29 Jul

Costs update…

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


27 Jul

The Cat’s Meow


I may have mentioned that there are three crew initially aboard the Never for Ever. There’s myself (Bruce), Leslie and Artemis. No, Artemis didn’t have weird pro-pantheon parents; Artemis is a cat. She’s part Rag Doll, part Norwegian Forest Cat and all over odd. She’s six and a half and recently lost her life-long companion Samantha. We just never considered leaving her behind.

But what do we know about cats on boats? Well, actually nothing. We’d seen one at anchor on Tumbo Island and there’s a few internet boat cats out there of moderate fame but not a lot of solid resources. Dogs seem to be the boaters’ pet-of-choice. There are a ton of them around and we’ve even met a few. And dog advice just doesn’t translate well to cat advice.

But after a little research and a few more discussions, we decided that we couldn’t leave Art behind on our adventure and set out to transform a life-long indoor cat to a boat cat. Luckily we had started letting her out on our upper balcony a few years ago when we moved to the condo, so she was at least fairly used to street noises and smells. Her only traveling though had been to the vet and back and that had been pretty sporadic. So we borrowed a soft carrier from Pedro the Lion (a neighbour cat) and proceeded to take Artemis out for long walks in the park. We also broke out her old harness and leash and let her walk jingling around the house. We had already decided that — aboard — a belled cat was a safe cat.

There was also the small issue that the boat was 1200 miles away and that was a pretty hefty trip for a beginner driver. So we took Artemis for a few short drives. There was little bit of pathetic mewling but, that really didn’t suit her and overall, it went pretty good if the drives weren’t too long. Then we took Art off to the vet to get her shots all up to date (we have intentions of visiting the U.S.) and get any advice from him he could offer. He was very encouraging; he agreed with most of the reading we’ve done that cats are very resilient. It was starting too look like this wasn’t an impossible mission.

A little research suggested switching her litter to pine pellets to try and keep the tracking of litter to a minimum. She didn’t mind the change and kept on with her business as usual. The pellets have a bit of a pine odour that some might find too strong, but since she didn’t mind, neither did I.

Anyway, as these things do, the day of departure arrived. We reserved the back seat for luggage and cat, bought a small litterbox for the floor, added a small food and water dish and arranged everything for the cat’s comfort. We had debated getting a hard carrier but in the end decided as we weren’t taking it on the boat, it was just an additional expense that wouldn’t do much more than the soft one in terms of safety or comfort. So we loaded up the truck with all our worldly possessions — or at least the ones we thought we would need for the next several months — and then loaded the cat in the carrier and the carrier in the truck and headed off at 4 a.m. for the 12 hour plus drive.


The early morning start was partly because we wanted to arrive in Vancouver during the daylight and partly because we thought driving straight through would be easier on Art than trying to overnight in a hotel. It was a good idea in theory. The problem is you wake up tired and never actually recover. I think Artemis was the only one to get any real rest for the next few days as she proved once again that cats are tougher then humans.


The first 3 hours on the road were filled with pathetic mews sporadically drifting out of the cat carrier on the back seat. Leslie tried putting the carrier on her lap but that just made Art more anxious to get out as she pressed her nose against the mesh trying to muscle her way to freedom. Eventually we stopped for a break and a driver change and I decided to let Art out under the strict policy that the back seat was her domain and the front seat verboten. The theory being it would be less stressful to the cat and the slight chance of an accident was worth risking for her (and our) mental health. After some pacing, and bit more complaining about the quality of the accommodations, she eventually settled down atop the pile of luggage where she had the best views and spent the majority of the next 8 hours sleeping with one eye squinked open. Occasionally she would sneak up and retest the “not in the front seat rule” but eventually she gave up.


After we arrived at Granville Island, Artemis was given the run of the cab as we hauled everything down to the boat This actually seemed to make her madder and she huddled in the foot well of the drivers seat. But eventually it was her turn and a quick ride down the docks in her carrier found her introduced to her new home.

When I mentioned Artemis was half Rag Doll I really meant it. She is the most floppy, mellow cat you are ever going to meet. She gives Freida’s cat a good run for cat most like a handbag. And that means when we let her out on the boat she flopped down on the settee and gave us the look, before having a great big bath and the settling down to catch up on her sleep. The new digs were entirely a non-issue. And that pretty much set the tone for the next couple of days.


She was still pretty edgy, but that is mostly general nervousness. We introduced her to a few cubbies and since the dining room table is currently down, the space below makes a terrific cat cave. But generally she is out and about and demanding scratches and attention. We spent 3 days at the dock and it rained quite a bit so she was generally inside catching up on her zzz’s. But when we went out into the cockpit we carried her out with us, all duded up in her harness complete with bell. She was nervous at first and stayed up near the hatch or ducking back down into the boat, but after the second or third time we were out, but left her below, she eventually decided she wanted to be where her people were and came up the companionway on her own. After that she just got braver and more accomodating.


