Sea Biscuit - The Saga Continues click "comment" to read or make an observation about this  article - click "email" to send this page to a friend
By Kristofer J. "Harley" Harlson - Lynnwood, Washington - USA

As you all know, Sea Biscuit's first attempt at taking on the sea has ended at just that, Sea Biscuit taking on sea. As we were approaching Tofino B.C. for our launch, we hit a stretch of road along Kennedy Lake that was in ill repair. We were going around a corner and hit a huge pothole that broke one of the wooden supports on the trailer. Sea Biscuit fell on her side on the trailer and as she fell, her keel was damaged along the bottom, a condition that went undetected until later. We used a scissors jack to right her and built a new support that held her up till we launched her. My ground crew returned to the U.S. while I positioned Sea Biscuit at her mooring. I was exhausted after preparing to depart the States and was unable to sleep on the journey up to Tofino, so I settled down into her bunk and got a good nights rest.

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Sea Biscuit at her mooring in Tofino BC.

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While I was preparing to leave my home, most of Sea Biscuit's supplies were thrown into the boat rather haphazardly. It was now time to pull everything out and rearrange it with the heaviest items in the bottom of the boat, working toward the lighter items as she filled up. I began to empty her starboard rear compartment, placing items up on the deck and then transferring them to the dock as the deck filled up. I had the compartment about 2/3rds empty and was reaching in for another item to place on the deck. My fingertips probed for something to grab and instead, felt something that they should not be experiencing…. WATER! I pulled out one of my lifeboat packs of food and sure enough, the bottom half was wet and dripping. This was not a good development. I emptied the rest of the compartment onto the dock and then I exited the boat and stood staring at Sea Biscuit contemplating my next move.

I ended up spending more time talking to folks passing by and inquiring as to the purpose of the strange little craft bobbing at her moorings. By the time I had told our story ten or twelve times and answered the usual barrage of questions, I finally sat down on the dock and contemplated our predicament and was no closer to a solution. I had not really had time to fully investigate the damage yet and so far had only time to discover water in the one compartment. I was at this point still convinced that the water must have been entering through the lowest screw holes that held on her rudder. This was what I had reported to people passing by and the response was quickly reported on the web, resulting in what constituted a false assessment of the damage quickly commented on by the watchers at Duckworks Magazine.

I discovered that my ground crew had departed with my caulking gun and my bailing sponge so I walked into town to replace them. I now discovered that there was a tremendous difference in the price of things at home and the price of the same items in a small tourist trap on an Island. A sponge that would cost ten cents at home from a bag of ten at the dollar store now cost three dollars. The cheapest caulking gun I could find was sixteen dollars, and a tube of 3M 5200 Sealant was so expensive that I didn’t buy a caulking gun at all, hoping to find someone on one of the other boats I could borrow one from. A very kind gentleman, Paul Gowers of Catface Charters based in Tofino quickly came to the rescue, giving me a caulking gun that was a bit bent from a mishap but after straightening the handle a bit, it was serviceable. I set to removing the screws from the lower rudder hinges, squirting sealant in the screw holes and behind the hingeplates and screwing them back on.

Paul Gower of Catface Charters, (lower right) who would later take Harley on a complimentary fishing expedition, provided a caulking gun.

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I set to bailing out the last of the seawater from the starboard rear compartment and drying it out while I began to remove more items from the other compartments. It was then that I discovered more water; the problem was more extensive than I had first imagined. I inquired about utilizing the crane at the end of the pier to lift Sea Biscuit out of the water and place her on the dock while I investigated further. A straight lift, I was told, was sixty dollars but the facility didn’t have the slings that could hold Sea Biscuit and lift her out. I decided to inquire about beaching her on the property across from her mooring but was told that if I put Sea Biscuit there, the guy who owned the property would probably greet me with the RCMP and a team of lawyers. I would be best off setting her on the adjacent property, which “belonged to the Queen”. I figured I would be done before the Queen found out about me so I paddled Sea Biscuit over and tied her to a post and waited for the tide to go out. I didn’t feel like trying to work in the dark so I waited through two tide cycles before I could inspect her and attempt to do repairs.

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The grounded Sea Biscuit awaits high tide.

I initially figured on using underwater epoxy to seal her up once I found the problem, but I couldn’t get Sea Biscuit dry enough on the bottom to find the leak between the tides. Before I could dry her out, the tide was already rising again. It was now that I made the decision to take her home on the trailer. It would allow proper repairs with more cloth and epoxy and wouldn’t use up underwater epoxy intended for emergency repairs at sea, but I had now lost my window. The Mexican hurricane season was already starting, and I had already wasted too much time. I called my Wife, Chuck at Duckworks Magazine, and David of The Captain Humphreys Project and told them the sad news. We had lost our chance at a 2006 departure.

I was informed that the Hubbub at home had already started. The I-Told-You-So’ers on the Web were having a heyday, I was eating crow, and back on the dock in Tofino, the crows were eating my supplies. Our first attempt had ended in ruin, even before I could get the supplies set low enough to step the masts. What’s more, the high costs of living in Tofino had eaten our reserve funds and we had not even the money to get me home. Ken Gibson of Tofino had been keeping everyone abreast of developments and Chuck at Duckworks Magazine had started a relief fund. My dear friends on the Web were quick to react and before long my sister had donated $500 and with additional contributions, more that $1000 had been sent to my bank account. The humble pie still sour in my mouth, I began to try to coordinate the return of Sea Biscuit to Lynnwood, WA to begin repairs, and I contacted my job to arrange my return to work.

Ken Gibson at Sea Biscuit's moorage. Ken, with abundant kindness and generosity, was the guy who I was told would "have his lawyers at me" if I were to beach on his land.

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While I was in Tofino, I met a gentleman by the name of Dennis Koender who owned and lived on a Chinese Junk with his family. Dennis had found on the dock, wet cold and shivering, a Frenchman by the name of Romain Turnier whom he befriended immediately. The Frenchman Turnier made me a gift of the mouth-powered horn he used while he was kayaking the oceans. Romain also showed me the charts that were used to navigate his Kayak all the way up the Canadian coast; a set of crude maps torn from a guidebook. Romain Turnier has traveled all over the world by bicycle and kayak and keeps a website of his adventures. I found him to be a brave and adventurous soul, deserving much more praise than my mere mention of him has been. I will look forward to following his adventures on his website, though being in French, I will have to use a crude web-based translator, being the illiterate ignoramus I am.

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French adventurer extraordinare, Romain Turnier, towers over Dennis Koenders and son aboard their Chinese Junk.

Turnier also took my photograph and promised to post it on his website when he is able to get to a computer, along with a photograph of the Survival Tablets I gave him for use on his journey.

As of today, (September 5th, 2006) I am at home. Sea Biscuit still sits at her moorings in Tofino and a few boxes of supplies are in storage at one of Ken Gibson’s facilities. The trailer had been returned to its rightful owner, and my ground crew had to work the weekend so I came home without my boat. I will have to make another journey up to Tofino to fetch her in a month or so. I learned that she only takes on about 4 inches of water and then begins to float on her closed-cell foam insulation. She’ll be fine until I can go back up to get her.

In the meanwhile, I am back at the drawing board designing a deeper keel, a new rudder, and perhaps even a new deck arrangement. The next time Sea Biscuit and I take to the sea, she’ll be fully tested, and I’ll be able to get a couple days rest before I depart.

I wish to thank all of you who helped us when we were stranded, and I promise each and everyone of you that we will still be making our journey around the world. We plan to try again in late May or early June of next year.