The Advantage of Bikes When Border Crossing

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.

Our bikes tied to the car deck on our journey back from Sidney.

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.

Looking out to land from the car deck. The other couple were the only other cyclists.

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.

Picture from the Dahon website of the bike folded up.

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!

Fogust

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”.

Looking out from Blunden Harbor. Fog banks roll in and out with regularity now.
Departing Blunden Harbor in the early morning. Heavy fog in the anchorage.

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.

The beach at Blunden Harbor. There are remains of a long house in the grass above.
More remains of the longhouse.

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!

Can’t really see the overfalls here but the narrow entrance has a very shallow bar that we decided not to brave.

Nanaimo to the Broughtons

On Monday morning we left Nanaimo at 9am and proceeded 80 miles north to a beautiful anchorage at Gowland Harbor, near the town of Campbell River. It was a long day – we didn’t put the anchor down until 7:30 pm or so. Quick dinner and check of the weather and headed for bed because our plan for Tuesday called for getting up at 4:30am to head for Seymour Narrows to hit slack current at 6am.

Tuesday morning’s forecast still looked ok so we weighed anchor at 4:55am in the early morning dawn and headed out. Not long after we started Dall’s porpoises were jumping all around us – a good omen!

Seymour Narrows has a fearsome history.

The currents run very strong through here on ebbing and flooding tides, up to 16 knots. There used to be a large rock on the right side called Ripple Rock. Over the past couple hundred years many people and boats were lost, in part because of the rock. Two attempts were made in the first half of the twentieth century to blow it up – only the second time in 1955 did it succeed, making this a less scary but still serious narrow channel to navigate to go north.

We hit it at exactly the right time. No whirlpools or overfalls to scare us and push us around. The rest of our journey north through Johnstone Straight was sunny with a few exciting times at the mouths of channels where tide rips and whirlpools pushed the boat around and Larry had to hand steer aggressively. We also passed the 30 or so sailboats gathering for the start of the Vancouver 360 race which started at 9am just after we passed from West Thurlow Island.

Now we are tied up the dock at Port Harvey. We visited here 7 years ago on our trip to the Broughton Islands and really enjoyed the spot. Sadly, the marina is closed now because the owner suddenly passed away a year or so ago. One ties up here at your own risk. Since we are with our friend Ted who builds docks for a living, and he thinks it checks out, we feel secure.

Before heading for a nap, Larry and I went for a walk to revisit the path where I had a bear encounter with McGee on our last visit. It is now quite overgrown in parts before getting to the forest path, so Larry decided to bushwhack the path back and get a workout in.

He was imagining himself slaying many Vikings or white walkers from Game of Thrones but acknowledged he might not last very long if his life depended on his swordsmanship. He did do a nice job of opening up the path.

We did not meet up with a bear this time, but they are definitely around from the scat evidence.

Now we wait to see if we catch any crab and for what the weather brings in the morning.

Vessel Tracking

One of the requirements for the CUBAR rally is that all participants have a Garmin InReach satellite communicator for fleet tracking and communication. So we bought one to replace the Spot tracker we’ve had for the last couple of years. We swallowed hard and paid for the pricey “Expedition” plan, and will use the InReach to share our location.

Miss Miranda is in Sidney, BC

You can see where we are by clicking the “Current Location” on the top menu above or by clicking here.

We also transmit on AIS, so you can follow us on Marine Traffic or similar sites when/if we are in VHF range.

Lessons in Boat Patience

Last Wednesday morning we were very excited to head to Philbrooks in Sidney, BC to pick up Miss Miranda after a month of maintenance work and a few upgrades. We boarded the Washington State ferry that goes from Anacortes to Sidney once a day and settled in for a pleasant 3 hour cruise. About 1 mile away from the dock, the boat came to a stop. After a while , it turned around and headed back to the dock, where we sat for 90 minutes while they tried to fix “mechanical difficulties” and warned us not to use the toilets. But after all that, the sailing was cancelled for the day and we disembarked, wondering how the heck we were going to get to Sidney that day. We had a tight schedule because we were committed to taking the boat down to Seattle for Opening Day of boating season weekend. We had promised Miranda that she could host a bunch of her college pals for the big event on Saturday. And, this was likely our last Opening Day for a long time and we wanted to catch up with our friends before we depart.

