02 May

Things that make it more comfie

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

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

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

Things that came with the boat

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

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

Things we added to the boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open to Suggestions?

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

 

11 Apr

A Turnkey Sailboat

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

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

And that’s what we got.

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

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

Must have’s

There weren’t many items on this list.

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

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

Wanted

Some things I knew I wanted:

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

I really appreciate having the remote VHF mic.

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

The outboard and the handy Forespar crane.

Wanted Now

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

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

Seems it can get foggy here sometimes :-)

We have a battery monitor now!

The bbq gets used more than the stove.

Bonuses

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

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

Our shiny prop.

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

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

Hunter 386 Brochure

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

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

A Great Deal

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

Comfy and dry and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Not Wanted on This Voyage

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

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

A Video Update

Well I finally got around to  finishing my videos of our Spring 2017 cruise to Desolation Sound and the Gulf Islands. I have been working on them since we got back, but could never bring myself to invest the energy to just finish them. As a result the final product looks (and sounds) a little rushed and unpolished. But they are done in time for me to start contemplating 2018 videos…so that’s a plus.

BC Map 2015

A few notes. I wanted to use maps and realized that technically speaking I couldn’t use anyone else’s without violating copyright. So I decided to build my own BC coast map based on several sources. A fun way to refresh my Abobe Illustrator skills. Then I animated them using Adobe After Effects. After a lot of hours, I came to the conclusion that I was doing things the hard way again. But c’est la vie — I learned a lot about what not to do. And they worked out pretty nicely. The whole thing was put together using Adobe Premiere.

I shot everything on my iPhone 5, Nikon Coolpix L80 and SJCam GoPro knockoff. I then used my iPhone 7 for the voiceover. I tried writing a script, but it came out worse than if I just winged it. So I wung it. And it shows. I was however, surprised at the quality and if I concentrated when actually speaking it was pretty damn clear.

Our cruise was 8 weeks so I divided the videos up into 1 week episodes (except for the week on the hard), so 7 in total. I also shot footage on a very sporadic basis because I was often too busy enjoying myself to remember.

Anyway, I now have even more respect for all those YouTubers out there. Enjoy.

22 Mar

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

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

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

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

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

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

Breathing Underwater

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

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

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

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

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

What Next?

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

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

This could be me someday?

12 Mar

To Do 2018

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

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

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

Need to…

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

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

Want to…

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

The Dream list…

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

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

02 Mar

We have a plan!

So we’ve booked off our time for the boat…and guess what! We’ve got enough time to make it to the Broughtons without killing ourselves, so as of now that’s the plan.

Broughtons 2018!

Yup, that’s right. We have almost the whole month of June to use Never for Ever ourselves and we are finally heading north again. We visited have the Broughton Archipelago twice —once with a Cooper Boating flotilla in 2014 aboard a charter boat and again in 2015 right after we boarded Never for Ever for our year-long seabbatical.  And we have been itching to go back because it is chock full of culture, wildlife and oh so much nature.

Sullivan Bay at sunset

So the plan (and it is still a plan right now) is to board around June 4 and sail north like the dickens to get past the tidal rapids as soon as feasible and then slow down for a leisurely  tour, hitting some old favourites and hopefully ticking some new ones off the wishlist.

Things to do before we go?

What might interfere with that basic plan is that I have a few things I kind of want to do out on the coast and they will take time that I am reluctant to give. L and I want to take the test for our ICC certification (International Certification of Competence ) because some day I am going to go sailing in Greece and Croatia and increasingly a lot Mediterranean countries are looking for some sort of official certification.

I also want to look into getting our PADI dive certificates. We can do the course work and pool dives here but we would still have to do our open water dive. And I am really leaning towards doing the whole shot out on the coast because we could get the drysuit  qualification at the same time for just a little more cost.

And then there is the Hunter Rendezvous (June 7–10 at Thetis Island). The timing sucks if we are going north, but we have been telling ourselves we wanted to go again and it really was a fun weekend.

Revisit

So where to we want to go back to? Here’s the list of our favourites that qualify  as must see’s in our books:

  • Kwatsi Bay, Sullivan Bay and Pierre’s at Echo Bay — three “resorts” that are chock full of boaters and fun and make up part of the quintessential “Broughtons experience.”
  • Waddington Bay — a stunning anchorage in the archipelago proper that we visited with the flotilla (and therefore stuffed to the gills with boats) and I would love to spend more time in.
  • Alert Bay — this is a ferry ride from Port McNeill and the U’mista Centre is a must see for everyone. And in our case, a “must see again.”

On Wishlist

I have been reading through other people’s blogs and flipping through Waggoner’s and started on a long list of potential spots I want to visit. But the following have been on this list for years.

  • Shoal Bay & Telegraph Harbour — these are technically on the way up. Shoal Bay has been getting more and more attention and I would love to visit this idyllic little spot before it becomes  really popular and some of the charm rubs off. Telegraph Harbour is a place we have been to by car and I just want to be able to say I sailed there.
  • Jennis Bay — another one of the quintessential “resorts” in the Broughtons but one we haven’t made it to yet. Tucked up Drury Inlet past Stuart Narrows it takes a bit more timing and effort to make it to. But it’s on the list.
  • Glendale Cove (Knight Inlet) — this cove is home to a grizzly watching outfit. Need I say more?
  • Booker Lagoon — I don’t know why I have always wanted to go to Booker Lagoon. Maybe because it’s a lagoon and I am from the Gilligan’s Island generation? Regardless I do and I fully intend to. Its supposed to be beautiful.

On the Maybe List

The rest are on the list mostly based on research and other’s journeys. I am open to suggestions, so if you have any, add them to the comments. I will also leave a list of places we have already been (and may go back to)  just for your edification.

