The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Aboard the Curve

Isabel Bliss

November 14th, 2023

The Curve of Time is an 85′ steel hulled motor vessel that was built in the Netherlands in 1959. The ship was designed and used as a North Sea fishing trawler, so she’s beamy and safe. She was purchased by Greenpeace in 1984, and brought to Vancouver to be their flagship vessel, protesting whale hunting. They named her Moby Dick. In 1997, she was purchased by Due West Charters for use as a research and charter vessel. Being Dutch like the vessel, that owner painted the funnel the colours of the Dutch flag. It looks sharp. He renamed her the Curve of Time, so he must have been smitten by M. Wylie Blanchet’s book of the same name. Many are, and I’m sure most of you have read her recollections of years spent puttering around the coast with kids in tow. I just read it this July, so it was a lucky fluke to get called in August to work aboard the namesake vessel!

The wheelhouse. Note the old-fashioned telephone cord VHF to the left of the helm, and the “engine order telegraph” gearshift and throttle wheel to the right

The current owner bought her in 2019. He has had time to get to know her and get started on some modifications. (As with all boats, there will always be yet another desirable mod to do or a snag to repair, as well as endless projects to complete!) After the Pandemic restrictions eased, he set about taking up to 12 passengers at a time on charter trips in the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, and the Broughtons. The vision behind the venture is to share the coast and make it accessible to those who would otherwise not be able to experience it. There are many people who want to see the beauty of the Salish Sea and the majesty of our more remote coast, but who cannot or do not boat by themselves. Some have health problems and their holiday aboard the Curve might be their last hurrah. Some haven’t got the financial or technical wherewithal to have their own boat, so they splurge on a 5-day charter. It’s a trip of a lifetime for most. British Columbians were in the majority aboard the four charters I worked, with a few folks from Alberta and Ontario.

View of the vessel from the foredeck

The owner’s 25 -year-old son and his friend worked aboard for most of the summer. When they had to leave, I hopped on to replace them as paid crew. I worked one week on a 5-day charter in the Broughtons, flat out for 15 hours every day. I then helped the owner reposition the vessel from Port McNeill to Campbell River, working our way down through Johnstone Strait, Discovery Passage, and Seymour Narrows. I say Campbell River as shorthand, as we actually made our base in Gowlland Bay near Quadra Island, anchoring in ample calm water. We’d cross over in the two RIBs (one 17′, one 27′) to provision and whatnot, get the guests and their luggage, and ferry all and sundry back over to the Curve.

The 17′ and 27′ RIBs getting towed towards Seymour Narrows on a gusty day

I worked three 5-day charters to Desolation Sound, with one day off in-between charters. During the charters, we were ‘full on’, plenty busy with re-provisioning, re-fuelling, getting propane, topping-up water, swabbing the decks, and making everything shipshape. We’d also have to strip the berths and drop off all the laundry at the laundromat in town, then collect it, bring it back aboard, and re-make all the berths. Talk about boat yoga! I was relieved when HummingBird showed up to join me as crew. At about half my age and super fit, she really helped me get that job – and many others – done lickety-split. She had a great sense of fun and there was many a night when we’d laugh off the day’s craziness before we’d fall asleep. We slept up forward on a queen-sized berth, Swedish style – each with our own duvet. It was either that, or have our own separate berths in the crew quarters by the galley, nearer to Chef. That would have been roomier and more comfortable for sure – but it sounded like a den of polar bears down there at night!

It was hard work, long days with no days off, but I adored it. Being on a boat makes me happy. I get a kick out of customer service and met many wonderful people. I enjoyed the variety of duties, as I am a person who gets bored with repetitive work. The diversity of tasks matched my background and experience. I was deckhand, oiler, expedition leader, server, cleaner, host, and general jobsbody! Chef took care of cooking and dishes.

Oiling away

The day would start with going up on deck to breathe in the quiet scenery, then preparing breakfast in the saloon. At 7 am I’d go down to the engine room to turn on the generator – disturbing the peace, to the chagrin of the few early risers! But I was quickly forgiven as I made hot tea and coffee. Breakfast ran from 7 am to  9 am, during which time HummingBird and I took turns ferrying the food up to the saloon and the dirty dishes down to the galley, cleaning the heads, and preparing for the day’s activities. We’d lower kayaks, and pump up and wipe the dew off the RIBs. After breakfast it was expedition time. Depending on passengers’ interests and levels of fitness, we’d go kayaking, hiking, fishing, crabbing, swimming to the Teakerne Arm waterfall, exploring in the RIBs, and/or whale watching. We saw plenty of Orcas, Humpbacks, sea lions, seals, sea stars, and jumping-for-joy salmon. I have to admit, it was sweet to get paid to do everything I like to do!

Kayaking in kelp on a misty morning

Lunch time saw us bringing great feasts up from the galley and dirty dishes back down, as well as stowing kayaks and preparing the RIBs for towing. We would grab ourselves a bite to eat while getting things done.

Once lunch was over, it was time to start the original Dutch engine – a slow-turning, (500RPM) 5-cylinder, 250hp de Industrie diesel. She was the belle of the boat, requiring lots of loving attention as start-up involved a 36-step procedure! The crème-de-la-crème moment consisted of pulling the heavy brass lever down, then smartly shifting it right back up to start the pistons hammering in a most enchanting, musical way. Absolutely fabulous! It was as close to a steam engine as a diesel could ever get. The cheat sheet was old and missing half the procedures, so I updated it, listing every step “for Dummies.” (If anyone with a mechanical bent is interested, I would be happy to share the manual with them.)

