Day 10: Curve of Line
The fresh morning finds the Flotilla dispersed between three anchorages about a mile apart. Fortunately Captain Chris’ morning hail finds everyone hale and whole, and it is anchors up and boats behaving in the customary coordinated departure through the Bull Passage.
Rounding the southeastern point of Lasqueti Island we pass pretty Squitty Bay Marine Park which is choked today with visiting sailboats stuck in its gullet. We encounter an ample wind-driven beam sea and a tide setting us southward during this leg across the Georgia Strait. These forces are the fleets apology for a curiously incurvate path to Nanaimo.
Boats are now in the loom of Vancouver Island with all her busy seaports, mills and factories. The Flotilla is no longer alone and the sounds of Desolation are in our wake.
Dodd Narrows, the final timed rapid, lies close at hand, and north and southbound boats congregate like logging debris near the approaches. We soon reenter the Gulf Islands with moderating winds. A lovely afternoon carries the fleet southeastward through the washy archipelago.
We cross the ferry lanes and enter Otter Bay Marina, our destination. Boats are assigned berths at the docks, on fixed moorings or on anchor in the small harbor. Jupiter finds good holding outside the floats.
This evening a picnic is promised on the Flag Deck of Otter Bay overlooking the cove. Disparate participants in its creation are consolidated by the creative Jillian and Chuck who operate a small onsite café. The details are murky and in their hands, which proves to be a fine thing.
In a starring role is Riley Aitken – a noted fire chef from Alberta whose heart for supernal local ingredients beats wildly. “These tomatoes have NEVER been in a fridge, or a plane, or a truck even!”
Pairing with him perfectly is Brent Rowland, winemaker from Averill Creek Winery in the Cowichan Valley, whose hillsides are laid out in greying layers across the water from where we sit, mimicking a Japanese painting. His passion? Known varieties with a regional twist that let the grapes sing their own song. “Our wines are wild fermented, no enzymes, no sulfur, unfined and unfiltered – they’re JUST grapes!”
Also on deck is Aaron Campbell of Ohana Farms nearby on North Pender, almost close enough to toss a tasty cucamelon to Otter Bay. The produce for our dinner and flowers for the table are grown by his agronomic rock-star hands.
Two massive grills are hauled 30 feet up onto the deck. Sorcery is applied, ingredients given utmost respect. Family style service is rendered by local friends drawn in by the frisson of guests from Key Largo. The sun sets and the moon rises as our palates are tantalized tirelessly.
Day 11: The Borderline
A clear and cool morning has the fleet on its feet, concerned with the coming crossing of the maritime border into US waters.
These days it is all about Border Apps, in this case, CBPRoam, the US Customs and Border Protection App. Download the App. Populate the data fields with vessel registration, passenger credentials, Master’s name and destination. Answer the checkbox questions thus: YES, NO, NO, YES, NO, NO. Or is it NO, NO, YES, NO, YES, NO? Checking the wrong box might lead lead to trouble.
If all information is complete, the Master receives a number and a text or email, and is queued into the reviewing Officer’s government data server. Some boats quickly receive permission, some receive denial due to any number of communications afflictions or mistaken identities, and some answer a voice call from a spam-like number or are invited to a FaceTime interview including Luna, the Fleet Hound.
Eventually, all boats and all passengers, against all odds, are cleared into the country and receive a scant Approval Number like Jupiter’s 3032-202209-01-103-5401. Please, do NOT share this sequence!
Border plyometrics complete, the Flotilla forms into a disciplined line abreast, headings corrected for magnetic and other variations, speed synchronized to stop, and crews aligned for naval review; this to capture an iconic aerial drone photo.
Following the review, the fleet parades into Roche Harbor where slips are assigned. Several boats refuel and receive holding tank pumpouts.
The farewell dinner is a foody feast representing the Salish Sea Coast, but the highlight of the evening is the culmination of a trip-long challenge to create a centerpiece of found items. Each boat’s occupants, it turns out, have been secreting found bobs of moss, bits of twig, and relevant rocks since day one, and now they are assembled to glorious advantage interpreting the route, boat names, and even a sea otter.
The judge is flattered and bribed and tension builds as representatives from each vessel eloquently elucidate their installation.
Marshmallows are roasted over a desultory fire in the pit. Roche’s crepuscular Colors Ceremony calls our group out by name and a cheer drifts up with the smoke. Later, the centerpieces become spirit offerings to the gods as we recount the bounties of this improbable journey and the endogenous bonding that has resulted. The blaze reflects gratitude for friendships growing stronger and brighter.
Day 12: Roll Call
0730 Jupiter’s crew casts lines off boats departing on the final leg to Bellingham, wishing all well.
Chris broadcasts the final roll call of the 2022 Ocean Reef Yacht Club Flotilla:
Luna lives on Zaya and becomes the fleet’s best dog
Stella Luna, the lead boat until the border, returns to Sidney and Patos takes her place. Blue Pearl and Jupiter, the two local vessels, remain at Roche for future adventures.
Hail and Farewell ~~~~~ Hail, ye voyagers from Atlantic Keys Exploring bold Pacific waters deep Farewell now mariners of Salish Seas Friendships made and trust to keep