It's my first day at sailing school! A couple of my friends from work expressed some interest in going out to sail and I was quick to join them. We selected a school pretty much all over the internet, because we're huge nerds. The school of choice was VIMA ( Vancouver Island Maritime Academy ) down in Esquimalt, just west of downtown Victoria. Our gracious skipper let us do some great hands-on work the first day, and our basic crewing course is off to a great start.
We started the day at Kitty's for a little breakfast and then went to West Bay Marina to meet our instructor. Previous to today, I had no idea that this particular part of the marina even existed. The water was super flat with only strong currents in the forecast. Neither wind nor rain were even on the radar for Victoria harbour. It has been a great October so far.
We met up with Katy at the marina office and she walked us down to the 28' Cal, The Rose of York, in it's slip in the middle of the marina. She had us step aboard and set out to the basics of good seamanship, reading the daily tidal and weather forecasts and introducing us to various features specific to the boat. She pulled out one of the most well used current books I've seen in my time. We logged the tides, currents and weather on a convenient worksheet and then got the boat ready to sail.
This boat has a gasoline outboard motor sticking off the transom and some nice modern conveniences like a furling headsail, electric starting motor and a fairly roomy cabin. We cast off under power and headed to the gas bar across the water. It wasn't long until we were in the flight path of the float planes. As luck would have it, the death from above strobes started to flash just as we stuck our nose out into the runway and we had to alter course slightly. When the plane landed, we made a quick transit to the gas station at fisherman's wharf.
We got fueled up and motored our way out of the traffic separation scheme at the entrance to the harbour. before we knew it, we were clear of the breakwater for the inner harbour and out into the strait. The wind was calm out here with mostly just rogue swell echoing around the bay. The currents were going to be on a pretty fast ebb, so we were worried more about that than the winds. Our first exercise was crew overboard recoveries under power, which I found incredibly confidence-building. For those not used to working a tiller, we all seemed to really have some fun getting close enough to recover our overboard floating flag.
It was time to set sail! We learned how to raise the sails and fill them first thing. There were few times when we didn't have giant grins on our faces. The boat feels fantastic under sail. No noise, just the creaking of lines in the windy patch our skipper found for us. I'm glad a lot of the local knowledge in kayaking applies to sail. Coming around to trial island and clover point is much gentler in a sailboat. The only little hints that there was current was a general drifting feeling and a bit of vibration on the tiller unlike the "oh god" moment of watching a 4-5knot eddy line coming square at your beam that you'd get in a kayak.
We got on a solid starboard tack and let it carry us for a spell. We all took turns at the tiller and watched for changes in drive. The boat heeled over a little as we got up to 5+ knots into the ebb! I guess there were some nice breezes hiding out here after all. We successfully performed our first tack from a close hauled starboard tack to a close hauled port tack and the skipper dived down into the cabin and whipped up some hot chocolate for everyone. That was a very welcome treat. We sailed back in the way we came and got some even higher speeds thanks to a beneficial current.
Next up was adjusting our sails to achieve different points of sail and learn to "steer" using the sails to rotate the boat. What seems so complicated on paper is rather readily accomplished just by letting nature do her thing. The current was just ripping through setting up kilometer long eddies along the water. The birds were all on the water feasting on these teeny tiny fish (as well as being bad omens of weather to come). A few inquisitive seal heads popped up from time to time. This was just a heck of a day to be afloat, I think I wiped a single honorary tear from my eye thinking about how fantastic today would have been for kayaking.
The last task under sail for the day was running. Now I say running a bit tongue in cheek. We set up the sails for a run and the wind just tapered to "emphysemic grandpa" speed. We decided to try our hand at control of the tiller, trying to keep the boat in this narrow slot of wind without accidentally gybing. We got her out to running wing and wing - at 1-2 knots... The shore got closer and our instructor mentioned that there's no sail allowed in Victoria's Inner Harbour and left it to us to judge when to lower sail. We got the sails down nice and clean and headed into port.
Another float plane took off as we transited into the west bay to tie up. We motored back to the slip and just missed the dock by a hair. I guess we'll need more practice and communication amongst us to get this stuff down to a science. The skipper got us docked up quick and we had a quick debrief. It was a pretty fantastic time and my first outing of 3 in the next few weeks. I am so stoked about learning to sail, I haven't thought about much else this week. Kind of reminds me of when I bought my kayak... hmm... does this mean I might be poor soon? Speaking of being broke, Remember: tomorrow at noon is the big MEC swap at James Bay Community Center 12-4pm.
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Why not take some sailing courses with VIMA »