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. 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, 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.

09 May

Spring Cruising: The April Edition

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Our first real experience with boating in the PNW was a Powerboat Cruise and Learn in late April. We motored the Gulf Islands for a week learning the ropes (literally) and learning the basics. Since then we seem to have spent a lot of time aboard in May and June, and I have to say I am really not sure the warmth of July and August are enough to offset the benefits of early-season cruising.

Anchoring Out

Now this is where the real joy is. Smuggler Cove: we had it to ourselves. Garden Bay: again we were the only boat anchored out. We had the entire Copeland Islands chain to ourselves. Prideaux Haven had one, yes one, boat in it, and we shared Melanie Cove with one other boat, both of us swinging in the centre. We stayed two nights in Squirrel Cove and shared it with two other boats the first night and absolutely no one the next. Last time I was in Squirrel Cove it was August and I think there were close to two hundred boats anchored there. The difference is simply mind blowing.

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Teakerne Arm, Rebecca Spit, Von Donop Inlet: all the same. Occasionally there will be another boat there, but if you stay a few days you inevitably get the place to yourself. And as we meet more and more of the other boaters, they all say the same thing: spring is the time to be cruising, especially Desolation Sound.

You get the opportunity to visit a lot pf places without the stress of a large audience watching you screw up your stern tie (our first attempt in the deep water off Cassel Lake Falls is a story in itself) or worrying about finding a place to spend the night. It also means you can swing freely in places where you might otherwise have to stern tie.

Enjoy it all

It’s a bit too early for good fishing unless you have a down rigger, and the whales are just returning, but there is still plenty to enjoy, especially if you like puttering around the shores. Eagles are everywhere and the clear, undisturbed water is teeming with life from Lion’s Mane jellyfish to coral. We’ve seen more sea cucumbers in the past week than I have ever seen before.

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The trails are wet and occasionally a bit challenging, but I entertained myself by clearing deadfall to make the walk easier for the next hikers and by keeping an eye on the ground for all the flora and fauna to be seen. I love wildflowers and spring affords me the opportunity to see a whole new range of them and practice my bad photography. Even the lichens are in bloom!

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And the colours are fantastic. The days are already getting pretty long, and the play of sun and clouds across the mountains and water creates some pretty mesmerizing and ethereal scenes. Words aren’t enough and I’m just not a good enough photographer to capture the beauty. You have to see it for yourself. Really.

So what do you need?

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Let’s start with a little background. Never for Ever is a 2003 Hunter 386. She has all the common amenities: gas stove, fridge and freezer, BBQ, head, etc. In addition to that she has a diesel fired Webasto hydronic heater with 3 separate “zones.” That allows us to heat the boat any time we want, although when all the fans are running she is using about 6 amp/hrs (that means that if we run it for 2 hours we use about 12 amp/hrs which is about a quarter of our normal daily allotment). We also have the best-ever fleece sheets that make crawling into a cold bed a non-issue. In addition we have tons of candles and a little candle/clay pot heating system that can take the chill off an evening as the sun goes down.

In the cockpit we have most of a full enclosure (because the mesh side panels don’t completely block the wind). Best of all, the two clear panels that attach to our dodger almost completely block any wind when underway. And while the bimini does leak a bit where it attaches to the arch, we are generally snug and dry in the cockpit even if it is raining.

Back to batteries. We have enough capacity to last four days without plugging in or firing up the engine if we are miserly with the heat, and three days if we stay warm. And it’s often warmer out in the morning sunshine than it is below so we can abandon the cabin if it’s cool but not cold enough to bother with the heater. What’s too cold? 10° C sends me running for the heater when I wake up and 13° C probably means we’ll tough it out with a nice hot coffee/tea to get us started.

What’s This Got to Do with Spring Cruising?

Well, it’s important to realize that for us, in a moderately equipped boat, cruising in the early months is a lot like camping in the mountains. It can be cold and damp at night, but the days generally make up for it — with the occasional rainy day spent relaxing under canvas. A fancy powerboat with a generator can probably leave the heat on continuously and may have lots of canvas-enclosed “sunrooms” that make it all more luxurious. As in the aforementioned camping reference, the trick is to stay dry, layer up and use positive words like “brisk” and “invigorating.”

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But if you can accept the fact that you are going to wear layers, enjoy a splash of rain now and again, and expect to need an extra quilt or two, then there is lots to recommend about cruising the PNW in April and May and very little to fear.

