29 Aug

Life in the Wild

We are now in week four of our trip to the Broughtons and will have to start heading homeward sometime in the next week or two. It’s been grand, and the people, the countryside and the whole ethos of the place are simply stellar.

But that’s not to say it’s any more a Garden of Eden than the next destination. There are always some snakes in the grass.

Major Concerns

Most of these issues can be dealt with by a quick trip across Queen Charlotte Strait to Port McNeill, but a sailboat like ours isn’t fast and the Strait is one of those bodies of water that isn’t always cooperative. So we left that trip until after our third week here.

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Garbage
The biggest issue for us, in that this year the opportunities to get rid of garbage and recycling are extremely limited. Most marinas will take burnables, but if you didn’t pre-sort that’s a bit of an icky challenge; and, frankly, most burnables are recyclables these days and we’d like to try to pack most of that out. And even the burning has been iffy with the dry summer this area has been having this year.

A few places wouldn’t even take pop or beer cans. It’s just too trouble much for them to haul them, and the Boy Scouts are no longer picking up.

Although it’s frowned on, we did get rid of a few organics like chicken bones overboard, but that still leaves enough that after four weeks I am running out of space in the aft locker.

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Storage is always at a premium onboard.

Water
Water is also a bit of an issue. We started the trip with a full tank of potable water, but eventually it ran low. Last year in June the spring water at Sullivan Bay was great, but apparently the dry spell meant it ran dry in early June and they have been on filtered lake water ever since. Port Harvey was limiting water altogether. Shawl Bay’s water was clear but still posted with a boil water notice

Most of the places we’ve visited have a filtration system and a mix of people who will and will not drink it. Most places also have to use ground water that is colored by cedar bark tannins and is an odd and, to some, unpleasant tinge. So once you’ve filled your tank, you are going to want empty it before adding anything potable.

There are boil water warnings at all the marinas. Talk on the dock is that they have to post the warnings even if the water is good because provincial rules demand frequent samples and testing (which must be done in Vancouver) and it’s virtually impossible for these small, isolated marinas to comply. At least that’s the talk.

Fresh Food
Expensive and rare. And you need to time it right so you hit a marina right after they’ve made a run for the best choices. Oh, and only a few marinas like Pierre’s Port Harvey and Sullivan Bay have a store. The rest stock pop or candy bars if you are lucky; otherwise you are on your own.

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Fresh food means it’s time to get cooking again.

Sullivan Bay and Port Harvey boast restaurants. Pierre’s has scheduled potluck pig roasts and prime rib nights. Other marinas will also occasionally throw potlucks like the deep-fried turkey night we encountered at Shawl Bay. So there is always food to be found.

Bread and Wine
A corollary to the above point about fresh food is the availability of some luxury items. Bread is at a premium, with availability very sketchy. Port Harvey bakes pretty much every day so if you pre-order you can get some there, and Shawl Bay had fresh bread, buns and pies for sale in the morning. But liquor was available only at Sullivan Bay, and the $32 price tag for the two six-packs of beer made me choke a bit.

We found English muffins and raisin bread to be our favorite baked goods since we always toast them and they last longer than even the famous Wonder Bread. As for booze, well, we just had to start rationing.

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Fuel
Fuel is available at Pierre’s and Sullivan Bay, which are inconveniently close to each other and Lagoon Cove which is a bit south. Given the lack of wind, we have done too much motoring for our druthers, but that’s summer in the PNW. Luckily both Pierre’s and Sullivan Bay occupy bays that are sort of crossroads in the NE part of the Broughtons so we passed them a few times during the trip.

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Lagoon Cove

Gasoline for the outboards was actually a bigger concern. A lot of exploring and a dearth of places to store jerry cans has meant we had to keep close track of our fuel levels.

Costs

The other thing to be aware of is the high cost of things that come cheaper in the south. Overall moorage is cheaper, ranging from $0.95 to $1.25 per foot. But the extras are all much higher. Some 30-amp power can be as high as $20 a night and showers can be upwards of $7.25 each. Washing and drying were frequently over $5 or $6 each, making a load of laundry cost over $11.

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Because all the water is scarce and the power generated, these costs are not unreasonable, but we have taken to showering aboard and doing without shore power if we have just been on motor or when we know we will be motoring the next day. These decisions have helped when we’ve been at marinas several days in a row.

