How much stuff can you stuff on a boat?


Marike considers our new fishing gear–and our advisor at the Harbour Chandlery

Dog days of May

How much stuff can you stuff on a boat? That’s always the question when you’re preparing for a big voyage.  There are all sorts of places to hide things on a boat—we find the extra box of band-aids or the candles or the strobing flashlights or the haircutting scissors or the mosquito coils by tearing everything apart and searching in every compartment. Then we “systematize”—a place for everything, and each thing in its place–but with both of us going at it, and at least 35 or 40 places to stow what we’ve brought aboard, things sometimes still do get lost.

By the time we arrived in Nanaimo, we knew we were not going to be going into Vancouver to provision.  There was, literally, no room at the inn, no place to put the boat in the metro area.  One of the yacht clubs was putting in new pilings, and so its boats were taking dock space elsewhere; besides, one voice at the other end of the phone explained when we called around looking for a space, the weather had been so bad that no one was out sailing yet. Really?  We’d been out for a month in that “bad weather” and found it glorious…

So the plan changed, as plans on the water do. We’d provision in Nanaimo and then head across the Georgia Strait into Howe Sound to meet up with Vancouver-based friends.  And so we did.


Beach on Newcastle Island, Nanaimo Harbour. Mountains behind Vancouver in the distance, across Georgia Strait

What a scramble.  Lists, more lists, consultations, and then we loaded everything we imagined we might need over the course of the next three months in the north from fuel and water to a fishing rod to kilo sacks of powdered milk, tubs of powdered Gatorade, boxes of wine, beer, a fishing license, the charts for our voyage north up the central coast and across to Haida Gwaii, and then down the outside of Vancouver Island (huge rolls of charts, more than 50 charts in all), flour, rolls of aluminum foil, dish soap, laundry detergent, sponges, trash bags, masses of batteries in D and AA sizes, peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, yeast, pasta, olives, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, beans, rice, quinoa, couscous, canned beans, boxes of soy milk, juices, salsa, mustard, energy bars, body lotion, toothpaste, mouthwash, B vitamins, chips, crackers, granolas, pancake and brownie mixes, olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, dried tomatoes, mushrooms and hot peppers, bags of onions & garlic & oranges, apples, many kinds of cheeses and sausages that don’t need to be refrligerated so long as you keep them cool, potatoes, carrots, eggs, teas, cookies, artichoke hearts, capers, Realemon and Realime (for when we’re really out of range of fresh produce), ground flax, maple syrup, ginger, dried fruits and nuts of every description, lots of chocolate and several kilo bags of coffee…and then some fresh things.  Some chicken and turkey sausages, bacon, frozen black Alaska cod, and frozen edamame filled our microscopic freezer; we added a few tubs of yoghurt to the fridge and we were ready.  A big shout out to our friends Jay and Anita, who live in Nanaimo. We’d met on a beach in Mexico two years ago, and when we showed up in their back yard they were kind enough to drive us to Costco. No way we could have done this without them!

Are we ready? Well, as ready as we can be. The pocket book is aching, but we won’t go hungry.  We’ve added another ton to our ballast, and every cupboard and drawer and pocket of space behind the cushions is filled up. We’ve strapped extra jugs of diesel and water to the stern and we are beginning to dream of the voyage–or voyages–to come…


View of the Georgia Strait from Newcastle Island, Nanaimo Harbour

29 May 2012, Nanaimo, notes from Karin’s journal:

Awake at 4:30 am: blue sky, light streaming through the hatch and port lights.  I’m jittery with anticipation and convoluted dreams of passages through the long winding canyons for which we bought charts yesterday—of the “Central Mainland” above the Broughtons, towards Bella Bella and Prince Rupert—islands and steep river canyons, fjords fingering far inland.  In my dreams I track the light—golden on hilltops, deep green spruce and cedar, steep snowy peaks, the sounds of birds echoing across the water, a spirit bear on the shore, fur flickering, as if it, too, were light.

But as soon as I am awake I begin to fret: can we trust the engine? Who needs to know where we are? Will our SSB work in those steep fjords?  Who are the people we need to keep in touch with while we are in the north? Where will we pick up water?

Then I think with some pleasure and relish of planning a voyage—the charts stacking up in the shop, 33 for the trip north, 15 for the outside of Vancouver Island, and 4 more that map dealer has to order in for the morning.  Rolls and rolls of places to visit hidden away, each revealing itself, like the vista before you, as you approach and then pass through it.  So many charts I could not carry them back to the dinghy all at once. 

About Karin Cope

Karin Cope lives on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. She is a poet, sailor, photographer, scholar, rural activist, blogger and an Associate Professor at NSCAD University. Her publications include Passionate Collaborations: Learning to Live with Gertrude Stein, a poetry collection entitled What we're doing to stay afloat, and, since 2009, a photo/poetry blog entitled Visible Poetry: Aesthetic Acts in Progress. Over the course of the last decade, with her partner and collaborator Marike Finlay, Cope has sailed to and conducted fieldwork in a number of remote or marginal coastal communities in British Columbia and Mexico. Their joint writings range from activist journalism and travel and policy documents, to an illustrated popular material history of the Lunenburg Foundry entitled Casting a Legend, as well as their ongoing west coast travel blog, West By East.
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