1925... that's the year some French boat carpenters built Vent Debout.
I wanted this visit to be part of a whole journey of discovery, not a "quick back and forth Vancouver - Victoria ferry ride, business like, in and out, hands shake and we move on to the next thing" experience. No I wanted to take the time to imagine how this encounter will be, how she'll show her lines, her strength, coziness, her experience accumulated on various seas for the last 92 years. I could imagine her on one of the Channel's harbour during the 2nd World War. Yes I wanted to build some sort of binding with her for the time I'll be on board.
I came across this 31' French Cutter while browsing the Victoria based Sail and Life Training Society (SALTS) web site for sail boats for sale. The vessels they receive are ultimately sold with the proceeds going to keep the training programs aboard the Pacific Swift and Pacific Grace affordable for young people or for capital projects.
After getting in touch with John Andrachuk, from SALTS, we agreed to meet in order for me to pay a visit to this old lady and see if we could foresee a future together...
On July the 20th, I parked my car into the Tsawwassen ferry terminal short stay parking, took my bike, paid and with no waiting time was on board en route to Swartz Bay. The ferry ride started this slow approach. Every time I'm on a ferry, even for a short ride, there's something special about it: the feeling of leaving, going somewhere, starting exploring. I feel free. The horn blowed at full blast reminded everybody we were going and for an hour and a half we sailed accros the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Galiano came first with its small "S shape" Strait between Main island where you can feel the ferry leaning at at each curve and when there're ferries in this Strait, better letting them the priority...
Then a quick sail along Salt Spring island and we docked at Swartz Bay, roughly 30 km from downtown Victoria where Vent Debout stayed. A 2 hours bike ride across the country side and along the coast reinforced this feeling of building up a great future encounter.
The Lochside Trails literally allows to arrive right in the harbour, in downtown Victoria. A quick bite and I met John. Off we went, on the dock to see the Lady... and here she was, by herself, calmly enjoying her stay in the city.
She's not a very tall vessel, once on board, we feel cozy and confortable. It's the type of boat where long evenings, anchored in a little cove, are fueled with serenity. Wood for that is magical, you can feel it, smell it, Vent Debout has been really well taken care of. John presented the various technical aspects and then, as a fine connoisseur, he let me alone with the boat for as long as I wanted.
It felt good sitting, looking at all the details, imagining where we could go and how. Dreaming of all the small coves along the West coasts of Vancouver island on the way to Alaska. When I had enough, we had a good chat with John where I came back on earth, on the reel ground of what it would be to own and take care of a wooden boat. It was for me the start of a process, Vent Debout was my first encounter as a potential futur owner of a classic boat, I had to think, balance and I would shortly know if we will sail together.
For now, I had to get going on the bike to catch the 5:00pm ferry. A whole day almost went by with the joy of having been able to take the time.
Time is a luxury we said, on my way home I felt like a rich man.
Editor-in-chief and founder of the Frenchman Mag.