Thursday, May 30, 2013

A very satisfying purchase

I was afraid that after wanting a Hobie Mirage kayak for so long they would turn out to be a huge disappointment but that simply hasn’t been the case.  This morning I took one of the kayaks for a leisurely pedal around this lovely little bay and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  That was despite the fact that it wasn’t all that pleasant of a day – the wind is higher than I would like it to be and its not particularly warm.


Despite those drawbacks in the weather I was able to enjoy exploring our new neighbourhood.  We weren’t alone overnight.  About 8:00 yesterday another little imitation tug showed up.  I watched the male half of the couple trying to rig a shore line and ultimately offered to help.  It turned out to be the first time they had rigged a shore tie and I don’t think he would have succeeded without my help.  Not that I’m such an expert either but he just wasn’t particularly well prepared. 

When I went on my tour of the bay this morning I saw the neighbours dinghy up at the head of the bay where a walking trail takes off.  After I got back to Gray Hawk Marilyn noticed that their boat was dragging its anchor but fortunately they returned before that became critical.  I was expecting to see some hapless Bruce or CQR when they pulled the anchor but surprisingly enough it appeared to be an appropriately sized Delta so I don’t know what was going on there.  Our Sarca on the other hand appears to have hooked itself onto some Chinaman’s basement.


Shore tying actually increases the load on an anchor.  When you are swinging at anchor the boat is free to rotate until it is downwind and presenting the least possible wind resistance.  When you are shore tied and the wind is coming abeam you get  maximum windage and you are pulling at an angle to the direction in which the anchor was set.

The little blue awning in the 2nd photo is Marilyn’s gazebo thingy.  Her first purchase was Canadian Tire’s least cost option and turned out to be not that much of a bargain.  We briefly erected it on the dock at Cow Bay for a crab boil the last night we were there.  A poorly effected weld on one of its brackets let go while we were setting it up and we had to resort to duct tape in order to use it that night.  The next morning Marilyn returned it and upgraded to the next most expensive version which has turned out to be a very good decision.  The last time we owned one of these contraptions it was much more complicated to assemble.  So much more complicated in fact that we finally agreed we didn’t love each other enough to ever erect it together again.  This one was very simple to set up and appears to be surviving the wind today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A thoroughly wonderful spot

On our first trip after we bought the boat, on the way to Princess Louisa, I spotted what I thought must be the entrance to Smuggler Cove and I have wanted to come back here ever since.  Today we finally made it back.  And its every bit as wonderful as I had imagined.  It was however a bit of an adventure entering the bay.


As you can see, our GPS track was impossible.  The charts for this area seem to have some anomalies in them.  I’ve noticed it before on the Pender Harbour small scale charts and today it was particularly evident on the small scale chart for this bay.  OpenCPN flags the chart icon with a red triangle, they don’t quilt properly with adjoining charts and as you can see from the image above, they just flat our are wrong.  That makes it more than just a little alarming when you are inching your way into unknown waters.

Land traverses notwithstanding, we made it into the bay, dropped the anchor and got ourselves stern tied to conveniently placed rings in the rocky shore.   As you can see in the picture below, we’re only 30 or so feet from the sheer rock face on the shore.


The blue fabric at the top of the picture is another of Marilyn’s acquisitions – a rear deck gazebo awning.  Its wonderful.  Its been pissing rain ever since we got here and despite that the deck is starting to dry in places.  Until it got too cold in the late afternoon we sat out under the awning and watched it rain. 


That’s the entrance.  You can see the beach at South Thormanby Island across a narrow channel from the entrance.  If it clears up by the weekend the way the forecast claims it is going to then perhaps we will take the kayaks across to explore the beach.  I put a bracket on one of the kayaks today so that we can mount one of those ATV fibreglass flag poles on it.  Too many times we have seen kayaks out in the middle of some body of water that were more or less invisible until we were almost on top of them.  I don’t fancy some less observant skipper running over one or the other of us so we aim to be visible.


Coming out of Nanaimo this morning it occurred to me what a wonderful job vessel traffic services (VTS) do.  They were trying to hail some fishing vessel that was out with its radio turned off, by no means an uncommon occurrence.  Fishermen seem to think that they own the water and that the rest of us owe them their existence entirely on their terms.  I’m sure VTS has better radar than we do, perhaps a lot better, but it still can’t be easy. 

