Sunday, April 20, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 12 Survival Training.

Edith visits islet on outer edge of Barkley Sound.
Edith plunges into a deep trough and shoots up and through a breaking wave crest. We are exploring along the outer edges of the West Coast`s Barkley Sound where the Broken Group of Islands meet the open Pacific and its big swells. This is exciting! Dangerous too!

At anchor. Effingham Island.

Our little dory has been extensively modified since we found her abandoned on the hard beneath the equally abandoned wooden schooner that would become our own Shiriri. She now has foam flotation under the seats, a mast and sail, and a notch in her transom that will fit a small outboard engine, lead out anchor warps and provide a space for an oar to steer by. Most obvious are the canvas covered closed cell foam sponsons along the gunwales: scorned by a fellow boater as "training wheels,"they don`t add to her looks but are providing the extra buoyancy that lifts us up and through the breaking waves.

Edith. Modified for adventure.

We feel vulnerable in this beautiful but lonely wild place: we are pushing our limits. Shiriri is safe though, in a sheltered bay at Effingham Island, deeper in among the bigger islands and we have prepared ourselves carefully for these day expeditions in Edith. We are using the four HP outboard engine to give us speed and extended range, there is a waterproof bag lashed beside the bailer that contains everything we need if we have to camp overnight on an island. We carry all life saving gear, a waterproof chart, compass, VHF radio and we will keep adding to all this daily as we gain experience.

Barkley Sound. The Broken Group.

We keep a weather eye out for fog banks, stay upwind of Shiriri in case an engine failure ( we have spare parts for the engine as well) forces us to have to sail back to the boat. We handle Edith carefully wave by wave using all our boat handling skills. We are pushing our skill level with caution, teaching ourselves as we advance. This is just the training we need for sailing safely along this outer coast and eventually out into the Pacific.

When its time to move Shiriri to a new anchorage so we can explore the more protected islands deeper in the Sound, we proceed with equal caution, threading our way through a maze of reefs and islands. The girls and I develop a piloting technique that teaches us all and keeps us safe. Although I`m the one with the piloting courses, we find that if we disagree on our course, we stop until all agree and only then proceed. Not only am I fallible, but it is important that everyone on board has these skills.

As we thread our way into the next safe haven at Turtle Island we can`t help but notice that this intricate work close to shore is something we do well; all that practice in the tight rocky bays of our own Gulf Islands is paying off. What we can`t know yet is that the mental attitudes we are developing now will serve us so well in the future.

Taking a stern line to shore.

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