SAILING WITH BARB: Companion boats reduce risk when traveling in uncharted waters

Crrr-unch.

You will never forget the sound of your boat’s hull hitting the rocks. In an instant, the seabed beneath us went from 103 feet to five feet to zero. We watched the depth gauge as we slowly moved the boat forward to anchor in shallower water. So bang, bang, bang. Sudden and loud. Full stop. We tried to back out, but it was too late. Blocked. The keel has been taken. Now what?

We were in Belleisle Sound off Kingcome Inlet, a remote wilderness described by authors Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones. Dreamspeaker Guide to the Broughtons as “one of the most spectacular settings to drop anchor”. But at that time, nothing was more beautiful than the sight of our buddy boat, the MV K’adalawi, a 37-foot trawler helmed by our friend Jonathon Rothwell. Thanks to his skill and the engine power of the trawler, we were easily freed. To drop anchor elsewhere and reflect on some of the most unpleasant results if we had sailed alone.

It’s true – there is safety in numbers. Organizing a cruise with fellow boaters (affectionately known as buddy boats) is a convenient way to expand your horizons to new waters and develop your seamanship skills, while reducing some risk. Between four boats we shared things like route planning through the rapids to new anchorages and the culinary frontiers of sea asparagus. Either by yacht club membership or with family and friends, casually , buddy boats accompany all or part of the trip at their own expense, in their own boats, to help each other.

A more formal option for gaining seafaring experience is to join a “flotilla”, a term borrowed from the military to identify a smaller number of ships within a larger fleet. Do a web search for “guided flotilla” and you’ll find various local and international companies offering professionally guided excursions, some of which include charter boats, which vary in cost (i.e. $2,000 initially ) depending on plan options.

Our boat buddies not only pulled us off the rocks, but shared a pound of coffee, two trash bags, three hair ties, radar guidance in the fog, sausages with beans, and this in summary:

• Safety: extra hands for emergency help, sharing of tools and supplies if needed

• Learning: shared experience (good and bad) increases knowledge and confidence

• Buddies: the journey goes beyond and deeper than the boat that carries you.

Barb Thomson is a boating eenthusiast who regularly writes columns for the Comox Valley Record.

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Earnest A. Martinez