Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doing very little & re-uniting

We were in Saskatoon for close to a week doing more or less nothing.  But it was pretty tiring.  We pulled the new trailer up there last week in time to spend the weekend.  I’m not sure where the time went but all of a sudden the week was gone.  We  mostly settled into the trailer and met friends.  Marlan came for supper one night but we still haven’t met Jenna because she was off on some holidays at her parents’ cabin.  We also met Doug & Jo at Tony Roma’s.  Last weekend was Fred & Norma’s 60th anniversary.  It seems like we have been meeting family and friends constantly since we left the boat.

I spent Monday meeting with my Palliser/Assiniboia masters in preparation for our annual farm visit road trip.  Since Canada Pension Plan purchased their land portfolio last fall I’ve been a little uncertain about what my role would be, if anything.  Despite assurances that it was going to be “business as usual” I was waiting to see.  Based on what we were told it appears that it truly is business as usual and in fact CPP is actively buying additional land.  So I guess we’ll be busy for a few more years. 

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Marlan showed me how easy it is to take panoramas with my new Galaxy 5.  I’ve had cameras that could stitch multiple photos into one wide shot but with this one I just pan it across the scene and it captures the image as it goes by.

At the end of the week we moved the trailer down to Elbow for my annual class reunion.  We were kind of scattered all over the campground.  They told Jim that we would be in campsites behind the cabins that some of our group had rented.  Then they built more cabins on the spots where we were supposed to park our trailers.  Then – rather than put all the trailers side by side – they scattered us all over hell in the campground.  We persevered and had a great weekend despite the somewhat awkward logistics. 

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We’re all getting older.  RJ’s message to me for the group was “make sure they’ve all taken their meds”.  And its not much of a joke anymore.  He’s over in Australia battling deadly snakes right now.

Everyone slowly drifted off for their trips home today but we are staying until tomorrow.  It was great to be able to visit with everyone without worrying about getting packed up.  I have started sorting out the files for SW Sask.  Tomorrow we’ll move down to Ponteix and probably park there for a week.  Then we’ll likely work our way across southern Saskatchewan until we get back to Buchanan.  Its a huge pain having a yard again.  Even when we’re not there the grass keeps growing.  Just like the grass in Nipawin kept growing all those years when we were away from it.  Come to think of it, that’s why we got rid of the yard in Nipawin.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

You just have to love rural prairie attitudes

I went to an auction sale today.  As I was leaving with the truck full of miscellaneous junk it struck me how trusting everyone was.  We all bought shop tools and supplies early in the day and left them lying on the pallets where they remained on display (but never touched) until we picked them up late in the afternoon.  When it came time to pay I just gave them a cheque.  No questions asked – she gave me a receipt.  Then I drove the truck in, loaded it and left.  Nobody stopped me at the gate to see if I had paid or if I had loaded what I had paid for.  Nobody asked for a Visa number to secure my cheque or for photo ID.  I can only assume that the guys paying 100’s of thousands of dollars for the real equipment were treated in the same manner.  When they issued me the bid number they had no idea whether I planned to spend $100 or $100,000.  Contrast that with a visit to Costco where they might as well have a sign that says “Despite the fact that we took your life history and charged you to come into our store we don’t trust you sonsabitches”.

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When I got home we moved “stuff” from the bus to the 5th wheel in preparation for the weekend.  We are going to Saskatoon for a few nights as a shakedown cruise.  We hope to meet Jenna, the woman in Marlan’s life and we will attend Fred & Norma’s anniversary party.  From there we’ll likely make our way to my annual college reunion.  It feels very different to once again be using our RV for “camping” as opposed to “living”.  We’ve become accustomed to having our whole life travel with us.  We’re now asking questions like “What tools do I need to bring?” and “How many pots and pans do we really need?” 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two down, one to go

We’re back in Buchanan.  We took a relatively long time to get home compared with some of the trips we have made but we did a lot of visiting along the way.  We stopped in Airdrie for some wine and good food.  Then we had a great visit with Michael in Medicine Hat.  After that we stopped in Regina to pick up our mail and replace the cell phone that I threw in the ocean.  I was being so careful to avoid losing Marilyn’s folding shopping cart ($69 at Home Hardware in Port Townsend) so I leaned way over the rail as I was placing it on the dock.  As I did that my Galaxy S3 ($750 at Jump.ca) leaped out of my pocket, slipped neatly between the bullrail and the hull and disappeared forever beneath the waters of Cow Bay.  I guess it was time to replace it anyway.

