Sunday, March 31, 2013


Last summer we talked to some people who had just had an orca encounter – their first in 5 years of boat ownership.  We had resigned ourselves to matching or doing worse than their record.  Until yesterday.

We got a moderately early start from the dock at Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club and headed for Otter Bay.  The first club cruise of the year is this weekend.  Marilyn’s late Friday arrival meant that we couldn’t join the group for the Elks Club supper but we attended it last year and weren’t sorry to miss the overdone boiled steaks this time round.  Last year there was a pod of Orcas playing outside the bay one of the days we were here but of course we missed them.

Yesterday about 11:00 in the morning as we approached Otter Bay all of a sudden Marilyn shrieked O R C A S !!!  Of course my instinctive thought was “yeah, right” but almost at the same instant I saw a spout of water ahead of us.  And sure enough, there they were, a small pod of orcas directly in our path.  So we stopped and watched them.  An hour later we finally decided we might as well move on because they showed no sign of leaving. 

As near as we could tell they were playing with a seal, likely teaching some juveniles how to kill their dinner.  A couple of times we saw blood in the water but mostly we saw the adults swimming in a circle with an occasional flash of gray tail in the centre of the circle.  It would be a very bad way to die but I suppose it was the most excitement in an otherwise boring lifetime.  We all have to go sometime; perhaps it is better to go out high on adrenaline than to die of boredom.  It clearly appeared that the seal(s) were not bored.

I had unpacked our new video camera and charged the battery Friday night but other than that hadn’t really even turned it on.  I knew where the on switch was and how to start it recording but I hadn’t learned that I had to manually open the lens.  That meant that the first attempt at recording simply took a picture of the backside of the lens door.  Once I got that figured out I took a few minutes of very jerky and jumpy video.  And later I figured out how to crudely edit that into a Youtube upload which is available for your viewing pleasure here: 

After we tired of watching the blood sport we finished the trip into Otter Bay and got anchored.  There’s a grassy bottom here so it took a couple of sets before I was happy and even then I didn’t pull as hard as I would have liked to while setting the anchor.  If we had any threat of a big blow I would fire up the engines and pull a bit now to dig us in a little further.  It takes a while for the anchor to work its way in on grassy bottom so there’s no point in pulling away right at the start because the anchor will just foul with grass and drag.  Now that we’ve bobbed around putting a gentle pull on it I think I could likely tease it in a bit deeper with some power.  Its been such glorious weather that it doesn’t seem worthwhile to go to the bother of trying for a better set since we’re leaving here tomorrow anyway. 

I’ve been playing with some video editing software and our new camera.  We intend to incorporate some original video footage in our AITC project but first I need to learn how to create something that doesn’t look like I created it.  So watch for regular video postings as I try out the new stuff.  WARNING: the one I linked above is incredibly crude.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Too wonderful not to share

It was a glorious day – again – today.  I dawdled on the dock in Cow Bay until late afternoon in order to catch the rising tide in Tsehum Harbour.  The channel in to the yacht club reciprocal dock is really skinny.  I don’t like coming in on less than about a 6 foot tide.  I had a little more than that tonight but still less than 8 feet and I had to set the alarm at 9 feet in order to keep it from beeping at me.


There was a lot of traffic out there with me today.  It was just one of those grand days when everybody wanted to get out and enjoy nature.  Up closer to Cow Bay I was dodging sailboats that were almost as thick as crab traps.  The photo above is approaching Swartz Bay where I had to dodge the extra ferries that BC Ferries had laid on for the holiday weekend.  The photo below shows some of the congestion around the Swartz Bay terminal.


IMG_6624 IMG_6623

This last one is for my buddy Michael.  This area on the north shore of Tsehum Harbour is a regular resting ground for derelict boats.  This one looks better than some I have seen that ended up here, although it is missing some important bits – like a mast and rigging - and likely has some issues with water intrusion.  After they get the crap beat out of them on the rocks they are usually hard to refloat.  Nevertheless its open for salvage if anyone wants it.  A bit of patching at low tide, wait for high tide, couple hundred feet of line and a small powerboat is all it would take.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Got crabs


That’s a very high tech device you are looking at.  To the uninformed it may look like just another 5 gallon pail with a curly hose hanging over the side of it but it is much more than that.  Much MUCH more. 

If you look closely you will see that there is water flowing over the edge of the bucket.  That’s because the hose is running a continuous small stream of seawater into the bucket.  That’s right – you are looking at a poor man’s live well.  You can’t see the 4 crabs that are currently living there but they are there nonetheless.  Their execution date is scheduled for later this afternoon.

