2008 Montague Harbour Rendezvous Article

Captain Kirk’s Report from “Eider’s” visit to the 2008 Montague Harbor Rendezvous

“Eider” and I boarded the Ferry for Victoria in Port Angeles, bright and early on Friday morning, May 23rd. I went upstairs for the one hour crossing and promptly bumped into Lynn Watson, a long time friend and fellow wooden boat junkie, from Port Townsend. Lynn, in turn, introduced me to Alan Woodbury, also from PT. They explained that they had been invited by Jamie Orr, to come pick up his Chebacco 20, “Wayward Lass” in Victoria and to sail her from Sidney, about 18 miles north by highway, so that she could be present for the annual Montague Rendezvous.

Jamie had hoped till the last moment that he’d be able to bring her himself, but when his government workload became just too stacked up to justify it any further, he graciously offered his vessel to Alan and Lynn, both of whom had attended in past years on their own vessels.

The three of us immediately agreed to meet at the launch ramp in Sidney and shadow each other on the 17 mile sail northwest to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island.

As soon as “Eider” and I pulled off the ferry in Victoria we almost literally bumped into Jamie who was parked with his “Lass” immediately in front of the terminal. Though we’d chatted earlier via emails for some time, we’d never actually met. So I squeezed my rig right in behind him on the very busy downtown boulevard and jumped out to shake his hand and have a look at his beautiful little vessel. (I’d long been an admirer of Bolger, and the Chebacco in particular.)

The other two guys got hung up a bit by customs. I was anxious to get to the ramp as early as possible because the tide was nearing the end of the midday ebb. With a two foot draft, I suspected “Eider” would need a bit more water than the Chebacco, for a shameless launch. So I decided to drive ahead and meet them at the ramp.

  “Eider” is a 1981, Sam Devlin designed and built predecessor to his current two simpler and less expensive designs, the 15ft. “Nancy’s China” and the 18ft. “Winter Wren”. Sam told me he built about seven of the “Eider’s” until the cost of their more stout and complex construction brought the price above what the market would bear. In my mind she’s a prettier and more traditional looking vessel however, with a more graceful sheer, a deeper sweeping cockpit coaming and a more classic bowsprit and cutter rig. “Eider” is 17ft. LOD, 7.5ft. beam, 2000 lbs disp., with a fixed full keel and attached rudder.

(Since this first trip, I’ve added a brail to the mainsl. and home built roller furlers to the headsls. so everything can now be furled quickly and easily from the cockpit.) She carries a 5 hp Mariner outboard on a fixed transom bracket and a sculling oar. It will maneuver her quite sweetly in a calm harbor at about two knots.

She has an enclosed cabin with bronze opening ports, a solid-fuel Dickinson fireplace for dry cozy nights, a butane cooking stove, brass oil lamps for lighting, and a v-berth that might squeeze in two.

She has a sprit-rigged tanbark mainsl., a tanbark staysl., a baby-blue flying jib, and a matching drifter. There are lots of strings to pull.When we arrived at the ramp, it appeared a bit on the shallow side and I noted with greater disappointment that the lower half was clearly filled in with sand. “Eider’s” free standing cutter rig does take a bit more time to set up. So I jumped to work, a bit frantic now to get her in before we ran out of water.

Jamie and the Chebacco crew arrived. They had “Wayward Lass” floating before I had finished. I rolled down next, but when I’d run the rear bumper and exhaust thoroughly under water, as deep as I dared go, “Eider’s” waterline was still noticeably one foot above the water.

The other’s tried not to giggle, and I sensed they were wondering how long I’d insist on holding the whole show up. I decided this called for a bold and desperate maneuver. I had Alan and Jamie tie her bow and stern lines to the dock well aft. I disconnected the winch line and safety chain holding her to the trailer. I put my Jeep in compound low and began easing the jeep very slowly up the ramp, pulling the rollered trailer out from under “Eider”, praying the whole time that the deck cleats would hold and that she wouldn’t end up on top of the dock.

She creaked and groaned till she’d rolled past her balance point at the aft end of the the trailer, then with one big and sudden lurch, she rolled her bow high in the air and “kersplushed” into the water. The scene from my rear view mirror looked a bit like one of those old newsreels of the launching of a WWII battleship. We all started to cheer but I was still a bit worried that the rudder would be damaged or her keel would be firmly stuck in the sand. I parked the rig and stepped gingerly aboard. She rocked normally from side to side and the rudder turned easily, much to my relief. The cabin and cockpit were dry and in order. I raised my thumb and the cheer was raised once again.