I took her into the dinghy for a little float and she took it fairly well but you could see she would rather be on the bigger boat. The complexity of the physics involved in launching herself upwards off a floating object seemed to escape her, so I made sure I handed her back aboard rather than letting her jump as she seemed prepared to do. She also came out on deck when we  renamed the boat. Her being named after a greek goddess and all we figured she deserved her own tot of champagne (thanks Earl).


Eventually it came time to fire up the engine and cast off. Leslie went below to be with Artemis when I fired up the big noisy diesel. It didn’t seem to bother her outwardly but you could tell she classed it under just an other indignity to endure! She hunkered down in the back cabin for a while until I moved her forward, letting her know that it was quieter there. Crossing the Strait of Georgia took about five and half hours, motoring all the way (except for an abortive attempt at sailing as we passed the north edge of Gabriola Island) and she hung out mainly on the floor in front of the v-berth the whole way occasionally hiding in one of the cubbies below the mattress. After we had anchored we did discover she had been sick, but since hairballs are a semi-regular occurrence with her, it was hard to tell if the motion got to her or it was her usual intestinal cleanse.


Now at anchor, the boat rules currently consist of no kitty on deck without a harness and a supervisor. No clawing anything but approved and supplied clawing surfaces. And no kitties on the transom. This has, of course, made the transom irresistible. She’s literally toeing the line every time I turn to look. But a few gentle swats and constant reminders have seemed to at least made the rule clear. She’s a pretty smart cat. Absolute obedience is another matter entirely. As I said, she’s a pretty smart cat.

So here we sit at anchor for a few days in Nanaimo Harbour. She’s settling in fine and eating well so everyone is happy. And now we will wait and see what the next phase of the adventure brings.

21 Jul

Thing to Consider

Our 2-week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island on Tim Melville’s Baltic 42 may have been a tad disappointing due to a total lack of wind. but we did learn a ton of stuff that should help us in our own adventure. Some of it is pretty obvious and some is just knowledge we already had but needed to actually experience.


6 people on a boat for 2 weeks with no shore leave and no real stops changes how you approach galleys and storage. We tend to maintain an impeccable galley with everything stowed out of sight and away. But Donna didn’t have that privilege with so many supplies. Instead laundry baskets and containers were often left out but wedged in tightly to prevent movement. Every nook and cranny in Baltic had something in it and was arranged for maximum efficiency. This is definitely something we are going to have to work at.



I’ve read a lot about preventers, but never had the opportunity to rig one. It was actually pretty simple. A preventer is simply a method of preventing the boom from swinging (crashing really) back towards the boat when it has been let out. Many of the systems I had read about were complex and involved running lines forward through blocks and back to the cockpit. But on the Northern Passage it was a simple as tying off a line from the end of the boom to the toerail. The downside with this simplified system is you had to go out on deck to tack or drop the sails. But given the light winds (when there was wind) it wasn’t an issue.


We got the spinnaker up  on one of the days. It was a full symmetrical and a real beauty. But it was a pain to get up, a pain to sail with and a pain to get down. I can see how an asymmetrical or even a gennaker would be a much better investment.

The issue is that with a loose foot, you need to pole it out and the pole, baby stay and forestay all had to play nice.  Then it became extremely important to maintain a course relative to the wind so it wouldn’t collapse; which meant that your actual heading was less important than where the wind shifted to.. On top of that, it’s a huge sail and managing it with less than the 4 we had would have taken a lot of practice and technique. But it was fun while it lasted.


Wing on wing

So instead of the spinnaker, we generally ran wing-on-wing downwind. So much easier when you have a preventer rigged and the winds are holding steady. Those two little things made the whole exercise a whole lot more comfortable than the awkward attempts we have previously made.


Close hauled vs beam reach

They say a  broad reach (running 90° to the wind) is the fastest point of sail. But close hauled (running about 30° to the wind—as close as you can get) always seems a lot faster. That’s because you are generally heeled over and the waves are screaming by 6 inches from your ass. What they also say and I never quite internalized is that not only is beam reach (or better yet a broad reach) faster, it is also way more comfortable. It really is. We would be sailing along on a broad reach with a following sea and it felt like we were standing still. But we were actually zooming along at over 6 knots.

But that also makes it more dangerous as you can be way over-canvassed without necessarily realizing it, as the effects of the wind are much less noticeable.

Crab traps

I’ve always disliked crab traps. The ones cluttering up the ocean, not the idea of crab traps themselves, but now I have a positive hate on for them. During the trip we had tons of close calls, especially at night but it was when I ran over one that had a tiny, dirt-encrusted float and wrapped it around the rudder that I got mad. This was a commercial trap—which are huge—and the weight of it brought our boat to a standstill. Luckily it was only around the rudder and we were able to cut it free. But with a bit more bad luck it could have wrapped itself around the propellor shaft and that might of meant having to dive to cut it free.

I am now a huge fan of introducing some legislation making them use big orange floats. Stupid crab traps.

Steamed oysters

And finally steamed oysters. I have learned to really enjoy raw oysters since our first foray two years ago, but every time I have tried them cooked it has left a bad taste in my mouth — literally. But when Tim et al. collected a bunch in the Broken Group we popped them on the BBQ and steam cooked them. A bit of garlic butter and they were scumpdillyicious!



