The 2015 Peterson Cup’s theme, instead of one of tropical cannibals and pirates, was to be a ‘voyage around Cape Horn’, starting from the Falkland Islands, heading around Terra del Fuego and Cape Horn, and up through Patagonia.
Each participating boat had to be capable of surviving for days or weeks without checking into ‘civilization’, including harbours without ports and harbours without pubs (well, a lot of the time). Given the hardiness of the boats and their crews, Cape Horn is no problem, especially if the cruising is done in the Gulf Islands and Howe Sound, very much like the Patagonian islands, and quite doable in four days.
The 2015 Peterson Cup Cruising Rally (PCCR) saga involved the following vessels, skippers, and crew, for all or part of the Rally:
- Alia (Cowichan Bay), with ‘Captain’ Bill Sassaman and ‘Able Seaperson’ Donna Sassaman
- Blue Rose (Vancouver), with ‘Commander-and-Rally-Commodore’ Ken Christie and ‘Co-Commodore’ Sue Chapman
- Corra Jane (Sidney), with ‘Captain’ Ian Cameron
- Dulcinea II (Calgary and Cowichan Bay), with ‘Captain’ Frank Gaudek and ‘Admiral’ Dawn Gaudek
- Jade Passage (Ganges and Vancouver), with ‘Captain’ Jaqualine (JJ) Roussin
- Mischief (Calgary and Ladner), with ‘Captain’ Heather Marshall
- Moonshadow VI (Victoria, soon-to-be Cowichan Bay), with ‘Captain’ Glen Wilson and ‘Ship’s Dog’ Russell
- Papa Rumba (Ushuaia , Puerto Montt, and Cortes Island), with ‘Captain’ Amanda Glickman and ‘Commodore’ Barry Glickman
- Sea Fever (Vancouver and Point Roberts), with ‘Captain-and-Balladeer’ Blake Williams
- Sylph VI (Adelaide, Australia), with ‘Circumnavigating-for-the-Second-Time Captain’ Bob Williams
As BC sailors know, sailing in the Gulf Islands and inner coast is extremely predictable. Everyone knows exactly where the wind comes from, and when, and what strength it will be — especially the people who put together the marine weather reports. You can make the decision the previous night where you will be sailing to the next morning. Hmmmm….
With this knowledge, all of the intrepid sailors in the Peterson Cup Cruising Rally were happy with the course that had been planned the previous month: Lasqueti Island as stand-in for Cape Horn. During the Appy Hour meeting at the Dinghy Dock Pub on Saturday evening, July 25, attending PCCR Fleet members decided that the predicted 20-knot NW labelled as a ‘strong wind warning’ was great. It would mean sailing to weather and possibly being uncomfortable during the ‘set course’ to Lasqueti Island and the anchorages around Nelson Isle. However, we were experienced and hardy sailors. What’s a bit of discomfort when you are rounding the Horn?
The Rally Coordinator, Captain Ken, suggested and participants agreed that the Fleet not wait until Monday morning to leave, but instead leave by 0900h on Sunday morning to avoid the start of the Nanaimo Bathtub Race, post-Bathtub Race hoopla, and the overall frenetic city energy. ‘Frenetic’ is just not what bluewater cruising is about; it is more about contemplating what life is all about; celebrating the marine environment; recognising participants’ accomplishments; exploring; and, last but not least, meeting and becoming friends with like-minded cruisers.
PCCR Commodore Ken went on to strongly recommend/suggest/require/beg that each boat should contribute a pie to one of the nightly gatherings. The pressure was on to produce!
Besides pie, Ken introduced the idea of award prizes — some useful and many funny — at just about every juncture. He’d had t-shirts printed for the event, and awarded them during the course of the PCCR for various accomplishments.
The first t-shirt to be awarded went to Heather Marshall, who had travelled the furthest to participate. Other awards included ‘Cape Horn Earrings’ and ‘Pink Clothespin Awards’ for items left on host boats after an Appy Hour or potluck dinner. (After an incident in Port Graves, the Fleet bestowed a special ‘Raft-Up Mash-Up Award’ to Ken.) Our intrepid PCCR Commodore had also amassed donated goods, such as sailing gloves, bottles of wine, and LED flashlights, which were awarded with great fanfare at our wrap-up dinner at Gina’s Mexican Café.
