I rose before the first hint of twilight this morning, made a cup of strong coffee and climbed into the cockpit. The dozens of anchor lights, rocking with the erratic rhythm of an unwelcome swell, represented a constellation of cruising boats. From tidy production boats, to utilitarian aluminum cutters, to well seasoned ocean crossers like Quetzal, Prickly Bay is a refuge for those of us who live aboard and ply the oceans as a matter of course.
We have many friends in the anchorage, and they have all made their way here from far away – Australia, Brazil, France, Canada, the US. As part of the subtitle and throughout my book, Sailing to the Edge of Time, I mention the promise of ocean Voyaging. Waiting for the light of day, and the reassurances that come with it in these trying times, I realized, not for the first time, that its the promise of mornings like this that keep me committed to a life afloat.
My passion for sailing was born in Tanzania (East Africa), at the yacht club of Dar es Salam. With my little plywood boat, I was in paradise: the weather is perfect year-round, the sun shines nicely every-day, a gentle breeze blows regularly from 9 AM to 5 PM, and the beaches are spectacular, bordered by palm trees and coconut trees. The people are wonderful.
I was there for five years under a World Bank program, to turn around and manage the national airline. Electricity and telephones had been mostly cutoff, and the flights of the day were announced by the local radio every morning depending on how much cash there was that day to buy fuel. When the job was done, I returned to Canada as crew on a sailboat from Portugal to Guadeloupe, navigating by sextant.
It had been such a wonderful experience that I decided to help others reach that state of felicity. For 15 years, in Vancouver, I taught sailing (and power boating) to Sail Canada students, on land and at sea, from Basic to Offshore. I was also an Instructor Evaluator.
The Coastal and Celestial Navigation course books are the notes that I put together for these students and developed with them over the years; the exercises are those they had to do to prepare for the tests. The books are well tried and tested, and they work.
Kimberley Jordan Reeman is the widow of the late Douglas Reeman (aka Alexander “Bolitho” Kent), and an author in her own right. She has recently published her first novel, Coronach and writes a blog. She has contributed the following portrait of his relationship with Canada.
The Honorary Canadian
It was June 12, 1944, and the tide was ebbing fast. The motor torpedo boat was caught on an underwater anti-tank obstacle off the beach at Arromanches, within range of armour-piercing shells being fired from inland. An M.T.B. ran on high-octane fuel. One hit, and she would go up like a bomb.
Her skipper, on the bridge with a group of Royal Canadian Engineers, sent a young R.N.V.R. lieutenant named Reeman over the side with four seamen to try to lift the boat off. The rest of the crew was still aboard when the shell hit amidships.
The world exploded in searing flame and black, roiling smoke. The M.T.B. was burning fiercely. The young lieutenant was drifting in the shallows, the salt stinging his face, his legs on fire with phosphorus despite the sea’s coldness.
He lost consciousness, and came to on the beach. Rain was falling, and some one was saying, “It’s O.K., buddy. Take it easy,” and then, “Keep that rain off his face,” and another voice said, “Somebody give him a cigarette.”
He remembered saying, “I smoke a pipe,” before the morphine took him under.
They were Canadian army medics and they saved Douglas Reeman’s life, and saw him transferred to a landing craft that took him to England for weeks of rehabilitation. And then he went back to war.
He never forgot the Canadians; and they’d always been around. He knew the Royal Canadian Navy’s Light Coastal Forces and the men who served in ‘the little ships’: he’d heard the lilting accents of officers and seamen from St. John’s and the outports who wore NEWFOUNDLAND shoulder flashes, and the voices of men from the Dominion who wore the shoulder flash of Canada. Like every one else in the Royal Navy, he had admired the grace and speed of the Tribal Class destroyers, H.M.C.S. Haida among them, and in Iceland he had seen H.M.C.S. Skeena wrecked, and the survivors and the dead brought ashore. Later, when The Toronto Star serialized one of Douglas’s novels, the American publishing world took note and offered him a contract.
Douglas visited Canada several times, on book tours and as a guest of the Royal Canadian Navy: in Halifax, R.C.N. ships were dressed overall in his honour. And on the rainy evening of June 6th, 1980, during a cross-Canada tour to promote A Ship Must Die, he gave a reading in the Brigantine Room at Toronto’s Harbourfront, where a young Canadian woman in the audience stood up and asked him a question he couldn’t answer.
Maybe he felt, as I did, the hand of fate touch him that evening. He invited me to write to him, and my letters sustained him as he struggled in a vortex of depression following the death of his wife in 1983. On July 9th, 1984, we met for the first time in four years in the lobby of the Royal York Hotel. Later that evening, he asked me to marry him.
We were married at St. James’s Cathedral in Toronto on Saturday, October 5th, 1985. The vicar, the Reverend David Bousfield, was a Royal Canadian Navy reservist, as was the verger. Douglas was signing copies of his books for Father Bousfield in the vestry just before I arrived.