Hopefully there tons more things for us to learn. But for now, we are just a few days from casting off and the waiting is killing us.


18 Jul

Writing a Testimonial

Lawrence asked me if I would provide a testimonial for Specialty Yacht Sales. He’s kind of big on them, and I guess, in his business, creating trust is paramount. And I do have to admit, the existing testimonials were fun to read through, especially now that I have met a bunch of those people.

I am a bit at a loss of what to write, though. I want it to be honest and natural, but ultimately it’s pointless to write anything unless it makes good sell copy for Lawrence’s intended use. And while I have a very positive review overall, it is so unlike me not to be a bit critical. So maybe I will write two … or three…


Specialty Yacht Sales
Twitter: twitter.com/specialtyyachts
Facebook: facebook.com/SpecialtyYachts


Our experience buying a boat with Lawrence and Specialty Yacht Sales has been professional, friendly and ultimately satisfying. They managed a difficult long-distance transaction with relative beginners in a faultless manner and, despite having to represent the interests of the seller, negotiated an arrangement that was fair and beneficial to all the parties. Its conclusion left nothing but satisfaction in its wake.

Then, after the paperwork was signed, Lawrence and his team continued to help bring our dream to fruition, preparing our new Hunter 386 for a year afloat and ensuring we had a safe, comfortable and reliable yacht for us to explore the PNW. He saved us money, time and effort and delivered us a turn-key boat. It’s hard to ask for more than that.

The whole process seemed nothing but intimidating and impossible before we started but in the end, when we accepted the the official transfer of out new boat, it couldn’t have been easier. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the effort and knowledge of the folks at Specialty Yacht Sales.

Now to rephrase all of that with a little bit less “upsell” and a lot more Bruce.


Buying a boat long distance isn’t easy. Buying a boat for the first time is also not your average See Spot Run. But that’s what the cards dealt us and that’s what we had to contend with. Those of you who know me probably realize I don’t much go for salesman. I’ve spent a lot of time working with professional suppliers and almost always gravitate to the production managers or guys on the floor who are actually getting shit done. That’s their job: getting things done. A sales guy’s job is to sell things. It’s right there in the title. Oh, I know that a good salesman cares about customers and is an advocate for the clueless among us. I worked with some great salesman over the years. but the cynical side of me always reminds me that “satisfaction=repeat business.” Which, matched up along side “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” pretty much sums up all you need to know about my general (admittedly poor) attitude towards salesman.

So how does that apply to buying a boat from Specialty Yacht Sales? Well, not being there — and being the very definition of a newb — meant that I had to trust someone to advocate for me and make suggestions that suited my budget, personality and ultimate goals. That meant Lawrence had a tough job in a tough situation. And he was responsible to the seller before he was responsible to me. I will admit to a fair amount of frustration and more than a little irritation; the long distance thing killed me. There was no easy way to learn, to ask millions of small questions and to revisit issues until I was satisfied. But in the end he sailed through it all (pun intended) with flying colours.

Were there things I would have wanted done differently? Yup. But ultimately it all comes down to the relationship between Lawrence and me: ideally I wanted something I was never going to have short of being on the coast myself, and so if I was going to have to settle, it’s a good thing I had to settle for Lawrence. The experience was always going to be teeth-grittingly nerve-wracking. The best he was going to be able to do was make  it less root canal and more of a regular filling. In the end, it was a pretty tiny filling.

Could it have been done better? I don’t think so. Given the constraints, the only thing I can possibly image that would have improved the process was giving me contact with Sarah White (the service manager) a hell of a lot earlier. Now there’s someone interested in getting stuff done. My interaction with her near the end of the whole process was short, to the point and aimed at dealing with issues, not making me feel good about them. I am much more comfortable with a delivery that includes a definite answer than with someone making sure I am happy. Not to say that I feel Lawrence was being anything less honest; he just had to deal with the distance and “making a sale” thing. Some people prefer apples. Some people get along better with oranges.

So, would I buy another boat from Specialty Yacht Sales? Absolutely. Especially if it involved needing someone trustworthy to advocate on my behalf and guide me in the process of making reasonable yet complex decisions. And the long-distance thing? Handled better than I could reasonably expect (I just tend to be a bit unreasonable sometimes). And Lawrence? Well, I want to buy him dinner when we finally get out there. I owe him a lot of thanks

So, there you go. Two completely honest reviews with just a few tweaks. Huh. Isn’t language a hoot. But I think the third one is the charm as number one was just a bit stilted and number two just a bit self-absorbed.


Buying a boat long distance isn’t easy. Buying a boat for the first time is also a tad nerve-wracking. When we found our boat, which was being brokered by Specialty Yacht Sales, we didn’t know what to expect. But what we got was Lawrence Fronczek, someone we could  trust to advocate for us and make suggestions that suited our budget, personality and ultimate goals. Lawrence had a tough job in a tough situation, but in the end he sailed through it all (pun intended) with flying colours.

