Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh dear


Normally when you look at the Environment Canada marine weather there’s mostly blue water around Vancouver Island.  Often there will be a red zone off shore or maybe one of the Georgia Strait zones will be red but this morning its red all over.  That’s not good.  The forecast for Haro Strait tonight is over 45 MPH winds.  Fortunately we had planned to stay put here anyway.

“Here” in this case being the same marine park we stayed at just over a year ago when Kim and Steve were escorting us back to Canada.  I got the dish set up on the dock and it seems to be working.  The dock moves around a bit but evidently not enough to through the dish off signal.  We move 10 or 12 feet vertically with the tides but that’s such an insignificant amount compared to the roughly 30,000 miles out to the satellite that it doesn’t matter.  I figured it out yesterday just for the hell of it – the tan of the change angle is something like 0.00000008.  I didn’t bother looking up the corresponding angle but its going to be a very small angle.  The flopping dock on the other hand is a very real angle change but evidently the software can handle that.  We’re pretty sheltered in here but I’ll be surprised if it can handle 45 MPH winds.


We had a rolly night at anchor the night before last and we were both feeling a bit off yesterday morning.  I don’t get puking sick but I can tell that my judgement is affected & I have to think carefully to make sure that I’m not letting my altered judgement impact my decisions.  We left Sucia Island around 11:00 expecting some rough water outside the bay but also expecting a fairly sheltered run over here to Stuart Island.  That’s exactly how it turned out – it was a very pleasant 2-1/2 hour trip.  Our original plan had been to go north to Vancouver sometime this week but the extended forecast is just pure crap.  There’s a low anchored out here and it is sucking systems in every day.  The run to Vancouver is a long day and its really exposed so we decided to take the coward’s way out and head through the islands back to Sidney.  We’ll still go up the Island and over to Vancouver but maybe by then the weather will have smartened up.  If not the trip north along the east side of the Island is well sheltered and its only a 2 or 3 hour crossing direct to Vancouver from Nanaimo.


We could have crossed back to Sidney this morning before the wind got up but its no hardship staying here a few nights.  Its such a pretty spot and the bay we’re in is on the NW end of the island so its pretty well sheltered from the prevailing S and SE winds.  Its also a bit more reasonably priced than the dock at the last place – we’re paying $22.50 per night here so we figured that was worthwhile in order to have a place to set up the dish.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hanging out in the San Juans

We were pretty laid back this morning.  SWMBO slept in; I wandered the dock and found Delfin’s owner.  Delfin is a really neat boat that Carl has refitted as a recreational trawler.  She’s a Romsdahl trawler; her keel was laid in Norway in the mid 1960’s.  When Carl found her she was in his words, a steel canoe.  Now she’s about the prettiest vessel in Cap Sante marina.

By noon we were ready to cast off the lines in Anacortes but then I got a call from Chuck.  He’s the guy who owned Gray Hawk several owners back and who helped us move her from Seattle to Anacortes.  By the time we got done visiting with Chuck it was well into the afternoon and the wind was kicking up pretty good.  We left anyway and bucked the current most of the way to Sucia Island.


Sucia is a really small, low island just north of Orcas Island with several deep bays indenting its east side.  Some of them have floats and mooring buoys; some just have mooring buoys.  Initially we tied up at the dock but it’s a marine park and they wanted $30 per night for the privilege of tying up to their dock.  That’s pretty steep for a no service parking spot so we ended up anchored out in the middle of one of the bays. 

We had a hell of a time getting the anchor to stick tonight.  I’ve heard about eel grass making it hard to get an anchor to penetrate & I’m wondering if that’s what we came up against today.  We got it set once but it dragged when I pulled hard against it.  The second time it set I pulled a bit but didn’t go as hard against it as the first time.  As long as we don’t get a great big blow tonight I’m sure we’ll be OK but its definitely not set the way I’d like it to be.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Heading north

Yesterday morning we got an early start out of Seattle and had a glorious run up the coast into Skagit Bay.  We’d been advised not to go through the Swinomish Channel because it has been silting in at the south end and some boats have run aground there.  I wasn’t sure whether the risk of grounding in the Swinomish Channel or getting dashed to bits in Deception Pass was worse.  Our only other alternative would have been to go outside Whidbey Island which would have meant running in the open for a day and a half so I didn’t much like that option either.

