Week 1 – First Week Aboard

We have now been living on the boat for a week. We are definitely still finding our groove, given that none of us are entirely sure whether we’re on vacation, just living, or maybe “playing house (boat?!)”

The New “Routine”

We were all still recovering from our move on to the boat for the first few days aboard, so we wanted to take it easy. We anchored at Halkett Bay on nearby Gambier Island, a 15 nautical mile (“nm”) trip from Vancouver, for two nights. We started to form a bit of a routine here. We would wake up naturally (without an alarm!!), the kids would do some “work” at the table (journals, coloring, word searches, school review) while I sipped tea and Steve did some boat work (my role also included referee, mechanic’s grunt and galley slave). Steve was quite productive, getting a number of to-do’s checked off his mental list. Somehow I need to learn how to implant my high priority “to-do’s” into Steve’s elusive mental list. After lunch we would go explore and hike, find rope swings and beachcomb.

Doing some math review
Excited to hike on the trails at Gambier
Found a cool rope swing right on the beach
Look Mom, I found a shell!
More exploring

Steve and I sat down on the second evening at Halkett, popped open a bottle of champagne left over from our Bon Voyage party and pulled out our charts. We took a look at how many miles we would be travelling around Vancouver Island. Our current plan is to travel around Vancouver Island before we head south from Victoria to San Francisco in early- to mid-September. So, we figure we have about 500 – 600 nm to travel northwards up the east coast of the island, and back down the west coast over the next two-ish months. So, a very rough average of 10 nm per day. Sounds do-able for sure, but it meant we would have to adjust our expectations of spending weeks at a time in tranquil anchorages.

(Shortly thereafter we finished off the bottle of champagne…it went down waaaay too easily!)

After heading over to Gibsons for a night to do some laundry, do a light provision and use some wifi for a podcast interview (link to come), we sailed (erm – motored) across the Georgia Strait and headed to Newcastle Island, just off the larger city of Nanaimo. The longer day at sea definitely threw a loop into our daily routine. For one thing, everyone is HUNGRY…all…the…time. As the keeper of the kitchen, I love serving a variety of foods and snacks, but I was definitely being tested. I hadn’t had the time (or the inclination, to be honest) to do a large provisioning trip to Costco for non-perishables before we left, so I had to start getting creative with what we had packed up from our fridge and cupboards at home. One thing that doesn’t keep well on the boat is bread – and the kids are sandwich lovers, so we had to compromise with another lunch favorite…“snacky” or “ploughman” lunches consisting of crackers, hummus, pickles, hot peppers, olives, rounding it off with apple slices and peanut butter. Eventually I’ll start making bread on board, but I’m not quite there yet (though I did make a batch of muffin-esque snackles!). Also, my Mom gave me a hand-powered food processor as a gift, which has already come in handy to make hummus…I think we’ll be eating a LOT of that – we gobbled up a delicious batch in one sitting!

Enjoying Newcastle Island

Newcastle Island is such an amazing place. Mark’s Bay is nicely protected from the winds going up and down the Strait, the water is clean and warm and there are lots of things to do with the kids. There’s a playground, large-scale checkerboard and horseshoes, ice cream and snack shop, not to mention hiking and beachcombing. Paige was thrilled to find some sand dollars on the beach and we found a live clam in the middle of a grassy field, which we found very odd.

The kids thought this sign was hilarious – I tried to tell them the Is is short for Island but they didn’t believe me.
Inukshuks on the beach
I am an Eagle!

The island itself doesn’t have any houses, as it’s a marine and provincial park and has only campsites, a public dock and mooring buoys. Now that we’re in a 42’ boat, it is more economical to grab a mooring buoy for $14/night versus paying by the foot at the dock – so, mooring buoy it was. We picked up our first mooring with Moment, and we quickly realized how high her freeboard is (i.e., how high her deck is off the water) at the bow. Steve had to lay on his stomach to get the line through the loop on the buoy – he ended up scraping his knee so he and Spencer had matching band-aids on their right knees. Once we were settled we realized we had grabbed the wrong sized mooring – we were on a 30’ buoy and should have been at a 40’. Oh well, we got some additional practice pick up another mooring…and Steve didn’t scrape his knee the second time!

