Sea Biscuit - The Saga Continues
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.
at her mooring in Tofino BC.
images to enlarge)
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.
of Catface Charters, (lower right) who would
later take Harley on a complimentary fishing
expedition, provided a caulking gun.
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.
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.
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.
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. https://turnier2006.eigsi.fr
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.
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 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.