On to Shearwater

Today dawned rainy and chilly. We departed our anchorage with no issues after repositioning the chain in the chain locker so it did NOT pile up into a mountain and back up the winch when bringing it up – as it had the last 2 times we weighed anchor. Now that we are in deeper anchorages and putting out 200-300 feet of chain, the chain has had opportunity to cause excitement, at least for me. I have memories of the chain jumping the winch and dumping the anchor and the entire 400 feet of chain into the water while the wind was blowing and we were literally between the rocks and hard place – a friend’s boat – last year. I am still working to overcome my anxiety about retrieving the anchor, so these last few times of chain hiccups did not help. But today we now seem to have the kinks worked out.

Anyway, we proceeded to have a pleasant cruise to Shearwater, which is a small fishing village on Denny Island. You are seeing this blog post because they have good internet and cell phone service!

We wanted to check in to see if we could get some fresh produce and fishing and prawning bait. Since it is raining and gloomy, we decided to stay the night. Fortunately, we also got here on the day they receive their supplies, so lined up with others for the 1pm opening of the grocery store and had the pick of the fresh supplies.

Waiting for the grocery store to open.

Ted, Sarah and I then took the small ferry across the channel to the First Nations Village of Bella Bella, while Larry put out the first prawn trap of the season. Ted and Sarah had been to Bella Bella last year when work had just started to build a new Longhouse for the Heiltsuk nation, and it is nearing completion. We were fortunate enough to get a brief tour of the ongoing work which is scheduled to be completed and ready for potlatches in October. The smell of cedar was pervasive and wonderful.

Interior of the Longhouse under construction.

Bella Bella is a small village, but had an impressive looking school. This is the totem in front of it from the commemoration about 20 years ago.

Walking on the dock back at Shearwater, we also saw the trimaran Triceratops that we had heard in distress on the radio yesterday – their rudder had broken and they needed assistance out in Queen Charlotte Strait. Turns out they are one of the Race to Alaska boats, all no-engine boats racing 750 miles from Port Townsend Washington to Ketchikan as fast as they can. He was fast at work crafting a new rudder and intends to continue on to complete the race – so we didn’t keep him too long talking!

A crew of multiple people sail in this as long as it takes to get to Ketchikan.

Tomorrow we head for Rescue Cove. We are starting to watch the weather at Dixon Entrance, which will be our last significant challenge for crossing into Alaska.

Cape Caution, Pruth Bay and Codville Lagoon

On Saturday we raised the anchor at 5 AM to make the crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound around Cape Caution. This is one of two places along the Inside Passage that is open to the Pacific Ocean. It was an easy crossing, with very mild weather conditions. We did encounter some head seas just before the Cape that were big enough for our bulbous bow to come completely out of the water and slam back down. We had heard about this from other Nordhavn 50s… it was loud, but not a big deal. We arrived at Pruth Bay early in the afternoon after 55 miles underway.

Pruth Bay is on Calvert Island, and is home to the Hakai Beach Institute https://www.hakai.org/. There are well-maintained trails through the grounds that lead to spectacular sand beaches on the ocean side of the island. The trail to the North Beach was a bit adventurous but lots of fun.

My photos don’t do the place justice. We will update the post with some more when we get more than just a thread of connectivity.

On Sunday we traveled another 33 miles North to Codville Lagoon provincial park. We found the “easy” anchoring spots full… it seems that there are more boats than usual heading North this year. We dropped the anchor in somewhat deeper water (but typical of Alaska anchoring depths) and had a hell of a time getting our brand new, 138 lb anchor to set. We wound up dragging halfway across the anchorage before getting a good set. I am calling this strike one against the Sarca Excel anchor.

Our fresh water pump issues have continued. We keep thinking we have resolved the problem, only to have it crop up again a few hours later. Again last night, the pump must have overheated from constantly ticking over and would not start. I started rummaging through our stash of replacement pumps looking for a replacement different from the cursed Jabsco VFlo. I found a really heavy duty gear driven pump purchased in 2016 by the previous owners. It looked like a promising solution, but I was one fitting short of being able to plumb it in. I then pulled out another spare pump, a 2010 vintage Jabsco Par Max. Lower capacity, not variable speed… but it worked (at least so far).

We are off today to Shearwater for some provisions and crab/shrimp/fish bait. It’s been raining pretty steadily since yesterday afternoon, supposed to end this afternoon. At least it washes some of the accumulated salt off the boat.

Sullivan Bay

Yesterday, after Larry recovered from his GI bug (during which he was not happy to hear that what I offered was “supportive care”, not a magical cure from my medical kit) we departed Port Harvey for a several hour cruise to Sullivan Bay.