Perks

But there are lots of perks. The people are terrific, always bending over backwards to help. Freshly made cinnamon buns & danishes can be found at most of the marinas, and Shawl Bay even offers free pancakes every morning. Happy Hours are a tradition on the all the docks with everyone bringing appies, and potlucks, as I mentioned, pop up here and there.

And the anchorages are sublime. There literally dozens if not hundreds of small private coves that offer stunning vistas and peaceful sunsets. The anchorages are the number one reason to visit, and when you get tired being by yourself the hospitality of the marinas is a welcome relief.

Just remember, none of this should deter anyone from considering the Broughtons a premier destination; it’s quickly becoming one of my favourites.

24 Aug

A Trip Report Update

It’s been busy, busy, busy and while I have a bunch of stuff started for The Chronicles, nothing is actually done yet.

I have managed to do a few trip reports for macblaze.ca if you are interested in our trip to the Broughtons and the first month or so living aboard. It’s much more of a casual diary, so don’t expect too much.

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Go North Young Man… Even If You’re Old (August 1–5)

The Next Few Days (August 6–17)

What Day Is This? Oh, Turnbull Cove! (August 17–18)

Winding Down? (August 19–23)

Enjoy!

10 Aug

Heading North … Just Do It

We are now heading north toward the archipelago and surrounding cruising area know as the Broughtons. Generally this area is considered to encompass everything northwest of Campbell River and Desolation Sound and southeast of the northern tip of Vancouver Island, even though the Broughtons proper is just the collection of small islands northeast across the Queen Charlotte Strait from Port McNeill.

The area is made up of islands both small and big, and long inlets and channels winding in and around the mainland. It’s sparsely populated with few places that house a full-time population. But it’s also home to some stunning scenery, fantastic fishing, and the most fascinating collection of marinas and resorts you will find anywhere.


Lagoon Cove, West Cracroft

Now when I say resort, you might picture huge spa-like edifices with all the amenities, or quaint “rustic” hotels tucked away in a pleasant cove with all the services. But while there may be one or two resorts vaguely similar to the latter, dedicated to kayakers and fisherman, I’ve seen no sign of the former. No, a resort in the Broughtons is generally one small group of buildings on shore and a collection of docks and floating buildings. In some, all the amenities are on the water and there isn’t anything on land to speak of. But they are all tucked away in beautiful picturesque coves.

And the communities are great. They host happy hours and potlucks, have pig roasts and shrimp feasts, or are simply known for their hospitality and free pancakes. The boaters tend to be veterans who come again and again, and the collegial atmosphere is a lot of fun.

It sounds, and is, idyllic. But many, many of the boaters who habituate the southern Gulf Islands will never venture north.

A Few Challenges

It’s a long way, and intimidating on paper. There are a lot of obstacles to making the trip, and I think many people believe they are insurmountable, or at least too difficult to justify the reward. But that’s just not true…at least in my opinion.

Now to be fair, we first ventured up to the Broughtons in a flotilla organized by Cooper Boating out of Vancouver. And their two-week itinerary started out of Powell River (Westview), so it cut some of the distance out of the process. For ourselves, we left from Vancouver and took an extra week to get used to our charter boat before we met up with the flotilla. Nonetheless, I am a convert and think all the rushing was absolutely worthwhile.

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A String of Rapids

The second, and arguably larger, deterrent to heading north is that it is impossible to get into the Broughtons or anywhere north of Desolation Sound without hitting a major set of rapids or a narrow channel with a major current.

I have read countless posts and sidebars and guidebooks explaining how best to negotiate these watery roadblocks, but frankly I think they have the opposite effect. All the ‘helpful’ advice just a serves to make the process sound daunting. I have made passage through the area five times so far and am starting to wonder if there’s not a conspiracy to keep the Broughtons to ourselves.

What You Need to Understand Is…

The incoming tides in the PNW sweep around Vancouver Island flowing south from the Queen Charlotte Strait in the north and flowing north up from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They meet basically at Desolation Sound. But because south of the Sound is fairly open you only see strong currents in the few passes in and around the Gulf Islands.

