02 May

Things that make it more comfie

For those of you who charter — if you are anything like we were — you don’t bring much to the boat with you. And, given you aren’t likely to be aboard much beyond 2 weeks, that makes a lot of sense.  But when I was  doing my Turnkey Sailboat inventory, I came across a long list of things that we’ve have added to the boat now that we cruise in longer stints. These days we have a storage unit that has five big blue bins full of stuff that we haul on and off the boat, and most of it goes to making our boat a home again.

We’ve got enough stuff in storage that we keep an inventoried spreadsheet of it all.

Some of it is just things like our own linens, pillows etc. But there  are also the items, big and small, that we’ve discovered help make our shipboard lifestyle familiar and comfortable. So here’s a quick summary of what we add to make our “charter” boat a comfy home for us when we are aboard.

Things that came with the boat

These are a few things we didn’t buy but are oh-so glad to have. We are eternally grateful to the PO for providing them..

  • Rubber base floor mats: There are two of these. They are the ones with foam in them so they a) are comfortable to stand on, b) are insulated and keep our toes warm, and c) are nonskid so add a lot of traction. Easy to clean too — we love them. And they are only thing in this list that stays on board full time.
  • Fleece sheets: I can’t rave about these enough. Not flannel…fleece! When we are off-season cruising these things are so warm that it’s like someone has already heated up the bed for you. The only downside is if you wear pyjamas or nightgowns, you might be strangled by your own garments.

Things we added to the boat

These are all things we added to our boat after we purchased her. Some came aboard right away and others were slowly added based on our experiences. They are in no particular order and most of them aren’t especially earth-shattering game-changers. But there’s only one or two of these things I wouldn’t immediately replace if it was to lost or broken and that is only because we aren’t full time cruisers any more.

  • Cast iron pot: I bake  a lot of bread — no-knead boule to be exact. We picked up a cheap camping cast-iron dutch oven that is the perfect size for the boat.
  • Extra frying pan: I don’t know where I developed the habit, but I am a a two-frying pan guy. Especially when making pizza crusts.

  • Heat diffuser: We picked this doohickey up at a specialty shop in Victoria, thinking it would be good for making toast. It wasn’t. But The Boat Galley taught us it does a crackerjack job of diffusing the flames so simmering is way easier.
  • Solar showers (2): Moderately useful in the off-season (we use a kettle to heat the water when there’s no sun), in summer they make long stays at anchor a lot more enjoyable. And with a hatch above our shower they are convenient to use as well.

  • Folding boat seat: I love mine. Leslie doesn’t use it as much, but my back really likes the idea of regular angles in the otherwise curved confines in our cockpit.
  • Laundry bags: Such a simple idea. Ours are like big cotton sea-bags with a drawstrings that are big enough to put at least some of the folded laundry back into. I have my eye out for some that I will be able to pack all the folded stuff back into.

  • TV table: We decided pretty early on that since we were only two, that we would keep the salon table down in “bed mode” and use it as a lounging area  with pillows and blankets. So we have a medium-sized tv table we take out to eat on. It’s cozy, easy to stow, and saves us raising and lowering the main table.

  • Best Anchorages : Better known as Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage: British Columbia’s South Coast From the Gulf Island to Beyond Cape Caution, 2nd Ed: a great, great, great book for anchoring in the PNW and our go-to guide for deciding on new anchorages.
  • Popcorn popper: The manual kind with a crank you turn. I suppose we could just use a regular pot but we like popcorn and this does it just right. Besides we use it as a big pot to make rice crispy squares…how’s that for justification?
  • Kellet: Our friends gifted us with a kellet as boat-warming present — it is essentially a weight you add to your anchor rode to help keep it lying on the bottom. I have read a lot about them and there are some naysayers about their usefulness. But when we have a lot of rode out (and are off the chain portion) in moderate conditions, the extra weight is comforting and that’s worth something to us.
  • Mini Staub Cassarole: I brought this from home and left it for the boat. It is the perfect size for two, cleans easily and works awesome in the gas oven. And there is nothing like a baked pasta casserole to warm you up after a long day of sailing.

  • Inflatable life jackets: We have a rule and wear life jackets whenever underway. For all their failings, at least using inflatables ensures we do wear them 99% of the time.
  • LED desklight: Our aft cabin has at least six lights in it, none of which are easily accessible when you are actually lying down and reading in bed. So we picked up this cool LED light that runs off both 120v and batteries. It’s perfect!

  • Humidity meter/ thermometer: This little doodad is the ultimate authority on whether we are going to fire up the heater or not. And when we were full time liveaboards it let us know when it was time to open some hatches and get some circulation going…
  • Spinning clothes dryer: You know those ugly, plastic, clothes-hanger things? Well we had this spinning one for years that we never used and wondered what it was really useful for. Turns out it is the perfect size shape in a boat for drying things that can’t go in the dryer. Ours has a clamp rather than a hook so we can hang it in the doorway.
  • Shower squeegee: We shower aboard a lot. And a quick squeegee afterwards ensures they head is clean and dry for the next user. Bonus: it acts as a backup in case the cockpit squeegee for wiping the dodger goes missing!
  • Foil bbq trays: We discovered these late but they are a god send. I love BBQ chicken thighs but the amount of grease and fat that they leave all over my transom is a huge pain. With these foil trays I can do a quick sear on the grill to crust up the skin and then let them roast in the pan for 20 minutes without having to spend an hour cleaning up the next day.
  • Non-slip shelf liner: We lined all of our shelves with this stuff and have a bunch of spare pieces for various uses. It might not be as big a game changer as, well, a catamaran, but at least we can leave things like cameras and binoculars out and be pretty sure they won’t go flying when we heel.
  • Glass candle holders: Last, and probably least, we have a bunch of glass candle holders. If we are cruising when the days are short and the nights are long, we like to have a lot of candles going for light, a bit of extra heat and to save batteries. We find the glass votives handy for holding the candles safely and also to double as  containers for knickknacks, spare change and pens.

Open to Suggestions?

That’s our list, eclectic as it is. I am always looking for the next greatest thing so I spend a lot of time online analyzing other people’s systems — I have found quite a few useful little items that other people consider “necessities” that way. It’s great to see what matters to different people and to find new things to add to the wish list. It is amazing how the smallest things can make such a big difference and equally amazing how we come up with ways to make boating life just that little more homey.

 

11 Apr

A Turnkey Sailboat

When we bought Never for Ever we had one major requirement: we wanted a turnkey boat — something we could board and sail away for most of a year without having to worry about anything major. But it occurs to me now, so many years later, that at the time I had no idea what a “turnkey” boat was. Or what a good deal we actually got. And, it occurs to me after writing the first draft of this post, I never realized just how much we got — so apologies for the length of the post.

In the boat shopping phase I had compiled a list of “wishlist” items that I wanted with the boat. Not so oddly given my inexperience, many of those wishes are still unfulfilled and, as I mentioned in a recent post, priorities change and now I am not so sure just how much I am now willing to invest to acquire them. Check the end of this post if you want to see a selection of some of the more ridiculous ones. But my original wishlist notwithstanding, our intention when we purchased Never for Ever was to cast off and head north, at least to the Broughton’s and further if we were feeling adventurous. We wanted to be able to cruise with no home port for up to 6 months and not have to worry.

And that’s what we got.

I’ve watched a lot of Youtube videos in the last couple of years of people buying their first boats and you know, I have been surprised by the kinds of things boats can come without. And by the kind of work that has to go into some of them — even if they weren’t project boats. Before we bought, and over the years since, I have regularly checked in at YachtWorld and tracked prices, models and ages of sailboats for sale in the PNW. My parameters always change but essentially I look at 36-40 foot boats under $120,000 CDN. But I also keep an eye on boats under $50,000 to see what there is in classic boats that an extra $30,000 of refit would make cruise-worthy. This seems to be more of what the current crop of younger YouTube sailors are doing and their equipment lists vary significantly.

But what we bought was a $120,000 boat that was ready to go. And I want to do a summary of what was on Never for Ever when we got her and maybe rate items on a scale of frivolous to necessary.

Must have’s

There weren’t many items on this list.

  • Reliable engine: we bought an ex-charter boat with 2000+ hours on the Yanmar. I had the opportunity to talk to the original owner and was convinced that it had been maintained and my reading led me to believe a marine diesel is good for up to 5000 hours. And so far it has proven to be true. I am not so worried about engine hours anymore.
  • Solid rigging and sails: turnkey meant we could trust our gear while we were “learning the ropes.” We did spend a bit of money post-purchase on this but we were building on a solid foundation.
  • Canvas. I knew I wanted at least a dodger (can you buy a boat in the PNW without one?) and a bimini. One 2 week spring charter to the rainy Broughtons without one was enough to convince me. And as we were staying aboard over the winter, a full enclosure was high on the list. And that’s what we got. I definitely think this was the plus I thought it was going to be. I spend a lot of time in the cockpit and we sail a lot in the shoulder seasons. Just the side panels cutting the cold wind paid for itself many times over.
  • Windlass. Actually I had no idea that so many boats were sold without a windlass or with manual ones. But given our two handed crew system, I definitely think it is an addition well worth having.

These side panels turned out to be our favourite bit of canvas.