  • Blunden Harbour (in Queen Charlotte Sound) — I hear it is wonderful and peaceful.
  • Goat Island (Crease Island) — near enough to Village Island for a dinghy visit?
  • Nimmo Bay — is hidden behind some faster water and also home to a really fancy resort. But we just want to visit the bay and hang on the hook for a while. We’ll save the spa for another day.
  • Joe Cove, Eden Island — sounds like a classic Broughton anchorage.
  • Laura Bay (east side of Greenaway) — Convenient location with a lot of recommendations.
  • Greenaway Sound (trail to Broughton Lake) — the old resort is now gone but the hike is supposed to be fun.

Been There…

Cordero Islands, Blind Channel, Port Neville, Port Harvey, Lagoon Cove, Potts Lagoon, Growler Bay, Village Island, Shawl Bay, Ladyboot Cove, Tracey Harbour, Claydon Bay, Turnbull Cove, Pot McNeill, Sointula

Tracey Harbour

 

04 Jan

Charter Season Update

Last year I did a roundup of our first charter season so I thought I would briefly follow up again this year.

Disclaimer: I am a notorious “rounder” of numbers and the most incompetent accountant I know. None of this is intended to provide any more than a reasonably forthright account of how I view our financial outcomes. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Year 2

We originally booked Never for Ever for ourselves for all of April, May and June but a late booking was requested for mid-June which we agreed on. So we boarded our boat on April 20 and had it back in Nanaimo for her first charter by June 16.

I did return to the boat in October for a short week-long cruise with some friends, so all in all we used the boat for a total of ten and a half weeks.

The boat was in good shape when we showed up in April. The canvas over the arch hadn’t been removed (by agreement and due to poor design) over the winter so it was pretty cruddy. A bunch of the kitchenware had changed or been substituted and one of the winch handles was missing (which NYCSS promptly replaced). The only major irritant (and it was pretty minor) was our perfectly-sized dish rack was missing. It took us a month to find another — so the new one went into storage at the end of our season.

The dinghy painter was worn out so I replaced it and also replaced a few of the lines on fenders. We also had to hunt for a few things like the regulator knob off the BBQ and some of the canvas panels for the enclosure. All that stuff had been stripped and stored for the winter. There is more on this in my previous post called Whose Boat Is It?

The Numbers 2017

Weeks Net Income
1 $1600
2 $2500
1 $1700
1 $1700
1 $1400
.75 $900
1 $1600
1 $1600
$13000

Overall we had the same number of weeks chartered as 2016 and basically the same revenue. The big difference this year was in costs.

Winterize
Trace and repair small leaks
 Windlass repair
Fire extinguishers certified
Ports & Passes 2017
Spring prep
Tow and replace Engine Mounts
Turn around (cleaning), new chain
Moorage, insurance & locker rental
Misc: thermocouple, light, small leak
Leaks, sail repair
$20000

The costs were up almost  $8000 from last year. There were 3 major factors: I had the windlass rebuilt over the winter as the seal had corroded and it was leaking into the vberth; I replaced the chain  and I had that little incident with running over the dinghy painter and wrecking my motor mounts. That last little screwup cost me over $4000 and any hope of breaking even.

After it was all counted and totted up, I wrote out a a pretty hefty cheque. I have to admit it hurt a little bit since we weren’t expecting it. But then again I guess we got 10 weeks of sailing for less than $500/week so I really shouldn’t complain.

Next Year

We’ve already got 2 weeks booked for 2018 (one is at the end of May, which is a bummer). I don’t know how much we will get out this year as we are currently considering a series of shorter trips rather than one, big, long one. But so far there has been no talk of selling the boat (except when I start dreaming of a new one) and for us, putting the boat in charter has definitely been a good decision.

11 Dec

October in the Gulf Islands

I had been bugging a buddy of mine to go sailing for years now and he finally managed to get a week off…in the middle of October! But what the hell, Never for Ever has a heater…

We also talked another old buddy into tagging along—this would be the first “road trip” we had taken since just after high school—exciting stuff. As I had previously mentioned neither had much experience on boats so I was a tad nervous about making sure everything was right.

The Cruise

I arrived early to make sure everything was ready and to sort through our stuff in storage for anything I wanted on our short cruise. Midday I walked over and met Brian S (did I mention both my friends are named Brian?) at the Seaair terminal and and brought him back to introduce him to the boat. Then we grabbed the courtesy car and made a provisioning run.

The next afternoon Brian R arrived and we finished off the “last minute” (insert the word booze) provisioning and, since we had missed slack at Dodd’s, went out for dinner.

We did spend an hour or so running around on some last minute errands. We couldn’t find the sides of the enclosure (they were stuffed in a locker) and the bloody Webasto wouldn’t fire up. This turned out to be one of the  major flaws in my plan. The Webasto hadn’t been run since  May and something had gummed it up. We tried again and again through the trip to get it running but in the end we did it without any heat.

Day One

We were off the dock at 1159 and hit Dodds just before the 1350 slack with Brian R at the helm. A half dozen or so sea lions were frolicking and hunting in the current and a few of them seemed like they were playing chicken with us as we squeezed through the narrows. It was a sunny, calm day and there was no wind so we motored all the way to Pirates Cove and I let the crew maneuver us around the shoals and in through the narrow entrance.

Apparently my instructions were clear and coherent because the two Brians managed to drop the anchor and get us secured in the centre of the cove with no issues. We crowded aboard Laughing Baby (three grown men apparently take up a lot more space than just Leslie and I) and rowed ashore to hike around. Unfortunately it was close to high tide so we didn’t see much along the shoreline but had a nice tromp though the woods regardless.

Day Two

We were off the anchor by 0945 and after just a few miles the winds started to climb and we hauled out the sails. They stayed a steady 12-15 knots as we tacked back and forth down Plyades Channel and into Trincomali. My stalwart crew kept the sails up and we beat right past Reid Island and into Houston Passage.

Eventually our tacks were getting broader and broader and the wind was dying enough that our progress south was almost non-existent. So we reluctantly hauled in the sails and started up the motor. The winds did pick up again but by that time it was getting late and we just wanted to get into Ganges.

