It Looked Good on Paper

Few things are more peaceful that sitting out on a boat, floating is the quiet of night, watching the stars and hearing the quiet sounds of water lapping about the boat.

That is, of course, unless the reason that you are floating in the middle of the channel is because you ran out of gas at 1:30 am in the middle of Canada.

“To anyone who can hear my voice, boat in need of assistance, White Bayliner off the end of Quadra island. Out of gas. Over.”


The perfect end to the perfect day. You know when you fuck shit up for yourself, it’s not too hard to ignore it. You can pretend that you didn’t delete that hard disk of you favorite crap, most stains wash out, The cat can always use it’s other eye, but when you are stuck on a boat, with no gas, within arm’s reach of your destination, and those on your trip have nothing to do but look at you, that’s a real drag.

The day was supposed to be a cool trip by boat from Shilshole up to Campbell River. (this was doable according to a website for marine trip planning, which is obviously some practical joke to torture those who use it. )

Canada 1 008 Right out of Shilshole the weather turned from hot sun to light rain and lots of wind. That combined with hitting the tides led to huge waves in the channel, and slowed our boat to a crawl. It was too late to go inside Whidbey Island by the time things got nasty, so we just had to tough it out.

We finally made it to the Straight where we could turn into the San Juans for some protection from the waves, and things slowly got better. The water calmed and the sun came out. What a beautiful area. We kept to some protected passages in order to make the ride smoother, and finally made it, quite late, to Point Roberts, our first gas-up point.

Things started to get rough again as we crossed over to Vancouver Island, and sought shelter in some of the smaller passages that lead up along Vancouver to Nanaimo. At Nanaimo we checked in with Customs , which took long enough that It started to get dark at that point.

Needless to say, sticking it out at Nanaimo would have been a much better plan. But with the smooth water we had, it shouldn’t have taken more than two hours or so to get to our final destination.

Then the wind kicked up again.

aside from the waves it was blowing in exactly the wrong direction for us to get around one of the islands that were in our path, and it literally took hours to get around.

It was easy to track where we were using the GPS, but we just couldn’t make any good time in the dark. Finally, I was able to find a cruise ship to follow, which smoothed the path ahead of us. All the time, the gas looked fine. But as we got closer to our destination, the gas seemed to start dropping quicker. It could also be that the wind tilting the boat gave a false reading, but the net effect was that it was apparent that we weren’t going to make it all the way. I started to head us towards shore, hoping to find a marina, or somewhere to dock, but we ran out in the dead center of the shipping lane.

The Coast Guard responded, and after 30 minutes, told us that they should have a boat out to tow us in 30 minutes. 30 minutes later, we got word that the coast Guard boat had a failed engine, and they had another launch heading our way, with an ETA of 30 minutes.

Then we saw the cruise ship.

Bearing down on us in the middle of the channel was yet another cruise ship. This was disconcerting. I radioed the Coast guard again, and they said the the ship was already aware of our location, and to please turn on our spotlights so they don’t rush us by accident. Oh, and this was the Canadian Coast Guard, so add “eh” to everything.

By now, we were cold. I was cold before, but sitting out with no fuel for heat was really getting noticeable.  Once the Coast guard offered to tow us in to port we were glad to get below decks and huddle up for heat. About that time I just plain passed out.

When I woke, the Coast guard boat had been towing us for about 30 minutes, and was radioing us because their GPS system failed, and fog had rolled in, making the Marina almost impossible to find.

Our GPS didn’t show the Marina, so we all just drove back and forth until they could see the entrance. Finally we were tied up at the fuel dock, which opened at 6 am. Fortunately that was only two hours away, so we didn’t have to wait long. Or didn’t get to sleep long. I can’t remember which.

On the way back, we will be refilling the boat at the half-tank point, duh. Also, we will be taking all the inside passages I just hope the weather is good.

“A Learning Experience is when the universe says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t ever do it again.”

-Douglas Adams

One Reply to “It Looked Good on Paper”

  1. Wow.  That just put "Damn, that was stupid." in the sentence "Damn, that was stupid."I knew there was a reason why I believe there should be a mandatory CG qualification exam and license needed to those that want to operate a boat – especially one going from Seattle to Campbell River!  Dumb ass.  ;)The dreaded Puget Sound Bayliner (and operators) strikes again!


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