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Station: Words with Catherine Dook

Cowichan Bay author Catherine Dook uses her life on the waves to comic effect. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichan Bay author Catherine Dook uses her life on the waves to comic effect.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Catherine Dook thought she was a goner.

She and her shipmates would be swamped by towering waves during an angry storm that hit their crossing to Hawaii.

But their sturdy 44-foot sailboat Inukshuk saved their bacon.

If not for the fear and minor injuries, Dook’s soggy adventure — with husband John Dook, plus friends Aussie John Nielson, and Kiwi John Hayten — would read like an episode of Gilligan’s Island.

Instead it makes rollicking reading in her third, and most recent, book Offshore.

Talking with the Cowichan Bay-anchored author, and John, aboard Inukshuk, it quickly becomes clear Dook’s a natural story teller who shoots from the quip.

Her bent for a good yarn, honeycombed with humour, is just fact-filled fun, told from experience.

“It’s like writing letters to people you like,” she said.

Besides, living on the water with nautical neighbours helps spin her next Dook book.

“It’s the closest thing John and I have come to an Arctic community. You get along and loan tools, have coffee in the morning, and swap gossip.”

While Offshore surfaced from her traumatic trip, Dook’s previous two books — Darling, Call the Coast Guard, We’re on Fire Again!, and Damn The Torpedoes — stemmed largely from collections of columns she had already written.

Those columns appeared in The Boat Journal, or Pacific Nor’West Boating in her Dock of the Bay postings.

Dook grinds out 30 columns a year while planning her next book or radio show and hosts Dock Diaries accessed on the internet at cicv.ca. She also writes for RV Times, and Arctic’s Edge Yellowknife in her hometown.

Dook takes her penchant for telling a good tale in stride, simply saying she’s “nothing if not prolific.”

Her fourth book, already written, is 200 pages with a publisher pending.

“I may have to self-publish. It may be called Darling, Call The Coast Guard: The Neighbours are Squabbling, or Chronicles of Mottle Cove.

Again, it comprises colourful capers from Dook’s live-aboard life.

“Details are emblazoned on my memory,” she stated over coffee, while relating the “post-traumatic stress disorder” produced in Offshore.

“When you’ve been through an exotic and trying time, the details of the trauma are kind of imprinted on your psyche.

“Lots of other stuff I wrote is more mundane and happy — and lot less memorable.”

She and the other three launched their trip of a lifetime, getting about 120 nautical miles off the Columbia River before turning back under a reefed Genoa and a reefed mizzen.

The Offshore ordeal is a textbook of trial-and-error experiences living on the big drink.

Dook remembers then writes like she talks.

“I vomited once and was popping Gravol,” she said. “I was moving but bruised; if you held onto the bulkhead you went flying in the next bulkhead. I face-planted in a garbage pail of potato peelings and coffee grounds. I thought ‘If I live through this, think of the material!’”

More materialized as husband John became “more exhausted than seasick” and a rogue wave nailed Inukshuk.

“It was like a tractor-trailer hitting the deck and a huge lump of water fell on table and sprayed all over Aussie John,” she remembered, reflecting her vivid style of writing what she lived. “The bilge pumps were going crazy and a cement boat hangs so low in the water, we jammed the wind generator and were getting electrical top ups on the batteries.”

The batteries went flat in 24 hours; their fuel was fouled by being storm tossed; a smashed lantern sloshed kerosene inside the cabin.

Her thoughts turned to revenge.

“With the noise, motion, dark, flying spray, and crashing waves I was under the impression death was imminent. I wanted them to live so I could murder all three of them when we got back to shore.”

Inukshuk limped back to Neah Bay, then to Victoria, needing minor repairs amid Dook’s receding horror and the call of her keyboard.

Meanwhile, she wasn’t ready to leave sight of land again anytime soon.

“If you ever fall in love with a person who says ‘Honey, let’s go offshore,’ the answer is ‘No.’”

****

A Look at Dook:

Age: 59

Family: six children, 11 grandkids

Dad, Rocky Parsons was a bush pilot

Hobbies: “Some women drink gin and pick men up in bars; I knit socks”

Author influences: Robert Graves, Charlotte Bronte

Trick to living in close quarters: “You just have to really, really like your husband”

Offshore is available at Volume One Bookstore, and oberonpress.ca

Email Dook at catherinedook@hotmail.com

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