The circus now over, Jamie headed reluctantly back to the office. The rest of us tidied up a bit, had some lunch together aboard the “Lass”, found out from a very nice Canadian Mountie that we weren’t supposed to be drinking beer at the dock, and finally were ready to shove off by about 4pm.

As is standard protocol, the wind was steady at about 8-12 knots and dead on our nose as we pointed our bows toward Galiano.  

Though I was rigged to sail, we headed out initially under power. I figured we’d soon cut our engines and be tacking for the remainder of the afternoon, which was just fine with me.  I kept watching the others, to see when they’d cut their power and hoist sail, but they surprised me and never did. For safety reasons I elected not to do so on my own and break up our little flotilla. Continuing under power, at about 5 knots, the NW winds got a bit stiffer, about 90 mins. later, when we passed through the channel between Coal Island (to port) and Moresby Island (to starboard). I bundled up a bit against the bite of the wind and chop and tucked in behind the cabin and windward coaming for the remainder of the trip.

About two and a half hours later we turned to entered Montague Harbor. As I recall, I slowed and allowed “Wayward Lass” to lead the way at this point. There appeared to be no other small boats there and I wasn’t quite sure where in the large bay we were heading. As we approached the campground and its attendant dock however, a couple came running down the ramp and began a campaign of vigorous waving, clearly trying to get our attention and welcome us in.

Alan and Lynn pulled up to the dock first and I pulled in behind them. They immediately recognized the others as Cal Crans and his wife. I believe they’re from Alberta. Cal had come to the 2006 Rendezvous with his Bolger Bobcat “Gatito”. He introduced himself and his wife with a warm and open grin and quickly explained that he was currently midway into his current project, another Bolger Chebacco. He was therefore quite excited to give his wife a chance on this trip to see and sail aboard “Wayward Lass”. We were all immediately invited ashore to their campsite.

  Hanging out at the dock

We thought it’d be best to anchor out and raft-up our two boats for that first night. So we did so and then each inflated our tiny dinghies to paddle back to the dock. As that first evening sunset began to settle into dusk, Alan and Lynn made a particularly scary sight, so cramped together in Jamie’s tiny rubber ducky. Returning later, in the dark and with a few beers on board, was even more of a giggle. The phosphorescence in the water though, was spectacular.

Sunset at Montague Harbour  

We’d all had a great time ‘round the campfire where we’d shared wine, beer, snacks, past boating experiences, tall tales, and lies in great abundance. Back aboard the boats, Lynn shared a fine rice, bean and kitchen sink special (He’d precooked it at home) with Alan and me. We all dove for the warmth of our berths early.

In the morning, after a simple breakfast, I cast off from “The Lass” and sculled around the harbor for some peaceful morning exercise, heading over to check out the “bakery boat” I’d heard so many legendary tales about the night before. I could easily follow the smell of fresh baked cinnamon buns from about a mile off.

Alan and Lynn took the Chebacco over to the dock to pick up Cal and his wife and then followed me over to check out the espresso and sweets. We rafted up beside the anchored vessel and enjoyed a fair sampling of their remaining treats for brunch.

  Alan, hot on the trail of a cinnamon bun!They make great pies, too.  Also bread, cookies….

We cruised around the harbor for awhile after. This, our first chance to compare the two vessels under sail. A pretty fair match all in all and a beautifully warm, sunny and joyful mid day was shared by all.

Lounging about  

Sometime after noon on Saturday two more boats showed up. Kirk Coleman and his wife came sailing into view aboard their tiny Davidson, a 17 ft. open dinghy. They’d gotten a late start Friday evening from Nanaimo and elected to tuck in for the night on another small island to the north. I think they said it was a favorite spot of theirs on Wallace Island. The other vessel had taken a slip already somewhere across the harbor. I never saw the boat but I believe it was a Cal 29. I’ve also unfortunately forgotten the names of the skipper and his lovely girlfriend. He had apparently been to earlier rendezvous and the two of them were busy now preparing this new boat for a prompt departure. They were intending to head south next for Baja and who knows where beyond. We all of course, wished them the best (with more than a bit of envy). I hope perhaps, they can catch us up, upon reading this, as to who they were and where all they ended up.

Back at the campground dock we showed each other and passers-by our boats. Kirk Coleman and his equally witty and adventurous wife got their campsite organized. We all agreed to meet in the early evening and catch the infamous bus ride to The Hummingbird Pub!

  Kirk and CaroleColeman on the dock with their Davison behind them

Well, I’m still here to tell all, that the food, brew and camaraderie were all just what we’d hoped for. And the bus ride? Well, that was something…shall we say…memorable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the bus driver who tended the wheel, at times while simultaneously standing up, turning ‘round to face the passengers, and leading us in song and dance. Then just to make things even more exciting, he began turning the headlights on and off, and drumming to the blaring eight-track stereo, with a large steak knife. All this as we careened around hills, huge trees and sharp turns on a narrow unlit, two lane highway!