We tied up on B dock at the Ganges Marina right at 4:30 and  then headed into town to explore. There was some interest in real estate potential so we picked up some flyers and debated the pros and cons of living on Saltspring Island before heading to the Oystercatcher for dinner.

Day Three

It was another nice day as we cast off around 1130 hours and motored out of Ganges Harbour. An hour later with the Channel Islands just ahead we (I think it was Brian S) spotted a spout just ahead which we quickly identified as a pod of orca.

I took over the wheel and sent the crew forward with cameras rolling. For almost the next hour and half a pod of 8 or 9 orcas led the way as we rounded Beaver Point and headed to Portland Island. At one point they completely disappeared only to reemerge about 100 feet off our port side. Needless to say everyone was ecstatic. We didn’t lose sight of them until we angled away to head for Royal Cove and they seemingly headed into Fulford.

We stern tied in Royal Cove around 1400 and once again headed ashore to explore. A short walk took us the middens at Arbutus Point where poked around before heading back to the boat.

Day Four

It was slightly rainy as we raised the anchor and the winds were predicted to be up. We motored west as we wanted to catch the current up Sansum Narrows. All day the wind and waves built and we were treated to a pretty bouncy ride. Everyone seemed ok with motion (which was a relief). Eventually we had 20–25 knot winds from behind as we cleared the narrows into Stuart Channel. We decided to head for Telegraph Harbour and I called ahead just make sure they were open.

What I failed to asked them was what services they still had. Because we had all been talking about a hot shower and it turns out they had turned the water off and the showers and toilet facilities were all closed. Bummer.

And in all the rain we had been having all day I discovered that what had been, 6 months ago, a small intermittent leak from somewhere near the mast was now a raging torrent. We cleverly rigged up some string to direct the water into a bucket which allowed me to sleep in the salon and stay relatively dry. In case you are wondering I had left the tarp in the storage unit (why on earth would I need that for just 5 days…) and yes, the leak is now fixed in time for winter.

 

Day Five

The weather was better when we cast off the next morning and headed for early slack at Dodds. The plan had been to spend the last night at anchor in Nanaimo Harbour, but the winds were predicted to build from the south and some of the crew were jonesing for a hot shower. So we headed to the fuel dock instead (Brian S successfully  bringing us alongside) and then tied up in our slip for the last night.

The aftermath

The next day Brian S caught his flight out and Brian R and I cleaned up the boat and stored our gear. The plan had been for us to fly out by Seair the next morning but a fog set in and Seair wasn’t guaranteeing the flights would go on time. We ended up cancelling our flight and hopping on the ferry. It turns out our flight did go, but by that time we were already at YVR waiting to fly back to Edmonton.

All in all it was a great, albeit rushed trip. The lack of heater wasn’t too much of an issue but something to keep in mind for next time. The leak was a bit more of an issue, but who could predict something like that after such a long, dry summer. And I successfully managed my first cruise with new crew. Hey, maybe I am good at this…

A static version of the map for posterity:

 

01 Dec

Where we’ve been

I realize I owe everyone at least a summary of our October sailing trip, but I haven’t managed to sit down and write it up. What I did manage to do was start thinking about next year and places we haven’t visited yet. Which brought me to thinking of all the places we have.

So I made a map. This includes everyplace we have visited by boat since 2013. Most have been on board Never for Ever, but some also include the destinations visited when cruising on Northwest Passage II, Shearwater, Ocean Pearl and Santé.

(I’ve included a static version of this map below in case my Google Map ever goes kablooie)

What’s remarkable about this is the number of places we have left to see. There is a lifetime of cruising just around Vancouver Island and yet we still have all of Puget Sound to explore and then north all the way up to Alaska. After that, who knows…there is always the big left hand turn south to Mexico.

I find it so amazing that so many other boaters we have talked to haven’t been to half this number of spots but are comfortable visiting the same old places. But then again I suppose they haven’t been blessed with the kind of time off we’ve managed to take or the blessing oft he cruising buddies we’ve had along the way. So much to see…

15 Sep

I’ve Got New Crew

So the good news is that that Never for Ever has been booked for charter pretty steadily this season. The bad news is that if I want to go cruising again in 2017 it will have to wait until October. But what the hell, how cold could it be… ;-)

And, since Leslie is back at work (although ironically it looks like she will be in Minnesota at a conference when I head out), I had to do some recruiting for crew. After some pleading, couple of old friends volunteered. These are guys I have known since high school, but the last time we travelled together was a highjinx-filled attempt to drive to Vancouver for a weekend from southern Alberta. And one of them is the guy who ostensibly taught me to sail, albeit in Lasers and on a lake. The other, as far as I know, isn’t much of a water person.

New Crew

Passenger or crew?

This will be the first time I have headed out on a cruise with a) someone other than Leslie and b) an all n00b crew, and that has me thinking a bit about what cruising my own boat with new crew entails. My conclusions? Well, for one thing, I have to up my game. I can no longer rely on having a familiar and trusted partner to consult and double-check my decisions. Leslie and I have learned to sail together and, although I technically have more qualifications (at least on paper), she has been there throughout the process, learning at her own pace. The result is our cruising status quo has always been more of a partnership than the traditional hierarchical captain/crew arrangement.

The original team.

With new crew the balance of responsibility shifts completely onto my shoulders. Back when we did a lot of rock climbing, we once hired climbing guides to take us up the apron on the Squamish Chief and I asked my guide (from the most excellent Squamish Rock Guides) how he could trust us as unknowns to belay him up the mountain. His reply was that he essentially had to be confident that he could climb it solo. Looking ahead, I think that this is going to be true  for me as well. Sure it will be nice to have help, but I am going to have to be able to do all the main operations by myself and then really work on my communication skills so I can transmit expectations and be confident that we are all safe. And that starts with a little review of what to expect when you are expecting (to cruise). We have previously done up a Boat Briefing Checklist for passengers, so that takes care of the basics. And the point of this post is to serve as a review of any other factors that I need to consider.

Skill Sets

So what are the minimum skills I expect from crewmember? And which ones will I actually need? A lot of my reading has stressed the difference between passengers and crew. I’ve had passengers before and expected them to do very little other than avoid clogging the head. But I have always had crew and I am not sure I am up to sailing solo in any but the most benign conditions. And October in the Salish Sea always has the possibility of some “interesting” weather.

So I started the specific skills I might take for granted. Thinking about it — and going back through my Competent Crew workbook — I concluded there were only a few really important ones that I either need to teach or ensure are done correctly.

Remember when we didn’t know what one of these was!

And number one skill will be knot tying and line handling. Because if I want to complete the trip with things like fenders, tenders and fingers intact, I am going to have to have faith in how lines are handled and made fast. For me the three main knots are the clove hitch (fenders and tying up to bull rails), the round turn with two half hitches (fenders and general securing of things like the dinghy) and a cleat hitch (self-evidently for attaching things to cleats). In the case of any stressful dockings or moorings, I might not have time to double check everyone’s knots so it would be good to be confident that nothing gets loose right when it shouldn’t.

Flaking and storing lines is also important although I can always find time to do that myself later. I do think it is important to communicate the difference between coiling and properly flaking. When were climbing, a properly stored line often was literally a matter of life and death, but most people tend to be pretty casual about handling “rope.”

In the end, it’s not the actual sailing I worry about because I have been conscientious enough to take the time to learn to do most things solo (although now that I think of it, I haven’t practiced reefing by myself). It’s docking, anchoring and basic seamanship that have always up to now been two person operations.

Ah docking. Is it a skill or a procedure? Leslie and I have a great system and although we can switch up the roles (and often do when it’s straight forward), when conditions are challenging as with a strong current or wind, I man the helm and she takes care of securing us to the dock. With new crew, lines and fenders can be set well in advance so that’s not an issue and we can talk through the steps and let everyone know what to expect before approaching a dock. And I don’t anticipate going into a strange marina, so I should know the general layout of anywhere we are likely to stop. But will my new crew know what to do once we are alongside?

One issue/skill set which we should probably practice before we leave the dock will be dealing with bull rails. Here in the PNW, marinas generally have rails running the length of the docks for boats to tie up to rather than cleats. Most often these consist of a 4×4 rail that is supported 4 inches off the dock every 8 feet or so. When tying up you generally wrap your line around the rail and tie off with a clove hitch. It’s easy to do with practice, but can look a wee bit gordian if you don’t understand what the lines are doing.

That’s a knot?

If you are called on by the skipper to secure a line quickly (indicted on our boat by the instruction to “take a wrap”), the thing to do is wrap the dock line over the top of the rail, tuck it under the gap and over the top again. That gives you enough friction to  stop the boat if necessary but is still easy enough to slacken or cast off again if necessary.

Competent Crew? Competent Captain?

But there’s the rub, how do I ensure my new line handlers know when things are necessary? Some of my most hilarious hijinks on a dock have been when someone secured a line and I lost control of my own boat. Shudder.

Good communication should take care of that but that’s on me. I have been informed that I have a bad habit of mumbling and assuming people can read my mind. In a high-stress docking situation that habit just might be a bit of an issue.

So we will go over the various procedures of docking and undocking, anchoring and weighing anchor, and general boat handling before hand. Doing it out loud should also reinforce it for me and remind me that I can’t assume anything, which I think is the biggest danger I am going to face. Thankfully I’m not proud and have been known to radio ahead and let the marina know just how incompetent we are so we can have plenty of theoretically competent people on dock to help out. If we take things slow and easy and avoid those rare docking situations where “gusto” is called for we (I) should do ok.

Anchoring is another thing I have never attempted solo although I know its theoretically possible. I intend to review the steps, maybe even write down the math and make sure we review  each time we approach an anchorage. They say that the most dangerous time in  learning any skill is when you have achieved unconscious competency…that’s when you get complacent.

 

Sailing Away

Hopefully there will be wind. It would be nice to get in a couple of good sails and nothing gets people working together like beating into the wind, tacking back and forth. Plenty of repetitive actions and a little excitement to get the adrenaline flowing. I am looking forward to some good times.


Competent Crew 101

Things to review either before we leave the dock or before actually attempting:

  • Basic safety orientation (see Briefing Checklist)
  • The running rigging
  • The sails (roller furling jib and mainsail)
  • Reefing
  • Knots & line handling
  • Winches
  • Line handling dockside
  • Points of sail
  • Gybing & the boom
  • Windlass operation
  • MOB 2.0
  • VHF & distress signals
  • Dinghy & outboard
  • Basic chart reading and buoyage
  • Tides and tidal rapids
  • Basic terminology (port & starboard, etc.)
  • Using the engine
  • Fueling

What the hell is all that?

29 Jun

Private Moorings? Le Sigh…

We’ve only been cruising the PNW for five years or so and it is already starting to bug me —every year we set out and anchorages that we enjoyed the previous year are now limited or inaccessible because of private mooring balls. Entire harbours are now full of permanent moorages and any hope of anchoring has completely disappeared. And try as I may to see both sides of the issue, it really bugs me.

The Rules

The first thing you have to realize is, in Canada at least, that  the waters of the Salish Sea fall under the control of the Federal Government. That means even though derelict and abandoned boats (another issue entirely) are becoming problems in many harbours, there isn’t a clean and straightforward path for the various jurisdictions to deal with them. Places like Nanaimo and Victoria have been working for years to clean up the mess of boats and are faced with issues like legitimate authority, murky ownership and disposal costs.

