10 Jun

A Brief Note about Life on the Hard

It’s another one of those new experiences that, having read about them or seen them again and again on YouTube, you think you are prepared for. Life on the hard is a … unique … experience and, while not exactly unpleasant, has very little to recommend it. Summed up, it’s sort of like getting all the negatives of living on a boat (with a few extras thrown in) and none of the benefits.

The first thing we really noticed about the hard was that the boat didn’t move. At all. I soon discovered we step differently when we are on a boat in the water; there is bit more roll in my step and my stance is a bit lighter—more on my toes, I guess. And the first time I hit the bottom of the companionway after the boat had been propped up on stands, it felt like my foot was going to go through the cabin sole. It just felt wrong and it took a few days to get used to it.

Water

The problem here is that we have no grey water tank, nor any way to redirect the grey water (grey water being what come out of the various sink drains as well as the shower sump). That means while I did have running water aboard, I couldn’t indiscriminately do dishes and drain all the scummy water onto the tarps under the boat.

I also couldn’t flush the head. That one was a bit unforeseen and we didn’t figure it out until we were getting ready to go to bed the first night. While whatever was in the bowl went directly into the holding tank, the head draws seawater through a thruhull from the stuff we are usually floating in to flush it down. No water…no flushing action.

Luckily Leslie was to be away for five days starting the day after we were hauled, so I could resort to more man-like solutions to the problem. After trying a few different methods, eventually I settled on leaving a big pot in the galley sink and collecting all the wastewater that accumulated throughout the day and then used it to flush the head at the end of the day, which was the only time I used it.

Wind

I’ve read time and time again that boats are hotter and stuffier when on the hard, and lo and behold it seems it’s true. There must be a constant breeze on the water, even on calm days, because the stuffiness has not heretofore been an issue. In the yard, it was hot and still, not to mention dusty and grimy, and the boat became pretty unbearable during the hot days no matter how many hatches I had open.

And then it turned cold. And the cold wind flowed straight into the cabin through the companionway. We’ve gotten used to swinging on the hook and always being bow into the wind. So I had to fire up the heater and leave all the hatches closed.

Noise

The yard started as early as 5 a.m. since that was when the tide was in. And It’s hard to sleep through a 83-ton travel lift rumbling past your stern again and again. And then the boat work would start. Banging, clanging, hammering and hosing, the number of different sounds emanating from the multitude of boats was an experience in itself.

And of course there were people, both staff and boat owners and trades people working from dawn to dusk. Boat yards cost money and people want to get things done. Nothing too obnoxious, but constant. Always someone yelling instructions or walking around discussing the next thing to bang on, hammer into shape or hose down.

Work

But I also had a lot of time to do chores. I stripped and refinished some of the teak, scrubbed the anchor locker (and then decided to buy new chain because I wasn’t putting the old rusty one back in my pristine locker—that, and it was almost time to replace it anyway).

I pulled my knot meter (which is so much less intimidating when you are not in the water), intent on replacing the paddlewheel that was missing one paddle. And then put it back unchanged when I discovered it was almost $150 to replace that one tiny little part. I also fixed the now shredded dinghy painter and patched some fibreglass in the dinghy’s hull.

I also tried to clean the boat, which turned out to be a fruitless endeavour. Right now, a week later, I still despair of getting some of the grime out of my non-skid. Next time I think there will be a rule that shoes need to be left at the bottom of the ladder to try to keep the truly grungy grunge out of the boat entirely. We did get most of the canvas scrubbed, but not until we were back in the water.

Odds & Ends

It was a remarkable social experience. I ran into Jim and Gwen from Sea Esta X, the Catalina 42 that accompanied us down the West Coast last September. And a few days later Tim and Donna showed up from Northwest Passage (the boat I crewed down the coast), and we had a grand visit. Everyone was back after a successful season cruising Mexico and were back to visit and wait out the hurricane season.

The I spotted Canty waiting to be hauled out. We had met and visited with Paul and Kirsty a few times during the first year of our cruise. They were there to haul out and do their bottom paint. It was nice to catch up and we compared schedules to see if we would meet up later in the month.

My friend Darrell from Schooner Cove also came by and bought me a coffee and we caught up. All in all, it was a reasonably social experience for being stuck in an industrial zone.

It wasn’t the worst experience I have ever had, although I think if both Leslie and I had been aboard, I would have been tempted to find a hotel. But it was sure a relief when we were back in the water and the world started to move again. Boats just aren’t meant to be still. Hopefully it will be a while before we have to endure it again.

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.

 

25 Jul

2016 Route Roundup

I am once again amalgamating all my tracks (see the 2015 version) from our cruise using Google’s My Maps feature. I still had to email all the tracks to myself from the Navionics app on my iPad and then download each KMZ file to my desktop. Next I uploaded each file to a separate folder in Google Earth and combined and edited the layers into a few folders to get around My Maps’ 10-layer limitation. This will allow me to import the finished KMZs straight into My Maps.  As I wasn’t as conscientious as usual about starting and stopping the tracks, I had to go in and edit a lot of them in Google Earth. As always I am still looking for a better way…

spring 2016The Trip

We left Victoria on May 5th and tied up for the last time in Nanaimo on June 19th. We only got as far north as Von Donop Inlet but did manage to make it to Princess Louisa finally. As you will see below other than finally spotting the elusive BC Turkey vulture there was a total dearth of large wildlife.

Click here for a link to an online version.

Here are a few stats

46 days in total
24 travel days
227.6 km (421.6 nm)

Longest day: 74.5 km (40.3 nm)
Highest winds: 21 knots

Nights at a marina: 8
Nights at a public dock: 9 (no power or water)
Nights at anchor: 26

Orca spottings: 0
Humpback spottings: 0
Dolphin/porpoise spottings: 0
Bear spottings: 0

Total Stats for the Year

June 2015–June 2016
335 days living aboard
118 days cruising
1747 km (943.5 nm)

Pictures taken: 2329… anyone want to come over for a slideshow?

 

08 Jul

10 things worse about living on land

spring-2

Well, it has been almost two weeks since we stepped off Never for Ever for the last time after living aboard for just shy of a year. Since then we have packed up, driven from Nanaimo to Edmonton, unpacked, then moved our son from his apartment to our basement and done some truly prodigious shopping. In short, it’s been busy. But mostly it’s nice to be home again.

But I have been noticing that, common sense to the contrary, there are a lot of things I enjoy about living on a (relatively) tiny boat and there are a lot of things not-so-hot about life ashore. So here’s my top 10 list of things that make me wish I was still living aboard.