Weather

It’s not that bad. Really. This year we headed up to Desolation Sound in mid-April and we have averaged rain two or three days a week, but it often happens over night or early in the day. Some of our best days have seen us getting up to steady rain and motoring for a few hours as it clears to have fantastic sunny weather when we arrive to explore our new anchorage. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 15–16°C range, which is plenty warm if the sun is out. The nights can get cold, but bring your favourite down sleeping bag and you won’t care. And the sound of rain at night is soothing.

The winds are good if you are a sailor. and not all that bad if you don’t mind bashing into a 20-knot head wind occasionally (we don’t). And the distances to most places are so short (an hour or two) that even a bad day doesn’t last long.

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I do think early-season cruising should be more of a relaxed affair—the more time you have, the better. That way bad weather days are spent relaxing or walking a rainforest in the rain (which I firmly believe everyone should do at least once in their life). If you don’t have the time to outwait the weather (rarely longer than a day or two), then some destinations can be a bit more difficult.

Marinas and Resorts

The other thing to be aware of is that a lot of places aren’t open yet or have limited services. Contrary to expectation, trying to get space at public docks like Chemainus or Westview in Powell River is actually harder since they have not yet opened up space for the summer transient traffic. The restaurant at Gorge Harbour isn’t open for dinner, Refuge Cove has only limited services and, if you go further north, most of the places in the Broughtons like Port Harvey or Pierre’s will have dock space but few or no supplies available.

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On the other hand, Taku Resort off Rebecca Spit has off-season rates, which means you can afford to tie up there. And Heriot Bay is similarly inexpensive at just over a dollar a foot. This makes supply and laundry days much more affordable if you are out for any length of time.

A couple of days ago we pulled into the public dock at Squirrel Cove and tied up. We did some resupply, washed all of our laundry and recharged our almost-dead batteries and were off to the main anchorage four hours later. No competition for space and no rushing. Glorious.

So What’s Stopping You?

I realize some of us don’t have much time, and “wasting” it on a spring cruise rather than waiting until high summer seems shortsighted or foolish. I just don’t think it is. It all depends what you want out of the experience. I value serenity and beauty, solitude and newness. Others might prefer the more social aspects of hanging out in a big anchorage with dozens of other boats, and I will admit that occasionally I wish we had some other boats around to entertain me. After all, we are all part of a community.

Still, if I wanted warmth and sunshine and crowds, I would likely spend my money in Mexico or the Caribbean. What the PNW offers is beauty and more beauty. A sense of wild, untouched landscapes and the opportunity to explore them at my own pace. Oh, if I can swing it, I will definitely come back in July and August, but I truly don’t think that the opportunities afforded by an early-season cruise should be missed by anyone who can afford to give it a try.

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25 Apr

Whose Boat Is It?

A Summary — after revisiting our boat for the first time

We landed in YVR and took a cab to the South Terminal and Seair’s docks. The only real excitement was that I had stowed my reader laxly in the front pouch of my backpack and after it toppled off the pile of luggage, I no longer had a functional ereader. Luckily I have all the books stored on both my phone and laptop, so recovery would be easy.

A 15-minute flight across a glassy calm Strait of Georgia and we had landed in Nanaimo where it was raining intermittently. We humped our luggage the two hundred yards to Stones Marina and went searching for our keys. The folks at Nanaimo Yacht Charters have opened up a chandlery on site in addition to their boat yard, and the keys were waiting at the front counter. Then, after a little less than a year, we were back aboard Never for Ever.

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First Impressions

It was weird. Lovely, but weird. The boat seemed barren: missing all the small comforts with the enclosure packed away and small reminders of her long winter sleep everywhere. She was “ready” to go but not for us.

As we hauled our bags in and started poking around, one thing became pretty obvious. She wasn’t same boat we had left behind. It was the small things like a different winch handle, a new fender, new cutlery and even new garbage cans that soon started to irritate us. After living aboard for a year we had grown accustomed to a certain routine and the small things were going to dictate that these routines would have to change or adapt. There was no logical reason to change out our small, squat bathroom garbage container that wouldn’t tip for a tall, unwieldy one that didn’t fit anywhere in the head. Was there?

It didn’t last long—the irritation, that is. We just need to make the mental shift from boat owners to charter boat owners. While Never for Ever is still ultimately “our” boat, she is no longer our boat. She belongs to a wider community now and has more than one set of caretakers making decisions based on a broader set of criteria. I’ve run into this at jobs a lot; as long as I’m the sole decision maker, things get done my way. As soon as there is a team, I have to make allowances for how things get done and base my definition of success on whether the team accomplishes the goal, not how. I can do that. Eventually.

