alaska I became fascinated with mushrooms.  I took pictures of every different one I could find.  There were ones that looked like popcorn and all grouped together, then there were bright orange ones that climbed up trees, had that one as a screen saver for a long time.  Then the old tough as nails ones, not pretty but ancient looking and I liked that they had become hard as the tree they inhabited. The best one of all was a purple mushroom ( I swear, mary ja wanna was not involved). It was the most beautiful colour, completely on its own and the one day, the very one day I did not bring the camera along!  That mistake did not happen again.

This brings me to this sailing trip.  I am gathering pictures of animal tracks and their poo.  Why?  Because it is extremely interesting.  Certainly not a unique thing to do but absolutely a skill that is not your normal thing to do or know.  We have all done the poo thing, lift foot up, scrape it on some grass and you know only too well what poo that was!

As for tracks, they can be found in sand, mud and snow.  I think snow is the best for viewing imprints of tracks.  It usually elicits surprise and a smile when you see the track of a bird, a raccoon, deer or the imprint of a snow angel that a child has made.  It is exquisite.

Captain purchased a book about tracks etc. when were we in Queen Charlotte City and I have had great fun taking pictures, then comparing them to the book, recording the date and location.

This year I have clearly identified bear (tracks and poo), raccoon (tracks and poo), deer (tracks and poo), rat (tracks only) and otter (tracks and poo).  We will forgo any mention of seagull, way too much of the p word.

Soon we will be leaving Canada and heading south.  Not sure what tracks or poo will be found but I am ready with camera in hand.

Ship Wreck

We have all heard of or seen ship wrecks.  The kind where a person with a nice voice from an adventure or documentary program takes you up close to the hulking mass and with great pride tells you that the rust bucket has become now a home teaming with marine life; a wonderland.

Have you ever seen what the boat looks like inside BEFORE it takes the plunge?  Never do you hear – “step right up ladies and gentlemen, a once in a life time opportunity, see the mess and mass destruction, see what has happened!  Not suitable for young children”.

These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as we made our three-day voyage (remember the Minnow from Gilligan’s Island?) to Ucluelet.  We had favourable northerly winds behind us but there were some fierce tall waves that bashed and rocked us from side to side for two days, nonstop.  Days later Captain surmised that we had been caught in current going one way and wind going the opposite.

Last year on our trip to Alaska I learned that every little item must be secured snuggly, otherwise it will fly around inside the cabin as it pleases but not so much for you.  Everything was secured, we had been out for six weeks, nothing had moved, what could  go wrong.

Days later the Captain gave that two-day period an apt description: “like being in a washing machine”.


Walking was treacherous, any resemblance to sleeping horrific but going into the real danger zone?  The galley!  The galley had been my friend but not on those days.  I cooked as little as possible but finally needed that cup of brewed Tim Horton’s coffee. Damn that Timmy.

There are metal pot holders that are attached to the edge of the stove and each arm is about eight inches long and curved so that they will grab the pot on each side and hold it in place.  The stove is also gimballed so that it will rock back and forth with the movement of the boat.  If the stove did not have this ability, pots and pans would lift off the stove from the force of movement.  Everything is in place, all should work out well, right?

Picture, it.  I had kept an eye on the coffee pot, holding it in place many times as it brewed, poured the coffee into cups with lids and then I turned away from the stove for only a Nano second. You know how that inner voice tells you – don’t do it and you wish you had listened?  I heard it as it hit the floor.  Coffee was everywhere and because the boat was being thrown back and forth, so did the coffee go. Coffee and grounds were up the sides of the cupboards and covering the floor.  I was chasing coffee and not being too successful with the grounds.

I was steaming mad but then thought it is only coffee and eventually it will all get cleaned up and it did.

A few days later after we arrived in Ucluelet, the Captain stated that the engine had to have an oil change.  He has a small pump with hoses attached to drain and refill the engine.  Now these hoses are of a small diameter and the pump had to be pumped mighty hard.  Picture, it.   The hose lets go, engine oil flies in all directions.

“Step right up ladies and gentlemen, see the wreck from the inside.  Not suitable for children”.


Food for Thought

We have been sailing now for six weeks.  Not a long time and not very far off shore, approximately 60 to 100 miles at any one time.  It is a funny thing though, you begin to think of that Tim Horton’s coffee and bagel, ice cream, watermelon or even a burger (we prefer chicken) and then you begin to look at what you have on the boat and how to substitute.

Our jello puddings have become ice cream, corn beef with spaghetti sauce is getting better every day and Timmy’s coffee, well there just isn’t any substitute.  What I did desire were some of those nice crunchy Cheezie’s, not the cheese puffs (too poufy for me) and licorice.  Sea food chowder is not too bad; one can of mushroom soup, can of green peas, carrots and mushrooms, cook and dice a potato, open a can of salmon or tuna and voila!

