Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tillikum morning.



At age five I was building rafts and poling them along the shores of Mill Bay on Vancouver Island. By six, a little rowboat increased my range. I was bow paddle for a retired friend and his red Peterborough canoe and with him I ventured beyond my little bay. Rowboats and kayaks took me out into bigger seas and wilder waters. My wife Heather and I bought a used Chestnut wood and canvas canoe in our early twenties to explore the Gulf Islands and we still use it today. Of course we have had a few sailboats too. When my son-in-law brought me a beat-up, fiberglass 16` Frontiersman canoe he had found left at the side of the road labeled ‘Free’ I knew I was launched on another canoe project, but one with a difference this time. I am now at an age where synthesis comes naturally, so the rebuilding of this ruin of a canoe would turn it into a rowing, sailing canoe: a combination of all my life`s experiences of messing around in boats.

This summer I am out in Saltspring Island`s Fulford Harbour most mornings, rowing fast for the outer point before the onshore breeze picks up. Ham sa, ham sa, I mutter with the stroke of the oars as I pick up the pace and the long slim hull makes the water sizzle in her wake. After my large, complex and expensive sailboats, the simplicity and direct relationship I have with Tillikum is seductively immediate.

At the outer point of the bay I check my watch - only twenty minutes today- and feel the developing calluses on my palms. I am in preparation for a bigger voyage if time permits. There is a breeze gathering itself together in gentle cats-paws so down goes the centerboard and rudder, up goes the lugsail on the mainmast and I settle myself on the floorboards, take the tiller in one hand and the main sheet in the other and we are off, at first reaching out past the Skull Islets and then running up the harbour, past the beacon, in the strengthening breeze. Under sail, Tillikum is very fast and the shoreline flows smoothly past. Wake from powerboats makes us rock wildly, but with my weight low in the canoe and the balancing pull of the sail we quickly slither through them. Sailing a slim canoe, requires a delicate touch though, and this is one of it`s attractions for me.

All too soon it is time to lower sail and row into the marina docks. Now I kneel, facing forward and push the oars so I can slip safely between the moored boats, angle through a narrow gap and suddenly I`m home again and marching up the wharf with the oars over my shoulder. Just an hour or so, the day is barely begun, but I have had another amazing experience with my resurrected, recycled, three masted canoe called Tillikum.

3 comments:

Michael said...

I'm still there with you on the water gliding up the rocks of the reservation lands and gazing at the arbutus overhanging the shore on the way home. Thanks for that experience.

Michael said...

I'm still there with you on the water gliding up the rocks of the reservation lands and gazing at the arbutus overhanging the shore on the way home. Thanks for that experience.

Richard H said...

You sir, are a hero. Amazing idea and entertaining dialgoue. I guess what the say about the gulf islanders is true: crazy and full of crazy ideas :) I love paddling around just about any part of Saltspring - it's just too perfect for paddlecraft. Hope Tillikum brings you years of joy and.. um.. stangeness :) Thanks for a good read and I've linked over to you from Adventures on the Blue.