IMG_5560 That’s a shot of our radar screen as we were leaving Nanaimo.  The strong signals behind and to our right are land but a lot of the rest of the clutter you see is rain and/or fog.  There’s several vessels interspersed with the rain signals but I can only imagine what a challenge it is to keep track of vessels from Victoria to Vancouver to Comox, particularly so when 30% of them ignore any attempt to contact them by radio.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New toys

Marilyn dumped a bunch of money into the local economy while I was away.  One of her purchases is something I have wanted for a long time.  A very long time in fact. 

Shortly after we got married we were on our way to or from some meetings somewhere and had some time to kill in the Minneapolis airport.  Hobie Cat had a display of their – at the time – new kayak with a Mirage drive.  I was absolutely fascinated by them and instantly wanted one.  Not that I’m such an athlete that I will ever make any good use of a kayak but these things are just way cool. 

The Hobie Mirage drive looks like a pair of seal flippers on one end and a pair of bicycle pedals on the other end.  The assembly fits through a hole in the bottom of the kayak and then you can pedal your way around the bay.  I had no idea about how well they might work and in fact I had never even seen one since that day many years ago in Minneapolis.  I had however looked long and hard for a used kayak with the drive assembly but had never been able to find one for less than $1800 and never found any used ones in Canada.  I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for something that I expect will get limited use.  The new ones start at $3500 and go rapidly up from there so they were flat out of the question.

One of the last nights I was in Nebraska I got an email from Marilyn telling me that she had found a pair of Hobies on and that she was thinking of buying one of them.  I suggested that maybe she could negotiate a deal on the pair of them and that in fact is what she ended up doing.  She ended up paying $1800 for the pair of the kayaks, one of which turns out to be virtually new.  The other one has obviously been used but one of them had obviously not been in the water many times before we launched it this morning.


The great unknown for both of us was how effective the Mirage drive fins would actually be.  The folks that sold the kayaks to Marilyn said we would be surprised by how fast they were and it turns out they were right.  They are really zoomy.  Its astonishing how fast they move you for very little effort.  Peddling the drive is sort of like a recumbent bicycle – you kind of lie back and peddle.

There’s a swing up rudder that you control with a lever by your right hand and I found I could manoeuvre fairly well just using the rudder.  You can’t back up with the pedals but the rudder is effective enough that I only needed to back up a few times and I had the paddle for those moments.  All in all it was a very successful purchase.  I tried but didn’t succeed in coordinating paddling and pedaling but I can see how that would come with practice and once I get that nailed I’ll really be able to fly.

Marilyn’s other big purchase was a portable industrial sewing machine complete with a walking foot.  Its not nearly as exciting a toy as kayaks so we haven’t tried it out yet but it will earn its keep repairing the rotten stitching on our canvas and building a new cover to enclose our anchors. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tornado watch

In 1965 father took a year off from his job as an Ag Rep in Shellbrook, rented the house out, packed some of our stuff into a trailer and we set off for Colorado State University in Fort Collins.  Mother said afterwards that when he told her he had been accepted into the Masters program at CSU she went to the bathroom to wash her hair so she could cry into the sink.  But we all survived and it was in fact a grand adventure. 

One of the families that we met in Fort Collins was the Gary Garey family from Syracuse, Nebraska.  We won’t get into  the discussion about what kind of parents would name their kid Gary when the family name was Garey. 

Gary was a classmate of father’s in the Masters program at CSU and they stayed in touch after we returned to Shellbrook.  It must have only been 1 or 2 summers later when the Garey family came to Shellbrook for a visit.  I can’t place the time exactly but it was while we were still in Shellbrook and the Vietnam war was still in high gear because the Gareys were very worried about their oldest son’s draft.

One day while they were visiting the fire siren rang a particularly long time.  In a small town that just meant that there was a bad fire and they wanted to make sure all the volunteers heard the siren.  For the Garey family however their first thought was “tornado”.   We had to assure them that we simply didn’t have tornados but I’m not sure they completely believed us. TornadoWath

I’m in tornado alley now and I have some sense of their fear.  That’s the current radar view of Nebraska on Wunderground.  It looks pretty good right now and I think we’ve likely passed our highest risk but the TV is forecasting high tornado risk for areas southeast of here for 2 more days.  I always thought that tornados were something that blew up and blew over quickly but at least in this case they seem to have lots of warning and the threat period appears to go on for days, not hours.  I was actually a little worried about going to sleep last night because the threat for this county extended to 3:00 AM.  By 10:00 PM however the radar shots showed that most of the storm was already east of us and heading northeast.