The 5-cylinder engine

With the engine running, we’d turn on the hydraulics and weigh the heavy-duty Byers anchor. We usually let down 250’ of chain, so it took awhile to haul it all up. One of us would be up on the foredeck by the windlass. That person would take the locking knuckle off the chain and operate the hydraulic lever, while the other person was down below guiding the heavy chain into the locker compartment – noisy, splattery work! Every 90’ there was a slightly different link, fuller than the others, which identified one shot.

Once underway, we would untie the RIBs, which were rafted alongside, and let their towing lines pay out behind the Curve. We’d cruise along at 6 knots through beauty. I’d spend some time up in the wheelhouse, learning the ropes, minding things if the owner had to step out for a bit, and keeping my eye out for whales. Every two hours the engine checks needed to be done, and more oiling to keep the engine purring. Having previous shipboard engine experience (on Sea Shepherd in 1985), I was happy to take this on while HummingBird did more of the kayak lifting and guest entertainment.

Before anchoring, we would pull the RIBs back in and tether them either side of the vessel. Depending on the length of the trip, we would either serve the evening meal while underway, or we would set it up and serve it after anchoring. If the evening weather was fine, the guests dined al fresco. A favourite meal was always the crab that they’d caught themselves. After supper it was time to gather round the propane fire pit on the foredeck. It was an opportunity to share and get to know each other more meaningfully. Occasionally, HummingBird would play guitar and sing her great songs.

The fire pit all set up for end of day cosiness

I’ve been lucky to do a lot of my own boating, but it was really wonderful to take people who can’t, or don’t boat to some of BC’s many stunning nooks and crannies. I enjoyed sharing my love for our coast; as beautiful as all the scenery is, it was doubly so when seen through their eyes, and in the looks on their faces. Some folks had never been on a boat before, or on the hook at night, or seen bio luminescence, or been in such star-studded quiet. They exulted in this unique opportunity, staring out over the gunwales, breathing it all in deeply.

Underway, heading to Port McNeill from the Broughtons

My fourth charter was supposed to be my second-to-last but in a surprising twist became my final gig – a turn of events which was disappointing for my bank account but a blessing for my knees. I must have done between 60 to 80 flights of stairs a day with all the up and down to the galley, engine room, wheelhouse, fore and aft decks and my berth. My six-decades-old knees were beginning to complain! Rather than go into the details here about how I was made to ”walk the plank” (buy me a beer and I will tell you all about it !) I will just say that despite some challenges, both HummingBird and I did our best to ensure the guests on the fourth charter had a great, safe voyage.

Morning beauty, fleeting as ever

In conclusion, I am proud of myself for having taken on learning so much, to the point where I felt I could handle an 85’ vessel in a pinch. I gained a lot of confidence in myself. Overall, working aboard  the Curve of Time was a tremendous opportunity and incredible experience. I feel honoured to have met so many fine people and helped non-boaters enjoy our incredibly beautiful BC coast.


  1. Sotham Peter says:

    Thank you for the good read with which I can fully identify since have in the past done similar work. I would be interested in receiving a copy of your engine starting procedure. I have always been interested in knowing how you get one of those huge old engines started. Much appreciated. Cheers

  2. Isabel says:

    Ahoy Peter, glad you liked my abridged write-up (for legal reasons I edited out the last couple of paras!) Anyhow please email me at and I will send it to you. It was only 5 cylinders, but such an interactive beauty !

  3. Mary Robb says:

    A very lovely, well written article with great pictures. Thanks for taking us along aboard The Curve of Time.

  4. Jim Jones says:

    Thanks for your great article! Saw you anchored at the entrance to Roscoe Bay this summer (July 07 according to my log) and took a few fine pics of the ship. Looked like your guests were having a fine time. When I’m done cruising solo, I’ll sign up for a cruise on curve of Time.

    1. Isabel says:

      Awesome! Would like to see your photo sometime!

  5. Paul Manley says:

    What a great story and many thanks for sharing and the update on Moby Dick Isabel. Nice also to hear about the role The Curve of Time and people like you are playing in making our beautiful west coast available to those who might otherwise not be able to enjoy. Wylie Blanchet book is such a great read and so is Cathy Converse’s book Following the Curve od Time.

  6. Paul Manley says:

    What a great story and many thanks for sharing and the update on Moby Dick Isabel. Nice also to hear about the role The Curve of Time and people like you are playing in making our beautiful west coast available to those who might otherwise not be able to enjoy. Wylie Blanchet book is such a great read and so is Cathy Converse’s book Following the Curve of Time.

    1. Isabel says:

      Hi Paul, thank you for your nice comments. I wasn’t that enamored of Following the Curve, found it a bit of a slog, but the Curve of course is a classic!

  7. Ann Lange says:

    What a well written and informative story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading a Curve in Time. It is wonderful to hear of someone sharing the West Coast in this aboard a vessel with such a history. It made me so nostalgic to read your descriptions of kayaking and crabbing in those waters. Good on you for accepting the challenge of such hard work and the learning experience you got aboard . Thanks for the article.

    1. Isabel says:

      Thank you Ann! Yes, I can see why you’d be nostalgic; we live in such an entrancing part of the world, and there seems to be ever so short opportunities to enjoy it. When sailing in the S Pacific I used to tell people about our Salish Sea and area, but then stopped as not many seemed interested, preferring to sail only in bathing suits! I then realized that part of the charm is how un-busy our “backyard” is… so it’s a good thing that not everyone enjoys sailing in sweaters and coats.

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