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Natural-Hy: Life changing voyages in a ferro-cement boat

Lorraine Graves   Dec-15-2017

Natural-Hy by Trevor Stickler chronicles the decades he spent with his beloved 12 metre sailboat, Natural-Hy.


The book starts with loss.

Steveston’s Trevor Stickler speaks of the choice to give the boat he built, and used to cruise the world, a dignified death rather than leaving her to rot when no one would buy the 12-metre Natural-Hy.

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The initial scenario sounding like a Stan Rogers song. Stickler salvaged what he could, then watched as his beloved boat was broken up. Surprisingly, her ferro-cement hull still was sound but, with no one to buy her, she had to go.

In the years between dreaming up this crazy plan to build a boat with a couple of buddies and what Stickler calls, “The process to bring her to a pile of rubble,” the book chronicles many years of adventure, sailing, and far-off lands.

After a local shake-down cruise with some adventures of its own, Stickler and his buddies’ first big journey, took them from Vancouver to Victoria uneventfully but after leaving Victoria, he writes, “This trip can either be exciting or dull. Unfortunately for us, this first trip was on the exciting side. Right smack on the nose of a Westerly gale.

This meant for every headsail change, someone had to go up to the bow of the boat. I was up to my chest in water as we pitched mercilessly in ten to twelve-foot seas.”

With a son about the same age, I thought of his mom back at home as I read that passage.

Calmer seas, and warm destinations followed with many adventures and vistas mixed in. When the Natural-Hy returned to Vancouver from her first big trip, she’d been to Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and the Society Islands.

Spoiler alert, the sailors make it home alive. There is a picture of the author with his mom on the dock.

To my eye, she looks relieved.

Other journeys follow, including another major trip with a new sailing companion.

Natural-Hy evokes memories for me, painting pictures of life on a sailboat.

Stickler writes of sailing wing on wing, where each sail is fully out, either side of the boat to catch maximum wind.

A rare treat, it only works when the wind is blowing exactly where you want to go.

In B.C., sailors can sometimes look forward to it when taking their boats up the passage between Saltspring and Vancouver Islands.

This, the most peaceful way to sail, means going almost the speed of the wind while seeming not to move at all, until you look back to see your sailboat leaving a wake from going top speed.

Calm weather sailing, as can be found off the Southern coast of B.C. in summer, lulls all passengers.

Diversions like books, writing material, cards to play and even crosswords rarely entice a sailboat passenger from just plain relaxing, eating, sipping and sleeping lulled by the gentle motion of the boat.

Rough water sailing is just the opposite, living on adrenaline, constantly calculating the journey through each wave, holding the course, decisions and determination key.

InNatural-Hy, there seems to be plenty of both types of sailing.

To be honest, I have only dipped into this book. It’s time to get ready for another issue of The Sentinel while also tending to family obligations and Christmas preparations.

I’m saving the rest of the book for my lazy Christmas reading on the couch, watching the tree’s lights over the top of the book, a warm mug of tea on the side table. It’s the kind of time I relish.

We usually hit the Richmond library for a collection of books that are pure indulgence, to read over the holidays. One year, it was novels set in Tuscany. Other years, it’s been the vivid pleasure of Emily Carr’s writing. I think Natural-Hy will fit the bill nicely.

My impressions? Like Wiley Blanchett’s Curve of Time and Kathrene Pinkerton’s Three’s a Crew, Trevor Stickler’s book is a good yarn.

The tomes on our bookshelf, in our boating days, had just such literature, along with cruising guides, to while away the dreary winter nights, lost in dreams of warm summer journeys up the coast.

B.C. offers some of the best sailing in the world, bar none.

With Vancouver Island forming a giant breakwater and a myriad of islands to anchor near, or to drop into marinas that function like nautical camp grounds, there is much to discover, much to cruise, and much to enjoy, even for a fair weather sailor.

Natural-Hy is not War and Peace. It is perfect for an indulgent Christmas read and likely to become a staple in the bookshelves of boaters, sailors, and those who just dream of the sea.

Trevor Stickler’s book signing has been postponed because the first run of books has sold out. The author will now sign books on Saturday, Dec. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Village Books and Coffee House in Steveston.


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