North of the Sound is a maze of channels and passages and all of them have narrow points here and there that force the water to speed up.

Now I admit to not having an tremendous amount of experience in general when it comes to boating, but it’s a curve and I am working my way up it. My opinion is that if you are boating in the PNW, and especially the Southern Gulf Islands, then you need to learn to deal with currents. And if you’ve learned to negotiate Dodd Narrows or Porlier Pass, then you have all the experience and knowledge you need to keep going north.

For those of you who don’t already understand, let me break it down. The reason that the currents and rapids occur is that the tides force billions of litres of water back and forth four times a day. Roughly every six hours the tides shift from ebb (going out) to flood (coming in). In a nice open body of water like the Strait of Georgia, the effect of this shifting can range anywhere from negligible to creating three or four knots of current. When all this water is forced into narrow choke points in narrow passages, the current can exceed eight to ten knots. Given that the top speed of my boat is seven knots, you can see that I wouldn’t have any hope of going though a pass against that kind of current. And the narrower the passage, the more likely the water is to boil up into actual rapids. Skookumchuk Rapids near Sechelt are the kind of rapids that are like candy to whitewater kayakers. All caused by the tide.

Still, if you transit any pass at slack tide, the point at which the tide is neither ebbing or flooding, the current virtually disappears, even at Skookumchuk. Slack can last from a few minutes to half an hour, and you generally have some time on either side when the current is starting to build, at which point current is not much of an issue — especially if you are transiting the passage in the same direction as the new tide; then it just gives an extra push.

All of this is something you need to learn to boat safely in the Gulf Islands and that knowledge, ans the nature of the rapids, doesn’t change just because you are going north.

Make Your Choice

Each of the three major routes you can take has its own challenges. I have yet to transit through Seymour Narrows near Campbell River, but it has its own idiosyncrasies that the above-mentioned writers have produced tons of info about. It is the only route that has just one portion of fast water to worry about — Seymour Narrows itself — but you also have to contend with all the big ships and the longest passage through Johnstone Strait, which can get a bit bumpy at times.

Going north, the middle route, up along the east side of Quadra Island takes you through Surge Narrows rapids and then the Upper Rapids about 6nm later. But if your boat is too slow or the timing just doesn’t work, then the Octopus Islands are right in between and are a spectacular anchorage every boater should visit at least once. So it’s win-win.

After you transit Upper Rapids you follow Okisollo Channel until it dumps you out into Johnstone Strait.

The third way, and seemingly most popular, is up through the Yucultas. This route takes you north of Desolation Sound and past Cortes Island. You proceed up Calm Channel until you hit the Yucultas, which are the first of three sets of rapids: the Yucultas, Gillard, and Dent Rapids. Between the Yucultas and Gillard is Big Bay and the Stuart Island Community Marina, which is well worth a stop if you don’t want to run all three. A nice little store and a clean shower, but no power on the docks.

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To transit all three it is best to go with the current, but I’ve seen sailboats go against it, too. The decision comes down to preference and confidence. If you are ok running Dodd Narrows an hour early or late, then these three will be fine at slack. Anyway there is plenty of advice online about timing. What I want to add is that, based on what we have been through, I have wondered what the big deal is. I mean to come back one day in a powerful speedboat and see what the rapids are truly like when they are running. But with Never for Ever I am content with the ripples and eddies I have experienced.

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Approaching Dent Rapids at slack.

A bit further up you will run into the Green Point Rapids, Blind Channel Rapids, and Whirlpool Rapids. While they all have significant currents they really aren’t a threat either, at least not in small tides. This trip we ran Whirlpool with a predicted current of 3.5 knots and hit a top speed of 10 knots as the current pushed us along. Another sailboat that was with us later told us he’s never had trouble there.

Big Bad Johnstone Strait

The last big impediment to people frequenting the Broughtons is Johnstone Strait. It is impossible to get into the Broughtons without spending at least some time in the Strait. And it can get bad — or so I’ve heard. We have had extraordinary luck and have either motored on glassy waters or sailed in 10 to 15 knots. So while there are bad days, just as there are in the Strait of Georgia, watching the weather and good timing can solve that issue easily. And depending on the route you take, you can shorten the amount of time you spend there.

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Johnstone Strait on a good day.