We decided to stay at Newcastle for a few days and re-group from our long travel day. That meant we had time to blow up the Isle of Buchi (or Pirate Island according to the kids) – our large inflatable that Steve’s parents gave us as a going-away present. It took over an hour just to blow it up, but gave us endless hours of fun! The kids loved splashing their feet in the donut hole, and hanging out with their hands clasped behind their heads on the “Mr. Man” spot, or jumping from one side to the other. I especially liked the handy drink holders (though sadly they didn’t fit our stemless wine glasses too well).

The wetsuits we got for the kids at MEC have been fabulous – they are able to spend so much time in the water since their little bodies are much warmer! I even pulled mine out of storage and actually went swimming! Normally, the big question each time the kids go swimming is whether Mommy is going to come with them – usually the answer is…”we’ll see” (and most parents know what that means!) – Steve is much more of a trouper playing with the kids in the water. I’m more likely to have the shampoo or towels at the ready when they finally emerge from the water with their teeth chattering.

Pirate Island

We hiked around a large part of the Island and checked out the sandstone quarry, which is the origin of the large sandstone columns at the San Francisco Mint building. It was incredible reading about the original boat, the Zephyr, that tried to carry two of the sandstone columns down to the US but was caught in a storm and lost for over a hundred years — that’s why the old US Mint building only had six columns instead of eight. The Zephyr was found in the ‘70’s just off Maine Island only a few miles away from Newcastle! Apparently the Island was also a tourist destination for rich Vancouver-ites in the ‘30’s who would jump on Canadian Pacific steamship from Vancouver and stay on the Island to swim and dance the night away on the spring-loaded dance floor!

Looking cool on the hike!
Having a snack on the sandstone column recovered from the Zephyr
Dance party at Newcastle anyone?

At this point in the trip we had already been to each of these places on previous sailing trips. Although we had a great time at Newcastle and were a bit sad to deflate Pirate Island, we were also excited to head off to new places we had never been before. In fact, from now on, it’s all going to be uncharted territory for us!


6 thoughts on “Week 1 – First Week Aboard

  1. Hi David and Trudy,

    Congrats on getting away! That is a huge milestone.

    We lived on a 43′ sailboat and home schooled our three children for two years in the Mediterranean. What we found was that it was best to spend some time in a place, then do 1-3 days of long passages to make miles, then stopping to explore more.

    For your goal of getting around Vancouver Island this summer, you might pick Desolation Sound, then Port Hardy and that area next, and then start heading around the North end of the island. There will be lots and lots of stops along the way that will want to pull you in. You really do need to pick your spots of it you want to see the longer-term summer vision come true.

    Best of luck.


    David Greer

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the pointers David! We headed over to Desolation Sound last summer so I don’t think we need to head there again. But we’ll definitely seek out some nice spots further North to check out. We love the Dreamspeaker guides to read about the various spots.


      • Hi Shelley,

        Thanks for your comment. My intention wasn’t to comment on specific places to stop as it was to comment on what our experience was in making long distances with the family by sailboat.

        In your post, you stated your intention to go around Vancouver Island, which you estimate is 500-600 NM. That sounds about right to me. You then go on to say “a very rough average of 10 nm per day” in the context of being able to get all the way around in roughly the next 8 weeks.

        What we found is that you can’t make that kind of long mileage on such short averages per day. Our core strategy ended up being a balance of local gunk holing in a place for 4-6 days balanced with very long periods of mileage. For mileage we either did 2-3 long days in a row, where long was 10-12 hours motor sailing at close to our maximum speed or 24-36 hour passages.

        Weather, wind, tides, energy, and places we wanted to see had to get balanced against the bigger picture of the distances we wanted to go. I think your idea to circumnavigate Vancouver Island before fully heading offshore is brilliant. I realize that you’ve barely got onboard and headed off, yet you might want to get in some early miles towards your goal sooner rather than later, based on what our experience was.

        Whatever you do enjoy and have fun. It is an amazing experience to do long distance travel with your children on a sailboat.



        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much David! I totally agree on that strategy of doing longer passages and gunk holing in one place for longer. We’ve only done about 30 miles in a day, but that’ll buy us a few days in our next spot!


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