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