I’ve been in Laramie, Wyoming for the past week and I’ll be in Broken Bow, Nebraska this week on another Growsafe project.  My rental for this trip turned out to be some kind of Chevy SUV.  Its been a good reminder not to consider buying anything from GM.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it but nothing is particularly right either.  I’ve grown accustomed to some pretty nice toys on my personal Fords and on rental Fords; this Chevy is like taking a step 10 years back in vehicle technology.  The only feature that I have noticed that would be nice to see on a Ford is the moisture sensing wipers which I haven’t completely figured out but which are pretty cool nevertheless.

I had a very informative conversation with one of the client employees on the last job.  This guy knew where Saskatchewan was and had spent quite a bit of time fishing on the Sturgeon Weir which is just north of the Jan Lake turnoff on the Hansen Lake Road.  We got talking about farming and he asked me if there was some kind of Canadian government program to encourage farmers to maintain their farmyards.  I was taken aback by the question & I didn’t respond as wisely as I could have.  I did however assure him that there was and is no such program.

The foundation of his question was his observation that western Canadian farmyards generally look better than midwest US farmyards.  And I think he’s right – I think on the average a western Canadian farmyard is in better repair with more modern buildings and just generally better housekeeping than the average yard that you drive by in the midwest.  The reason however has nothing whatsoever to do with Canadian government programs and at the same time everything to do with US government programs.

My client’s question made an assumption that the Canadian government was somehow subsidizing farmers to maintain their farmyards.  And the assumption that Canadian farmers are somehow supported by their government to a greater degree than American farmers are is commonplace down here.  The truth is exactly the opposite. 

The reason the average yard in western Canada looks better than its counterpart in the midwest is simple.  The failures in western Canada have moved to the city or the oilpatch.  If they’re still living in the farmyard they have off farm income so they can afford to paint the outbuildings, fix the fences and mow the grass.  Meanwhile the successful farmers have had access to the land that the failures couldn’t manage so they have been able to grow profitably.  On the US side however, the failures are propped up by ag programs that assume every idiot born in the country has some God given right to be a farmer.  That’s simply stupid and fortunately for the most part, Canadian ag policy has recognized that and encouraged the failures to fail and move on. 

Implicit in the question was the assumption that farmers wouldn’t invest in the farm without some government incentive.  That  notion that government solves all is pervasive both north and south of the 49th.  There was a time when that foolish thinking was more common north of the border but I’m not sure that’s true anymore.  And there’s plenty of crappy farmyards in western Canada too – they just tend to be owned by socialists and NFU members.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The artist is IN

Many years ago now we talked to Mick Lidster at the Lions Trade Fair.  At the time he was showing/selling some tree bolls that he had carved into old man faces.  He claimed that he didn’t so much carve the face as release the face that was always in the boll.  Today SWMBO is engaged in a similar activity.


Yesterday she painted the scene above.  It was already in the bark – she just highlighted what was clearly there all along.   It was actually so obvious that even I could see it but I certainly couldn’t have painted it.  Today she’s starting on a very obvious old man’s face that is living in this piece of driftwood.


We’ve decided to spend just one more night here.  I’m wrapping up my refinishing project so that we can leave early in the morning.  Most of my time now is spent waiting for epoxy to harden or varnish to dry.  The actual application time is minimal.   We could easily justify staying another night but I’m afraid the weather may turn against us.  I’m not worried about rain for the Strait of Georgia crossing but its damned unpleasant when the wind gets up.  I think we’ll still be OK tomorrow morning but Saturday might be another matter.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Boat project week

We arrived at Plumper Cove last Thursday and I expect we will be here until Friday or maybe even Saturday before we finish up all the projects we have on the go.  We came here to connect with Bruce so he could do some sewing.  In addition to building us a canvas cover for the underside of the solar panels he re-sewn all the main canvas covers that we use regularly on the boat.  The canvas is more or less still in good shape but a lot of the stitching had rotted out and was letting go.  We should be able to get many more years out of the re-sewn canvas but if we hadn’t done something it would have started to rapidly deteriorate.

I’ve been making good use of the dry sunshine to get some varnish brought back into condition.  Varnished teak is the bane of boat owners.  It looks great until the varnish starts to deteriorate and then it looks like hell.  Overall ours was somewhere between looking good and looking like hell but rapidly moving toward the wrong end of the spectrum. 