Given that we weren’t going outside, we had to come up into Skagit Bay either way and then when we got to the mouth of the Swinomish we had to make a decision to either turn hard right or go on to Deception Pass.  We turned right and it came out OK.  The problem with Deception is that even with the small “neap” tides we are having now, the currents run 8 or 9 knots and on spring tides they can be much higher.  And they turn from ebb to flood on a dime so you have to be sitting there waiting for the current to get almost stopped, duck out into the pass and hope you’re through before it gets running the other direction again.

I had checked online the night before & it sounded like the Swinomish groundings have been at low or minus tides.  On the US side you can actually have a negative tide because of the way they set their chart datum.  Based on our experience yesterday I wouldn’t want to take our boat through that channel with any less than a 4 foot tide.  We were between 4 and 5 feet when we went through and we saw close to 6 feet of water at some points.  I had the alarm set at 6 feet and it never actually rang but it was damn close at times, particularly at the south end for about the first mile in. 

Swinomish range

In the picture the red arrows are pointing at the two range markers.  The one to the east is low to the water and the westerly one is higher up.  If you make 2 fists and hold them up, one farther away and higher than the other and then move your head from side to side you will simulate what we used to align ourselves with the ditch.  When the lower mark moves to one side that means you have drifted off course to the other side so effectively what you do is steer toward the lower mark.  Which is fine if you are heading toward them but about as handy as hip pockets in long underwear if you are travelling away from the markers.  Marilyn sat in the doorway yesterday and called out the range marks and I drove really slow watching the depth sounder.  Like I said, we made it.

This morning we tried the poop pumper at La Conner but it was defective.  So we pulled up to the fuel dock and discovered nobody was home.  We were still trying to get sorted out to dock when the operator arrived to open up but the current was running too hard to dock in the direction we were headed so we had to pull away, turn around and return.  La Conner is famous for currents and they are so unpredictable that the guide books just say “consult local knowledge”.  The fuel dock always has a sign out indicating the current direction.  It was deceptive this morning – the water was so calm that it didn’t look like there was any strength to the current but when I started maneuvering in it I quickly discovered that both engines running at idle would barely hold us in position.  That means the current was 3 to 4 knots. 

After we took on fuel we had a leisurely run the rest of the way up the channel to Anacortes where we arrived in the middle of their boat show.  This isn’t the big Trawlerfest event but rather their local effort.  We attended it last year and for a free boat show its OK.  I wouldn’t pay anything to attend it but paying one night’s moorage doesn’t seem excessive for what’s on offer.

We really like Anacortes – the Safeway is just across the road, West Marine is an easy walk away on Commercial and down at the end of Commercial there’s a great marine hardware and surplus store. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Captain onboard

Two of them actually yesterday. 

When we were in Seattle to pick up Gray Hawk we had an abortive attempt to deal with Captain Dan and ended up hiring Captain Linda to give us some boat training.  That helped Marilyn a lot with line handling – it may have helped me some with boat handling although I can’t say I remember it doing much.  I do remember one conversation with Chuck once we got to Anacortes where it was like a light came on for me.  He was a trainer for Alaskan Airlines and he’s GOOD.  Way past good.  But we’re not talking about him today.

Yesterday Captain Linda arrived just before 9:00.  We had the boat running and the lines rigged for departure.  I took the boat away from the dock with Marilyn handling the lines, we went out in the fairway, turned around and came back to the dock.  That was all so that Linda could see how we normally like to dock.  Then I went and hid out in the bedroom while Marilyn got her lesson.  When we got to the part where she needed a line handler I returned but the goal was to keep me from interfering with the instructing/learning process.  We must have succeeded because SWMBO docked the boat several times and true to her name, I obeyed her orders handling the lines.