One: traffic jams

The other day we had the “pleasure” of running into an accident that meant we had to detour down the Yellowhead Freeway at rush hour. One-and-a-half miserable hours later Leslie and I were more tense and terse than we’d been in years.

A traffic jam on a boat consists of circling a gas dock waiting for your turn. Occasionally you wait for another boat to dock or undock. As our first sailing instructor John Fairweather often said, “It’s all good…” The maddening frustration and road-rage inducing tension of dealing with thousands of other equally frustrated commuters just doesn’t exist.

Two: social engagements

It’s not the idea of social engagements per se I am finding frustrating, but not once, in all the time I have spent on the water, has a date, meeting, drink, or coffee involved daytimers and/or multiple exchanged emails with alternatives, backups or reschedules anticipated, demanded or negotiated.

Time for a bit of socializing

Time for a bit of socializing

Maybe it’s the more relaxed lifestyle or just the mere fact that if you can’t make it happen then one or more of the potential participants is likely to just move on, but crusing is so much more relaxed. Like a lot of cruising related activities, socialization s much more of a binary system; decisions are often reduced to “yes” or “no.” While that may mean you miss opportunities to connect with people, I have to say I really prefer the simplicity of the cruising lifestyle.

Three: separate rooms

Our boat has three cabins — four if you include the head — and another space in the cockpit usable on most days. And the v-berth quickly became too cluttered to be used as a reading space as I originally intended. That left the salon, aft cabin or cockpit as places you could “be.” 90% of the time Leslie was within easy conversation distance.

It worked for us. We had our own spaces but rarely did we feel alone or left out.

Chillin' indoors

A little alone time.

Our condo is four floors including the basement and generally we often have no idea where anyone else is, or even if anyone is actually home. And this quickly results in all sorts of pre-programmed anti-social habits. Once we are back to work and busy with our own thoughts and concerns, it is going to be a struggle to avoid falling back into the trap of living together separately. But at least after our year of living small we are more aware and can actually make an effort to avoid the worst of it and just make time to “be” in the same space.

Four: the tyranny of choice

The phrase “tyranny of choice” is often tossed off as a trite witticism, but it takes a year of living with limited choice to really realize that the world does offer us too much choice. On board we had a reduced wardrobes, minimal crockery, just the food left in the lockers, limited choices for entertainment, and our “toys” were few and basic… But back on land we have access to pretty much anything we can imagine and therein lies the issue. I am starting to think that we as a culture spend too much time imagining and not enough time thinking. Simple choices are no longer simple if you can’t readily eliminate 90% of your imagined choices. This leads to a lot of wasted time, worry and brainpower. In a lot of ways, I miss the simplicity of boat life the most.

Five: too much room

IMG_6608Hand-in-hand with too much choice is too much room. There are no piles on a boat. Discipline is enforced because there simply isn’t enough room. A day of maintenance that involves moving gear from its normal place will turn the boat into chaos for everyone — and everyone is always equally eager to get it all back to a semblance of order. Our condo has 1900 plus sq. ft; if you put something new down in an out-of-the-way corner, for us, it’s 60-40 that it will ever make its way to a permanent new home. And the next thing you know you’ve got a pile that grows to such proportion that simply dealing with it becomes something you actively avoid.

Six: indoor life

This one is purely psychological. On board I spent a minimum of a couple of hours outdoors every day. At home, not infrequently, days will pass before I step outdoors. I have no idea why coffee on deck on a cool morning is so appealing when on the water and so distasteful when in the city. But it is. I need to get over it.

Mornings

Seven: locked doors

We live in the city. We, prudently, lock our doors at every opportunity. I never realized how disheartening that is. And what an annoyance it is to take your keys with you every time you leave for 5 minutes. We locked the boat if we were going to be away for any extended period of time but rarely if someone was aboard. There is just something “wrong” with walking up to your own door and being locked out.

Eight: travelling in general

Say it’s eight in the morning and we have to go to Calgary; that’s a three hour drive away. Cue tension. The older I get, the more any long trip out of the city leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Traffic, boring scenery, the necessity of focussing your attention on all the other yahoos on the road — all of this makes travelling a big negative in my view. On the other hand, if we have a 5-hour motor or sail ahead of us, it’s just another adventure. You can switch off duties, enjoy the trip, eat, stretch and not feel tied down to a schedule, and, for me, finally make the journey just as interesting as the destination.

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I have so many pictures like this :-)

Nine: feeling the necessity to get out of the rain

Kids, at least when I was a kid, will play in the rain, sit in the mud and generally disdain common sense. But I haven’t spent more than 5 minutes out in the rain for years if I wasn’t camping or sailing. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out when “wet” became such a bad thing.

Ten: socks

IMG_6898And for number Ten, I have saved the worst for last. I have come to the conclusion that socks are the devil’s creation. They are hot, uncomfortable and are always trying to strangle my feet. For the last year aboard I wore socks, if I was lucky, once a week. Now it seems I am expected to wear them a minimum of 10 hours a day. I am so tempted to go buy a pair of Birkenstocks and embrace my inner hippy.

21 Apr

Guests Aboard: A Week with My Parents

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Welcome guests for a few days cruising.

 

We slipped our lines on Tuesday and motored out of the harbour on our way to Sidney. I needed an oil change and wanted to get someone to look at my stuffing box, so I had booked Vector Yacht Services in Tsehum for 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Also my parents were flying into Sidney for a week on Wednesday evening, so it looked like it would all work out. We timed our departure to hit Enterprise around slack and planned to ride the flood all the way to Sidney. Luckily the bizarre currents off Victoria were in our favour and we got an almost 2 knot push all the way to Trial Island as well. If we were staying in the area I would definitely be buying a Current Atlas so these things wouldn’t be such a surprise. But, as a result, we cut almost an hour off our estimated time. The wind, as usual, was on the nose the whole way.

We had a nice stern-in berth waiting for us at Sidney and since they are still on winter rates the price was right. As soon as we were tied up and settled, we grabbed the grocery cart and backpacks and headed off to the convenient Fairway Market to provision. This was really our first taste of having guests aboard because after having the boat to ourselves for almost 10 months  we had to consider other people’s tastes and of course  work out portion sizes. My parents — both circling around the 70 mark (although mom was a bit of a cradle robber) — were going to be here for around a week and —weather dependent — we might be away from dock the whole time. So we had to consider both amount and tastes when getting perishables like milk, bread and greens and had to double up on meat portions and other produce. The corollary to this of course, is that our finely-tuned storage methodology was thrown out the door and we had to start stuffing things in a bit willy nilly. It’s amazing how much an extra litre of milk or loaf of bread can change how you usually stow things in the fridge or freezer, to say nothing of where you put all that extra beer.