I’ve had a pretty good run of crabbing lately.  I’m not about to publicly confess to any fish and game felonies but there’s a good store of crabcakes in my freezer right now.  Today I pulled the traps and stowed them away as part of my “get ready for SWMBO to arrive” program.  Only 2 more sleeps now until she arrives in Sidney, assuming all goes to plan.  Regular readers may remember that all doesn’t always go to plan and in fact the last time Marilyn tried to fly out to visit me her plans were frustrated by a blizzard.

My other big boat project just barely shows in the lower left corner of the picture above.


We carry 600 feet of 3/8 poly line for shore tying.  Shore tying for you land lubbers is what you do when the anchorage is too crowded for everyone to just swing around their anchors.  We often do it just because we like to stay oriented in one direction in an anchorage.  Some of the anchorages out here actually have iron rings embedded in the rock for us to tie up to but more commonly we run a line around a tree or conveniently located rock.

Up until now our shore tie line had been rattling around on the upper deck.  I’ve got 2 reels of 300 feet each and I had been engaged in a desultory search for a custom stainless reel but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay what the manufacturers think such a reel is worth – try something north of $400.  I also wasn’t 100% convinced I wanted a single reel with 600 feet of line.  I’m not sure why I bought so much line but I’ve found that having it on 2 reels is sometimes really handy.  If we’re in a tight anchorage (which is often the situation when you need to shore tie) then it is beneficial to cross tie the stern.  I’ll run a line from the port bollard diagonally out to the shore on the starboard side and vice versa.  That leaves us very tightly fixed in one position where a single line would still let us drift back and forth sideways.

The framework that lurks under the neat canvas cover in the picture above has room for both the individual 300 foot reels.  So I could conceivably pull off 300 feet of line and tie it onto the 2nd reel for a total length of 600 feet.  But more typically I can do my cross tie trick easily off two individual reels.  The best part is that it didn’t cost much because I had considerable left over structural aluminum from the solar panel installation.  I think the only piece of aluminum I bought specifically for the project was the shaft that the reels turn on.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dizzy Lizzy is at it again

I hear she’s in Labrador trying to convince the Socialists not to field a candidate in the by-election.  She should feel right at home in that discussion.  I can’t claim credit for the thought – I read it in a comment on a weblog – but the Greens should rename themselves the Watermelons – green on the outside and red in the middle.


Ultimately that’s what the whole so-called green agenda is about ……its just wealth redistribution under a different name.  

I note that the anointed one was quick to sign onto the deal, presumably because A) Lizzy’s candidate wasn’t any threat anyway and B) the Lib candidate is the one that stands to benefit.  The leopard will show his true spots when it comes time for a Liberal to stand aside in some riding in order to let the Socialists or Greens win.  Can you say “no bloody chance”?  I think that’s pretty well a direct quote from Justin to Joyce Murray during their final debate.

He might even salute Dizzy-Lizzy after the fashion of his old man.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1-2 punch

Krawetz today; Flaherty tomorrow.  It feels really good to be a resident of the only province in Canada with a genuine balanced budget.  Technically the Libs delivered a balanced budget in BC but even the most diehard Lib has trouble keeping a straight face while explaining how selling crowns off and including the proceeds in general revenue constitutes balancing the budget. 

In Sask the usual suspects are whining about how there’s not enough provision for union wage increases.  Some of them pretend that they can’t understand the difference between SaskPower borrowing to build transmission lines and Regina borrowing to pay salaries.  Can anyone actually be that dense?  Apparently so but fortunately for Saskatchewan there’s less of those idiots than there used to be.

And here’s a little known factoid that I heard today.  Brad pledged when he got elected that Saskatchewan would become the best province in Canada for a person with a disability to live in.  And he’s living up to that promise with income support programs for the disabled.  That’s not the standard approach for a Conservative government but its something all Saskatchewanians should be proud of.   Straight talk and promises kept – gotta love that.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Been dived

I decided I should get Terry-the-diver over before I leave for the prairies.  I didn’t think I had any problems but that’s part of the reason why you hire a diver – because you just don’t know for sure.


So yesterday Terry showed up after he closed the dive shop for the day.  As I expected he didn’t find much of note.  He said the bottom was pretty well clean, including the props.  That’s good news because I want to get at least 2 years on the last haulout and it would be great to go three years.  He changed the bow thruster zinc but it was less than 1/2 consumed which means it would have easily gone 6 months.  That’s my new goal for it.  For some reason it still gets consumed faster than I would like to see but I can live with 6 months.  We still had 3 shaft zincs on each shaft.  I normally like to have two per shaft – one that is well eroded and one that is “new”.  We must have thought that the eroded ones were nearly gone last October and added a new one to each shaft but evidently the eroded ones had more life left than we thought.

