…where to start?
Wow. Ok. So, I’m typing this from the boat. It’s a gorgeous Friday morning, and my view from the deck is the stunning Vancouver waterline. The feeling of contentment is daunted only by the chill in the air, but after months of living in a basement with no control over the furnace level, it’s not such a bother.
I. HAVE. ARRIVED!
Less than one year after I made my decision to become a technological nomad, I have thrown off the shackles of the office, cut down my consumption until a part-time job covers all of my expenses, moved out of my home, and now I live full-time on a large, sailing trimaran!
Ok – maybe that’s a bit romantic. I now live fulltime on a big, leaky, floating wooden hunting camp older than a few girls I’ve dated in the last year or so. She’s got soul though, and with a little work she’ll last me as long as I care to keep this lifestyle.
To catch up a bit – the most remarkable part of this stage of the adventure is just how much the universe reminds you that it needs to maintain a balance. For every new freedom, there is a new and daunting responsibility, something new and important to learn about.
Let’s start at Saturday – a friend and I went to White Rock on the bus early Saturday morning to pick up the boat. Fortunately water had been turned on at the dock, after being off all winter, so we flushed the antifreeze out of the water tanks and made a few repairs while getting ready to sail her to Vancouver. We talked with the former owner, squeezing as much final information as possible out of him, and then set out.
The first stress was navigating the Nekomekl River, which is a tidal river that gets *very* shallow at times. As the depth sounder showed 7, then 6, then 5… all the way down to *1*, we panicked somewhat and slowed to a crawl… then figured out that the depth sounder is measured in meters. Tie Fighter drafts about 2.5 feet, so we can float just fine in a meter of water.
We had to stand for about an hour waiting for a train bridge to open to allow us through, but then we were off into open water. Unfortunately, the lovely brisk winds of the morning died completely the second we left the river, and we had to motor the entire way. We made about 7kn though, which is very fast for a cruising sailboat – during the cruise we saw dolphins, ducks and sea lions.
As it grew dark and we approached Vancouver Harbour, I had the first scare of the night. I looked over and saw that we had missed a very large bell buoy – large like two stories tall, with a 10m concrete base – by less than 10m! This cemented into my head just how important it is to keep a close watch at night – even with a huge red blinking light on the top, I hadn’t noticed the buoy until we were going past it!
The second scare came as we motored under the bridges towards my final destination, just beside Science World. The Burrard and Granville bridges, no problem – but as we whipped under the Cambie bridge, I happened to glance up and noticed that we had VERY little clearance. Like, just shy of a foot I would say! As the meaning of this sunk in, we realized that it was currently low tide, but if it had been any higher, we would have dismasted the boat! That would have cost *thousands* of dollars, and might even have been unrepairable – needless to say, I am now acutely aware of the height of my mast, and will be watching carefully from now on!
Anchoring that night took seven or eight attempts, and I slept pretty well, despite the harrowing experiences with the bridge and the buoy. In the morning, I was awoken by a slap-slap-slap-slapping sound on the deck, and poked my head out of the hatch to find two Canada geese standing on the starboard wing, as if to welcome me to the neighborhood. The morning was crisp, sunny and *gorgeous*.
I spent the night on Sunday as well, with no incidents, and Monday morning I returned to my apartment for a day of work. Monday night, on the other hand, a very stiff wind blew up and threatened to pull my boat into the shore – when I arrived at the boat I found that she’d already moved a few feet, so I pulled up the anchor and reset it with another anchor (a delta instead of a CQR), which seemed to hold much better. I spent a fitful night of sleep, the winds howling above the cabin, anxiously watching my GPS to make sure I wasn’t dragging my anchor. The morning was gorgeous, however, easily the nicest day of the year so far, and I played hooky from work, spending the afternoon playing guitar on the deck. What a feeling of well being!
Wednesday afternoon was a lovely brisk breeze, and so I put the word out to a bunch of friends that I’d be going sailing, and invited them to join me. Unfortunately most of them could not, but as it turned out, that wasn’t such a bad thing – as we pulled away from the anchorage and motored under the Granville bridge, the engine made a bit of a funny noise. I brought the throttle down and the noise went away, but it was curious nonetheless – then it did it again, just shy of the Burrard bridge. Directly after that, the engine quit, right in front of Sunset Beach! We quickly tossed an anchor over, which luckily hooked on the first try, and started to try to debug the situation.
The short version is that we ran out of gas. *sigh*. Always the easiest problem – but what made it worse is that running out of diesel is nothing like running out of gasoline, you have to purge the fuel lines of air bubbles which is a complicated and drawn-out process involving three wrenches, a few rags, and a close personal relationship with the engine! We ended up spending the night on the public docks just across from the beach, and a mechanic showed up in the morning to get the engine running and walk me through the steps should it ever happen again. How embarrassing!
Even further to this, he said to leave the engines running for an hour or so, just to charge the batteries back up. No problem, I thought, and he left the boat after getting credit card info and charging me a whopping $150 for the visit. Unfortunately, in the next hour, the tide went out…
I was sitting in the salon when I realized that the boat was heeling a little over to port. This is a bad thing – a trimaran doesn’t heel unless there’s a problem, like one of the amas taking on water. When I went up on deck, the problem was immediately obvious; one of the amas was up in the air, and the main hull was sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor! I watched in growing embarrassment over the next hour as the ama rose higher and higher out of the water, leaving me looking like a toy airplane lying in a puddle. I had to sit there, in full view of the beach and a thousand apartments, waiting for the tide to go back out. Eventually it did, and I motored back to my anchorage with my tail between my legs.
So that’s where we are as of now. It’s now 5:15pm, and I’ve just spent the day actually working from my berth on the boat, getting a reasonable amount of work done while taking breaks every now and again to go up on deck to sit in the sun and play my guitar and sing a bit. Life is pretty great!
…and now I have to bill my office for the work I’ve been doing, so that I’ll actually get paid. 🙂