Sunday, May 22, 2011

High tea & dim sum

We’re not going to do the high tea bullshit but dim sum is another matter altogether.  Especially when Victoria’s Chinatown is less than 4 blocks from our doorstep.

We didn’t have anything particular planned for the weekend so Thursday morning we slipped the lines and cruised by a roundabout path to SNSYC.  Earlier this spring we agreed to camphost at Beaumont Marine Park on South Pender Island so we thought we’d check out Bedwell Harbour, the location of the park.  It was pretty enough and a great spot for lunch but it turned out that organizing for the park hosting is kind of a fustercluck so we won’t be doing that after all.  Truth be told that came as a relief because we seem to have been busy busy busy.  We’d really like to get up to Desolation Sound before we leave for the prairies in July but it was looking impossible to do that.  It still may not happen but now there’s at least a glimmer of a chance that it will.

I attended Bob Smith’s seminar on diesel engine maintenance in Anacortes and came away with some useful information.  In the short term that information will probably cost me money but we’ll hope it saves something in the long term.  His presentation was full of good common sense advice and one of the tips that stuck with me was to stress test the mechanicals every time we go out.  He made the point that a boat engine running at hull speeds isn’t getting any kind of a workout.  If you run a truck (or bus) at normal highway speeds most of the time it is making less than its full horsepower but occasionally when you climb a hill it will be called on to produce full horsepower.  Those occasions will test the entire drive train and if you have a problem (bad u-joint for instance or compromised cooling system) that is when you would expect those problems to show up.  That never happens in a boat unless you push the throttles all the way forward and leave them there for a few minutes.  Bob’s point was that it is better to do the stress test regularly and on your schedule.  Similar to a heart stress test we would rather have a drive train failure at a time of our choosing – in the doctor’s office as it were – than at a time when the boat chooses – in the middle of a storm for example. 

So ever since Anacortes I have been pushing the throttles all the way forward immediately after the engines first come up to operating temperature.  I leave them there for 2 or 3 minutes, watching to see that the temps don’t keep rising and noting the maximum RPM that they make each time.  Everything seemed good except that recently I have noticed a bit of a coolant leak on the port engine.  I didn’t initially connect the two events because I have been suspicious that it was leaking a bit right from the start but never have been able to pin down exactly where it was coming out.  On the way down to Sidney I finally put it all together, went down in the engine room during the full power run and sure enough, found where my coolant leak was.  It looks to me like it probably never leaks except during high RPM operation so its not serious but its real and it needs to be fixed.  The nice thing about having a boat is that you are never short of things to do.

To come to Victoria we happened to get lucky with our timing and were able to ride the tide down Haro Strait.  The books and web authors who write about trawler travel make a big deal about how you should time your travels to take advantage of the currents.  The logic is that a relatively small absolute value for a current is very significant when compared to our normally slow travel speeds and therefore critical in our planning.  And that is true, as far as it goes.  We travel at a maximum of 8 knots and more typically at 7 so a 2 knot current is 25% or more of our typical travel speed.  That means we can catch a 25% free ride by timing our departure to coincide with the appropriate current.

It’s the “timing our departure” part where things start to come off the rails.  We met a couple in Anacortes who have just bought their first boat and it was amusing to listen to them talk about how they were going to get all this free travel thanks to the currents.  The reality is somewhat different.

To start with there’s often only two “useable” currents per 24 hours.  Right now there’s effectively only one high and one low tide in 24 hours.  Sometimes you have 2 distinct highs and two lows per day but right now everything is lined up so that the lower high is just kind of a stepping stone on the way to low tide and vice versa.  Since the tides drive the currents that means there’s only two currents per day and one of them will be going the way you don’t want it to go.  That only leaves one current that is moving in your favour and for most trips you only have maybe 6 hours flexibility in your departure time so unless that one favourable current happens to land in that 6 hour window it isn’t going to help you.  And it may just as easily hinder you.  I suppose in theory you could make plans months in advance and time them to hit the right current windows but then you’d also have to contend with the day to day reality of unpredictable weather, particularly wind.  The bottom line in it all is that sometimes you get lucky but most of the time you just try to minimize the damage that you current does to you.  So we really appreciated the boost that the current gave us on our trip to Victoria.  It probably clipped at least an hour off the passage from Sidney.

Coming into the inner harbour in Victoria was all new to us.  I’d read about it and of course we have seen the harbour from in front of the Empress but its different when there’s vessels in front and vessels behind and seaplanes taking off and landing beside you.  The woman at the harbour authority was first rate – she talked me into the right slip and fortunately we fit in the first one she assigned us.  This morning I learned by watching a later arrival that she doesn’t necessarily know how big the slips she is assigning are relative to the vessels she is trying to fit into them.  Some poor saps in a sailboat were out in the rain trying futilely to fit into various slips that the harbour authority had assigned to them.  Finally they gave up in our little basin and the last I saw they were rounding the outside wharf headed for a new assignment further south of us.

Today there’s a sailpast for the three yacht clubs that have taken over most of the moorage in the harbour.  The sailpast won’t likely amount to much but there’s about 80 boats involved and I think they plan to dock them all again after the sailpast.  If I’m right that should be about the best entertainment within 100 miles while it is going on.  They’re rafted up solid in front of the Empress right now – getting them jammed back in should involve a lot of yelling and at least one outright wreck.  There’s not much wind today which is unfortunate but you can’t have everything.

And of course today is dimsum day too.

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