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Sunrise on Haro Strait

The next morning we were up early and had cast off by 7:30 to make the 2 or 3 nm trip over to Tsehum. The entrance to Vector’s docks is buried in amongst the public wharfs and boat houses and we gave up searching eventually and phoned in for directions. Then we had to back into a tiny slip around a 100° corner, but there were plenty of hands on the dock to make sure I didn’t screw up. For the next hour or so I watched the pro’s change my oil and oil filters and install the two new fuel filters I already had. It came to a grand total of $200 and change including tax; a bit more than I wanted to pay but it was good to watch someone change the racor (fuel filter) as there was a bit of a trick to handling the gravity feed. And it saved me buying the tools. Then we cast off and were tied up back in Sidney a little after 10 a.m.

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Crowded, but great service at Vector Yacht Services

I had been delaying laundry since I knew Sidney had great facilities with lots of machines so that was the next chore. We did all the blankets, sheets and towels as well as our regular accumulation of clothes. Sidney is also only $2.50/load which saves us $.50/load over our Wharf Street facilities. However the machines wouldn’t take twoonies so that rendered my loonie/twoonie stash useless and we had to buy a bunch more loonies and quarters to get all five loads done. The marina office is great and was able to provide all our cash changing needs.

The next chore was to rearrange the boat to accommodate two more people. We decided we would move into the “garage” (v-berth) and give up the aft cabin for our guests. In addition, we would have to raise the salon table to eat on thus giving up our “lounge” with it’s blankets and pillows. What this means is that even without worrying about the additional bodies and their gear, we had a lot of rearranging to do to find stowage for cushions, pillows, charts and sundry gear that normally was just stored in the v-berth. Then we had to clear out shelf and locker space so they would have a place to unpack and find room for our stuff in the smaller forward cabin. But a couple of hours of rearranging resulted in something that was serviceable and sailable, albeit a bit cluttered looking.

Then we wandered beautiful Sidney by the Sea, enjoying the warm day before grabbing a bus to meet my parents at the airport. After all the arrival greetings and rituals, we grabbed a cab back to the marina and started to settle them in. First up was my orientation and safety lecture. I had been working on a check list for guests, so this was my first opportunity to try it out. All in all I think it went pretty well — at least everyone stayed safe and the visit was relatively drama-free. Dinner was bbq’d burgers, beer and great company. The weather has turned so we are back to eating in the cockpit. Later I baked raisin bread for breakfast and then we chatted for the rest of the evening. I grabbed a late-evening shower before we all hit the sack.

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All set for their first dinner aboard.

And we’re off

The weather looked like it would hold to Sunday so we cast off the next morning for Butchart Gardens after topping up the water tanks. The wind was negligible so we motored most of the way around the top of Saanich Peninsula. Along the way my dad screwed with my Garmin fish finder — which I had never used —and we spotted a few fish, which gave us some hope for later. Soon enough we pulled into the small inlet across from Butchart and started for their free mooring balls. I noticed that most of the dock was roped off with plastic yellow tape but didn’t give it much thought. So we grabbed a mooring ball and my dad and I rowed ashore to set the stern line; having a coxswain sure makes that exercise easier. But about 2 minutes after we had got back from securing the stern tie, someone hailed us from the dock and told us the back entrance was closed and we would have to either go over to Brentwood Bay and take the bus or around to Tod Inlet and hike in. Disappointed that the famous “back door” was closed, we lowered the motor onto Laughing Baby and then gently loaded our passengers before taking off. With a full load of 4 passengers the trip was neither quick nor dry, but we made it down to the park docks with little drama.

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The docks in Tod Inlet — a 10 minute walk from Butchart’s front gates

Butchart was stunning as always and the tulip beds were pretty phenomenal considering the ones in Victoria were almost gone. When we were entering, I checked in at the info booth and it turns out there was some question about whether or not they would let us stay at their mooring buoys, but eventually after passing the buck a few times, someone ok’d us to spend the night. We wandered the gardens for a few hours before heading back to the boat.

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Back on board, dad set up the fishing gear he had brought along and mooched (?) off the bow while the rest of us relaxed. I made some more bread for dinner and did a small pork roast in the oven. It was a quiet and calm evening except for the Canada geese and we relaxed and visited in the fading sun before calling it a day.

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No fish, but then, that’s not the point, is it?

Moving on

The next morning was coffee on deck (perk’d for the special guests) and general relaxing. Eventually everyone was up and around, so it was time to cast off. We decided to make use of all the extra crew, so I put my mom at the wheel while I cast off the stern line and my dad and Leslie took on slipping the  bow line. Mom manoeuvred us around the mooring balls and took us out of the bay, and we headed up the inlet for Portland Island.

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Taking us out of the cove.

The winds were about 6 to 7 knots on the nose but we decided to sail anyway since we had all day.  And since we were only making about 3 knots, my dad broke out the fishing gear, while my mom tacked us back and forth for an hour or so. Eventually we decided we weren’t making enough way ( I think we were going mostly sideways) so we furled the jib and started motor-sailing towards Patricia Bay — but we kept the revs down and continued to troll as we slowly made our way north towards Satellite Channel.

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Competent crew at the helm while under sail.

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Trolling in Saanich Inlet.

Despite the presence of three or four other boats trolling we didn’t even get a nibble and, as we we turned east at the top of the peninsula, the winds started to climb. So we hauled in the fishing gear, killed the engine and started to sail towards the north side of Portland Island, our destination. The winds quickly climbed to 12–15 knots and we were racing along close hauled for a while, but after about 3 or 4 tacks the slightly alarmed look on my mom’s face convinced me that heeling just wasn’t her thing. So we turned into the wind, furled the sails and motored the last 15 minutes to Royal Cove.

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Stroke!

Stern tying again, we dropped anchor this time and Leslie was thrilled with our newly renewed chain markings. Once again the extra crew made the whole process easier and more stress-free; turns out an extra set of hands is a good thing. The winds were out of the north and it would turn out to be our bumpiest stay in Royal Cove ever. But it was never that bad and it gave my parents an opportunity to experience a little boat rocking. We settled in and decided on a small hike. So we loaded up the dinghy and rowed over to the dock to hike out to Arbutus Point. Turns out that loading 4 people in a dingy off the transom is not the easiest operation and it took some shuffling to keep everything balanced.