I started with the worst of it which happened to be a teak accent rail that runs completely around the boat above the side doors.  First I scraped it down to bare wood, then I coated the wood with two layers of West System epoxy using their 207 coating hardener and now I’m building up layers of polyurethane exterior varnish.  Its coming up to a nice gloss which I hope will hold better than if I had just put the varnish directly onto the wood.  Time will tell.  At the same time as the trim piece I did the starboard side sliding door, taking it down to bare wood and rebuilding it.  I have also recoated the front window trim but it was still in good shape so I am adding varnish over the existing coating.

Today I installed a pair of halogen running lights for those occasions when we need to sneak home in the dark (or when we have an early morning departure to make a slack tide somewhere).  I’ll have to wait until dark to aim them but other than that they are ready to go.  They cost me $5.99 each at Princess Auto – my kind of marine hardware.  And it turned out I had an unused panel toggle switch on the flybridge so I don’t have much cost in the project.

Yesterday we traded Bruce a couple of crab traps that we didn’t like anyway for a seized Mercury outboard which should cough up several spare parts for our outboard.  Marilyn has been in a cleaning frenzy on the flybridge and she is waiting for me to get done on the main deck so she can clean there as well. 

Last night Bruce invited us out for Chinese dinner in Gibsons.  That was very pleasant.  It took us about half an hour to grind across the strait in our little dinghy because we couldn’t get up on plane with three people onboard.  But it was a lovely evening for a boat ride and by the time we came home it was almost glassy calm.  

The forecast for the weekend is for a return to normal BC weather – wet in other words.  So I need to wrap up my varnish projects prior to the weekend.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Death and a dock party

We have been enjoying a thoroughly relaxing time at Plumper Cove on Keats Island.  This is one of those wonderful BC Marine Parks which we patronize regularly.  So far they aren’t charging to stay on the dock so we are soaking up all the free moorage we can get. 

I generally wake up around 5:00, check my email and then doze off again for a couple of hours.  When I did that Saturday morning I noticed that I had missed a call from Regina.  It didn’t take any great leap of genius to figure out what a call in the darkness from Regina meant.  When I got up around 7:00 I phoned Wascana Rehab and sure enough, father had moved on sometime in the early morning.  Its unfortunate that he is gone but I can’t honestly say I am sad to see it happen.  He really hasn’t been living for some time now.  Existing - yes but living - no.

So now we launch into the grim ritual that follows a death.  People, businesses, banks, lawyers, governments and church to notify.  Mercifully we have decided not to dash into some early memorial service.  We have set the afternoon of July 27 for whatever service we will hold and I have already booked Wesley United Church’s auditorium in Regina for that purpose.  Its hard to say how many people are likely to show up.  Father and mother were very active in that church so their names are well known but their peers are either old or dead, some both. 

Meanwhile back at the dock ……………

Bruce’s friend Nigel showed up on Saturday and again on Sunday.  Nigel is one of those larger than life characters that takes over any gathering and instantly becomes the focus of activity.  It is impossible not to have fun when you are anywhere near his orbit.  So despite the grim business of the morning, by Saturday evening we were wrapped up in an ongoing dock party.

IMG_6731 And it wasn’t just Nigel that arrived.  We’re having a spell of absolutely glorious weather the arrival of which coincided with the weekend.  So there was a horde of local boaters descended on the cove for the weekend.  If you look close at the pictures you will see that we had so many they were rafted 2 deep along the T-head.


Yesterday morning most of the locals were gone by noon but then there was a whole second wave of locals that arrived for the afternoon and evening.  By early evening though we were back down to us, Bruce and a guy named Dave with his dog Kate.  She’s a very nice dog who seems to really like Jorgito.  And the attraction appears to be mutual.  At least once a day she hops up on Gray Hawk and at the very least touches noses with the idiot cat.  Sometimes she watches him while he ignores her but they always start out by touching noses.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Somedays you meet the nicest people

Marilyn is always accusing me of picking up people off the internet and its true, we’ve met some really nice busnuts thanks to me initially meeting them on the internet.  But this one is all hers.

We were grinding our way across Georgia Strait a couple of days ago and listening to a strong New Zealand accent voice talking to vessel traffic services.  I was having trouble figuring out whether the vessel was commercial or private.  We were having a thoroughly uneventful crossing so Marilyn Googled the vessel name. 

