By Roy L Hales
The SMURFETTE reached Squirrel Cove about 1 PM on Wednesday, August 21. According to a crew member, it is one of the catamarans battling it out for the lead. The last of the small boats arrived over the course of the next three hours. They are mid-way in the 2019 Barefoot Raid around Cortes Island.
Origins of The 2019 Barefoot Raid
On their website, the event organizers state they were inspired by “Norseman in their longboats; soggy, determined Haida in their war canoes; and sun-baked Island-hopping Polynesians … As long as people have been taking boats out on the water, groups of boaters have been plying oar and sail, for adventure, exploration, and to visit mayhem on their neighbouring communities.”
A group of small boat enthusiasts from Gabriola Island started holding “raids” in 2005. These early events inspired the better known Race to Alaska (R2AK)
The 2019 Barefoot Raid is a 102 nautical mile event that started at Heriot Bay, Quadra Island on Aug 18. Participants stopped overnight at Carrington Bay, Penn Island, Squirrel Cove, Cortes Bay, Mansons Landing and Shark Spit. They finally return to Open Bay, Quadra Island, on Aug 25th.
2019 Round Marine Island Race
This is the third race in our waters since August 13. Heather and Dan Drugge’s 16-foot-long wooden dingy MIRROR MIRROR participated in every event.
“We set out from Heriot Bay on the Tuesday before [the Barefoot Raid] so that we could participate in two other races. One is called the Round Marina Island Race. The other is called the August Full Moon Regatta,” said Heather.
“The first race was actually amazing for us because we actually ended up winning – because there was no wind! We were competing against boats that were 30 and 40 foot long. I think there were only a couple of smaller boats in that race … We actually beat the two trimarans … because on the round Marina race you can actually decide which way you go around the island. Tactically speaking, that is a pretty huge decision. They decided to go one way, we went the other and in the end I think we beat them because of the current.”
2019 August Full Moon Regatta
She was not as fortunate in the August Full Moon Regatta, which started at Shark Spit on Marina Island.
“There were probably thirty boats in that race. They were bigger and there was more wind. We came in tenth, which is pretty good for the size of boat that we are and we were happy with that.”
“The interesting thing for me, about the races, is the collection of people that show up. It is such a crazy, nutty collection of boats and then very boaty people. We’ve probably been doing trips up and down the coast for thirty years. I have never not done this, but now we meet people that do it as well … which is super nice.”
She mentioned a ceremony in which each of the first ten boats were given prizes, which seemed to consist of “whatever you might have found inside your cupboard that day.”
“Everybody was happy for everybody. It doesn’t really matter if you won or didn’t win. It’s just super fun and there is a potluck as well … Everybody brings food and , obviously, we did not have a lot to contribute, but some people had amazing things. It is a super great way to celebrate the full moon in August.
One of the organizers, Hubert Havelaar once told me about a special ceremony. Participants salute the setting sun with a glass of wine and then go to the other side of the spit to salute the rising full moon.
“Maybe they did it, but we were already on our boat because we were worried about the weather. We were scooting back into the Gorge [across from Shark Spit, on Cortes Island] because we were worried about the weather. There was supposed to be 25 [knot winds] blowing. We really can’t stay out in that.”
The 2019 Barefoot Raid Sets Out
The MIRROR MIRROR returned to Quadra to join the August 2019 Barefoot Raid. Ten sailing craft set out from Rebecca Spit on August 18. Each vessel was at least 16 feet long, yet small enough to be legally transported on a highway.
The event was organized by Quill Goldman, who was raised on Marina Island and lived there until he was in grade four. Now a Gabriola Island resident, he has competed in numerous raids over the years and won the race to Alaska in 2015.
One of the intriguing features of his boat, the DICK SMILEY, is the open concept which includes the absence of a conventional stern. Golden explained that while water does pour into the boat, it immediately drains out the back. Intrigued, I asked if he was soaked during the Alaska race. Yes he admitted, but because of the rain – not waves.
The Only All Woman Crew
The only all woman crew on the raid had a serious mishap the night before setting out.
“We broke a spar before we even hit the water. We drove it into some branches … It was a pretty sickening crack … There were about six people watching and … We were pretty heart sick. That was 7 PM, on Sunday night,” says Tobi “the Dread” Elliot.
If it were not for Ehle “the Red” Black’s partner, that would have been the end of their race.
“We got a piece of wood and my partner Mitch carved it into the core of the mast. He made it into an octagon with whatever tools we could scavenge in the campground … Mitch worked until midnight … it fit most of the way up to where we cracked it and then we just epoxied it and used a whole roll of guerrilla tape,” she explained.
“It held up in 20 – 25 knot winds. Like we actually sailed in some pretty good weather … Our new mast looks a little makeshift, brutal, and not as pretty as she once was – but it’s functional,” adds Tobi.
This is Ehle’s first trip and a learning experience.
Their boat, the RED SEA URCHIN, has consistently placed last during the first three days of the race. Undaunted, the two women are rigging up a spinnaker which they hope will change their fortune.
Eric Tirion & The “HEJIRA”
The next boat I approached had a pair of outriggers. I was tempted to step onto the one holding the HEJIRA off from the wharf, but was intimidated by its small size. Instead, I held my mic out across the water.
“My name is Eric and this is an Angus sailing row cruiser that I built over the winter – just for this event. Last year I was in a boat that wasn’t suitable and had to quit half way through,” the owner explained.
One of the highlights of his race was sighting the humpback whales breaching off Rebecca Spit on Day One. Another is the communal meals, which include things like pulled pork and tacos.
As for the race: “I’ve been duelling with MIRROR MIRROR. We seem pretty evenly matched. Yesterday they beat me by about 100 feet … They weren’t first. We were about mid pack, but we’ve had great duels coming all the way down the channel yesterday. It was great fun.”
Highlights So Far
I asked the crew of the SEA URCHIN about the highlights of their trip.
“Last night was the prettiest night. We tucked in at Redonda Bay, behind Deception Rock and we wrapped it up to the half sunk wharf. We picked blackberries, had a beach fire and beach coffee in the morning. The sky was all grey and blue and black and purple. It was just epic. You are looking through the gap in the mountains and going just ‘ah, wow!” said Ehle.
They arrived at Squirrel Cove sometime between 4 and 5.
“We were last. Quill’s boat got in about 1 PM.” [Which means he is a contender.]
Leading The Pack
In every race there is a winner. I found one of the crew from the leading catamaran on the beach beside the government wharf at Squirrel Cove. Troy Jungen said the SMURFETTE and CHEESE are duelling for first and second. With a good wind, they can reach speeds of 15-20 knots.
“It’s really fast when you are about three feet above the water …The natural power of the wind is an exhilarating thing to feel … The race uses a point system. Whoever has the least points at the very end wins,” he explained.
So where is his boat, the SMURFETTE, in the standsings right now?
“Right now we are holding first.”
A Casual Affair
Jungen said the race is pretty casual really. Every day they race for two legs, each about two to three hours long.
“The raid concept is really great. We stick together after the race, eat together in the ROCK – the big mothership out there. It is a great way to spend time with new friends and get into the real Cortes.”
The boats will most likely have spent the night before this program airs at Mansons Landing. They will reach Shark Spit on Saturday night. The race ends at Open Bay, on Quadra Island, Sunday, August 25th.
Top photo credit: The ROCK- mothership for the 2019 Barefoot Raid – Roy L Hales photo