Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shiriri Saga#4 The Circumnavigators.

"Would you like coffee and croissants for breakfast tomorrow morning?"The laughing voice of the marina manager carried easily over the narrow space of water to our becalmed schooner. We had just pushed off on the beginning of our thirtieth wedding anniversary circumnavigation of Salt Spring Island (our island home). With our adult children on board, we were repeating our honey moon trip that we had made in the 14' scow we proudly called Isolde.

That trip had been a challenge in our tiny boat with its home made sails and chronically unreliable outboard engine and this one in Shiriri also had a decidedly improvised camping quality as well, with its broken down engine, tattered sails, and rough and as yet untouched interior. We still had our dory with its outboard to use as an engine when the wind failed however, and were primed for this modest adventure. We had owned our dreamboat ( and she was still mostly dream) for several months now and had been busy getting the exterior refinished before winter rains forced us below to begin work on remodeling the interior. The breeze filled in at last and we drew away from tomorrow`s proffered breakfast and tacked out of Fulford Harbour.
The promising breeze died by evening, but we were close to our first destination, Russell Island. The crew of Isolde had camped here on the first night of their honeymoon cruise after a day spent mostly drifting north on the tide and so I jumped into the dory to tow the short distance to the anchorage in the lee of the island. No sooner was I at the end of the tow line than I burst out laughing; there astern, was my first sight of Shiriri away from land or the marina berth. She was improbably romantic as though she had just dropped in through a time warp from the previous century.

By mid afternoon the next day Shiriri was sailing fast up Houstoun Passage between Salt Spring and a long low island called Wallace Island. Now a provincial park, it was then a private island with big "No Trespassing" signs that had the crew of Isolde getting a little desperate for a place to camp for the night. We on Shiriri had a tight time of it ourselves off the northern tip of Salt Spring, getting our sails down quickly and the dory alongside before we were blown past the little bay in which we intended to anchor. Just in time the outboard caught and we carefully inched into the bay. That night we told our grown up children of our spooky experience thirty years before, on the island we could see north of our anchorage. We had landed on Jackscrew Island in the evening, desperate by now for a camping spot and had hurried across the island to find a camp site. And then it hit us: an overpowering sadness pervaded the place and set our hair on end.We ran back to our boat, pushed away from the shore, and sailed off as fast as the breeze could carry us. We sailed in the moonlight, messed with the seagull engine to no avail and paddled half the night to finally camp on Tent island. Phew!

Day three found Shiriri sailing south past the village of Vesuvius toward a distant steep- sided narrow pass between our island and Vancouver Island. Naturally the wind headed us when we finally arrived and we tacked back and forth for a while until we reached the entrance to Maple Bay. Our shadowy former selves had tacked back and forth without gaining any distance to windward, had worked on their engine until it started and had turned in here to spend the night in a friends woodshed. The Shiriris, however, checked the tide tables and decided to try to use the last of the ebb tide to pass through Sansum Narrows before nightfall. The dory revved up and Shiriri slid forward in the calm evening light. Those narrows were so beautiful with their spectacular cliffs, but we were kept busy trying to fend the dory off and keep it from being swamped as motor boats coming the other way pounded us with their wash.
Finally, on the slack tide, we reached the southern end of the pass and looked up in a quiet moment of reflection at a roof top poking through the trees on the hillside above us. This was the Island home of Miles and Beryl Smeeton before they returned to their yacht Tzu Hang for more years of adventurous sailing. Their books had been our inspiration for years and passing this spot felt like our own true beginning. Then with our oh so useful dory and it`s engine, we just scraped around the point and cheated the gathering flood tide that was trying to sweep us back into the narrows. We anchored in Genoa Bay for the night.

On the last day of our circumnavigation, we sailed up Satellite Channel along the south side of Salt Spring. Somewhere we crossed paths with the crew of Isolde who had transited Sansum Narrows that day thirty years before. They were headed for their new apartment in Sidney, the beginning of their life together, and a year of teaching and teacher training. They don`t know it yet of course, but a year from now they will have driven across Canada to Nova Scotia and will be just about to leave for teaching jobs in Guyana, South America. Although we don`t know it yet, we will be tested with many difficulties before Shiriri`s bowsprit will meet the Pacific swells as we turn left at Cape Flattery and begin our life on the ocean wave.

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