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BOATING WITH BARB: Buddy boats reduce the risk while travelling in unfamiliar waters

‘Boat buddies’ Jonathon Rothwell on K’adalawi handing the tow-line to Willie Thomson on Sisu. Photo by Barbara Thomson


You’ll never forget the sound of your boat’s hull hitting the rocks. In an instant, the seafloor beneath us rose from 103 feet to five feet to zero. We were watching the depth gauge as we slowly moved the boat forward to anchor in shallower water. Then bang, bang, bang. Sudden and loud. Full stop. We tried to reverse out, but it was too late. Stuck. The keel was caught. Now what?

We were in Belleisle Sound off Kingcome Inlet, a remote wilderness described by authors Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones’s Dreamspeaker Guide to the Broughtons as, “one of the most spectacular settings to drop your anchor.” But at that moment, 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 trawler’s motor power, we were easily pulled free. To anchor elsewhere and ponder some of the more unpleasant outcomes had we been sailing alone.

It’s true – there is safety in numbers. Organizing a cruise with other boaters (fondly called buddy boats) is a practical way to expand your horizons into new waters and develop your seamanship chops, while reducing some of the risk. Between four boats, we shared things like route planning through rapids to new anchorages and the culinary boundaries of sea asparagus. Either through membership in a yacht club or with family or friends, in a casual way, buddy boats come along for all or part of the trip at their own expense, in their own boats, for mutual support.

A more formal option to gain boating experience is to join a “flotilla,” a term borrowed from the military to identify a smaller number of vessels within a larger fleet. Web search “guided flotilla,” and you’ll find various local and international companies offering professionally guided excursions, some including charter boats, that vary in cost (i.e. $2,000 start) depending on the package options.

Our buddy boats not only pulled us off the rocks, but shared a pound of coffee, two garbage bags, three hair ties, radar guidance through the fog, wieners with beans, and this in summary:

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

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

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

Barb Thomson is a boating enthusiast who writes regular columns for the Comox Valley Record.

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