IMG_7239After a 10 minute hike, we spent an hour or two exploring the midden beaches and shoals in a flood tide, spotted some ducks, otters, and anemones and generally soaked in the atmosphere. The point was also populated by tons of kayakers enjoying the spring weather. On the way out and back we saw plenty of new wildflowers but unfortunately none of my pictures turned out.

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Another lovely evening.

That evening we enjoy another lovely sunset while I cooked up some baked pasta. Later we retired below and broke out the crib board and played a few hands of fourhanded crib — it didn’t go well for one of the teams.

Weather forecasting

We had intended to spend the day on Portland and either head home late in the day Saturday or perhaps see if the weather window would stretch to Sunday. But Sunday’s forecast never improved and it started to look like the winds Saturday afternoon were swinging south and were going to be higher than predicted. Since I wasn’t sure about the sea legs of our guests and really didn’t want to have to fight the winds all the way, we decided to catch the last of the morning ebb tide and head back to Victoria. Before we cast off, I took the leftover red spray paint from marking our anchor rode ashore and sprayed the 5 metal stern-tie rings that are permanently embedded in the rocks. Hopefully that will make finding them easier for others.

IMG_6731Once again all hands on deck made casting off a breeze and my dad motored us out of the cove and around the east end of Portland, while Leslie and I joined my mom on the foredeck to enjoy the sunshine and views. But as soon as we turned south the wind came up and it got a bit too cold for sunbathing so we carefully made our way back down the side decks and cosy’d up under the enclosure.

I decided to grab a shower since the engine was running and left Leslie and my dad to navigate us among the islands and rocks off Sidney. At one point the current was so strong we hit 9 knots over ground. After that we figured it was just a few hours of motoring south. But unfortunately the forecast was wrong and the winds picked up to 15 knots or so almost immediately and, of course, were right on the nose. The wind over current meant the waves were pretty short and steep and it turned out to be a bouncy few hours with some spectacular spray over the bow. But everyone seemed to have the right constitutions for sailing and it turned out it was a fairly enjoyable passage despite the bumpiness.

IMG_7253As we approached Baynes Channel and Cardboro Point we noticed about 10 or 15 sailboats headed towards us with spinnakers flying. It seems we were about to motor straight into a regatta or race out of Cadboro Bay. It looked like they were using the V29 lateral buoy off Johnstone reef as their turn point and sure enough, just as we passed it, three boats doused their spinnakers and came racing around the marker pretty much on a collision course with us. I really had no idea what the etiquette was in these situations other than the knowledge they had the right of way — and that I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s race. So I went hard to starboard and pointed at the stern of the last of three boats and watched them cross my bow meters away. Then we turned back onto our original course and dodged the oncoming boats that hadn’t made the turn yet. One of the original three decided to short tack and they came screaming back across our stern, the sides covered in rail meat (crewmembers whose job is primarily to be portable ballast). They tacked back and forth generally on our course off our stern and as they turned into Baynes channel they weren’t that far behind us. Just goes to show sailing in good wind can be faster than motoring. I altered course one more time in Baynes Channel to allow the other two boats who were again on a collision course to slip through ahead of us.

IMG_7312IMG_7290The current was against us the rest of the way in and was running about 3 knots in Enterprise Channel so we had a bumpy and slow transit through there.  My phone rang just about then and it turned out to be the GVHA informing me that the search and rescue guys had found a huge (40′) floating log in the harbour and decided to tie it up to our spot. This meant we were going to have to tie up on the outside of D dock until someone could arrange to move it — not likely until Monday. So an hour and bit of motoring later we turned past Ogden Point and entered Victoria’s Inner Harbour. I did a slow circle around to show off the sights from the water. Then we nestled in between two big boats on the outside of the Wharf Street and tied up. It’s really exposed out there and the winds were up so it was a bit of a rough night; but everyone survived and it was another “great” introduction to the cruising lifestyle.

Visiting Victoria

Sunday morning we spent relaxing, then visited Capital Iron for some last minute fishing gear and then in the afternoon, we hit the RBCM (the museum) for some edumatcation and an IMAX film; we have season’s passes to both so it was a cheap date. A nice sushi dinner finished off the night and then there was some more closely fought cribbage.

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Fishing for salmon off Ogden Point

Monday we were up and ready to go early, since we were going to try and do some fishing off Constance Bank. I don’t have a downrigger but we hoped that the gear my dad had brought with him would be enough to get some action going. Rumour has it that the springs are right on the bottom this time of year, so it was not going to be a sure thing. We motored out of the harbour and then spent four or five hours bouncing around outside generally enjoying the sun and the company. The HMCS Calgary joined us for a while doing manoeuvres, and at one point we saw them do a high speed turn in which I am sure they had 20° of heel. It’s one thing to do that in a sailboat but in a 5000 tonne, 450 foot warship it must be something else. We didn’t get any bites, despite having bought the the flashiest flasher you ever saw, but it was a great day to spend the day.

On the way in we stopped to fuel up and I hailed the GVHA on 66A to make sure they had cleared the log from our spot. They had, so we tied up in our regular berth and went through the steps to set the boat up for land-life again, including getting our highspeed internet back. I am really going to miss that when we cast off in the next week or so.

IMG_6742In the afternoon we toured the grounds of St Annes school, popped into the duck pond at Beacon Hill and slid by the Spinnaker’s beer store in James Bay. It was a bit too long of a walk for everyone involved (except Leslie the spring chicken) and we started taking rest stops as we made our way back to the boat. But where better to sit and watch the world go by than in Victoria in the spring. There were roses and lilacs and peonies blooming and it still isn’t even May.

Dinner was on mom so the rest of us relaxed while she prepped some stuffed chicken breasts for our last big meal together. Monday night ended with a few more crib hands, solidly consolidating the  lead for one particular team and then we tucked in for the last night aboard.

In conclusion

On Tuesday my parents grabbed a cab at the Harbour Air terminal for their trip back to the airport and we went back to the boat to spend an hour or two trying to put her back into shape for the two of us. But since we are planning on leaving Victoria for good in a week, we ended up with a more hybrid configuration than normal because we will be making her cruise ready soon enough.  And that was pretty much it for our guest adventure.

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The salon is back to being our family room.

While I was surprised at how much we had to rearrange to accommodate guests, I was even more surprised at the fact that two extra bodies didn’t make the boat seem crowded. It helped the weather was mostly good and we spent a lot more time out in the cockpit than we had during the winter. Morning coffee out there was especially pleasant as it allowed people to wake up at their own pace and gave every one some space. But overall the fact that everyone was cheerful and cooperative  went a long way to maximizing the personal and social space aboard. It would depend on the guests, but I think 4 people wouldn’t be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks or, if everyone was of the right mindset, even longer.

