The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

January: Reflections on a Pandemic Escape

Mary Anne Unrau

Traversay III
Waterline 43', Cutter-rigged steel hull
February 16th, 2023

As the festive season proceeded through the last days of December and the hoary Old Man gave over his powers to the bright shiny Newborn of 2022, we on Traversay III shared (with folks around the globe) the very same, strangely inexorable feelings of powerlessness which had characterised January of 2021. The Sars-COVID pandemic had again eluded all the attempts to stop it altogether. It had developed new traits which would again selectively target those of us in “the more experienced age group”. We had been informed all along that we were special in this undesirable way.

So what to do? We decided to escape the lopsided world we lived in. The centre of Victoria had become a magnet for Canadians from the rest of the country who could rent accommodation, even work from their (temporary) home, and for young people escaping winter. We (in the aforementioned ‘experienced’ category) have no knowledge of the provenance of any of these young and older folks: where are they from, have they been vaccinated, or do they even believe in vaccinations? Truly, on weekends when the grounds of the Legislature are filled with Anti-Vax protestors, one does not need to be a total paranoid to despair of the hoi polloi and carry on wearing your anti-social N95 mask and dousing everything you touch with alcohol cleanser.

Not having a home or car to escape from the inner city and its crowds, we do have a Boat Home and a dinghy. So both years when pandemic woes ruled our world, we chose to escape to the winter wilderness. Both destinations we chose were free in January even though they tend to be overly-attended in the summer.

January 2021

In January of 2021, we left the dock and made our way to Princess Louisa Inlet. We were shocked when we got there to find another boat at the dock. The three amazing young men had purchased at a reasonable cost a very safe, wood-burning boat, amusingly called Lapse of Reason. They were either already qualified or student engineers who were exploring wild BC: kayaking torrents, and (at Princess Louisa) downhill free-skiing down from the heights of the wilderness.

Lapse of Reason at the dock in Princess Louisa Inlet.

We got to know them rather well because, around the time we wanted to leave the Inlet, it froze over as a result of both colder than usual temperatures and the large quantity of freshwater emanating from the Chatterbox Falls next to it. After assuring ourselves that we were all virus-free, we had some congenial times. Several days later, the Inlet released us from its icy grasp.

Ice in Princess Louisa Inlet

January 2022

Fast forwarding to the similar and inevitable feeling of January 2022, we mimicked the 2021 solution. We fully provisioned the boat, took down our Christmas lights and headed to Montague Harbour where we were the sole live-aboard boat. New Years found us making our way across the Strait of Georgia, keeping a vigilant eye out for logs and wearing many layers of PPE: in this case protective warm clothing and not medical garb. We made our way to the beautiful anchorage of Ballet Bay off Jervis Inlet.

Ballet Bay

We endured snow and very cold weather which (along with the amount of refuse in the water) convinced us that we would not be scuba diving until later in this season. Despite a number of residences and mooring balls in the bay, we were alone again.


Larry consulted 3 sources of weather information and determined that if we wanted to get back to home turf, the only day in the proximate future which cited favourable NW winds in the Strait of Georgia was yesterday. All three weather sites forecast 20-30 knot winds. This turned out to be false, although some later changed these to a more realistic ‘after-cast’. The winds growled at us as we lifted the main. This unprepossessing sound persisted until we left the Strait. Of course, it was preferable to other strong winds in the course of our travels which seemed to scream like banshees. We started with a double-reefed main and had to reduce further to triple-reefing as the wind approached 40 knots. Our speed was well over 8 knots for most of the day, going up over 9.6 knots at one point.  At that speed, we were relieved when Winchelsea Control radioed back that they weren’t presently firing off any torpedoes!

Heading home

With the wind behind or on the port quarter, we faced south for most of the way and the sun blocked our gaze from the overly plentiful supply of water-logged logs which barely grazed the surface of the Strait. We felt exhilarated in the bright shiny day with the speed, the wind, the spray sheeting off the whitecaps, and in the performance of our boat. It was a very cold day – only slightly above freezing temperatures. Hot lentil soup, a double-sided German hot water bottle, and a diesel heater made it all tolerable for me. As we sailed up to Dodd Narrows, a group of at least 9 Steller sea lions surfaced near us, snorting and frolicking in the waves with their noses above the water.  It was their kind of weather. We decided to start the engine to traverse the Narrows, and let out the full main to reach our anchorage.

We had to lower the main and anchor in the intrusive presence of a chorus of bobbing logs and detritus but eventually we succeeded and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and more welcome loneliness in this beautiful spot on the gorgeous coast of BC.


  1. Sue Chapman says:

    Nice article!

  2. Ken+Christie. says:

    Thank you for the interesting Winter Sailing story. Easy to read and inspiring.
    Yes the logs are part of our playgrounds, or their playgrounds that we love here.

  3. Rita Balaam says:

    Always enjoy reading your articles Mary Anne.
    Rita Balaam. Fellow Life-aboard sailor.

  4. Doug Rutherford says:

    I love your descriptive pros. You paint a very clear picture. Almost could feel our cool weather in January.

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