Our next long haul at sea will be when we leave Bamfield (by about August 17th) on the west coast of Vancouver Island and head south to San Francisco; that will take us approximately 7 to 10 days at sea. We have plenty of provisions but it is the fruit, bread and cheese we seem to rip through after the first week or so.

I begin to wonder how we will fair when we are two weeks at sea or longer and provisions of meat etc. are now dwindling.

As I lick my lips, Captain eyes me suspiciously; oven cooked rump roast, haven’t tasted that in a long time.


On August 1st, we were anchored in a private bay.  The sun was up and the skies were clear. This was going to be a very fine day but we could not imagine how extraordinary it would become.

It was the Captain’s birthday and I had thought about making a card, lighting a birthday candle or making a nice breakfast. I decided on the breakfast, it would last longer.

We soaked up the sun, talked about the night sky we had enjoyed; shooting stars and the sheer beauty of it all. After breakfast, we then took to the kayaks and made our way to the end of the inlet, poked around the shoreline, made note of bear signs, found a thick mossy hill and soaked up more of the day.

It would have been around two in the afternoon as we were paddling to the boat when I spotted fins and a lot of them.  Orca! I shouted at Captain.  This was not something I wished to encounter, they could decide to become aggressive.  So far, they were staying closer to the shoreline area so we continued to make our way to the boat. As we did so we watched and discovered they were not Orca but whales!

What kind?  That question has yet to be answered.  From what I can determine they may be Pilot whales but I am still unsure.  Once I have a better look at the pictures I took I may be able to identify them.  They were greyish white with a bulbous head and dark to light dorsal fins.

Once we were back on the boat we watched as they put on the most amazing display over the next 10 hours!

Originally, we thought they were coming into feed and then would leave.  We saw this at a previous bay when Orca’s had come in.  As the hours passed it became something else entirely.  It was methodical, structured, coordinated and what can only be described as teaching.  It was a classroom and we were witnessing a once in a lifetime event.

I counted nine whales in all but possibly ten and they moved together in pairs and only occasionally would there be a lone whale at the end of the procession.

Up they would rise out of the water, all in pairs, blowing air almost in unison.  Back and forth along the shoreline, up, down, tail slapping, pectoral fin slapping. Then out into the bay, swinging back in an arc toward the shoreline again.  Before reaching the shore, they created a circle and circled several times, then submerged.  This continued hour after hour, same routine and usually each whale with a partner.

After several hours, we placed the kayaks back into the water, paddled a short distance away from them and then allowed the kayaks to drift.  They were aware we were there and made their way over, going around and under us.  One rose out of the water as if to take a good look and then slipped easily below the kayaks.  Large ghostly shapes floated under us.

Time to let my breath out.

Captain said in all his years sailing he has never witnessed nor heard of whales staying in one small location and repeating the same patterns over and over for hours on end.  We went back to the boat but after five hours we decided to go out once more in the kayaks.  Quite suddenly things changed.  The whales took themselves across the bay to the far shore and a few of them slapped their tales hard as they left.  Captain said it would seem they are sending us a message, go back to the boat and we did and they returned.

They stayed until after ten o’clock that night and then were gone.  The classroom instruction had ended.

Later, when the inky blackness of night had taken hold and the sky was once again a mass of glittering light, I looked down at the water and said “look, look, the night sky!” it was being reflected, the Big Dipper was clear as it was in the sky.  Breath, just breath……..

One never knows how the day will unfold and it did as a wondrous present for the Captain.





The People You Meet

We arrived late on a Saturday evening at Queen Charolotte City after a long day of windy, rainy weather.  As we were slowly making our way to the marina a large rainbow, end to end could be seen and then it slowly turned into a double rainbow, surely a sign of welcome and good things to come.

It seems we make a habit of arriving when most places are closed or it is a long weekend and we really, really need to restock.  I had been able to connect to the internet prior to our arrival and found that two places would be open the next day, a Sunday, for us to get something to eat.

We took ourselves to see the person in charge of the wharf and we asked if there was a restaurant nearby.  We were told in quite a serious voice, sadly shaking his head, that this is Sunday and nothing but nothing is open on Sunday.  We thanked him and continued up along the road to where we could see stores.  There to our great relief was a very nice place called OV Pizza with a sign clearly stating OPEN.

We arrived a little after it opened and already it was beginning to fill up with people.  Service was excellent.  The person who served us liked to memorize each order and it became evident that maybe you will not get exactly what you ordered.  I ordered my meal with bacon and received oodles of ham and the Captain ordered the special sausages and received bacon. We giggled.  The food and surroundings we perfect.

While we were waiting for our meal I was looking out the window which looked up a long road.  The sun was already up and strong and down this road I saw the most brilliant golden orb or square or something.  As it moved closer I could then see a person walking and it was a sight to behold.  She was wearing the most dazzling gold top that literally glittered and danced as she walked. I told the Captain to look quick, he smiled, I smiled and we giggled some more.  Now there was a person who was comfortable in their own skin.