One of the things that has seemed to help is that the Canada Shipping Act 2001 (CSA 2001) now includes specific regulations on how to mark private mooring buoys. This included contact information. It further states that when a private buoy does not meet legal standards, the Minister may remove or order the owner to modify it to meet current standards. And The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA), which protects the public right of navigation in all Canadian waters, states, “No work shall be built or placed in, on, over, under, through or across any navigable water unless it is approved by the Minister.” Transport Canada considers mooring buoys as “works” under the NWPA. Of course enforcement is spotty. Or, more accurately, almost non-existent where it doesn’t interfere with commercial traffic.

So I can’t believe every single one of the new “legal” moorage buoys I have seen has been reviewed and approved by the Feds. And given the strange triumvirate we have up here in Canada between the Coast Guard, RCMP, and Fisheries Department, I am not sure who is actually responsible for enforcement (I think the Americans got this one right with their Coast Guard). I can’t imagine that any of them wander around with a database of GPS coordinates detailing “approved” buoys; as far as I can tell there are no licence or registration numbers attached to private buoyage and no other way to track them making the task even more difficult. I do know it is often left to local government to deal with any issues arising in their local waters and only in larger urban places like Vancouver, Victoria or Nanaimo have I heard of any successful regulation.

I suppose there is some consolation in the fact that at least the newer buoys popping up everywhere tend to conform to the regulations. But it doesn’t really seem to make the problem any easier to deal with.

Mooring Positive

I am not completely down on mooring balls. A couple of years ago I was looking for a temporary place for our boat and a friend had a new mooring buoy in Degnen Bay that we contemplated using. I also found a few to rent in places like Cadboro Bay and Tsehum. A mooring buoy would have been a great, cost-effective option for us and I really appreciated the opportunity. Finding moorage is often difficult and expensive, and it is one of those factors that tends to make boating a more elite activity. Imagine if you had to pay to park your car in your garage. It would make you think twice about owning one.

Private moorings outside Gibsons mean there is more room for everyone.

And a good mooring field can cram a heck of a lot more boats into a harbour and — if done correctly — can do it much more safely and effectively than just having a bunch of boats anchored out all year. If I lived on the coast full time and could have a permanent moorage for a reasonable one-time cost I would be pretty gung-ho about it. Owning a boat has been a long-time dream for me and who am I to deny anyone else something that takes them closer to their dreams.

Private moorings can also make bad or mediocre anchorages safer to use. And rather than building one of those monster docks that seem to choke the the life out of the shorelines of places like Pender Harbour, boats can be kept out on a mooring making the whole shoreline more beautiful. What could possibly be wrong with that?

And while I won’t swear they are better for the environment up here in the PNW, they are used to help save the sea bottom in the tropics. Who knows how much better the crabbing would be if we stopped tearing up the bottom in popular anchorages. (OK, maybe it’s not that likely but still…)

The Parker Ridge Effect

The dilemma for me falls under a phenomenon I personally refer to as the Parker Ridge Effect. Parker Ridge is a short but steep hike in the Canadian Rockies that takes you to the top of a ridge overlooking the Saskatchewan Glacier and the Columbia Icefields. I first hiked it in my early 20s and blithely cut across the switchbacks and trampled the delicate alpine terrain with no thought other than to get to the top the quickest way possible. Years later I went back and the entire trail was marked with “No Cutting Across…”  and “Stay ON the Trail” signs and had huge areas blocked off for trail rehabilitation. And I quipped something along the lines of “If only the other people would stop wrecking things for everyone, then I would still be able to cut across the switchbacks…” I received a baleful look in response and I dutifully stayed on the trail.

Because you see, it’s not that shortcuts (or mooring balls) are in any way inherently wrong, and it’s also not (unfortunately) that there are idiots out there wrecking it for the rest of us (although there are). The real issue is there are too many people all wanting to do something the local environment can’t handle. And if we don’t regulate it (a word that occasionally makes me shudder), then the combined selfishness and/or thoughtlessness of us common people in pursuit of our own, largely innocent goals, means that eventually it will be unavailable to everyone. And that, as much as it irks me, also includes me.

The Downside of Private Balls

First and foremost they are crowding out anchorages. I mentioned Degnen Bay. The only place left to anchor here is in what is (according to a local) technically a seaplane right-of-way. Silva Bay also has virtually zero anchorage space left. The same for Telegraph Harbour. I laugh every time I see Tsehum written up as having an anchorage. When we visited Ganges in May, I kept an eye out for anchoring room and didn’t spot a single place left where I might want to drop a hook. And places like Garden Bay, Nanaimo, Heriot Bay, and Montague all had less space than last time we’d visited due to private mooring balls. I get that locals want inexpensive and convenient moorage, but not all cruisers are wealthy yacht owners and $50-70/night at a marina is a big hit. Visiting boaters want inexpensive and convenient options too.

Not much room left in Degnen Bay.

Degnen Bay from the other angle.

For relative beginners like us, another thing that is really irksome is that anchoring in the mix of randomly spaced mooring balls and other anchored boats is hard. A boat on a mooring line doesn’t swing the same way, and with multiple mooring balls in the anchorage, distances that are already tricky (for us) to judge suddenly become a geometrical nightmare.  And if the mooring balls are empty or occupied by a dinghy, we have no idea how much swing the owner’s boat will have when (or if—more about that later) it returns.

Funny story. I was caught out in Garden Bay when I went to anchor in our favourite spot off the Royal Van docks. Our spot was occupied by an old aluminum boat tied to what I thought was a mooring buoy. So I grumbled a bit and anchored some distance over with lots of room for the owner of the mooring buoy to tie up a fairly large boat. Half a day later the aluminum boat was ominously closing in on me, and I was starting to doubt my ability to judge distances again. That evening the owner showed up in a slightly larger aluminum and told me that in fact the float marked the end of his (permanent) 150 foot anchor rode and that we were destined to go bump in the night. So we moved.