By 1:00 Marilyn was pretty well played out.  Linda went home, we had something to eat and then we took off on a Seattle shopping trip in George’s truck.  George is the previous owner of Gray Hawk.  When we arrived here at Shilshole Marina we went and banged on the hull of his new boat, Slo Dance.  Almost the first words out of his mouth when we got talking to him were “you can use my truck while you’re here”.  He’s got an old Ford set up like a contractor’s truck with roof racks that he uses for his various projects.  Its no virgin but beggars can’t be choosers so we were pretty grateful for the offer and yesterday we used it for a run to Fisheries Supply, Tacoma Screw, 2nd Wave and Albertsons with a few other stops thrown in along the way.  Its great being here in Seattle because the marine service industry is so well developed.  I’ve been looking for bronze bolts and screws for close to a month now – no problem – go to Tacoma Screw.  We needed a seacock for the genset wet exhaust and some bronze fittings to install that – no problem – go to Fisheries.  Of course we stopped at 2nd Wave which is a used equipment consignment store and I got lucky on the seacock that would have cost me over $100 at Fisheries – only $13 at 2nd Wave.

When we got home we tackled the head – again.  “Head” is the boating word for crapper and we have been having crapper issues for a couple of weeks now.  Not to get too graphic but the issue is that the stuff isn’t issuing out of the crappers properly.  Both of them quit at once for slightly different reasons so I bought a ton of parts and a complete pump assembly.  I replaced one pump assembly, rebuilt the one I removed, used it to replace the pump on the 2nd head and now I will rebuild that pump so that we have a spare onboard.  Once we got through all that and all the attendant mess the head in the master stateroom quit working again.  That time it was the line from the pump to the holding tank that had plugged up solid so when we got here I went with George to Lowes and returned with a 25 foot plumber’s snake.  No sooner had we cleared that line than the line from the pump to the 3-way valve plugged up.  I think what had happened is the impeller on the pump was pretty well gone so there wasn’t much flow to the water coming off the impeller.  That allowed “stuff” to build up in the lines and when I put on the new pump it knocked everything loose and tried to ram it all at once through congested lines which more or less lead to a shit coronary.  At least that’s what I’m hoping because if the new normal is fixing crappers every week we’ll go back to living in a bus.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maybe our last day in P.A.

It doesn’t feel like we accomplished much today.  We should be back in the water but the Travelift was tied up all day with a boat that launched yesterday and came back this morning.  It’s owner ran it hard into a rock, so hard that it bounced back according to the report we got.  Then he took it offshore to fish for a while with a busted bulbous bow and damaged keel coolers.  So when they got here the refit was pretty major.  And when you do that much work there’s bound to be one or two things slip through.  They left it in the slings this morning because it was clearly just going to be a quick trip but at 5:00 it was still hanging there.  They did finally get it in the water and I took some video of the launch. 

There’s no way I can take video footage of our own launch so if you want to see what happens, this is as good as I can do. 

Marilyn spent the morning finishing up polishing the shafts – they look really shiny now.  I changed a couple of zincs but I talked myself out of doing them all.  We have so much zinc hanging on this boat that each individual anode doesn’t erode very quickly.  I changed one of the three big plate zincs just because it seemed like I should put a new one on but I think the one I took off weighed more than half of what the new one did.  The old plate zincs were on the boat when we bought it so they were likely good for a year or maybe two more. 

I had a little discussion with our project manager about our invoice when it showed up.  He had no way of knowing that I trained in the farmer school of “grind the bill until the owner drips blood.”  In fairness to me though I wasn’t grinding them for recreation the way a few of my customers used to enjoy doing it to me.  In our case we had an estimate for the work and there were a couple of items on the invoice that were so far from the estimate as to be unrecognizable.  In the end we arrived at a fair, mutually agreeable solution which is more than I can say for the outcomes of some of the invoice reductions I have endured from the other side of the counter.

