Respite At 60

By William Kleiser
Published: February/March 2013

Respite: 1) A period of rest and recuperation, an interlude. 2) The name of our family boat for the past 60 years .

60 Summers And Counting

In the summer of 1952, Respite took its first summer cruise as our family's boat. It has been used almost every year since. I missed a few of the early years because I didn't arrive until 1958. But by the time I was two months old, I was aboard, and I've been coming back every summer since, making up for that lost time. As a child, our voyages would last from July 4 to just before Labor Day. It was a life that few people get to experience. I was never jealous of friends going to camp. I knew I had a better deal.

Photo of the author on the bow of the Respite, circa 1961.
Author (center) on the bow, circa 1961.

The summers have blended together. My own memories are mingled with the stories my father had of his youth on the same waters. Some summers were endless days of cloudless skies, sitting on a beach with the sun dancing off rippled waters. Others have been overcast and moody, light rain the only thing disturbing oily smooth waters, with mist hanging on the tree-covered mountainsides. The same patterns have repeated over the generations. On warm summers my mother would find various beaches for me to play on -- some sand, others smooth sandstone slabs. Later with my own children, my wife and I rediscovered many of these same places. On cool summer days we'd take long walks through the forests of the many marine parks in Washington and British Columbia. Under the canopy of trees, the rain is muted, and the carpet of soft, dark green moss that can grow several inches thick helped to distract young children from becoming "boat bound." My mother taught us how to pick blackberries to make jam, cobblers, and pies. Likewise our children have become efficient pickers continuing this boat tradition.

Respite Brings Excitement

We've had some adventures along the way. On one voyage with my parents, we had passed through the Desolation Sound area and decided to go through a passage known as the "Hole in the Wall." My father hadn't planned to go this way and didn't have a current chart; he only had his father's charts of the area from the 1920s. One little problem, the Hole in the Wall was uncharted in the 1920s, shown only as a body of water with no soundings. We pressed on with a spotter to make sure we didn't go aground and as soon as we got back to civilization, we bought a new chart.

On another voyage, we anchored off a place called Savary Island, near Lund in British Columbia. Normally, my father liked to have anchorages providing protection from wind in any direction. Savary is wide open, but it was a calm afternoon and he gave in to the family desire to anchor off the beautiful beach. As luck would have it, a brisk wind rose out of the north that night and I had a sleepless night monitoring the boat's location. The morning found us secure in our location, but several boats were high and dry, having been blown into shallow waters on an outgoing tide. Lesson learned: Give me a secure anchorage where I don't have to worry about the wind coming up at night!

We've had many visitors to Respite over the years. The most frequent was my mother's brother, my uncle Fred. My father and Fred were friends long before my parents married, both sharing the fascination with airplanes that permeated the first half of the 20th century. Fred's preferred mode of transit to or from the Respite was by floatplane. One day we were anchored in Garden Bay, north of Vancouver, when a floatplane landed. Normally, a floatplane landing in British Columbia is like saying there are cars on the freeway. However, in this instance, my mother said, "I think that plane is coming straight at us." In fact, it was. Fred had chartered the plane and found us in Garden Bay. In hindsight, I now realize that my father must have told Fred where to look for us, lest he fly over half of southern BC looking. But he hadn't told my mother so her brother's arrival was a surprise, even if the method wasn't.

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