We are currently in the middle of our few weeks at home in Anacortes. This morning we hopped back on the ferry to visit our friends on Orcas Island for the weekend. Reboarding the ferry reminded me how we realized what a fantastic advantage our folding Dahon Mariner bicycles are.
When we were delivering Miss Miranda to Sidney BC last week we took the bikes to use as transport around Sidney and back home from the ferry in Anacortes. Little did we realize they would greatly expedite our re-entry into the US from Canada by allowing us to exit the ferry car deck first and go through the bikes only Customs lane. We were off on the road home in 5 minutes instead of the hour long wait that foot passengers, and probably cars as well, have to endure.
They also allow us to explore towns in a much greater range than walking. I plan to get some carrier bags so I can use them for provisioning, as I don’t really like cycling with a heavy backpack weighing me down.
When we aren’t using them, the bikes compact into rectangular shapes about 2 by 3 feet each and we store them in the lazarette or in the cockpit bungeed down with a cover. They are sturdy but easy to lift. We’ve had them for 7 years and they show no sign of rust, even though we haven’t done routine maintenance with any kind of regularity.
Their only downside is the single set of 7 gears. They really don’t work well for significant hill climbing, so maybe won’t be my choice for getting around San Francisco when we stop there!
We are here in Sidney, BC waiting to meet with our project manager for our final visit to Philbrooks before heading South down the Pacific Coast. We planned this visit earlier in the year, knowing that we could not get all of the work done before taking the boat down to Seattle for Opening Day in May. Therefore, we prioritized the work we thought needed to be done before Alaska and that which could be done afterwards. And, of course, we knew that unexpected items would turn up on our Alaska trip…. and man,were we right about that.
The work list contains a mix of preventive maintenance items, repair or replace items, and a number of upgrades. Here are some of the things we wanted to do specifically related to cruising in Mexico:
Solar panels. We are adding about 1000W of solar on the pilot house roof. We had originally hoped to have these in place before heading to Alaska, but they got bumped to this visit.
Flopper Stopper setup for at anchor stabilization. We have heard that many of the anchorages in Mexico are exposed to swell and thus quite rolly. The flopper stopper is a rig consisting of a pole that swings out from the port side of the boat with a line that goes down to a plate deployed into the water. The plate has slats in it that allows it to sink easily, but not rise, thus minimizing side to side rolling. Many Nordhavns have this setup.
Interior DC fans. We do have four zones of Air Conditioning on the boat (which is one of the preventive service items) but we want to minimize our use of it, because it requires either running the generator or being connected to shore power. Therefore, we are going to place 8 fans in the salon, pilot house and staterooms with the goal of maximizing air circulation.
Sun Shade for the boat deck. When we put the dinghy down, there is a large amount of usable space on the boat deck. We will rig a sun shade to maximize the use of the space.
A second autopilot system. We already have redundant GPS, Chart plotters, and radar. We think it is also important to have a back up for the autopilot.
Replace galley refrigerator and convection/microwave oven. We planned to replace the refrigerator, which is a 20 year old domestic refrigerator and a real energy hog. We did not anticipate replacing the convection/microwave until the beginning of this trip, when the touch panel of the existing unit failed. It mysteriously started working again, but just to be sure, we will replaced it while we can.
Upgrade the engine room cooling system. Engine room cooling has been an issue with many Nordhavns. With a dry stack exhaust system, there is a lot of heat that needs to be removed via air circulation, and without proper circulation, the engine room can get quite hot… sometimes hot enough to impact the reliability of some components. The typical specification is that the engine room temperature does not exceed the outside air temperature by more than 20 degrees. We don’t meet that goal even operating up here in the Pacific Northwest, with very cool seawater for the keel cooler and low ambient temperatures. So, we are going to follow the lead of other Nordhavn owners who have installed extraction fans up in the stack to pull the hot air out of the engine room. We will also replace one of the existing blowers that failed on our Alaska trip.
Haul the boat out of the water and look at our propeller and bottom paint and do any service required. We didn’t hit any ice or logs of significance so we believe the propeller is in good shape but want to be sure.