So, here’s where we went and what we did on the 2015 Peterson Cup Cruising Rally:
Saturday, July 25
We decided at our Appy Hour gathering at the Dinghy Dock Pub on a ‘fluidly set’ course: Plan A – Lasqueti Island; Plan B – Nelson Island; Plan C – Howe Sound; and Plan D – Ruxton Island. The loud but decent band at the pub resulted in our scribbling messages on paper napkins or texting across the table. Having identified our various route options, we dinghied away to our respective boats to watch the fabulous fireworks over the harbour, and then turn in for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday, July 26
In the fine tradition of the Peterson Cup, the crew was ready Sunday morning for the race into the 20-knot close-haul NW. The route, given the winds and the desire to meet up with a couple of the participants south of Nanaimo, was Plan D – Ruxton Island. Dulcinea II, Alia, and Moonshadow VI, left early to make Dodds Narrows at slack water. However, about 30 minutes after their departure, the course was changed to Plan C – Howe Sound. The change of plans was the cause of some consternation, but everyone rallied and changed course.
Blue Rose (Rosie) and Papa Rumba were at anchor to hold radio net, but cut it short on better advice to beat the bathtubs past Jessie Island and make the chase for Plumper Cove, Keats Island, Howe Sound.
At first, communication was somewhat hit-and-miss, with text messages going out to those who had iPhones; emails to those with email access; and VHF radio messages. At Appy Hour on Sunday, the Fleet decided to communicate on Channel 69, VHF radio, using the handle ‘Peterson Fleet’, which worked well for the rest of the PCCR.
Sunday’s rally results were that the usual overly-cautious forecast of 20-knot northwesterly winds became a flat-water-and-diesel day for the boats — except for Dulcinea II, which tried valiantly to sail across the Salish Sea and only motored the last little while, and for three PCCR Fleet members still in transit, who were caught in the thunder heads SE off the Fraser. Calls came in to Ken from Sea Fever, Sylph VI, Mischief, and Jade Passage, who were at different places on both the east and west sides of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait).
Mischief, with an exhausted Heather aboard, arrived in time for the 1600h Appy Hour. Heather had had a long drive on Saturday from Calgary to the coast, and not much sleep, to arrive at Plumper Cove on Sunday afternoon.
Glen brought the promised pie and doggie Russell from Moonshadow VI. But there was another pie – a shepherd’s pie – on Alia out at anchor. Co-Commodore Sue ordered all dinghies and sailing vessels off the dock to anchor and assemble for a potluck dinner aboard Alia.
It was aboard Alia that we started getting acquainted and heard some Cape Horn stories from the real ‘round-the-Horners’, Amanda and Barry Glickman, including Amanda’s tale of taking her Yachtmaster’s Offshore Exams in 45-knot winds off the Falkland Islands. The Glickmans spent two years plying the waters around Cape Horn aboard their previous boat, Darwin’s Passage. When Commodore Ken stated the Gulf Islands and Howe Sound were much like the Falklands and Patagonia, Amanda added that it was a stretch, but, yes, more so than many other civilized sailing areas.
During dessert (Glen’s cherry pie), Commodore Ken read an email from Ian on Corra Jane. He had arrived on time and was in place exactly where he should have been at Newcastle if we’d started the Rally on the Monday. Instead, Ian was having a lonely Appy Hour in Nanaimo. It was an example of miscommunication that led to the aforementioned VHF communication protocol.
A hurried meeting of designing the best windy sailing adventure and unknown rendezvous anchorage ensued. Plans A, B, and C were all good. But Sea Fever was already at Plan B, and Plan C would take everyone into the flat, windless waters of the Salish Sea. So Port Graves, Gambier Island was to be our destination for the following day. There would also be a race with the strong winds of Howe Sound to round Gambier Island. This plan was relayed to Corra Jane, Jade Passage, Sea Fever, and Sylph VI.
Monday, July 27
With fair winds in his favour, Ian doggedly chased the Fleet on Monday from Mark Bay across the Strait, through Plumper Cove, and caught up as Moonshadow VI was sailing west in a light breeze against the inflow current of Thornbrough Channel at 1430h and Mischief was sailing backwards against the inflow from Grace Islets. That part was easy, for Skipper Heather was not solo; Co-Commodore Sue had jumped from Rosie and travelled on Mischief to hot showers and laundry at Sue’s cabin in Langdale.
Heather still had her fruit pies to plan out and bake on the next day’s sail to Ushuaia. This evening’s Appie Apple Pie was done by Solo Sailor Ken on Rosie between Hood Point and the anchorage off Camp Artaban.