And despite being inexperienced, it was still amazingly helpful having an extra set of hands to take the wheel or keep a watch. And stern tying is 200% easier with a couple of extra bodies. Still, Never for Ever is not just our boat, she’s our home, and it’s nice to have her back the way we are used to.

11 Apr

Welcome Aboard!

So, you’ve been invited to go sailing or boating with friends. If you’ve never been on a boat before, you need lots of advice — pronto!

On the other hand, if you’re an owner planning to invite non-boating friends aboard, whether for a short tour of local waters or for an overnight excursion, sharing a few tips in advance will ensure that everyone enjoys the experience.

Based on our experiences inviting people aboard and our travels on other people’s boats, here’s a primer for non-boaters taking a voyage on a sailboat or powerboat.

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What to Pack

If you have luggage, bring it in a soft-sided bag, such as a sport bag or a backpack. (Bonus points if it’s scrunchable and can be made small!) Space on boats is restricted, so don’t bring unnecessary items, and power is generally limited so curling irons and hair dryers should just stay home. Be sure to bring polarized sunglasses, your camera (plus wrist strap), and your charging cable (if you’re going to be gone for more than 24 hours).

What to Wear

If your image of sailing involves women in bikinis sunbathing on the prow of a sailboat, you’ve never sailed in the Pacific Northwest. The feels-like temperature on a boat is several degrees cooler than the air temperature due to the wind. Your best preparation is layers, including something with long sleeves and a pair of full-length pants. Even if you don’t wear it, bring a jacket especially one that’s waterproof. Bring a hat and wear sunglasses — the effects of sun are amplified by reflections on the water. It is possible to get both a chill and a sunburn at the same time! Also remember you will likely get wet at some point, whether from spray over the dodger or from wading ashore when you beach the dinghy. And it’s salt water, not fresh, so choose your clothes appropriately.

If you feel cold, speak up. Nothing spoils a trip like hypothermia. Your hosts will likely have spare gloves, hats, and other warm gear.

Wear comfortable shoes with white or light-coloured soles. Basic running shoes are great. Don’t wear heels. Don’t wear new shoes that may cause blisters or shoes that might slip off your feet unexpectedly. No hiking boots, work boots, or other cumbersome footwear, please.

Life Jackets

Canadian law requires your hosts to have a life jacket or other PFD (personal flotation device) for every person aboard the vessel. Whether you wear it or not isn’t entirely your choice, however. Some boaters will insist you wear a PFD; others won’t, but will likely encourage you to do so. Respect your hosts’ directions. Remember, it’s your life they’re trying to protect.

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Safety Brief

Our friend Tim, a very experienced boater, always gives a friendly but thorough briefing before his boat leaves the dock. As a guest, you should know where the fire extinguisher is, where the first aid kit is, and where the emergency equipment (such as flares) is. If your hosts forget to show you, don’t hesitate to ask. Your hosts may also show you how to make a mayday call on the VHF radio. (Don’t use the radio otherwise: by law, you need an operator’s certificate to use marine radio.)

Your hosts may also go through a quick man overboard drill with you. No one likes to think about someone going overboard, but it’s always a risk. Pay attention to the drill and know where the equipment is. Yes, it’s rare for someone to fall in the water, but preparation can make the difference if it should happen.

Lending a Hand

If you’re going out with experienced boaters, they’re capable of operating their boat on their own, so your assistance isn’t required although your help is welcome. If you want to help, though, ask before you get involved. Changing a crew’s routines unexpectedly can cause problems.

Once the boat is underway, if you want to help with trimming the sails or taking the wheel, just ask. It’s almost never a problem for someone else to take the helm, and extra hands are always welcome on a sailboat. If you’re not sure what to do, please ask; your hosts won’t know what you don’t know if you don’t ask. But remember, sitting back and enjoying being a passenger is perfectly acceptable too.

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On the boat deck, there’s one important rule: one hand for the boat and one hand for the task. If you walk forward from the helm, keep a hand on the life lines or the grab bars as you go. It’s just good safety.

Boats have lots of moving rigging. Whether it’s the anchor chain or the various lines and sheets on a sailboat, moving parts can quickly and easily turn an enjoyable cruise into an emergency. Know how to use the winch or windlass safely before you lend a hand, and make sure everyone else around you knows what you are going to do.

Getting away from and returning to the dock can be stressful moments. If your hosts ask you to hold a line or step off the boat, be sure you understand what they’ve asked you to do and that you’re prepared to do it. Don’t try to be heroic: you put yourself and others at risk. On a boat nothing can be fixed by suddenly doing something unexpected. Stay calm and follow instructions. If someone on the dock offers to take a line, hand it over only when the skipper says to do so. Onlookers are often eager to help but don’t always know what the person operating the boat needs. The person at the helm ALWAYS gets to direct.

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Going Below

When you go inside the cabin (“below” on a sailboat), you’ll notice that powerboats are fairly roomy and open while sailboats are long and narrow. If you’re going to be aboard for more than a few hours, you need to learn the subtle steps of the “boat dance,” which involves moving in rhythm with others and anticipating when to shift out of the way. Don’t worry, your hosts aren’t judging, and they will move around you when necessary. But you’ll likely find you’re more comfortable if you pay attention to how other people are moving below deck.

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When you are sailing, things will often be stowed in such a way so that they don’t move around as the boat heels (notice the angle of the dish rag hanging over the sink)

While underway, you’re likely to be on deck most of the time. When you go below, avoid opening cabinets or drawers while the boat is underway. If there’s something you need, ask your hosts. After you use something, put it back where it came from. Boaters take the idea “ship shape” seriously.  And remember that you’re in someone’s home. Resist your snoopy urges.

The Marine Head

Your hosts will likely show you how to operate the toilet, commonly referred to as “the head.” Now is not the time to be shy or squeamish. Marine heads can be touchy, and fixing the head is — as you can imagine — not a pleasant task, so please follow your hosts’ instructions.

DO NOT flush Kleenex, women’s products, or anything non-organic; Even using too much toilet paper can cause a problem. A common boating truism is “Nothing should go in the toilet that you didn’t eat or drink.” Your hosts will be grateful if you follow this advice. Don’t be surprised if your hosts ask you not to flush toilet paper and instead show you a bag or garbage bin. You might find this unusual or gross, but your hosts know their boat, so follow their wishes. Another truism is “If you break it, you fix it.”

