Give Keegan Taberner a terrific send-off when sails out of Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River on Monday between 1-1:30 p.m. He's circumnavigating Vancouver Island to raise awareness about diabetes which he has.

Circling the island to raise diabetes awareness

Keegan Taberner, 18, of Campbell River sets out Monday to circumnavigate Vancouver Island

Eighteen-year-old Keegan Taberner dreamed of sailing to Hawaii and back.

He was set to live his dream earlier this month before things changed.

Taberner, who had tentatively planned to embark on his journey July 1, to raise money for juvenile diabetes, has altered his schedule and his map.

Taberner, who graduated from Timberline Secondary School in June, was to sail 16,000 kilometres in six months. His plan, dubbed “Keegan Taberner’s Sail for Juvenile Diabetes,” was to travel for six months south to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico before heading over to Hawaii and then back up the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards home.

But because of costly boat insurance required to enter U.S. waters, Taberner had to tweak his route at the last minute.

He also realized his mission might be more effective by keeping it local.

Taberner’s goal is to raise money and awareness of juvenile (type 1) diabetes, a disease he’s lived with since he was two-years-old. Since then Taberner has had to take insulin injections four times every day.

“After sitting down and thinking about it, I thought it would be better to focus on raising awareness in one area rather than spreading ourselves too thin,” Taberner said.

Taberner’s new route will take him 1,700 kilometres around Vancouver Island. Starting in Campbell River and heading north towards Port Hardy, Taberner will make his way around the west side of the Island until he hits Port Renfrew.

From there, he plans to sail along the Washington State coast, dipping down into Seattle and then cruising back up along the coast of the Mainland up to Powell River before making his way north and back across to Campbell River.

He leaves Monday and plans to return to Campbell River Sept. 17.

His trip was delayed a few weeks because preparations weren’t complete on his boat in time for a July 1 departure.

Taberner’s Aloha 34-foot sailboat, named Themistocles in honour of the Athenian general credited with persuading Greece to build a navy, came from Oak Bay. Bringing it home from the south Island was an adventure in itself.

“I sailed it back from Sidney and it turned out to be slightly stormy weather,” Taberner said. “There were about 40-knot winds and 10-foot waves. It was a little hairy there. Since then I’ve upgraded it and I’ve been working on it every day, about 10 hours a day.”

The trip was a good practice run for what Taberner may run into along his journey.

“A few parts are going to potentially be hairy scary,” he said. “Seymour Narrows of course but that’s easy to plan. Nahwitti Bar, just north of Port Hardy, there can be some crazy winds in there. Brooks Peninsula on the west coast, there’s essentially nothing, just this big jutting out rock and you have to sail around it.”

Although as the skipper Taberner will be responsible for navigating the challenging waters and tides, he won’t be alone.

Friend Carsen Black, 18, who Taberner graduated with, has sailing experience and will do the entire journey with Taberner. The young sailor is also still looking for a couple of people who want to do short legs.

The trip is broken down into 35 legs, with stops in 28 communities on the Island and in Washington.

At each stop, Taberner has already contacted local media and hopes people will come down to the dock and meet him.

“I’m encouraging people to come down so I can raise awareness of juvenile diabetes and hopefully, if they’re feeling generous, raise some funds,” he said. “It’s going to be great to meet everybody and it’s going to be a neat cultural experience. I’ve never been to Kyuquot, so I’m excited for that.”

As his departure date nears, Taberner said he’s not feeling any nerves, he’s just anxious to get out on the water.

“I’m actually really excited,” he said. “This trip is a bit shorter but it’s still long.”

Taberner departs Campbell River this Monday from Discovery Harbour Marina between 1-1:30 p.m. and the public is invited to see him off.

Taberner, who has so far raised $15,000, is also still taking donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund through his website,

Watching his friends turn green

Keegan Taberner recalled one of his most memorable sailing excursions when he took out his friends – who had no sailing experience – for a ride and they ran into stormy weather.

“They got a little nervous and it’s funny watching them because they’re going ‘It’s all over!’ and I know it’s fine,” he said. “On a little, 24-foot boat we went out once and it got quite rough. It was fine, but just watching their faces, it was funny for me, but not for them. I just watched them turn slowly green. You can actually see people turn green. You can see the colour drain from people’s faces.”

Some of Taberner’s best memories also include spending summers sailing out at Desolation Sound and watching the bears and the eagles flying overhead.

“It’s a beautiful area here,” Taberner said. “Everyone rips on Campbell River, but it’s so beautiful here, there’s so much to see.”