“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight – red in the morning, sailor take warning!”
After months of preparation, we’ve cast off the lines, heading north to cruise the BC coast. Our sealegs and boating brains are rusty from months on land, but we’ve begun our annual process of shifting from terrestrial beings to mariners.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re going off boating, especially if you’re heading to remote places. Paying close attention to the weather signs is just one of the many ways you need to stay vigilant.
Perhaps you find yourself in a beautiful cove, looking forward to a quiet night at anchor. But first you must assess what wind is expected and calculate the depth at both the highest and lowest tides, so that you can decide how much line to put out. You need to double-check the chart to ensure there are no hazards lurking under the surface anywhere within your swinging radius, and you need ensure sure that your boat isn’t going to be within the swinging radius of any other anchored boat.
Before setting off the next day you must assess the weather again. You must calculate the distance and time to your next destination, taking into consideration how current might affect you. While studying the charts, it’s wise to identify some spots en route that could offer refuge in case you have to duck in unexpectedly – if, for example, the wind or seas should rise suddenly. You have to stow anything loose, make sure your charts, binoculars and safety gear are close at hand, and do the engine checks (fuel, oil, coolant etc.). Only then can you start the engine and raise the anchor.
Our constant companions include the tide and current tables, the VHF radio (we listen to Environment Canada’s continuous marine weather broadcast several times each day), charts (both electronic and paper) for every part of our route, and the depth sounder. We consider all of these, along with many other pieces of equipment and gear, so important that we carry two of each – three in some cases. We figure redundancy is a good thing when we’re travelling alone in remote areas.
Within a day or two of leaving home, we’ve regained our sealegs and left our terrestrial concerns behind. The house and garden are in the capable hands of our housesitters; we have no appointments or meetings until September.
Now our focus is on what will matter most over the coming weeks: determining our route and studying the charts for reefs, rocks and other hazards along the way; making sure we reach each tidal pass at the right moment to safely transit; assessing the wind, waves and likelihood of fog; keeping a lookout for cruise ships, tugs and other vessels; planning where to get our next fill-up of fuel and fresh water; and re-aquainting ourselves with the seals, whales, herons, auklets, urchins and all those other wonderful creatures we’ve not seen for awhile. It’s time to enter their world again.
We’re off the grid for most of the summer, with only occasional access to the internet. I’ve scheduled some new posts to appear during that time and welcome, as always, your comments – but it might be awhile before I can reply.