Remember that boats are small and the head is a shared space; be courteous in your usage and respectful of other people’s privacy,

Life Aboard

If the trip is planned for longer than half a day, you’ll learn that a big part of boating involves conservation. Both fresh water and electricity are finite resources, so don’t waste them.

Stay hydrated—fill a water bottle at the beginning of the trip and refill it as necessary. Often the boat’s water tanks will be restricted to cooking and washing; drinking water will be carried in separate containers.

Managing water is easy. Don’t let taps run when you’re not using them. If you shower, turn off the water while you lather up, and go easy on the soap and shampoo to make rinsing quicker. Hot water is also at a premium. To heat water you generally need to run the engine or be plugged in to shore power. If you are at anchor for a day or two you will have neither of these things. The hot water generally stays hot for 10 to 12 hours. After that water needs to be heated on the stove. 

Same goes for electricity. Avoid opening the fridge unnecessarily: it draws a lot of power. Turn on lights only when you need them, and turn them off when you don’t. Be sure your hosts can spare the power to charge your electronics before you plug them in (most mobile phones are OK, but laptops may require an inverter). Any small appliances are usually not able to be used if you are not plugged into shore power.

Many boaters try to follow the light — early to rise and early to bed. If you’re a night owl, you might want to tuck a flashlight or headlight in your luggage rather than drain the ship’s batteries staying up all night.

Most boats in the PNW will have heaters but they don’t run them constantly. Be prepared that you might wake up to a chilly boat in the morning before the air warms up.

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Beer and Boating Don’t Mix

While the boat is underway, there’s no need for alcohol. Raise a glass only when you reach your destination. Remember too that between the sun and wind it’s easy to get dehydrated. Drink lots of water during the day so that first cold beer doesn’t hit you too hard.

Seasickness

Non-boaters often worry about feeling seasick and being embarrassed. Depending on the water and weather, you may in fact start to feel ill. It happens to everyone at some point — don’t be ashamed! The combined noise of the wind, the waves, and the sails (if you’re sailing) or the engine (if you’re motoring) can be overwhelming, too, even if you don’t feel nauseated.

To combat seasickness, stay on deck. Look at the horizon, not at the water. Don’t go below — the effects of motion can be worse inside the cabin. Eat a light meal before you go out — lots of carbs, limited fats, no alcohol. While you’re underway, take small sips of water to stay hydrated and keep your GI system calm. Ask to take the helm; doing a task is often the best preventive for seasickness.

If you’re below deck and think you’ll be sick, use the head, not a sink. If you’re on deck when you feel ill, stick to the leeward side — the side that’s facing away from the wind. (The expression Don’t spit into the wind applies here.)

Home Again, Home Again

When the vessel comes back to its home dock, remember that docking a boat isn’t quite as simple as parking a car. It will take your hosts a while to tie up, connect to power (if applicable), and otherwise secure the boat. Be patient. Your hosts need to work through various steps, sometimes in a specific order, to ensure the safety of their vessel. You’ll be the centre of their attention again in a few minutes.

We love our boat, and we love having guests aboard so we can share our enthusiasm with them. Making our expectations clear at the outset definitely helps a trip go better.

05 Apr

Baking Bread

One of the things I miss most about living aboard is that the freezer (especially on batteries) is not quite up to the job of keeping bread fresh. We make do with preservative-heavy Wonderbread a lot of the time and try and plan things like hotdogs and hamburgers around shopping trips.

But one of our missing crew is a fabulous cook and she had a recipe for a no-knead bread that she would treat us with, so I decided to get her to send it to me after we hit Victoria. It turns out we needed something like a Le Creuset dutch oven, but that wasn’t in the budget. So we headed down to Capital Iron and picked up an old school cast iron pot with lid that would fit in the boat’s oven. Forty dollars later and a bit of seasoning and we were good to go.

Doing some research here I found that apparently no-knead breads are a big thing and I certainly have grown to embrace them. It takes about 5 minutes to blend flour, yeast salt and water and then you put it aside for 18 hours or so and you have great dough for pizza or bread for dinner the next day. These days I usually make a batch or two every week. This recipe was also featured on page 21 of the March issue of T8N Magazine.

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C’s Boule

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  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water (room temp or cold)

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the water. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is shaggy. No need to knead.

Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 12 to 21 hours.

Use as-is for pizza dough.

For a boule, punch down the dough (use flour — it will be sticky), and form it into a ball. Roll the ball in flour, and place it on a large plate. Cover loosely, and let rise until double (1 to 2 hours)

Put a Dutch oven with a lid in the oven, and heat it to 425°F.

Flop the risen dough into the hot Dutch oven, cover and bake in oven for 30 min.

Remove the lid, and bake 15 minutes more.

A few boater caveats

I make a 2/3rds version of this recipe for my smaller cast iron pot. And I usually just put the oven on the highest setting and bake it for a bout 35 minutes before taking the lid off. Then I just monitor it for browning, giving it a thump or two to see if it sounds hollow.

IMG_6436It makes terrific pizza dough

IMG_6421Try adding 2 tsp of sugar and cinnamon and a 1/2 cup of raisins

 

13 Feb

A Boater’s Guide to Victoria

When we first arrived in Victoria, I was mildly surprised to find it doesn’t especially cater to the cruising crowd; I mean it’s definitely not like Nanaimo, where the big three (food, booze and boat parts) are all within a short walking distance. But in retrospect it makes more sense to think of Victoria more as the tourist destination it is rather than a cruising mecca despite the numerous marinas. Still, there are a ton of liveaboards here, both permanent and temporary, and I bet the traffic is pretty high in the summer, so it must be a bit difficult for newcomers to find all the necessities.

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A view of the Causeway docks from the museum

So here’s my contribution to the the cruising scene: my Boater’s Guide to Visiting Victoria. These are the places we frequent and all of the services we have found so far.  Pretty much everything is accessible within walking distance, although it is good to have a cart of some sort if you are loading up on heavier items. In terms of traditional shopping, there is too much to mention, so if you are flush with cash and have an urge to spend, Victoria is the place for you. I have tried to  locate as many as possible of the essentials and the complete, interactive version of the map can be found here: Custom Google Map.

Marinas, Groceries & Liquor

There are three main marinas you are likely to stay at:

A: Wharf Street • GVHA (Greater Victoria Harbour Association); very central; close to showers and laundry; right beside busy parking lot and floatplane docks.
B: Causeway (Ship’s Point) • GVHA; right across from the Empress; lots of tourist passersby; these docks are often closed to the public (during the Swiftsure Race, the Boat Show, etc.), so you might have to raft up at Wharf Street.
(w) Showers & Laundry •  4 showers (1 loonie for 3 minutes) with a wheelchair accessible unit, and two large washers and dryers.
(o) GVHA Office • The building on the corner of Wharf and Fort—6th floor. Great people!
C: Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel & Marina • Use of pool and gym facilities; a bit more isolated; no locked gates – their link.

