Vancouver Island Cruising Experience, or VICE, is one of BCA’s many events, and perhaps the one and only that truly prepares Dreamers to head offshore. During VICE, intrepid bluewater sailors head to the west coast of Vancouver Island and fearlessly set out west into the ocean swells for a shakedown cruise. Typically, boats agree to a number of days they want to be offshore and set a target on their chart plotters to go there and back. VICE really provides a ‘taste’ of what it is like to be offshore: it presents a great opportunity to test the systems and equipment on a boat, and it gives you a chance to figure out watch rotations and practice provisioning.
This year, five boats from Vancouver and Vancouver Island chapters completed VICE between July 13 and July 17:
- Malaya, Irma and Ben Deacon
- Dreamer, Charles and Heidi Aram, and crew of 2: Shawn and Janis Wright
- Swadeshi, Siggi Kemmler and crew of 3
- Corra Jane, Ian Cameron with a crew of 4
- Syntropy, Kevin and Leeanne Towers
Weather this year was very exceptional and all skippers and crews reported safe passages with memorable experiences.
Tales from Corra Jane
We’re now tucked into Joe’s Bay, Dodd Island, tired and exhilarated by a 24 hour, 110 mile offshore experience. Corra Jane, a 1980 Cal 39, performed well with a Hydrovane in a wild variety of weather that went from a picture-perfect day to a starry night to double-reefed gusty dawn. We buddy-boated with Dreamer on a triangle course. Our Vancouver crew of 5 survived the tight quarters and I think enjoyed this taste of voyaging. For navigation we used Navionics, supplemented with radar. For communications we relied on InReach and AIS. EPIRB was available for emergency signaling and 90% of the voyage was steered by Hydrovane.
Before heading out, I filed a sail plan with my partner at home. Crew health was fine and no one was noticeably queasy, maybe due to the lack of big swell in NW 10-20 kts, although we saw gusts to 25 kts at dawn as we came back.
On the return to Victoria we stopped at Sooke Harbour Marina and Resort for a night of recuperating. A highlight as we headed home was surfing downwind hitting 7 to 8 kts in breaking seas near Race Rocks. We went from a full genoa in the morning to a furled handkerchief late in the afternoon. The wind speed indicator broke. I think gusts of 30-35 kts did it. Very bracing!
Skipper, Corra Jane
Tales from Syntropy
We left Ucluelet at 1300h after dropping off the dogs at a sitter’s house. We found that we were beating into a 10-12 knot headwind trying to stay on course to the planned coordinates. The seas were pretty flat with only a barely noticeable swell. The boat balanced so beautifully that we were able to lock down the wheel and didn’t need the autopilot. We sailed like this the whole way out to the 50 mile mark.
About 30 miles out there was a school of dolphins surfing at the bow of the boat! Then about an hour later we had whales blowing off the starboard trail. To cap off the excitement, a whale breached!
The winds picked up slightly on the way back to around 12-13 kts. We were doing 6.5 kts boat speed, which was going to put us into Ucluelet about 0600h, so we changed course and headed for Tofino to extend the trip. The plan was to then do a downwind run back but the wind died to less than 6 knots so we ended up motoring the last 2 hours.
We were both very tired from the 3 hr watches. We’ll try 4 hr next time and also leave the dogs at home to allow us to do a longer trip. All in all, it was a great experience and introduction to overnight sailing for Leeanne. We are now tucked into the Pinkerton Islands, exploring in the dinghy and SUP – a perfect end to the week.
Our boat has Single Side Band (SSB) but no modem. The Windy forecast was spot on.
Neither of us got sick. We found that a slow acclimation to the swell while travelling up to Ucluelet helped a lot. That, and the offshore swell was minimal.
Kevin & Leeanne,
Tales from Swadeshi
Swadeshi and crew arrived back in sunny Ucluelet at 0930h on July 15. We left at approximately 0520h on July 13.
After getting becalmed for about 6 hours when we were about 22 NM from the VICE waypoint, we turned and headed back. The wind slowly picked up all evening and we made excellent time on the return.
Everyone agrees that VICE was a wonderful experience. From 0 knots of wind to gusts of 20 and fog this morning, we saw a lot of weather changes. We loved Otto, our new Hydrovane. What a fantastic crew member – never asked for food or beer or a rest!
We got the opportunity to learn a lot about Otto’s limitations and workings. We witnessed (as the Hydrovane folks stated) that a balanced sail plan/boat was the most important aspect for good vane performance. We don’t often sail with our inner foresail. However, on this leg of the voyage we learned a lot of about the boat balance with a reefed main and inner foresail!
The 10 deep sea freighters hanging out near the entrance to Juan de Fuca, due to the Port strike I suppose, posed no difficulty, just a surprise!
Our turn-around was 80.5 NM straight line from the entrance to Ucluelet Inlet.
For communication we used the marine weather forecast offered on InReach, which was remarkably accurate. I checked Predictwind for the past week and it was also close to what we experienced.
Remarkably, of the 4 of us onboard no one got sea sick. Conditions on the leg out were so comfortable we actually all ate dinner together sitting at the main cabin table!
Tales from Malaya
Our trip out to the VICE waypoint was very interesting and taught us a lot. We decided to rotate the 4-hour watch on the first night and changed to 3-hour on the second night. Since I was taking the 2000h – 2400h shift, it was pretty easy for me to watch the nav screen every so often for anything the radar caught. I looked out to the water and just went, “Wow!!” for the beautiful dark starry night and bioluminescence in the water; I could hear the dolphins in the dark, maybe on the starboard. Ben got up earlier to relieve me as he wasn’t able to sleep well. After I updated him on my watch, I snuggled in the sea berth until Ben woke me up over 4 hours later. He filled me in with a radar show and off he went to sleep. We had a great wind on the beam reaching around 11-13 kts. We were excited and happy.
Each one of us had about an hour nap during the day, ate, and then were off to the next watch. I slept 0900h-1200h as Ben watched. The wind was already starting to die down. By the time I got up to relieve him, his watch summary included reaching the waypoint at 0459h, cargo ships drifting, and dolphins visiting him in the night. That got me excited. There were more dolphins this time as I watched in the dark. I hoped for some visual of their little white part. They kept me company with their song for about 20 minutes. I heard a blow in the distance and looked at the radar to see if it showed any pink/red mark (indicating an approaching target). None. I wondered how far or close this whale was that I could hear the blow. Another blow could be heard and I was still uncertain of its distance. The last blow sounded farther so I felt at ease, finally. I hated waking up Ben earlier as I know he’d had less sleep than me, but the genoa was just banging against the spreader with the calm wind as we were sailing back to Ucluelet. For the last 20 NM, we decided to motor as the wind wasn’t going to be with us until about 1700h.
The entire time during my watch, I kept busy with squats, dips, push-ups and twists that I can do in the cockpit, logged and played solitaire on my phone. Ben read his Kindle and also did some exercises to occupy the time alone. It was nice to have prepared meals for the trip which meant less time in the galley, except for making coffee and quick rinsing of the dishes. I was worried about getting seasick but didn’t want to take medication so I kept my acupressure wrist band which had helped me in the past. We both slacked off logging but we recognize a lot of improvements we need to do in our journey down south next month. All in all, VICE was such a great experience! The highlight was not just being out 100 NM in the open ocean, it was meeting with more like-minded people!
Irma & Ben,
And just like that, VICE was over. Many lessons were learned, and many friends were made! We hope to see some more Dreamers next year during VICE 2024!