Have oars, ready for adventure

Fifty years ago, my parents bought a cottage on Gambier Island in BC’s Howe Sound. Facing the snowy Lions to the east and the undeveloped north side of Bowen Island, the tiny cabin – replete with mice, horsehair-stuffed furnishings and antique oil lamps – was accessible only by boat. My parents bought a 17’ clinker boat made by Elia Boat Works in Vancouver, and powered it with a Johnson outboard from Woodward’s Marine. They were set.

My earliest memory aboard this first of many boats was standing on the wooden front passenger seat beside my brother, gripping the top of the windshield as the small bow dipped and climbed over waves.

“Hang on!” Mum yelled over the noisy engine.

Our heads poked out of the puffy red life vests like turtles, and our smiling faces sprayed with seawater. It felt like flying.

Chaos reigned as suitcases, dogs and kids were crammed aboard. Coats flew out as abruptly as the orders – “Stay in one place!” while docking, “Fend Off!” when docking in the wind.

During these formative years, I was introduced to all manner of rowboats because, pre-dock and ramp, they were the only way for us to get from the boat to shore. Over the years, I pushed various wooden and fiberglass rowboats into the drink, dog in the bow, fitted the battered oars into the oarlocks and charted a course for adventure. I’d row down several bays, looking up at the cottages, at people on the porches, at men working on engines or just sitting with a beer and a ready wave.

Rowing farther away, I’d often see one of my parents appear on the “point” in the distance, checking with binoculars that I was still alive and had complied with the life jacket rule. I loved the freedom, the motion, the sound and smell of the sea, and the release of pent-up energy.

Unsinkable
Only one of these rowboats is imprinted on my mind like a cattle brand – the orange Sportyak. An insurance man, my dad likely bought it for its unsinkable reputation. Despite never actually sinking it, we almost always got soaked – our bums at the very least – because the boat was often overloaded and contained the aforementioned dog. I would likely be squished on a seat with him on my lap, both of us weighing about 60 pounds, while Mum just kept handing stuff to Dad.

“I think we can fit one more thing on board,” she’d say as she passed another sleeping bag, a cooler, a sack of briquettes and a push mower. Rowing would be impossible, and so my dad, photographed by doubled-over neighbours, would paddle the Sportyak. To avoid embarrassment, I’d gaze into the water, dragging my fingers, collecting strands of seaweed and random feathers.

When I grew up and ventured off to the University of Victoria, my athletic friend Jenn talked me into joining the rowing team. This lasted one semester before I was summarily “cut” because there was no lightweight team. The reality was that I was not an athlete and so had no inclination to follow the weightlifting/swimming/running training regimen required to participate. What I really liked was being on Elk Lake at 0600, skimming through the still water as the sun rose on the eight of us. While Jenn went on to years of competition, I retreated to a plain white fiberglass dinghy when I wanted to be on the water.

This was the first boat my sons enjoyed. We lived in a small house by the sea on Curteis Point and often rowed across Tsehum Harbour to Van Isle Marina in Sidney. We’d buy an ice cream in the shop and wander up and down the rows of luxury yachts. My sons would ask questions like, “Why don’t we have a helicopter on our boat?”

After some years, we moved into Victoria and sold the rowboat because we couldn’t afford a trailer. What followed were busy child-rearing years, with little money and certainly none for a boat. But somewhere along the way, I’d heard about a Whitehall-style rowboat, virtually unsinkable and with a sliding-seat and foot stops. I bookmarked the website and read all about it, including the price – over $10,000. I could only dream.

Legacy
Just after my fiftieth birthday, my mum was diagnosed with incurable cancer and died two months later. It was a devastating loss and one that required us to take her ashes to Gambier Island, where we scattered them on the point facing the Lions. I learned afterwards that she’d left me some money and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind what I wanted to do with it.

My rowboat Sheila, named for my mum, has been to Cortes, Galiano and Piers islands, as well as routinely in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Manufactured by Whitehall Rowing and Sail of Victoria, my Solo 14 is a stable and roomy thermo-formed

co-polymer rowing skiff, inspired by traditional Whitehalls. Able to handle wind, waves and current, with 9’ 6” carbon-fibre oars on outriggers, it’s my portal to the ocean.

Once we’ve launched, my dog settles onto the stern seat and I feel like a kid again, exploring the great sea with its catspaws and seals, beds of bull kelp and migrating Bonaparte gulls. The catch and finish of my oars make for a rhythmic row, sometimes a song in my head, but always with Mum in my heart.

“Hang on!” she used to say, over the roar of the two-stroke.

It was great advice for boating…and for life.




Photo Caption - The author and dogs Jack and Sid aboard Sheila on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

By Valerie Rolfe

“Messing About” is devoted to our readers’ stories, memories, reflections and humour. We’re interested in the kind of stories you tell friends and family, memories of good times and above all, why you love boats and boating. If you have a story you’d like to tell or an idea to propose, we’d like to hear about it. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Related Articles
IOD fleets in the US and Bermuda is expected to send crews to the event that was last held in Chester in 2014.
The Toronto International Boat Show celebrates ...
Rossiter is a Canadian builder in Markdale, ...
Welcome to Photo of the Week 2018. If you are not ...
Long popular with New England and St. John area ...
Ever wonder what it’s like to be abandoned on a ...