Adding Stuff

The boat was prepped for charter so there was a full set of sheets and towels aboard. We decided to forgo immediately hitting our storage locker and instead go buy some provisions.

Two things. We didn’t check what was already supplied and we didn’t check our (deliberately extensive) lists of what was in storage. My excuse is we were tired and just wanted to get it done. So we hopped in the courtesy car and headed out. Unbeknownst to me L’s intention was to hit a Chapters first so I could replace my ereader. We ended up driving a few miles further down the Island Highway than I had intended, passing a SaveOn, a Thrifty Foods and yet another SaveOn before we reached our destination. A hundred dollars or so later we were finally wandering up and down the aisles looking for the perfect size package of rice— not so small that we would run out early, not so big that we would have too much left over after two months.

As I mentioned our failure to follow the “prior planning prevents…” maxim I so enjoy spouting meant that I didn’t realize we had tons of foil and ziplock bags aboard and things like salt and pepper and cling wrap — and more foil — in storage. We didn’t waste that much money, but it is a bit irritating to make mistakes you had gone out of your way to try to prevent. C’est la vie, I guess.

Back on board we stowed our purchases, desperately trying to remember where things went and failing. We knew the brown sugar was in the wrong place but neither of us could remember where the right place actually was. This happened again and again until we gave up and just started stuffing things in lockers. Which, now that I look back, is pretty close to what we did the first time we provisioned the boat.

Then we stowed most of our gear, stuck the rest in the garage (v-berth), made the bed and crashed for the night.

Retrieving Stuff

The next morning started with a lot of running around and by the time we knew it we were needed at the head of the dock to go have lunch with L’s parents.

Eventually we made it back the dock and grabbed a cart. Time to start hauling. We had both silently decided not to bring most of the stuff back on to the boat and then be both not so silently reneged on those intentions. Every bin contained something that would make the boat a little bit more homey — a little bit more ours — and so it all made its way down. The only things we left behind were spare pillows, the blue-and-gold duvet, the set of fleece sheets and the other sets of extra sheets.

Down at the boat we unpacked each bin — we’d been diligent and efficient last spring and they were all labeled. I think maybe four or five items went back into the bins to head back up. As we unpacked we stowed the gear, trying to remember where everything went. Over the next few days a lot of stuff shuffled as we slowly remembered where we had stowed things…usually when we unconsciously went to grab something and it wasn’t where it seemed it should be.

And we did go back and grab the fleece and cotton sheets a bit later, leaving the locker essentially empty.

And after all that the boat slowly transformed from a strange and slightly alien environment to once again take on the warmth and familiarity of home. It’s weird how a glass jar of pens or a shelf of books can redefine your space. By the end of the day we were home…mostly.

Whose Stuff Is It?

As soon as we arrived I started going through lockers to see what was what. I found a couple of new buckets, then found the old ones crammed way back in the transom locker. The bits and pieces of random line I had left behind were gone and replaced with new and different bits and pieces of random line. Half our kitchenware had been replaced with new substitutes (like our lovely red kettle), and the safety gear that had been stuffed in one locker was scattered among many. The silverware was new as were the trays it was stowed in, our cheap 4-slice Coleman toaster was gone, replaced by one of those lovely compact single-slice toasters (while we appreciated the “upgrade,” who wants to make one slice of toast at a time?), and our two glass and four plastic wine goblets had been replaced by a matching set of — smaller— plastic wine glasses. All in all it was an improvement over what we had left behind but, in another way, it was just not what we had left behind. And that was something akin to irritating.

As time wears on you notice more and more. Our low profile Camfano heater was replaced by a smaller yet taller model. I liked the Camfano :-(

And the small things get under your skin more. The properly sized frypan had been replaced by a larger and more cumbersome (albeit more practical for larger groups) frying pan that negated the ability to use all three burners. And our dish rack was missing, which changed the ritual of doing dishes. And the rituals are important and change is bad and well…

All this pettiness really did have the potential to start to sour. I was actually surprised how much I cared. But in the end, a deep breath or two, and actual conversation reminding ourselves of the difference between expectations and perceived reality, we started to settle. The boat was ours. But it was obvious the the stuff was not, and could not be, ours any longer. Not if the charter company was going to be able to provide consistent and quality service to their (and I suppose our) customers.

Some of this extended to larger boat systems as well. A winch handle had been changed out, one of our propane tanks was different, the tie down for the outboard was missing and we’d acquired an extra fender. They had even repainted the measurements on the anchor rode, but used a different system.

