How proud I am to have been part of the BCA family for 31 of those 40 years! Come to think of it, I didn’t even know BCA existed when we moved to Vancouver in 1984, with a Reliance 44 hull under construction and stars in our eyes dreaming about offshore cruising. It wasn’t until the fall of 1987, we saw an ad for a Tristan Jones presentation and tickets were available at North Sails. At the presentation, my husband Peter met the current BCA Membership Watchkeeper, Marcia Miller, who of course had membership applications sitting on the counter. When he came home and told me, I exclaimed incredulously – “You mean there is actually an organization here whose purpose is to teach people like us how to sail offshore? Fantastic! Unreal!”
We attended every club night for the next two years and many education courses, launched our boat in 1988, and that first summer we cruised locally and met BCA members Donna and Bill Sassaman. The next year, we also met Peter & Heather Paget and joined them and other members of the “Class of ’89,” as it was called then, for a farewell potluck at the BCA Clubhouse on Burrard Street. That fall, we headed south with our two teenagers and pet dog for a one-year voyage to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, and back. We loved it. While we were in various ports flying our BCA burgee, we met countless other BCA members and shared stories and experiences. All our sails were tanbark in colour, except for a mule (main back stays’l) that was a lightweight triangular version of the Canadian flag with a bright red maple leaf. That made us very visible as we entered any anchorage and when we arrived in Cabo we were hailed on VHF by another BCA member telling us there was an open spot in the inner harbour right beside them. How welcome we felt! There were potlucks and volleyball games on the beach, margarita parties, water jug days to gather on the dock with our jerry cans when the water truck would come down to the harbour and we could fill up our jugs and ferry them back to our boat via dinghy. And of course we spent a lot of time at a popular hangout, Papi’s, where we met other cruisers, including those in BCA.
After a 17-day passage to Hawaii from Cabo, we spent 6 weeks exploring the islands (while our ship’s dog was in quarantine), and from there we headed north to Alaska, another 19-day passage, and then through the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Inside Passage back to Vancouver. In 11 months, we logged 11,000 nm. We all enjoyed it so much, we knew that we wanted to do this again and the next time it would not be a one-year leave of absence from work. In the meantime, we could learn even more by actively participating in BCA and by so doing pay back all the help BCA had given us prior to and during our first voyage. Peter served as Speakers Watchkeeper, Vice Commodore, Commodore and Past Commodore and I was Editor of Currents for seven years. BCA became our family. In fact our daughter Tara served as Bosun for three years, and our first grandchild used to toddle around the Bosun’s table at club nights charming everyone. In 1994, we attended the spring rendezvous at Degnen Bay and met Ian and Barb aboard Allegra, and through them we heard about a sublet slip available at Spruce Harbour Liveaboard Marina. We lived there, as their neighbours and friends for three years.
In 1997, we moved to Victoria due to job transfers and immediately became part of the V.I. Chapter. Bob and Kathie Thompson hosted us for a marina-hunting trip and introduced us to chandlers, restaurants, and other BCA members. Peter was still Past Commodore at that time but eventually took over from Kathie as Vice Commodore of the V.I. Chapter, while I served as the Treasurer and Membership Watchkeeper. As Doners, we also organized and chaired the Fleet meetings and left with the Fleet of 2002 – this time just the two of us and our Ship’s Dog Princess, heading down the west coast of the US with fewer stops along the way and planning for much more time in Mexico. We had both retired from the federal government in June 2002, and so we were free to finally head off on our long-dreamed of open-ended cruise to the South Pacific and hopefully a circumnavigation – but the main goal was simply to keep on sailing “as long as it was fun.”
Rick Ellis, long-time V.I. BCA member set up a nightly SSB net for the Fleet of 2002 and served as net control until we all got safely to San Francisco. Then Peter took over as net control, and welcomed many other cruisers we’d met, including Americans, and so we became ambassadors for BCA. When well-known weatherman, Don Anderson of Summer Passage checked in one night to offer his weather report, it became a regular feature. The net grew and grew until Peter recruited different cruisers to do net control each night of the week, except Sunday, which was his turn.
While on the hard in Mexico for a routine bottom paint and haul out in September 2003, Peter and I flew to Peru to visit our son and his family. While we were gone, Hurricane Marty, packing winds of more than 100 knots, swept through Baja California and knocked our boat down, puncturing a hole in one side of the hull and destroying our masts and rigging. We spent six months rebuilding her ourselves, with insurance proceeds and help from various BCA members in La Paz. Peter even conducted the Bluewater Net from the boat on the hard, hoisting a long wire to the top of a jury-rigged antenna mast built from our spinnaker pole and boat hook. Our story, “Six Months Hard Time,” was published in two parts in the September and October 2005 issues of Cruising World Magazine.