Rosie had been looking around for all the Fleet and still sailed happily in a 15-knot wind over to Hood Point, Glen and Ship Dog Russell’s Round-Gambier race finish line, where Moonshadow VI was expected to arrive any hour.
Dulcinea II and Alia had very light winds in Thornbrough Channel, but persevered in sailing the entire route, where they anchored at the head of Port Graves. Sea Fever sailed in at 1530h; Captain Blake had broad-reached from Snug Cove, Bowen Island. Apparently, Skipper Blake had arrived at Gibsons from Point Roberts on Sunday, only to be sent by a Customs and Immigration Officer to Vancouver to report in at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club!
Papa Rumba, that evening’s host boat, invited Mischief to raft up, who then tossed a line to raft Rosie, who was anchored nearby. Thus, by the time Moonshadow VI and Corra Jane arrived, Appy Hour was swinging on Papa Rumba.
Skipper Blake was so happy to be safe he had all the Fleet singing the theme song: ‘We’re Bound for South Australia’ while eating apple-blueberry pie.
Amanda told more stories of their time in Cape Horn waters. Her refrain was, “I love steel!” Frank and Barry told moving personal stories about how they got started sailing.
This evening’s Fleet meeting was the crucial one, for exact passage planning was now in order. The Fleet had only two days left in the weather window to round the Horn. Plan B was sail south of Isla del Keats and direct to Isla DeCourcy. Plan A, to anchor off Ushuaia (Gibsons), was unanimous. Commodore Ken relayed this to the Fleet guest, Captain Bob on Sylph VI, who had arrived recently in BC from Australia via Japan and Alaska.
Tuesday, July 28 – 0700h: Set sails for Ushuaia (Gibsons)!
At 0800h, the Fleet was entertained by the ‘Raft-up Mash-up’, which involved Blue Rose and Papa Rumba having to untangle their anchor rodes. (Remember the report of Blue Rose being tossed a line to raft up while anchored?!). The untangling took a while, but the crews maintained senses of humour and perspective.
Once the morning’s entertainment was over, Dulcinea II sailed off anchor and tacked up the inlet, followed by Alia, followed by Sea Fever. Papa Rumba bid the PCCR Fleet farewell and departed for Cortes Island, with Mischief tacking in chase. Moonshadow VI sailed off anchor, too. Co-Commodore and photographer Sue recognised a photo op when she saw one, and Rosie gave chase under motor-sail, to get beautiful shots of the Fleet as they tacked out of Port Graves.
It was labelled as the ‘South Atlantic passage day’. Winds in Collingwood Channel were strong for Rosie. Moonshadow VI, heeled to the gunnels, streamed off toward Gibsons, chasing after Mischief. Both vessels lost the wind and found the Howe Sound inflow current near Grace Islets. They drifted bow-to-bow up the inlet, waved at each other, and passengers on the passing ferry waved, too. (When they were sailing from Keats Island to Port Graves the day before, Amanda and Barry got stuck in an area where the wind just died. Amanda said they could see wind all around them, but there was none where they were. She referred to it as a ‘wind hole’, probably not an official nautical term.) When Glen and Heather got stuck in about the same place the very next day, she called to him across the water, “I guess we found Amanda’s wind hole!”
Corra Jane had set up the ‘Ushuaia’ anchorage by then. Alia circled the anchorage (a relatively narrow shelf along the Gibson’s shoreline with a steep drop-off) and dropped her anchor in front of Corra Jane. It didn’t take long to determine that Alia was much too close to Ian’s boat. Up came the anchor; another circle of the anchorage, and then Alia found her home for the night, with enough space between her and neighbouring boats for comfort. Sea Fever found a spot to anchor without any drama. Paparazzi Sue ordered Rosie to catch Dulcinea for some beautiful pictures of full-sail tacks and runs up Shoal Channel to anchor under sail in the ‘Ushuaia’ anchorage.
Sylph VI arrived and was invited to Appy Hour on Moonshadow VI. The Fleet enjoyed Heather’s hot, fresh-made fruit crumble, which she had assembled and baked since the ‘wind hole’ adventure. Following up on Frank and Barry’s stories the night before, Commodore Ken asked each sailor to share his or her own ‘how I got into sailing’ story.
Some stories were touching, some humourous, and all were told from the heart. Starts in sailing were unique to each storyteller: born on a boat; introduction to sailing during a ‘practice marriage’; in the navy as captain of a Tall Ship; on the Atlantic shore; or through friends. One happy man went out on a buddy’s little wooden boat to experience islands, warm breezes, Orcas, birds, the beauty of a sunset, and full harvest moon rising over Sidney Spit (he admitted it never happened quite that way again).