The Travelift is empty tonight but I don’t expect to be the first launch in the morning.  I really have no idea when we may get in the water.  We’ve agreed that unless we launch before noon we will stay one more night in the marina.  We’ve got a couple of medium long days to get from here to Seattle so we don’t want to set out late in the day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A busy day

I wasn’t sure what to do about the props during the haulout.  As is usual in the boating world, there is an expensive solution to prop maintenance, something called “Prop Speed”.  I was vaguely aware that it existed but didn’t really know much about it and I still don’t – our “project supervisor” is a chatty SOB but not all that knowledgeable.  He gave me a quote for what I believe consisted of putting epoxy paint on both props for the mere sum of $1000 and I said “thanks but no thanks”.  Instead I walked over to a local chandlery and bought some zinc coating in a rattle can.  It was $25 per can and I bought two cans but that was still a far cry from $1000 – everything is relative.  Yesterday I buffed the barnacles off the props and Marilyn started sanding them to make a cross hatch for the paint to adhere to.  This morning I sat under the boat out of the rain to finish the sanding and then sprayed the props.  I think they turned out well.  Time will tell how much help the coating is but I don’t think there was anything at all on there up until now and we seem to have survived.


As you can see, the bottom painters were back at work this morning too.  I had to prod our project manager a bit to get that happening but they got busy underneath while it was still raining and then during the 10 or 15 minutes when it wasn’t raining they managed to get all the exposed areas done as well.  We’re putting two coats of bottom paint on, the first one was dark blue and the top coat is a lighter blue.  That’s so that we can monitor how much of the paint is remaining over the course of the next 2 or 3 years before we do our next haulout.  The goal of bottom paint is to keep the critters from attaching to and growing on your boat.  The bottom paint we are using is what is called “ablative” paint which means that the surface of the paint is designed to slough off continually to expose new protection.   With different colours we can tell when the surface coat is gone because the colour will change.  Under the dark coat we have our original light blue bottom paint so we can monitor the disappearance of that layer as well.

My goal for the day was to service all the through hull valves.  I didn’t get done but I got close.  I’d never actually counted the holes in our hull but it turns out we have 16.  Three of those are bilge pumps, there’s a shower discharge, drains for both sinks, raw water supplies to all three engines, the genset wet exhaust, intakes and discharges for the heads, a holding tank pumpout and the intake for the anchor washdown.  That’s a lot of holes and its really important that each one of them have a functioning valve immediately inside the hull.  So important in fact that it is a Coast Guard requirement.  It turns out we were missing one valve.  Whoever installed our generator wet exhaust didn’t bother to put a shutoff on that through hull.  Hatching a plot to rectify that situation and wrestling the steel braid exhaust hose off the through hull took up the time that would otherwise have gone to finishing cleaning the last 5 valves. 

These valves are very simple and they work well but over time they get scale built up inside them that makes them hard to turn.  I’m hoping that soaking them in CLR and scraping off the scale will give them a new lease on life.  They don’t get shut off very often – we only ever close them when we leave the boat for an extended period of time – but if you ever absolutely needed to close one you would want it to work right now. 

The final project for the day was to replace the pump and motor on the master stateroom head.  It’s a fairly complex little setup – the motor actually drives two centrifugal pumps.  The first pump draws raw water in from the ocean and circulates it around the bowl.  The second pump sends the “stuff” back to the holding tank.  In front of the second pump there is an additional rotating knife to make sure the stuff all goes through the pump.  All of that assembly fits under the toilet so you can possibly imagine what a joy it is to change.  We have been lucky enough to have both heads give problems simultaneously so I bought a complete replacement assembly for one of the heads & parts to rebuild the two assemblies.  My plan is to rebuild the one I just took out, swap it into the guest head and then rebuild the pump out of that head to keep for a spare.  I’m really glad I didn’t choose plumbing as a career.