For thirty-one years we were inseparable. He considered himself an honorary Canadian, and he was always very proud of his ‘Canadian girl’. His relationship with the R.C.N. and his Canadian readers remained close; he always wore a Canadian poppy in November, and when we observed the silence at home on Remembrance Day the Maple Leaf always hung from the upstairs window beside the White Ensign in memory of all those who had served.
We were always there for him, we Canadians. Until the last second of his life, when I held his hand as he left me. But he lives on in his books, and I keep him in my heart. With my country.
Christmas Eve my husband, David, had a grand mal seizure while doing last minute shopping in the mall. The event was so violent that he sustained two compression fractures of his thoracic spine, and cuts on his head took fourteen stitches to close. “Stress and sleep deprivation,” were what the neurologist determined to be the cause.
When he returned to work, with the scars still raw, he was fired. “Restructuring,” the CEO chose to call it.
After David recovered I said, “Dear, you wanted to cross an ocean. This is your chance. You have the boat. You’re back in good health. And you’ve now got the time. You can look for a new job when you get back.” Then I suddenly added, “And I’ll go too,” surprising us both.
By Day Eight on our passage to Caiscais, Portugal: we had snagged a rogue fishing net that pulled the engine off its mounts; David had to dive into the choppy Atlantic for almost an hour to cut the net loose; we were taking on water through the stuffing box; we had entered a Nortada along the western coast of Europe causing our weather cloths to tear, our radar reflector and courtesy flag halyards to break free, and monstrous seas to develop; and Inia was losing a nautical mile, or a minute of latitude, in the strong south setting current every time we checked.
David, as skipper, felt responsible for the safety of his vessel, Inia, and the welfare of his crew, non-sailor me.
“Stress and Sleep Deprivation.” Was another seizure in the making? I seriously feared so!
This was just one of the many challenges we faced in our 11,000 nautical mile, year-long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic. As they say, adversity introduces one to oneself. We also learned that the rougher the passage, the more joyful the landfall.
My memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press 2019), is the story of my improbable adventure on the high seas and my profound journey within, through which I grew to believe there is no gift more previous than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing … sometimes, at least.
With no affinity for the sea and not a single adventure-seeking bone in her body, Sue Williams headed off into the North Atlantic in the wake of a perfect storm of personal events. Two things were clear to her: her sons were adults and needed freedom to figure things out for themselves, and it was now or never for her husband to realize his dream to cross an ocean under sail.
The Waterfront BIA featured us in this great video. If you’ve never been in to the store or met Ross or Dorothy, this is a great introduction to the bookstore. Huge thanks to Sasha Smith at the Waterfront BIA for this amazing work.
The Collision Regulations are an important document for anybody who uses the water- they are the international rules of the road. They are critical knowledge for anybody who works on a ship’s bridge, and required knowledge for most Transport Canada Tickets. In this blog, we’ll talk about what books we recommend for studying the Collision Regulations- and for dealing with the Canadian Modifications.
The Canadian Modifications were created by the federal government when the international regulations were incorporated into law. They are changes to the code- in some places, they are simplifications, and in others, they add complexity. As an example of the latter, the international code has three simple signals for ships to communicate their steering intentions to each other when passing, or overtaking. 1 Blast: That ships will alter course to starboard, to pass each other on the port side- or that an overtaking ship will overtake to starboard. 2 Blasts: That ships will alter course to port (and with a similar change for overtaking 3 Blasts: This means that a ship has put its engines astern.
This is a *very* simple system- and can be used by mariners of any nation.
However, in the Canadian modifications, ships can also call each other on the Bridge-to-Bridge channel to discuss their plans. This is not in the international regulations, and was inserted by the Canadian government. This applies especially in the Great Lakes region. This can create confusion- especially with the growth of non-native English speaker as ships’ crew on the Great Lakes.
It is important to know the Canadian modifications- because they modify the light and sound signals required for various sized vessels in different weather conditions. Further, there are many modifications that apply specifically to the Great Lakes. The Collision Regulations can be downloaded from here, and softcover copies can be ordered from us.
Necessary as the official Canadian Modifications are for studying, the printed legislation is not the most conducive way to learn or to study collision regulations. Here are some of our recommendations
This is part of the excellent DOKMAR series (Which also includes books on Ship Stability, Ships’ Electrical Systems and Ship Knowledge). This book doesn’t so much have written explanation of all the rules, but uses illustrations images. So this book is very good for actually picturing situations described in the official document.
This is part of the excellent Macneil’s pocketbook series. This book is not so much for *teaching* collision regulation as it is for quizzing/testing afterwards. It includes both written questions and questions based on visual aids and situations. This book is broken down into ‘tests’ (not based on practice tests, but sets of questions’.
The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of The Road
The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road is a similar kind of document (in terms of a mix of written and visual things), but is definitely a book for *teaching* the rules of the road as well as testing. In addition to the textbook aspect, the last section of the book also includes the text of the interational regulations. This is also up to date, including the amendments that came into force in 2016.
I never really expected to find myself on a 43-foot sailboat in the middle of the North Atlantic, but sometimes these things just happen. I was living in a tiny condo in Waterloo when I met Chris and decided to quit my job, sell everything I owned, and sail away with him.