Ultimately it comes down to the relationship: ideally I wanted to be on the coast myself, but if I was going to have to settle, it’s a good thing I had to settle for Lawrence. In him I found someone I could and did trust. The experience just couldn’t have been better. Except that when I met Sarah White, the Service Manager, it actually did get better. 

After the paperwork was signed, the Specialty Yachts team continued to work with us to bring our dream to fruition, preparing our new Hunter 386 for a year afloat and ensuring we had a safe, comfortable and reliable yacht for us to explore the PNW. They saved us money, time and effort and delivered us a turn-key boat. It’s hard to ask for more than that.

The whole process seemed nothing but intimidating and impossible before we started but in the end, when we accepted the the official transfer of our new boat, it couldn’t have been easier. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the effort and knowledge of all the folks at Specialty Yacht Sales.



14 Jul

R’endezvous You

Finally in possession of our boat, we had a date on Thetis Island to attend the 2015 Hunter Rendezvous at Telegraph Cove. This 4 day event is hosted by the broker we bought our boat from, Specialty Yachts. For those of you not “in the know,” a rendezvous is a bit like a car meet where owners of certain brands of boats gather to hang out in one place. This affords everyone an opportunity to snoop on one another’s boats, learn new things and generally make the acquaintance of like-minded people.

This year’s Hunter Rendezvous consisted of 85 boats and well over 200 people. The boats ranged from some smaller ones in the high 20-foot range to a few 50’s. There were a few brand new boats to tour and the oldest I saw was from the mid-80s. Suffice it to say there were a lot of boats and we got to wander through a few.

Back at the Beginning

We cast off at Poet’s Cove after filling the fuel tank and headed north. The plan was to grab some supplies at Chemainus and then scoot over to Thetis Island a day early to avoid the potential embarrassment of having to dock a new-to-me boat in front of a crowd.

The wind had shifted (of course) and we were still going pretty much straight into it. So we motored along and played with as much of the boat’s features as possible. This meant mostly running out the foresail and main every time the wind shifted and zooming in and out the chart plotter.


Eventually we turned westerly between Kuper Island and the northern tip of Saltspring and managed to sail for 5 whole minutes. Then we called ahead to Harmon, who is the wharfinger at Chemainus to see if he had room for an hour or so. He said he could probably fit us in but was expecting a big 60-footer so we might be pressed for time.

In the end we tied up on the outside by the ferry and trooped up the hill to 49th Parallel grocery. Unfortunately it seems that since we were here two years ago they had built another location more in the center of town and the remnants were more like a bad cross between a 7-11 and a Home Hardware. Pickings were slim and we were mindful of Harmon’s time frame so did the best we could and headed back to the dock.


We stopped to chat about the sad state of grocery affairs with Harmon on the way down the finger. He was actually a bit worried. Chemainus is a popular stop for resupply with boats being able to stop for 20 minutes or so and grab groceries. Now they were going to have to go into town and that 20 minutes was likely to stretch to an hour or more. He didn’t think he could reasonably let people tie up for that long.

But since his big yacht was still MIA he let us dump our groceries and head back into town for some beer and wine. In case you haven’t figured it out, Harmon is a great guy.

Hunter Rendezvous 2015

A short motor across Stuart Channel and we were backing into a berth at the nearly empty Telegraph Harbour Marina. Being early snagged us a coveted stern-in spot on the main dock. It also meant we were there for the duration because by the time the weekend was i full swing there were boats crammed in like sardines. And as a bonus we got some Hunter flags to run up our topping lift for the duration.

Then it was chore time. I unshipped the dinghy and filled her up with air. There is a slow leak somewhere, but a half an hour with soapy water failed to reveal its location. We also dismantled the BBQ and started scraping and degreasing. It had been put away last fall without a cleaning and was mouldy and disgusting. We made a mess and ruined a couple of washclothes and sponges, but finally it was spic and span.

Next up was a start on removing the lettering from the boat. I still harboured hopes of renaming her on this trip, but first the old name had to go. I started on the transom and the city name came off pretty easily, so I optimistically moved on to the name on the stern.


Removing vinyl

Before leaving Edmonton I had done some research. Seems the easiest way to remove vinyl is with heat. But since I knew I wouldn’t have access to a heat gun or even a blow dryer I needed another solution. What I came up with was this: Vinyl-Off. This was a spray-on product that supposedly penetrates the vinyl and the glue and allows you to peel off the letters easily. Well it worked pretty good on the transom’s city name but when I tried it on the boat name it didn’t work as well. And when moved next to the side of the boat things got harder. I don’t know if this was older vinyl or perhaps the location had made it more vulnerable to the harsh elements but the going suddenly got bad. The vinyl came off in bits and the glue remained stuck to the gelcoat.

I also got frustrated and started using more of the Vinyl-Off (specifically advised against by the instructions) and the vinyl itself started to dissolve leaving a blue smear across the gelcoat. I don’t think it helped that I was also working in the shade (but given the temperature was approaching the high 20s, I wasn’t about to try working in the sun).

Eventually Barry from the Hunter 376 (I totally have forgotten the name of his boat) directly in front of me took pity on me and lent me his “plastic” razors, a cool scraping tool that allowed me to go to town on both the vinyl and the glue residue without marring the surface. The job took a couple of hours of lying on my side on the dock, but eventually I was done and you could see only the faintest ghosting from the sun. Good enough.