The crops we saw east of Regina look pretty late.  And wet.  Lots of yellow areas and drowned out patches.  We came through Wadena so we missed the worst of it (Melville area) but even so we saw yards with sandbags holding the water away from the houses.  There was no water in our basement but a few of the boxes on the floor in Marilyn’s sewing room were damp on the bottom so there was likely a very small amount of water entered that room.  We dodged a bullet there. 

Now we’ve got a big scramble to get ready to go away again at the end of the week.  I’d like to get one of the two antique garden tractors that I bought last fall running tomorrow but I won’t devote more than one day to them.  We picked them up on a bitterly cold day last November and they sat on the trailer all winter.  Yesterday I got them unloaded but I didn’t do anything other than push them into the garage.  Marilyn spent her evening getting the 5th wheel cleaned so that it is ready to load up.  We put the slide out on it for the first time – it looks good.  I need to pack the wheel bearings and grease the running gear before we go anywhere with it.

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My two latest toys/treasures.  We picked them up late last fall on a bitterly cold day, shortly before we left for the coast.

(the next evening) I’ve been alternately looking forward to playing with my new-to-me garden tractors and thinking that I was a damn fool (again) for buying them.  We had a 244 Case on our first acreage and it was a great little tractor.  The kids all learned to drive on it.  I wanted to keep it when we moved into town but Marilyn wouldn’t let me.  The little Case tractors are hydrostatic drive but despite that the mechanicals are virtually bulletproof.  When we moved into town our yard was built into the side of a hill.  The house was a 4 level split with the front entrance on the bottom level and the back entrance on the third level.  The hill that we had to mow was so steep that the lawnmower simply wouldn’t climb it going clockwise but you could sort of sneak up on the hill by going counter clockwise, which is what I did.  However there was one point where you were at the top of the steepest portion and had to go down it.  As soon as you started down, the relief valve on the hydrostatic drive would let loose and the little tractor would stage a runaway down the hill.  Then when the hill started to flatten out the relief would snap shut locking the rear wheels up solid and sending you into a skid.  It was a lot of fun but Marilyn didn’t enjoy it and she didn’t like me enjoying it either so eventually we sold that little tractor.  I’ve missed it ever since.

Last fall I bought a 446 & 444 tractor, paying pretty much scrap iron price for the pair of them.  They came with a set of attachments – no snowblower but a pair of mowers and tillers plus a blade.  I didn’t hold out much hope that either of them would run without some serious attention and I had even considered repowering them but this morning I took a run at the newer of the two, the 446.  Post Pinkney visit, I am no longer afraid of carburetors.  That will come to bite me sometime I know – father’s advice with regard to carbs was “if its running at all, leave the carb the hell alone”.  This morning I justified my amateur carb job because I didn’t actually even try to start the tractor before messing with the carb.  And its not like I did that much anyway – the carbs on these little tractors are really just a piece of pipe with a couple of jets and a float.  I watched a Youtube video, then went to Canora for some carburetor weasel piss.  All I really did was clean the carb jets.  Then I dumped a little gas down the the throat and turned the key.  It ran.

Its running but I’m not happy with how the governor is working – it doesn’t want to pull back to idle.  That’s not a huge problem – I can just flip the hood up and pull it back myself.  I need to take the cover off and see if maybe there’s a broken spring in the governor but in the meantime I can use the tractor.  So the next step was to tackle the Bolts and ScrapIron engine on the lawnmower that was hanging on the wall when we moved in.  I had even less hope that it would run but I flushed the gunk out of the gas tank, squirted my magic elixir into the carb and it fired up as well.  What’s even more amazing is that all of that was pretty well done by noon so we had the whole afternoon to clean up the yard and we had a lawnmower to do it with.  I still haven’t mounted a mower on the tractor because I need to find some new blades and a belt for the mower but we’re a lot better equipped than I thought we would be.

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You can see the little throwaway push mower in the foreground.  They’re so cheap now its hardly worth the time to fuss with one if it doesn’t start right up.

So I’m feeling a lot cockier tonight than I was last night.  I spent last evening fighting to get my new phone set up.  I hate switching computers or phones.  Google kindly informed me that they have a transfer utility that will move all my information and apps from my old phone to my new phone.  They didn’t explain how they were going to access the information on my old phone.  And I didn’t ask.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The company we all love to hate

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So when we got back to Cow Bay two days ago the truck wouldn’t start.  Eventually I ended up having it towed to the Ford dealer in Duncan.  They informed me that the computer needed to be reflashed but, not to worry, I would get more reliable starts and better fuel mileage.  I didn’t really have much choice in the matter so they reflashed it, got it running and we have it back.  There’s a minor problem that has appeared since the reflash – we can no longer open the back doors.  Its not a huge problem – there’s four doors after all and we still have the use of the front doors.  Crawling into the back seat will be a bit awkward for guests but fortunately we don’t do that too often so it should be manageable.

The only part of that paragraph which is 100% true is the first sentence.  I had put one of those solar battery tenders on it before we left and clearly it did precisely nothing, except perhaps help to drain the batteries.  One call to roadside assistance, a few minutes hooked up for an electron transfusion and all was good again.  However, the story does have a point – we had exactly that experience with our all-in-one nav computer.  So substitute “Microsoft” for “Ford”, “upgrade” for “reflash” and “touchscreen stopped working” for “can’t open the rear doors”. 

Most of us can no longer live without Microsoft but they sure don’t make that relationship easy.  Windows had been whining plaintively about not being able to phone home pretty well ever since we left for Alaska.  So when we got home and hooked up to the dockside wifi I thought “What the hell, what harm can it do?”  It downloaded some bizarre (obscene) size of a file, “upgraded” itself and appeared to be working fine.  Then last night when we had company onboard and Marilyn wanted to show them our trip path we discovered that we no longer had a functioning touchscreen.  I have now wasted the last 3 hours trying to figure out what Messysloth broke with their so-called upgrade and I’m still not sure I’ve solved the problem because it takes a while to appear.

And on a semi-related subject (idiots who mess with our lives) – we went to the yacht club yesterday morning for a work bee.  Adrian always has an excellent lunch laid on after the morning’s work.  Over lunch we were visiting with a couple of the folks we had been doing yard work with. Some wag had registered Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper on the worker sign-in sheet which brought up the subject of Stephen Harper at which point one of our lunch companions voiced her opinion that she “sure hoped he wouldn’t get elected again.”  I just zip my lip at those junctures but our other lunch companion said something to the effect that he didn’t really like Harper but he disliked the alternatives even more.  At that point it became abundantly clear that the complaining woman didn’t even know who the alternatives were.  I got up and left but as she repeated her desire to not see Harper re-elected I couldn’t resist telling her to prepare to be disappointed.

I understand it has been raining a lot in SE Saskatchewan.  Maybe it will get that over with before we get back there.  You’d think that the sky would eventually be empty.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Back in familiar waters

We’re tied up at Newcastle Island, where we’ve been many times before.  Initially we had planned to go further today but one thing led to another and this place was just too handy to sail by.  There’s a work bee at our yacht club on Saturday morning that we want to attend and we had thought we would take the boat and stay on the reciprocal dock.  That’s what we usually do when we go to one of the work parties and it works well.  Today we got a little worried that people might be turning this weekend into a really long weekend and that in turn might fill up the very limited reciprocal space on the dock.  There’s only about 150 feet of reciprocal moorage, maybe 200 at the most if someone uses the Jr. Sailing section.  That means 3 or 4 boats will fill it up.  Rather than take that chance we decided to go straight back to Cow Bay.

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Approaching the mighty Seymour Narrows.  With them behind us its hard to get really worked up about Dodd Narrows no matter how much I tell myself that’s a bad attitude.

We should be timing Dodd Narrows for a slack but that will be difficult tomorrow so we’re going to run it on a fairly stiff ebb.  We’ve been through before on an ebb and it runs hard but only for a few hundred yards so we should be OK.  One thing is for sure, if you go through when its running hard you don’t have to worry about boats going the other direction.  Maybe we’re getting too cocky after running Seymour on a fairly hard flood.  If we make the news tomorrow you’ll know why.

I didn’t pay any attention to the currents when we were getting ready to leave Campbell River.  As far as I was concerned we were through Johnstone Strait and into the Strait of Georgia.  WRONG.  We got hammered by the current as we left Fishermen’s Wharf and then pounded along at over 2000 RPM into a 5 or 6 knot current for over an hour, sometimes making as little as a knot and a half, before it finally relented and let us out into Georgia Strait.  We were moored near the south end of the marina and had to go a fair distance north to get around the breakwater before we got out of the marina. It was close to an hour after we had untied the lines when I noticed that we had pretty well clawed our way back south to a point even with where we had been originally berthed.  We burned a lot of fuel going nowhere that morning.

Yesterday we had a great visit with some old friends in Comox.  And I mean “old” in all senses of the word.  Dick is 92 and Olive is 90; we’ve known them for close to 20 years since meeting them in Alamos on our first trip to Mexico.

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There was a lot more town at Campbell River than I was expecting.  We stayed at the Fishermen’s Wharf which was very modern and huge.  There’s also another equally large marina that caters to the recreational crowd.  Another time we’ll be a little more careful about the timing of the currents when leaving the marina.  Or maybe go all the way through Campbell River and moor somewhere on Georgia Strait.

We’ve had an unbelievably wonderful trip to Alaska but both of us are impatient to be back on the prairies.  Marilyn’s new house and yard are calling her.  I’ve got a project meeting in Regina on July 14 and I’m anxious to get started fixing the equipment I bought last winter.  There’s a couple of semi-antique Case/Ingersoll garden tractors waiting for me to restore when I get back.  I’m not sure whether we’re going to use one and sell the other or keep a tiller on one and a mower on the other.  We had a 244 Case on our first acreage and it was a great little yard tractor but taking the mower off and putting it back on was a major pain in the ass.  So maybe we’ll just have one tractor for tilling and one tractor for mowing.  I can’t remember what all I got for attachments – I know there’s two mowers and two tillers and a blade but I can’t remember whether I got a snowblower or not.  In the near term we don’t plan to need a snowblower but Dick and Olive have been our inspiration for aging since we met them.  If we even come close to matching their ages then there will inevitably come a time when we need to deal with snow again.

The next few days in Cow Bay will be a flurry of activity.  We hope to be on the road headed east by Wednesday.  In between now and then we’ve got some entertaining to do and we need to put the boat in storage mode.  I like to do an oil change just before we leave and we have several items to remove and take back to the prairies with us.  We’ve also got some wine brewing in Mill Bay that we need to get bottled to take home with us.  Marilyn tried making wine in one of those wine shops in Regina but it was beyond bad.  It may have been decent paint remover but it was shitty wine, so we’re going to smuggle BC-built wine back into Saskatchewan.  I assume that it is still illegal to move alcohol across provincial boundaries.  Now I’ve advertised the fact that we’ll be breaking that (stupid) law so every cop between Duncan and Buchanan can be on the lookout for our lime green Suburban.  (OK, its not lime green and its not a Suburban – I took the Chevy cure years ago when I bought a new 6.2 – but there’s no need to make it too easy for the bastards)

Monday, June 23, 2014

More travel – less typing

Its hard to believe that, less than a week ago, we were still in Meyers Chuck, firmly inside Alaskan waters.  Today we’re passing Alert Bay as I type.  We’ve put in some really long days and succeeded in breaking the back of the return trip.  What took us about a month to travel when we were headed north has taken less than a week heading south.  Along the way we had a couple of bad days but mostly just really long days. 

Dixon Entrance was a bitch, thank you very much Environment Canada.  They assured me it would be OK so we went for it and they were WAY past wrong.  The problem with Dixon from a weather standpoint is that NOAA doesn’t give a good local forecast for the crossing.  NOAA does an excellent job of forecasting US weather but they lump Dixon in with Cape Decision and some of the more western waters of Alaska.  Dixon Entrance really deserves its own forecast and that’s what Environment Canada provides.  In fairness to EC, their forecasts are usually excellent for one day out but this time they just flat out got it wrong.  We had planned to pass Ketchikan, picking up fuel on the way by, and continue to an anchorage on the extreme north side of Dixon Entrance.  That way we could have got an early morning start for the actual crossing, which is usually a good guarantor of relatively calm water. 

What actually happened was that, by the time we got to the north side of Dixon, it was blowing up a storm out of the south, whipping Dixon Entrance into a frenzy and making the anchorages we had planned on using too dangerous to enter.  All I could see as we passed them was breaking foam at the entrances.  That combined with the fact that the fishing fleet was out in force and most of them were headed for the same anchorages made me decide we were better to just tough out the four hour crossing and get it behind us.  So that’s what we did, pounding head on into 5 or 6 foot chop out of the south.  That’s the absolute worst conditions for us.  If we can get the seas even 20 or 30 degrees on the beam then the stabilizers will take a lot of the worst action out but head on the fins do absolutely nothing for us, so much so that we didn’t bother turning them on for the crossing. 

Instead of the nice mellow trip we had been promised by EC we were climbing up the face of square sided waves and then crashing down the backside.  The bow would rise straight up and then fall 8 to 12 feet off each crest.  That combined with the fact that the boat felt like it is stopping each time it hit a wave made for a very unpleasant time of it but the worst was yet to come. 

When we got about halfway across I managed to get a Canadian cell connection and called Customs.  They were really good – unusual for them I know but really good nonetheless.  She took some basic information – boat name and registration number – and then looked up everything else after I told her I couldn’t leave the helm to go find our passports.  You’re not supposed to drop anchor in a country before you complete the entry procedure and for Prince Rupert that means going to the dock and phoning in.  There was no way we were going to make it to Prince Rupert that night so I apologized profusely and said we were going to anchor in Brundige Inlet.  She assured me that was no problem and gave me an entry number which I assumed I would give her the next morning when we finally arrived in Prince Rupert.  When I asked about that though she said, “No, you’re checked in.  You don’t have to do anything else.”  She never asked about booze, or purchases, or fresh produce or any of the other nonsense that they normally quiz me about.  Its good to know that some of them have some common sense. 

After we got done with Customs we soldiered on until we finally entered the shelter of Dundas Island and found our way into Brundige Inlet just before dark.  Then the real rodeo began.  I’ve heard about chain turning in the chain locker but we have never experienced it before.  When we retrieve our anchor chain it just falls into a locker in the forward part of the bow (the extreme pointy end of the boat in other words).  The last chain in ends up on top of the pile and becomes the first chain out, normally.  However, under the kind of conditions we experienced in Dixon, the bow falling so precipitously combined with side to side motion of the boat can cause that pile of chain to roll in the locker.  Ours was so badly tangled I briefly thought I might have to cut it but fortunately we finally got it all out so that we could then retrieve it and then re-deploy the anchor.  That all added about an hour of frustration to what had already been a very tiring day. 

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We’ve been seeing a lot of sunrises.  If we have a long day ahead of us we like to pull the anchor before sunrise and be underway when the sun gets up.

The day after all that turned out to be a great travel day and we ended up logging the most miles we have ever accomplished, slightly over 110.  That’s a lot of chugging along at 6.5 knots.  We got some help from the current but when you put on that many hours you go through several tide changes so a lot of the currents end up cancelling each other out. 

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I do most of the driving but clearly not all of it.

After the big day out of Prince Rupert we ended up idling along for a couple of days trying to time our arrival for a decent day to get around Cape Caution.  We finally did that yesterday.  It wasn’t a perfect day for the trip but it could have been a lot worse.  We had about 2 meter swells coming in off the Pacific topped by maybe a foot or two of chop coming out of the south.  Most of the time we were taking the big swells on the beam so the stabilizers soaked up that action and the stuff on the nose wasn’t really big enough to notice it most of the time. 

Last night we anchored in Allison Harbour which is a delightful spot, extremely well sheltered and very scenic.  We went into it via Murray Labyrinth which is every bit as challenging as the name suggests.  Its pretty well a rockpile – fortunately a well charted rockpile but a rockpile nonetheless.  Another big change from the trip north though was that we bypassed one cove in the labyrinth because there were too many boats in it and we ended up in a little anchorage at the head of Allison Harbour with 9 other boats.  On the way north we would have had the whole place entirely to ourselves.

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The night before we rounded Cape Caution we stayed in Lizzie Cove.  Its hard to describe what Rene and Pete have created there. I’ve seen it and its still hard to believe.  They’ve got over 20,000 square feet of floats with their home, a greenhouse, a workshop, a summer kitchen and of course space for guests to tie up.  Gi ven all the floating space they have, there’s actually remarkably little space for guest moorage – maybe 250 or 300 feet in total.  They charge 75 cents a foot and for that you get an unserviced spot to tie up and non-stop entertainment whenever either of them is nearby.

Today we’re running straight up Johnstone Strait.  Going west to east in Johnstone works really well because the tides start turning at the Pacific and move east.  So you can time the start of a flood at Port Hardy and ride it for roughly 8 hours instead of the usual 6 hours.  Coming from the east that worked against us but going this way its a big help.  We won’t get all the way to Campbell River today.  We’ll break the roughly 120 miles from Allison Harbour into two easy days.  We need to time our arrival in Campbell River to allow us to transit the famous Seymour Narrows at high slack but that, very conveniently, happens to be late in the afternoon on the current tides. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

What a seriously cute spot

We’re in Meyers Chuck.  You’ve never heard of it, I know.  There’s about 3 full time residents and maybe a dozen summer cottages surrounding a tiny bay about 30 miles north of Ketchikan.  We didn’t stop here on the way north because our plan at the time was to meet Currie here while he was headed north and we were headed south.  Currie and I quickly figured out that plan wouldn’t work and we instead met in Petersburg.  Today we stopped in to check out Meyers Chuck for ourselves.

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This photo is horribly backlit so you can’t really see Jackshit in it but, even if the lighting was better, there’s no entrance to be seen.  We came at low tide when the whole entrance channel was at most 50 feet wide. Once inside it opens up a bit, not much, but it is very picturesque.

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