Absent the little adventure with the genset discharge we would absolutely be leaving here tomorrow.  My guess now is that there is a 50/50 chance we will leave tomorrow.  We have the parts coming overnight from Seattle.  I’ll put them on as fast as they arrive but then we’ll be at the mercy of the Travelift to get back in the water & I’m not optimistic.  If we were sitting here first thing in the morning waiting to get launched that would be one thing but trying to get that to happen starting at noon seems difficult.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 1–Naiad service

I guess its actually Day 2 but it was the first working day. 

Naiad service -5

Gray Hawk has active fin stabilizers made by Naiad.  Apparently they also make parts for Sikorski so that’s pretty good company to be keeping.  I took the photo below for future reference so we can remember where to align the lift straps for the Travelift.  The portside fin is clearly visible between the straps.  The fins are controlled by a gyro in the engine room and hydraulic actuators on the shafts that the fins fit on.  Whenever we roll the gyro sends hydraulic fluid to lower the fin on the low side and raise the fin on the high side.  It does that fast enough to damp out most of the roll as long as we are moving – obviously it can’t work without water flowing across the fins.  Its actually quite noticeable on a rough day when we flip the switch to turn on the fins – its kind of like God reached down and grabbed hold of the flybridge.  We usually take one mighty lurch in the wrong direction and then settle in more or less stable.  Unless it’s a really really really bad day like the one when we came over from Victoria.

Haulout day one -18

Naiad recommends that the seals on the fins be serviced every three years or 4000 hours, whichever comes first.  You’d have to be a serious cruiser to get to the 4000 hour interval in less than 3 years but the tech today claimed he had seen it once.  In that case he said when the guy bought his boat he didn’t bother arranging moorage because he never planned to spend that long in one place.  And with a path that had taken him through both Panama and the Northwest Passage in the same year it sounded like he had lived up to his plans.

Naiad service -3

The photo above is after the first fin came off.  The shaft is tapered stainless steel which fits into a tapered socket in the fin.  To remove it they have a hydraulic pump that attaches to the socket on the fin and pressurizes the chamber between the shaft and socket.  The tech said they usually come off at 10,000 PSI but in extreme cases he has taken them to 35,000 and then gone for coffee.  In those cases he says he usually gets a call from the yard saying that they just heard a really loud noise and when he gets back the fin is loose.  They have to be really tight because the only thing holding the fin aligned to the shaft is friction between the tapered shaft and socket.

Naiad service -22

In the photo above they are fitting the 2nd fin back on its shaft.  Its really a very simple process – if you have the right tools.  Without them I can easily see how it could turn into a multi-day ordeal.  There’s two plastic seals fit over the shaft and that is all that we had to replace.  As long as they are doing their job and keeping the water out of the bearings there’s really not much wear on the system.  Its not like the fins move that far or that fast. 

This service day was one of those that can either take a few hours or a few weeks.  As long as everything is in good shape it’s a simple matter of changing a couple of seals and putting it all back together.  On the other hand if the seal has failed and the shaft is compromised then the cost goes up more or less as the square of the time required to do the repair.

While the Naiad guy was doing his thing I was busy filling in a hole.  Generally speaking holes in boats are bad things but nevertheless holes tend to accumulate on older boats.  Over the years various owners make changes, add new gadgets, stop using old ones.  Sometimes those new gadgets involve making new holes in the hull for transducers or speed sensors or other paraphernalia.  I had one hole identified that was no longer needed so I thought while we were out of the water was a good time to fill it in.  That kept me busy today but I got it done before the paint crew was ready to cover it over. 

I was worried about it being too cold for the epoxy to kick so I used fast hardener and a heat lamp.  That worked well – maybe a little too well – my plug got hot enough to melt the plastic I used for a barrier on the outside and it gassed off pretty severely inside the boat leaving the inside surface kind of porous.  But now where there used to be a 2” hole in the hull there is a 2” epoxy plug about 1-1/2” deep.  So even if its not perfect epoxy it should be up to the task of keeping the sea on the outside.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Back to P.A.