Sadly by this time, another 376 had tied up to our starboard side and I couldn’t access the lettering on that side. So that put paid to that job, which was a good thing because I really needed a beer. So no renaming this weekend.

The Weekend

It was a great weekend and I am glad we went. The social aspects were largely informal and low-pressure: a few happy hours, dinners and some music and dancing on two evenings. But it was all out in the open and everyone was free to wander and enjoy as it suited them. The off times consisted of lots of walking the docks and everyone was super friendly. Expect I guess given the nature of the event. All you had to do was ask one question and likely you would be invited aboard for a tour. Leslie and I failed at this on our own boat, but we really weren’t prepared for visitors and were still getting into the swing of the event. Next year.

There were also seminars. I attended one on Green Boating which discussed the impact of boaters on the environment and how to minimize damage to sensitive habitats. Cleaners can be nasty stuff. There was also great one on a roller furling Gennaker system and another on tuning your rig. Not things I am about to use but good to  have a basic introduction to.

I made Leslie attend the one on diesel engines. I figured since neither of us knew anything about it two brains would learn twice as much. Well, we still don’t know much, but it was good to listen others and to learn about to potential issues and basic gotchas. Ben Cook from Stem to Stern gave the talk and I tried to book some time with him afterwards but he had to leave much too soon for him to make it around to everyone who wanted his attention.

I also made Leslie attend the one on Espar heaters. We have a Webasto, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Again, it was a lot of information, but I think we gleaned a few  tidbits about the care and feeding of our heating system.

IMG_4997 IMG_4993 IMG_5004

The Race

Other than that, there were a few social type events. We skipped the scavenger hunt and the  pajama yoga. It was so hot I don’t think I would have survived the hunt and the young ones were chewing up the event with their youthful lack of oldness. But since we had come all the way and didn’t want to be too stick-in-the-mud, I figured we should try the blindfolded dinghy race. I took Laughing Baby (to be) out to give her a spin and see how she handled. She tracked well, the oars were in a good position and I figured since I could row a fairly straight course with my eyes closed, we might have a chance. Couple that with the fact we were below the average age  by a big margin and I decided we had an opportunity to make C proud and “win & crush.”

Anyway the appointed hour arrived and Leslie and I settled in dockside. The temperature was high and there was a strong crosswind so the competition was pretty small. I think there were only 6 or 7 boats in total. The biggest competition was going to be the young kids, but they had a pretty small (thus slow) dinghy, and the older couple in the lovely rowing skiff which you knew was going to go like hell. The race was straight out, around a moored trawler and then straight back, but as I said there was a strong crosswind we would have to compensate for. Lawrence counted us down through his megaphone and we were off and rowing to the cheers of the crowd.

In very little time Leslie was signalling me to start my turn (we had worked out a system where she would tap my knee rather than yelling right or left—I don’t actually know my left from my right). Then all of the sudden she was warning me about another boat and for a few minutes we were tangled up with oars banging and hulls scraping. An interesting experience when you are blindfolded. Then just as suddenly we were free and making the last turn back to the dock.

It seems the skiff had taken off like a shot and left us all in the metaphorical dust. But as they rounded the boat and were hidden from view, they had broken and oar and stalled. We ran straight into them. But after we freed ourselves from the tangle they were stranded and helpless and we were in the lead. We simply had to avoid the anchor rodes and docking lines as we rowed upwind and moments later we bumped into the dock in first place.

The comic relief came when, as I was sitting on my wooden seat with my blindfold still on and breathing heavily, the seat suddenly broke and I landed on my ass on the floor of the dinghy. Laughing, I rolled onto my back and lay there giggling to myself. But, while it was funny to me (and I assume Leslie) all the people on the dock saw was a man who had over-exerted himself in the heat, fall back, hit his head and then not get up. A bit of reassurance was necessary.



The final evening had another delicious meal (a pig and beef BBQ roast) and some prizes. Leslie and I won a 5 gallon bucket loaded with boat care products for our triumph in the dinghy race. Bilge cleaner, boat wax, fibreglass cleaner, vinyl protector, sponges and more… all things we needed. Great prize for us. I have a feeling it was cherry-picked.

Afterwards there was a general draw. Apparently there were enough prizes for everyone. Up for grabs were such great prizes like Sea-B-Qs, hand held VHFs, and we scored a folding seat. These things are worth around a hundred bucks and I had just been coveting one earlier int eh weekend. Awesome.