Destinations

  • Prev
Long popular with New England and St. John area boaters, Passamaquoddy Bay is too often overlooked ...
After much speculation Prince Harry finally popped the question to American actress and longtime ...
Last January we ran a short piece on the motor boat A Great Story which had been restored by the ...
The Moorings has just announced the launch of its newest Caribbean destination, Antigua. 
Toronto sailor and former RCYC coach/sailing instructor Ryan May is now a US coast guard captain ...
Just before the weekly party at Shirley HeightsSunsail staffer Chris Donahue conducts our chart ...
Chartering in the Caribbean conjures up images of turquoise sea, palm fringed beaches and great ...
Since anyone who opens an independent bookstore is at least as brave as a small boat shop owner, I ...
You’re on your way east to the 1000 Islands or the Trent-Severn. By entering north of Prince ...
I have lived in Ontario my whole life but have only recently had the pleasure of visiting the City ...

The Middens of Galiano Island

By Catherine Dook

We motored our way into Montague Harbour along a twisted channel with our engine muffled by the leaning trees.

“This is peaceful,” I told my husband, John.

“Look,” I pointed to an eagle sitting on the top of a tree overlooking the channel entrance like a sentinel giving permission for us to pass. Dignified, unruffled, his impassioned gaze noted and then dismissed us, as uninteresting and perhaps unworthy. I was tired. We’d pulled up anchor at Portland Island that morning, and the grind of the diesel engine had worn me down.

Read More of the Middens of Galiano Island.....

 

 

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
Rossiter is a Canadian builder in Markdale, Ontario that builds a nice fleet of rowboats and small ...
Welcome to Photo of the Week 2018. If you are not familiar with this wonderful feature (What???!!!) ...
Living the dream! Longtime CY staffer and now blogger Lynn Lortie with her husband Pat left Midland ...
For our last Photo of the Week in 2017, I have picked some nice shots we received – one from the ...
Your boat is tucked away for the winter, but there may still be a few un-invited guests.
In the world of yachting, it is increasingly becoming the case that Canada is no longer the small ...
Ho-ho-ho. Our Photo of the week comes from Sunday’s Santa Parade. Clowning around was Paul ...
This Photo of the Week sequence from Chris Chahley and Kathy Coyle explains the whole boat thing. ...
The off season is suddenly upon us. Yikes! We need your photos more than ever to keep us thinking ...
One of our most enthusiastic contributors, Rob Dunbar sent us this photo from Halifax.   ...

 

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Commodore’s Boats is a full service shipyard with over 50 years of generational history and ...
Cruisers Yachts debuts the all-new 42 Cantius. The sporty, luxury cruiser will make its first ...
Once again, the designers at Jeanneau have outdone themselves with the innovative new Leader 10.5 ...
The introduction of X-Yachts’Xc range in 2008 has proven itself to be something of a game changer ...
Hull #1 ZINNIA, the all-new, twin outboard MJM 35z left Boston BoatWorks on July 5 for Newport and ...
Following a 10-year hiatus, Richmond, BC-based Crescent Custom Yachts is once again launching ...
According to the folks at Fraser Yacht Sales, you couldn't ask for more - the new Azimut Atlantis ...
During those cold, cold, sunless, dreary months of January and February, I want to remember the fun ...
The Rossiter 23 Classic Day Boatis both a logical extension of the Canadian-built Rossiter line and ...
It's rare for Canadian Yachting magazine to report on the same boat twice, but that is how ...

 

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50By: John Armstrong and Andy Adams
Photos: Cruisers Yachts Inc.

Almost a decade ago, Cruisers Yachts Inc., launched an entire line of express cruisers called “Cantius” (named after company owner KC Stock’s grandfather) that began with the 48Cantius then came the 54, the 60 and now the Cantius 50. In the fall of 2017, we will be at the debut of the 42 Cantius at the Fort Lauderdale International boat show.

These designs have a strong family resemblance withhandsome and distinctive linesand with a design philosophy that you could say, pioneered the new version of the express cruiser. 

Read more of new Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50.....

 

 

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Water has a funny way of making its way into a boat: through through-hulls, stuffing boxes, leaks, ...
 Since the initial article of this column we have identified a wide range of apps and ...
Since the initial article of this series we have looked at the iPad and its use as a marine ...
The moment we all dread. It’s a warm sunny day and you’re out for a cruise. Suddenly ...
For most of us – this is the time to make the most of the boating season – launch and ...
Question: Is it possible to mount, protect and charge your iPad during marine navigation. ...
  Is iNavX the superlative marine navigation app?    
Question: Can I buy generic automotive parts or products for my boat, or should they specify ...
  There is a good deal of hesitancy and lack of understanding as to whether an iPad can ...

Marine Products

  • Prev
Sirius Signal held a product information session for interested parties prior to demonstrating ...
Safety at Sea Courses, in my opinion are a must for all offshore racers. I would also recommend the ...
Just 10 shopping days to Christmas, so what to get for the boater who has everything? How about a ...
I am fortunate to have the ability to work from just about anywhere. A cellular signal and a Wi-Fi ...
Out here on the West Coast with boats in the water year-round, there is one constant activity and ...
As I sit looking out my window at the snow that is slowly piling up it is easy to be downtrodden by ...
In the last edition of this column we took a close look at iRegatta and the advantages it can bring ...
With all the devastation in the eastern Caribbean a natural question to ask is ‘is our boat in that ...
During the heat of summer, many boat owners turn on their air conditioning units. Whether portable ...
A milestone has been reached. The new D13-1000 sees Volvo Penta move into the 1000hp marine leisure ...