Wanted

Some things I knew I wanted:

  • Chain rode: 110 feet (120 feet now) of chain and another 300 feet of rope rode have made a lot of our anchorages comfortable and worry-fre.
  • Outboard (and RIB): we got a nice 8 hp Yamaha that is just enough to get the two of us and our gear up on plane in our West Marine RIB. While I think we could do without the planing, it has made some of our explorations a lot more feasible. Now we occasionally get frustrated when there is a third person and can’t get up on plane. And the RIB? I would never get a non-rigid bottom—I have put enough holes in the pontoons as it is.
  • Webasto hydronic heater: I love it. But would I fork out the $$ to buy such a cantankerous piece of equipment? I don’t know. There are a lot of other heating options that might make more economic sense.
  • Robust autopilot: we got a tough chain driven autopilot and I love it. We have cruised without an autopilot and long days get much longer if you are always at the wheel (especially without an enclosure). And I have seen enough flimsier autopilots to make me appreciate how robust ours is.
  • A good house bank: we have 450 amp/hours of batteries. I knew we wanted to avoid the expense of marinas as much as possible. Our bank gives us 4 days at anchor without having to fire up the engine. These days I think this really is more of a “must have” than a “wanted.”
  • Midship cleats: such a small thing. But we have chartered boats with just the two of us and that middle cleat makes docking in difficult circumstances so much easier. Something I would immediately add to any boat.
  • RAM mic: a remote, helm-mounted mic for the VHS really is a necessity if you are cruising busy waters. The ability to communicate with other traffic, contacting crowded marinas or even listening to the Coast Guard from the cockpit just makes cruising a whole lot safer in my opinion.

I really appreciate having the remote VHF mic.

This is our new chain. But we got 3 years out of the old one.

The outboard and the handy Forespar crane.

Wanted Now

And there were some things Never for Ever came with that I hadn’t realized I wanted. I have subsequently seen a ton of boats that were sold without these “necessities” but they are things I personally would add almost immediately.

  • Charger/inverter: she came with a Magnum with a remote screen — I love this thing. A 2300 watt inverter (that we rarely use but is nice to have) combined with high tech charging system for maintaining our batteries. We later added the BMK (Battery Monitor Kit) and it has made life on anchor so much less stressful.
  • Cockpit cushions: I didn’t realize how much time I would spend in the cockpit and how quickly these would become a necessity.
  • Closed cell foam: (in the the above cushions) it means we can leave them out and have a reasonable expectation they will be dry without having to have them dry in the sun for hours.
  • High density foam mattress topper: our aft cabin was one of the reasons we chose the Hunter and the 3 inch memory foam topper was icing on the cake. It’s certainly something I would look into adding to any boat I was spending a lot of time on.
  • Radar: I know, I know, but who would have thought there was so much fog on the West Coast? <head smack>
  • Racor: it never occurred to me boats would be sold without a secondary fuel filter. Seeing the problems some of our boating buddies had fuel-wise I wouldn’t leave the dock without one.
  • Screens for all hatches: well maybe all was an unnecessary bonus, but having some opening ports with screens really is a necessity.
  • LED lights: Never for Ever came with 4, at least one in each space except the aft cabin and we quickly remedied that. Incandescents are a huge power hog and, despite the price of LEDs, if you are spending any time on anchor, they are worth the cost.
  • Rail mounted bbq: I didn’t realize this was a necessity but it really, really is.

Seems it can get foggy here sometimes :-)

We have a battery monitor now!

The bbq gets used more than the stove.

Bonuses

And here a few things, big and small, that we got on Never for Ever that have made life a lot easier, but I don’t think I would include them as “must haves” when boat shopping or outfitting.

  • AIS receiver: when I finally got the Standard Horizon VHS hooked up to the chartplotter, it was great to be able to track AIS targets…just added a level of safety.
  • Handheld vhf: the boat came with one and it sure is handy when we are off exploring in the dinghy.
  • Campbell Sailor 3 blade prop: I am not experienced enough to  know just how much benefit we get from this, but I will say the boat backs well and the prop gets lots of good reviews online.
  • Autopilot remote: until it stopped functioning one day I never realized how much we used it. It’s nice to be able to huddle under the dodger and still be able to dodge logs etc.
  • Boat manual: as an ex-charter boat she came with a manual that listed all the common systems and instructions for use. Not a necessity in any way, bit it helped us get up to speed quickly in those first few weeks.
  • Forespar Outboard Crane: almost a necessity with the 8hp motor and it makes it really convenient for the two of us to get the engine on and off the dinghy.
  • Backup Fortress anchor kit: we’ve never used it but this little kit with anchor, rode and convenient carrying bag is a nice addition to our tackle.
  • 5 fenders, extra docking lines: who knew how much this stuff costs? You can always use them and it’s nice they came with the boat.
  • Brass barometer: we love to track the changes and see how they relate to the actual weather.
  • 4 speakers: what can I say, we like music.
  • 2 sets of drinking-safe hoses: self explanatory and great to have at some marinas where hose bibs are few and far between.
  • 4 life jackets: spares we don’t use but makes having guests easier.
  • 200′ of stern line: in the PNW? Without one you are limiting your anchorage choices.

Our shiny prop.

I was so happy the day I got the remote working again.

When it’s busy, you end up stern-tying a lot.

Hunter 386 Brochure

I dug up the original sales material for the 2003 Hunter 386. Here are a few of the “optional items” that Never for Ever came with from the factory:

  • Aluminum Boom Vang: I am not sure what the standard option would have been?
  • Electric Anchor Windlass: see above
  • Inmast furling: I’ve not seen a 386 without this option, but maybe they did make a few.
  • Inner-Spring Mattress: this is a not option.
  • Refrigerator/Freezer (as opposed to an icebox)

A Great Deal

So, quite the list eh? I really didn’t realize how well equipped a boat we got until I started working on this list. I have not seen a lot of boats for sale that didn’t include at least a few of the above, but I have seen an awful lot that that weren’t equipped with most.

Comfy and dry and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Not Wanted on This Voyage

I will finish off with some of the things that were on my original boat-hunting checklist that didn’t make the cut. I am not saying that I wouldn’t want (or need) them if we were cruising in different waters  but for now they have become extravagances I mistakenly  thought I would need.

  • Fitted sheets (And we didn’t even intend to sleep in the v-berth!)
  • Hammock (Really? This was on my wishlist?)
  • Watermaker (In the Salish Sea? Because freshwater is so  scarce?)
  • Drinking water filtration system (see above)
  • Generator (Still dreaming, but such a luxury)
  • Solar panels (Still, still dreaming… I think…)
  • 100 amp alternator (Well, not the worst idea but oh, the expense.)
  • Wifi booster (because I wanted to stay connected? Sheesh.)
  • Davits (I think I was in a lazy phase)
  • Code zero (Sail envy is a thing!)
  • Fender socks (Because they look tidier?)
  • AIS transponder (Oooh, an electronic toy!)
  • Folding wheel (What was I thinking? Oh right, that crowded cockpit on the Bavaria 33 we chartered…)
22 Mar

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

I mentioned in 2018 Wishlist post that getting our Scuba certification was something I had wanted to look into. I like the water and generally prefer to be under it than bobbing around on top so diving seems like a natural for me. And there have been several times in the boat ownership experience when being able to work on the boat below the waterline would have been helpful: checking/changing zincs, removing a tangled dinghy painter etc.. And snorkling without a wetsuit is often contra-indicated in our chilly water.

Against that I know I have control issues, mild claustrophobia and ears that don’t much like the deep end of the pool. I also remember reading Matt from Gudeon’s blog posts (SCUBA DIVING IN THE OCEAN IS FUCKING TERRIFYING) about when he got his certification in Victoria — the kind of creeping panic he experienced on his first dive is something I can really relate to. Maybe I don’t really want to do this? But why let that stop me?

The process of learning to dive goes something like this: you take an online study module (which in recent years has replaced classroom study), then do 4-6 hours of diving in a pool with instructors. After that’s done you have to do 4 separate open water dives over 2 days. If you pass you are certified to dive in open water down to 60 feet. There are several certifying agencies of which PADI (Professional Association of Divers) is the most prevalent. So I got it into my head that we could do all the school and pool work here in land-locked Edmonton and then do our open water dives on the coast this June. And since we’re going to be in one of the coast’s most beautiful places (the Broughtons), why not do our dives there?

Unfortunately there are no PADI dive schools in Port McNeill. Fortunately there is Sun Fun Divers. I contacted the owner, Steve Lacasse, who is a NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) instructor and he said he could do the instruction there, using the McNeill pool, and we could work the open water dives around our sailing schedule. We’d actually get to dive in the beautiful waters of the Broughtons: cool!

But for me, the panic/fear thing was a bit of a worry — so I went back to the local dive shop’s website (Ocean Sports) and found they offered a Discover Scuba package for just $60. This got us all the gear, an introductory booklet and around 2 hours of diving time in the pool. Perfect. So we signed up and Tuesday night had our first taste of breathing underwater.

Breathing Underwater

It was a great experience and we had a great instructor. Not to say I wasn’t hesitant, twitchy, mildly terrified and prone to idiotic mistakes…because I was. Leslie, on the other hand, was a natural. Afterwards she compared the experience to our first time climbing: an experience that for me it was a real hoot as I had no trouble with the heights or the gear and complete faith in the system; but for Leslie, she kept having to remind herself she could trust the gear (and me) and balance intellectual knowledge with visceral reality. Diving for us had the roles exactly reversed. There is something just not right about dipping your face in the water and continuing to breathe. And the Golden Rule of Diving is never hold your breath, so you could see how my brain might be at odds with the procedure — and it was. Leslie, meanwhile, took to the system like an eager fledgling jumping out of a nest.

But I got over it. Mostly. We started with a few beginner skills: clearing your mask, recovering your regulator, equalizing your ears, learning to use the BCD (buoyancy control device) etc. Recovering my regulator was something that took me a few tries to master since, according to the Golden Rule, you can’t hold your breath while trying to recover the damned thing.  I didn’t swallow too much water.

After the skills bit and some practice kneeling, and breathing, on the bottom of the shallow end, we left it behind and glided slowly to the bottom of the deep end. You have to take long steady breaths (a lot like yoga) and try to equalize the pressure in your ears every meter or so — NAIT’s deep end is around 4 m so that’s at least 4 times. Again, I had trouble keeping up and was having to really work at it: my ears started to hurt before I achieved equalization and I was always playing catchup. But eventually I got it so it was comfortable. On the bottom, the instructor threw a small toy torpedo at us and had us pass it back and forth for a bit. It’s a great device because it forces your brain to concentrate on things other than not drowning and remembering to breath, and helps prove to your subconscious it’s all going to be ok.