What this does illustrate —even though it was, in the end, not so much about mooring balls — is that if permanent moorages are made badly or thoughtlessly, they are just plain stupid. We’ve all experienced an anchorage where the first few people in haven’t been overly considerate and a cove that could hold 10 boats now only has room for 4. But that situation resolves itself eventually as people move on. When people are being thoughtless about where they drop their permanent mooring, then an anchorage can be virtually ruined for anyone else on a permanent basis. Not cool.

Mooring ball or anchor? You tell me…

And since the balls are private, they take up the space even when not being used. And I know for a fact that some of these moorings go unused for long periods of time. I even know of a few people who have dropped moorings in places on the off chance they may need them later and have no intention of using them. I suppose some people will go ahead and tie up to one of these private balls anyway and move on if the owner comes back, but that’s not really my schtick. Especially if it involves an already-crowded space and the potential of having to relocate in the middle of the night. So all that previously useful communal anchorage space is now taken up by a bunch of seldom-used or unused private mooring balls. Talk about inefficient.

So What’s the Answer?

Sure some of them are park buoys, but those are mostly empty. Except for a few anchored boats, the rest are private ones in one of my favourite anchorages.

Realistically? There isn’t one. Like all Parker Ridge Effect scenarios, growth in popularity and ease of access means the amount of people wanting cheap moorage will continue to grow and transients are, by their very nature, at a disadvantage. The congestion is just going to continue and likely get worse; unless we start spending tons of tax dollars on regulation and enforcement — and frankly, it wouldn’t work any better than posting speed limits prevents speeding. And to be fair, I guess that a lot of cruisers occupy the “tourist” slot and it’s not unreasonable for them to contribute to local economies by paying for their moorage. But we took up cruising to avoid that “tourist” stigma, and I while I enjoy a day at the docks hobnobbing and sampling the local wares, I would much rather swing on my hook in Mark Bay and stare at the lights of Nanaimo, happily self-sufficient. That is, until there’s no more room left for me.

Disclaimer: a lot of the preceding is based on my own personal knowledge and interpretation of the rules governing mooring and I did some background research but make no guarantees about the completeness or accuracy of the facts as I state them.

21 Jun

Spring 2017 Roundup

April 20–June 16

Well, we are back from our first—and likely only—cruise this year. And I think I can safely say it was a success. We saw some new anchorages, hiked some new trails, met some new people, had some great sails (and finally some good downwind ones) and learned quite a few things.

Quick Numbers

  • 58 days
  • 8 (-ish) weeks
  • 434.8 nm (805.3 km) travelled
  • 26 days traveling
  • 8 marinas visited
  • 20 nights in a marina (only 8 were paid for—the other nights were in our home berth)
  • 33 nights at anchor
  • 5 nights on the hard
  • 0 nights on a mooring ball
  • 7 new anchorages visited
  • 5 popular Desolation Sound anchorages that we had to ourselves
  • 1 new marina visited
  • 120′ of new G4 chain
  • 4 new motor mounts
  • 2 pieces of teak refinished
  • 0 whales, dolphins or any other large sea mammals :-(
  • 681 images captures
  • 333 film clips (62 gigabytes of files)

Our Summary

We had so wanted to make it back to the Broughtons, but after talking to a few of the marinas up there about services in April, and the fact that Leslie was going to break up our trip by flying to YYZ at the end of May, we decided to limit our trip to Desolation Sound. And it was magnificent. Over and over again we had popular places like Smuggler Cove, Garden Bay, Laura Cove, Squirrel Cove and Teakerne Arm all to ourselves. For the first 25 days our definition of a busy anchorage was 4 boats. And when we headed south in mid-May you could see the stream of bigger boats heading north and we smirked in self-satisfaction.

Sure there was rain. And cold. But on average we saw some blue sky every second day and there were always times we could go for a hike or walk without being poured on. We quickly settled into a 13° C rule (55° F). If the temperature in the cabin was 13° or lower when we (I) crawled out of the berth, then we fired up the Webasto diesel heater. If it was 14° (60°F) or higher, we just boiled water for tea and toughed it out with blankets.

And the weather meant we moved a bit more than previous trips since there was less lolling around in the sun. In the past we have tended to try to stay 4 nights and max out our battery capacity before heading to a marina to do a bulk recharge. But since we were only staying in anchorages 2-3 nights, generally the couple of hours engine time going from one anchorage to another was enough to recharge the batteries sufficiently to keep ahead of the dreaded 50%-discharged level. And that saved us tons of marina fees.

The only downside of the trip was we when we both caught colds and discovered that rain + colds + wilderness anchorages = misery. So we spent a few unnecessary days tied up at an off-season resort (cheap!) and pampered ourselves with unlimited heat and hot showers.

And we had some great sails. Maybe not as many as we had expected, but it was nice to sail in moderate winds for once. It seems too often on this boat, we have sailed in light winds or reefed down and holding on for dear life. And we got some good downwind sails in 10–20 knots — and I finally experienced the real deficiency of the B & R rig. In Ganges, I ran into a fellow with Hunter 380 who had spent ~$9000 to add a slick roller-furling gennaker to compensate for the poor direct-downwind performance, but at that price, I think I will stick to just gybing my way downwind. At least cranking in the main over and over is good exercise.

Conclusion

Will we do the early-season trip again? I sure hope so. We had a ton of fun and there were very few negatives. If we can continue to cover most of our boat ownership costs with July-August-September charters, then having the boat for up to 2 and half months in the shoulder seems a perfect solution. This year we were off mid-June because we had a charter booked for the last two weeks of the month, but I might consider not doing that next year as it would be nice to finish off the cruise with some really warm days for ourselves. But then again, maybe not. We had some nice days and I remember all those boats heading north—I wonder if we might be turning into sailing misanthropes? Oh well, there is always Alaska.

Now all I have to do is see if there is anything worth posting in all that video I shot.

