They’ve been called crazy, more than once, but Patrick Buntain and Tim Penhallow are not fazed — nor are they changing their minds about sailing and rowing 750 nautical miles north through the Inside Passage.
They plan on doing it in a small dory with barely enough room for the pair of them, let alone all the supplies they’ll need.
Buntain and Penhallow, or the Boatyard Boys, have entered the Race to Alaska, a self-supported adventure race of boats without engines from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. It starts June 4.
It’ll take wind and muscle power to make the journey and they’ll be isolated, with only a GPS and radio in case things get hairy.
“A friend told me about the race,” said Buntain, “and he said I should do it.”
A lifelong sailor who now works at Canoe Cove in North Saanich, Buntain said he’s done plenty of sailing voyages, including the Van Isle 360 (the circumnavigation of Vancouver Island). Both he and Penhallow, who also works at Canoe Cove, have plenty of experience on the water. All they needed was a seaworthy vessel.
They needed a boat that was light, easy to manage and, above all, ready to tackle the Inside Passage.
Buntain said he started looking for one after learning about the race in November 2014. He found the winner in James Bay, “in a heap of blackberry bushes.”
It was a unique design — a Swampscott Dory — dating back to around 1910, Buntain said. The pair set about restoring it, making sure it was watertight and adding 18 floatation compartments. They also covered a portion of the dory, making a sleeping space. They’ve added a sliding rowing seat and other features to add to its functionality.
“It’s a nice little ship,” said Buntain.
Penhallow added they have been working on it for three months, “on top of our day jobs,” and figures it’s taken more than 300 hours of work. Penhallow, a carpenter, also crafted six Sitka spruce oars — four they’ll take with them and two they’ll use to help fundraise for the journey.
On May 3, the pair will host a fundraiser at the Stonehouse Pub to help them buy safety gear. They also are running a silent auction. Entry to the fundraiser is by donation and there will be live music by Sets in the West.
Penhallow estimates the trip could take 17 days — as long as the weather holds and all their planning pays off. Buntain guesses as many as 20 days.
Being by themselves for that long doesn’t bother them, they say. They’ll work in shifts, reading charts, taking compass readings — staying on course will keep them busy.
The Boatyard Boys get their first taste of the journey June 4, during a 40 NM qualifying stage from Washington State to Victoria. The race then picks up again for the long haul on June 7.
Follow the adventure online at boatyardboys.ca or at the race site, r2ak.com.