Having worked for Whitehall for over a year and half now, the time had come (and I finally found the time) for my partner and I to take a boat out for an extended cruise, complete with camping gear, food, water, beverages, etc., for the Canada Day long weekend in July. Even the forecast looked favorable with sun, warm temperatures, and moderate winds.
As a bit of background, I grew up in Ontario and as a kid I was fortunate to spend a lot of time on the bays and inlets of the Great Lakes but I hadn’t spent much time out on the open ocean dealing with three metre tides and especially the currents and eddies they create in and around the Gulf Islands here on the west coast of British Columbia. Tide tables in hand, my partner (she’d only been rowing about five times with me but is a crazy strong cyclist) and I launched the Whitehall Spirit Tango 17 from Cattle Point on the southeastern tip of Victoria, BC.
Our destination was a small island that is part of Gulf Islands National Park. It is only accessible by boat and has no inhabitants other than deer, raccoons, and mice we came to find. Because it has only seven campsites, and that it was so beautiful and secluded, my partner and I are sworn to secrecy as to its name and location… though we can be bribed with chocolate. Suffice it to say we rowed for about three and a half hours to reach our destination, including a break for lunch. The boat rowed beautifully, and even loaded with all our gear there was still plenty of freeboard. The Tango 17 tracked extremely well in all conditions.
We arrived on the island on Friday evening with plenty of daylight to set up camp, do a bit of exploring, and have a leisurely dinner. At that point we were the only people on the island. By Saturday, eight others had kayaked over in two separate groups and our Tango 17 was certainly a standout in the fleet of vessels pulled up above the high tide line. “Oh, you’re the couple that rowed over!” “Cool boat!”
Saturday was another day of exploring, lazing in the sun on deserted beaches, and enjoying the views and solitude of the island. Sunday we awoke to mirror calm waters. After a lazy breakfast, we packed up our gear and began our journey back. At one point, we were rowing over smooth, long period rollers about a metre high – it was like rowing up and down hills. Rounding Ten Mile Point, things changed dramatically as the west winds came strong right at us from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, making the last 3-4 kms more challenging. Wind, chop, and an incoming tide slowed our progress. By that point we had been rowing for almost three hours and were beginning to tire. True to form our Tango 17 lived up to its billing as an “all-water rowboat” and got us safely into the protected confines of Oak Bay, and into the marina without a drop of water in the boat, and callouses on our hands well earned!
Altogether we rowed about seven and a half hours and I’d have to say row-camping was extremely comfortable. Plenty of capacity and easy access to gear, using our legs for most of our power, and the ability move about a bit when we needed a break… the trip was truly as much about getting there as being there. We could easily see spending a week or more doing an island hopping rowing adventure in the Tango 17. We are already planning our next expedition row.