The Interactive Map

I broke the map up into three legs: Desolation Sound, our return via the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands. You can see some of the stats from the Navionics tracks from the sidebar or if you go to the Google maps site, although they aren’t completely trustworthy as I run Navionics on my old iPad and it has a tendency to crash—so I have to go in later and edit the tracks by hand thus screwing up the stats. There seriously has to be a better way…

Itinerary

20-Apr Stones 19-May Smuggler Cove
21-Apr Stones 20-May Smuggler Cove
22-Apr Stones 21-May Gibsons
23-Apr Stones 22-May Gibsons
24-Apr Nanaimo Harbour, Newcastle 23-May Plumper Cove
25-Apr Nanaimo Harbour, Newcastle 24-May Plumper Cove
26-Apr Smuggler Cove 25-May Nanaimo Harbour, Newcastle
27-Apr Smuggler Cove 26-May Stones Boatyard
28-Apr Garden Bay 27-May Stones Boatyard
29-Apr Garden Bay 28-May Stones Boatyard
30-Apr Westview 29-May Stones Boatyard
01-May Copeland Islands 30-May Stones Boatyard
02-May Melanie Cove 31-May Stones
03-May Melanie Cove 01-Jun Stones
04-May Squirrel Cove 02-Jun Stones
05-May Squirrel Cove 03-Jun Clam Bay
06-May Cassel Lake/Von Donop 04-Jun Clam Bay
07-May Von Donop 05-Jun James Bay, Prevost Island
08-May Taku Resort 06-Jun James Bay, Prevost Island
09-May Taku Resort 07-Jun James Bay, Prevost Island
08-May Octopus Islands 08-Jun Ganges
11-May Octopus Islands 09-Jun Russell Island
12-May Octopus Islands 08-Jun Russell Island
13-May Laura Cove 11-Jun Sidney
14-May Lund 12-Jun Montague
15-May Lund 13-Jun Montague
16-May Texada Island Boat Club 14-Jun Stones
17-May Garden Bay 15-Jun Stones
18-May Garden Bay 16-Jun Stones


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.

27 May

My First Big Mistake

It was in fact, not much of a mistake. Or maybe not a mistake at all. Really just a moment of inattention while trying something new that, compounded with a lot of other small things, snowballed; and then it all just seemed to gather more and more way as time progressed. I guess that’s how you learn things; I certainly have.

How it Happened

We crossed the Strait of Georgia in winds that varied from 10-20 knots motorsailing because we wanted to charge up the batteries. As we pulled into Nanaimo Harbour the winds were still blowing 15 and we circled around to find a nice spot to drop anchor. Since the sails were up and the wind steady I decided to practice anchoring under sail. Every time we come here there seems to be more and more boats on private moorings appearing and a quite a few that seem to be permanently anchored. It makes harder on us transients. I chose a spot behind a small sailboat that looked like it was on a rope rode, killed our forward momentum as we turned into the wind and signalled Leslie to go ahead and drop the anchor.

And this is when I made the critical decision. Every single other time I have anchored a boat — every, single, time — at this point I have put the engine into gear in reverse and backed away as the rode ran out over the anchor roller. But the wind was up and I, fatefully, had decided to let the wind blow us down and try and set the anchor without using the engine. And it worked. The wind slowly swung us beam to the wind as we drifted downwind and then the anchor caught, swung us around by the bow and we were set.

Now the details become important. Because the wind and waves were up while we were crossing the Strait I had let the dinghy painter out to almost its full extent (around 25 ft) — which was a lot more than I usually do. And since when anchoring I didn’t motor in reverse like I usually do, the dinghy wasn’t pulled alongside and out of the way. And since the propellor wasn’t turning and we were drifting so slowly, the painter (the floating line that attaches the dinghy to the boat) gathered alongside the leeward side near the stern and (apparently) under it.

All good so far, but then I decided that I would set the anchor a bit more with the engine since the anchorage was crowded, the winds were up, and I wanted a good night’s sleep…hah. I put the boat in reverse and started to increase the revs. “Whuzzz…Bang!” And then silence. The engine had died…stalled, as it wound the painter around the propellor shaft, tried to suck the dinghy under the boat and then gave up trying.

My newly sharpened blade…

I pushed down on my incipient panic, confirmed with Leslie we actually had a set anchor and took a deep breathe and examined the situation. We were in a pretty good spot although I was wary of another small boat off our stern that seemed to be  on a rope rode. And there was another, bigger sailboat about  100 feet off our stern—plenty of room. First off we grabbed a spare line and cut the dinghy free from its bow down position nearly under the stern— ironically I had spent part of the crossing sharpening the blade on my multi-tool because I wasn’t sure it had been sharp enough to cut a line quickly in an emergency situation. Well I proved it was now. Dinghy secured, I tried tugging on the remainder of the painter but it wasn’t going anywhere.

I decided to give Ian at NYCSS a call for some advice. He suggested that perhaps we could unwind the rope by hand if one person twisted the shaft below while another tugged on the line from behind the boat. Back in the aft cabin I noticed the after engine cover had vibrated loose and I set it aside, then tried to twist the propellor shaft just above the stuffing box. But it wasn’t going anywhere. Another call to Ian got me the name and number of a local diver (Menno from Aquarius Marine) and the offer of a mask if I wanted to try and cut it free myself. I called Menno.

I left a message on his machine and started the engine up to make sure all was well. It seemed to be but did sound a bit different. Then I went below to clean up. But for some reason the back engine cover wouldn’t fit back on. That’s when I noticed the exhaust elbow was an inch or so further back than usual and apparently that’s why the panel wouldn’t go back on. F@ck. Really. I had managed to avoid swearing until that point but really…my motor had moved? F@ck.

I pulled up the front engine cover and checked the motor mounts. Now I have never really looked at my motor mounts before so I had no idea what they were supposed to look like but nothing seemed snapped or broken— although the heavy black rubber pads certainly seemed distorted into odd shapes. So I called Ian again. We determined that the line, winding around the shaft had wound around the space between the prop and the bearing and then started pulling the shaft out until the engine stalled. Since I hadn’t really started to rev the engine everything should — should — be fine but were were going to have to haul her out to be sure. And since the winds were still blowing, we were better off waiting until the next day to try towing her down the narrow channel to Stones.

