The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

The Farrows Learn to Sail

Darrell and David Farrow

SV Endless Song
Passport 40
March 20th, 2024

In August 2021, just after the peak of COVID, we were frustrated as were many people on the planet. We’d been in isolation for months and now were trying to get out. We had a holiday booked in our travel trailer, but if you remember the summer of 2021, the fire season was brutal: everywhere that we had booked closed due to the fires and all our reservations were cancelled. Our son Simon and his wife Holly were in Desolation Sound, sailing in their 23’ Crown About Time. They were sending us amazing photos of scenery and reports of water temperatures I couldn’t imagine in Canada. My frustration grew. I came up with a crazy idea – let’s buy a boat and go sailing. How hard can it be?

The first boat we went to see was a very sad Catalina 30. It would have been a multi-year project (and probably divorce, too). We realized we needed a smaller boat in “sail away” condition, more appropriate for novices. This turned out to be a 1978 C&C 27 Mk III named Mystic. On Sunday we went to see the boat. Mystic was a comfortable size. Both of us, at around 6’ tall, could just about fit inside, almost standing, and we could imagine us sailing her. The purchase was agreed upon. We came home, put the travel trailer on the Internet and sold it on Monday morning. Funds were transferred for the boat and insurance was arranged. Simon and Holly were already heading home to Victoria, and made a rapid dash to Mosquito Creek to see what the crazy parents were up to.

Sailing out of English Bay

By Thursday we were off day sailing Mystic, with Simon and Holly as tutors. On Friday, we took a break from all the excitement and Saturday we set off for Halkett Bay, Gambier Island. Simon solo sailed About Time and Holly came along as our instructor on Mystic. It was a glorious day on the water, although smoke was heavy in the air. With little knowledge of sailing, my wife, Darrell, had learned enough to aggressively luff her son on the way out towards Point Atkinson. This family is nothing if not competitive. Simon, being a seasoned sailor, managed to escape her trap and warily kept his distance; we saw little of him until we motored into our anchorage. As happened so often in our sailing, winds seem to die at Point Atkinson, so we had to motor the rest of the way.  We rafted up in Halkett Bay and spent a splendid evening together.

Rafted up in Halkett Bay

The next day they declared us competent to sail home and waved us on our way. We now had to sail back to Mosquito Creek Marina by ourselves, with two days of sailing experience under Darrell’s belt. I’d sailed dinghies and keel boats as a student and windsurfers in the 1990’s, so had a little knowledge. We managed to get under the Lions Gate Bridge – thankfully no cruise ships were headed out and the harbour was quiet.

For the rest of that season, we sailed out to Plumper Cove most weekends, often tying up at the docks and walking on Keats Island. Our most exciting trip was up the Indian Arm. Anchoring there is not for the faint of heart. We didn’t have a clue about stern-tying at that point. We anchored off Granite Falls, and having misread the tide tables, awoke in the morning to find Mystic nudging the bottom. We hastily moved her as soon as the tide allowed and floated free.

Anchorage at Granite Falls… not ideal.

The weather wasn’t great, with not a breath of wind. This whole trip was motoring.

Misty waters up Indian Arm – Burrard Yacht Club outstation.

On the way back we stopped in Deep Cove, as we had a few hours to wait before slack current, when we could traverse under the Second Narrows Bridge. Having listened to the marine traffic channel, we knew that several tankers were going to head out under the bridge at slack, so we decided to go before the turn to avoid the tankers and to reach our moorage before dark. With an ancient YSB 12 engine pushing us, we were making barely 1 knot against the current as we motored under the bridges.

Tied up in Deep Cove, waiting for the current to change.

Although we made it safely back to Mosquito Creek, we had learned many lessons that weekend. Second Narrows should be approached with caution. The currents through the narrows are quite amazing, and for a small under-powered sailboat, it’s almost essential that you traverse this at slack water or with the current.