I think we’ve got a pretty hot boat next to us.  Not “hot” in any positive sense either.  Hot in the sense that it is fairly electrically active and under-zinced.  Whenever it is plugged into shore power our zinc consumption goes way up but lately it hasn’t been plugged in.  That’s a good thing but there’s no telling when that boat’s haphazard management will decide to plug it in again. 

My two recent trips to Vancouver likely helped keep the bottom and the props clean.  That and the colder winter waters.  The worst conditions for bottom growth are warm water and an idle boat.  Since ours typically sits idle during the warmest months that is a negative for us but we’ll try to use it again before summer. 


The other big project for yesterday was bottling a couple of batches of wine and a batch of port.  We split the carboy of port 3 ways and made some “regular” port plus some raspberry and some blackberry flavoured.  Its pretty damn good if I do say so myself.  We conveniently couldn’t get it all to fit evenly into the bottles so I had to force myself to drink the leftovers last night.  The leftovers were raspberry flavoured so I fear I may have to open one of the other flavours tonight in the interest of ensuring that it is also drinkable.  It would be a terrible shame to store it and then open it for company only to discover that it isn’t very good.  I think I should make the sacrifice to ensure that doesn’t happen.  No sacrifice is too great etc etc

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rain of biblical proportions

With all the recent hoopla over picking a new pope I’m reminded of the line in “The Truck Got Stuck” where Corb Lund refers to the rain causing biblical fears.  The last time they got one of these heavy rainfall events it didn’t really amount to much in Cow Bay.  I actually did most of the solar install right through the “worst” of that rain event.  This time I’m on the mainland and while I haven’t seen any animals lining up in pairs it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

I’m waiting for Bruce to come over because we’ve got a little project planned to finish up my solar installation.  I probably wouldn’t have gone back to the island anyway – its been raining hard enough to restrict visibility. 

Yesterday I took advantage of a brief break in the downpour to go over to Granville and then walk up to Steveston’s.  Our macerator pump seems to be on its last legs and Steveston’s had one on sale.  I’ll likely procrastinate the actual installation until its essential because its shit that it is macerating.  At least this way when it finally gives up completely I will have a spare to install.

On the way back from Granville I noticed that the outboard wasn’t peeing water.  I don’t always remember to check that so its hard to say how long it might have been that way although I think I look pretty regularly.  I took the leg apart yesterday and couldn’t see anything wrong, put it back together, wrastled it back down the ladder and onto the dinghy, reinstalled it and of course it still didn’t work.  The impeller was still intact but the second time when I took everything apart and pulled the impeller out I could tell that it was likely too hard to do much pumping anymore.  There was still steam coming out the pee hole so likely the impeller had been pushing a small amount of water up but nowhere near as much as it should have been.  Anyway, I tracked down a supplier and it turns out they have a store just a little over a mile east of where I’m anchored.  So this morning I rowed over to the nearest dinghy dock and set out walking in the rain. 

The repair kit was only a little over $30 so I bought a spare and fortunately when I got everything bolted back together, once again wrastled the motor back down the ladder and mounted it on the dinghy, it pee’d water out very aggressively.  This afternoon we got a brief break in the rain so I made a run back down to Granville and picked up some blank mooring permits.  Everything worked well so I think that problem is behind us for a few years anyway.  I’m glad I caught it when I did because there’s no safety systems on that old motor.  If it runs dry it just turns the motor into a really poor boat anchor.  Although now that I think about it I could probably cobble up a safety shutdown system similar to what I used on the bus generator – something else to put on the to do list.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Back in Vancouver

I’m back in my favorite anchorage in front of BC Place.

IMG_6583 I need to go back to the prairies but its still so damn cold out there and I wanted to test out my new solar panels so this seemed like an easy choice.  I’ve got a friend that is coming out here for a board meeting early next week.  His visit provided a convenient excuse for a return trip to Vancouver. 

Along the way I stopped in a Plumper Cove on Keats Island, another regular stop for us. 

IMG_6575 The weather wasn’t very co-operative for testing out solar panels.   Currie, one of our dockmates at Cow Bay, told me that only an idiot would install solar panels in BC.  Between the sun being low on the horizon and constantly obscured by clouds he’s likely right on the idiot comment.  I did get a really good test day yesterday – lots of sunshine all day and I ran the generator for less than an hour total.  Even with that limited genset runtime I woke up this morning to 82% state of charge on the batteries.  That’s the real test – where do the batteries end up after running the furnace all night.  Anything over 75% is great.  Right now I’m under solid gray overcast and the panels are not keeping up with the furnace and the fridge but they’re not losing a bunch of ground either.  I briefly ran the gennie while I was making breakfast and I’m sitting at 92% SOC right now (10:00 AM). 


