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OCA Series: Glaciers, Grizzlies and Gumboots

Tricia and Jim Bowen

Falcon VII
Kelly-Peterson 46 center cockpit cutter
February 8th, 2015

“Explore one of the most photogenic places on the planet with Tricia and Jim Bowen as they recount their several seasons of enjoying majestic Southeast Alaska’s people, places and wildlife”.

Jim and Tricia Bowen

Jim and Tricia Bowen

Join Tricia and Jim Bowen as they share photos, videos, and adventure stories of their more than 8,000 miles of boating in Southeast Alaska’s remote and wild cruising grounds. They’ll highlight their time spent in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, the many rugged west coast anchorages they’ve enjoyed, their close encounters with wildlife, and the extraordinary people they’ve met. They’ll also touch on preparation and logistics for those wanting the challenge of heading north.

Their talk will held on Friday, February 20th, 1930h, at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. Advance tickets may be purchased on BCA’s website, or at the door the night of the event.

OCA - Grizzly Bears

Grizzlies feeding along the shore.

Tricia’s articles have been published in Pacific Yachting, Currents, the Times Colonist, and numerous newsletters. Jim’s racing experience led to the position of helmsman on the HMCS Oriole in the Vic-Maui Yacht Race. They have cruised together for the past 25 years, during which time they have circumnavigated Vancouver Island twice, cruised to SE Alaska three times, and enjoyed countless summer trips up and down BC’s west coast. They have lived aboard their current boat, Falcon VII, a Kelly-Peterson 46 center cockpit cutter, for the last several years. Now retired, they gladly suffer horizon fever and continue to seek a cure while sailing in Mexico.

Alaska's wildlife includes grizzlies, moose, humpbacks, and bald eagles.

Alaska’s wildlife includes grizzlies, moose, humpbacks, and bald eagles.

We have asked five questions of all of our OCA Speakers. Here are Tricia and Jim’s answers.

1. When and how did you get into sailing?

Tricia: Having been raised on Gonzales Beach in Victoria, I was always on the water as a kid. Even when I was a baby my parents put my baby buggy in their 15’ wooden open powerboat and headed to Trial Island to collect bark for the fireplace. By the time I was nine, I had my own fibreglass dinghy and 3-horse outboard, which gave me great freedom on the water. I began sailing in 1978 when I travelled to Australia and cruised in the Whit Sunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef. When I returned to Victoria I started racing out of the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club. In 1985 I joined Turkey Head Sailing Association out of Oak Bay Marina where I raced regularly before Jim and I met in 1990.

 Jim: My mother often used to fly the ‘I have a baby on board’ burgee, otherwise known as my cloth diapers hanging in the rigging to dry. We sailed the Norfolk Broads in Great Britain when I was a child and my love of sailing grew from there.

 2. If you could share a couple of your very best memories from your offshore cruising experience, what would they be?

Trish: Cruising down Endicott Arm towards Dawes Glacier, with a beautiful humpback whale swimming effortlessly beside us, matching our speed, in the glass-like turquoise waters of the inlet. I remember the whale turning on its side and looking up at me with its big eye before gracefully diving under our boat and surfacing on the other side before looking directly up at me again. I knew I had been seen by this incredibly intelligent and social creature and I felt incredibly blessed to have experienced it.

Jim: Going off watch confident of getting a good 3 hours sleep with the knowledge that my wonderful wife and partner could hand steer our baby alone in the middle of the night due to the loss of our auto-pilot. Coming back on watch at one a.m. to see her at the wheel, asymmetrical spinnaker up, boat at hull speed, spray flying, Trish grinning.

3. What was the most frightening or unusual experience you had during your adventure?

Trish: While crossing Sumner Strait one choppy evening, we spotted something resembling a person in a dry suit treading water. We grabbed the binoculars for a better look, only to discover it was a rusty full-sized refrigerator bobbing along half out of the water in the extremely strong currents. As darkness fell we motored towards calmer waters beyond the entrance to Point Baker. We barely found the entrance between the silhouetted trees and were immediately startled by what looked like a huge rock wall right beside us, streaming with phosphorescent water. It turned out to be a humpback whale semi-breaching after being woken up by our engine. We then spotted two more surfacing and blowing just behind us as they all quickly exited the bay.

Jim: Two actually, both at Reid Inlet in Glacier Bay. One was walking with a full-grown male grizzly bear. Not frightening exactly, but surely a huge adrenalin rush. The second was exploring an ice cave in the face of the glacier. Not frightening, either, at the time, but when the entire face collapsed later, definitely cause for reflection.

4. Of all the places you have sailed, is there one in particular that you would name as your favourite destination?

Trish and Jim: That would have to be Glacier Bay National Park and Preservation Area, which is located two to three days northwest of Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. The park is a wildlife haven for thousands of mammals and birds and the glaciers, mountains, and icebergs are breathtaking. You can taste the sweetness of a tiny wild strawberry one minute, drop an ancient ice cube into your drink the next, and then top it off by watching a majestic grizzly bear, humpback, or moose.

 5. If you could give one piece of advice to people who are starting out cruising, what would it be?

 Trish and Jim: Don’t wait until everything is done to get out and cruise! There will always be projects to do! Cruise while you have your health because you never know what’s around the corner.

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