Over the few days at the base we kept bumping into things that weren’t quite right and kept reminding ourselves that the wrongness resided in our viewpoint and not the reality we were struggling against. It mostly worked and we mostly got used to it. And of course the people at NYCSS are great and never once looked askance at our constant notes and emails enquiring into this, that and the other thing.

Fixing Stuff

Like all boats, some things needed to be fixed. It’s interesting to note that while all the big systems had been well maintained, a lot of smaller items had escaped notice. For example, the corroded seal in the windlass had been dealt with (saving me a few boat bucks since the parts for the old Simpson Lawrence were hard to get and I’d been afraid we would have to replace the whole thing), a few leaks (which had apparently been a bigger problem than usual with the unusually wet winter) had been fixed, the cushions were cleaned and all the mechanicals serviced and maintained. But we noted right away that the dinghy painter was worn in the centre, two of the bungie cords for holding locker lines were frayed and worn, the tether for the water filler cap was broken off and the knob on the BBQ regulator was stuffed in a cockpit locker and cracked in half.

It makes sense. All of those little items were either too small to attract attention or not likely to be noticed unless you were using the associated system. We’ve spent four days settling in so far and I am still coming across small things like this. The only real issue was a white-and-black wire that had snapped off the ring connector on the buss bar in the aft cockpit locker. I have no idea what it did as everything seemed to be working, but I had them recrimp a new connector anyway. And now the shower drips annoyingly when there is pressure in the line—I guess I will have to fix that. Not having my tools (see previous post) is totally annoying.

I bought 40 feet of floating poly line and replaced the dinghy painter, replaced one of the fender lines and screwed back on a panel that had been missed. NYCSS dropped off a new outboard lock, a replacement winch handle and a new knob for the BBQ. We took a look at the filler cap tether and decided it would take too much effort to fix so tabled it for now, and they dug up the missing cushions for the settee after we noticed they weren’t aboard.

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The List Continues

We finally cast off for the short trip down the channel to anchor in Nanaimo Harbour. The sun came out and the winds died and it was a beautiful day. And the list of things that had changed continued to morph. The smoke detector was missing. Granted, it was irritatingly sensitive, but was it missing because it was broken or because they just forgot about it when repairing the leaks? The engine alarm didn’t sound when I shut down the engine, which is a bit worrisome. And my funnel for refilling engine oil was gone. That’s annoying.

But we are off. And it’s aboard our very own boat that is now messily cluttered with our stuff and frankly, who cares what toaster we use. What’s important is what we bring with us in our souls and minds and what we leave behind as we move forward.

The conclusion? I’m satisfied and so’s my perennially sensitive co-skipper. We are declaring our charter partnership a success for now and are just happy to go sailing.

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13 Apr

Liveaboard vs Cruising: The Problem with Stuff

One week and counting.

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

Moving Stuff

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

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

What’s The Problem

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

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

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

The sailing gear box at home.

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

Small Things Make a Big Difference

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

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

But Is That Really the Issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But At the End of the Day

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

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

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

 

09 Mar

This year’s wish list

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

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

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

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

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

Old List

Generator/100 amp alternator

Wifi Booster

AIS

Hammock

Code 0 sail

Dyson Mini Vac

Water maker

New List

Generator/solar

Wifi booster (cell phone booster)

TV and a way to stream to it.

Range finder (binoculars)

Stadium Seats

LED lights (more)

Stone baking ware

Some things haven’t changed. And some have.

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

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

25 Feb

A Tale of Two Videos

Nanaimo Yacht Charters has taken a brand new Lagoon 42 into its fleet — man that’s one beautiful boat, I really, really want to take it for a spin — and the owner has been busy trying to promote it with a Youtube Channel and a Facebook Page. One of the things he has done is shoot a few videos with Ian and Beth MacPherson, two of the principles over at NYCSS. Well, for those who don’t know it it, one of the ways I’ve made my living is as a graphic professional and frankly, the graphics on those videos were killing me. So since I needed to brush up on my After Effects skills anyway, this spurred me to offer to put together some intro’s and outro’s as a refresher that they could use. This 2 minute video was the result of that.

I also worked on some motion graphics for Never for Ever for my future movie-making efforts and finally posted a video round up of our sailing trip to the Broughtons on my Youtube Channel. It’s a work in progress but I bought a GoPro knock off and hope to do a lot more filming this year.

Then the owner of Water Dragon (the new Lagoon) contacted me to see if he could have a copy of the promo as well. After a bit of back and forth he also gave me the file for the Q & A video (sans intro since I shamefacedly admitted it was that which had spurred me to start editing video again) and used it as another project. I recut it, added a few flourishes, tried to fix the lighting and essentially learned a whole lot about how much I don’t know about Adobe Premiere.