And there are three grocery locations, all reasonably equidistant from the Wharf Street docks:

1: Save-On Foods • Typical grocery store, a bit more of a hike than the others.
2: Market on Yates • Smaller store, great meat, produce and baked goods, smaller selection.
3: Thrifty’s • Full-service grocery, nice selection.

And of course there are three liquor stores (actually there are a lot more, but these are the three we mainly use):

4: The Strath Liquor Store • A bit touristy with slightly higher prices, great selection of BC wines.
5: Spinnakers Beer Store • An unbelievable selection of local and import craft beers with a small selection of wine and liquor.
6: BC Liquor • Good general selection and good prices.

Amenities

Amenities

1: Trotac MarineFull-service chandler for recreational and commercial boaters; too far to walk so take a cab or hop the number 11 bus on Douglas Street between View and Yates.
2: Capital Iron • There’s No Store Like It! Seriously, there just isn’t. A little bit of everything from housewares to marine stuff. A good selection of line, spares like light bulbs, fenders, etc.
3: Quadra Mohawk •  A gas station with full propane services. A bit of a hike, but we use our grocery cart to haul the tanks and it’s manageable.
4: Marine Fuel • Diesel and gasoline as well as used oil disposal.
5: GVHA Pumpout • Uses tokens that can be purchased from the Marina Office, marina dock staff, the fuel dock or Grilligan’s at Fisherman’s Wharf.
6: Customs Dock • Manned during peak season, phone in at other times.

Other Services

1: Jeune Bros Tent & Awning • Not a boating canvas specialist, but they do have a good selection of material and can whip up a BBQ cover if you need one.
2: Post Office/Shoppers Drug Mart • An all-in-one stop for mail, sundries and basic food items.
3: Broad Street Dental • I had to visit an dentist and I highly recommend these guys. Friendly, quality service and they fit me in that day.
4: Monks Office Supply • All the regular stationery supplies as well as copying, colour printing and fax services.
5: GVPL (Public Library) • Lots of room to lounge around, free wireless and computer terminals if you have a membership.
Banks • All the major banks have branches on Douglas Street including (top to bottom) BMO, CIBC, RBC and TD Canada Trust.

A: MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) • For all things outdoors.
B: The Bay Centre • A standard mall with lots of clothing stores, cell phone retailers and a Sport Chek.
C: 7-Eleven • Lottery tickets, junk food, cigarettes and really cheap hotdogs that aren’t half bad.

Entertainment

There is so much in reach of the docks, but a lot of it is really tourist oriented. Here are just a small few of our favourite haunts. But remember there are tons more things to do and places to eat and it’s well worth exploring.

A: The Joint Pizza • Eat-in or take-out or even by the slice. Great pizza any way you get it.
B: Darcy’s Pub • Not too touristy and live music most nights.
C: Garrick’s Head Pub • Fun brew pub with a rotating section of local craft beers. Real wood-burning fireplace in the back.
D: Ali Baba Pizza • Pizza by the slice. Our go-to lunch eatery.
E: John’s Place • Apparently a must-do for the breakfast crowd, we haven’t made it there yet. A dock mate of ours works there.
Coffee Joints • They are everywhere. Just head east and you will run into 100s of them. Give Murchie’s Tea and Coffee a try (right beside Munro’s) if you want the real old Victoria experience.

1: Crag X Climbing Gym • A great workout in a brand-new facility. Bouldering, top roping and lead climbing—awesome fun.
2: Cineplex Odeon • First-run movie theatre.
3: Munro’s Books • A traditional must for any bibliophile. And Russell Books is just a block and a bit down Fort Street.
4: Royal British Columbia Museum and IMAX • If you are here for a while, get a season’s pass and make it your rainy-day destination.

Destinations

Destinations

A: Swartz Bay (BC Ferries) • Ferries leaving to Vancouver as well as the Gulf Islands. About an hour bus ride ($2.50) from downtown Victoria.  The #70 is more direct than the #72.
B: Victoria International Airport • Around $55 to $60 for a cab, or two buses from downtown.
C: Inner Harbour Ferries • The Victoria Clipper makes daily high-speed runs (walk-on only) to Seattle and the M.V. Coho (vehicles and passengers) crosses to Port Angeles several times a day.
Float Plane Dock • Right beside the Wharf Street docks, you can catch Harbour Air‘s flights to Vancouver or Gulf Island destinations or Kenmore Air to Seattle.

Some Easy Sailing Destinations

1: Royal Cove, Portland Island • A great anchorage that is an easy one-day trip from Victoria.
2: Sidney Marina • A nice marina in the lovely little town of Sidney. Home of a couple of charter companies and a great place to shop … especially for old books. Around the corner is Tsehum Harbour with fuel, haulouts and more.
3: Roche Harbor, USA • A short sail away and a wonderful place to overnight, either on the docks or anchored (we like Garrison Bay just a bit south from there). It makes a better stopover place in shoulder season when it’s not so busy.
4: Butchart Gardens • You can visit Butchart by bus, but a better way to do it is to sail there. Free private mooring balls and your own back door into this magical garden. Great for any season.

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The Wharf Street docks

Wrap Up

Disclaimer: Victoria is still new to us. We’d visited as tourists but never really bothered to learn the city. I know that I’ve missed a lot in this brief list and I might just keep adding to it—minus the maps, they’re just too much work :-). I will keep updating the online version, though, to match any text I add.

Hopefully this will help someone else’s visit to this beautiful city go a bit smoother.

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09 Feb

A Holiday Monday Sail

Monday was a holiday in BC. It was warm, sunny and blowing 5 to 15 in the San Juan East Entrance so we decided to go for a sail. Actually it turns out it wasn’t much of an original idea as several other boats cast off as well and we all went out to enjoy the day. It took an hour or so to get the boat ready, but eventually we cast off. Once we cleared the Victoria harbour entrance we rolled out the sails and decided to head dead downwind and try and make it out to Race Rocks.