Later, we put the bicycles together and had a little ride about and then checked online to see if there was a car rental place.  Captain said we should drive up to the top of the island. Yippee! A road trip.

There was a Budget Rental but sorry we have nothing available but you could try Gracie’s Hotel, sometimes she has cars to rent.  We walk over to Gracie’s and across the road from the hotel we see an older van with a number on it and stating RV rental. I call and Gracie answers, she is still in bed she states and really doesn’t even know what time it is but give her an hour and come back then.  We go back to OV Pizza and enjoy another great meal.

Gracie is a delightful woman who owns a small hotel and had worked for Budget for 30 years.  She is planning a trip to Italy in September and we talked about places to see.  She is going to Florence and I told her about the main street that is literally paved with gold.  Store front after store front are jewelry stores that sell only gold. I did not mention the golden woman we saw earlier, not even Florence, Italy could compare.

The trip to the top of the Queen Charolottes would not have been the same had we rented a shiny newer car from Budget.  This van had character and without a doubt has had many a character in the driver’s seat, I should know, Captain is driving.

By the time we drove up to Massett and back the odometer clicked over at 331,000 km.  I found a small handbook for the car in the glove box along with a mouse trap, no mouse attached. The van was a 1995 Aerostar.  It was the perfect vehicle, although I could do without the old car smell. We must have looked like locals as we received numerous hello waves from other drivers but it is more likely that this was Queen Charolotte friendliness.

We went as far as the road would go and that road led us to Tow Hill.  Absolutely stunning!  Mile after mile of hard packed sandy beach with little or no vehicles or people.  Yes, you can drive on the beach and that is what we did.  Stopped and had a picnic lunch.  I now have bruises, I keep pinching myself.

The next day we spend going through the small main streets before heading out.  One place we wanted to go to was Carlyles.  We wondered where people purchased clothing as we could not see anything that looked like a clothing store.  Carlyles is part Hallmark, part clothing boutique and part department store, it has all the basic needs and more.  You would not know it from the outside as the store front is small and looks like it might be a souvenir shop.  Such a nice surprise when we walked in.  I purchased a warm fleece pullover for the early mornings. The owner was very pleasant and said she had several people to call due to the town’s power being shut down.  I said, Shut Down?  Yes, she said but maybe only for half an hour, the hydro people must do that sometimes but normally everyone is notified.  She was quite concerned for other business owners as it seemed no one knew about the shutdown at 1:30.

We go down to the boat, unload more supplies and head back up the road to main street.  How about a coffee, Captain asks, great I reply, let’s go to the Queen Bees.  This is a small café and has that instant feeling that you would like to sit, relax and maybe stay all day and no one will tell you to move on.

Oh, no the hydro shut down. We went anyway and yes it was still open.  We thought the shutdown hasn’t happened yet. It was one of those moments when everything was wrong but right at the same time.  You could barely see the order counter but people were standing in line chatting, someone had lit a candle on their table, ate and looked at their iPhone, others were sitting outside enjoying the day. Except for the woman behind the counter letting people know what was still hot, nothing was out of the normal.  I love this normal.

Before leaving we had to refuel and we found out that refueling takes place at the dock for the float planes.  The person who was attending to the refueling hailed from Ontario and being from there myself we began talking about why we moved away.  He and his wife had visited Vancouver Island over the years and then I believe he told me they went to the Queen Charlotte’s and made their decision to pack up and leave.  No regrets.  They live a simpler life style but a better one. They have lived here now for six years and love this community.

Queen Charlotte City was and is unique and I was sorry to leave.


Sailing 1.0

The Language of Sailing

The term Apparent Wind is used to describe how the observer sees the wind from the boat and True Wind can only be observed when the boat is not moving.

What the sailing dictionary does not tell you is that the Apparent Wind will blow every tiny single little piece of dirt onto and into the boat!  The boat becomes one huge floating dust bunny.  I have visions of all manner of sea life attached to the underside of the vessel, some looking quite confused while others are going along for the ride.

Take the term Standing Rigging and Running Rigging – the Captain would throw these words at me and I would wonder where this rigging is standing and where in the heck is it running to?

Genoa but not the one in Italy.  The Genoa is the most forward sail other than a spinnaker, (not to be confused with Spinnakers Pub in Victoria) and known as a fore sail.

Sheet, no not a bed sheet, sheet of paper or oh sheet!  It refers to a rope.   It is the rope to pull in the boom for the main sail.  Not a boom rope, not a main rope but a sheet rope.  All together now, SHEET!

Jack Lines, used to clip yourself onto via a tether which is attached to your PFD (personal flotation device).  Jack Lines run the length of the boat and toward the outside.   The purpose is to prevent you from being thrown off the boat.  Now where would the term Jack come from?  I can only imagine the fishermen in the local pub going – “tsk, tsk, if poor old Jack only had tied his self to a rope”.  “Aye, if Jack had only used a Line”.