That’s fog hanging in Howe Sound as I left Plumper Cove on Friday.  Its pretty cool how it will hang down low in the channels but also pretty scary when you disappear into it. 


Really scary when you consider that these guys are out there with you and they travel at 20-25 kts.  There was one of them coming up on my port side as I approached that fog bank Friday but fortunately as we got closer to it the fog slowly dissipated. 

I stopped in Mannion Bay for a couple of hours to visit our friend Bruce and then came on into False Creek Friday afternoon.  Yesterday (Saturday) was just a glorious sunny day.  I put the dinghy in the water – it started on the third pull – and motored down to Granville Island.  When you anchor here you need to complete an anchoring permit and turn in your registration so I did that and then I just wandered around Granville enjoying the sunshine.  There was a mob of locals out enjoying the spring weather but the dinghy dock was wide open. 

I think our dinghy motor is the best outboard I have ever owned.  I haven’t had good luck with outboards so maybe it was just my turn but this one keeps getting better.  When I bought it I thought “Oh yeah, here we go again”.  My first outboard was a worn out Johnson that I bought from an old fisherman employee.  I put it on my little plywood Steve Redmond design Bluegill skiff.  It was reliably unreliable and we came back to the dock using the oars more than once.  The next outboard was a Johnson/Evinrude 3 cylinder of about 55 HP that came with a 14 foot runabout we bought from some distant acquaintances.  It also came with JB weld patches on the crankcase but it ran more or less reliably once we got it started.  Pat Smith and I pulled the cylinders off once and discovered that one of the pistons was missing its skirting.  I don’t recall what we did but I expect we put it back together and I sold it.

Starting it was always an adventure.  Once I replaced some ignition coils under the flywheel and forgot to tighten the flywheel nut.  We started it up at the Narrows at Waskesiu, made an ice cream run down the lake with the kids after supper and when I idled it down at the breakwater it started to run like crap and eventually died.  We had to get a ride home to the Narrows with the ranger.  Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up suddenly when I remembered that I hadn’t tightened the flywheel nut.  Fortunately when I pulled the cover the next morning the nut was still there and a couple of turns with a wrench had us back on the water.  My most recent outboard, prior to the antique black Merc we have now, was a CCC (cheapo chinese crap) knockoff of a Yamaha 4 HP.  It was brand new and  pretty well as reliably unreliable as my first Johnson.

When we bought the new-to-us antique Merc it was a major pain to start, it didn’t rev up and it absolutely wouldn’t idle.  Kind of par for the course for me and outboards but definitely not a pleasant experience.   My first move was to dump some kind of weasel piss in the gas tank - “injector cleaner” I think.  I also checked with the local outboard guru in Cow Bay but I think my antique Merc was beneath him, he clearly wasn’t interested.  Hope springs eternal and I thought it might just be my imagination but it seemed to me that the weasel piss was helping.  It seemed like every time I started the motor it was a little better.  The last time I was over here in Vancouver was the first time the motor revved out far enough to get the dinghy up on plane.  At the same time it started idling reliably.  This time it started from cold on the third pull, idled perfectly and generally ran like other people’s outboards do.  I think its to the point where SWMBO could count on starting it and that’s a first for outboards in our lives.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Missing Stompin’ Tom

I’m not a big music fan.  As far as I am concerned if all I ever listened to was Ian Tyson and Gord Lightfoot I’d be happy.  So it has come as a great surprise how much sadness I’m feeling at the news that Stompin’ Tom is dead. 

Its clich├ęd to say that so and so is a Canadian icon.  I’ve heard K.D. Lang described as a Canadian icon – equating K.D. to Stompin’ Tom seems like the ultimate insult to Tom, despite the fact that he sang about K.D.  That’s the great legacy of the man, that he sang about so many aspects of life in Canada.  For me it was the ironworkers bridge song and Sudbury Saturday Night that epitomized Tom Connors.  I guess the common thread is that both are working man songs about real Canadians.  And its probably the reality that attracts me to Gord’s and Ian’s ballads too.  Ian’s songwriting is more generic to western North American cowboys.  What I know and like of Gordon Lightfoot’s work is every bit as Canadian as Stompin’ Tom’s songs, albeit generally a bit more upscale and polished.