An hour and a bit later we left the pool with my tank nearly empty and Leslie’s still half full—a sign, said our instructor, that I was a bit more anxious than she was since that uses up more air. Leslie had a huge smile plastered across her face. I think she liked it. Me? Well it didn’t kill me, I didn’t panic, and I really do want to try it again. But I am still not sure I could commit to adding the salt water ocean, the dark, fish, currents and cold into the mix after only a few more hours in the pool. Maybe I should just take this intro course six or seven more times… :-)

It’s an odd experience: as unlike swimming as BBQing is like using a microwave. Surprisingly (even after they tell you), there is not much crossover between swimming and diving. Even the act of maneuvering underwater with all that mass and using  only the fins has very little in common with  swimming underwater normally. And all the while you are expelling bubbles and breathing in compressed air, feeling the pressure of the water on your body in a way that is subtly unlike anything you have ever experienced, and operating in 3 dimensions which you suddenly realize you don’t actually do when swimming. If you are like me, every time your concentration slips from doing it, back to thinking about it, you have to wrestle with a sudden urge to head for the surface. Which, thankfully, I managed.

What Next?

And there is the quandary. We’d like to try again. And I have a reasonable expectation I will succeed. So we can go ahead and commit to this year, spend $540 apiece to get certified in Port McNeill although this will eat into our cruising time, run the risk of me not really wanting to complete the course in such a short period of time, and mean we are adding another grand to this year’s expenses, which might not be our best choice. Alternatively we can do the online/pool stuff here for around $399 each, gain more confidence and wait until we are in Nanaimo again to spend around $200 to $300 for our open water dives, which, money-wise, is a worse choice but at least spreads the costs out over two years. We can also wait until later in the summer and try to do the open water dives in a local lake, completing everything here in Alberta. Or just let it go for a year or two…

So we still aren’t sure if we want to commit to doing our diving certs this year, but I am pretty sure we are going to give this a go eventually. Leslie just enjoyed it too much.

This could be me someday?

12 Mar

To Do 2018

So the 2018 sailing season is rolling around and it time to consider, or reconsider, the things I might want to get done this year. Perusing last year’s list I  notice I hardly added anything from my wishlist. In the end it came down to cost and convenience vs necessity. We are starting to get used to this once-a-year cruise idea and our priorities have shifted a bit. The “toys” are slipping down the list and small conveniences don’t seem to be as important anymore.

The big “issue” for me has always been power. We took almost  2 months off to cruise and, while I admit that we would have preferred to stay and extra night or two in a couple of anchorages, it turns out we had enough battery power to get the most out of most of the anchorages. The early spring weather worked in our favour as we tended to spend 2 or three nights in a place rather than being sucked in my sun and warmth and trying to eke out 4 or 5.  And contrary to expectations the winds were light so we motored enough to keep the batteries charged up without having to resort to marinas too often.

But, be that as it may, we do have a few things to work on this year and a few new things I want to investigate. Being over a 1000 km away from the boat is a pain.

Need to…

  1. The crew at NYCSS replaced the oars on the dinghy and they were too long—rowing was almost impossible…and we like rowing. A couple of minutes with a hacksaw will fix that…if I remember to bring my hacksaw.
  2. I need to check the automatic bilge pump. There was a lot of water in it when we went for that short rainy cruise in October last year. But I didn’t have time to check the switch. I mentioned it to NYCSS but I don’t know if they looked into it.
  3. A rubber seal on port aft locker was coming off. A bit of glue will take care of that.
  4. The hydraulic arms on the fridge and freezer lids were shot so NYCSS removed them for safety reasons. I bought two new replacements and need to install them.
  5. The 30 amp power cord has a burnt end. Which is a pain because we were super careful with it and never had an issue. I guess this is just one of those “charter” things we will have to just swallow.
  6. One of the board supports under the settee had broken loose so the lid sagged. Some glue and a clamp or two will fix that and prevent it from worsening.
  7. I want to measure up my sinks and see if I can get my wood-working brother to make me some custom cutting boards to fit in them.

I am currently waffling over a whole new cord ($100+) or just replacing the end, which would then not be sealed.

Want to…

  1. I really want to check my VHF antenna. I read about a few DIY tests and if necessary I would like to get a SWR Meter. I had replaced a connection below the mast a few years ago but there was a lot of corrosion and while I get decent reception I am suspicious its not as good as it could be.
  2. I really want at least one 12v or USB plug on the binnacle. And while I am at it why not add some to the aft cabin, v-berth and at least one more in the salon. I did something similar to NorthWest Passage before we took her down south so why I haven’t done it for my own boat I really don’t know.
  3. I have been working a lot in stained glass. Why not do a custom piece for the boat? So I would need to find a place and do some measurements, maybe make a template or two.
  4. I want to finally trace & document all the navigation-related and NMEA wiring. It is no use sitting here dreaming if you don’t actually know what is in place on the boat. I spend a lot of time dreaming about adding some cheap wifi… (http://en.usr.cn/Wifi-Serial-Server/WIFI-RS232-RS485-Ethernet-Converter.html).
  5. I am looking into acquiring some kayaks. NYCSS rents them for somewhere around $150/week which makes me conclude I should just buy my own because it will be cheaper in the long run. Or should I try  SUPs (stand-up paddle boards)? I just think some of the more isolated and picturesque anchorages might be nicer to explore by kayak rather than dinghy. Maybe I can rent them out when we aren’t there?
  6. I noticed last year the transducer speedo wheel had a broken paddle. I talked to Ian about it and he said he might have one kicking around. Otherwise I need to grab the spec’s and spend some time find an affordable replacement.

The Dream list…

  • PADI dive certification. I would really like to get the course and pool work done here and then do the dives on the coast this year. It’s a long shot due to costs and scheduling but it’s something that has been on the bucket list for a while.
  • That pesky portable generator. Still on the list. Still waffling. I have been hearing good things about Ryobi’s and they are a couple hundred less than than the omnipresent Honda’s and Yamaha’s so you never know, but it is so unlikely.

Reading other people’s blogs and watching others YouTube videos I realize we really did luck out with this “turn-key boat. When I sift through Yachtworld dreaming about my “forever” sail-around-the-world boat I realize how much investment we would have to make just to get all the stuff I have been  slowly coming to think of as “normal.” I think my next post is going to be about all the things I love about Never for Ever and all the stuff she has. 

22 May

Drugs on board … & being sick

When we first moved aboard, I spent some time assembling a good first aid kit to supplement the one already aboard. I also stocked up on Tylenol and Advil and made sure to include a good supply of Robaxacet as my back had developed an insidious habit of spasming at the worst moments and rendering me virtually incapacitated for a few days. Luckily, so far, my back seems to enjoy sailing and I have been thankfully spasm free whenever we’ve been aboard. On my last visit to my dentist, the inestimable Dr. Frank insisted I accept a prescription for a good antibiotic in case we found ourselves far from assistance and suffering from tooth pain (I later was grateful for this foresight).

But the one thing I didn’t stock then and failed to include on this year’s cruise was any cold or sinus medication. Which I assume was some sort of subconscious and misplaced optimism, as we always have some sort of decongestant and/or antihistamine stocked in the medicine cabinet at home. And, as it turns out, we paid for that oversight.

The onset

It had been a bad start. For the first week or so I had been feeling nauseated. I blamed it at first on the disruption of my eating schedule and later on a fairly recent addition of cholesterol meds. We checked in with a pharmacist in Madeira Park, but he felt it highly unlikely the meds were to blame.

Just as I was getting over that, my allergies (which tend to plague me continually in a low-level manner while in Alberta and had, to date, disappeared on the West Coast) returned with a vengeance. It had been five years or more since I had a bad attack that involved a weird post-nasal drip that accumulates assorted crud in the back of my throat and will set off spasms of hacking and coughing every time I shift positions, but it was back and now I found myself incapacitated for minutes at a time as my body’s involuntary reflexes tried to prevent me from choking to death. Trust me, they were so bad that sometimes in the middle of these violent coughing fits, I might have chosen the more sedate choking option.

And of course, we were smack in the middle of Desolation Sound at this point with no easy options for acquiring any antihistamines. So I toughed it out.

I’m not sure who got the cold first, but it doesn’t matter. Suddenly it seemed that both Leslie and I were in the grips of monster chests colds, hacking, coughing and dripping in concert.

On a boat, feeling like cr@p

I have occasionally wondered what being sick aboard would be like, but for some reason I usually imagined it would involve some sort of intestinal problem — probably because that seemed the worst case scenario — and not something that was catching. So there we were, having infected each other, drained of energy and will, and completely without any of the world’s modern miracle drugs other than Extra Strength Tylenol to help. It was the nights that were the worst as both of us have been conditioned by years of habit to load up on OTC drugs when we’re sick, to help us at least get a partial night’s sleep before they wear off.

And despite my previous post’s happy endorsement of spring cruising, the rain didn’t help. On some of the rainier days, there was very little to keep our minds off our suffering stuck below in a cool damp boat. The Webasto got fired up perhaps a bit more than would have been our usual practice.

We were swinging on the hook in Von Donop when I made the executive decision that a few days at dock were called for, and so we raised the anchor and made for Heriot Bay, shore power and, best of all, a supply of medication.

On the road back to better

We tied up at Taku Resort and immediately tromped off to the Market. The selection was limited, but Leslie chose to indulge in her faithful NeoCitran while I opted for a combined cure to both my now incipient head cold and the persisting background allergies: Sinutab Allergies. We loaded up and spent two days on the dock reveling in electric heat, all the hot water we wanted and the ability to walk away from what we regarded as our own personal plague ship.