The first time Chris took me out, I’d never been on a sailboat before, was baffled by all the ropes, as I called them, not knowing a sheet from a halyard. Chris had me take the wheel as we motored out of the harbour and went forward to remove the sail cover. I watched him working on the foredeck.
“Ready to raise sail?” he asked.
“What do I do?”
“Just keep the boat pointing into the wind.”
I could do that. In no time, he had the mainsail up. It fluttered weakly in the gentle breeze. So this is sailing? He came back and took the helm, and as we rounded the lighthouse and left the shelter of the harbour, the sail suddenly filled with wind and we picked up speed. He handed me a rope—“Make sure that feeds out and doesn’t get caught on anything, especially your foot” — and reached over and unfurled what I now know is the genoa, sheeting it in with one hand as he steered.
Then he switched the engine off and the only sound you could hear was water rushing along the hull and the occasional cry of a gull. We were galloping through the sparkling blue water, wind in our hair. Free, I thought. I’m free.
“You like it?” he asked.
“I love it.”
Two years later I found myself at anchor in a sandy bay on the southeastern tip of Antigua, making lunch while Chris gave the bottom a final scrub before setting out to sail to the Azores, a passage of roughly 2,300 miles.
Sure I was apprehensive—who wouldn’t be? Okay, maybe slightly terrified is more like it. But after the first few days of easy sailing, I began to relax, to savour the feeling of being stretched out in the cockpit, water chuckling along the side of the hull, a gentle breeze wafting over me. The morning sun was shining right through the broad yellow and green stripes of the spinnaker, bathing the cockpit in soft, warm light.
Of course the easy sailing didn’t last. We’d been out about a week when the weather began to deteriorate—and so did my courage. Then it got worse. Just two days before making landfall in the Azores we were clobbered by not one but two big gales. On the morning of the third day, the wind died, and as it started to get light, the island of Flores emerged from the gloom. I felt a surge of pride. I did it! I sailed all the way across the North Atlantic. Not too bad for an accidental sailor.
I’ve just written a book about my first ocean crossing. Sea Over Bow, it’s called, and it’s for anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to sail across an ocean. It’s an adventure story, but it’s also about finding the courage to begin again.
The decision to write All The Oceans was influenced by my involvement with the University of Auckland Engineering Department creating a Masters of Yacht Engineering program. The most frequently asked question from students was “How did you do it?” All The Oceans is my response.
I did not pursue what is now considered the conventional way to become a yacht designer. The combination of a fascination with voyages of exploration under sail, a natural talent for drawing and a three-year apprenticeship in a wood boat fabrication shop laid the foundation for me to strike out on my own. Without hesitation, I grasped every opportunity that came my way.
All The Oceans: Designing by the seat of my pants describes how I did it.
Ron embarked on a nautical journey five decades ago, from his native New Zealand, to numerous stops along the way before settling in Canada. He began his boat design career in San Francisco before spending 40 years in Ireland, where in 1973, he established Ron Holland Design. There he met a Canadian who wanted to return home, and Ron decided that it was time for a change.
As he writes in All The Oceans: “My new office overlooked Coal Harbour, the downtown marina near Vancouver’s main commercial port: through the windows I had a clear view of boats moored at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club marina, and beyond, of the snow-capped peaks of Cypress Mountain. It’s a dramatic but calming location, and I was looking forward to another phase of my life.”
It was, however, a stressful life, and in 2012 he suffered a stroke. Yet it too opened up new possibilities.
“Thinking it through further, I would do other things with my life, fulfilling long-buried desires. I would read more. I would teach. I would take piano lessons, as I had in my teens with my mother’s encouragement. I would do more drumming, which would also have the bonus of restoring some of the dexterity in my left hand. In short, I would start a new life in Vancouver-and I did,” he recounts in the book.
Ron wrote All The Oceans to inspire others. This latest chapter — settling in Vancouver, BC (where he eventually moved his office to Granville Island from Coal Harbour) was indeed a new start. After writing his memoir, promoting the book would lead him to revisit old haunts all over the world, reconnect with old friends and regale audiences on how he established an award winning international design company also including colourful nautical tales culled from a life of adventure.
The Nautical Mind Bookstore is looking for a new crew member to work a couple of days a week, including weekends, starting in October extending ideally for several years, depending on circumstances.
The job involves helping customers in the store, on the phone, and online find the right books, charts, and cruising guides for their needs, and getting said items to them. Detailed knowledge of boats, books, the implacable heart of the sea, and navigation would be a great boon, as would a facility and comfort with computers, and an ability to learn and problem solve, specifically with respect to fiendish logistical problems. An interest in writing blog posts and/or engaging in social media would be nice but isn’t mandatory, as would comfort around scrappy little sea dogs.
The Nautical Mind is a positive and inclusive workspace where the traits, skills, and contributions of all are acknowledged and respected. It’s a unique local niche bookstore focussed on a deeply fascinating subject matter.