Still, it looks ok and I think it actually is a great video for anyone who is tinkering with the idea of chartering. I certainly would have like to see something like this back when we started toying with the idea of learning to cruise. I really couldn’t believe how easy it was. So take a look. (If you’d like to see the original to compare the before and after,  it can be found here.)

19 Jan

Mid winter checkup

Actually after years at working in a greenhouse I tend to think of this time of year as spring — we’d have finished cleaning out the winter crop of poinsettias and well into planting and seeding crops for the coming summer. It’s stuck with me much to the consternation and confusion of friends and family alike. So, this past week the 2017 Waggoner’s came out — you can pick up your free digital version here and I also decided to take advantage of a Boat Show special and pick up the complete set of Salish Sea Pilots for only $34.95 CAD. And since it’s “spring” and we decided not to head to the Vancouver Boat Show this weekend, I thought I’d start on some 2017 cruising planning.

Our intention, now that the boat is committed to charter, is to try and sail as much as possible from the time exams are over (mid to late April) until the first of July and then leave the boat for charter clients in the high season: July, August and September. Our early season cruise last year turned out just fine and L and I don’t mind the cooler weather, especially since it comes with a dearth of crowds. The first hiccup in that plan however was a couple of weeks ago when NYCSS called me up and asked if they could have the boat for the 19th of June. And, since we had intended an extended cruise beforehand, could they have it several days earlier to do the extra cleaning needed for the turnaround. We talked it over and decided that we could make that work; luckily the exam schedule this year works so that we could head to the coast mid April if we do want full two months for ourselves.

How Long?

And that brings up the first question. Do we want to go cruising for two full months or do we want to just head out for shorter stints? So far I have no commitments that will stop us from heading out, but that also means I will have to turn down anything that comes up between now and then — something I am leery to commit to. If we only go for a shorter period we would likely stay in the Gulf Islands or maybe the San Juans, but there are still plenty of new places left to explore.

The 2017 Hunter Rendezvous is June 1–4 this year and it was a lot of fun the first time we went; I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I’ve also semi-committed the boat to a “boy’s weekend” in Schooner Cove in mid-May which would give me chance to show her off to a bunch of old friends and have some fun. If I did both of these things it would mean making at least two trips out if we didn’t decide to go for the duration. Driving over and over again can get wearying and flying gets expensive (although we would definitely have to drive the first time to haul our gear). For now all we are doing is marking dates on a calendar.

How Far?

Two months might seem like a lot of time to cruise considering we did Vancouver to the Broughtons and back in a 3 week trip a few years ago, but we’ve finally learned to slow down. As charterers ourselves we got caught up in the moving-to-a-new-place-everyday idea since time was limited, but there is a lot to be said of swinging on the hook for three or four days and leisurely taking in all the beauty that is the Pacific Northwest. We are definitely converts to taking it slow. I don’t think I would want to do the trip to the Broughtons in less than a month now and even six weeks seems like a minimum. But with potentially 8 weeks available, where would we like to go?

Exploring Puget Sound is high on my list, but preliminary research makes a lot of it out to be more marina hopping than anchoring out, and we are looking to maintain last year’s ratio of four or five to one (nights anchored to nights on dock). This is because we want to a) save money and b) get the aforementioned “slow” time in. I haven’t ruled it out yet and my visit to Anacortes on NorthWest Passage intrigued me so maybe we will at least give the northern reaches of Puget a try.

I also wanted to spend time in False Creek (Vancouver) last year and we never did. You can pick up a two-week anchoring permit for free online and it might be nice to hang out in Vancouver just for fun. We’ve only ever been at Specialty Yacht Sales’ docks on Granville Island and that was more business than pleasure. it’s pretty central and from there we could head up Indian Arm, Howe Sound, cross back to the Gulf Islands or cruise south into the U.S. All good possibilities.

Desolation Sound is also within pretty easy reach, although last year we were at least a month kicking around there and I enjoyed the pace so I wouldn’t want to do it any faster. But there are still plenty of new places to explore and tons of old ones that I would love to revisit. Definitely a possibility if we decided to take the whole two months. And staying in the Gulf Islands or revisiting Victoria whether we only have two weeks or manage an extended trip is a similar situation, still tons of places to explore.

And of course we could head north to the Broughtons. I haven’t yet looked to see who might not be open in early May and I know the weather would still be quite cold and wet, but if we commit to the whole two months I might be tempted to give it a try. I really love it up there.

