I'm considering sailing my 18' sloop
across the Strait of Georgia
, from Horseshoe Bay to Silva Bay, Gabriola Is. I'm fairly new to sailing and I'm looking for a reality check--is this a reasonably safe thing to do given my boat, knowledge, and experience?
I've been sailing this boat for a year around Howe Sound, 1 - 3 day trips, anchoring
around Gambier and Keats. That and lots of dinghy
sailing is the sum total of my experience. The highest wind
I've had was 21 knots as reported at Point Atkinson. When the winds get above 15kts and I poke my nose out to the open Strait, the waves get bigger (4 feet maybe?) and the bow smashes a bit when beating up, making disconcerting sounds in the hull
. Beam on, we roll around a lot but feels ok. When running, steerage feels limited but still in control. I've never sailed in any seas bigger than about 4' and winds more than 20kts.
I've read a fair bit now about sailing in general and storm tactics to try to make up for a lack of experience (Lin & Larry Pardey
, Adlard Coles, Don Dodds). Then I practiced some of the things I read about. I rigged up a jiffy reefing system so I can reduce main by about 1/3. I've practiced reefing and putting up the storm jib
in 10kts. Also practiced heaving-to and singled-handed MOB
drills in about 10kts.
The fiberglass hull
, and--I think--standing rigging
is from about 1975. Everything looks in good shape as far as I can tell. No cracks or obvious wear in the fittings, no spongy spots in the hull. We carry a 20lb danforth and 70m of rode
in great condition. I have charts
, tide & current
, and hand-held VHF
on board (~5 mile range). Have a 5hp propane outboard
that's been very reliable so far. I just dove and scrubbed the whole hull and keel
(thus exterminating an entire ecosystem there). In good wind
on the beam we can do 5kt boat speed. We carry an inflatable dinghy
, very new. Also have radar
reflector and battery
and running lights.
The plan is to wait for a weekend with a good forecast
, 10 - 15kts either NW or SE and ideally with a current
the same direction. If the wind holds and waves aren't too big, I estimate about 5 - 7 hours for the crossing.
My crew would be my financee who's done all this sailing (and MOB
drills) with me and hopefully 1 - 2 others, preferably with some sailing experience.
Is this a sane things to do? In a boat that size and age, can we safely handle the summer seas of the Strait of Georgia? Is basic reefing, steering, and heaving-to skills sufficient? Am I over complicating this?
What do you think are the most likely bad endings to this plan?
What are your recommendations for other things I should learn/practice first?
One problem I have is when I talk to other sailors, I get 2 polarized opinions on the these questions. On one hand, some say I'm a fool for thinking this is such a big deal, an 18' keeled monohull
is indestructible, nothing I can find in the Strait could sink it and I should just go. Other people say I'm a fool for thinking such a small boat could cross the Strait.
One notion I have is to rent ($35/day) a 4-person liferaft
for the case of catastrophic hull or rigging
failure. Would this be overkill?
ps: if any experienced sailors from Vancouver area care to join us for this adventure, let me know!