Lachlan Palmer was destined to be a boater. “Right from the get-go, I was surrounded by boats,” he tells Passagemaker. “I grew up boating around the Gulf Islands with my family, aboard my uncle’s 28-foot William Garden-designed trawler and my grandfather’s 1967 32-foot Tollycraft Sedan.” Palmer’s other grandparents lived on the waterfront in Brentwood Bay. He spent summers there on his 7½-foot clinker (powered by a 2-hp Johnson), where he’d practice docking and weaving through decrepit pilings in Tod Inlet. For the last few years, Palmer has been a member of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, stationed out of Brentwood Bay. Michelle Zimmer started kayaking as a youth and went on to become a level two kayak guide, and has led many groups over the years in the Gulf and Discovery islands. Both Palmer and Zimmer Westcaper home now.
I spent over a year searching for the right boat to live aboard. One evening, while out for a short cruise with a friend, we decided to walk the docks to see a boat he’d heard was for sale. I fell in love immediately. The aggressive sheerline, the spacious, covered aft deck and big, bright, double-paned windows, with a simple yet elegant interior, had me calling the owner that night. A bonus was the Isuzu turbo diesel with only 600 hours. Two days later, I had the keys.
I love prawning, and there was already an industrial puller installed. With the decks only 4 inches above the waterline, it makes for an excellent trap-hauling boat. I like my boats to be purpose-built; I don’t want to baby it. The aft deck has an aluminum-framed roof with 7½ feet of headroom, and is sturdy enough to carry all our toys on long trips. We also have an economical fuel burn of 1.7 gallons an hour at 8 knots, which keeps it affordable.
The winters of 2019 and 2020 were spent dry-docked, undergoing massive rot repair work. I completed 99 percent of this solo after work and on weekends over a total of 15 months, all the while living aboard in the boatyard. A total of 120 strip planks have been replaced, as well as the entire transom and aft deck, plus 50 percent of the beams and stringers. Rot is the No. 1 culprit of my upkeep; this boat was worked hard in a previous life.
We’re planning on reconfiguring and updating the galley. Next winter is another big haul out. I’ll be tearing out the seawater system for a full refit. A full cleanup of the engine bay is in order: tidy the wires, hoses and pipes that have been added over the last few decades, as well as new house batteries and maybe a couple other goodies.
The day-to-day is fairly normal: little projects and upkeep here and there while in the water. Once the prawning season opens in the inlet, then we’ll be out every other night after work, hauling traps. It’s one of the best ways to spend a spring evening.
This past summer, we quit our jobs, loaded up the boat and went off to explore new territory for three months. We logged 1,600 nautical miles, taking us as far as Ocean Falls, British Columbia. It was amazing to be able to experience such beauty from the comfort of our home, and to immerse ourselves in nature for that length of time. We spent our days rowing and kayaking, exploring every little cove and beach we could find. We paddled close to 150 nm that summer.
We’re planning for a month of cruising this summer, hustle up to the Broughtons, and then meander our way from spot to spot, visiting the places we missed and staying a little longer in the places we loved. A bucket-list trip would be to get up to Alaska. The previous owner had completed the initial refit on Westcaper to spend half the year cruising from Victoria to Alaska with his wife. We owe it to them, and the boat, to make that journey. If the weather cooperates, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the crossing to Haida Gwaii, as well.
We’ve talked of moving to a 40-foot sailboat for the potential of some true long-distance travels. Apart from that, my heart will always belong to the wooden workboats of the West Coast, be it a converted trawler or, preferably, a tug.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue.