A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast: The Trade
We have been offered a 33’ C&C Sailboat as trade for our beloved lady, the Audrey Eleanor.
Our 1948, 54’ wooden yacht is wearing us down. For ten years we have drained the bank account attempting to maintain her in the custom she seems to demand. In turn we hoped to preserve her. She is high, high maintenance gal. Forget simply exfoliating her bottom once a year at $1,200 per haul out, she yearns for paints that will cover blemishes and bely her age… at $200 per gallon. Replacement of parts, no ordinary woods will do, she demands exotic teaks, mahoganies and rosewood. (Some of which are endangered species!) Shiny brass and chrome adorn her.
She is a seductress. She rides the seas with ease. Her yellow cedar bow breaks through the white froth of waves as she leads you to yet another adventure. There is always one more horizon to conquer, one more sunset on distant shores to bask in. Forget her insatiable thirst! She can knock back six gallons of polished fuel in an hour, but what do you care? You have cast away the lines of responsibility and are Commander of your destiny. Really, what the hell is money for anyway?
After much debate we agreed to exchange The Audrey Eleanor, moored at South Harbour in Powell River for the Starduster, moored in Minnette Bay in Kitimat, B.C.
Logistically it is a nightmare. The new owners of the A&E would like us to deliver the A&E to Kitimat. They found quickly how difficult it is to find moorage for a 30 tonne 1948 wooden boat. Marinas are wary of anything fitting this description and insurance companies laugh. Minnette Bay refuses to take her and the concept of the Captain and I doing a final farewell run is dashed on the rocks of reality!
We drive from Whitehorse to Kitimat to secure our new vessel. Our maiden voyage will run us from Kitimat down the inside passage to Saltery Bay on the Sunshine Coast. Other than a 3-hour match cup race in New Zealand, in which we were part of a skilled crew, we have never sailed a ship before. If you remember the Captain’s war cry, ‘God hates a Coward,’ here we go again.
The Starduster is a beautiful little ship, 33’ with classic lines.
She has a 4 cylinder Kubota that tops out at 7 knots. It has all of the comforts of home, a nice front V berth with toilet and shower. A dining table that converts into a bed, icebox style fridge and propane stove with oven and the BBQ is on the back rail. There is a real funk in the cabin. We had become accustomed to the Audrey Eleanor’s particular aroma; Starduster’s is gagging us. Opening every orifice, we hope it is only a lingering lock up stench, which will be cleared by Ocean breezes.
No such luck! After day two, the smell is thick enough to chew. What the heck? The previous owner assured us emphatically that they had never used the ‘head’ (toilet) in the four years they owned it. I am not sure what they did, but someone has been sneaking in and using the toilet beside their bed. The holding tank is filled to the point of overflow into the hull. Crappy job. The Captain removes the wall that features the shower, sink and toilet. He has to syphon the non-existent poop from the over-plugged holding tank and slosh out the hold. Then he has to paint the hold. It really can’t be lived in or used in this state, why wouldn’t you just empty the holding tank? Some people’s kids!
The smell of sweet success, Ocean breezes prevail thoughout our new vessel.
We are excited to be underway. Memories of our crazy ride though the winter of storms recorded in my book The Adventures of the Audrey Eleanor would make sane people reconsider any type of boating adventure. We have never claimed sanity nor normalcy, thank god! Stocked to withstand a month at ‘sea’ we can hardly wait to begin our journey back to Powell River and our new moorage at Saltery Bay.
Batteries are checked, the anchor on this baby is electric, I am excited, I had to hand crank 80 pounds of cast iron from the ocean floor up onboard the Audrey Eleanor, this will be a vacation!
The Captain is chatting up the locals looking for any information that will help along the way. It is a heavy fishing season. Big Ford Trucks, with big wheels and headache racks all sporting Alberta license plates have full sized freezers in their boxes. They are filling up on enough Salmon to feed the rest of the Western world I am sure.
Fish really isn’t as good when it has been frozen for months, and then the dog gets it, or worse, it gets put into the landfill. A great new concept would be to only take what you can eat in the next month or two. That way is still tastes wonderful and you get to come back next year to catch some more, and your kids will be able to bring their kids and re-live Grandpa’s great fishing story. And that way the fish can reproduce and we will all have fish to eat in the future. Why don’t we try that?
Hmm… I hear… Hmmmm. “What’s up?” I ask the Captain. “We have a 5 foot draft on the Starduster and in order to get her through the shallows of Minnette Bay we have to wait for a high tide.” “The next high tide is not for a week!” We thought that moorage was pretty cheap in Minnette Bay in Kitimat, now we know why. You are captive if you have a draft of more than 3 feet with a low tide. Some boats are stuck until a ‘King’ tide shows up allowing them to escape.
At the end of a week the Starduster is ship shape. She smells wonderful, her chrome glistens.
20 less feet of boat makes a huge difference in the scheme of restoration and maintenance. The water is rising, a crowd is gathering! We will be accompanied out of Minnette Bay by a flotilla of locals heading to the salmon grounds. Everyone is impatient, the fish are biting NOW! Hurry up, the fish could be up in Prince Rupert by the weekend. It is determined, tomorrow we go!
No early risers here. The tide isn’t at full slack until 1 pm., music drifts from across the water, people laugh and chatter, it is a festival. We will be third out, the deeper hulls are ahead of us, our bow spit will be tucked in to the transom in front of us. Like a lead hand on a trail ride, the lead boat blows his horn and with a wave of his arm we head em on out! ‘Rolling, rolling, rolling all the boats are going!’ Behind us are 10 boats. It’s a parade! It is a minefield of rocks and sand bars leading out from the docks. We follow slowly; silt rises as props churn up the bottom inches away. Now we crawl, in front of us only feet away, this channel opens up into the much wider Douglas Channel.
Breaking free from the parade at the end of the maze, boats drop their engines from a slant to deep into the crystal green waters of Douglas Channel. Motors roar and like gold miners heading out to stake their claim on the fishing grounds, our friends disappear down the channel hunting fish. We had not been able to run a good sea trial with the Starduster in the close confines of Minnette Bay, we are looking forward to seeing what 4 cylinders feels like after the 6 cylinder twin perkins that the Audrey has.
Slowly the Captain pushes the throttle; we slice thorough the water.
A breeze on our faces states we are making headway. A little more juice, a bit more and just a bit more, we are revved up to 1800 rpm travelling at just over 4 knots. The Starduster feels like it is falling apart from the vibration of the engine. WOW, the noise is horrendous! Backing off the throttle, the vibration drops. What to do, we can’t go back, we have lost our guides and the tide has dropped.
We have got ourselves a sailboat!
With roughly 800 kilometres to go, I guess we learn to sail, the engine is too rough. It is going to be a long story at less than 4 knots per hour… we hope for wind, which could fill our sails for a crazy speed of 7 knots.
Tune in next month for the rest of a Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast.