Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lessons learned

The ocean is a tough headmaster.  There’s no kindergarten for folks like us who come to this adventure late in life.  We get dropped into junior high if we’re lucky but sometimes we get a doctoral dissertation before we’re out of high school.  It is finally starting to come together.  I no longer feel like we are liable to end up dead every time we untie from the dock. 

The biggest variable for mariners is always the weather.  It’s a given that if you boat in the Pacific Northwet then you are going to get wet, regardless of the season.  This time of year you will get wet and cold but anytime of the year you are going to get wet.  Given that we can’t avoid the wet, our big concern is to avoid wind.  I’m starting to assemble a toolkit to do that.  Environment Canada’s website is pretty well the definition of unfriendly but there is a lot of information there if you are motivated enough to find it.  The link will take you directly to the page where you get realtime information from the ocean buoy at Halibut Bank.  There’s two reporting buoys in Georgia Strait, Halibut Bank in the central strait and Sentry Shoal at the north end of the strait.  Then there’s the lighthouse keepers’ reports which have become more useful as we start to figure out where the lighthouses are located. 

The other website that I check regularly is  They purport to predict wind speed and direction for several days ahead  which made the Environment Canada geek at the boat show laugh out loud but I’m not sure they’re wrong that often.  I also monitor Weather Bug on my Blackberry and the other sites like Intellicast and Accuweather.  The key though as far as I am concerned is not the absolute forecast but rather the trend of the forecasts leading up to a departure date.  A forecast of moderate winds in isolation could mean a bumpy ride or a dead calm passage depending on what preceded that forecast.  If the forecast is getting steadily better as we approach our departure then I tend to think it will continue on that trend and vice versa.

We left Comox shortly after daybreak with an uncertain forecast to guide us.  It wasn’t great for the last couple of days but seemed to be trending better.  Then this morning the wind forecast was actually worse.  What we needed was a south or better a southwest wind so that we would have protection from Vancouver Island.  Instead the forecast was stubbornly in the southeast, which was a deterioration from last night.  Southeast means right up the strait.  So we left the dock at Comox but agreed that our bugout point would be the south end of Denman Island where we could have pulled into Deep Bay.  We’d have had to pay to tie up there though because the bay is really too deep to anchor comfortably and the bottom has a bad reputation for fouling anchors if you do use it. 

We got bashed around a bit coming out of Comox but the pass down the side of Denman was quiet and when we got to Chrome Island Light the sea wasn’t calm but it was pretty damn good nevertheless.  So we carried on and most of the trip wasn’t bad.  Our stabilizers actually help us the most if we have beam seas.  Typically a boater wouldn’t choose a beam sea, taking them on the nose usually gives a better ride.  In our case though, within reason, we are better off taking a beam sea and letting the stabilizers do their job.  When we take them head on we pitch heavily(against a level horizon mind you).  Today the only option was to take them head on so we had a rough 3 or 4 hours.  That stretch from Nanaimo to Chrome Island Light is just a long old grind of open water, there’s no way around it. 

Tonight we’re snuggled into Newcastle Island, across the channel from Nanaimo.  I expect we’ll spend a couple of nights on the dock here unless some officious busybody comes along to kick us out.  The great advantage of travelling at this time of year is that everything is closed so we can tie up for nothing here where it would cost us close to $100 per night in the summer.  So far the only officials we have seen are Rocky the Racoon who scurried away quickly when we arrived and a sea otter who climbed up on the neighbouring finger pier, did his business and then slipped back into the water.  I guess if I swam in the water all day I wouldn’t want to crap in it either and by the looks of that pier he has been doing it there for a long time now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


We just spent a great couple of days visiting with our friends Dick and Olive.  At 88 and 86 years young they are our heroes.  We can only hope that we will age half as gracefully as they have. 

We met Dick and Olive close to 20 years ago in Alamos.  They weren’t young when we met them.  They were parked in what became our favorite spot in Alamos, in the upper courtyard behind the motel.  Dick came striding over to greet us as we pulled into the lower level campground.  Later that same day their dog upended Bryan St. George from Kelowna, breaking his glasses and bruising his face severely.  It was an innocent incident that we all laugh about now but at the time Bryan’s face looked like hell.  His mistake was to throw the dog’s ball while the dog’s leash was wrapped loosely around his legs.  We have stayed in close touch with both families ever since. 

Dick and Olive have lived in Comox since 1969 and we have visited their home before but obviously not by boat.  There were several sailboats in their past so they were both eager to go for a ride.  We did that yesterday and then went back to their place where they lent us their car for the afternoon and then fed us supper.  We injected a lot of money into the local economy restocking our provisions and adding some equipment that we have discovered we were missing.  Today they came for brunch and then we prepared to leave for Nanaimo.

We never had any intention of making it all the way to Nanaimo today but we thought we’d make a start and probably would have ended up anchored at Deep Bay or Ford Cove for the night.  I say “would have” because we didn’t end up getting 100 yards outside the breakwater.  One of us must have neglected to properly tie one of our big orange bumpers because it managed to escape as we were leaving the harbour.  We tried to corral it with a boat hook but the wind was blowing the boat too much on the first pass and it was blowing the ball too much on the second pass.  After that there was no more chance because we were dangerously close to the rocks on the breakwater which is where the ball finally came to rest.

We pulled back into the harbour and side tied again.  The girl from the marina was out to help us again, as she was yesterday.  Unlike the large federal employee at the government wharf, this one is agile, friendly and helpful.  I guess she doesn’t have the benefit of that secure union position which allows her neighbour to be an ignorant self-centred ass (actually I prefer to refer to her with a word that rhymes with witch).  The one today even tried to round up someone who already had their dinghy in the water over my protests but we ended up launching Hawkita and I motored out to retrieve the runaway fender.  By that time the wind was getting really miserable and it was starting to snow so we decided that maybe fate was telling us something and elected to stay another night tied up to the dock. 

I used the extra time this afternoon to do an oil change.  That’s just over 100 hours that we have put on the boat since early January.  I was relieved to note that this time the quantity of oil I drained out of the injector pumps was exactly equal to what I had put in 50 hours ago.  Last time I thought maybe the starboard pump was diluting the oil a bit but this time it appeared that they both are A-OK.  The reason for the short drain interval on the injector pumps is that, as the pumps wear, they begin to add diesel fuel to their lube oil.  That reduces the lubricity of the oil and eventually hastens the death of the injector pump.  The way you assess the condition of the pump is by how much it is diluting the oil.  If these pumps aren’t diluting the oil at all then that means they are in really good shape.

The plan tonight is to be up and ready to leave in the early twilight.  We’ve got a long run to Nanaimo, most of it over really exposed water.  The forecast is for the wind to be from the south or southwest.  Contrary to what I have “known” all my life, Vancouver Island actually lies mostly east-west which means that a south wind will leave us sheltered on the inside of the island as long as we don’t get too far offshore.  At least that’s the plan tonight.  I’ll check the early morning forecast to see if it has changed any from tonight.  Once we get to Nanaimo we’ve got lots of protection for the rest of the trip but I’m thinking we may get beat up a bit on the way there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hey rube!

It got a little exciting tonight right after we checked into the Fisherman’s Wharf at Comox.  We thought we might anchor outside the breakwater but there is such a minefield of mooring balls out there that we decided against it.  Our new yacht club claims to have a reciprocal with the local armed forces club but the harbourmaster didn’t know anything about that so we paid the price and tied up.  Actually we tied up first and then paid the price, which is where the trouble began.

The harbour has very shallow draft so we snuck in carefully and took the first opening that we saw inside the breakwater.  It seemed odd that there was an opening which made me think somebody had recently left it open but nobody was answering on the VHF so we did a crude job of tying up and walked up to the office.  There was no one there when we arrived – which would explain the lack of response on the VHF – but eventually a large woman arrived and checked us in.  Then we walked back to the boat to finish tying up.  By that time a fishing boat was rafting up to the boat behind us so I asked them if we had taken their spot and we had.  I told them that I had asked the harbourmaster about that and she had assured me the space was open.  Then I offered to move so they could tie to the dock and we would sidetie to their boat.  We were in the process of discussing that when something distracted them and they seemed to lose interest in the project so I went back to tying us up.

All of a sudden I heard some screaming and hollering.  When I looked behind us it looked like somebody was rescuing someone from between the two vessels.  Then for a while it looked like rather than rescuing him the “rescuer” was in fact trying to put the other guy in the water between the boats.  Eventually the scrap disappeared behind the bulwarks of the boat behind us and I went inside.  By this time Marilyn had heard the hollering too.  Actually the guy that was getting the worst of it could have been heard a mile away.  I knew he wasn’t getting choked because there was nothing wrong with his voice.  We locked the doors and I called 911.  The 911 operator assured me that the RCMP were already responding but it seemed like they were taking a bloody long time to do so.  The captain on the boat behind us had his cell phone to his ear too so I assume he made the initial call.  From that time until some yellow striped pants finally showed up had to be 15 minutes or more.  Before the cops finally showed up the guy on the ground got away and ran past us with a bleeding head.  Then the crew of his boat came running by armed with crescent wrenches and knives.

We tried to stay invisible – after all we have to spend the night on the same dock as both the boats – but of course the cops wanted to know what I had seen.  Marilyn stayed indoors so she was spared their questions and I kept my responses as vague as I thought I could get away with.  It was a pretty exciting end to an otherwise uneventful day.

It took us over a half an hour to wash the anchor chain and anchor before we left Pender Harbour.  The bottom of Garden Bay has some particularly tenacious mud and our washdown system needs some work.  Canadian Tire and Wallyworld will be happy to see us tomorrow.  We got beat up a bit coming across the last bit of the Strait of Georgia but Marilyn and the cat slept through all that.  She forgot to take her Gravol with breakfast so she had a forgettable day but when she finally woke from her all afternoon nap she had her legs under her again.

Last night we had a delightful visit with a local who picked me up in a bookstore.  Marilyn says I’m always picking someone up on the internet but I was definitely picked up this time.  I was shopping for the Sunshine Coast edition of the Dreamspeaker series of cruising guides.  There’s six guides in the series and they should be mandatory equipment for every Pacific Coast cruiser.  I could buy it off Amazon for 30 bucks but it would take forever to get to us and by then we’ll be done this trip so I was prepared to pay the premium to have a copy but everywhere we went they were sold out.  I finally found a copy in the little bookstore in Madeira and then I got visiting with the owner and another woman who had stopped in with coffee for the owner.  One thing led to another and soon I was getting a ride to the hardware store up the hill which led to a dinner invitation.  I declined dinner but we dinghied over to Anne’s dock and had a cup of tea with her in the evening.  Going home in the cold dark in the dinghy was another new adventure but in the famous words of Bilbo Baggins “if you wants to have adventures then you’ve got to go on adventures.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snowed in

Its not unheard of for the upper reach at Princess Louisa inlet to freeze over.  You wouldn’t think that was possible because it is the ocean after all but apparently there is so much fresh water flowing into the inlet that it can happen.  The fresh water is lighter than the salt water so you end up with a layer of ice floating on top of the seawater.  That hasn’t happened yet but it looked possible yesterday. 

We didn’t think it would be too cool to get trapped at the upper end of the inlet, no matter how pretty is was up there.  Our neighbours, the kids in the sailboat, bugged out Monday morning after telling us that the Ham radio forecast was for freezing temps later in the week.  So we decided that we should move closer to Malibu Rapids last night.  We figured the closer we were to the rapids the less ice we would have to break to get out if it came to that.

We shouldn’t have been tied up to the dock we tied to last night but we are discovering that one of the major perks of travelling at this time of year is that you are all alone and on your own.  That could turn into a negative pretty quickly but when it comes time to moor it’s a major advantage.  Tonight we’re swinging quietly at anchor in Garden Bay on the north shore of Pender Harbour.  I expect this bay is jam packed in the summer but tonight there’s us and one sadly neglected sailboat.  If you look closely at the picture above you can see the ice starting to form on the surface of the water.  I think we made the right call leaving when we did.

We slipped out through Malibu Rapids this morning with even less fuss than when we arrived.  We actually never slowed down as we approached the rapids and motored straight through against a dying flood tide.  Then we rode the ebbing tide all the way out of Jervis Inlet running at a quiet 1300 RPM but at times reaching 7.4 knots.  We may not have actually saved any time because I went around the outside of the curves to catch the current which meant we travelled further so, as father used to say, what we gained on the roundabouts we may have lost on the straightaways.

The dinghy motor wouldn’t start when we arrived in Garden Bay so we rowed to the closest shore and walked up to John Henry’s general store.  Then when we got back to the dinghy dock the engine fired right up so we dropped the few groceries we had at the boat and took a very wet ride across the bay to Madeira which is the little community on the south side of Pender Harbour.  They have a nice IGA where we loaded up on fresh produce and junk food.  By the time we headed back to the boat the waves had settled down so we had a better ride back.  I think a little girl asked her mother if Marilyn had peed her pants but we couldn’t actually hear her so we don’t know that for certain.  She got wetter than me because I was driving but both of us were pretty damp by the time we got home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

We made it

We were up in the dark this morning pulling the anchor.  I wanted to make sure we got a really early start so that we would be certain to make it to Malibu Rapids by the time the tide turned just before 4:00 boat time.  The windlass works just fine going up – going down is a whole ‘nuther matter but that’s a story for another day.

It took us about a half an hour to lift and secure the anchor in the dark, mostly because it was the first time we had ever done it.  Its really pretty simple but we took our time and made sure that we did it right.  Then we crept out of the bay to Agamemnon Channel and started working our way north in the early morning twilight. 

It just keeps getting prettier the further into the inlet you get.  We briefly had cell coverage as we passed Egmont but after that nothing for the next three hours as we worked our way up the various reaches to Malibu Rapids.  As we approached Malibu Resort from the south I was watching through the binoculars and I must confess I didn’t think the rapids looked like much.  It was only when we got within about a mile that I could even see a disturbance on the water but when we got right up close I could see what the fuss was about. 

Malibu Rapids -3

If you look closely in the photo you can see the line of white water marking the overfall to the right of the totem pole.  It was running pretty hard when we arrived at about 2 hours before the slack time so we anchored right where that picture was taken.  This time I dropped the anchor with a lot less fuss than the day before.  Its still not pretty but I think the windlass is loosening up and there may be hope for it.  We were alarmingly close to the little island that you can see on the left side of the photo – maybe 30 feet offshore – so I watched the GPS pretty close to be sure we were actually holding.  Its very difficult to anchor in this area because the bottom drops off so fast from the shore.  In this case we dropped the anchor in about 60 feet of water but by the time we stopped swinging back on the chain we were in less than 30 feet and you can see from the picture how close we were to the rocks. 

The problem is that in order to get the anchor to hold you need to drop more chain or “scope” but if you drop that much scope on a sharp incline then when you swing toward the shore the scope may be long enough to let you drag bottom.  If you don’t drop enough scope then your anchor won’t hold so either way you lose.  Ideally you would take the depth of the water, add the height above the water to the windlass (so a total of about 68 feet in the above situation) and then multiply that number by 5 to get the scope you should let out.  In this case that would have meant letting out 340 feet of chain but we weren’t that far off the rocks to begin with so that much scope was out of the question.  I compromised with about 200 feet of chain and we lived to tell about it so that must have been the right amount.

On the trip up the inlet we fought the outgoing tidal current the whole way, as I expected.  It took me about an hour to figure out how to manage that but after that we made good time despite the current.  The obvious solution to the current is to push the throttles ahead but I’m a cheap SOB so that is never my first choice.  What I figured out is that, like all currents, the tidal current takes the outside of the curves.  So its no different than reading a river current.  On a river you will often deliberately take the outside of a curve in order to stay in the deep water.  In this case the water is deep 30 feet offshore so I did the opposite, sticking tight to the inside of the corners.  That made a huge difference – a knot or a knot and a half at times.  As a consequence we were able to run at low throttle settings all the way up and still arrive two hours ahead of the slack water.  In fact once I was certain the anchor was holding I went below and had an hour long nap while we waited for the current change.  Meanwhile Marilyn was trying to lose a hook on the rocks.  She didn’t succeed in losing a hook but she also didn’t catch dinner.

One of the greatest pleasures of travelling in the bus has been the people we have met over the years.  We’ve met some flakes but we’ve also met some really nice people and some genuine characters.  People like Mark and Donna, Clifford, Mel and Billie, Tom and Doreen to name just a few who we now consider good friends.  So we were delighted to see another boat tied up at the dock at Princess Louisa when we finally got to the end of the inlet.  It was some kind of offshore-capable sailboat, about 35 feet long.  The couple onboard were relatively young to be retired, younger than us, but he was smart enough to join the Canadian Airforce and obviously took an early retirement in order to travel on their sailboat.  They are now getting ready to travel offshore to San Francisco and then to Mexico so we don’t expect to see them again in the near future but we may run into them in our Mexico travels next winter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The prettiest boat in the bay

Another milestone passed – today we dropped the anchor for the first time.  Not without great difficulty mind you and if this is as good as this windlass works then there is a new windlass in our very near future.  Despite the difficulties in getting the chain to run out we have 220 feet of chain dropped and our anchor alarm set.  We’re so sheltered here that a medium size rock on the end of a rope would likely hold us.


Right now I’m sitting on the aft deck in the mid-afternoon sunshine watching Marilyn catch a crab.  The crab may not know its life is in danger and in fact there may not even be a crab.  We do have a backup plan for supper.

George really likes our new home and he’s pretty fascinated by crabbing too.  The fact that the crab bait is seafood flavoured cat food may have something to do with his interest.  On the other hand its hard not to like a glorious sunny day like we’re having today. 

We didn’t really move very far today but it was a very strategic move.  First it enabled us to try anchoring without an audience in a very sheltered bay.  We’re in Green Bay on the north shore of Agamemnon Channel just a few miles in from Malaspina Strait.  Second it moved us about an hour and a half closer to Malibu Rapids and left us directly on the route up the inlet to the rapids.  Finally by delaying our arrival at the rapids by a day we gain about 40 minutes on the tidal stand.  So the fact that we’re here tonight effectively gains us two hours of travel time on the trip up the inlet.  I may even suggest that we stay swinging on the hook here tomorrow which would gain us close to three hours at the other end.  But by the time anybody reads this that decision will be ancient history.

This time we didn’t turn back

I’ve learned how to monitor the ocean weather buoys and get realtime data from them.  With my resurrected cell phone I was able to get the information from the Halibut Bank buoy yesterday morning.  Early in the morning it was showing 0.6 meter waves but by mid-morning that had dropped to 0.5 meters.  So it was going in the right direction.  When Environment Canada updated their forecast at 10:30 local time with a slightly improved weather forecast that was all it took to tip me from “we need to stay here until Monday” to “we gotta get outa this place”. 

And we did.  In record time.  Marilyn had a phone conference scheduled for mid-afternoon but she phoned the other participant and they agreed to do it right away.  While she was on the phone I was casting off lines.  Bruce came to help but fortunately I was done before he got there.  When we passed our turnaround point from Wednesday we were pretty confident we were going to be able to keep on going and we were.

There was even some traffic out to keep us company.  As I pointed out to RJ, the last time we were out we were all alone.  And that was likely because nobody else was enough of a damn fool to be out there at that time.

We arrived at Pender Harbour about 6 hours after leaving Gibsons so we were running out of daylight but we still had time to walk up to the general store to get 4 gallons of grossly overpriced milk ($7.50 per gallon).  A nice lady named Lorraine who was buying a Vancouver Sun at the same time took pity on us and gave us a ride back to the boat. 

Losing two days on this trip has cost us our perfect tide window for Malibu Rapids.  For rough figuring you can say that the tide times move back an hour every day.  Its actually slightly less than an hour but an hour back every day is close enough.  If we hadn’t got turned back we’d have been able to catch a high tide late in the afternoon.  That would have meant we had all day to travel up the various reaches that eventually get us to Malibu Rapids.  We need that much time because the last good stopping point is at least 6 hours away from Malibu Rapids.  Now the high tide has moved to just after sunset – not a good time to navigate a treacherous waterway for the first time.  Six hours earlier we have a low tide stand which will also work for getting through the rapids but its less than ideal.

The goal on any of these tidal rapids is to hit them at slack current.  When the tide rushes into or out of an inlet it creates a current in whatever passage accesses the inlet.  Some of those currents can get pretty exciting – Johnstone Strait or Skookumchuck for instance.  Malibu isn’t nearly as bad as those but we still need to hit it at or close to slack current because we move so slowly.  High currents also create eddies and backwaters which can be dangerous.  Ideally we’d like to have crossed at high tide slack current but today that would mean around sunrise or just after sunset so that isn’t going to work.  Or we could wait 10 or 12 days until the high tide moves back into the afternoon.  So that isn’t likely going to happen either. 

We still haven’t mustered the courage to drop the anchor for a night but I’m guessing that will happen today.  Its either that or another overpriced night at a dock in Egmont.  That’s our last possible dock before we get to Malibu Rapids and even it is still 4 or 5 hours away from the pass for us.  There’s not much for anchorages past Egmont either so no matter how we do it we’re likely to have an early morning tomorrow.  I think we’re fairly sheltered from wind now but I suppose they can whip down these narrow inlets too.  Its all new to us.


We did ourselves proud docking here last night.  The picture above doesn’t do justice to how tight a spot we are in.  We had to thread the needle between the two sailboats that you can see to our starboard and then spin the boat to end up port tied.  We don’t like port ties so that was a challenge all by itself and we had less than 45 feet clear between the two boats to spin our 47 foot length in.  I was able to stick that high Defever prow out over the dock to gain the extra room we needed but I’m very conscious of the extra length of the dinghy hanging off our ass end now. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another three hour cruise

We got an early start this morning and were across the bar west of Gibsons by 10:00 boat time.  It was a pretty bumpy ride past Gibsons and it only got worse as we headed west.  Gray Hawk was handling it well but the Captain and the crew weren’t doing so good.  I kept thinking that the next wave would be the one where she buried her nose but every time there it came back up again.  When we were taking beam seas we’d occasionally get a sheet of water across the windshield but the regularly plunging bow hardly even made a splash.

Eventually we decided that it was too rough.  Then the challenge was to get turned around after which we had another tough hour and a half beating our way back around the south side of Keats Island.  We’d probably have been OK crossing the Gibson Bar but it was pretty rough going out and it had got considerably worse while we were out.  Rather than risk it we came the long way round.  For those of you that don’t know this, waves pile up in shallow water – that’s why the surf breaks as it approaches the shoreline.  At the mouth of a bay or river where the water gets shallow the waves can really pile up, specially if there is a current running against the waves.

We got beat up pretty good but we learned a lot.  First we confirmed that Gray Hawk can take a hell of a lot more than we can.  We had the dining room table sliding across the salon, the cat was so scared he crapped on the rug when he was afraid to go to his litter box and the cupboards got pretty well scrambled. 

We were really lucky that we didn’t lose our dinghy or break our davit system.  Our mounting and supports weren’t adequate for the weather we were out in.  By the time we found some shelter one of the shackles holding the dinghy on the davits had broken and the dinghy was dragging awash in the water.  That can all be fixed, and it has been, so we learned and we improved.  On the plus side neither of us tossed our cookies, the fridge didn’t move from where we mounted it and the mechanicals in the basement purred along like it was no big deal.

Rather than come directly back to our quiet little cove we went over to Gibsons.  If you ever arrive by boat and want to buy groceries in Gibsons take my advice – take a cab.  We didn’t.  That is the steepest, longest hill I have ever seen anywhere and I’ve climbed the hill from the dock to Pike Market.  I’m sure both of us will have sore legs tonight.  We didn’t see Molly or Jesse or Nick or Relic but we did see Molly’s Reach and the Persephone.

And here’s another tip about Gibsons.  They don’t really like tourists at the town wharf.  They charged us $11.80 to tie up for 4 hours while we spent money in their damn town.  Screw me once, shame on you.  Screw me twice, shame on me.

Effing bloody technology

For the past month or so my Blackberry has been reluctant to take a charge.  It seems like I need to get the contact in exactly the right spot or it won’t charge and sometimes that right spot is actually with the plug pulled most of the way out.  That’s why I know it was OK last night because the last thing I do before I go to sleep is check the icon on the main screen to be sure it is taking a charge.  This morning when I picked it up it was dead.  Its not unheard of that it would shut itself off overnight – unusual maybe but not unheard of.  So I commenced pushing buttons to get it to turn on but no joy.  Nada.  Zip.  This is a former Blackberry.  This Blackberry is expired, gone to meet its maker, etc. etc.

WFT.  So what do I do now?  I can’t live without a phone and I depend on a tethered Blackberry for much of my computer access.  But my phone plan is in Saskatchewan and we’re 1000 miles away in BC with no immediate plans to return to Sask.  So I borrowed Marilyn’s phone and phoned SaskTel. 

After wading through layers of voiceprompts I eventually got to the low-level “support” person and explained what had happened.  I asked her how I could go about replacing my phone in BC and getting it activated on the SaskTel network.  She started blathering about retail outlets and how she knew they had one in Alberta but didn’t know about BC.  Then she went offline to inquire with wiser minds (finding a better mind than hers didn’t seem like any great stretch).  After an interminable wait she came back to tell me that – wait for it – SaskTel doesn’t have any retail stores in BC.  No?  I could hardly contain my surprise.

According to her I was going to have to come back to Saskatchewan to buy a phone.  I told her that wasn’t going to happen, thanked her profusely for her “assistance” so far and informed her that she needed to escalate the call.  She resisted that plan but I was persistent – some would say stubborn.  Eventually “Charity” came on the line and pretty well her opening offer was that she would sell me a phone and priority mail it to BC.  That didn’t seem ideal but it did seem like a workable solution and it was considerably better than climbing on Westjet in order to buy a phone. 

With the phone crisis safely behind us we cast off the lines and cleared Burrard Bridge about 11:00 boat time.  It was even kind of half-assed pleasant this morning with an occasional burst of sunshine as we chugged our way out of English Bay and north past Horseshoe Bay.  We came around the north end of Bowen Island and eventually down into Shoal Channel south of Gibsons.  Those Canadians among my readers will recognize Gibsons Landing as the setting for The Beachcombers which was a made in Canada TV series that ran more years ago than I care to remember. 

BC has some wonderful marine parks and we’re in one of them tonight.  We’ve used some of the water access parks on the Shuswaps in the past so we were familiar with the concept.  This one gets really busy in the summer but tonight there’s us and Bruce.  There’s a couple more boats tied up here but no sign of life around them.  In the summer they charge admission but I guess it isn’t worth coming around to collect at this time of year so mooring here is free through the winter.

Bruce is a Nova Scotian living aboard his partly started fibreglass project boat.  I thought it was ferro at first because of the rough finish but he says it is fibreglass built without a mold.  I’m not quite sure how you would go about doing that but I’m sure I’ll find out because Bruce likes to visit.  Fortunately I’m able to steal somebody’s wifi signal with my Pepwave booster because as I mentioned earlier my Blackberry is hors de combat.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The fleet is in


If you look closely in the photo above you can see us tucked into the line of fishing boats tied up on D-dock at Fisherman’s Wharf between the Granville and Burrard bridges.  You couldn’t ask for much nicer real estate in Vancouver as far as I’m concerned.  The yellow building in the background is “Bridges” restaurant on Granville Island.  My eagle eyed eldest son named it instantly when I sent him a cell phone picture immediately after we arrived. 

We didn’t get quite as early a start from Sidney as I would have liked to.  Bed felt too good at 6:00 and neither of us was anxious to get out.  It was still twilight when we exited the breakwater at Van Isle but we could have been on the water at least a half an hour earlier.  That became important when we hit Active Pass. 


Active Pass separates Mayne from Galliano Islands and it is appropriately named.  All those little swirly things and the things that look like arrows fleched on only one side mean that the pass is full of rips and tidal currents.  We would have had to be there around 7:30 local (9:30 ship time) in order to hit slack water.  That would have meant about a 5:30 local departure or maybe even earlier and sunrise was at 7:33 local so 5:30 simply wasn’t going to happen.  No doubt we will run in the dark someday but we aren’t ready yet and certainly not in an area that is polluted with BC ferries.  The Swartz Bay ferry terminal is within walking distance from Van Isle and at that hour of the morning the ferries are running hard to get the commuters on and off the island. 

The effect of all that was that we hit Active Pass against about a 2 knot current.  Now 2 knots doesn’t sound like much but when your normal cruising speed is 7 knots, 2 knots is a pretty big deal.  We lollygagged into the west entrance of the pass but the currents and eddies were pushing us around pretty forcefully so I shoved the throttles up past 2200 – as fast as we have ever pushed them as a matter of fact – and we cleared the pass in about a half an hour.  Then we made a leisurely run up the west side of the traffic separation lanes until we were clearly going to cross entirely in Canadian waters before we headed east toward the mouth of the Fraser River. 

The main excuse for this trip is to attend the Vancouver Boat Show so our location in False Creek is ideal.  The floating portion of the show is just across the way on the south side of downtown.  This afternoon shortly after we arrived we walked around to Granville Island, found our favorite seafood merchant and bought some of their wonderful crabcakes for supper.  I can smell them warming up right now.  They also had fresh clams so my world famous clam linguine is on the menu for sometime tomorrow.   And tomorrow night there’s a free celestial navigation seminar at West Marine.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The recession is alive and well

Two winters ago when we were in Florida it wasn’t hard to see the symptoms of the recession in boarded up gas stations, vacant housing developments and empty strip malls.  You can still see it in the US without looking very hard.


Scenes like the one above aren’t hard to find now in the rural west of the US.  This was probably a pretty decent hotel in Mountain Home not all that long ago.  Now it’s a cleanup problem for whoever happens to own it.

Despite our claims to have largely escaped the effects of the recession in western Canada I think it’s alive here as well.  Yesterday the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club accepted our membership application.  They still have to post it on the bulletin board for a week to see if anybody actually knows us (and therefore wants to blackball us) but it sounds like that is largely a formality.  Yacht clubs soliciting members are common advertisers in the boating magazines now.  If a yacht club is willing to take us then the recession must still be going strong.

I left Idaho Friday morning, the stars aligned and I actually made it home in the middle of the night sometime around when Friday turned into Saturday.  Along the way I checked to see how the bulls were doing on my new system and stopped in Seattle to pick up the davit system that I bought and had shipped to Elliott Bay.  Then I breezed through Customs and pretty well drove straight onto the last ferry to Sidney. 

Yesterday I was overtired and more than a little grumpy but I still managed to get the davits installed, albeit with a little loss of stainless steel and plastic.  I thought I was doing so good.  I tied off all the big pieces, Marilyn helped me, we got everything that had to be bolted to the boat bolted on and all I had left was a little assembly of the braces.  I got the first side assembled, tied off the second arm and started assembling the brace.  Then disaster struck with first the nylon bushing floating gently to the bottom of the marina followed by the stainless steel “clamshell” cover, which descended much more rapidly but every bit as finally.

Fortunately I was able to jury-rig a bracket so the system is usable if we should happen to buy a dinghy at the Vancouver Boat Show.  That’s the next item on the agenda.  Al & Camiel are flying out and we are going to meet them on Granville Island and go to the boat show.  After that we have a major adventure planned.

I get a lot of my information and ideas from internet forums.  That community has driven many of our bus adventures and I believe it will spawn trawler adventures as well.  About a month ago there was a “favorite anchorage” thread running on Trawler Forum and somebody cited Princess Louisa Inlet as their favorite spot.  The picture they posted was enough to convince us but the story of the inlet and how it came to be public property is equally compelling.  I’ll tell the story in more detail during and after our adventure but for now it’s enough to say that we will go to Vancouver late this coming week and when the boat show is over we will head north up the coast.

While I was in Seattle I bounced our travel plans off Van Draper, George’s selling broker.  Van and his wife have voyaged extensively worldwide during their lives but lately have confined themselves to the PNW.  He heartily endorsed Princess Louisa as a destination.  Then I banged on the door of Maximo to say “Hi” to Steve and Kim.  It turns out that Princess Louisa was their destination after we parted at Prevost Harbor.  As far as they are concerned this is the best time of the year to make the trip because there won’t be hordes of other boats doing the same thing.

Today I met the woman from the boat whose ass end faces us across the fairway.  She was commenting on how nice my davit installation looked – clearly she hadn’t noticed the parts I was littering the marina with and I didn’t enlighten her.  Evidently she and Marilyn had already met because she knew about our plans to go to Princess Louisa.  She said “My husband and I have been living on our boat for 11 years now and we have never gone that far.”  It’s not that bloody far – we could do it in one day out of Vancouver but we’ll likely split it into two days because there are some currents that we have to time.  I think her point was that we were going a long way but what I heard was somebody who needs to get out more.