Shiriri`s cabin lights reflected warmly on the cold wet boards of the dock. The southeast gale reached down into the sheltered bay with stray gusts that stripped the last of the fall leaves from the maples, but only the constant crash of breakers at the bay`s entrance told us the whole story of a dirty night at sea. We were securely tied up in the one really safe bay on Wallace Island and enjoying the luxury of being in the heart of a storm and yet at the same time in a safe harbour.
We had been living on board and traveling around the islands for two months now and the VHF radio weather forecasts helped determine where and when we traveled and in which sheltering bay we chose to spend the night. We did not usually find such perfect shelter as this and had been caught a few times in narrow bays that were well sheltered from the south east gales but exposed when the front had passed and the wind came gusting strongly from the northwest straight into the bay. We had learned to anchor facing out of the bay with a long rope tied to a tree ashore to hold our stern in to the land. This was why we were out here after all: experience is the best teacher and time spent among the islands at this time of year was so much more instructive than in balmy summer conditions.
The gale blew all next day and we enjoyed using our new bright new yellow rain gear for walking the island trails of this deserted provincial park. Once it was the home of the Conovers and we had read his book Once upon an Island describing the building of their island home: something we could relate to as we were then building our own little island homestead not far away on Saltspring. Sometimes we walked south to Panther Point to feel the full force of the wind roaring up Trincomalli Channel and at other times we went north feeling the buffeting of the wind in the trees and undergrowth. After a long dry summer the land drank up the rain gratefully and the mossy rocks glowed emerald green.
We read of course, tucked up on the seats in the saloon while the oil heater flickered cheerfully. Heather cooked delicious meals in our new galley. She baked bread in the oven of the propane cook stove. In her spare time she knitted warm wool slippers for our feet which were feeling the winter chill in the lower part of the boat. I researched in sail making books and updated my sketchbook with images of our life that day. Cooking and warm showers added moisture which condensed on the walls and overhead in the cool ends of the boat so it was not all joy, but on the whole we were well pleased with ourselves and so glad we had not tried to go to sea too soon.
After the storm finally passed on, we welcomed the chance to finally take the bulky bags of brand new sails out of the fore peak and start dressing our ship in her new suit. The jib and fore staysail were so much easier to hank to the stays on the long bowsprit when the bow was swung over the dock and the big gaff main and foresail required yards and yards of light line to fasten the sails securely to their varnished spars. We carefully sorted out the complex of halyards, established the correct order where each one belonged on its own particular belaying pin and laid out, measured and cut to length all the various sheets. There was certainly a sense of working from an antique instruction manual compared to that of a modern vessel.
We were well pleased with our choice of a newly built classic wooden design however. It had saved us so much expense along the way because I had been able to make most of what we needed. The new masts for example, had just cost me my labour (which I enjoyed) and a few cans of preservative and cetol varnish. Even more importantly, because we had designed and made everything ourselves, if things should break or wear out at sea or at isolated islands in the Pacific I knew that I could just dig in our odds and ends boxes, haul our my tools and make replacements. Our practical boat would continue to be inexpensive to maintain on the long voyages ahead. She was beautiful in her new wardrobe of white dacron sails.