Other, less likely, possibilities include circumnavigating Vancouver Island, Heading up the Strait of Juan de Fuca and visiting the Broken Group or Ucluelet or heading up to Bella Bella or Ocean Falls. Any of these might require some investment in equipment and a good weather window but I won’t say no just yet. My successful trip down the coast to LA has made me a bit more adventurous.

To Do’s

I will probably do another post on my “wishlist” for the boat as it is growing more and more extensive, but I do need to consider how much work I want to do on the boat at some point. The more work, the later we take off from the docks. One of the high points of having Never for Ever in charter is that she will be prepped and ready to cruise when we step on the dock. and I don’t actually have to do anything.

But having said that, I do want to do some of the work myself since there are still lots of things about her that I have yet to learn. Ian and the crew at NYCSS are working on my leaky windlass over the winter (they are still hoping to source parts to rebuild it so I don’t have to replace it) and I would like to reinstall it myself. She also has the wiring (and a dvd player) already installed for a tv so I am thinking of buying a cheap 12v unit and mounting it on the bulkhead. The rest of the projects come down to money and I will have to start budgeting.

Decision Time

Luckily we don’t have to decide anything final just yet. The boat is reserved for our use until June 17th and the only pressing thing to consider is registering for the Rendezvous. But Lawrence is adept at squeezing boats in and as much as he’d like us to register early I don’t think he would turn us away if we put it off.

So what does that mean? Well I (we) will continue to think up plans until the perfect one comes along and then we will head out and enjoy our first season as absentee owners. The only thing for sure is that we will go sailing for at least three weeks and then who knows…maybe will get stuck in some far off port. It wouldn’t be the worst thing.

18 Nov

Boat Charter Season Update

Well it’s fall and Never for Ever is all prepped for winter. And that means it’s time to take a look at how her first season in charter went. As a bit of a preface for those of you who aren’t familiar with the charter business, or at least aren’t familiar with the charter business in the PNW, let’s review the business model and expectations.

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The Charter Biz

The boat charter business consists of a partnership between the owners of boats and the charter company operators. The charter company  agrees to market and facilitate their use as charter boats for hire. They also agree to maintain the boats and provide storage, winterization etc. In exchange they take a percentage of the fees charged and also make a profit on any work and maintenance that is done to the boats.

In the PNW, unlike the majority of the rest of the world’s charter business model, a lot of the charter companies actually own some of the boats in their fleets. This can be good and bad I suppose. They might promote their own boats over yours — so I guess not having your boat in direct competition might be good, but it also suggests, at least to me, they have more of a vested interested in the business.

In the Caribbean or other parts of the world where chartering is common, the long charter season means that an owner might potentially make a profit, or at least be able to cover the costs of mortgaging a new boat — there is plenty of arguments online about whether or not this is advisable and I certainly can see a case for not letting every Tom, Dick and Ahab use and abuse your new boat. But here in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, the season is relatively short with only July and August being considered prime earning months with June and September being more of a shoulder season. Therefore the expectation is more one of breaking even, paying the costs of ownership and having someone look after the boat when you are away. And it means there is a room for well maintained, older boats to be placed into charter.

So if you own a fairly popular model, older boat that you wouldn’t mind taking the risk of letting strangers skipper her around the Salish Sea and you can’t use her full time, there are a lot of benefits to considering putting her in charter. A big one for us, since we are 1000+ miles away and in the near future will likely only be sailing on one or two trips a year, is having a boat prepped and ready to go when we arrive. No need to budget a week or more getting her ready. We also receive a minimal discount on work done since Nanaimo Yacht Charters also operates Nanaimo Yacht Services with their own haulout facilities.

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Dollars and Sense

But on to the bottom line. Our insurance was costing us about $900/year, moorage was looking to be around $4000 annually. I am going to throw in another $3000 annually for maintenance (although I think that’s conservative). That means our cost of ownership for the 2016-2017 would be at minimum $7900, not counting any work or maintenance we would need to do. The other option we had considered after we finished our year of living aboard,was selling her. In that scenario, assuming we continued to sail at least 2 weeks every year, we would have been looking at an outlay of around $6000/year. So if we intended to keep getting our sailing fix we would be looking at anywhere from $6000 to $10,000 a year if we hadn’t decided to  put our boat in charter.

But, after just one short season (we turned the boat over at the end of June), our total bill —covering the period until next June — just arrived at it comes in at around only $900. In our favour. That’s right, we actually made a profit. I couldn’t be happier. And we fully intend at this point to spend up to two months sailing her next year in May and June — that would be a $20,000+ touch if we tried chartering.

But let’s break it down. The numbers are approximate and the list of work done isn’t comprehensive, but it will give you a good idea of what went into a three-month season in charter. It also doesn’t bring things like depreciation or lost income from the money if I had invested it in something else besides a boat.

Weeks Chartered Net income
1 $1500
1 $1700
2 $3100
1 $1700
2 $2500
2 $2500
 Total income $13000
Annual costs & Work Completed
repair heater
haulout & zincs
spring cleaning
adjust stuffing box
oil change
new head hoses
new macerator
oil change
work on steering
Annual insurance
12 months Moorage
 12 months Shore power
 Total Costs $12100

 

Total Income $13000
Total Costs $12100
 Total Revenue $900

img_7018Conclusions

So at the end of this season, I walk away with around a thousand dollars for the privilege of owning and using a boat on the magnificent west coast of Canada. Of course I need to replace the windlass and have a few more items on the wish list to do so I wont see any profit after all  but… And there will likely be a bit more in the way of winterization and spring commissioning costs so maybe it would be more fair to call it even for the whole year.  If I was a bit more boat proud or Never for Ever was intended to be my “forever” boat I might be inclined to think that the engine hours and inevitable wear and tear added a significant amount to the actual deficit, but I’m not and it doesn’t really. And since it is an older boat depreciation is much less of a factor than if it was brand new. All I know is that if the domestic situation allows, we will board her again next May and enjoy two months of worry-free sailing and if the luck — and the marketplace — is on our side, next fall I might even walk away with an extra $900  in my pocket instead. And that’s my definition of a good deal.

Update

I just got an email from NYCSS and it turns out they had sold my old spare anchor for me, mistakenly charged me extra GST on my insurance and forgot to bill us for the storage locker we rented. So it turns out rather than $900, they only owe us $600. Still, not too shabby …

Disclaimer: I am a notorious “rounder” of numbers and the most incompetent accountant I know. I actually had to call them to find out if I owed them $900 (like I stated in the original version of this post) or they owed us $900. None of this is intended to provide anymore than a reasonably forthright account of how I view our financial outcomes after our first season. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.


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07 Oct

Vancouver to LA: The Summary

Not So Offshore

In my last post I mentioned I was heading down the coast in a friend’s Baltic 42. The goal was to take it from Vancouver to San Diego so they could join the Baja Haha at the end of October. We allotted approximately 3 weeks for the journey and I imagined that it would primarily  be an offshore trip with two or three legs.

img_8471 Well it turned out that they —and their buddy boat Sea Esta X — decided to loosely follow the “Express Route” as set out in Exploring the Pacific Coast: San Diego to Seattle by Don Douglass and Réanne Hemingway-Douglass. This meant the voyage would mostly be day trips—albeit some fairly long ones— with only a few overnighters.

We got some good downwind sailing and a remarkable amount of motoring. That is, in my lowly opinion, the big downside to harbour-hopping down the coast. The nature of the bars at most of the ports is such that entering and exiting them is often tide and weather dependent: so trying to hit a schedule becomes a bit more important and it’s hard to justify much sailing in light winds.

When we hit Marina del Rey in Los Angeles, it really was time to start taking it easy, so rather than rush the last couple of days to San Diego, I decided to take advantage of the proximity to LAX and fly home from there. Northwest Passage continued on without me and, as of today, I think they still haven’t completed the “two day” trip to San Diego. Good on ’em.

img_8328Bars

Most of the ports on the pacific side of North America are in the mouths of rivers. This generally means you are negotiating breakwaters, dredged channels and bars. Bars are really what can make entering and exiting these ports uncomfortable or even impossible. Bars are formed by the sediments deposited by the rivers outflow and when the incoming swell hits this suddenly shallow area, steep and dangerous waves can occur. Quite often these bars will be closed to small boat traffic and occasionally they will be closed altogether. That means if you arrive at a bar at the wrong time you can’t come in to the harbour and will have to head offshore again to either wait, or move on to the next port in hopes their bar will remain open. The coast guard is constantly going out in these super tough little aluminum boats (47-foot MLBs) to physically check on the conditions and then report them on channel 16.

We were pretty lucky and got into all our ports without incident, although sometimes in the middle of the night, the middle of dense fog, or in one memorable entry, both. There were numerable small boat closures though.

Details?

I blogged about the whole trip in near real time and you can read about it over on macblaze.ca although it intended was more for family and friends and rife with errors and typos. I learned a lot about downwind sailing, saw hundreds of whales, dolphins and sea lions and thoroughly enjoyed myself, with the most memorable moment being alone on deck going around Cape Mendocino at 3 am in 30 knot winds. I’ve also posted a bunch of images at the end of this post.

