And Just Like That

the new ride, 'harlequin'
goodbye, harlequin. you were a good bike.

My brand-new, custom-built folding bicycle now lives at the bottom of English Bay, just off of Kitsilano Beach.

It happened a week ago actually, on the first of the month. I was headed across calm waters in my zodiac, looking off at the beach, when suddenly I found myself tossed upwards by an unexpected wake. A wake from a large boat is usually three large waves in a row, and this one was no different – the first wave, hit at an angle, pushed the zodiac up and over, the second hit at an opposite angle, causing my footing to slip and my butt to descend into the dinghy, and the third threw me back in the other direction… and bounced my bicycle overboard. I scrambled across the dinghy and lunged for it, but it sank immediately into the murky waters.

I immediately stopped the engine and pulled out the only navigation tech I had on me – my iPhone – and tried to get a GPS fix. I was able to, but with the inaccuracy of the iPhone GPS who knows just how close I was. I immediately went back to the boat and grabbed my Garmin GPS, some rope and a grappling hook, and spent the next hour dragging the bottom trying to snare the bike – but I had no luck.  I tried with the rope and hook for a few hours the next day as well, but still no bike.

Butch in the dinghy
Butch in the dinghy, laying out floats

In retrospect, the navigation tool that I should have used on my iPhone was much simpler – that close to shore, snapping a few photographs would have made it much easier to triangulate the position of the bike. I could have just lined up, say, the buildings downtown, or trees on the shoreline, or the end of Stanley Park with a building on the North Shore.

I sent out a message to the Bluewater Cruising Association mailing list, and received a few replies, and from those I contacted an ex-Navy diver named Joseph who offered to do the dive for a nominal fee – which I’m sure barely covered their expenses, and definitely not their time! Yesterday Joseph and his crew came out on his sailboat, Southern Cross, to search the bottom for me.

We first rowed around the area laying out a grid of buoys to provide a search area, and then the divers criss-crossed the area searching for the bike, but due to a combination of terrible visibility and strong current they had no luck. The two divers each expended two bottles of air, for a total bottom time of around four hours each, so it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying! Thanks again Joseph, Nelson and Butch for your efforts, it really meant a lot.

Nelson in the water, Joseph about to dive
Nelson in the water, Joseph about to dive

I haven’t entirely given up hope, to be honest – there are at least two remaining options. For one, I could use a fishfinder or sonar and scan the bottom carefully, looking for a bike-shaped lump. The ground around there is mostly featureless mud, with very few rocks or outjets of any type, so a bike would hopefully stand out.  If that fails, I may have to approach the source of the wake, the cruising boat ‘Abitibi’, which might well have insurance to cover just such occurrences – apparently BC marine law says that loss or damage to property from wakes are the responsibility of the vessel causing the wake. We’ll see, I guess. I’d happily offer a reward for her safe return!

And it figures, too – the ONE time I head out in the dinghy without securing my bike with a rope or a bungee tie-down. I guess things could be a lot worse; it could be the one time I forgot to fasten my seatbelt on the highway, or the one time I forgot to look both ways when crossing the street. Still, this was a very expensive and painful lesson on the unforgiving nature of the sea.

On a further and very sad note, my girlfriend Miya and I ended our relationship this week. Entire volumes could be written about this, but some parts of life just aren’t meant for the internet. Miya is an amazing human being, and I wish her nothing but happiness and love.

2 thoughts on “And Just Like That”

  1. I have been sitting here trying to find the right word to describe the loss of two wonderful things in the same week and there are none in English. Thankfully I am learning Portuguese and they have a great one, often used: soldade. Soldade sir.

    My heartfelt condolences, buggeringly bad luck. Having experienced it myself many times, I can say that few things are as heartwrenching as watching something you love slowly disappear into the dark depths just barely fast enough to be unreachable. Do I jump in and try to get her back? What if I drown? What if I get pulled in too? Is it worth it?

    Then there’s the bike. That sucks too.

    On a practical note, go talk to one of the crab or prawn captains, I have seen them drag for lost traps many times with great success; they have these huge rebar tanglers that they drag around and hydraulics to pull up whatever they snag.

  2. Indeed a pair of tragedies.

    A sidescan sonar might be able to help locate the bike – if combined with a quality GPS or DGPS – depending on its resolution and the depth of water. I once helped develop a marine survey application using sidescan, and we did see a number of interesting things on the bottom of Burrard Inlet (sunken boat hulls, etc). If your search area is small enough, you might be able to isolate a few interesting reflections that you could then dive for. Not sure what commercial software is available, but most computer-interfacing sonar equipment should come with something suitable.

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