Growing up in Shellbrook the nearest city was Prince Albert or as everyone called it “P.A.”  As it turned out P.A. was also Marilyn’s hometown.  So it’s more than a little weird for both of us to find ourselves once again in P.A.  Only this time P.A. is Port Angeles on the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

Nothing much happened yesterday.  The storm that beat us up as we crossed from Victoria intensified as it passed over Vancouver Island and caused a lot of damage on the island.  We were still getting the backside of the winds yesterday and it simply wouldn’t have been safe to haul the boat.  We did get moved deeper into the harbour to where we were much more comfortable.  And we got a phone call from our marina to say that our car was about to drop into a sinkhole.  Evidently the storm surge combined with the high tide to undermine the parking lot and four vehicles fell into the resulting hole.  It doesn’t sound like any damage was done, other than to the parking lot.

We were having a leisurely morning because Charlie had told me yesterday that there was no way the haulout would happen before 10:00 boat time.  At about 8:45 Charlie appeared on the dock and I stuck my head out to visit.  “They’ll be ready for you at 8:00” which of course is 9:00 boat time.  So we shifted into high gear and only kept them waiting about 8 minutes.  We’d likely have been there in time but I made a slight navigatory error.   In my defense their breakwater and the location of the basin is pretty confusing.




At one point in the day it looked like we would be blocked indoors.  That would have been a big advantage for the painting that we need done but it would have meant that we could not stay onboard.  With that in mind we got ourselves a hotel room only to soon after discover that we were too long to fit in the space they had planned for us.  So tonight we are in a hotel but tomorrow we will be back onboard. 

We really are too small for this yard.  That’s part of the learning process for us.  I think we’re in a really good yard but a smaller yard would likely cost us less and the result wouldn’t be noticeably different.  They had difficulty this morning getting the slings positioned because our boat is just too small for their lift.  Their slings are so wide that they almost wouldn’t fit between the stabilizers and where the shafts emerge from the hull.  Fortunately we have a really deep keel and that protected the shafts from the sling that otherwise would have pressed against both shafts.  The next time round I think we’ll find a yard where they can pull and block us and then we can put the bottom paint on ourselves.  Its just paint after all.  The Naiad service was a big deal for me – I thought we needed a yard to be able to get that done but it turns out that the guys at Platypus aren’t doing it anyway.  There is a Naiad technician coming tomorrow to do that work and I’m sure he’d be equally happy to work directly for us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It all comes back to me now ……….

…………… like the skunk said when the wind changed.  That was one of father’s favorite expressions.  It all came back to Marilyn about halfway across the Strait of Juan de Fuca yesterday.  George didn’t make it out of the Victoria Harbour before he shat himself but Marilyn hung on until at least the halfway point of the strait and in her case it came out the other end.

The one thing you should absolutely never have on a boat is a schedule and we violated that rule yesterday.  Marilyn has been looking forward to the sewing convention in Victoria ever since she heard about it a year ago now.  That wrapped up Saturday afternoon and our haulout was Monday morning so our window for crossing the strait was pretty narrow.  I started watching the weather a couple of days ago & I didn’t like what I saw but I thought it would be manageable.  Turns out I was right – sort of.

I was up until after 2:00 AM Sat/Sunday because my stainless steel bender didn’t get my davit brackets done when he said he would.  Then he offered to bring them into Victoria on the weekend and then he didn’t show up until the middle of the night.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered because I didn’t sleep much after I went to bed anyway. 

We untied just before 11:00 and were leaving the Inner Harbour at 11:00 but even inside the harbour we could see that it was going to be a rough crossing.  There were gale warnings out for all of Georgia Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait and some areas went to storm warnings.  That’s been a head shaker for me – “storm” is worse than “gale”.  Anyway, the gale force winds weren’t predicted to come up until Sunday evening in Juan de Fuca so I thought we’d likely make it but get beat up some on the way. 