The ship’s name is Kahu and it turned out to have a very fascinating story.  You can do the Google thing just as easily as I can – likely easier because my current internet connection is a shaky 3G tether to my cellphone.  If you want to read the full story, start here.  What you’ll find is that Kahu is an ex-New Zealand navy vessel that underwent an extensive refit which included stretching her by thirty feet.  The owner of the yard that did the refit is now taking his family on a 3 year world adventure. 

After considerable back and forth via email and a very scratchy phone call we ended up spending an extended visit onboard Kahu yesterday afternoon.  She created quite a stir when she pulled into the little bay at Plumper Cove.  Just for reference that “small” RIB that they are towing is roughly 20 feet long with a diesel inboard.


Yesterday was a busy day – we had Bruce working on our canvas, I was scraping and varnishing and Marilyn was starting the next phase of our Ag in the Classroom project.  Everything came to a halt while we went visiting on Kahu.  When we got back to the dock some other friends had arrived so we had a little dock party and watched the sunset.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our frame of reference has changed ……..

…. with regard to travel. 

When I was a kid we lived 27 miles west of Prince Albert which still isn’t a very big city but certainly was no hell of city then.  Nevertheless a trip to P.A. was a seriously big deal.  We didn’t go very often, likely less than once a month.  Trips to Saskatoon were at best bi-annual events.  Today 27 miles is nothing. 

We woke up Monday morning in Buchanan.  Tuesday night we went to sleep on Gray Hawk with just over 2000 km showing on the Exploder’s trip odometer.  And it didn’t seem like an arduous trip.  We didn’t leave Buchanan until well after 8:00 Monday.  We fiddle farted around in Saskatoon with meetings and shopping and picking up the idiot cat from storage.  We didn’t sleep in the truck which we have been known to do – we actually sprang for a motel room in Canmore.  Then we stopped to do some shopping in Abbotsford and again in Langley.  And finally we caught the 5:45 ferry to Nanaimo out of Tsawassen.  We were actually in the line for the 5:00 ferry to Swartz Bay but missed it by 4 vehicles so rather than waiting 2 hours we pulled around and traded our ticket for the Nanaimo sailing.  All in all it was a thoroughly pleasant couple of days but we did cross 3 provinces in less than 48 hours.

Today was a provisioning day and tomorrow we will cross to the mainland.  The weather is glorious so we will take advantage of it while it lasts.  Our old friend Bruce is at Plumper Cove right now with the canvas I bought for him to make a cover for the underside of the solar panels.  I don’t suppose he has got started on that project so we’ll try to get that happening and we want to get him to re-sew all the seams in the rest of the canvas where the thread has started to rot.  I’ve made enough changes to the bimini that some of the canvas doesn’t fit very well anymore so we’ll get him to fix that at the same time.   Once we get him set up with all that sewing I think we’ll likely go back up to Princess Louisa.  We both loved it up there and didn’t feel that we spent enough time the last time we made the trip.  That time we were worried about the boat systems so far away from civilization but that isn’t a concern anymore so we’ll likely go up and stay close to a week at the head of the inlet.  I expect there will be more tourists up there now than there were at the end of January, which is when we went the first time.

I’ve been fighting with a computer all afternoon and I have finally conceded defeat.  I bought a Dell Optiplex which is an ultra small form factor computer – ie. very bloody small – and loaded all our DVDs onto it.  That part went really well but getting it to communicate with the TV has turned out to be more challenging than it needs to be.  I can display the movies on the TV (when Media Player chooses to work which is a whole ‘nuther story) but so far I haven’t been able to get sound to come out of the TV.  That’s not a deal breaker because I can play the sound through external speakers off the computer but that’s not very convenient because we can’t control that sound with the TV remote.  The Windoze Media Player has been another level of frustration beyond anything I have ever experienced but I’ll save that explanation until I get all those problems sorted out.  If that ever happens. 

(later)  I gave up on digital video, Marilyn picked up a VGA cable in Duncan and all is well now.  For some reason I simply couldn’t get sound out of the TV using the computer as a video source.  The instructions said it should work but it clearly doesn’t.  All is well now & I doubt we will ever see any difference in picture quality using VGA c/w DVI input.  Next challenge – making Windoze Media Player work reliably.

We have an early departure planned for tomorrow.  In order to make Porlier Pass at somewhere near slack we’ll need to be moving at 6:00 AM.  I think that will give us lots of time but I’d rather be early than late, particularly so because if we get there early we’ll catch the end of a favourable current.  If we arrive late we’ll have to fight the current through the pass.