My first sailing trip was in high school: Twenty-two kids and teachers on an 80′ ketch, for three days, in March, in the Gulf Islands. I loved it; I was euphoric the entire time – it was like coming home for the first time ever. It was also, to a 17-year-old prairie girl, a fairy tale. Unreal. I couldn’t imagine that real people actually did that.
Fast forward about six years: my then-boyfriend was a dinghy sailing instructor who had also done a sailing charter in the BVIs. We chartered a 32′ Beneteau with four other friends (yes, six of us on a 32′ boat!) in the Gulf Islands. Five of us looked at this itty-bitty little boat, and thought, “Are we actually going to put six of us on this and go out on the ocean?” My boyfriend, who was the only one of us with any sailing experience, looked at the boat and thought, “How am I going to get this huge thing off this dock?” It rained all week; the dinghy went adrift (but was recovered by another boat); we ran out of water on the first night; the barbecue burst into three-foot-tall flames when someone forgot the garlic bread on it;, and, did I mention? It rained all week, and… I was hooked. I was giddy with euphoria the whole time. And this time, it wasn’t just a fairy tale. After that, I took all the cruise’n’learns, including the Van Isle circumnavigation, and my boyfriend (later my husband) and I chartered for a week or two each year, until we eventually bought Sea Otter, a 38′ Bavaria.
We sailed Sea Otter for three years in BC, and then, one day my husband came home and said, “I can take all of next year off work. Let’s go sailing in the Med.” A long-term sailing trip had always been part of the plan; this was just a different version of it. Four months later, we had done an extensive refit on Sea Otter, joined BCA, and we were ready to go. We trucked Sea Otter to North Carolina, and then sailed across the Atlantic and into the Med. We made it as far as Italy before our turn-around date. Then it was back out of the Med, and off to the Caribbean, via the Canaries. The day before we landed in St. Lucia, we turned 11,000 km, and had only been out eight months. That’s 45nm per day. Too much! So we slowed down, and after our year was up, left Sea Otter in the Caribbean, where she’s been ‘stuck’ ever since.
Since then, my husband and I have separated. I’m still sailing. We continue to co-own Sea Otter, and I’ve learned to sail her on my own. I’ve also bought Mischief, a 27′ Catalina, so I can sail around here. I’m still near the bottom of the learning curve, but Mischief is a good little teaching boat.
Appy Hour stories are great when shared with trust and appreciation, regardless of the boat size or type. Heck, even a pretty Hans Christian like Moonshadow VI can swing a near-collision with another boat. As the evening was coming to an end, Ken hollered, “Hey, Glen! You might want to come up here in the next two minutes!” Glen’s steel-hulled neighbour was just a few feet away. One of the Fleet’s inflatable dinghies and two Fleet members were commandeered to assist in fending off while Glen raised anchor and found a less-populated anchoring spot further down the shoreline. These experiences, shared in trust and laughter, contribute to our cruising skills and memories, rather than the accumulation of gear and speed of crossings.
As Eileen Quinn wrote in her song “Friends”:
I’ve got seashells
I’ve got souvenirs
I’ve got songs I’ve penned
I’ve got photographs
I’ve got memories
But mostly I’ve got friends
Wednesday, July 29 – 0900h:
Now there is only one passage left to plan: Leave Ushuaia, sail around the Horn, up through Beagle Canal, and into Patagonia! (Gibsons, Commodore Passage, Acorn, Gabriola Pass, Ruxton, DeCourcy). A start line is Hermit to Gower. All is set and in order. Ken spent the evening writing up the day’s short speech, perfect he thinks. Radio Net from Blue Rose initiated.
The first two vessels report in from four miles out in the Salish Sea with 10-knot beam reach. Corra Jane is winging out of Shoal Channel, so Rosie weighs anchor and moves on. Mischief breaks into Ken’s eloquent speech to state their order is arriving. (The crews of Sea Fever, Mischief, Alia, and Moonshadow VI are breakfasting at Molly’s Reach, the restaurant made famous in the CBC TV series, ‘The Beachcombers’.) Ken drones on, and then asks for a report. No answer. Ken’s iPhone beeps a message on the chart table. The breakfast crowd has reported in as a group speaker-phone message. Gaaaak!