Sunset at Mosquito Creek

Something wonderful happened as well. Having the boat caused our sons to visit us a little more. Both wanted to know we were going to be safe out there and each spent days teaching us what they knew. We had day trips out to Granville Island as the weather turned bleaker.

Simon has been sailing for many years. He went over the boat in some detail and gave me a to-do list of note. In the late season, I tackled many of them. Importantly in this list was the recommendation of a new anchor, chain and rode. The anchor he suggested was a bit large – a SARCA Excel #3 – probably good for a 35’ boat. Mystic didn’t have a bow roller and hauling the Excel 3 was tough, so although not ideal, we fitted a bow roller by moving one of the forward cleats and the navigation lights. Apart from the effort required to haul it by hand, the anchor has served us well.

The bow roller on Mystic.

The last sail of our first season was to Snug Cove on Bowen Island. It was late October and, having paid $50 for the moorage, the Yorkshire in me just wouldn’t pay another $10 for power so we could run the heater. A huge mistake! The deck was covered with ice in the morning, and we passed a very miserable night in the V-berth before venturing out only once the sun arrived about 10:30 to look for coffee. It was almost a death knell for our sailing as Darrell really didn’t have fun. Mystic was put to rest for winter and our first season of sailing was over. I started planning the necessary work to improve our comfort and safety.

To recap our first short season: going sailing was neither crazy nor difficult. With willing tutors and a good dose of common sense, we had achieved our goal to be out having fun on the water! We had moments of sheer terror and moments of absolute pleasure. Mystic was manageable, though the V-berth for sleeping didn’t work and an alternative arrangement was required. We learned that sailing is physics in action; watch the weather, tides and currents; be conservative with how much sail you raise; reef early, and there’s no dishonour in motoring if you must!

Mystic gave us the freedom we have missed since leaving Africa, where we would disappear in our Land Rover for weeks into desolate, unpopulated areas. We now had the vehicle to explore places where there were a lot less people than on the north shore mountain trails. Planning for the next season began; Desolation Sound was the goal!




  1. Donna+Sassaman says:

    Your delightful article brings back memories for me of learning to sail out of the Victoria Inner Harbour. Bill and I had bought a classic wooden sloop, built in England in the 1930s, and taught ourselves to sail by motoring out of the Harbour, putting up the sails, and watching the other boats to see if we were “leaning over” at approximately the same degree. If so, great! If not, panic!

    Seven years later, having joined BCA in 1986, lived aboard for three years, and experienced a lot of coastal cruising, we set sail for Mexico and the South Pacific.

    Enjoy your adventures!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank you. it’s been a blast so far!

  2. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed following your sailing experience. May it continue to grow

  3. Sheila says:

    The pure happiness of sailing comes through loud and clear.
    Fair winds and following Seas during your adventures.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank you Sheila. It’s been so much fun so far…

  4. Gabie says:

    Thanks for sharing David and Darrell- exciting times – upwards and onwards 💖

  5. Neil Dayson says:

    Great Article! I actually grew up on Mystic. My parents bought her in 1980 with two other families. She was cruised extensively. Partners came and went but my parents hung on and in 1998 my high school friend and I purchased her. We did an extensive refit including the Awlgrip paint which still looks good in the photos. We raced and cruised her and in 2008 we were VARC div 7 campions. In 2009 we purchased an X-119 Dominatrix. We finally sold her to a colleague of my boat partner in 2012. She has brought many adventures to many sailors. Maybe the new owner will fit a 2GM to replace that loud YSB 12. I hope she finds a good home after the shut down of Mosquito Creek.

  6. David says:

    Hi Neil, Wow that is quite amazing! So good to hear her history. We knew she had a proud history as a racer, and we had great times with her. I’ll pass this along to the new owner. She has been bought by a young chap who is a diesel mech who is hoping to repstore or repower her. she will be moving to Golstream Boathouse marina shortly.

    1. Anonymous says:

      David, yes you can pass along my email. I will be out of touch this weekend as I am going racing.

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