The knife-weilding, crazed shuttle bus driver, in a calmer moment!  

We all giggled and laughed, but I’m sure for some, those were grins of barely veiled terror. I couldn’t help thinking that while, here on friendly Galiano, this was still seen, thank God, as good old home town fun and a time honored tourism tradition, back in the up tight states, this kind of behavior by a bus driver would have him arrested for suspected terrorism. Oh, oh, maybe I shouldn’t have had that last beer?

Just a bit more time around the campfire for most of us, before we anchored out again for that final evening.

All the others at this year’s rendezvous were anxious to head for home early on Sunday morning.

“Eider” and I were lucky enough to have three more days before we needed to get back to work. We upped anchor the next morning right behind “Wayward Lass”. Waving goodbye to the others on the dock, we hoisted sail, determined this time to do without the outboard as much as possible for the remainder of our adventure.

Of course, now that we were heading south, the wind had elected to clock ‘round 180 degrees to end up most assuredly on our nose once again. We tacked all day, having to reef down for awhile, just outside Montague Harbor, but cooking along quite nicely in about 15-20 knot winds. By early afternoon, and just as it started to really blow up, we were able to tuck in snugly at the head of a very narrow cove on the west end of Prevost Island. Sunset there was spectacular. After which I stoked up the fireplace and oil lamps for a toasty evening below with spaghetti and a bottle of wine, while reading of Napoleonic sea battles from Alexander Kent.

Monday was calmer but with the wind still on our nose. Just to the north of Coal Island and caught in its lee, the contrary currents and dying wind finally forced me to start up the engine. It was warm, calm and sunny as we headed into the north end of Canoe Passage. Who could have guessed what the ebb was just then pushing us toward ‘round the next blind curve?

We were popped out the other side doing about 7 knots with the help of that strong ebb and were immediately confronted by a huge opposing wall of breakers! Wind waves built up by a 20 knot southerly through Sidney Channel now funneled their way into the much narrower and shallower passage. The consequent under tow made the faces steep, and sucked poor little “Eider”, full speed ahead, directly into the worst of the rip. All I could do was quickly claw down all sail and power-up, so that we could more efficiently push and pound our way through to the up wind side of the rip. It took us about 45 mins., diving repeatedly right through the face of seemingly endless waves, before we finally reached deep enough water and the seas returned to something more manageable.

By then however, I was soaked through, cold and tired. I hadn’t been able to grab any thing to eat. The headwind was building and I felt I had no choice but to keep on powering into it in hopes of reaching the lee of Sidney Spit for the night. The waves were surely breaking that evening directly onto our ramp at Swartz Bay. We’d have to wait till Tuesday to haul out there.

The wind was up to nearly 30 knots when we got to the spit. There were white caps well up into the shallows of the lagoon, so I elected not to try to anchor. Instead we tucked “Eider” in between the beach and the lee side of the government dock; there protected from the chop and tied up securely for the night. I’d figured we were in for a howler all night long. I needed room to spread out my things and dry out myself and the boat, and I didn’t want to be up all night worrying about the anchor.

About six pm however, the wind suddenly blew itself out. The warm sun produced another magnificent sunset. The park ranger came down and went round in his dinghy to collect mooring fees from all the other boats. As he headed past “Eider” on his way back up the ramp, clipboard in hand, he asked where we were from and how big my little boat was. I asked him how much I needed to pay to stay the night and he smiled back, “Oh…You know I think I managed to leave my pencil in the dinghy, you’re not much bigger than her anyway, just have a nice evening and don’t worry about it!”

The next morning’s trip to and up the ramp was uneventful and she was hauled out with ease. But the last four days of gloriously clear weather had ended with the passing of that final night’s front. We packed up “Eider’s” gear in the rain and headed south on the freeway to Victoria and our ferry ride home.

In closing, we’d especially like to thank Jamie Orr once again, for all he’s done to organize and promote this great event and more remarkably, for his so freely offering up his “Wayward Lass” for so many to enjoy, even when he couldn’t come himself. She’s a beautiful little vessel. I hope Alan and Lynn had a comfortable and fun voyage home as well.

We’d also like to thank all the other rendezvous skippers and crew for all the generosity and good cheer they shared with us at this year’s gathering. “Eider” and I truly enjoyed our Gulf Island adventure and we’ll surely come back next year. We hope our story will help inspire many more to join us at the Rendezvous in 2009.

  Wayward Lass and Eider at anchor