On the way we passed Health Bay, a First Nations village. Maybe I should have taken Larry there the day before.

Longhouse at Health Bay

Along the way we have pretty consistently been seeing a lot of logs in the water, which we need to avoid or we could have a larger hole in the hull. It’s nice when the birds are hanging out on them to give us a heads up. The tides have been large recently so that tends to bring the logs into the water from the beaches.

Sullivan Bay is a village with several thousand linear feet of docks anchored in well over 100 feet of water, some lined by floating houses which are summer houses for fishing fanatics. It’s early in the season, so only a handful of boats stayed the night. The total length of all the docks is around 1.3 KM, so I walked the docks for some exercise. Got back in the boat just before a torrential squall hit.

Some of the floating homes in Sullivan Bay, taken from our boat on the outer dock.

This morning dawned clear and mild, and we are off to Allison Harbor for the night, hopefully to make the crossing of Cape Caution tomorrow if the weather predictions hold steady.

Morning view from Sullivan Bay

Riding the ebb, water pump woes and how thick is a Nordhavn hull?

Riding the ebb tide up Johnstone Strait the other day we saw a boat speed of up to 15.1 knots… and our normal cruise speed is 8.6 knots. That’s a hell of a push. I was too slow to get evidence of that, but this is pretty close.

The boats shown on AIS at the top right of the chart were getting ready to start the Van Isle 360 Regatta.

After arriving at Port Harvey, Gwen said that our domestic water pump wasn’t working…. AGAIN. It never completely shuts off, ticking over very slowly after all faucets are shut… as if there was a leak somewhere… but there isn’t. We turned the pump off, deciding we would deal with it in the morning.

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early… to an impressive bout of gastroenteritis. It was not fun, and knocked me out for 24 hours. Glad that is over with.

  • This morning I went back at the water pump. I decided to install a small accumulator tank, hoping that might help. This is when I came to consider the question of how thick is a Nordhavn Hull? The answer(s)?
    1. That depends on where you measure.
      Not as thick as I thought.

    I was drilling a hole to mount the accumulator pump – and was planning to use a 3/4″ screw. In went the drill and out came a stream of water. Yes. Salt water. A short screw coated with 3M 5200 sealant went in pretty quickly and a bunch more was slathered on over it. Disaster averted. So the real answer is, at least where the water pump is mounted, no more than an inch thick.

    After all of that excitement, we still didn’t resolve the water pump issue. Accumulator tank did not fix the problem. I replaced the pump with a spare. Nope. Now we are back to wondering if there is a very small leak in some out of the way spot. We decided to leave it for now and simply turn the breaker on when we need water and off when we’re done.

    Today we are resuming our journey north,heading for Sullivan Bay in the Broughton Archipelago. Gwen did quite a nice job of getting Miss Miranda off the dock and underway.

    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.

    Montague Harbor to Nanaimo

    This morning we had a short run from Montague Harbor to Nanaimo, but needed to time our departure so the we could hit slack water at Dodd Narrows at 10 AM. Unfortunately, yours truly made a bit of a navigational planning error that had us depart an hour earlier than necessary. I made up for it by preparing a nice breakfast for us to enjoy as we moved up Trincomali channel at a leisurely 6 knots. We had a nice surprise, sighting a pod of Orcas just inside Porlier Pass.

    Orcas feeding near Porlier Pass, captured with Gwen’s new fancy telephoto lens.

    At first we were not even sure they were Orcas – we were seeing juveniles and thought they might be Dall’s Porpoises. But then the adults surfaced. We were very close, so stopped the boat, turned off the depth sounder and waited for them to move on. Gwen got lots of pictures. We transited Dodd Narrows about 20 minutes before slack with no difficulty and arrived at Nanaimo around 10:30 AM. We went to the Thrifty Foods and BC Liquor store for provisions and the took the ferry over to Protection Island for lunch at the Dinghy Dock pub. A nap and a walk rounded out the day. Tomorrow we are heading up the Strait of Georgia to the Campbell River area.

    On the Cameron Island dock in Nanaimo.

    We’re in Canada!

    After a wavy rocky start in Rosario Strait – waves averaging 3 feet because of 15-20 knot wins against a strongly ebbing tide, we had a smooth sunny 5 hour uneventful cruise through the San Juan Islands to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island in the Gulf Islands of Canada.

    Now we are comfortably anchored and are seated at the Crane and Robin bar and restaurant for the arrival beer!

    Our friends Ted and Sarah are not far behind us on their boat, and we will plan our next few days journey up the BC coast this evening.

