if you think yesterday was eventful, wait to you hear this…

holy cow!  this trip was designed to be a shake down cruise, a dry run.  an opportunity to check out all my gear and equipment. all in preparation for next year’s planned circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.

well, this is getting ridiculous. it seems that every day another something goes wrong

as you know, yesterday, i ran into a problem with my engine dying and water coming into the boat from somewhere.  amazingly, the gods were with me, when i was able to find a boat repair shop in Port Townsend who dropped everything they were working on to fix both the water leak problem and the engine not running problem.  and they did it all in one day, yesterday.

today, i get up at 0430 hours and leave the dock at 0500 hours to make the long awaited segment of the trip which crosses the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  after three hours of rough seas i make it to Victoria, British Columbia.  all is well.  i check in with Canadian customs, have a big breakfast and fill up with gas.

feeling bullish, i decide to venture further in the boat today.  not stay in Victoria, but try to make some progress going west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, hugging the shore of Vancouver Island.  i am hoping that i can make it to Port Renfrew, some 60 miles up the west coast of Vancouver Island.

it is a lonely journey.  other than a few fishing boats from time to time, no other boats are making the same journey i am today.  but, the beauty of the day, the majesty of the coastline on both the Canadian and American shores, and the overwhelming power of the water coming in from the Pacific Ocean all make the day one to remember.

until…until…until at 2 pm, after having been in the boat on the water for six hours, and being just 20 or so miles away from Port Renfrew, my engine dies again.  unbelievable.  crazy.  how could this happen again.  and how could it happen after running smoothly for 6 hours.  how could this happen after the engine was “fixed” yesterday.

today’s situation was much more serious than yesterday’s because i am in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, some 20 miles from Port Renfrew and some 30 miles from Sooke in the other direction.  i am in very serious water.  and i am no where near any sign of civilization.  and there is nobody in a boat anywhere on the horizon.

the wind is blowing 15-20 mph and beginning to pick up its pace as it does almost every afternoon in the Strait.  the current is an ebb current and moving in the opposite direction of the westerly wind.

since i am relatively close to shore at some 35 feet of depth, my immediate concern is that the boat is going to be swept by the winds onto the totally deserted rocky shoreline.  i immediately try to get the 5hp kicker motor into action.   i get it working but quickly realize that there is no way that a 5hp motor has the strength to push my boat any distance whatsoever in face of the winds and current.  not up to the task. not even close.

my next thought is to call for help.  needless to say, i am in an area where there is no cell phone service.  i pick up my VHF radio and press the button to speak on channel 16 which is monitored 24/7 by the Coast Guard.  “this is Breakaway II calling for vessel assist.  loss of engine.  drifting at latitude xxxx, and longitude xxxx, and need vessel assist. ”  i repeat this every two minutes until finally i get a response from the United States Coast Guard stationed at Neah Bay.

meanwhile, one piece of good news, the drift that the boat is taking is along the shoreline and not into the shore.  so, the danger of going up on the rocks is not what i had feared.  the other piece of good news is that since the wind is coming from the west and the current is coming from the east, they counter each other.  the drifting of the boat is occurring, but it is relatively small distances.

for the next 30 minutes i am communicating with the US Coast Guard on the VHF phone.  he is checking on all the facts.  he is asking if i have my life jacket on.  he is asking if i have an anchor that will work in this situation.  after gathering all the facts, i hear over the ship’s radio a plea from the US Coast Guard to all other vessels in my vicinity for assistance.  they make this announcement three different times.  and no responses. none.  which did not surprise me, because i had not seen a boat anywhere near where i was.

after that the Coast Guard calls me back on the VHF and tells me they are sending a crew by boat to me.  they tell me that they have also been in touch with their counterparts in Canada.

within 30 minutes the US Coast Guard arrives in their very fast rescue assistance boat.  they ask me where i want to go.  where do i want to be towed.  Clallum Bay in the states, or Port Renfew or Sooke in British Columbia.  Port Renfrew is the closest and in the direction i am trying to go. but the chance of finding a boat repair capacity in Port Renfrew is almost zero.   they offer to take me to Clallum Bay, but then they withdraw the offer because they don’t think they have enough gas to get there with me in tow and also to get back to Neah Bay.