We have often watched small private planes fly into the tiny airport just over the hill beyond our harbor. Now we were going to get a chance to experience that first hand. Larry arranged for a tiny 4 person plane to fly us up that afternoon and saved the day.

Heading to the plane. It was VERY small.

It was only a half hour flight, and I think we waited longer on the runway to clear Canadian customs than it did to fly there. Thank god, because I did have to work to keep my stomach in its place up in the air currents!

View of Skyline Marina from the plane.

We did a thorough check out with the crew at Philbrooks, including a lot of time on our new massive anchor and its operation. Then we cruised back into US waters to Friday Harbor in time for sunset and a quick dinner. The next morning we left at sunrise for Anacortes and turned ourselves around in 2 hours to sail down to Seattle. We made it to Seattle, through the Ballard Locks and the Ship Canal and tied up onto the log boom in Lake Washington, again just in time for sunset and a well-deserved cocktail!

Along the way we listened to a dramatic coast guard story unfold over the VHF. An unconscious man was found in the water near Whidbey Island and rescued, but the boat he came from was nowhere to be seen. Later a second person was found who unfortunately did not survive. The boat has still not been found. A sobering reminder, and maybe the reason Larry purchased the rig yesterday that I am supposed to use to get him out of the water if he goes in, despite thinking it was expensive. We need to practice.

I was prepping dinner when the water pressure trickled to nothing. A reset of the pump breaker seemed to fix it. Friday morning, however, the flow of water continue to stop periodically. I managed to take a shower but we decided we needed a spare pump because we left our other spare in Anacortes. A dingy ride and trip to Fisheries Supply was in order.

Larry went to bed early because he was beat after several hectic days. I stayed up cleaning and talking with Miranda, and by the end of the evening the pump was officially dead. No amount of breaker resetting would get it back on. Careful use of the head overnight was in order.

When Larry woke up to the beautiful sunny Saturday, I had to inform him the pump needed to be replaced. He did it with a smile, even when he discovered the box was missing the parts needed to actually attach the pump and he had to jerry rig others to fit, turning a 5 minute job into something much longer. But then all seemed well and we were ready for the party day!

Miranda picked up her buddies from the UW dock minutes before they closed it for the rowing races. It was a clown car of a dingy because she ran out of time for two trips.

We were set up on to spectate in the cockpit and the kids up on the boat deck. Larry got the davit out to set up a swinging hammock chair, when suddenly it stopped in midair, the generator died and all our power went out. Dead in the water. Larry has become very restrained – no salty sailor language was heard.

It’s a very long story and Larry is an amazing electrical detective. He spent much of Opening Day puzzling over the generator and figuring out how to rescue at least a leg of power to provide some charge to our deeply discharged batteries – brand new Lifeline batteries that are supposed to be charge much faster with our newly installed dual inverter chargers. He rewired one of the charges to the water maker circuit (one problem was the charged breakers were clearly too low capacity). He recovered our 120 volt service, but not our 240, which runs the davit. That meant no ability to raise the dingy or put the davit back where it belonged. Also very long time to charge our batteries and stay out of the danger zone while anchored for the 4 day weekend.

Miranda and friends had a great time, fairly oblivious and enjoying the crew races.

The line of boats across from us is freely anchored in the water, on our side we are all tied up to a log boom and anchored. The races and the parade go down the canal between us.

By about 1pm Larry felt there was nothing more to be done and we watched the parade.

The Chief Seattle Fireboat is always a favorite. They usually avoid spraying the crowd.
Many boats come to participate from Canadian yachts clubs and large vessels like this one.

We were happy Miranda had a great time and that it was a beautiful day, but we still had to figure out how to get home through the Locks with the dingy towed behind us in the craziness of hundreds of boats all trying to do the same thing. We planned out all our steps and thought through what could go wrong. We hooked up our tow rope, and lashed down the davit in its upright saluting position. Then early Sunday morning we headed out. We uneventfully hauled our anchor up (our windlass is not on 240 power) and made our way to the Locks. As usual after Opening Day it was an exciting time in the large lock, which can handle up to a small cruise ship and has strong currents when the gates open. A boat always seems to go sideways and there’s yelling and screaming, but damage was averted. Fun to watch when it’s not you.

