May 23, 2019

Pitoraq Sailing Out of Sansum NarrowsR2AK 2019 starts June 3rd from Port Townsend so, Team Pioraq decided that it would be a good practice run for them to go from their home base in Esqimalt to Thetis Island without using their engine.

sailing out of Sansum Narrows, past Maple Bay

Team Pitoraq's practice run for the Race to Alaska is now complete. After some last minute "scissor clipping " up the mast, the rig was ready to go for the Thursday noon start of our Race to Thetis Island.  

We left our berth at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association docks in Esquimalt under oars and rowed out of the harbour to set sail for the Thetis Island Regatta, fully committed to completing the 51 miles under sail and oars alone.

Last Minute Adjustments
Last Minute Adjustments

Light but sailable winds and favourable tides allowed us to get past the Victoria waterfront and Oak Bay, up to Haro Strait by early evening.  As the day faded, the little breezes evaporated and we were on to the oars with about 25 of the 50 mile trip still ahead. Through the night we alternated between short bursts of sailing and long periods of rowing. We were working hard to make sure we got through Sansum Narrows before 8am when the start of a big ebb would close that gate.

As the sun came up, the sound of heavy rain on the water surrounded us, without a cloud in the sky.  Closer focus, and we found we were in the middle of a school of herring moving through the narrows and breaking the surface in the upwelling currents. The nature show was completed by a pair of orcas showing their tall dorsal fins as they leisurely passed us while munching on their own breakfasts, I imagine. 

We managed to sail out of Sansum Narrows, past Maple Bay opening into bright sunshine and glassy calm in Stuart Channel. We had beaten the tidal gate but it was time to work the oars steadily to avoid getting sucked back. 

The final 7 miles was mostly rowing, perfecting technique while bewildering the Saltspring Island Ferry. 

Team Pitoraq JT Graham Serjei

Team Pitoraq – JT, Graham and Serjei

Team Pitoraq arrived alongside at the Thetis Island Marina at 14:07 in time to clean up, go for a Burger and beer at the Pub and start preparing for the Thetis Island Regatta the next day. 

So, we will call our R2TI a success, but what were the stats? To complete the 51nm R2TI we travelled 61.2nm in 26 hours 7 min for an average speed of 2.3 knots. Ouch, I hope we see a little breeze on the way to Alaska. 

What did Team Pitoraq learn in this training run?

1) 750nm to Alaska in no wind would be a long trip.

2) PB&J is good for morale.

3) Using your best light air sailing tricks can keep you off the oars so you have more time for PB&J.

4) The transition from sailing to rowing is painful but can be mitigated by keeping the rowing rig set up and oars shipped until the wind gets steady.

5) As Serjei said, "It's harder than I thought. "

Yes, it is, but we are going anyway!

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