It was a great trip and we met some great people. I tried to keep track of everyone as best I could but I am so bad with names. I jotted down as many as I could as I learned them; here isa sampling some of the people (and boats) we met and spent some time chatting to:

Geoff (from Wales) Welsh Dragon Hunter 320
John Laing Spiritus II  Legend 40
Dave and Brett Capricorn Hunter 36
Ian and Linda Passion Hunter 356
Carson & Janet Island Dreamer I Passage 43
Rick and Karine (with a French accent) Lotus Hunter 40
Barry & Kathy Funk  (I forgot to write down the boat name…sigh) Hunter 376

The only other thing of note occurred when we met Dave and Brett from Capricorn; they had mentioned that they had initially wanted to look at Rainbow Hunter when it was up for sale. Lawrence had mentioned the first time talked that he had potential buyers “flying in from Ontario” to see the boat. Well it turns out that it was Dave and Brett he had been talking about. Since we snagged Rainbow Hunter right away, they eventually settled on a slightly smaller boat and were now also experiencing their maiden voyages.


Casting off

Sunday morning came around and the docks started emptying in a mass exodus of Hunters. I fired up the diesel with the intention of hitting the gas dock before we left. But when I checked it was occupied and it looked like the big Carver power boat was queued up next. So I headed back to the boat to cast off.

When I got back Lawrence was there and warned me against leaving the boat in idle at such a debris-filled berth. He said that with so much crap in the water it was more likely that something could get sucked into the raw water intake and cause a blockage. His advice was to back it up against the dock and leave it in reverse. That way the prop wash would keep the debris clear. I don’t know if this was prophetic or not but…

As we exited the harbour I started revving up the diesel. All the material that had been left in the boat, indeed even a small label over the tachometer, said not to exceed 2400 rpms. At this point we hadn’t. But I believed, based on my limited reading, that this was too low for a cruising speed. And one of the questions posed to Ben at the diesel seminar had elicited the response that you should run your diesel full-out for a limited period every once in a while, especially if you generally ran it at lower speeds. Cruising speed should then be noted at around 80% of full rpm.

So I ran the engine full out to around 3500 rpm and we started motoring along at a good clip. Right off the bat a puff of blackish smoke came from the exhaust as we blew out some of the carbon accumulation. But, after less than 5 minutes passed, alarms started shrieking. It took me a few seconds, but I finally realized it was the idiot lights on the binnacle (I hate idiot lights), and a few more seconds to equate the alarm with revs and with overheating. I shut down the engine. There was a bit of a breeze, so we hastily unfurled the jib and set a course out into the channel. Then I went down and checked the raw water intake. It seemed like water was coming in and I cleaned the scum from the filter but there were no major obstructions apparent. I fired up the engine again but the alarm was still going. I did note that water was indeed coming from the exhaust though so the intake couldn’t be completely blocked. I shut it down again and called Lawrence’s cell and left a brief message detailing the events. In the worse case scenario there was tons of help just around the corner.

As it turns out we sailed on the jib for about 15 minutes and then tried the diesel again. All good. No alarm and no obvious issues. I called Lawrence and left another message. Then we altered course towards our destination and waited. Another 15 minutes passed and the engine ran fine at 2800 rpm, so since the wind was up, we shut the engine down and raised some sails. It was a great beam reach and we sailed all the way to Ruxton Passage by Decourcey Island. We hit close to 6.5 knots at one point. Our first big sail. W00t!


Pirates Cove & Degnen Bay

We stern tied at Pirates Cove for the night. There was a cross breeze so it took some wrestling to get the boat stern in but we managed.  Then rowed ashore and hiked a bit in the park there. We also chatted with a few fellow boaters (one couple had also just left the Rendezvous) and enjoyed a nice rain, which was great after the last few days oppressive heat. I like the full enclosure. It makes the cockpit a nice place to hang.


The next morning we called Tim Melville on Gabriola and invited ourselves over. Exiting the cove we tried to sail but the wind just wasn’t there for us and we gave up after about 20 minutes of doing 2 knots. Twenty minutes later we hit Degnen Bay and swung around and  there was Tim to help us raft up to Northern Passage on his docks.


He got a tour of the boat and we chatted about a few of the systems. He even helped me tighten up our stuffing box which was leaking a bit too much. (The stuffing box is the place where the propellor shaft exits the boat. It is meant to leak a little bit to help with lubrication but ours was leaking a bit too much.) Afterwards he headed back up to the house to do some chores and we followed to say hi to Donna. Greetings done and an invitation to dinner extended and accepted, we headed back to the boat to relax for the rest of the day.

I wanted to try the outboard since we hadn’t had an opportunity at Telegraph Harbour so we dropped it down onto the boat using the handy motor hoist and fired it up. Ran great. Leslie and I grabbed our life jackets and went for a tour of the bay.


The 8-horse gets the dinghy up on a plane pretty quickly and top speed it is a bit faster than I am likely to be comfortable with, so it looks like we have a winning combination. Now all we need to do is officially christen her and we are set.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the dinghy with my feet dangling in the cool water stripping the vinyl off the starboard side. A couple of hours effort and I finally mastered the technique on the third or fourth last letter. Isn’t that always the way. But I am set if I ever have to do it again.

Dinner was great. A cold Corona and some homemade wine with a spectacular view of the bay. And great company. A nice way to end out trip to the Gulf Islands. Tomorrow we were off through Gabriola Passage on a 9:30 slack and then across the Strait to Vancouver.