We lowered the outboard onto the dinghy just in case and a few minutes later Menno called back and offered to come out anyway and try and cut the line, but I decided to just wait. When Leslie popped her head up and let me know that high tide the next day was at 6 am and that it was a new moon so that meant the low tide at noon would likely mean the lift at Stones was inaccessible for most of the day, I almost reconsidered Menno’s offer. We decided a beer was in order and hit the Dinghy Dock Pub for some comfort food and alcohol. Ian called while we were there and said the schedule for the boat lift was indeed stacked up and we would have to wait and try and get Never for Ever lifted around 4:30 in the afternoon as the tide came back in. So we went back to the boat, had a quiet evening and went to bed with the winds dying and all seemingly calm.

Consequence Two

All in all I was pretty calm. Usually stuff that I lose control over freaks me out a bit but so far I had been handling the stress with unusually (for me) little anxiety. So we drifted off to sleep pretty easily, rolling gently.

“CLANK!”

I was out of bed with barely muted “Ah F@ck…” and up the companionway moments later. It was just after midnight and a lovely Bayfield 36  (the bigger boat that used to be 100 feet behind us) was almost alongside with its long, elegant bowsprit having just banged into our not-so-elegant bow pulpit. It was dead calm and the Bayfield’s rope ride was completely slack. I had no idea if it’s anchor had broken loose or it was just too long and was crossed with ours. I grabbed it’s rail and held on, considering my options.

For some reason Leslie had not woken up and the despite the noise, my walking around on her deck and shining my light in the ports of the Bayfield, no one had emerged. So there I stood, boat in hand pondering just how ridiculous this was. Eventually Leslie emerged sleepily wondering why I was missing and grabbed me a line. I tied off the Bayfield to our midship cleat and popped in a few fenders. Then I gave Nanaimo Harbour Authority a call on the VHF and failing that, phoned their land line. No luck, despite the fact that a few years ago, they were responsible for my very first rude awakening aboard when they had banged the anchor on their patrol boat on our in the middle of the night scaring the hell out of me. I guess they don’t work nights in the early season?

The machine at the Harbour Authority did have a 1-800 emergency number and/or a star-16 cell number. Given that I had no ability to maneuver and that casting off a potentially loose boat in a crowded harbour in the middle of the night seemed contra-indicated, I figure this constituted a bit of an emergency. Turns out that star-16 is the Coast Guard emergency line… oh. I didn’t know that. Embarrassed, I babbled an apology and explanation to the nice operator — really, I hadn’t thought this was Coast Guard level quite yet — and she took all my particulars and details and said she would see if she could contact someone, promising to call me back.

By this time Leslie and I had mostly decided that just properly rafting up the two boats for the night was the best solution and I had just started to get the lines and fenders out when a head finally emerged from the companionway of the Bayfield. Seems the young fellow was a sound sleeper. A very sound sleeper. He seemed to grasp the situation pretty readily and was instantly apologetic. I didn’t think it was any of his fault, although when I found out that he had 200 feet of rope rode out in a busy anchorage that was 25’ deep at most, I did scratch my head a bit. Even then it really wasn’t his fault—after all, I had laid my anchor line over his, not vice versa.

We fiddled and pulled and eventually came to the conclusion that the rafting plan was the best thing for now and we could deal with the rest in the morning. So I grabbed my cell, noticed a missed call (I had the stupid Do Not Disturb mode on…bugger) and called the Coast Guard back to inform them that the Bayfield was not in fact unmanned and let them know our solution. I guess they must get all sorts of calls like this because it didn’t seem to phase them and they even thanked me. Then we finished tying up the two boats and retreated to our respective berths.

Day Two

The next morning started early. Our new companion was up at 6 am to cast off and we started hauling rode (he had no windlass). Our chain was lying across his but we managed to lift it off with a boathook and he was free. We cast him off and he moved over to the edge of the anchorage to reanchor.

Then we relaxed for a few hours before heading into town to run some errands. On the way back we checked out low tide at Newcastle Island. It’s a new moon low tide, only .3 feet (that’s the Canadian low, low water), and almost no water between Protection Island and Newcastle: freaky.

Around 3pm, I rigged up a bridle and Ian and crew came out from Stones (Nanaimo Yacht Charters) in their chase boat and we got ready to go. We hauled the chain rode by hand (we being mostly them, but I did help near the end) and we were off. Ten minutes later we were entering the marina and Ian skillfully and gently towed us along the dock by the boat lift.

After a short wait Never for Ever was airborne and my little mistake was on display for all to see. They put her up on stands because now it was end-of-day Friday and likely now no one would look at her until Monday. We did cut through the line though, and the propellor shaft shot back 2 inches. There was a lot of tension created by that wound line — it acted almost like an impromptu gear puller.

And so…

Well unfortunately, while the engine did settle back—mostly, the motor mounts are hatched. All four will need to be replaced as well as the shaft saver — the coupler that attaches the transmission to the propellor shaft. As far as we can tell everything else is good but we won’t know for sure until we get her back in the water—probably not until Tuesday.

I didn’t ask how much this was going to cost, because frankly I don’t want to know right now and and Ian was trying to console me with the fact the motor mounts were likely going to have to be replaced in the next year or so anyway. I will keep telling myself that.

As for me, Leslie got on a plane to Toronto for five days and I will get to learn what living on the hard is like. So far I can’t say I am enjoying it all that much. But…c’est la vie or at least, that’s boat life… I’ve repaired the dinghy painter, filled a few holes in the fiberglass, scraped and sanded down some teak to revarnish, and taken the anchor and rode down to hopefully replace the chain… I guess I will keep busy until we are back in the water.

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.