within another 30 minutes the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team and boat arrive, coming from Sooke, which is 40 minutes by car from Victoria.  they are not the Canadian Coast Guard, but because of budget cutbacks the Canadian Coast Guard will often rely on this volunteer unit.  The Canadian government supplies the boat and the gas, but the labor is all donated.

they ask me the same question, where do you want to be towed.  i ask if they will take me to Clallum Bay, but they say no, that their rules state that they can only deliver to a Canadian town.  They suggest Sooke, for there are three boat repair companies there and that is their home base.

towing a boat can be done at only 7 knots of speed. therefore, with 30 miles to the Sooke channel we will be towing my boat for close to four hours.  after 7 pm this evening, my boat is towed into Sooke harbor and tied up against the government dock.  it has been a long day.  i have been in the boat, on the water for 12 of the last 14 hours.

The guys and gal who make up the Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team are phenomenal.  and to think that they volunteer for this duty.  amazing!  needless to say, i am so grateful for their assistance in bringing me and my vessel to a safe mooring spot this evening.

the very good news is that the boat and its captain are safe in what could have been a very bad situation.  the bad news is once again my engine failed. don’t know why.  and it is after 5pm on saturday night in Sooke, BC.  so no boat repair shops are open and won’t be  open until monday morning.

so i thought i was marooned in Port Townsend.  let me tell you i am really marooned in Sooke.  and i could be here awhile, given that the boat repair shops don’t even open until monday morning.

stay tuned…


10 thoughts on “if you think yesterday was eventful, wait to you hear this…”

  1. Thank goodness you are safe! The US and Canadian Coast Guard have certainly come through for you! While you are waiting for Monday to come round to get the boat repaired, visit the Sooke Harbor House for one of their hearty breakfasts. Get a massage there to get the kinks out after being in the boat 14 hours. It is a lovely place to stay or just sit and enjoy the water view from shore and relish in the joy that you and your boat were not battered and pushed into the rocky shoreline.

  2. Hi Neil:

    Sorry for your trouble but there is some good news, as the Sooke Harbor Inn used to have a 5 Star restaurant and maybe still is good. It couldn’t have fallen off too much if any.
    Check on brunch, lunch or dinner. It should be fantastic. Stay safe and check in with the Lord to see what this is all about and even if you should continue. I would guess He has some message for you and is using the two breakdowns to reach you.
    May I suggest you give Him some abundant praise, ask for forgiveness
    for whatever. and ask Him to speak to you in the silence. Hey, it is also Sunday and there may some great Anglican Church just waiting for you with who knows in the way of worship or special people of God.?

    1. Hi Neil. Now I remember why I went counter-clockwise around the island, especially with winds. Not sure if you’ll get to Hot Springs Cove but if you do it’s a must see. It’s up past Tofino

  3. Oh my! A more than interesting read, but the reality of it all had to be scary even for adventurous you! Thank goodness you do have a working VHF radio.
    We will definitely stay tuned…..

  4. Wow does not begin to describe my thoughts! I am so glad you are okay and that your safety equipment worked! Please continue to be careful!

  5. Neil,
    I’m not sure you should tell us very much more of your adventure. This has the potential for a show on the Adventure Channel. I’ll give you the working title.

    “THIS OLD F-ing BOAT”
    Stay safe (and dry)

  6. I vote for a comedy TV show with a super hero ending.
    NEIL which # life is this? Don’t tell me you’re close to # nine. Stay where you are and have a few meals at the 5 star restaurant and a few Sundays at church. Maybe the message is…slow down and enjoy the summer not doing but being. Just a thought

  7. So glad you are safe! What an adventure you are having without ever intending. Hope you can find someone who can do the repairs there. Do you by chance have a fuel problem that is clogging up your fuel filter(s) in your main engine? Good Luck!

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