With a beautifully rebuilt Wanderlust V, we re-launched in March 2004 and planned to continue cruising to the South Pacific in the spring of 2005. However, a routine medical checkup in the summer of 2004 revealed Peter had a heart problem, and our cruising came to an abrupt halt on May 24, 2005, when Peter passed away suddenly and unexpectedly after heart surgery in Vancouver. Wanderlust V was in Mazatlan, snugged up for hurricane season. It was then I felt the full impact of the support I had from fellow BCA members. Gary Robertson and the V.I. Chapter organized a bus to bring members over to Vancouver for Peter’s funeral, American cruisers who had become part of the Bluewater Net drove up from California, and the presses for the June 2005 issue of Currents were stopped in order to get Peter’s picture on the cover with the caption: “A pillar has been lost” with articles written by Past Commodore Perry Boeker and others. When I finally had the emotional readiness to return to Wanderlust V in Mexico, my good BCA friends Barb and Ian came with me not only for emotional support, but to help clean up and set up the boat to sail again. Other BCA friends, Dave and Carol Smith joined me as crew to sail Wanderlust V from Mazatlan to La Paz, and when Wanderlust V arrived on Dockwise in Nanaimo, I had my two grown kids, the best crew ever, to sail her to her new home in Ladner, where BCA friends Sally Holland, and Barb and Ian met us to celebrate her safe arrival.
Since then I’ve done a great deal of travel by other means to the places to which Peter and I had planned to sail, and BCA members scattered across the country and the seas were there to welcome me or join me. Peter Martin and Connie Morahan invited me to crew for them on Cookie Cutter in 2006 from New Caledonia to Australia, and early members of BCA, Roy & Sylvia Willie, hosted me at their home in Brisbane. Other BCA members, John and Ariana Flook were moored in Brisbane at the time, and invited me to a Thanksgiving cruisers potluck while I was there. A cruise ship, Voyages of Discovery, took me around South America in 2008 and when we stopped in Chile, I visited Betty and Luis Romo. In 2009 I cruised aboard the Paul Gauguin with BCA member Sally Holland through the Marquesas. In 2013 I did a bus tour of New Zealand with my granddaughter, and in Christchurch, I visited Paula Roberts (who had succeeded me as Editor of Currents in 1997) and her husband Vlad, a former Vice Commodore. And in 2015, I did a three-month RV trip across Canada and back through the US and visited Stan and Lynn Homer in Calgary and Scott & Sonia Crawshaw in Ottawa.
Back to 2005… knowing how much BCA had done for me, I called Commodore Guylain Roy-Machabee in August 2005, offering to volunteer in any way I could. I was shattered with grief after Peter’s sudden death and the loss of my cruising lifestyle. I knew I needed to be involved in something I believed in and what better place than BCA! Of the options he gave me, I wound up creating a new watch position for our organization – Archivist. I dug out photos and old issues of Currents from our library and clubroom in the Scottish Cultural Centre, organized them into binders, called and interviewed long-time members, and wrote a series of articles for Currents about how BCA began, how each chapter was formed, and other themes such as Rendezvous, Pig Roasts, Fleets, etc. By 2007, Commodore Don Brown nominated me for Vice Commodore and I went on to become Commodore in 2009-10 and Past Commodore in 2011-13. The BCA archives were moved into my home in 2010 and I continued as Archivist until this year, 2018. Sadly I have had to find them a new home as I’ve just recently moved into a new apartment with a lot less space. Thanks for your help, Myrna and Kent Webster!
BCA has changed a great deal in the 31 years I’ve been involved. How we communicate is one good example. The first Communications Watchkeeper was someone who monitored the ham and SSB nets. When I took over Currents from 1991-97, we didn’t have a website; in fact, a lot of the articles came in handwritten or, if I was lucky, sent by post on a floppy disk. I had a group of volunteer typists who transcribed and proofread the handwritten letters. I didn’t have a home computer, so stayed at my office in the evenings or weekends to use my desk computer to assemble Currents and deliver the final product on disk in person to Sport BC, our publisher at the time. And postcards really were postcards with beautiful stamps from countries around the world. Roger Chin set up the first website in the 1990s but it was simply an informational one, not interactive – but a start. Long distance phone calls to Victoria or Calgary were expensive. Due to this lack of effective communication, we were not the well-organized and structured organization that we are today.
In conclusion, you may be wondering what happened to Wanderlust V? In 2009, my family and I decided it was time to sell. It was a shame to see her sitting at the dock, being sailed only in the summer when family could crew with me. She was bought by an Australian, Andy Cain, who was visiting Vancouver. He spotted her from across False Creek bearing a For Sale sign and said she was the most beautiful boat he’d ever seen. He bought her, kept the name, and sailed her back to Sidney, Australia, and has now almost matched the 30,000 nm we logged. I follow her adventures on Facebook.
And as for me? No more sailing, due to mobility, balance and arthritis issues. However, I keep busy and happy with my growing family, commercial travel, singing with the Maple Leaf Singers and volunteering with a Christian women’s network. I miss the cruising life more than words can say, but I have more than enough wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Thank you BCA, for everything you taught me, shared with me, and for the support you’ve given me. Being an active member of BCA, there’s no life like it!