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.

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