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map-va-laThe Stats

  • Trip length: 29 days
  • Travel days: 20 days
  • Legs: 16
  • Travel hours: 232:25
  • Total km: 2392.4
  • Total nm: 1291.9
  • Hours motoring: 200 hrs
  • Fuel used 520 L
  • Overnight sails: 3
  • Longest leg: 54 hrs
  • Ports (marinas): 12
  • Anchorages: 4
  • Mooring Balls: 1

The Trip

Day Kilometers Nautical Miles Hours
1 Granville Island, Vancouver to Shallow Bay, Sucia Island (via Point Roberts) 84.4 45.576 5:00
2 Sucia Island to Anacortes, Washington (via Vendovi Island) 45.7 24.678 5:20
3 Anacortes to Neah Bay 165 89.1 15:40
4 Neah Bay to La Push (around Cape Flattery) 76.1 41.094 7:25
5 La Push to Westport Marina, Gray’s Harbor 130 70.2 12:25
6 Gray’s Harbor to Newport, Oregon (overnight) 271 146.34 25.75
7 0 0 0:00
8 0 0 0:00
9 0 0 0:00
10 Newport to Charleston Marina, Coos Bay 151 81.54 13:45
11 0 0 0:00
12 0 0 0:00
13 Coos Bay to Noyo River Basin Marina, Fort Bragg, California (around Cape Mendocino; via Crescent City) 498 268.92 54.00
14 0 0 0:00
15 0 0 0:00
16 Fort Bragg to Bodego Bay 166 89.64 16:25
17 Bogego Bay to Pillar Point Harbour, Half Moon Bay 120 64.8 11:45
18 Pillar Point Harbor to Moss Landing 114 61.56 10:50
19 0 0:00
20 Moss Landing to Morro Bay 212 114.48 20:50
21 0 0:00
22 0 0:00
23 0 0:00
24 Morro Bay to Cojo Bay (around Point Conception) 141 76.14 11:45
25 Cojo Bay to Santa Barbara 71.6 38.664 7:10
26 Santa Barbara to Ventura 43.6 23.544 4:00
27 Ventura to Pacific Mariners Yacht Club, Marina del Rey 103 55.62 10:20
28 0 0:00
29 0 0:00

Google My Maps version

Google My Maps seems to need a Google account to access it, although I can’t prove that. But zoom in if you can and check out some of the harbour entrances and remember most of them were done in the fog or the dark or both.

Some Images

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Humpbacks and grey whales abounded.

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The first part of the trip was often cold and foggy.

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Newport Oregon emerges from the fog

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Entering Coos Bay in the fog

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The old spinnaker cut down to a gennaker. It made for some great (and easy) downwind sailing.

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Morro rock in Morro Bay.

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Cojo Bay anchorage

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And then suddenly, immediately after rounding Point Conception, it was warm

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At anchor in Santa Barbara

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Our last sail of the trip

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Santa Monica Pier from the ocean side

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Malibu from the air

 

15 Aug

Heading Down the Coast

No, we are not taking Never for Ever out into the pacific (yet). But yes, I am heading south aboard a friend’s boat.

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Ever since we managed to basically motor around Vancouver Island, I have been hankering to get back out “offshore” to see if it is something I actually want to do on my own. Well Northwest Passage, the Baltic 42 we did our circumnavigation on, is heading south next month to Zihuatanejo for a few years and they were looking for a hand for the “crappy”part down the west coast of the U.S. before they join up with the Baha Haha in San Diego. After a lot of humming and hawing I finally decided that — YOLO being the philosophy de jour — I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

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There are generally two options once you turn south after exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One is to head offshore 20 miles or so and head strait to San Francisco. This is the most generally popular option because many of the ports available on the rugged Oregon coast are subject to weather and feature some of the roughest weather around — some say in the world. This means sailing 10-14 days straight. The other option, obviously, is to try and harbour hop down and sleep in a harbour most nights, hoping the weather allows getting in close to shore. At this point we are going to be trying for option 2, but I assume that option 1 is always available if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

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After we leave San Francisco, which should be around 2 weeks after leaving Vancouver, we set sail again and make our way to San Diego which is another week away. That leg of the trip offers a lot more options for places to stop. So in a perfect world the trip should take around 3 weeks, with lots of hard sailing and tons of experience for me.

The tentative cast off date is September 1st, weather depending. I will likely fly out the day before and pick up a few personal provisions before board the boat. I haven’t yet decided if I will blog the whole trip or just post a summary when it’s all done. I guess that will be decided by just how much of interest actually happens.