27 Oct

A Weekend Trip

I promise to write a long entry on life at dock in Victoria, but for now I offer up a weekend trip in mid-October.

Getting Ready

We tied up at wharf street on September 28th and since then haven’t moved the boat at all except for one aborted attempt to try out a different slip. It was time to get out again. So the first thing we did was make a list of what needed to be done to make the the Never for Ever sailable again. We’d added cable internet, a fitting for the pumpout boat and tied down or otherwise secured a lot of lines and running rigging, all of which needed to be reset. But down below it seems we had still kept everything fairly reasonably stowed, so it wasn’t all that much effort to get us going again.

I did experience a small issue with the tachometer when I fired the diesel up after three weeks of inactivity. The revs were registering much higher than the engine was actually doing for a few minutes but then it settled down again. Yet another (probably expensive) boat thing to look into.

We cast off around 9 am on Friday to try and make the 10:30 slack at Baynes Channel. We made good time but the tide was with us, so I wasn’t worried overly about the passage when we got there early.  The plan was to head up to Portland Island and await word if R Shack Island was going to be able to meet us. If so, then we would head to Genoa Bay the next day for a nice dinner. If not then we would find some other options. The winds were forecast to be light, climbing to 10-15 knots for the next couple of days and then up to 20-30 on Tuesday, so we figured we would head for home on Monday and avoid the chance of getting stuck out too long.

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As is so often the case, the wind was right on the nose as we headed east down Juan de Fuca and then they swung with us to remain pretty much on the nose all the way up Haro Strait. We contemplated raising the sails anyway after transiting Baynes, but on cue the winds died down to 5 knots and we decided hiking Portland was a better goal than a bunch of hours beating in such light winds. It seems to be the curse of the Salish Sea that the wind only blows in the wrong direction, but someone must be getting the wind… right?

Portland Island

A few hours later we pulled into Princess Margaret Cove on the south side of Portland Island and anchored a bit away from the only other boat there. By the end of the evening there were  a total of 4 other sailboats at anchor— two of them under 24′. One of those, a MacGregor, had four people aboard, so it was no surprise that my first glimpse of them when I stuck my head up the hatch was of someone urinating off the bow pulpit. I guess there was more privacy there…

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After a few minutes of tidying up we jumped in Laughing Baby and Leslie rowed us to shore. At this time of year the visitor’s dinghy dock has already been removed, so we opted to land on the rocks and tie up to one of the stern tie rings. Then we could scramble up to shore and Baby should be secure. But after a bit of consideration and remembering it was a rising tide, we moved the dinghy over to what was left of the wharf and tied off to one of the rails.

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We had last been on Portland just before heading to Victoria, but had stern tied on the north side in Royal Cove. We hadn’t been in Princess Margaret since our very first cruise-and-learn many years ago. And we hadn’t completed our circumnavigation of the island on foot so there were plenty of paths to explore. We checked out the old apple orchard (the ground was devoid of any apples at all—nature has some good clean-up crews). Then we headed east along the shore, stopping along the way to admire the plentiful and varied mushroom crop (I really wish I knew more about mushrooms), stare out at the beautiful vistas and to kick around in the huge piles of leaves. Fall is such a beautiful time and it’s a pity we don’t get out into nature more when we are in the city. Yet another great thing about our liveaboard sojourn.

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Eventually we circled back to the boat and I camped out under the canvas to enjoy the warmth and setting sun. Dinner was French toast and that was strictly Leslie’s bailiwick so I was off the hook with no mandate except to to drink a beer and relax. October is an odd time of year. An afternoon of sunlight on the canvas and the cockpit was like heated room, but the moment the sun dipped below the tree line, the temperature plummeted and, by the time the light faded, I was driven below and contemplating firing up the diesel heater.

 

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We hadn’t used the heater much. It is a Webasto hydronic heater, which means a small diesel-fed boiler heats up water (actually it’s coolant like in your radiator) and circulates it through 3 electric fan units. You have the option of a high or low speed on each of the fans (one in the salon, one in the v-berth and one in the aft cabin) and with all three going full blast the boat heats up pretty quickly. There are a few downsides though. One is that when warming up, the heater sounds like a jet engine and since it is in an aft locker, it makes sleeping in the morning almost impossible if you want to heat the boat before you get up.

Another is that both the heater and the fans consume battery power. But since we’d actually added a battery monitor finally, we were able to track it. Turns out with all three fans going full bore (which we never actually used in practice) the consumption after the initial warm-up period was around 6.5 AmpHrs (it ran as high as 12 during the warm up). Which is right around what the fridge uses. And since the heater (at least in mid October) probably ran for less than four hours in a 24 hr period, all in all it wasn’t too bad.

So we ran the heat for a while to warm up the boat and then ate dinner. Afterwards we watched some West Wing episodes on the laptop and then ran the heat again—this time in the aft cabin— while we did dishes, just before hitting the sack. This turned out to be our basic pattern: an hour (maybe two) in the morning to warm the boat up, an hour or so when we returned from the day’s activities if the temperature warranted it, and another hour to warm up the cabin before bed. It was a good system.

The next morning we found out R Shack was not going to make it and so, after a bit of humming and hawing, we settled on Butchart Gardens as our next destination. They have free mooring buoys there and we had never been at this time of year. Again the winds were almost nonexistent so we motored of towards Saanich Inlet. Along the way we spotted a few sea lions out fishing and Leslie caught the tail end (pun intended) of a humpback diving just off our bow. By the time I arrived back on deck he was gone but we did eventually see him again with another, off in the distance, but only by using the binoculars.

Butchart Gardens

The entrance to Butchart Cove is just below Brentwood Bay and you have to weave your way in through all the moored boats. Then you arrive in this tiny cove just off the entrance to Tod Inlet with five mooring buoys spaced close together. You have to grab one and then stern tie to the provided rings ashore to avoid bumping your neighbour. So we dutifully grabbed a ball and then I rowed ashore to loop our stern line through the provided ring. The shore is quite close so there was no problem running our 200′ of line back to the boat so I could avoid having to go out tomorrow and untie.

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After we had tied up and everything was stowed, we rowed over to the dock. The Gardens close at 4 pm and they boot you out around 5 so we only had a few hours. Their dock hosts float planes, tour boats and whale watching boats during the high season but we had it pretty much to ourselves. A quick walk up the ramp and you give them a call on the intercom (it is manned full time in the high season) to be admitted through the gate. A pleasant young man took some info on our boat and dispatched someone to take our money (around $25 ea) and let us in.

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One of the joys of visiting by boat is that you come in away from all the crowds and parking lots and the first thing you see is the spectacular — in any season — Japanese gardens. It really make you feel special to be able to avoid the hustle and bustle of the tourist-oriented main entrance. I highly recommend it to any one.

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If you have never been to Butchart in the fall, then go. There are plants and colours you will never see at any other time of year and the effect is spectacular. Everywhere you turn there is something to see, from brilliant purple berries to salmon-coloured Japanese maples that, at any other time of year, aren’t to be seen. There are even roses still in bloom. Imagine, breathing the heady scent of an English rose in October. Really unthinkable in Edmonton.

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The sunken garden

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The apparent shadow beneath this tree was not formed by light but by a perfect circle of fallen purple leaves.

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We wandered the gardens for almost three hours before they came to kick us out. And again we got to leave through the quiet back entrance, with one more pleasant walk through the Japanese Gardens. It leaves a much softer and pleasant memory when you the last thing you experince is a quiet wooded path down to the dock rather than a crowded gift shop and parking lot full of people with places they need to get to.

I BBQ’d some burgers for dinner and we settled in for the night. After a bit of discussion we decided to head to Roche Harbor in the San Juans tomorrow and find an anchorage there. From there it is only a bit over three hours back to Victoria so we could sleep in and relax.

The next morning we cast off and headed back up Saanich Inlet. Along the way we encountered two of the RCN’s Orca class patrol/training boats. They were number 55 (the lead boat in the class and thus called the Orca) and number 66 ( the Moose, and the newest of the class). Their decks were crowed with sea cadets and they were obviously out doing training exercises. In fact we saw the Orca start to maneuver oddly and soon enough they had launched their RIB and zoomed off to pick up a “man” overboard.

San Juan Island

One task necessitated by our visit to the U.S.-owned San Juan’s was to check out our galley for prohibited foodstuffs. I tossed some green onions (they were a bit off anyway) and decided to “hide” the bananas in a batch of banana bread and muffins. It was one of our first attempts at baking underway and turned out pretty damn good. Nothing like warm muffins for lunch. Other than that, according to the list of import regs I downloaded, everything else was good.

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We got the sails up for an hour or so on a broad reach crossing Haro Strait starting at about 15 knots, but the winds kept dying. But we persisted and gybed our way to the entrance to Roche Harbor, finally dropping the sails in less than 5 knots of wind. Then we checked in at the Customs dock in Roche (which has moved from the outer dock to the port side of the docks, down by the fuel dock) and I cleared us in while Leslie waited aboard. Afterwards we walked the boat over to the fuel dock and pretended our Canadian dollars were at par. Fuel sure is cheap here when you do that. All topped up, we headed back out to the outer dock and tied up again so we could visit for a while. I picked up one bottle of wine in the store to drink that night as there are no exemptions on visits less than 48 hours, and we walked up to the sculpture garden to explore for a while. We didn’t have a lot of time as it was getting late but we saw a bit more of the resort than we had on our last visit before we had to head back to the boat. We will definitely need to come back and stay for a while.

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It is about a 20 minute cruise down Mosquito Passage to Garrison Bay. It was empty except for two other boats that appear to be permanently moored there—at least they had also been there on our last visit. We dropped anchor and fired up the heater. It’s pretty shallow here (less than 10 feet below the keel) but the tide was only dropping 7 feet that night so we were good. And we’d got a bit chilled wandering around Roche.

I think it was our windiest night since we picked up Never for Ever and I certainly heard a lot of new noises throughout the night. The most annoying one, which I got up to  fix (twice), was the flag halyard — where we were flying out small American courtesy flag — banging on the mast inner stays and setting up a chain reaction that sounded like pots clanging together when you were down below. Could not hear a thing when you were on deck, but down below it was really annoying. I eventually solved it by lowering the flag for the evening.

The next morning we slept in and lounged around reading and enjoying the scenery. It really is a pleasant and peaceful place with the historic buildings of English camp peeking out through the mist. Then around 1 pm, we raised anchor and headed back out into Haro strait to cross the shipping lanes on our way back to Victoria. I spent the trip practicing using the AIS to track ships. Those tankers move at up to 20 knots and can really appear from out of nowhere, so if visibility is poor you want to be able keep track of their whereabouts. Otherwise the trip home was quiet although we had the tide against us most of the way. We hit Bayne Channel a bit before slack and motored against the 2 knot current along with a few other boats.

Soon enough we were in Victoria Harbour and tying up at the Customs dock by Fisherman’s Wharf to check back in. It is not manned at this time of year so you have to report in by phone. A nice young man soon cleared us after laughing at my reaction to the question of whether I was carrying more than $10,000 in cash—don’t we all wish, and we cast off for the short jaunt home. Rounding the outer dock on Wharf Street we saw there was a new boat beside our assigned moorage, but he had left plenty of room for me to easily get to our spot.

Then came trying to get all set up again for life on dock. And readjusting once again to a stationary lifestyle. But hopefully we will get out again soon.

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