Everything was going well for Keegan Taberner – almost too well for the young seaman sailing to raise awareness for an organization close to his heart when he heard a loud ‘thunk.’
Taberner’s beloved cruiser Themistocles had hit a rock while sailing into Sooke.
“We got pushed around by the currents and ended up somewhere not quite where we were supposed to be,” Taberner said recounting his 39-day adventure circumnavigating Vancouver Island.
The mishap forced Taberner, 18, to re-evaluate his mission, dubbed Keegan Taberner’s Sail for Juvenile Diabetes, which was supposed to take this year’s Timberline graduate 1,700 kilometres around Vancouver Island and down along the Washington coast, into Seattle.
“It’s not a big deal but I wanted to get it repaired and I wasn’t sure the extent of the damage,” Taberner said.
So the trip was cut short by just more than two weeks, and the American leg of his journey had to be scratched.
But aside from sharp rocks and a bout of homesickness, it was smooth sailing for Taberner and his friend, Carsen Black, 18, who accompanied Taberner the entire journey.
“On the entire trip we only had six hours of rain,” Taberner said. “We had foggy days of course on the West Coast but the six hours of rain were actually when we were in port. When we were sailing we had wind and fog but not a drop of rain. I don’t know how we managed that.”
Even the challenging areas like the famous Seymour Narrows, were no big deal for Taberner.
“There was a slight ebb-tide and it scooted us through it, so that was perfect,” Taberner said.
The toughest sailing conditions came around Nahwitti Bar, just north of Port Hardy.
“These massive rollers off the Pacific roll in and hit the sandbar which turn them into these hug swells and hitting that was pretty nerve-wracking,” Taberner said. “The first ones were 12-to-13 feet tall and they just got bigger and bigger.”
Taberner was most impressed by the beauty and ruggedness of the west coast – and the people he met along the way.
“We kept meeting people from Campbell River,” he said. “These are tiny little communities on the west coast that are relatively inaccessible and we met people from Campbell River. It was so weird, but so cool. Campbell Riverites really get around!”
Making contacts with the locals was key to Taberner’s mission. In each community, he would pre-arrange to meet with local media to talk about his journey and the goal – to raise money for Juvenile Diabetes, a disease Taberner has lived with since he was two-years-old. He has to give himself four insulin injections each day but Taberner’s never let that slow him down.
And being so far away from home on a 34-foot sailboat didn’t change anything.
“The weather was kind to us so it was easy to keep meals on schedule, because I have to eat on a fairly tight schedule,” Taberner said. “You have to be on the ball at all times. If my blood glucose starts crashing, I have to be on it because it could turn into a dangerous situation. Luckily I didn’t have any issues with it.”
Taberner also came away with around $10,000 for Juvenile Diabetes, but that number could still rise. He’s still collecting donations through his website, www.keegantaberner.com.