Of course we didn’t do that much walking, preferring to huddle miserably below. After a couple of days we decided that if that’s the way it was, we might as well go somewhere more picturesque so, after forgoing the worst of the drugs for a day, cast off for the Octopus Islands. And there we sat for a few more days in alternating sun and rain and slowly recovered.

At least I did. My cold slowly receded, although my allergies remained (albeit at a much reduced level thanks to the drugs). But Leslie’s illness had unfortunately settled into her ears, which stubbornly refused to drain, and she was starting to count down to a flight to Toronto that she absolutely did not want to make with blocked eustachian tubes.

The D-word.

Right about then we started paying attention to medical facilities. Or at least I did. Talking it over, we decided if L’s ears weren’t better by a week before her flight, we would bustle off to a doctor for some serious drugs. Of course, walk-in clinics didn’t seem to be overly abundant in Desolation Sound, so we shifted our short-term plans accordingly.

The days went by and with the help of some Benadryl I picked up in Lund, I beat my symptoms into a mere five-minute, first-thing-in-the-morning coughing session. Leslie’s ears did not, however, improve. And so we continued to move slowly south toward more populated parts.

A sign you will be sure to encounter on your walk tot he Pender Harbour Health Centre

A few days short of our one-week deadline we found ourselves back on the hook in Pender Harbour. I gave Pender Harbour Health Centre a call the morning after we arrived to get some advice on the nearest place to have Leslie’s ears looked at. It turned out they had a both nurse and a doctor available and could we be there by 11? I secured directions (a 10-minute walk south down the highway) and we started to get ready.

The A-word.

There are a lot of things about small towns that can be irritating, but Madeira Park—indeed the whole Pender Harbour area—has just the right balance between services and population to make things like going to the doctor a joy. We arrived about a half hour early and Leslie was bustled in five minutes later. I could hear her laughing, and 15 minutes later she emerged with a smile and a prescription.

It turns out that the issue with her ears was not the dreaded infection but instead a symptom of … wait for it … allergies.

“There are lot of things on the coast that cause allergic reactions,” the doctor told her authoritatively.

“But we spent a year here without being affected,” she protested. “And we returned a month ago.”

“Indeed,” he rebutted, “the exact conditions that might bring on such an attack.”

“Oh,” she rejoined weakly, “I see.”

“Indeed,” the doctor repeated kindly.

So we strolled back to town and Leslie filled a familiar (to me) prescription for steroids and we loaded up on Benadryl. Apparently Benadryl, according to the nurse practitioner, should be an essential part of any first-aid kit. Free from “helpful” additives, it’s a pure antihistamine useful in many situations.

And now we wait.

Aftermath

What makes this all poignantly ironic is that just as I was feeling a bit better I read Slow Boat’s (Riveted) latest post about stocking up for their annual Alaska cruise, where they made the point of stocking up with a healthy (pun intended) supply of Nyquill, pointing out how hard it could be to obtain and… Alas, such wisdom delivered only a bit too late. One of the less obvious dangers of cruising too early in the season: you miss the latest crop of internet sagacity.

We are on the mend now and harbour a desperate hope that this allergic reaction is just a fluke and not to become an annual trial. But if it does, I guaranteed next year we will be better prepared and fully stocked up with all the latest medical chemistry to beat our bodies into submission.

13 Apr

Liveaboard vs Cruising: The Problem with Stuff

One week and counting.

After originally planning to drive, we’ve decided to fly out to the coast and should once again be on board Never for Ever late in the day next Thursday. I can’t wait. Still no decisions on where we are going cruising, but Yahtzee is heading up the west side of the Island and I am green with envy. Maybe not this year, but dammit it’s on the list.

Moving Stuff

Unfortunately the decision to fly has introduced a few wrinkles. When we left the boat last June we put  bunch of our stuff into storage, but a bunch more stuff came home with us with the intent to take it back this spring. And on top of that I picked up some gear for my Pacific coast trip. We’d planned to haul it all back out with us in the car — I’d actually bought the bloody hatchback specifically for that purpose. But now, given the airlines current baggage policies and the added fact we are taking a float plane from YVR to Nanaimo, my well-planned gear and provision lists are out the window and we are back to square one.

So now I am going through everything and rating each between 1 and 3 to indicate their relative importance. 1’s will definitely be coming, 2’s will be fit in according to space and 3’s will most likely be staying behind.

What’s The Problem

So what’s the big deal?  Never for Ever is now a charter boat and she comes with everything one needs. Right?

And there-in lies the real topic of this post. The boat certainly does come with everything for a successful vacation and, with the added benefit of our personal blankets, linens, and various kitchen doodads we left in storage, it should be comfortable enough. But the crux is the question of how comfortable is comfortable enough? After spending a whole year aboard we grew to have certain minimum standards and expectations. Two frypans for instance. I learned to prepare a lot of things using the two pan method and now there is only one left aboard.  Oh and my Staub casserole dish, clay garlic pot, and good cutting board all make life easier. And my good knives … And that’s just the galley. I have a bunch of new books I wanted to bring out, some comfort items like bath mats, extra sheets and pillowcases, my favourite pillow, and sundries like a better first aid kit and a new sewing kit. Then there is the cordage, clips and other bits of hardware I had intended on bringing out. Add in our personal gear for two months and it’s just not all going to fit in the 35 lbs each we are allowed by Seair.

Some things are just minor (in)conveniences, our favourite blanket and laptop stand that make watching movies in the evenings a bit more comfie or some extra soft bath towels, but then I’ve got my new sailing boots, coastal jacket, and water walkers along with cold weather gear like long johns, scarves, gloves and rain gear which are bit more important. I had also intended to bring our small inverter, a spare set of binoculars, a few new LED emergency lights and a new Canadian flag.

The sailing gear box at home.

Tools. That’s the big one. I don’t have a specific boat set so I brought 90% of them home. And sadly that’s where they are going to stay this year. And that means a whole whack of boat projects just disappeared from list. Sigh.

Small Things Make a Big Difference

Again, what’s the big deal? It’s subtle but I’ll take a stab at explaining it. Like the heading says, small things make a big difference and when contemplating spending two months on a small boat before summer really takes hold, it’s truly about the seemingly minor things. For example, a good kitchen knife changed my life when I finally got one and 2 months using a bad one is just not worth it. It will be coming. And my good casserole dish? The thick clay heats well and cleans easily; it makes certain dishes easy and fun and without it a whole bunch of menu items get crossed off the list: this one is currently rated a 2 on my  1–3 scale of importance. Hell, I’m old enough that sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow is…well… uncomfortable. I want my good pillow dammit. A good night’s sleep is damn important.

Small things indeed but understand one key point: after living aboard the boat familiar routines are reassuring and their absence can allow small frustrations to build. I am a firm believer in looking after the details and letting the bigger picture take care of itself. But if I can’t take my stuff, then it’s harder to manage the details as well as I want, and then the whole trip risks seeming somehow…less-than.

But Is That Really the Issue?

Well no. The issue really comes down to the difference between living aboard and cruising.

Cruising — to me — is more of a series of small journeys strung together. You are only in each location for a short period of time so you make the most of it and put off “real life” for later. It’s relaxing (in its own way) and you live the adventure in the moment. I enjoy it, I really do. But our year of living aboard showed me that cruising (by my definition) isn’t sustainable; “life” is after all inherent in “living” aboard.

And you know what? Surprisingly I liked that. A lot.

The difference between cruising and living aboard is most easily illustrated by — although not by a long shot limited to — the tools. Things on the boat break. Or need improvement. Or just cry out for a tinkering or two when you are hanging on the hooks and looking for something to do. If it is just a cruise of week or two, or even three, you will likely just wait until you get home to have a go at repairs/upgrades etc. But living aboard means you are away full-time and these things go on the list that you are constantly (and futilely) working to reduce. It’s part of the lifestyle and frankly it’s kind of fulfilling when you McGyver the rigging in the middle of Von Donop Inlet with just what you have to hand. After all, you are just hanging there for 4 days so you might as well get something done. Right? And without the tools I won’t be able to do much without heading back to the base at Nanaimo.

A few of the things that won’t likely make it back to the boat this trip.

So there you are, dealing with life’s little problems, soaking in the lifestyle, watching the rain fall and enjoying your 3-day-old bread —that’s the life. And, just like living ashore, it is the small, personal things that made living aboard more than just workable—they made them comfortable. And comfort is my beginning point for transforming things from enjoyable to joyous. When we are comfy and toasty in our cold-weather gear, then a cold, wet sail in 25+ knots is an adventure and not a trial. When the end of a cold rainy day brings a piping hot cheese-baked pasta dish with fresh bread, it imbues that day with pleasant memories, not ones of scraping baked-on gunk off a pan. And when you finally beat that broken head into submission and emerge to breathe in the glory of an isolated inlet in our beautiful PNW, it makes a sweaty, uncomfortable, mostly gross task seem a monumental accomplishment. That and the beer you’ve been thinking about all afternoon.

But At the End of the Day

This little setback just reminds me of what I really enjoy about the boating lifestyle and the kinds of little things we learned during our liveaboard phase. Doing it again is high on my current list of possible futures so I guess we will start building some new expectations and getting ready to settle in once again.

So ya, I am a bit put out by the fact that I have to leave a bunch of stuff behind, and I have been prioritizing and re-prioritizing all week, and will likely continue to do so until we head to the airport. But I’m not really complaining, because in a week’s time I will be once again aboard our boat with nothing more important to do than just live my life and I’m grateful for that.

…I’m just not going to guarantee I won’t be spending the first few days enjoying Nanaimo’s beautiful harbour and buying everything I just scratched off my list.