Rosie motors to the start line, and finds Corra Jane drifting. Ken blows the horn and the race is on! After which, both drift north for two miles, sighting in the distance Dulcinea II or Sylph VI‘s sails. Battery charging commences and the passage continues.
At 1100h, the breakfast crowd departs Gibsons. Alia’s log noted:
- 1100h: Departure from Gibsons. Clear skies; NW winds at 10 – 15 knots forecasted.
- 1130h: Cleared coast. Motor off. Sailing at 1.5 knots. How long will this last?!
- 1135h: Lasted 5 minutes! Motoring with both sails up.
At 1217h, Sea Fever requested clarification of the approach or rounding of Isla des Acorn-Hornos — then lost contact.
Gulf Islands’ tides and currents are generally bigger and stronger than Cape Horn Patagonia. So it is in Gabriola Passage. Yet all the Peterson Fleet must go past Cape Horn (Acorn Island – a nutty idea, even kind of seedy, but the gold earring can only be awarded to the accomplished.)
Alia earned her earring two hours before slack, passing Isla des Acorn-Hornos and then transiting the passage with a 3-knot opposing current pushing against her bow. Captain Bill steered valiantly and kept the good ship safely on course. Dulcinea II paused, with luffing sails, south of Bath Island, awaiting the slack. Co-Commodore Sue ordered Rosie into Kendrick Island waters to anchor, and then invited Sea Fever, Sylph VI, and Mischief to raft while waiting for slack.
Mischief arrived late, with lines, fenders, and speed adjusted, only to be asked to take pictures, and then proceed into the slack narrows. Somewhat miffed at this, Heather took lots of pictures of Rosie‘s great kelp anchor salad instead.
Finally, the Fleet was in line — all the way from the Gabriola narrows to Alia anchored in SW DeCourcy.
The final night of the Peterson Cup Cruising Rally had arrived. As Frank and Dawn had sailed the most, they would get the T-shirts and host Appy Hour, but the pie assignment was still up in the air. Perhaps Sea Fever would, but she was anchoring; Moonshadow VI was into a stern-tie and, in the process, brought down a dead tree; Mischief stern-tied to a sensible tree; Rosie picked an oak branch; and Corra Jane chose a rock, assisted by Commodore Ken. All the fleet safe!
Yes, finally, the Commodore’s collection of ‘gold earrings’ (SS Split rings) and commemorative T-Shirts could be awarded. Dawn awaited the crowd of rowdies with loveable energy. Frank tucked in Dulcinea II’s sails and tidied the decks. Dinghies arrived; potluck supper contributions were shared; hugs, laughter, and pats on the back were awarded. While eating dinner, Fleet members traded stories of each boat’s adventures and perceptions of the day’s mandatory course and cruise. Blake led us in song.
Finally, it was decision time. Would the Fleet spend another day in Beagle Channel? Or would the boats set sail for Puerto Montt (Nanaimo) the next morning?
The democratically-minded Commodore Ken and his Assistant called for a vote. The Fleet was split re staying or going. The horse-trading began, with favours being called in and deals made, ending in the decision to head for Nanaimo. The course was to be an early Friday morning run across Golfo De Penas (Stuart Channel) for Canal Darwin (Dodds Narrows), and up the windy Golfo del Corcovado (Northumberland Channel).
Thursday, July 30 – The Last Passage to Home Port
As usual, Sylph and Dulcinea II weighed anchor and set sails in good breeze for the passage. Alia soon followed, while Co-Commodore Sue announced she had packed up and was jumping ship for Corra Jane, who was heading south. This left Commodore Ken solo again to race with Mischief and Moonshadow VI. Glen ran the Narrows first and was tacking up the 20-knot gusts in Northumberland by the time the last two Fleet boats ran down the 3-knot rapids (at slack!) into the winds for full-sail race for Newcastle Island and a day of rest before the BCA Rendezvous began.
By consensus, the Peterson Cup was awarded to Frank and Dawn Gaudek of Dulcinea II, for their sailing perseverance in light-to-no wind conditions, and for their unfailing good humour and kindness.
As Ken said at our wrap-up, “We are the people who make sailing a community.” If you haven’t participated in a Peterson Cup Cruising Rally, consider joining us in 2016.
Story contributors: Ken Christie, Blue Rose; Heather Marshall, Mischief; Donna Sassaman, Alia
Photo contributors: Ken Christie, Blue Rose; Heather Marshall, Mischief; Ian Cameron, Corra Jane; Blake Williams, Sea Fever; Donna Sassaman, Alia; Jaqualine Roussin, Jade Passage