So today for your listening pleasure I present links to four ballads – two from Stompin’ Tom and one each for Ian and Gord.




Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nice spot but I won’t be coming back

So I got a little bored this afternoon & decided that the weather wasn’t too awful.  I don’t like making the run across to Howe Sound from Cow Bay in one hop anyway – its a long day, particularly when I’m alone.  But I think I need my 1st Mate back because she keeps me from having adventures. 

I checked the Dreamspeaker guides as well as Active Captain and found what looked like a nice little marine park really close to Porlier Pass.  Wallace Marine Park is the name of the place and my destination was Connover Cove.  I thought that would be ideal because the tides are crappy timing right now so being next door to the pass would make hitting it at the right time really easy, thereby avoiding the adventure I went on the last time I went to Vancouver alone.  Dreamspeaker made it sound like the entrance here was a little tight but once I got inside it would get deeper and I’d be OK. I shouldn’t have come at as low a tide as I did – it was about 3.5 feet when I came in and headed for 1.9 feet.  But I crept in with the depth alarm screeching at me and likely had at least close to a foot under the keel all the time.  Then it didn’t really get any deeper.  OK, maybe a foot or even two feet deeper but by the time I got over to the float it was every bit as shallow as the entrance.


That picture is the depth finder taken after I got tied up to the float.  Just for reference we draw 4-1/2 feet.  Now that’s a little deceptive because the transducer isn’t right at the waterline and we only need about 3.4 feet below the transducer but still, its pretty damn tight.  Tight enough that when I realized there was still another foot for the tide to drop I got out a piece of string and a weight to check just exactly how much room I really had.  It turned out that I had lots of room – I didn’t measure it exactly but it was above my head so probably 7 feet.  Take away the extra 1.5 feet that the tide dropped after I got tied up and I had 24 whole inches to spare at low tide.


In my defence the alternative to tying up here was going another hour up the coast and anchoring in an unfamiliar anchorage or going two hours further and anchoring in Pirates Cove where we already know the holding is crap.  I don’t like anchoring alone so it was easy to convince myself that if I could get in here I’d be OK.  And like I said, neither Dreamspeaker nor Active Captain did a very full disclosure on how tight it really is in here.  Pretty though – really really pretty.


That’s my view out the harbour entrance tonight.  I’ll go out tomorrow morning on a high tide and have 10 or 12 feet to spare.  No worries.

Project completed

There’s an old guy on our dock who says it will all blow off in the first big windstorm.  And he may very well be right – its too soon to tell.  But until it does blow off the solar panel install is complete.


That’s the framework ready for the panels.  The panel area is roughly the same as the canvas that used to live up there.  It might actually be less total area but it for sure isn’t any more.  The framework is slightly better anchored than it used to be.  Its not a big difference but there are a couple of braces back to the mast that didn’t exist previously so based on that rough comparison I think it is solid enough. 


I got some decent weather for a change which made the process a lot more pleasant.  I had a quite a bit of work to do in the engine room to fit the charger and run the wiring so I did that while the weather was crap and worked outside when the sun came out.  Fortunately there was no wind the day I was ready to lift the panels into place.  I was really worried about them once I got them lying in the framework because it wouldn’t have taken much wind to lift them out again. 

Now I need to test the system out.  Sitting here at the dock with 30 amp power on the pedestal doesn’t give me much of a test.  I know I will still need to run the generator and at this time of year I will probably have to run it more than I would like to.  What I’m hoping is that I can make meals on the generator but immediately afterward shut it down and let the panels finish off the charge.  Time will tell.  I would have left for Vancouver this morning but the weather was windy and the clouds were low so I decided to wait for tomorrow when the forecast is slightly better. 


Actually I’ve pretty well given up on listening to the forecasts and mostly depend on my own predictions.  I’ve found that I am generally better than the radio.  Not that I’m 100% right but they sure as hell aren’t right all the time either.  The picture above is what is called a GRIB file displayed in a viewer.  I don’t remember what the acronym stands for (and don’t care enough to look it up right now) but my understanding is that they are an automated way for meteorologists to exchange information.  They don’t explicitly show highs and lows like a weatherfax would but you can infer which is a high and which is a low by the wind direction.  Right now we’ve got that big low off the Oregon coast that is still sending some cloud and wind over us but by tomorrow morning it looks like that will have passed and we’ll be waiting for the next big bugger which is forming up  over Hawaii right now.

I’ve found that my light duty assessment of GRIBs is generally pretty good 36 hours out and somewhat useful 48 hours ahead.  Beyond that its all just a WAG anyway.