The wind for the next two days was forecast to be from the north. That made a difference because with the prevailing south-westerlies a trip up the shore to Victoria was more often than not a hard beat with the wind on the nose. With a north wind there was a chance, and just a chance mind you, that it could be more of a reach both coming and going. Victoria is a little port west on Northumberland Strait from Charlottetown and is generally a good day-sail in a Halman 20. I had visited each year since I got the boat and gave the information about the port on these pages after my first trip.
This year I was fortunate to be able to press-gang a colleague who, through storm damage to his boat had been forced ashore for most of the summer and was suffering from a bad case a sea-fever. Although he could not make the return trip he agreed to at least sail to Victoria and return by land.
We had a fine sail of it. Leaving port with wind astern and a favourable tide we crossed over the St. Peter’s spit and up along the Island turning to cross the reef just shy of the St. Peter’s buoy. The wind had picked up and we tucked a reef in the main which gave us the same speed but with a more stable ride and less heel. With a beam reach and an expert helmsman I was able to make hot coffee and snacks and got a few shots with my tiny video camera which I later edited into a short film of the trip.
Keeping well off Inman Rock the somewhat confusing entry to Victoria Harbour soon came into view. Its confusing mainly because one expects more of a defined bay but the harbour is more of a dimple in the shoreline. The sands of Tryon Shoals are spilling into the channel from the west and there is a large sandy bank on the east side of the channel. The channel itself is well-marked but the large number of buoys and an easily missed hard jog to the west as well as the narrowness and shallowness of the route require constant attention. We downed sails at the outer buoy and motored in. It would be a scary port to try to sail into under an unfavourable wind.
On my last trip I anchored off and this year I towed the dingy with us in anticipation of a lack of space at the wharf. There are still a number of working fishing boats still operating out of Victoria and a couple of resident power boats as well. I don’t relish snuggling up to a high steel wharf with tide changing overnight and needing to shift lines. Luckily there was a spot at the floating wharf and with our shallow draft we could rest there without going aground. We had been less than 6 1/2 hours port to port.
After a drink in the pub it was time for my colleague to depart and I was left to re-explore the wonders of Victoria on my own. It is a very much a tourist town although the fabric of the village speaks to a prosperous past. My great-grandfather had a general store here which has since become a seasonal chocolate factory. Other former business have had a similar fate. There are four restaurants in the Village but all close early. The pub was closed by 7:00 (drinking apparently must be done in the privacy of one’s own home) and the last restaurant closed its doors at 8:00. By that time the village was deserted and the main entertainment was to sit at the end of the wharf and wait for the tiny red and green pricks of light on the buoys to start twinkling.
The next morning was flat calm but by the time I reached the outermost buoy the breeze had started and I was soon able to turn the helm over to Otto the pilot and read my book and listen to Radio Canada, punctuated by VHF calls to and from Sydney Coast Guard. By the time I reached the St. Peter’s reef the wind had risen to near 20 knots. Otto had long since been sent below and I had switched to the working jib and a reefed main. Turning near St. Peter’s buoy I began a long hard slog directly into the wind which had whipped up waves against the opposing tide. Not an inch of progress was made without tacking to and fro and it was a relief to steal into the Harbour. Even with the work of beating into the waves the high wind gave me good boat speed (well … good for the tubby little sloop that is the Halman) and the return trip took only about 9 hours. The tacking had added about 25% to the distance sailed and about 2 1/2 hours to the passage time.