Some of you have read Nick Ward’s contributions to Currents as he has shared his stories of cruising in the Caribbean. Nick got into sailing as a teenager, racing and cruising around his home turf of the British Isles, while always nurturing a dream of ocean cruising. His non-sailing wife, Gesa’s dream, however, was to raise their two children in BC, which led the family on a slow emigration to Canada by way of the Caribbean and Eastern USA. Via their sturdy 48-foot cruising boat, Ty Dewi, trains and a cargo ship, they reached their goal and are now living in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island where they explore another sailor’s paradise between the occasional need for work and schooling. Nick will be kicking off the 2016 Ocean Cruising Adventures Series on January 29, sharing his young family’s journey to a new life and a different outlook via a “Slow Boat to Canada”.
As we gear up for the OCA event, we asked some of the speakers six questions. Here are Nick’s answers:
1) When and how did you get into sailing?
I was 14 when my Dad and I dusted off the little racing dinghy that had sat in the garden since I was a toddler. We were soon sailing keelboats together on the North Sea in northern England, and I was lucky enough to crew race boats all over the UK. My Dad and I bought a small keelboat, lost a lot of races and became firm friends in the process. Gesa, however, thoroughly disliked dinghy sailing at summer camp in Quebec and only began sailing with me on short winter cruises to warm pubs in Cowes, then bravely agreed to a honeymoon charter in Antigua and the rest is history.
2) How was it to sail with small children? How did the experience affect them?
It was like parenting in general – wonderful and terrible, often at the same time. Very few fathers have the opportunity to be with their children, and spouse, all day every day for two precious years of childhood. The trip has formed a bond in our family that will be there forever.
3) What was your most memorable sailing experience?
That would have to be my first and only Atlantic Crossing. We had near perfect weather, a great crew, including my Dad, and a safe and comfortable 2700 mile passage. Not to mention being 400 miles offshore and looking for the trade winds, rafted alongside a French catamaran in windless seas to swap weather forecasts for champagne and canapés.
4) What was the most frightening or unusual experience during your adventure?
We got hit by a thunder squall off Plymouth, Mass. Running downwind with full main and poled out jib and the wind went from 15 to 55 knots in an instant. The boat laid on her side, Max ended up under the saloon table, poor Issie was on the windward head then suddenly wasn’t. We were grateful for a strong boat and reliable reefing; within minutes we were upright under bare poles and waiting it out, safe and sound.
5) Of all the places you sailed to, is there one in particular that stands out as a favourite?
The Caribbean was wonderful, but Maine was fabulous. We went for two weeks and stayed for six among peaceful anchorages, moody weather, beautiful scenery and wonderfully welcoming people. I think that’s why we feel so at home in BC – like Maine with better mountains.
6) If you could give one piece of advice to people who are dreaming about cruising offshore, what would it be?
Start planning, however vague. In 1999, we turned our dream into a simple ten-year plan – have kids, buy boat, be in Canada before the Winter Olympics. From there, anything could happen, but now we had a plan that could be altered, refined, developed and made real. The more people we told about it, the more questions they asked and the more real it became.