 

09 Mar

This year’s wish list

Last year around this time I posted up my to do list to get ready for the season. This year, due to having Never for Ever in charter, my actual To Do list will be limited sending the email that commits to our arrival date (hopefully late April) and the boat should be ready to go when we arrive. All we will need to do is grab our gear out of storage and settle in.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have things I want to do or, more specifically, want to buy. So far our additions to the boat have been rather modest. We picked up a Rocna anchor before we set off, installed a new Sony Media Player  the first couple of days aboard, and added a Battery Monitor Kit after we returned from the Broughtons. But other than that we haven’t added much to the boat despite my grand plans. But hopefully, finances willing, I will get to add a few new toys this season.

But the real question is, since we are no longer full-time cruising, how much to invest in this baot and how much to save for our “forever” boat.

First up may or may not be a new windlass. The seals on our old one are shot and in heavy seas water streams down into the front cabin. Not good. But the thing is old enough that parts are a problem. If we can find the parts, well, all is well and good. If not, then we will be in the market for a new windlass.

Then I went through my old wish lists (pre-purchase) and, leaving out the things that came with the boat, compared them to what I want to add after being full time cruisers.

Old List

Generator/100 amp alternator

Wifi Booster

AIS

Hammock

Code 0 sail

Dyson Mini Vac

Water maker

New List

Generator/solar

Wifi booster (cell phone booster)

TV and a way to stream to it.

Range finder (binoculars)

Stadium Seats

LED lights (more)

Stone baking ware

Some things haven’t changed. And some have.

  1. On-the-hook power is still the number one item we wish we could improve, but no matter how we look at it, it’s a boat buck or two (~$1000–$2000) that I don’t have. And frankly it’s not as big a concern if we aren’t spending months on the boat. Still, a generator would be nice since we could just take it with us if/when we move on to another boat so I keep an eye out on Kijiji to see if there are any good deals. Solar is likely also a non-starter but I am still planning out various scenarios just in case. I’ve abandoned upgrading the alternator since it would mean changing the pulleys, as well as getting a smart regulator on top of the alternator. Solar would almost be cheaper. And frankly I don’t want to do that much motoring anyway.
  2. Connectivity. We constantly blew over our data plan last year until we wised up and increased it. I am really wishy-washy about this. I figure it’s around $500 all in to set up a booster, antenna and a wireless router. Is that reasonable if we are only sailing two weeks? No. Eight weeks? Probably.
  3. AIS? I hooked up the  Standard Horizon to the chartplotter and now have an AIS receiver; I don’t think a transmitter is necessary at this point. So now #3 is a TV and some way to connect it to my harddrive full of movies. Never for Ever once had a TV mounted on the front bulkhead — the lovely coastal art covers the holes — and it still has a dvd player mounted under the chartplotter. The folks at Cunning Little Plan installed a TV and DVD player converted to 12v and their’s seems like a feasible plan. Call it $225 for the electronics and probably another $50 for hardware and wire. Leslie is against the idea but I think it will add value to the charter and grant us a bit more comfort when we are watching movies.
  4. Hammock? It’s just fallen off the list for now. Rangefinder Binoculars? I suck at distances in anchorages and love a good pair of binoculars so it seems like an obvious choice— only $200! I think of this item as more of a”special treat” though so I’m pretty sure it won’t be happening unless I come into some “extra” cash.
  5. Let’s dispense with the rest of the old list (Code Zero sail, Dyson mini-vac and watermaker) by saying “too extravagant, not enough utility.” Stadium seats however are cheaper, more practical and directly add to comfort. We had won a West Marine folding seat at the Hunter Rendezvous and I really like it despite the fact I have wrecked the foam already. A couple  more at $80 a pop more would  perfect.
  6. LED lights. Around $20 each we already have at least one LED in each cabin so that’s good enough for now but we should get on with replacing all of them.
  7. Donna from Northwest Passage had a bunch of stoneware baking pans and I loved them. She got hers from Pampered Chef and I have my eye on at least a nice cookie sheet and a loaf pan (around $40 each)

So what is likely? I think the TV, maybe a couple of LEDs and at least one seat. And as I said I will keep my eye out for a good deal on a generator but being able to stay on the hook for a few extra days only saves me $50/night—it’ll have to be a good deal. The rest will rely on finding the right deal at the right time. Or maybe I’ll save my money and spend it on beer, after all beer is important. Right?.

04 May

Sailing our Hunter 386

DSCN0868

When I was buying Never for Ever I noticed a distinct dearth of online info about Hunter 386s. They were only made for two years and, while very similar to the previous two models —the 380 and the 376— I nevertheless thought there would be more information. But it seems Hunter owners are not the most gregarious bunch. When we visited the Victoria Boat Show a couple of days ago, it gave me some different design choices to compare to, so here is my contribution to the canon of the Hunter 386; hopefully someone, somewhere, will find it useful.

Let’s start with a little pro and con or, more appropriately, what I like and dislike. Keep in mind we bought our boat to live aboard full time for 8 to 12 months, but I have to say I would probably make the same ratings even if it was a part-time cruiser. We haven’t sailed a lot of other boats, but this is based on the ones we have and the ones we’ve toured at boat shows.

Positives

  • Aft berth: big doesn’t even begin to describe it. And tons of storage…
  • Rails over companionway: there are two convenient and useful grab rails at the top of the companion way, something I noticed that was not there in a lot of the newer boats we toured
  • Hatch over shower: it allows the moisture out and our solar showers in, so we can use the space for its intended purpose when at anchor
  • Solid shower lid: I had originally wanted a completely separate shower but the 386 has a solid fiberglass lid that covers the head 100%. Five or six swipes with a squeegee and the head is good to use again without having to do any extra wiping down
  • Shower sump: no switch to pump out the shower as it (and the fridge) drains into a sump with a float switch
  • Slot for hatch boards: the 386 has a nice slot on the companionway wall to store the hatchboards. Finding a place to stow them was something that irritated me on other boats we sailed.
  • Easy access to engine: there is easy access to 3 sides of the engine. It does lose points because the impeller is on the one side that has no access.
  • Storage: we haven’t been able to fill all the interior storage even after 10 months aboard.
  • Galley arrangement: there is a good balance of counter and appliances. And the L-shape makes preparing food pretty convenient. Not perfect but better than most boats I have cooked on.
  • Bridge deck: originally I thought I wouldn’t like the step up to the companionway from the cockpit, but we soon learned to love it as a continuation of the cockpit seating and a great place to wedge yourself in and relax underway
  • Tankage: A weeks worth of water even at our most wasteful settings and pretty much the same for the holding tank. I suppose more would be better, but it hit the right spot for us
  • Wet locker: I suppose all boats have one, but ours is right by the shower so that makes dealing with wet gear super convenient
  • Walk through transom and transom itself: easy to use and the transom has enough flat spaces that it makes dealing with the outboard and embarking and disembarking the dinghy pretty darn easy
  • Light and lights: tons of natural light and about a zillion lights inside. I suppose this is actually a negative when it comes to replacing them with LEDs but we’ve managed so far to get a way with just replacing one or two in each space.

 Negatives

  • Little locker space in the cockpit: my biggest beef, although a pretty petty one. We have fenders dangling from everywhere
  • Large center binnacle (small cockpit tables): Again, for two of us it’s not a big deal but socializing is constrained by the big pedestal in the center of the cockpit
  • Salon table: Stupid. Dumb. Idiotic. Need I go on? It is a bit too high for comfort and about an inch and a half too big on each side. Sliding in and out of the bench seats is an exercise in yoga and you are going to bang you knees on the leaf; there is no avoiding it. When time and money permit I will be cutting it down
  • Wave slap under stern: I haven’t encountered this on other boats but when you are tied up stern into the waves, even small ripples will slap up under the transom (right where your head is) and drive you crazy until you get used to it
  • Aft cleats: The aft cleats are right behind the arch making reaching below the rails a bit of a pain and bringing the lines forward even more so.  And if you have canvas, well…
  • Small v-berth: The room gained in the aft cabin is lost in the v-berth. But we slept up there for a week and it’s not impossible; it just doesn’t hold a candle to other v-berths we’ve been in
  • V-berth vanity: why? I suppose it’s nice to wash your face before you emerge for the day but the space could be used better
  • Light switch positions: while there are tons of lights, some of them are in odd places. The worst are the reading lights in the aft cabin; you have to get out of bed and reach up to turn them off. We bought an LED reading light that also runs off AAs. Best thing we added
  • Anchor locker and chain: the chain piles up and binds. I know this is common, but I really hate the idea of continually reaching down to pile chain when raising the anchor. It wouldn’t take much to adjust the design
  • Better shower drain: while I love the shower sump, the drain hose needs to be a bit bigger and the sump should be a bit lower so drainage is improved
  • Crowded aft rails: another common issue but just a foot more rail on the aft end would make it a bit less crowded after all the requisite toys are mounted
  • The arch:  the arch over the cockpit is great but it means that any enclosure has to accommodate it. As a result, water pools and then seeps around the arch to drip on the seats; a common issue, I hear, with poorly designed bimini’s on Hunters

Not Sure

  • Jib winches on deckhouse: I am still of two minds about this. With the autotack feature of the autopilot I can come out from behind the wheel and help tack or even single hand, but having winches on the sides of the cockpit would make it a whole lot easier
  • Big freezer: it’s a huge freezer. With two levels. But it’s a huge power suck. And the bottom level is inaccessible without emptying the upper level first. Right now we maintain a steady love/hate relationship

Add Ons: My 386

  • Webasto Hydronic Heater: other than sounding like 747 taxiing right below our heads when I fire it up on cool mornings, the Webasto has worked out well. It doesn’t use too much battery and it heats the boat up pretty efficiently. I do think having one of the fan units split between the front cabin and the salon is a mistake, but that’s something we can rectify
  • Full Cockpit cushions: bonus!
  • Dodger height: perfect for me so I don’t have to crouch or stand on my tippytoes.
  • Nova lift for outboard: with an 8 horse, 4-stroke on the aft rail, the lift is perfect for the two of us. And it set up to use one of the cabin-top winches so the weight is no issue
  • Remote for Auto pilot: we “broke” the remote last fall and have been sailing without it and I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed it when I had it. It makes dodging crabpots and floating logs so much easier as I can remained perched on the side or even be up on the bow. I was overjoyed to find the wire a tech had knocked loose last year
  • Enclosure: we have a “full” enclosure.  I hate the design of the side panels that allow access from the sides as they are too far forward and make getting in and out hard without removing them entirely. The PO also chose to use mesh on the aft side panels instead of solid clear material. Not solid enough to prevent bugs from coming in and useless at keeping rain out. At best they provide air flow and shade

On the water

The Hunter 386 sails pretty well. I admit to having a bigger learning curve than I thought I would learning to reef her and getting the wheel balanced in winds over 15 knots. The first reef really should go in around 12 or 13 knots but we usually tough it out until we have a steady 15. The shoal keel doesn’t do us any favours but I will admit to a predisposition to trying to point too high in general so it’s not really a negative. And with the huge main, she sails fantastic in light winds. I have nothing to say about the B&R rig. The huge main took a little adjustment but our downwind sailing has been limited and I never really expect to go fast dead down wind anyway.

DSC_0543-1

She manoeuvres well in close quarters, and docking has been a breeze except for those times I have managed screw it up. I’m not sure if it’s the Campbell Sailer prop, but prop walk is hardly noticeable, making backing up pretty easy as well.

All the lines and controls are well situated and, other than the aforementioned aft cleats, we have little or no issue with any aspects of handling her. There is room to get out from behind the wheel without crawling over the seats and the big binnacle at least affords lots of places to brace yourself when you are heeling. The lifeline gates are almost on the beam so are perfect for boarding and docking when you are not lucky enough to get a stern-in berth.

The 40 HP Yanmar is powerful enough for push her along at 7+ knots when there is no current and our cruising rpms of 2400 she does a steady 5.5 to 6 knots with fuel consumption of about .7 or .8 gallons (2 litres or so) an hour.

My Conclusion

I’m not sure if the Hunter 386 is my forever perfect boat but she has been perfect for us for out liveaboard year and I intend to enjoy her for at least a few more years herein the PNW.

19 Apr

Do You Know Where You Are Going To?

IMG_6656I like maps. I also like knowing where I am. I’ve been lost only two times in my memory, and by lost I mean disoriented, having no idea which direction is which or where I was in relationship to the known surroundings. Once was exiting the Metro in Paris amidst tall buildings and not being able to orient myself for about 5 minutes and the other time was sailing in the fog off Tofino as the wind kept shifting. I had the chart plotter zoomed in and was following the wind so when it came time to tack I turned the wrong way and actually gybed. I am still a bit freaked out by that.

So how do I normally keep track of where I am out on the water? Well, besides the trusty old Mark I eyeball, Never for Ever has a selection of tools aboard to help keep us going in the right direction.

Charts

First and foremost we have charts. As I said, I like maps and I would likely have the charts even if it wasn’t a legal requirement (it no longer is in the U.S.). Charts in Canada are issued by the Canadian Hydrographic Service and conform to their standards. They are also available electronically, but more on that later. Canadian charts are a standard size and come in a variety of scales from large scale overviews to small scale details of bays or inlets. And the price is pretty standard too: $20 a chart.

IMG_4165

I specify Canadian charts, because the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who are responsible for the American charts  provide their data for free and let private companies provide printed charts. Thus you can download the NOAA’s U.S charts in a number of formats including pdfs and ENC files and load them into your devices or print them on your own.

coverThe most important chart — and often the most undervalued — is Chart 1 : Symbols, Abbreviations and Terms. Not actually a chart, this is a key to all the symbols and terms used in the other charts…because it’s helpful to know if that rock that is shown on the paper chart is awash or under 20′ of water. Sadly we don’t spend enough time with this comprehensive booklet and often are just guessing about what some of the symbols specifically mean.

Our cruising ground is from Victoria to Port MacNeill so I went ahead on purchased the charts I thought I would need; all in all it was almost $1000. I managed to use about 80% of them last summer. Here is the list of Canadian charts we currently carry.

3606 Strait Juan de Fuca 1:110,000
3461 Victoria 1:80,000
3462 Sidney & San Juans 1:80,000
3463 Gulf Is & Vancouver 1:80,000
3512 Sechelt 1:80,000
3513 Comox/Denman/Hornby 1:80,000
3514 Jervis 1:50,000
3515 Kinght Inlet 1:80,000
3538 Desolation Sutil 1:40,000
3540 Campbell River 1:10,000
3539 Discovery Passage 1:40,000
3541 Toba Inlet 1:40,000
3542 Bute Inlet 1:40,000
3543 Cordero Channel; 1:80,000
3544 Johnston Race 1:40,000
3545 Johnstone Neville 1:40,000
3546 Broughton Strait 1:40,000
3547 Queen Charlotte east 1:40,000
3548 Queen Charlotte central 1:40,000
3549 Queen Charlotte west 1:40,000
3550 Approaches Seymour 1:40,000
3552 Seymour inlet 1:50,000
3564 Neville 1:20,000
3441 Haro Strait  Book
3313 Gulf Islands  Book
3311 Sunshine Coast Kit
3312 Jervis Inlet  Book

I did pick up a nice overview of the San Juan Islands (in the U.S.) as well. And the last 4 are actually chart books with multiple charts and scales to cover their specified region. This saves us a lot of money (only $80 each) and space.

Last summer we turned off all the electronics for a day and navigated purely by chart. It was a great exercise and something I should probably do more often. Relying on our electronics is a bad habit to get into.

Dedicated Chartplotter

Never for Ever has an older Raymarine E80 chartplotter. This is a device with a screen that displays electronic charts and is hooked up to a dedicated GPS unit so it shows the boat’s position and heading.

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Technically I think these units are actually MFDs (multi-function devices). In addition to showing our position, it displays our COG (course over ground) and SOG (speed over ground — as opposed to the speed through the water which is what the knotmeter displays). It also displays the data from the radar. We can plot out our course in advance using a system of way points and it can chart our progress and warn us when we are deviating from our course. It also plots and stores the actual tracks and associated info like speeds and times. All in all a handy device and there are still a bunch of functions I have yet to explore.

The chartplotter came with Raymarine’s Platinum Charts for the PNW which has all sorts of other information like aerial views of certain places, 3D underwater topography and information about ports and features. But the standard charts are the workhorse and honestly the extra features are not something I use a lot.

While they are great devices, they’re not infallible. For example while heading to Tsehum last month, the electronic charts on our chartplotter showed an island in the middle of John Passage off Coal Island that did not exist. One should ALWAYS cross reference the chartplotter with what your eyes see and even better, what your paper charts tell you.

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The tiny island beside the boat doesn’t exist; which can be a bit freaky if you get used to relying on the electronic charts.

VHS with AIS

Our Standard Horizon Matrix GX2100 is a VHF radio that also has a AIS receiver (see here for more) which receives signals for boats equipped with AIS transponders and displays them on the chartplotter. This allows us to see the speed and course of big ships when we are out near the shipping lanes and, if we were out at sea, set up alarms to warn us of impending collisions.

Apps

As a back up to the eyeballs, the charts and the chartplotter I also have a collection of apps for my devices. I have the Navionics US & Canada, iNavX, Active Captain, as well as a number of other “free” navigation apps. I say “free” because while the U.S. provides elecrtronic charts for free, as we know Canada does not. So you end up paying for access to Canadian charts regardless.

I was lucky enough to buy the Navionics US & Canada for my iPhone for $5 many versions ago and so it still is capable of running on my original iPad in the 2X view. They have since changed the software to included a standalone iPad version but they charge around $50 for it. It makes sense; the iPhone version is of limited functionality but on the big screen of the iPad it is often better than my dedicated chartplotter. I have downloaded the charts from Alaska to Mexico and it makes a good planning tool for below decks. And the newer version on the iPhone has an autorouting function that allows you to select start and end points and then plots a route for you. While it isn’t something I am prepared to trust, it does give you a quick overview of distances and travel time.

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While the graphics at 2X are less than excellent, the 9 inch screen makes using the app a breeze.

I also use Navionics to track our voyages and can email the Google-map compatible kml files to myself to then display on my websites for trip reports. I simply leave the iPad plugged into the 12v (the GPS is a huge battery suck and is only good for about 3 or 4 hours if I don’t plug it in) and hit start. That way I have the iPhone version available to double-check the chartplotter and to use for tides and currents (see below)— and of course, to take pictures with.

INavX gets rave reviews from some quarters and it’s ability to tie into your vessel’s instruments makes it a great choice as a chartplotter replacement. But at a $50 base price with more for the Canadian charts I just couldn’t see it as my go-to app.

Active Captain is a community-sourced cruising guide that has information on ports, anchorages and more. Sadly it has a bigger community on the east coast but it is getting better as more people contribute here in the PNW

Tides and Currents

SFront_coverunsail rates their charter areas on a scale of 0 to 3. 0 are beginner places like BVI’s with its line of site navigation and predictable winds. The PNW is rated as a 3 — the most difficult — mostly because of our tides and currents. There are several places around the Gulf Islands where the currents can get up to 7 or 8 knots or higher and tides often vary as much as 10 feet. If you don’t know how to predict and plan for these variances you will quickly find yourself in trouble.

The official guide is the Canadian Tides and Current Tables. These are issued new every year and show the predicted tides and currents bay date and time. The most common guide I believe is Ports & Passes. It includes U.S. and Canada and accounts for daylight Savings Time, something the official publication does not and is generally more comprehensive. Also an annual publication it retails for around $20 CDN—well worth the investment.

As I mentioned the tides are also displayed on the Navionics app, which is handy when quickly calculating rodes at an anchorage. But again, it is always best to double-check with the official guides.

Cruising Guides

The last tool in our where-are-we kit is a small collection of cruising guides. The main one is The Waggoner Cruising Guide ($24.95). This is again an annual publication, put out by the same people who produce Ports & Passes. It covers from Puget Sound to Alaska and includes the outside of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. It’s not necessary to buy one every year. I have had mine since 2013 although will likely replace it this year. And it is available every year for free as a pdf. Waggoner’s includes great information on ports and marina’s and is a great planning guide with details about things like transits through rapids and some of the straits and narrows. It doesn’t focus on anchorages but has plenty of information to get you started.

We also have a few of the Dreamspeaker books. We went on a flotilla to the Broughtons with authors Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones and picked up a few. They retail for around $50 though so collecting all six (seven with the independently published Puget Sound volume) is going to be a long term project. I find them helpful because they offer suggestions for anchoring locations and have hand drawn illustrations which makes coming into a strange bay or harbour much less nerve-wracking.

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There are plenty of other guides available as well and some great books too, like the one we discovered late in the season last year: Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage: British Columbia’s South Coast From the Gulf Island to Beyond Cape Caution, 2nd Ed. Really helpful.

And so…

For me, if I do my homework and pay attention, I am in very little danger of getting lost or running into something I shouldn’t. But there is an old saying, “It’s not if you run aground, it’s when you run aground…” But the more tools I use, the less likely that is going to happen any time soon.

16 Dec

Preventers

In an old post I mentioned the importance of preventers. But given the nature of the Never for Ever‘s B&R rig and our cockpit enclosure, I have never managed to rig one the completely satisfied me. A preventer, in case you are wondering, is a method of preventing the boom from swinging accidentally and sometimes violently from one side of the boat to another. When sailing downwind your mainsail is generally out as far as possible and when gybing (moving the sail from one side to another as your stern moves through the wind ), one always centers the boom before turning the boat to ensure the boom is moved from one side to the other under control. But in the case of an accidental gybe, the boom can fly across the cockpit generating line-snapping forces and being a huge danger to anyone in its path.

There are all sorts of fancy boom brakes available but the simplest way to rig a preventer is by tying the boom into position. The issue on our Hunter 386 is that the only place to tie off a preventer that I have access to is midway down the boom and it isn’t easy to tie that off to anyplace except the chain plates (or worse a stanchion). The angles involved don’t give me much reassurance about the rig’s ability to handle any of the massive forces an accidental gybe can generate.

Well I decided the other day to shake off the old Google-fu and see what the internet had to say. And lo and behold Selden’s website pointed out the obvious solution. Their downloadable  Hints and Advice Guide from the rigging section spelled it all out and also solved a minor mystery for me.

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One of the lines that came with the boat (that I had previously used to try and rig a preventer with) was a length of about 8 feet of braided line with a eye splice in one end. I could never figure out why this line was a part of the boat’s inventory, but used it as a handy line when I needed a short length. Turns out it was used as part of the preventer but not in a way I had imagined.

The line was meant to be pre-tied to the outer end fitting of the boom and then temporarily attached spliced eye end to the kicker slider. This means you don’t have to worry about accessing the end of the boom when at sea (something that due to our bimini I gave up on almost immediately).

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Selden Hints

Then, when rigging the preventer, you tie off a “preventer guy” to the loop and lead it forward to the bow cleat (or a snatch block if I ever get a spare). If the line is long enough you can lead it back to the cockpit so you don’t have to go forward to release the setup.

Selden-Hints-2

The manual also stated “The preventer guy must not be fitted to the centre of the boom since that could cause damage, especially if the end of the boom goes into the water as a result of rolling” which is what I had been doing and had been wholly dissatisfied with. Turns out I am getting some good sailorly instincts after all…

07 Dec

Lost Overboard

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Whether sailing across open water or sitting at a dock, one thing you need to get used to in boating is that if you drop something, or don’t fasten something down securely , once it hits the “ground” it is likely you will never see it again. Decks have lots of slopes, docks have lots of cracks and gaps and once it hits the the water, it is generally too deep and too cold to get it back.

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So you take extra care with winch handles and always put your binoculars in a safe place.  I put tethers on things like my crescent wrench (reminiscent of my theatre days) and multitool and try to use a cloth to put small things down on so they won’t roll away. Stuff on deck is tied down or clipped to rails or bungied to some part of the boat. But inevitably something is forgotten, a clip isn’t strong enough or a bungie not secure and over she goes. It’s usually not one of the most important things so you get careless. My most common error to date is forgetting that I put something down and then when I pick up whatever container I put it in, it rolls out and then I have that oh-so-lovely, slow-motion, self-recriminatory moment where you call yourself several kinds of idiot as the one bolt you mustn’t lose hits the surface of the water and then glitters like a precious jewel as it slowly sinks to the bottom. Notice I said common…you’d think I’d learn.

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Tools and docks just don’t seem to mix.

And your pockets also become suspect. The number of times I check my pockets  in any given hour has increased tenfold. You spend a lot of time bending, crouching and squatting and things just have a way of working themselves out. Followed by the inevitable splash. This reminds you once again that things are different on the water and you just have to increase your situational awareness. I have a friend who lost several iPhones not so much to carelessness as to momentarily forgetting…  I am especially paranoid about my electronics.

There is also the stuff that just disappears. It was there one moment and the next time you glance out, you can’t quite put you finger on just what is different — until it occurs to you that something that was “secured” no longer is. In fact it’s no longer there. You read stories of missing dinghies occasionally… but anything not tied down is susceptible to the wind and the heel and occasional wave coming over the bow. So securing things becomes a bit of a mania. I believe the reason sailors are so into knots isn’t just to pick up girls, but because they get tired of things disappearing. Because once that knot goes, it is unlikely that you are getting that expensive whatever-it-was back.

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Sure the solar shower is strapped down tight…

Sometimes you get lucky. I read a story the other day where the harness on an outboard gave way and the young man in the dinghy was able to grab the handle before it disappeared completely. Didn’t save the motor from a thorough soaking but at least it wasn’t lying on the bottom.

I imagine in the tropics where people regularly dive to check their anchor, rescuing things is more plausible, but here in the PNW it has to be a pretty expensive item to make me want to jump in and search.

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So here’s a fun list: a few of the almost important things that I have dropped overboard and been unable to rescue — all from one short season of boating…

  • The bolt that fastened the BBQ to the stern rail (Thanks to R Shack Island for a spare.)
  • A solar shower (crossing the Strait of Georgia)
  • Her bath towel (no idea where it went)
  • A $85 pair of linesman pliers (not mine unfortunately)
  • The head of my electric beard trimmer (still have the trimmer though)
  • The restraining nut for the dingy’s oarlock (luckily we were on the dock so it was only a small inconvenience)
  • A bright yellow pair of briefs (in case you find them)

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We’ve lost a bunch more stuff overboard — hats being the big ones — but always managed to rescue them. And thank god buckets float for a few minutes before they sink. Talking to others dockside, I can believe I have gotten off pretty easy. Leave a comment if you want, and tell us what you’ve lost overboard…

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29 Jul

Costs update…

Wanna buy a boat? Huh. I’ve said it before, a fool and his money…

There is a euphemism in boating refered to as the boat buck. It’s the equivalent of a thousand dollars. Want a new dodger? Slightly over a boat buck. A full enclosure? Call it 10 boat bucks. A new heater? Another boat buck. I’ve also heard boat actually stands for “break out another thousand.” Are we starting to get the picture?

I had entered into this adventure with the idea of buying a turn-key boat and not spending much until we had made the decision about our long-term relationship. Maybe just an anchor as a treat. Fool again I say.

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So way back in April I had gone over some of the  anticipated costs and then summarized expenditures to date (How Much So Far?), but, since we’ve spent a bunch more, I thought I’d cough up a brief update.

4 Trojan Batteries — Because the batteries had some bad cells and we are going to be wanting to live on the hook for  days at a time. $800
Rocna 22 anchor — Because I want to have faith in my anchor. $600
Head Rebuild Kit — A small leak. I will do the actual repairs myself. $75
Paper charts —  All the way up to the Broughtons. I like paper. Besides it’s still the law in Canada. $600
Sony Digital Receiver — All our music is digitized. A CD player that couldn’t hook up to an iPod seemed pretty stupid. $80
Boat Cards — For fun (see below). $40
Vinyl Lettering (installed) — Installation almost doubled the price, but I’ve screwed up vinyl before. Better to get it right the first time. $500
Fire Extinguishers — It was a rush and I didn’t have time to get the old ones recertified. $125
New Flares — Safety requirement. $200
Rebedding a leaking hatch — Not sure if this was a good expense or not but… $380
New masthead Nav Light — Sigh. $100
Temporary moorage at Granville Island — A boating Gotcha. You have to pay for the moorage at the repair yard. Tanstaafl. $1500
Skipper Delivery Charges — So we could save 1000s in BC sales tax. $400
A dinghy safety kit — It’s the law. $50
A new inflatable pfd for Leslie — It’s a comfort thing. $150
3 new life jackets — For the dinghy, so we don’t have to use the inflatables and to replace the old scummy ones. $120
A new windex — So we can see which way the winds are blowing. $140
Wet Bilge Investigation — Because who likes a wet stinky bilge? $160
Engine check after overheat — This one ahould be obvious. $325

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There are a ton of small things I haven’t recorded, like the new queen sheets, a small cookie sheet, a LED reading lamp, non-skid cat bowls, a new litter box, a few microfiber towels, and even some new fender lines.

There are also a few things we want to get but we will leave until later, stuff like new docking lines ($120+) and new fenders ($50 each), another folding seat and of course some way to generate power. But the moneytree seems a bit bereft and Patience is starting to whack me upside the head cause she wants some attention.

 

05 May

Anchors away…

There are three things you shouldn’t talk about in public if you aren’t prepared for a rousing discussion: religion, politics and anchors.

Anchors

Never for Ever currently has a 33lb Lewmar claw anchor with 105′ feet of chain and 295′ of line, as well as a Lewmar electric windlass (the turny thing that lifts and lowers the anchor).

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We’ve chartered a couple of boats with Rocna anchors while staying in windier anchorages and have convinced ourselves a new generation anchor is a must. A new generation anchor is loosely defined as one that:

  • always positions itself correctly — if it falls upside down, it automatically turns over under natural conditions.
  • turns with the wind and tide without pulling free.
  • offers good holding power and will not pull out.
  • will grip on to rock and coral if at all possible.

Older anchors tended to be much more specialized for different types of bottoms e.g. sand, clay, rock, etc. That doesn’t mean they are bad but that they take more skill and judgement than a n00b like me usually possesses. Or so I am telling myself because I want to buy a new anchor.

The main contenders in today’s market place seem to be the Rocna, The Manson Supreme and the Mantus but there are others like the Ultra, SARCA and Kobra.

Now we haven’t made up our minds on which to choose (although I am leaning to the Mantus based entirely unscientifically on this thread over on Cruisers Forum, but the sizing has me baffled. For example if you go to the manufacturer’s websites :
• Rocna recommends the 20kg (40lb) all the way up to the 33kg (73lb)
• Manson recommends 30lb to 40lb
• Mantus recommends 45lb to 65lb

So how do I figure out which is appropriate, and more importantly, what fits?

Anchors Online

I’ve asked around, which as I mentioned, is not the best strategy if you want a simple answer and not an argument full of digressions and anecdotal evidence about the time they were anchored during the meltemi in the winter of ’94 etc. Many old salts still default to the old standards and won’t acknowledge any advances and woe if there was ever a documented or even rumoured case of any particular brand failing in some way. It can be pretty amusing. But in the end it seems that the answer, like in all things boating, is it depends. The range of bottom types, depths, protection from winds seems to be infintie

Still my unscientific bias towards the Mantus doesn’t seem to have any detractors and a few other 38-footers out there went with the 45lb version so I am 95% sure I have made my choice. Our bow roller (see pic above) is pretty open so I don’t think there will be a fit problem. Mantus does have printable templates so I will likely print one out and check it on the roller. We do have dual rollers, so I might even keep the Lewmar there as a backup. It runs around $400, but I have yet to find a Canadian distributor  for Mantus not  based out of Quebec. It might have to be mail order; what the hell, it’s only 45 pounds :-)

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The System

Of course the anchor is only one part of the anchoring system. As I mentioned I have 100′ of chain which is pretty good for the area we will be sailing. The chain itself basically acts like a weight to keep the rode (all the stuff attaching the anchor to the boat) laying flat on the bottom. An anchor works by pulling it parallel to the ground and allowing the tip to dig down; the weight of the chain helps ensure the shank of the anchor does not lift. Incidentally, that is also why you usually put out so much rode (5 to 7 times the depth of the water); you don’t want the the rode pulling straight up at any time: that’s what will break the anchor’s hold on the bottom.

Watch this (admittedly biased) video to get an idea of how anchors dig in.

If you read the discussion I started here: Living aboard in the PNW in Comfort, you will see there are many advocates for an all-chain rode of 300′ or longer. But that adds weight to the bow and costs dollars, so I think I will let it pass for now. And my electric windlass will relieve me of any possibility of having to strain my back (surprisingly many cruisers don’t have electric windlasses; I think it must be a power thing).

The only other thing I will need is a snubber. In depths of 15′ or so we will only have about 100′ out so that means it will be all chain. Chain has no elasticity and so the action of wind and waves can shock load the system and apply disproportionate forces on the static chain and on the anchor with the potential of disastrous consequences — that’s the same reason why we climb with a dynamic rope. There are all sorts of fancy rubber dohickys but the simplest system is to use a chain hook attached to a length of line and to use that to take the tension off the chain.

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Anchor snubber line

Backups

Never for Ever also comes with a secondary anchor to use in an emergency and in situations where two anchors might be advisable (to keep the boat from swinging or pointed into the waves etc.). It’s a 16lb fortress with 10′ (I think) of chain and the rest rope. The great thing about the Fortresses are they are light, store flat and dig in well.

Boat aluminum anchor

 

The whole kit is in a tidy package in one of the rear lockers.

Marking the rode

The other thing I will likely have to do is mark (or re-mark) the rode in increments. Since when anchoring, we are trying to lay out a specific length of rode it is useful to mark the chain every 10′ with paint or some other type of marker so you can count out the length as it disappears into the water.

Yup, there is a lot of math in anchoring; that’s why it’s generally Leslie’s job. For example if you decided to anchor in 15′ of water according to your depthsounder, you need to check the tide charts and see the maximum high and low tides—they can vary by 10 feet or more. The low tide show if its safe to anchor there at all and the high tide is to calculate the maximum depth. Let’s say the  high tide adds another 5′ so you are actually anchoring in 20′ of water. Then you add the height of the bow roller off the water —usually another 4 feet— and the difference between you depth sounder and the water level (sometimes this is adjusted for in the depth meter and sometimes it’s not).

So you have a total of 24′ and you only want to lay out 5 times that since it’s a pretty protected anchorage. That means whoever is letting out the anchor needs to count the number of red marks going by so they can stop around the 120′ mark. It’s easier if you have the 100′ marked in yellow or some other colour. And of course I know we have 105′ of chain so when the chain runs out you know where you are. Math. Yuck.

But anyway, I am going to buy a new anchor. Yea!

 

 

01 May

Radio Ga Ga

Never for Ever (I suppose I should start calling her that) came with a VHF radio. In fact, it came with a Standard Horizon Matrix AIS GX2150 VHF with a remote mic. The radio is both DSC capable and has an AIS receiver. Simply put, DSC stands for digital selective calling and provides a way to communicate digitally between two or more stations without tying up any VHF channels, which—if you have ever listened to the inane chatter on some of the public channels like 66— is a good thing. AIS stands for automatic identification system and is something that most (all?) bigger ships use to track each other. We won’t have a transmitter so we can’t be tracked, but the AIS receiver provided an easy way to keep a look out for big, fast moving ships, especially in fog or at night.

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Our radio is black, not white.

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Our RAM (remote access microphone) is white, not black.

The RAM mic allows you to use the VHF from the cockpit and has most of the functions of the main station. This is handy so you don’t have to keep ducking down into the cabin to chat with a fellow boater or the marina you are entering. The last boat we chartered didn’t have a RAM and it was often a bit of a pain to carry on conversations while steering the baot and you had to keep the radio turned all the way up to hear it.

The Radio Law

In order to use the DSC, your radio has to have an MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identify) which acts as your ID and your ‘phone number.’ These are supplied free by the federal government and are good worldwide.

The Restricted Radio Operator Certificate is required to operate a marine VHF. See Radio Communication Regulations para 30-33 at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-484/ in regards to certification requirements. 

Legally a ROC(M) with an DSC endorsement is required to operate a marine VHF in Canada. That means technically any individual cannot use the radio in your boat until that person has taken the proper course and passed the test; a regulation I think is often ignored based on the typical radio traffic you hear.

As per the Radiocommunication Regulations section 15.2 (1), radio operators are required to licence their radio If the radio will be installed and used outside Canadian water.  For more details on that regulation, please refer to the Radiocommunication Regulations SOR/96-484 located at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-484/page-6.html#h-16 and Radiocommunication Act at http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/R-2/FullText.html.

A station license for the radio itself is no longer required for use within Canada, supposedly to save on paperwork, but if you are leaving the country you must obtain a station license.

We got our ROC(M)’s a few years back when we did our PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card) which is also a requirement in Canada. There are a lot of dubious purveyors of this certification as the Federal Government decided it was best handled by private companies (wtf?) but we did ours online through the Canadian Power and Sails Squadron who are a national organization dedicated to boating and safety. They also administer the ROC(M) program so getting a membership there is a great idea. And you get a subscription to Canadian Yachting West!

The ROC(M) class was two days and you also learn about most of the radio-based equipment potentially found in a boat like epirbs and SSB radios that are usually only found in offshore boats. You also have to learn the phonetic alphabet: alpha bravo charlie delta…

The radio in our boat already had an MMSI number so I submitted a CPC-2-3-07 Annex B  to change the registration over to us (you can view it here w00t!). The old registration for our radio also listed a call sign so I figured it had already been licensed — so I contacted the Calgary office who processed my MMSI application to enquire. We want to go down to the U.S. and explore Puget Sound so according to the law, a license is a must. Turns out the Edmonton office does the licensing and they were already processing it. I have to pay a $36 annual fee to keep the license up-to-date but other than that we are good to go.

More on AIS

AIS is cool. I am tempted to get a transmitter (upwards of another $1000) just so we can be in the system. As it stands now the AIS receiver in the radio is (at least I am pretty sure it is  — now that I think about it, I forgot to check) tied into our chart plotter. That means I should be able to bring up a display that looks a bit like the one below that will show all the ships in the area and also display their MMSI and basic facts about them.

AIS-2

If we got a transmitter then all the other ships would see us as well. The other great thing about AIS is that you can use one of many tracking services like VesselFinder.com to track traffic or even individual boats. One of the bloggers I follow (Life Aboard Gudgeon — a young fellow living in Victoria Inner Harbour) just recently installed his AIS system so if you go to VesselFinder and type in the name of his boat or his MMSI you get his most recent location—zoom out to see nearby boats as well. Or you can just snoop around and see what all the ferries or warships are doing. So cool!

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The vhf at our nav station with a small handheld vhf in a charger to the right as a back up.

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The RAM mic on the binnacle with the rest of the cockpit instruments