As it turned out, we got a different beating than any we’ve had so far.  First off the wind was blowing straight out of the west and we were going straight south so we were heeled 5-10 degrees just from the wind.  That also meant that we were going exactly crosswise to the waves all the time.  I tried zigging and zagging some but more or less we just took them beam on all the way.  We got smacked down hard a couple of times – things were too exciting to look at the inclinometer in the moment but some later smackdowns took us to 35 degrees so I think we probably hit 40 degrees in the worst of it.  That doesn’t sound bad but its pretty exciting when the boat lies over on its side so far that you wonder if its going to get back up this time.  Most of the trip we were getting hit by long steady Pacific rollers but there was enough local wind chop mixed in with them to make it occasionally exciting.

We had things battened down a lot better this time.  The dinghy took it all in stride and the main cabin was relatively untouched.  The galley didn’t suffer at all – all the Silver Birch china emerged unscathed.  Our bedroom was another matter.  The hanging locker sprang open and puked its guts out – probably about the same time Marilyn was doing likewise over the port rail.  And all the DVDs were spewed over the bed along with the books that were up there beside them.  All in all though it could have been a lot worse and amazingly enough the big TV in the bedroom never moved.

The only serious issue on the trip was the GD buzzer alarms for the bilge pumps.  We have four bilge pumps and each of them is wired in parallel with a buzzer light on the dash so that whenever a bilge pump runs the light and buzzer come on.  The problem is that the float switches for the pumps are set too low so the pumps cycle on when the little bit of water that is always in the bilge sloshes against one of the float switches.  There’s so little water there that the pump never actually pumps anything but we had to listen to the damn alarms going off pretty well constantly through the worst of the crossing.

For a change clearing Customs into the US was a piece of cake.  Maybe he felt sorry for us.  Marilyn was curled up under a blanket downstairs and only poked her head out so he could see that she was there.  By that time the cat had recovered and he was happy to meet a new friend.  There isn’t actually a Customs office here so I had to phone the guy and he came down to check us out but I don’t suppose he was here 15 minutes in total.  His main concern seemed to be that he got my credit card information so they can mail me the $27.50 border sticker that we have to have stuck in the window so that nobody can ever pay any attention to it again.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Déjà vu all over again

Saskatchewan readers may remember the bad old days when Lindy Thorson was at once a CBC radio personality and a one-man cheerleader for the provincial NDP.  I’m not sure where that nitwit landed but mercifully I haven’t had to listen to his light weight interviewing skills for many years now.  And try as he might he never chased me completely away from listening to CBC radio.  My patience is being sorely tried again though every time I turn it on in BC.

No NDP Allowed

The rest of the country is likely (mercifully) unaware that the BC teachers have been on strike for the last year – or maybe longer – I haven’t actually paid that close attention.  The government is in the process of sending them back to work and CBC is trying valiantly to prop up the teachers’ union.  I’ve haven’t heard so many softball questions and leading introductions since Loser-Lindy left Saskatchewan. 

Other than frustration with the sad state of public radio in BC, life is progressing well out here.  Today I’m tied up with the Empress Hotel filling my forward view.  Marilyn is attending some kind of sewing pow-wow here in Victoria and I’m marking time until we take the boat across to Port Angeles.  Its been more or less pissing rain all morning, which isn’t really newsworthy out here but was annoying when I carried Marilyn’s sewing machine up to the bus for her this morning.  She’s getting a ride home with one of the other attendees so that won’t be a problem. 

There’s a really good chandlery over by the Coast Guard station so if the rain lets up this afternoon I’ll likely walk over there.  I’m looking for some bronze bolts to put in the shunt on the Trimetric installation.  I’ve got stainless bolts in there right now but apparently stainless steel is a relatively poor conductor of electricity.  That came as a bit of a surprise to me because I’ve seen stainless bolts molded into battery terminals but apparently its true.  I was careful to install the bolts so that they are only providing clamping pressure – they have no conductive function the way I have them installed – but I’d still like to find better bolts just in case some future owner screws up my careful installation.  I found some brass bolts yesterday that would work but I’m still holding out for bronze if I can find them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

There and back again

We’re back on the boat.  And it feels like we’ve been everywhere since I last posted.  We arrived back yesterday after a leisurely trip in from Merritt but before that ……………..

