An excerpt from Chapter 2: The Best and Worst of Days, pages 30 and 31
From FINDING PAX: the unexpected journey of a little wooden boat
by Kaci Cronkhite, for readers of Small Craft Advisor
DURING THE HOUR’S DRIVE to Port Angeles and the hour-and-a-half Black Ball Ferry crossing to Victoria, Adam answered questions, offered advice, and quelled my nerves. Outside the ferry terminal, in welcome contrast to the horde of tourists, stood a young man with a fuzzy beard, a fisherman’s cap, and glasses. It had to be the owner, Derk Wolmuth. When he raised a hand, I waved, and within seconds we were on our way to see Pax.
His car smelled like wood smoke and was cluttered in a familiar sailor’s way with tools, rope, books, and bags. I crawled into the backseat, giving Adam the extra leg room as Derk passed around a bag of fresh-steamed salmon buns. His thoughtfulness and the warm local food put us all at ease.
As we made the half-hour trip across the peninsula together, the guys talked wooden boats while I listened, contemplating my decision and watching the British stone formality and urban buzz of Victoria’s inner harbor give way to the open, arty, tree-lined streets of Oak Bay.
Through a clearing in the trees, I spotted sailboat masts and the rocky headlands of Cadboro Bay. The sun was hot on my face when we got out of the car at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where Derk had Pax moored.
The bay was warmer than Port Townsend, protected from winds in three directions. Only a slight current of tide and whisper of wind nudged the mooring buoys. Otherwise, all was peaceful. Still as a picture.
As we waited for the club’s security gate to open, conversation stopped. I scanned the docks, expecting to see Pax. Derk pointed out into the center of the bay.
Of course. She was unmistakable. The reflection of her tall wooden mast extended toward us like a ribbon on the water.
We followed him to an empty slip marked “RVYC Guest” and waited while he went to get the boat.
As he rowed away, I took a wide-angle picture of the bay with my phone, then zoomed in for a second shot. As I framed him in the foreground and Pax beyond, his face was hidden in shadow, and something else, maybe his posture, made it feel too private a moment. I lowered my camera and instead watched the perfect line of the wake of his rowboat and the even pattern of his strokes on the water.
From what I heard on the drive and could see in his easy manner, he had been rowing and sailing boats his whole life. Now, when he got to Pax, he shipped an oar and put one hand on her cap rail to stop, then crossed the oars and stepped aboard her with the fluidity of a lifelong mariner.
With him in view onboard her, I finally had perspective. She was larger than I thought.