Jason Bode knows a thing or two about sailing. After all, he’s been doing it almost non-stop for the past 168 days.
Bode, a petty officer first class with the Royal Canadian Navy and a volunteer firefighter with Langford Fire Rescue, recently returned from a five-and-a-half month sailing trip on the tall ship HMCS Oriole, as part of Canada’s 150th birthday.
“I’ve sailed on all the war ships and all the Canadian patrol frigates. Life is sort of normal on those, where you have an office and bunk space, Oriole is such a smaller platform,” Bode said.
“It’s very close quarters, if there’s a problem, there’s a core crew that come together to fix it … It’s a totally different experience when you’re on a sailboat five feet off the water.”
On March 16, HMCS Oriole, which is a commissioned sail training vessel and the only one of its kind in the navy, departed from CFB Esquimalt. The ship sailed down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal then met with Rendez-vous 2017, a tall ships regatta that took place throughout Quebec and Atlantic Canada, before continuing on to east coast ports in Halifax, Nova Scotia and others.
There were 20 sailors, eight of whom did the full sail, while others were swapped out at various ports.
For Bode, as well as many of the other sailors, the trip was their first time sailing a tall ship – an experience that came with a huge learning curve. The first few weeks at sea were the most challenging as Bode learned about the different sails and how much wind they could take, often sailing in 40 to 55 knot winds. But within two weeks, they had no problems sailing the 102-foot-long vessel.
Crews worked in 12-hour watches – five hours during the day and seven at night. When he wasn’t sailing, Bode slept or communicated with his family via email on the ship’s one computer.
Life quickly became routine on the vessel, but the enjoyment and uniqueness of sailing, never faded. One stretch to the port in Panama was particularly breathtaking, as Bode woke to a beautiful sunrise and porpoises swimming alongside the boat.
“It was picturesque, postcard-type stuff some days,” Bode said. “The ports were awesome and sailing for Canada’s 150th and the route that we did was the chance of a lifetime.”
HMCS Oriole is now set to undergo a maintenance refit in Halifax, and will return to Esquimalt in spring 2018.