I dropped Marilyn off at Woodland on Friday morning so she could schmooze her contacts there & I headed out to Shellbrook.  When I arrived at the Miners ranch Ken and Kevin were feeding cows.  I’ve always said that driving into that yard feels like entering a time machine and transporting back 50 years.  Friday was no exception.

Miners -6

In the picture Ken and Kevin are unrolling a straw bale by hand after carefully pulling all the twine off it.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a high labour way to bed cattle. 

Miners -2

I see a lot of high capital cost farms in the course of my work for Palliser and Growsafe.  Its nice to see that there really is another way to make a living off the farm but there is a lot of hard manual labour involved to do it this way.

I picked Marilyn up after lunch on Friday and we headed back to Saskatoon to pick up some prescriptions and then turned west.  We got as far as Cochrane that night, having bypassed Calgary completely.  Coming from Saskatoon its easy to dodge west at Airdrie and miss all the Calgary congestion although even Airdrie is starting to have its own traffic jams. 

On Saturday we tackled the Rockies and everything went well until we got to Revelstoke.  Rogers Pass had a lot of snow piled up but the road was more or less bare. 

If you look really carefully in the middle right of the next picture you can see the top of the structure from the photo above with a blob of snow on top of it.

As I said, everything went well until we got to Revelstoke.  There’s a rest area – maybe 3 or 4 acres of gravel - on the west side of town where the truckers often spend the night.  We’ve spent the night there on occasion too and on Saturday we stopped there to stretch our legs.  Almost as soon as we pulled back on the highway we stopped again.  It was starting to snow, we were headed up a slight grade and the road disappeared around a curve with no evidence as to why we were stopped.  There was very little opposing traffic coming through but occasionally a highway service vehicle would appear.  Finally I walked back to a semi that had spun out behind us and asked him if he had heard anything on the CB.  He said he had heard that a semi was spun out on a hill ahead of us which may or may not have been true – we never saw any sign of that.  We did see a big highway wrecker go by headed up the hill but when we finally got moving again he was tending to a pickup pulling a stock trailer.  We were stopped for about two hours though so the wrecker could have cleared a semi and been helping someone else by the time we got to the scene.

Finally everything started moving again and after a couple of false starts we got moving too.  Big Fords are wonderful highway cars but some of the more recent versions haven’t been very good on snow.  Marilyn’s Grand Marquis was possibly the most helpless pig I have ever driven if there was even 4 inches of snow on the road.  Fortunately we have traction control and we were able to get moving.  Once we got going the semis were chewing up the snowpack with their chains so it was rough but we had pretty good footing.  By the time we got to Craigellachie the pavement was dry again.  Listening to the news today it sounds like we got through in the nick of time because the highway was closed in several places and for more than 24 hours in some spots.

We brought a full carload of “stuff” back from the Prairies.  I like to buy things on ebay and have them shipped to our UPS address so there were several boxes waiting for us.  Its just so much cheaper to get things if you don’t mind waiting a bit.  For example I bought 6 feet of 6 different sizes in 4 different colours of heat shrink tubing for about what I would have paid for maybe 3 feet of tubing at an electronics store.  That’s 24 different pieces of heat shrink, each 6 feet long.  They should last me for the rest of my life.  All I had to do was wait for them to arrive. 

Today I got busy putting it all away on the boat.  Tomorrow I need to install our new Trimetric monitor (which was in one of the boxes) and then on Wednesday we’ll start out for Port Angeles.  Marilyn has a sewing conference in Victoria on the weekend so we’ll be spending the weekend in the inner harbour before crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles on Sunday afternoon.