Maybe… figure out a stern anchor solution. We have heard that a stern anchor is somtimes helpful in open anchorages in order to keep the bow pointing into the prevailing swells. We have a spare main anchor (a Fortress SX-55) that we have used once as a stern anchor, but the time taken to assemble it and drag the rode from the foredeck storage box makes it very inconvenient to use as a stern anchor. It would be nice to figure out a way to have a smaller anchor that is easy to deploy from the back of the boat.
I think that does it for the “planned” work. Some of the repair or replace items that came up on our trip North include:
Patch the tube on the dinghy. We were in Prideaux Haven going to our favorite swimming hole and preparing to anchor the dinghy next to a large rock. The rock had numerous oyster shells that were exposed at low tide, and we drifted into one that made a two inch gash in the tubing.
Replace the motor on the diesel heater. We rarely use the diesel hydronic heating system in the summer, but needed it on one 40-something degreee morning in Alaska. Of course, it didn’t start. Some great support from Sure Marine Service in Seattle helped dignose the problem, which was the motor. The diagnostic tool? A rubber mallet. “Start the system, and rap the motor with a rubber mallet. If it starts up, you know you have a bad winding and the motor needs to be replaced.” Yup.
Replace the Furuno GPS. We have three separate GPS sources on the boat including this older Furuno GPS, which connects directly to a Furuno RD-30 display unit to show speed over ground, position, wind data, etc. When we were crossing Cape Caution on the way up to Alaska, the GPS stopped transmitting data… of course when the seas were up and the boat was moving around quite a bit. No big deal to switch to another source for the NAV equipment, but time to replace the old unit. I elected to replace the receiver only and still have it connect to the RD-30, and from there the NMEA bus.
Replace the generator injector pump. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post and actually got a replacement pump sent into Petersburg. However, the fuel leakage had decreased to an acceptable level, and seeing that a miscue in removing or replacing a connecting clip would have serious consequences, I wimped out and elected to have Philbrooks do this.
Add delay switches to the windshield wipers. This one sounds odd, I know. The boat has four wipers, one across each piece of the pilot house windshield. The wipers are needed for rain, obviously, but also for clearing salt spray in boisterous sea conditions. Each of the wipers has a separate 3 way switch for off, low, and high speed. In all but hard rain (which we had plenty of in Alaska), the low setting is still too high. Thus, one will be constantly switching the wipers on and off. Trivial, but annoying when running in crummy weather. We should have done this before going to Alaska, but it was only when we got up there that I realized just how much of an annoyance this was, and how easy it is to fix. Just add $$.
After a full day of meeting with the various departments at Philbrooks, everyone has a good idea of what needs to be done, enough so that we have established a tentative pick up date… September 13th. If all goes well we will take the boat back to Anacortes, load it up and start heading South on September 20th.
Well, today is the day. About 22 NM from Roche Harbor back home to Skyline. It was another beautiful summer day, and Roche Harbor was hoppin’. It was quite an experience just maneuvering through the marina and around the line of boats waiting to check in at the Customs Dock.
As we were exiting the harbor a Kenmore Air flight landed in the channel right next to us.
Lots of boat traffic back and forth but a nice easy ride through the Islands. Gwen and Miranda took it all in from the foredeck.
Sunny, but OK, not hot. Blankets help.
It was an uneventful trip right up to the very end. We arrived at Skyline at the peak of the flood tide, and the currents at Burrows Passage in the way in to Skyline were as big as I’d ever seen – 4+ knots. What I didn’t realize, but should have, was that there was a fair amount of current getting into our slip, which combined with a bit of wind, kept pushing us off the dock. Not so easy to swing the back end of a single screw boat against wind and current. It took several tries but we got tied up with no contact or damage.