So What I am Saying Is…

I am not saying that making your way to the Broughtons is a float on a pond. There are difficulties and some things to be wary of. What I am saying is that if you regularly boat in the Salish Sea, nothing in the trek north should surprise you or overwhelm you. It’s probably best if you have more than two weeks to do it, but even then, why not? (I joined a trip around Vancouver Island this spring that we did in two weeks. It was a lot of miles but thoroughly worthwhile.) The Broughtons’ unique combination of stunning scenery and friendly communities is worth the bit of trouble that getting there entails.

As Nike is wont to say, just do it.

05 Aug

21 Knots and … Well …

Sailing a new boat is always stressful. Sailing a new boat in 20+ knots is… well… stressful. And we’ve managed to do it twice so far. Up to now, our sojourn into boat ownership was seemingly fated to resemble that of a skinny powerboat with a big stick sticking out of its middle — there had been that little wind — and we hadn’t really given a lot of practical thought to sailing our new toy.

Now for those ’not’ in the know, a knot “is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile (1.852 km) per hour, approximately 1.151 mph.” You judge your preparations for, and the safeness of, boating on any given day on the speed of the winds.

Marine Wind and Weather Warnings

Weather advisories are based on the following five categories. Only the first two are considered safe for boating.

Light Winds: Light winds are defined as winds with a wind speed less than 12 knots.

Moderate Winds: Moderate winds are defined as winds with a wind speed of 12 to 19 knots.

Strong Winds & Small Craft Warnings: Strong winds are defined as winds with sustained wind speeds in the range of 20 to 33 knots.

Gale Warning: Gale winds are defined as winds with a continuous speed of 34 to 47 knots.

Storm Warning: Storm winds are defined as winds with a continuous speed of 48 to 53 knots.

Our Sailboat

Although the Never for Ever seems quite small in comparison to the ships we regularly share the seaways with, she comes in at 38’9″, or a little under 12 metres, and is not considered a ‘small’ craft — that would be more of an open aluminum fishing boat or a kayak. Our Hunter, while not properly equipped now, is perfectly capable of crossing oceans. This means that the small craft warnings don’t particularly apply to us. Having said that, 30 knots would be quite a ride, but 20–25 is merely exhilarating. Or at least that’s the theory.

There is an inclinometer mounted on my binnacle. It lets me know the amount of heel (the angle the boat is tilted over at) in degrees. It’s a fairly useless measurement. I think some thing like Mild, Worrisome, Scary, Terrifying, and Insane might be a better scale.

It is also important to note that heeling is generally only a problem when sailing close hauled. This is the point of sail going as directly into the wind as possible. And since it’s axiomatic that in the Pacific Northwest you are always going into the wind, it seems to be a fairly common point of sail.

20 Knots: Need a Reef

So a sloop, which is the sail configuration most of us have, consisting of a foresail and a main sail, can easily become overpowered in strong winds due to the large surface area of the sails. So most (all?) of them have a way of reducing the square footage of sail; this process is known as reefing.( As a side note, the reef knot we all know and love is used to tie in the reefs, hence its name.) Reefing a traditional main sail is accomplished by lowering it about three feet and tying down the excess sail at the bottom. If you wish to put in a second reef, you lower the main sail another three feet. The overall effect is to make the size of the triangular sail much smaller, thus reducing the power it generates and the amount of heel it causes. A boat can only go so fast, according to the math, so extra power just makes for a more uncomfortable sail without any speed gains. The two reef points are generally predetermined, with handy grommets to facilitate the process of tying the sail down. Most modern boats have fancy reefing systems using lines that lead to the cockpit so you don’t even have to go out on deck.

This has been the only system we have ever used. In other boats we have, on average, put in the first reef around 15 knots of wind and the second around 19 or 20. Having said that, we have only sailed in 20-plus–knot winds once before.

Alas, the Never for Ever has a roller-furling main, something I have limited experience with and have never reefed. A roller-furling main has a hollow mast and the main sail rolls in and out like a projector screen. In theory (and generally in practice) this is much easier to handle. But I would suggest the first time you try to figure out how to reef, you don’t start with 20 knots of wind. It adds a bit too much spice.