The view of the Locks filled in front of us. They did cram another boat in there after I took this picture. The view behind us went on twice as far.

We made it home to Anacortes with blessedly calm wind and no significant wave action. Now we are regrouping to get the electrical work fixed over the next week back in Sidney. I am sure Larry will post a technical update for those of you who are into that.

Elephant Seal Molting

Walking McGee late last week near the shore down the street from our condo I came upon a solo elephant seal in the grass by the gate at Cabana Park. There were a few signs on the fence warning “Female Elephant Seal Molting – Stay back 100 yards”. This seemed a little tough for the people attending the retirement party at the Cabana that evening because she was right on the edge of the driveway. I kept McGee back and he seemed blissfully unaware until I tried to take a picture with my phone, rather unsuccessfully.

This morning in front of the boatyard.

I had no idea that seals molt. Turns out at least that elephant seals do, every year once they reach a certain age. I went back this morning, expecting to see her in the same place, but this time she was right in the cul-de-sac itself in front of the boatyard gate. A volunteer named Corinne was adjusting the tape and markers around her and I got to learn some more from her.

She started to get curious about McGee I think.

This seal is from a elephant seal family that lives around Whidbey Island, but she’s an independent young woman who behaves atypically and takes off on her own. This will be the first time she molts as she still considered a juvenile. Molting is the process of shedding the fur and skin layer to reveal fresh fur underneath. It takes about a month, during which the seal doesn’t eat or go in the water. They don’t even like to be on the sand. Speculation is that sand doesn’t feel good on new skin. Females molt around now, after they’ve given birth to pups earlier in the spring. Males mold later in the summer. More often they congregate as a group, so her solitary choice is unusual. They usually return to the same site every year.

This will be something to watch for the next 5 weeks as we prepare to leave for Alaska. She should be finished with the process by the time we leave.

Lucky for the boatyard they have another entrance. Hopefully she won’t come further out into the road. I would much prefer to see her back up on the grass. The volunteer also said she is becoming very interested in dogs. Good thing they aren’t supposed to eat during this time. I think I will keep McGee away from her anyway.

Hydraulics, fluid dynamics and wine

This week we went to Santa Rosa California to spend two days at a training class learning about our hydraulic stabilizers and bow thrusters. The stabilizers are very important features that make our boat easier to handle and more comfortable in rough seas. They won’t save our lives, but they will make us less likely to want to die from seasickness.

A fin – one of a pair that are attached to the hull. Their hydraulic powered motors react to waves hitting the boat to reduce roll.
A tube with a thruster – we have one of these in the bow of our boat – huge assist for docking in wind!

The company ABT Trac holds these classes at their US based manufacturing company in California. The most amazing thing we learned was how service oriented ABT is – they have all the original drawings of our specific boat installation from 20 years ago, and we can call them at any time for help. We got the entire history of parts replacement and service for the life of our boat from the previous two owners. Now we are ready to do what’s required before we set sail on our voyage. We were truly impressed with ABT’s commitment to quality and reliability, and to their highly skilled long-standing staff.

The machine shop and one of the machines that builds the parts.

Our instructor Eric was hilarious – I wish my Physics professor in college had Eric’s enthusiasm and excitement for fluid dynamics – I would not have struggled nearly as much! “Hydraulics is like baseball – everything goes back to home plate. “

In addition to learning the principles of hydraulic systems, we also got hands on mechanical experience taking the system apart to fix problems that are rare but COULD happen. Larry now thinks I am in charge of all maintenance.

I learned a lot doing it myself. Including the importance of LOTS of oilsorb towels available at all times.
The left side is the assembled motor for the stabilizer, the right side is the one I disassembled.

We’ve ordered the list of spare parts that would be hard to get in Mexico. Now I just need to review where everything is on our own boat so I know what to look for when and if anything stops working.

Jordan Estate Winery

In Sonoma County, if you are studying fluids you must study wine. We spent an enjoyable day with two tastings – Jordan Winery and Ramey. Perfect on a dreary rainy and chilly day in California.