Continuing our Southward journey, our plan for last Friday was to travel from Lagoon Cove to the Octopus Islands. That meant an early start in order to arrive at the Okisollo Rapids at or around slack water. As it turned out, currents on the way down were favorable and we got there a bit early, upon hearing from another boat that conditions were mild through the rapids, we decided to transit both Okisollo and nearby Hole in the Wall rapids and proceed on towards Desolation Sound. As soon as we entered Calm Channel, we realized that we were back in civilization, with an exponential increase in boat traffic. And it seemed that all of it was headed towards Squirrel Cove, a convenient anchorage on the way to Prideaux Haven from the North. There were more boats in Squirrel Cove than we have ever seen before… I counted nearly 50. Our friends Kevin and Alison on N55 Red Rover greeted us on the way in and told us that there had been even more boats there the day before. This was quite different from our experience over the past couple of months, when we were often alone or shared an anchorage with just one or two other boats.
We had a similar experience visiting Prideaux Haven, the main anchorage in Desolation Sound Marine Park, and Miranda’s favorite. We have fond memories of sunshine and warm water from visits as far back as seven years ago. This is arguably the most popular anchorage in the area, and is always crowded. Like many of the spots in the Desolation Sound area, anchoring often requires a stern tie. A stern tie is similar to a Med mooring, in that you drop your anchor and back up towards shore, fixing a line from the back of the boat to a spot on shore. The boat is oriented perpendicular to the shore, and the tie limits the swing, allowing many more boats to fit into an anchorage.
BC Parks and the BC Parks Forever Society have undertaken a project to install stern tie pins in Prideaux Haven and other locations around Desolation Sound (http://www.marineparksforever.ca/sterntie.html). This makes it much easier to stern tie, and preserves the trees along the shore, which had served as the tie points before the pins. Here is a picture from the Waggoner Guide (the “bible” for NW boaters) showing the locations of the stern tie pins, which are clearly marked and have a length of chain hanging down from the pin to make it easy to access regardless of tide.
Unfortunately, when we came into Prideaux, very few boats were actually using the stern tie pins. This was quite different from our earlier visits, where most boats were stern tied even without the convenience of pins. There were many large (50’ or greater) boats swinging at anchor, very close to each other. Furthermore, in many spots, the anchored boats made it impossible to actually get in and use the stern ties. We eventually found a spot that we could squeeze in and stern tie, so all was good, but we wondered why the other boats were not making use of them. Gwen thought it would be a good idea for the Waggoner Guide to include some information about how to stern tie in addition to listing the locations of the pins.
My conclusion after touring the area in the dinghy is that the area where most of the new pins were placed (South of Eveleigh Island) is where boats that did not want to stern tie came to anchor. Honestly, I was a bit suprised that so many large boats were anchored so close together (some only a boat length apart) without using the stern ties. All fine unless the wind picks up. Kevin and Allison from Red Rover were here a couple of weeks ago for the annual summer concert and reported anchor dragging carnage when the wind came up in the middle of the night.
Anyway, we enjoyed a relaxing couple of days at anchor after so many long runs down from Ketchikan. From Prideaux, we traveled down to the SYC Outstation at Garden Bay, and as I write this we are preparing to depart for Ovens Island in the Gulf Islands, across the Strait of Georgia.
Miscommunication at the editorial board meeting the other morning. We decided that the fog was worthy of a post. I thought Gwen was going to do one at Lagoon Cove. Not seeing anything I dashed out a post myself, without realizing that Gwen pulled the fancy trick of “scheduling” the post.
OK, so which one do you like best? We’ll tally the number of likes for each of us and the winner will receive a potentially valuable prize (and bragging rights around the editorial office).
Now that we are well into August, the fog that is typical of Alaska and northern British Columbia has become a usual morning and sometimes all day, occurence for us. The locals call this time of year “Fogust”.
We use radar and lots of peering into the mist to navigate. Sometimes we have to call up other boats on the radio to clarify intentions to avoid collisions, but for the most part its not been a problem. It can be quite stunning to see whisps of fog lying over islands with sun shining above.
Fog was prominant for our crossing of Cape Caution. We had a long foggy but calm day, and ended with an overnight stay in Blunden Harbor. ONce we entered the bay, the sun came out and the fog remained outside.
Blunder Harbor is the site of a former First Nations summer village and we can still see signs of the long house and the shell midden on the beach. The First Nations group still uses the site but doesn’t live there any longer.