One of the issues is that there are no set reef points. You roll the sail out to a point that is comfortable and engage a ratchet to prevent it from coming out any further. The ratchet, however, is on the mast and comfortable is hard to judge if you are heading straight into the wind with the sails flapping and waves bouncing and you have never done it before.

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Eventually I figured out we would have to let the sail out all the way and then bring it back in. I also arbitrarily chose to bring it in about four feet from the end of the mast. At some point I am going to have to break out the Pythagorean math and figure out equivalents.

So we sailed in a diminishing 20-knot wind that eventually settled at 15–16 knots and then dropped to 10. At that point we hove to and let the rest of the sail out and had a nice calm sail. At first the inclinometer should have read Scary–Terrifying, but I wasn’t pointing too high, so that took a lot of pressure off the sails and reduced the heel. We eventually all calmed down and enjoyed the sail. I never actually looked at the inclinometer. It was a bit of a baptism by fire, but we persevered and eventually had fun.

If There Are Two Boats Then It’s a Race

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Never for Ever under motor

Two days later in Smuggler Cove, we finally hooked up with R Shack Island, who were to be our traveling companions for the next month or so. When we cast off to head up Malaspina Strait it was dead calm and we motored for a few hours. But as we rounded a small point on Texada the winds came up, and with 11 or 12 knots showing, we decided to sail. Since the winds were racing straight down the Strait, we would be beating to windward: zig-zagging back and forth, trying to point upwind as much as possible to make actual distance.

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Never for Ever just starting to heel

About  three minutes after we got the sails out, the winds built even more and started to exceed 20 knots; the boat leaned over like a competitive professional yogi doing downward dog. This, needless to say, put us quickly at Insane on the virtual inclinometer, and we immediately hove to. We talked over the reefing procedure first this time and then brought the boat around directly into the wind. Or tried to. The wind kept catching us and swinging us around again every time we tried to take pressure off the sails. We spun in a small circle three or four times before I finally got the sail reefed — about five feet in from the end of the mast this time. It was a bit of entertainment for any other sailors who were watching.

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The race is on

By this time the Shack had blown past us and had a hefty head start. So I pointed high. And the wind pushed us over. At one point we had over 30° of heel, which is Terrifying to Insane. The rail, which is the edge of the topside, was slightly under water and we were screaming along. I started to catch the Shack  slowly and was pointed a few degrees higher. We might just catch them. Of course this we at the expense of the cleanliness of my shorts and the brewing mutiny of both Leslie and Artemis. The poor cat was very discomforted by the sideways boat. So I eased off a bit, slowed my heart rate to something only excessive and continued in a long, slow chase of our mates.

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The first tack was a disaster in sailing terms, although I’m not ashamed of it. We lost all way and had to really crank the jib back in, but we got the boat turned and back on course without an incident and just a loss of distance to the Shack. After that, it was matter of finding a good point and getting used to it.

We were still overpowered on the port tack for most of the afternoon. I could probably have taken a couple of feet of sail back in to increase the reef. But the starboard tack was more comfortable and I really didn’t want to stop again.

There was also a Hunter 35 ahead of us and we slowly reeled him in, in a what was now a three-way race. Leslie and I got more and more comfortable and I started to point higher and higher trying to catch the Shack by shortening the distance of my tacks. I never did pass him, but we were almost alongside at one point.

We sailed at a 20–25° heel most of the afternoon (Scary–Terrified), occasionally exceeding 30°. Leslie learned to perch on the side of the cockpit combing like it was a seat and ride comfortably with her bum 12 feet (basically the width of our boat) in the air.

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This is us taken from R Shack Island

It was mind-lockingly terrifying and exhilarating and eventually we made peace with it. Not the easiest way to start our sailing experience in the new boat, but we are unlikely to ever be that scared again. Until we hit 30 knots, I guess.

Stowage Leasons Learneds

Stowing gear for sailing involves putting things where they can’t fall and making sure things won’t slide over the fiddles (the lips on the edge of counters etc.). On our first sail we learned through a series of crashes and bangs that stowing for 20 knots is not the same as stowing for 12 knots. On our second big day we learned by way of even bigger crashes and bangs that stowing for 20 knots on a steady port take is not the same stowing for a long day of beating in 20-plus knots.

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I think by the third trip down after a big crash everything — and I really mean everything — was on the floor, in the sink or, in the case of the poor cat, wedged between something like the pillows and our headboard.

The cockpit wasn’t much better. Cushions, charts, cameras, water bottles and binoculars were strewn across the floor of the cockpit. But eventually everything was wedged or shoved in a corner and the crashing ceased. That probably went a long way to reducing our heart rates right there.

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Note the washcloth above the sink to see the proper orientation.

03 Aug

Housekeeping Notes

You may or may not know that I am mantaining two blogs.  I have decided to try and keep neverforever.ca as a more boat-specific journal and leave the regular trip reports to macblaze.ca

Hopefully that will keep the noise down and not annoy anyone less interested in what I had for dinner or the number of compliments our cat got. 

My first report 20 Knots and All’s Well has been posted so if you interested in  a report in our first big sail have a visit over there. I hope to post weekly ( or at least regular) links here. 

As for us, we’ve met up with R Shack Island and are starting our trek north to the Broughtons. The current plan is roughly Powell River (Westview), the Yucaltas and then try and stay inside until Johnstone Strait calms down. 

  

01 Aug

The First Week or Seven Days and We’re in Nanaimo

It’s been a hectic 7 days for us n00bs. We have moved from our 1900-sq-ft condo in Edmonton onto a 38′ sailboat, transported our poor cat 1200 miles to a new, danger-fraught lifestyle, and had to learn/develop a new routine for just about everything. On the other head we’ve experienced fireworks, seals, lovely rainstorms, and quiet walks along the beach.

A Start

All along our plan was to move aboard and head as soon as feasible to Nanaimo. There is good anchorage there (which means free) along with options for a marina ($1.40/foot or $53.25/night), mooring buoys ($12/night) and even the docks at Newcastle Island ($2/metre or $23 a night). Nanaimo also hosts The Harbour Chandler, a Thriftys, London Drugs, and a BC Liquor store all within a short walking distance of the dinghy dock. Oh and it also has the famous Dinghy Dock pub on Protection Island, accessible only by boat. All this made it the perfect place for us to settle in and provision before we sailed off for parts north.

But still back at Granville Island, we headed up to W 4th Ave and a visit to the No Frills for basic supplies. We had decided to leave the major provisioning until Nanaimo and since we had raided the condo’s kitchen for everything we could think of (except the balsamic vinegar — there were two bottle in the cupboard and I forgot both –sigh!) we didn’t need too much except a couple of days’ meals and some basics.

The walk to the No Frills goes right past the West Marine so we stopped in and browsed our wish list. There were a couple of Mustang PFDs for about $40 so we bought two. This brought our total up to four plus two inflatables. The boat came with six of those cheap, tie around your neck types, but we decided to leave those in the truck. Other than that, everything else looked like it could wait.

Speaking of the truck, I had arranged to keep it at a friend’s house in Surrey until October. Our berth in Victoria would be available October 1, so we were planning on parking the boat for a week or two, and returning home to YEG to finish off closing up the house. So after we had loaded anything extraneous we could think of (extra pillows, used cutlery, pfds, containers etc.), I left Leslie to catsit and drove out to South Surrey. And despite the dubious help of my iPhone’s gps I didn’t manage to get lost. I did arrive a bit early so I checked out the local Canadian Tire for some Velcro wall hangers and a few more small containers. Then Dave gave me a ride back to Granville and we went back to moving in and stowing stuff.

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Stowage & Supplies

Putting things away is harder than it seems. First off you need cooperation and consensus. And if you manage to get past that hurdle you also need to remember what you’ve got and where you put it, and then train everyone to put it away in the same space. Living small seems to take a lot of cooperation. We will get it eventually. I hope. Maybe.

I do think an running grocery inventory is going to be necessary. You can’t always see what you’ve got and asking Leslie every five minutes “Did we buy X?” seem to be annoying her; and I can’t afford that until at least week two (or when we are far enough away she can’t abandon ship). And she used to really like lists so…

Another thing we are learning is the importance of usage rates and container sizes. For example, we bought two frozen limades and then ended up going back twice more to get extras. With the heat, we seem to be consuming a lot more of certain things and under- (or over-) estimating what we will use. We have enough pasta to eat until the next century but have run out of granola bars already.

And I figure it will all change as the geography and climates change. Less of a learning curve than a learning cliff. BUt that’s why we are hanging out in Nanaimo to settle in.

More Bills

The amount of money we have spent in this first week is phenomenal. It just goes to show how bad I am at budgeting. I think I set week one’s budget as double a regular week. Well, we are into about 5 times that now. Some of it was unexpected stuff from Specialty Yacht Sales and the work they did on the boat. And of course the dreaded moorage charges. But a lot of it was just underestimating the number of things we would want to add to our cruising inventory.

We’ve picked up things like extra containers, microfiber towels, a solar shower, a few bits of clothing, a popcorn popper, et cetera, et cetera. Very little of it has been extravagant — I’m saving those things for later when Leslie isn’t following me around — and some have already proven their worth (like the solar shower: awesome on Day 3 when the hot water is a distant memory).

But a warning to any readers who are newly provisioning: Week One’s a killer.

Granville Island & Fireworks

We spent the first couple of days at the docks on Granville Island.

Friday A.M. Steve from Jensen Signs showed up to apply the new name. Despite the rain, he got the new graphics applied to the bows and the stern. Later that evening Leslie, Artemis and I gathered on the bow with a bottle of champagne to thank the sea gods for Rainbow Hunter’s good service and to ask them to look over the newly christened Never for Ever. Then we poured them their share and drank the rest. Artemis turned her nose up at her share but that was all right. More for me.

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Saturday night there were fireworks in English Bay and we watched them from the cockpit. The bridge obscured a lot of the show, but it was enjoyable and comfortable. We also had a lot of rain over those couple of days and used the enclosure a lot. It doesn’t keep the space really dry — there is leakage where the canvas covers the arch — but it is pretty comfortable and we can set out buckets or something to keep the water contained. Still, if I had $10,000 lying around, I might want to re-design the enclosure.

We also ran into John from Spiritus II. We had met him at the Rendezvous. He was just offloading his visiting kids and grandchild and waiting for his wife. He invited us over for a glass of wine when she (Karen) arrived, and we spent a nice evening chatting. He is another reluctant socialist married to a committed one. We commiserated.

They are also Broughton-bound, so we might run into them again.

Nanaimo Harbour and Newcastle Island

Eventually we cast off and headed across the Strait. As per usual the wind was non-existent and we motored all of the way across. Artemis was a bit put out and spent the entire six hours hiding out in the bow. She had started off in the aft cabin but I moved her forward because it was quieter, and she settled in. She will eventually figure out the best spots, but for now we are shuffling her like new furniture that just can’t seem to find its “right” spot.

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We arrived in Nanaimo eventually and tried out our brand-new Rocna (anchor) in the bay. It set first time and we shut down the engine, took a deep breath, and tried not to second-guess everything we had just done. Luckily it was pretty quiet and we had lots of room. There was one powerboat we kept swinging around near but never got closer than about 40 feet. The currents in the bay off Newcastle Island are pretty active and everyone spun a lot. It’s hard to tell where everyone will be at any given moment. The next morning after some of the boats left, we broke out the kellet (Thanks Dave and Margaret!) and adjusted our scope until we were happy and confident. Then we just hung on anchor for three days, enjoying nightly walks in Newcastle Island park and soaking in the ambiance.

Propane Tanks, Parents, and Special Hexes

Nanaimo was fun. The public dock is right downtown and we could dinghy in and shop for groceries, booze, sundries, and boat supplies — all within easy walking distance. Since we are now people of leisure, we decided on lots of small trips rather than staggering around like pack mules on a cross-country trek. First off we had discovered our anchor light wasn’t working, so I picked up a small hoist-able LED and some wire to work on my chart plotter/radio connection at Harbour Chandler, and then we grabbed a day or two’s worth of groceries on the way back. A few more trips over the next couple of days added to our inventory.

Leslie’s parents agreed to come down and visit on Wednesday, so we put our heads together and formulated a plan. Mine clunked hollowly, but hers still seemed a bit full of something. Still it didn’t hurt that much. Rubbing our noggins, we decided that they wouldn’t enjoy the dinghy ride out to the anchorage much, so the plan was to move the boat to the park docks on Newcastle Island. They are free if you are a day visitor and only $2/meter if you stay overnight. I found a nice stern-in berth so everyone could just step through the transom and the climbing and scrambling would be kept to a minimum.

Then we grabbed our two 10-lb propane tanks and headed over in Laughing Baby (the dinghy) to the dock where we had agreed to meet them. Stephen (L’s brother) had come along so the merry mini-van load of us all set off to find a propane place. Apparently the Co-op is the place to go but it is up the highway a bit. We filled one tank, but it turns out our secondary tank (for the BBQ) was out of date and the girl wouldn’t refill it. And the closet place to re-certify it was Chemainus. So we gave up on that and picked up a few disposables for back-up.

We also stopped at Pet Smart for a new harness for Art. The old one was giving us some grief and we wanted an alternative. Then we grabbed lunch at BP.

On the way back we stopped in at Midland Tools. It seems the back of the NavPod that houses the chart plotter was attached using security hexes. These are hex nuts with a pin in the center of the hole, which means you need a special allan key with a matching hole to take them off. Neither the chandlery nor Canadian Tire had any, so a tool place was our last chance. I picked up a complete set of security driver bits for $9.99 (plus PST and GST — I’m still not used to the damn taxes).

Then L et al. took the ferry across to Newcastle and I rode the dinghy solo. Back at the boat I broke in via the forward hatch (Leslie had the key), restowed the tanks, and got ready to cast off. While we were gone a big powerboat had parked in front of us, blocking us in the narrow finger. I enquired as to their willingness to move, and he figured that we would fit in the gap between them and the boat across the finger so there was no need. I expressed doubt in return and he produced a tape measure. So we measured. Turns out there was 14 feet and our beam was only 12 feet 9. Plenty of room (rolls eyes). Anyway, both boats involved expressed a willingness to let us squeeze through and offered assistance, so I agreed.

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Once L’s family arrived and was stowed below, she and I fired up and started edging out. The two of us, plus four on one boat and two on the other, managed to hand-bomb the Never For Ever safely through — yikes, there wasn’t even room for the fenders — and we were off and running. Boating is definitely an adventure. Then we invited everyone on deck, and I ran out the jib and killed the engine. We sailed out toward Gabriola in 5 knots of wind making a stately two and a half knots. It was great, great fun.

While we were out After Eight (Pattison’s yacht) pulled out and passed us affording everyone a great view of how the other, other half lives. Seaplanes took off and landed all around us and commercial barges, sailboats, and a stream of traffic coming from Dodd Narrows passed us by. We tacked back and forth a few times in the channel and eventually cruised back to the docks and found a berth on the other side to avoid the squeeze. One and all took a short walk around the park and visited the pavilion until it was time for them to reboard the ferry. Then we said our goodbyes and retired back to the boat.

We decide to pay up and stay the night. The docks at the park are much more communal and family oriented than any others we had stayed at. Lots of day traffic with a bunch of boats casting off around 6-ish. And tons of kids running around and diving off the docks into the warm-ish water. Lots of fun and a completely different ethos than usual when we’ve been at dock.

Last Day

The next morning we called the port to enquire after a berth. We were out of power and short on water and needed to empty the holding tank. They were on a first-come, first-served basis and said there was room, but call again from the breakwater. So we cast off and headed in.

After we were snugged up at I-dock and all plugged in recharging, we headed up to the grocery store for a major provisioning. Between the London Drugs, Thriftys, and the liquor store, we ended up making three trips but eventually were were set for a couple of weeks with a need only to replace fresh stuff at some point.

The dock was yet again another type of community. I have to say it was nice to have power and water, but I much preferred anchoring out when at Nanaimo. It’s just a bit too busy and too commercial. Nothing bad though, just different. We listened to music on the boardwalk, walked down to the fishing wharf and looked out over the harbour, then retired for the night.

So that was our first week. We had watched a couple of episodes of the last season of Gilmore Girls on the laptop and read some books and generally tried to get some stuff done but overall it was busy. It hasn’t been very relaxing yet and we don’t have any firm plans of what we are doing, but all in all it was a pretty successful start. We are waiting for R Shack Island to be put back in the water and make the trip up from Blaine. Then we will head north hopefully to spend most of August in the Broughtons.

Stay tuned.