    Final Departure Preparations

    Saturday, June 1. That is a date that we have been focused on, literally, for years. It is the day we take off for Alaska, but also the day that marks a transition for us to more of a cruising lifestyle. We semi-jokingly call it our gap year. And now that day is less than a week away.

    Our countdown App.

    The last month has been crazy busy. Since we picked up the boat at for Opening Day weekend at the beginning of May, we brought the boat back to Philbrooks (on Mother’s day), attended a two day hands on Diesel training class at Northern Lights in Seattle, picked the boat up and returned to Anacortes. This past weekend Gwen and Miranda took our dog McGee down to his retirement home with Gwen’s parents while I chipped away at a long list of tasks.

    Boatyard final update (for this round)

    We brought Miss Miranda back to Philbrooks after Opening Day to have the wing engine shaft re-installed and to have some issues that we encountered (see https://mvmissmiranda.com/2019/05/10/lessons-in-boat-patience-technical-stuff/) addressed. The wing engine shaft was a bit of a saga – it was pitted (with corrosion) and had to be replaced. It was sent to “the” person in BC that makes custom prop shafts back in April. Unfortunately, it was made improperly the first time around and had to be redone. It was shipped just in time to be re-installed before we were to leave for opening day, but the coupling was (temporarily) lost in transit. Now everything is back in place, and the wing engine works much better, and importantly, the dripless shaft seal (the original issue) is now actually dripless. I described most of the work we were having done in an earlier post(https://mvmissmiranda.com/2019/04/20/boatyard-update/). I view this visit to the yard as making sure that we were up to date on the required service on all of Miss Miranda’s key systems. We will be going back to the yard upon our return from Alaska for some additional work to prepare for cruising to Mexico.

    Parts, tools, and supplies

    We have gotten quite used to living in a world where almost anything we might want can be delivered to our doorstep in two days or less. The story will be different when we are underway, to some extent in Alaska, and from what we have heard, really different in Mexico (at least as far as boat parts go). So, we have been compiling lists of tools, spare parts, and supplies, benefitting from the knowledge of other cruising Nordhavn owners as well as what we have learned in various training classes.

    A small sampling of supplies…

    Of course, all of this stuff has to go somewhere. I spent the past weekend organizing storage space in the engine room and lazarette to hold all of this stuff, and have a pretty good inventory spreadsheet to keep track of it. I feel that we are well equipped to address most of the likely issues, and the trip to Alaska will be a good, long shakedown.

    I just changed the oil on the main engine, but we will put enough hours on the engine (and the generator) this summer to require an oil change while up in Alaska. That means that we need to carry enough oil for at least one change (6.75 gallons for the main engine) and the means to collect the used oil – a couple of empty 5 gallon buckets. It’s no problem to carry enough for one complete change, but I’m not sure where we would fit enough for, say, two complete changes.

    Dual Nav computers

    Miss Miranda came with a computer-based chartplotter navigation system. Last year we replaced the aging tower computer with an Intel NUC and installed both Coastal Explorer and TimeZero plotting software. I wanted to have a second nav computer for redundancy, so over the winter installed some new navigation equipment that would make this possible:

    • First, the Rose Point Nemo gateway (https://www.rosepoint.com/nemo-gateway/) takes all the data from our navigation equipment and makes it available over an ethernet connection, which allows it to be shared with multiple computers. In our previous setup, each Nav data source (e.g., GPS, autopilot, depth sounder, wind instrument, AIS) had a separate cable that plugged into a USB port on a single PC.
    • Second, the Furuno digital radar (https://www.furuno.com/special/en/radar/drs4d-nxt/) also makes data available over an ethernet connection, and can be used with multiple computers running Nobeltec TimeZero.

    I originally used a laptop for the second computer, and placed it on the port side of the pilot house… pretty much the only place it would fit. I liked having the ability to run a different plotter program and display different charts, but didn’t like having to look over my left shoulder to see the display. I recently bought a 12″ touchscreen monitor and repurposed an old Mac Mini to see how that would work. I am using a RAM mount to position the monitor in front of some unused space on the pilot house dash panel directly ahead, and so far, I like the way it is working out.

    Two nav computers in the pilothouse. The small one on the left is the touch screen running Coastal Explorer, and the large one on the right is running TimeZero. The green on the right is the radar overlay.

    My plan is to test this setup while we are cruising this summer, and mount everything more permanently if it works well. I will use the touchscreen monitor to run the routes (in Coastal Explorer) and will use the larger monitor to show the radar overlay in TimeZero.

    This week is all about provisioning and getting ready to take off for two and half months. Saturday morning, we drop the lines and start the journey, ready or not!

    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.