It was too windy for kayaking but we did a dingy trip up the long inlet to see if we could cross into the hidden lagoon, but found the entrance too shallow and some overfalls which would have made for an exciting ride. It was beautiful in the sunshine though after a day of fog!
All of the Canadian marine weather bulletins define fog as implying visibility of less than 1 NM. We’ve certainly been experiencing plenty of that coming down around Cape Caution into the Broughton Archipelago, with visibility often less than 1/8th mile.
It started In earnest coming out of Shearwater to Pruth Bay. It continued the next day around Cape Caution to Blunden Harbor. And then more the following day down the Queen Charlotte Strait to Lagoon Cove.
Actually, it cleared up for a bit in Queen Charlotte Strait the other day, but then we saw this wall of fog shown above guarding the entrance to the Broughtons.
Fortunately it tends to dissipate in the afternoon, revealing views like this.
We are in it again this morning, heading down Johnstone Strait to the Octopus Islands. The good news is that, in our experience, winds tend to be low and seas calm in foggy conditions.
We spend a lot time underway watching out for and avoiding logs. Especially during this last week as we have been making long runs and the tides are high, sweeping driftwood and logs off the beaches and back into the waterways. But those are not the only things that can be lurking under the water.
I am used to looking for blows from whales and seeing them in the distance is always a happy occasion. But after an up close and personal experience the other day, I really don’t want to see them up close!
I was piloting while Larry and Miranda were down in the salon reading and hanging out. The sun was slanted across the water from my left, making it a bit difficult to tell exactly what was coming up in the water. There were spurts of many logs at times, and other times seaweed – which I feel silly avoiding but do it a lot out of concern for a lurking log. I had relaxed as we had entered a log free zone for a while, and was sitting back in the helm chair rather than perched on the edge of my seat or standing up. I saw a slight difference in the wave ripples ahead but nothing breaking the surface. I wondered what it was and decided to turn slightly to port to avoid it “just in case”, but I really didn’t think it was anything significant.
As I started the slight leftward turn, a whale dorsal fin appeared in front of me, just off our bow pulpit. A large humpback headed for our starboard side. I freaked out and yelled, pulled back on the throttle and then put it in neutral. The whale turned tail up and dove just off our starboard bow. There was no contact, and he must have taken a big breath in without breathing out, because there never was any blow that I saw.
We sat in neutral for a while as I regained my composure. I was so very glad not to have hit the whale. After that I have been hyperalert for sleeping whales. We saw one two days ago in Queen Charlotte Sound, but this one was sitting on the surface with a visible dorsal fin. It clearly was asleeep – not moving, not blowing. We had good clearance from it on our port side.
I did a little research and found this article on how whales sleep from Scientific American. Apparently they sleep with half their brains and alternate eye at a time. This must be how the whale I encountered woke up enough to avoid us as much as I avoided him. I can see how they don’t have time to avoid boats traveling at high rates of speed. The speed restrictions that were in place in Glacier Bay in the whale feeding zones make complete sense to me.
Friday night we anchored in beautiful, remote Klewnuggit Marine Park, about 50 miles South of Prince Rupert off Grenville Channel. It is a few miles up the inlet, so is not visited by many boats transiting the channel. There was only one other boat in the anchorage, aside from us and Sanwan.
Our goal for the following day was Khutze Inlet, another 65 miles South, so we planned our departure to take advantage of the strong predicted ebb current down the channel.
As you can see, it worked. You can see in the picture that we are making 12.5 knots (SOG – right side of the chart plotter display). You can also see the current graph open showing a predicted ebb of 5.5 knots at that time of day. In reality, it was just about 4 knots at that point – our boat makes 8.6 knots over “flat water”.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the ebb weakened a mile or two South of Lowe Inlet. We still had a decent push for most of the day, which turned out to be sunny and warm. We were visited by another pod of playful Dall’s Porpoises along the way, and enjoyed a beautiful, 75 degree afternoon in Khutze… although we did not enjoy the gigantic horseflies!