Route-SailRed line for our trip out downwind; Blue line for the close hauled trip back (rough approximations)

I’d recently gotten my preventer situation all sorted out, so I was eager to give the new system a try. The winds were blowing about 12 knots just off the dock, but by the time we were clear of the harbour they had settled down to about 8…perfect for some wing on wing action. Once we got it rigged correctly (I managed to forget about going under the jib sheets and tried a few variations on which winch I was going to use), Leslie sailed for a couple of hours with little or no effort required. It’s amazing how much easier it is to sail downwind when you only have to worry about luffing the jib.

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Now Hunters aren’t known for their downwind performance due to the B&R rig (our spreaders are swept back so you can’t put the mainsail out as far and our small jib doesn’t help much—see the image above) but I have to say, in light winds we do pretty good. We were doing 2.5 knots in about 6 knots of breeze and 4-ish in the 8 to 9 knots.

The HMCS Whitehorse (a Kingston class coastal defence ship) popped out of Esquimalt as we headed south and eventually got on our track before veering to port and then coming up along side. Since Leslie had gone below and it looked like I would have to jibe anyway, I also went to port to see if I could scare them. After all I was a sailboat and had the right of way. I let go the preventer from the cockpit, centered the main and jibed all by myself much to L’s consternation. Still, it proved the system worked. Unfortunately for me, I had misjudged the Whitehorse’s speed and she passed by without really noticing us. Eventually she crossed back in front of us and went to stooge around in Pedder Bay.

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Victoria from about half way to Race Rocks. If you squint really hard you can see Mount Baker centre-right)

As we approached the lighthouse on Race Rocks we decided not to run the passage and simple came in close. The water was starting to churn up so we decided to tack around and start heading back upwind. The winds had start to slowly build so by the time we hit Race Rocks the apparent wind was around 11 knots. As we swung around and headed up wind it banged up to around 15 knots and of course the current had changed so we hit really choppy water where minutes before it had been calm and peaceful. So we decided to try a reef.

I had been doing a lot of reading about reefing Hunter’s big roller furling main and decided to try out a few of the theories. All in all they worked like a charm:

  • first, rather than trying to judge how much sail we had reefed by trying to look a the boom which is mostly obscured by our enclosure, I used the mast. We rolled in the main until the top of the sail hit the top spreader which, as it turns out, is about 6 feet in.
  • second, rather than turning up into the wind, we just loosened the mail sheet and vang and let the boom swing out. This allowed us to maintain some way with just the jib.
  • third, rather than screwing with going on deck and engaging the furling ratchet, we controlled the sail with the furling lines. I tailed the outhaul, while Leslie, leaving the furl-out line uncleated, pulled on the furl-in line until we were a bit past the top spreader. Then we locked off the furling lines and tightened the sail with the outhaul.
  • Then we pulled in the main sheet and powered up the main, going from about 2 knots to almost 6.

It all went pretty smoothly. At least smoother than a lot of our previous reefing scenarios. I think there is something to be said for the “simplicity” of a traditional main when it comes to reefing. At least in the process. But I imagine with a bit more practice this too will start to seem simple. And it turns out the top spreader is a perfect reef point for about 14 to 18 knots of wind. We were heeled about 10–20° most of the time the winds were in that range and the weather helm was pretty negligible.

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Of course the winds weren’t going to be that cooperative. After our first tack, they started to climb and now ranged from 19 to 21 knots. Another reef was looking necessary. But since we weren’t really going anywhere and we had cleared Albert Head, we just tacked again and settled into steady 17 to 19 knots which was pretty comfortable with the reef we had in.

By this time we and all the fishing boats had been joined by the HMCS Ottawa, one of our Halifax class frigates. She came out of Esquimault and also started stooging around, mostly off our starboard. When I turned towards her she scurried off so I guess we’re just plain scary. Or my sailing is… On one of our tacks she did get close enough to our stern that we got a good impression of her size. I am not sure what the two RCN ships were doing but they were tracking back and forth in a definite pattern so it was some sort of training exercise.

HMCS_Ottawa_(FFH_341)
(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

As we came back towards Victoria we crossed paths with a Nauticat 33 with all three sails up and (I) immediately started racing. I certainly have a career in racing slower boats because we caught up and passed them in no time at all. It must be weird sailing one of those from high up on the stern. We tacked back and forth a couple of times still experiencing winds anywhere from 16 to 21 knots but the Nauticat tacked a lot less and plodded along quite steadily. For us, it was a lot of fun and a 25–30° heel doesn’t seem so bad if it’s not happening because of gusts.

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(image courtesy of nauticat.com)

They eventually dropped their sails outside the breakwater while we tacked once more and sailed right up to the coast guard station. On the way in we spotted SpringTide which is the big whale watching cruiser that is normally tied up off our bow, so I knew we had an easy docking ahead of us with lots of extra room. We fired up the engine and pulled down the sails in the outer harbour and slowly motored back to our berth.

As we pulled into our spot the wind was pushing us off the dock which was a first for us in Victoria. I muffed it a bit so was glad for the extra room courtesy of the missing SpringTide. One of our dock mates was also on hand to grab a line but Leslie wisely demurred from handing him her midship line and tossed him the bow line instead. It never pays for us to vary our docking routine and while I am pretty sure this guy was way more salty than I will ever be, we’ve had a few bad experiences with dockside “help”.

It was a great day on the water followed by a couple of cold ones to close it off.

A Word on Dock Gravity

It seems we haven’t done as much sailing as I had intended when we got to Victoria. One of the reasons why is that a liveaboard boat in the marina quickly becomes unsailable without a lot of work. We have an electronic checklist that goes through all the major tasks to get her ready for the water, including untying all the things we have tied down and tying down a bunch of things we don’t. We put everything away and clear off all the tables etc. but inevitably, as soon as you start to heel, all hell breaks loose and all the drawers and cupboards you haven’t latched come flying open and things that you thought were stable suddenly gain momentum and bang and crash down below.

On our trip today this was pretty incremental. A few bounces in the 10 knots, a few bangs and crashes in the 18 knots and a couple of monumental clangs in the 21 (that was mostly the tea kettle breaking loose and, I think, a couple of cans from the forward locker). I suppose we will learn, but it never fails that something goes for a ride no matter how much we prepare.

Coming back in you have another good hour or so of battening and organizing to do to get back to liveaboard mode. Running rigging need to be secured against banging, extra dock lines and fenders put out for those stormy nights, enclosure needs to be all snugged down again, sailing gear stored out of the way, cushions piled and tucked out of the way and of course all the books need to come out from the nooks and crannies we had stuffed them in. After a great sail like that it does all seems worth while, but after a few days or weeks have passed you get more and more reluctant to go through it all just for a few hours of fun. I’ll have to be sure to come back and read this post again the next time I get wingey about wanting to go sailing…

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