Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 2
Sunday, 8/31/14, Day 2Saturday night we all dropped separate anchors, avoiding the kinetic pinball mistake we’d made the night before. We all slept soundly and woke up refreshed.
As usual our initial plans changed completely to take advantage of the changing tide and wind conditions. The original plan was to sail from Tumbo Island to Whaler Bay, off Galiano Island. We all agreed to leave late in the day to take advantage of the evening winds for sailing. That would give us the morning to explore Cabbage and Tumbo Islands on foot.
Instead of hiking, we spent the morning trying to fix my father’s radar, which was a ton of fun in its own way. He had clotheslined the boat with a tree branch while hauling it up here. I had brought my soldering iron and bag of tools for just this purpose. After a serious attempt to resuscitate the radar, we declared it dead.A stiff breath of wind was beginning to blow in from the Strait, suggesting a good sail to be had. Andy and I had brought our salmon rods and were keen to try sail trolling after being instructed by my father the previous night on the correct way to construct a hoochie and flasher configuration with a diving lure. Making the decision to leave early, we set the more ambitious goal of Montague Harbor on the inside of Active Pass. We needed to make the pass by 3:30 to make slack tide. Otherwise Andy and I would have to fight a heavy flood tide while dodging the huge BC ferries that shoot through the pass.
I set out by motoring at half throttle, pointed right into the middle of the Strait of Georgia, where the sailing should be the best. The wind was coming from the south, which meant an easy down-wind sail, but the wind was fluky and really light as I started out. Having learned my lesson from the day before, I continued to motor for about 30 minutes before I finally found enough wind to keep the genoa full. I set up a down-wind, broad reach (the easiest sailing there is), turned on the auto pilot and kicked back.Our little regatta had agreed to check in every hour, on the hour. Around noon, Andy reported he had caught a huge lingcod. I was still chasing wind, heading due north into the heart of the strait. The further I went, the better the wind got. I had completely forgotten to throw my fishing line out. Jealously, I set my line, hoping to snag a Coho on the way. By 2 o’clock the sailing was great, but it was clear I was not going to make Active Pass in time. Andy was just getting underway after dealing with the fish, so neither was he. We were able to make communication with everyone in our party, so we switched back to the original plan of heading to Whaler Bay for our evening destination.
Zen and Sailboats
All summer I have been reflecting on the Zen nature of sailing. The engagement and ‘flow’ of sailing comes from thinking of the boat as an extension of your body. You are the brain that must conduct the various appendages. Like a puppet master putting on a display, your parade is over when you reach your destination. In this way, the boat is an extension of your will.
As a single-hander, the lion share of my time is spent hanging on to the tiller, keeping the boat pointed in the right direction as I watch the islands drift past my hull. A couple weeks before leaving, I purchased and installed an auto-pilot. With my hands and concentration freed up, my efficiency at sailing went up markedly, as did my zen-like state. Now my puppet show has expanded to include boat repairs, fishing (better), and sewing while under way.
There is a concept in existential philosophy about the nature of consciousness. Different philosophers apply different labels but they essentially break consciousness into two camps. The first is self-consciousness, or the ability to intellectually analyze what you are doing and the things in your environment. Second, there is the state of engagement and flow, where you are not so much an individual but an actor performing a series of steps in order to accomplish something. In this state the emphasis is on the ‘doing’, and the sense of self largely disappears. One of the things I like about sailing is how it stimulates both parts of my consciousness. It gives me engagement and flow, but also pleasurable intellectual challenge and the purpose of reaching an intended destination. All four ingredients to achieve happiness, according to the school of positive psychology.