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Sailing the Indian Arm

This summer, let's take a pass on ferry lineups, border traffic and any kind of secuirty waits and get back to what the season is all about- getting away from it all in the most beautiful places in the world.

Emil throws a stick into the water and watches it drift away. “The current is moving out,” he says. My oldest son is five and he’s learning the basics of seamanship. We return up the ramp and into the boatyard. Behind the fence overgrown with blackberries lies numerous small vessels ranging in condition from adored to abandoned. Into one of these my wife, Lee, stows provisions while my daughter drags oars from the dark recesses of the equipment shack.

ColinSands

“OVERNIGHTING ON TWIN ISLANDS,” I write in the Burnaby Sailing Association’s logbook. I’ve been a member of the boating co-op for two summers and have awaited the day when, on the dinghy that I’ve restored, I’d sail my family down Indian Arm to camp in the wilds. By hand, we ease all 15 feet of the ancient and slightly overloaded Lazy E sailing dinghy into the water. Lee boards, I pass her the kids, and I push us from shore before hopping on board myself. The wind is slight on my cheek and the current will soon work against us.

Yachting doesn't always mean blue blazers and 12-metre schooners. Sometimes it means hopping on a small boat with your family and disappearing for a time.
Yachting doesn’t always mean blue blazers and 12-metre schooners. Sometimes it means hopping on a small boat with your family and disappearing for a time.

It’s 11 a.m. as we inch away from the Barnet Marine Park beach toward Burrard Inlet. “Where are the seals?” asks six-year-old Francesca. Seals were among the promises I had made at bedside. A starfish-filled lagoon was another promise, as was fresh crab for dinner. This seems a tall order, considering the sag in the sails and the journey ahead. Three weeks ago I clocked it at 2.5 hours, but the boat had been lighter and the wind stronger. I eye the mound of camping gear. Had Lee transferred the condiments into small jars? Could the wine have been decanted into a lighter container?

Then for an hour we don’t move forward at all. The noon sun burns. Emil yawns and gazes into the water. At the bow, Francesca sits and reads beneath an umbrella. Lee makes sandwiches using the cooler top for a cutting board. Nobody says much. What if the wind doesn’t blow? I wouldn’t mind being stuck out here on my own. Our apartment is small and loud with Julian, our toddler. But with the older kids on board, I envision a milder version of the Raft of the Medusa transpiring at any moment.

Am I reckless to attempt such a trip without an engine and a mode of communication? Not that we’re alone out here. We’re tossed back and forth in the wakes of other vessels, many of which might consider our dinghy little more than a life raft. Sometimes I think these boaters unfortunate. Will their knowledge of nature ever be truly tested out here? Or their patience? No seal will come near their propeller-driven escapades. And then there’s the cost of it all. Motoring out to the end of the Arm for an afternoon cocktail must be expensive. This trip is free. But it is I who am stuck out here and not them.

Safe Passage- B.C's Indian Arm, and it's guardians.
Safe Passage- B.C’s Indian Arm, and it’s guardians.

The wind picks up and I refuse Emil his turn at the helm. With a vessel this small, any mistake can empty us into the water. Within a half-hour we’ve crossed the inlet, and the current too is working for us, pushing the Lazy E toward the Arm. I point out to Lee my dream home, a wooden house with a beach of white shells in a forest on an island of its own. She nods in approval. Not many of these types of houses are left, though, ever since Deep Cove went upscale.
The mountains that envelop Indian Arm lend it a far more remote feel than a map lets on. A mere hour ago the landscape included a petroleum refinery, a bridge, highways and high-rises. Presently, I see before me a classic cutter anchored in a bay and tree-covered mountaintops stretching along an endless corridor of water.

A seal follows behind us, but the kids’ interests are elsewhere. They’re on the lookout for Twin Islands. They pull my binoculars between them and argue about who will be the first one on shore. We sail past Raccoon Island and they sigh with disappointment. When we clear the island, the wind redoubles. Emil’s cap blows off his head, but I dare not turn back to retrieve it, though his eyes have watered up. Instead, I instruct everyone to sit on the windward side to counteract the heel. I let wind out of the sails, but we continue to tilt. I instruct Lee to take hold of the trapeze cable and suspend herself over the water to give us additional stability against the wind. She extends herself over the water and the wind cuts out. My wife dips into the water and nearly takes us all along with her. Emil is exhilarated by the action; Francesca is not.

I myself feel like a child each time I approach Twin Islands. The two old-growth-covered rocks remind me of places once dear to me. I cannot say for sure how Francesca and Emil (and, one day, Julian) will remember this place. Judging, however, by what was in their eyes as the hours passed and what’s in their eyes as we now near the dock, I’d say that Indian Arm has assured its place within each of them.

Anchors Aweigh

Blue Notes
Having someone else take the wheel has its benefits, especially when it’s the wheel of the 70-foot classic schooner operated by Outer Shores, which explores the West Coast from Salt Spring to Haida Gwaii. outershores.ca

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Prairie Squall
Two great secrets: First, sailing rocks in Calgary and an entire family can join the Glenmore Sailing Club for $500 a year. Second, for $150 more you can use the club boats all year (well, all summer, at least). glenmoresailingclub.

Ahoy!
You don’t technically need to be on a boat to wear this natty Paul and Shark pullover, but it definitely helps.
harryrosen.com

Sundowner
It’s the high seas so you’re going with rum, but you can elevate the nightly sundowner with Brugal Extra Dry ($28), which eschews the sweet and syrupy for dry and complex—perfect for a classic stripped-down daiquiri.

 

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