Next morning Tim and Donna came down to see us off and we set out on the last leg of our maiden voyage. The winds were forecast as 0-5 knots so it looked like we were going to be motoring across the Strait. And we did. 4 hours later we motored into English Bay and started manoeuvring through tankers, day sailers and boats heading out.


We were supposed to head (finally) for our berth at Mosquito Creek. We had shelled out over $2000 for the privilege of using it and to this point the boat had never actually occupied its slot. But when I called Lawrence to tell him we were heading there he instead directed me to come back to Granville Island and  said he would give us a few days free moorage and move the boat himself later. Turns out he had to rush off to an Xray and couldn’t make it to Mosquito Creek to show us our berth.

So we fuelled up under Granville Bridge and headed for Specialty’s docks. We tied up alongside a new Hunter 36 and that was that. Sarah the service manger came down to finish a talk we had begun back at the Rendezvous and she agreed to check the batteries, wind indicator and AIS system while the boat was still at Granville. And to look into the overheat.

That night we tried out the BBQ on some jumbo dogs and it worked pretty damn good. Then it was packing up and hitting the sack as we had to be at the airport pretty early.


Well all-in-all it was a pretty damn good shakedown cruise. We discovered a few deficiencies, learned a few habits of the boat (although there was never enough sailing time) and had a great time at the Rendezvous. We would do it again if the opportunity arose. But now it is back to Edmonton and work for a few more weeks before the real adventure begins.

06 Jul

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

The Big Day

At the end of June, we flew from Edmonton to Vancouver to finally accept possession of our boat. It had been a long time coming and at this point nothing was going exactly the way I had planned. Certainly the process had none of the slow and languid pleasure I had anticipated. Your new car, your new house, these are things that you savour in some magical sense of time where the new reality slowly seeps in and surrounds you. No, the process of introducing our boat to our lives was, as everything has been to this point, fast and confusing, and it left us very little time to really experience the moment.

We arrived in YVR and grabbed the train to Olympic Village station. Lawrence the broker had agreed to pick us up there; after a brief wait he pulled into the parking lot and moments later we were at Granville Island. The boat had pulled out around 8 that morning to make the trek to Point Roberts, but we needed to pick up some paperwork before we headed out by land. At the office there was unfortunately some confusion with the paperwork; it seemed the delivery skipper had taken both his and our packages. So Leslie and I dumped out bags and wandered Granville, grabbed a slice of pizza and generally felt that unsettled feeling you feel when things are hovering slightly out of your control.  Hurry up and wait. Eventually we picked up a nice bottle of BC red to hopefully christen the boat and meandered back to the Specialty Yacht Sales offices.

So. The paperwork was (re)done and ready. Lawrence had filled out our clearance form (from the U.S.), presented us with a package that contained an invoice for moorage ($1968.75), an invoice for the final payment on the boat (already paid), a copy of the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, a Bill of Sale, a copy of our Pleasure Craft License and an invoice for $7838.75. The last one was a bit of a shock and we were expected to pay it immediately. My math skills haven’t always been the best but I hadn’t expected we would owe more than two or three thousand at most. What I had failed to include was both the moorage for Mosquito Creek and the moorage at Granville Island (another $1567.50), Skipper delivery charges, the cost of new flares and extinguishers and about another $1000 in miscellaneous repairs and cost overruns. To be honest, there wasn’t much in the bill that I could quibble with (although I did get a set of replacement zincs knocked off since they had already been replaced once in April). Really, people should never let me do math when money is involved. So $9000 more-or-less lighter, we left the office and waited for our cab. Lawrence had intended to deliver us to the border himself, but the Hunter Rendezvous was scant days away and everyone was swamped with finishing up details.


So Lawrence was paying for us to take a cab to Tsawwassen, where we would hop in a different cab to cross the border. It was a surprisingly quick ride out midday through Vancouver traffic. After some confusion we were dropped off at the Save-On Foods so we could call a Delta Surrey cab to cross the border in. These cabbies carry their passports/Nexus cards and cross the border regularly. A short drive about 2 km down the road and we were waiting at the border for 5 or 6 minutes for the cars ahead to pass through. At the border itself we handed over our passports to the driver to present to the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection). The fellow in the booth questioned me as to our intent and, when I told him we were there to pick up our boat as an offshore delivery, he decided that it would be best if we checked in inside to ensure all our paperwork for picking up the boat was in order before we were allowed entry. So we pulled over and the three of us trooped in. Meter running. Hurry up and wait.

Of course the fellows inside had no idea why the booth guy had decided to send us in. They looked over our paperwork anyway, complimented me (Lawrence) on how well the clearance form was filled out and asked us when we were leaving. My answer was “Well… maybe today, maybe tomorrow… It depends.” So our agent decided to be helpful and clear us out right then and there to save us (them, really) a trip to the marina when we actually departed. There is a $19 usd fee to clear out and we had brought along a bit of US cash just in case, so we paid up and were issued a clearance number based on leaving the next morning. It was actually a pretty smooth and easy process. I get the feeling they do it a lot.

Back in the cab we drove on for another 5 minutes or so and were dropped off at the marina. The first thing I spotted was the restaurant (pub) and a huge deck and decided it was about the right time to have a cold beer. But of course this was the one day a week the place was closed. So we set the bags in the shade and relaxed. It was a little after 2 pm by this point but the boat wasn’t due until 2:30 at the earliest. Hurry up and wait.

We’d been warned that we were not to board the boat until it had been cleared in and the exchange had been formalized, so we sat up on the wharf and enjoyed the day.


Then, somewhere a few minutes before 3 pm, I spied a Hunter rounding the breakwater into Point Roberts, and Leslie and I walked to the rail and watched our new boat slowly motor up to the customs dock. We weren’t sure how strict they were about these things, so I elected to watch from up on the wharf while the delivery skipper docked the boat solo . It was a goofy decision, and I immediately regretted not being down their to help him as the wind caught the nose a bit and he had a little wrassle to get her all secure. In any event, he got her tied up and we met him (Larry) at the top of the dock and introduced ourselves. He then headed over to the phone to call Customs and report in. Then we settled at one of the picnic tables to chat and wait for the customs agent.

Larry’s wife was coming to pick him up and he offered to give us a lift to the grocery store and back. That meant we would have plenty of time to get settled and still cast off without having to stay the night. And right about then I got a bit worried that my clearance was dated tomorrow but if we left today we would arrive in Canada today — before we had technically left. I had no idea how strict people were about these things but I have always had a healthy respect for the power of the border guys. While I was pondering my small dilemma, the fellow from the CBP showed up, and he and Larry headed off to do the clearing in. We just sat there in the sun; hurry up and wait.

It took about 20 minutes, but the Customs fellow was pretty chatty so I think that made it a slightly longer process than strictly necessary. Paperwork completed, we started down to the boat with our gear. As the CBP fellow was about to drive off, Larry handed me my clearance out and I realized that he had payed an additional $19 on top of the fee we had already paid and gotten a completely new clearance. So we caught up to the officer, explained the situation and got our money back. But now I luckily had another clearance form and number, this one with today’s date. Excellent.

Back down to the boat, we threw our gear onboard and signed the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, and that was that. After all the paperwork was sorted I had multiple copies of a lot of it, but just made sure all of it it was signed and filled out properly to avoid any confusion later.

Then we walked back up to meet Larry’s wife and drove off to the market. A couple of meals worth of food, some beer, water and snacks and we were dropped back at the soon-to-be ex-Rainbow Hunter. Then we said our goodbyes and boarded our boat officially for the first time.


I was aching to go; we had about 22nm to cover to get to Bedwell Harbour and back into Canada, and I would prefer to be able to check in tonight. So I chivied Leslie into dumping everything and we fired up the diesel. A few minutes later I cast us off and Leslie motored us out into the Georgia Strait and started heading south. Of course it was straight into the wind so there was no hope of sailing, but it was a sunny day and we were just pleased to be off finally.

About 2.5 hours later we rounded the bottom of Saturna Island, passing by Tumbo Island, and bashed through the rough water that swirls and churns there. I had forgotten about that. It was on the chart, which I had ignored in favour of the chart plotter as I hadn’t had a chart for the first leg from Point Roberts. Along the way we had been passed by several container ships and the HMCS Calgary, but they had all gone the long way around the buoys through the shipping channel. But the excitement of my shortcut was short lived and there was never any real danger. We adjusted course SW and motored down the Boundary Pass towards South Pender Island. And of course the wind shifted as well so we were still nose into it.


One of the more pleasant moments of the day was finding a card and gift from Dave and Margaret of R Shack Island. Dave had dropped it off when the boat was still in Granville Island and we found it almost immediately after we boarded. Dave had made us up a kellet as a boat warming gift and left a lovely note. R Shack was currently in the San Juan Islands, so I tweeted a thank you. Turns out they were (relatively) close by in Roche Harbour. If our schedule hadn’t been so constrained, I would have kept going and joined them. But alas I didn’t want to add any more confusion to our clearance dates.


Five and a bit hours after casting off, we pulled up in the failing light to the Customs dock beside Poets Cove on South Pender and performed out first official docking maneuver in our new boat. It went pretty good considering and the empty dock sure helped my confidence.

I knew that Customs office had closed by now so I supposed we would have to stay tied up to the dock until morning. But as Leslie was securing the boat, I wandered up to the office to see what was posted. There was a bank of phones and instructions to call if the office was closed. So I wandered back to the boat to pick up the paperwork and then tromped back up to call. Less than 10 minutes later we were cleared in by phone and all that paperwork and multiple clearances were totally ignored. All I had needed was our birth dates, the licence number of the boat and a promise we weren’t importing any produce. We were home, legal, and free to wander as we wanted in our boat. Sometimes the universe is pretty foolish.

At this point I called the office of Poets Cove and they told me to pick an empty berth and call them back with the number. Leslie and I settled on a nice empty slip and we tied up again right around 10:30 pm. A quick call back to the office and we were settled for the night. Time for a beer and finally a moment to relax and try and absorb it all.

And that is how we finally got our boat.

The empty customs dock and our boat in the background (third from the left).

View it: http://tinyurl.com/poyoa3a