Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can’t Get Enough

Time on the water, that is. Since we bought the new boat 5 ½ weeks ago, we’ve spent just under 3 weeks, cumulatively over 4 trips, living on it. We’re becoming more and more expert at a lifestyle requiring us to live in very small spaces, as this boat offers about the same square footage as life on our Arctic Fox 5th wheel trailer, though the headroom in some of this square footage is significantly less.

2010 3rd qtr2

Tuesday morning dawned sunny and warm with a forecast high breaking 80 degrees, so we took off from Narrows Marina where the boat “lives” and headed north. Two and a half hours later found us in Kingston, Washington, a tiny community on the west side of Puget Sound known mostly as the “other side” of the Edmonds-Kingston ferry run. The Port of Kingston turned out to be a great place to spend the night.

For $28 (much less than we’ve spent many places) we got a slip with electricity and water hook-ups, free showers, and a very protected location inside the breakwater immediately adjacent to the Kingston ferry dock. The full moon rose over the breakwater casting a 5-mile long moonbeam across to Edmonds about 8pm – gorgeous!


Wednesday morning we went for a run on a route that was more hilly than advertised by Port staff, but put us in position to go out for brunch with no guilt, so was worth it. “J’aime les crepes” is a cute spot on the water that serves delicious large, healthy, custom made crepes while you watch and doesn’t charge much in the process.

After brunch we took advantage of an unusual offering from Port of Kingston: free use for up to an hour of their tiny electric car! Never having driven one before, we thought it would be fun, so re-traced our running route for a short distance to check it out. It managed a fairly peppy 25 mph even going uphill, and was quieter than a whisper. We don’t think we’ll sell the Avalon or Silverado yet, but if we lived in a place where a golf-cart-style vehicle made sense, this would be a contender.


Afternoon found us motoring back toward home, taking the west side of Bainbridge Island route this time and enjoying exploring the shoreline. We’re very much enjoying time on the boat and considering another longer trip over Labor Day weekend if the weather cooperates.

Next up: we’ll announce the new boat’s name!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Joint (Ad)Venture


We bought fishing rods a year ago but have only puttered at fishing a few times on beaches since then. We bought our new cruising boat a month ago and have spent almost 3 weeks on it since, loving every minute! Bob’s sister Lynn and her husband David bought a Grady White fishing boat in May and have done some fishing, but haven’t been on overnight trips so far. This trio of circumstances created the perfect recipe for a joint adventure, so this past week the four of us embarked on a 3-day, 2-night boating, camping and fishing journey to South Puget Sound.


Lynn and David cast off from Manchester and met Bob and Cathryn just south of the Narrows Bridge near Tacoma. Our boats played follow-the-leader from there, passing the south end of Fox Island, the west side of McNeil Island, around the south tip of Key Peninsula and on to Jarrell Cove at the north end of Hartstine Island where we docked (not completely gracefully, but it worked) and set up “camp”.


We spent the afternoon touring the waters north of Hartstine Island on Bob and Cathryn’s boat, including a circumnavigation of Reach Island (also called Treasure Island) to see if Bob and Lynn could identify the location where they spent many weeks over the course of many summers camping with their mother and another family. Too much development has occurred in the past 50 years, so they couldn’t pinpoint the lot but enjoyed seeing how things have changed.


After dinner and a glass of wine, we agreed not to get TOO early a start the next morning for some fishing on David and Lynn’s boat. 7:30 a.m. found us heading to the south tip of Hartstine, setting 3 rods on the downriggers, and trolling the waters to see what we could catch – which turned out to be nothing!


We hear salmon fishing in the area has not been so good this year, and we got a late start (by fishing standards), but had fun learning how to work the equipment, watching David set all the lures and chargers and weights and drop the lines to depth. It was instructive and enjoyable.


That afternoon we cast off from Jarrell Cove and moved our boats to Penrose State Park on the Key Peninsula, where we tied up at the dock after a somewhat rough and windy crossing, during which David and Lynn experienced several temporary gauge failures due to faulty fuses (now replaced).


Showers, dinner and wine found us heading for bed a bit early, tired but happy. We ended the trip the next morning sharing coffee on our boat, then taking off for our separate destinations, having learned more about docking, fishing, boat camping, navigation, and equipment, as we find is always the case any time we take a trip on the boat! Lynn says she’ll do it again next year, and David threatens to take their boat to the San Juan islands eventually, so the trip was obviously a success!


Monday, August 9, 2010



The weather forecast for Monday included small craft warnings in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, conditions under which we’d not be willing to cross, so we set our watches for 5:30 a.m. to get an early start, hoping to get across before the wind came up. We crept out of Roche Harbor at 6:50, headed east to the far side of Lopez Island, then stuck our nose into the Strait to check on conditions. There were lots of clouds and high fog, but visibility was good at sea level, wind was light (8-10 knots at Smith Island, lower near the edges of the Strait), so we bypassed Deception Pass and headed into the Strait. The conditions varied during the 90 minutes it took to make the crossing, but never exceeded light-ish winds and 2-3 foot seas, about the limit of our comfort, so we did just fine.


Our youngest daughter Adrienne spent the summer working at an internship in Paraguay, and she arrived in Seattle over the weekend. We were scheduled to pick her up at the dock at Bell Harbor in downtown Seattle on our return trip, so we remained in touch via text message throughout the morning. She arrived downtown via bus, and we by boat, very shortly after noon, so the schedule worked well for our meeting. It’s great to see her again, and we had an uneventful trip back to the Narrows Marina where we’re currently keeping the boat. We celebrated the end of our trip and her return home by enjoying dinner on the deck at the Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor, one of our favorite casual eating spots.

We learned a lot on this boat trip and have a list of things to add to the supply list for future trips, as well as some modifications to make on the boat, but it was both useful and loads of fun, and we look forward to doing another trip like it next summer, hopefully making it into Desolation Sound.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunshine and a Wedding

Bob's mini USB connection on his Droid is damaged, so this is being composed on the qwerty key board of his phone and thus will be brief.

We woke to partly cloudy skies, and the weather got progessively better as the day went on. By 4pm it was perfect for an outdoor wedding.  The bride did indeed look radiant, and the groom was beaming.

We leave Roche Harbor early in the morning in hopes of getting across the Strait of Juan de Fuca before the wind comes up. The alternative route is longer but less exposed, so if we get out in the Straits and don't like what we see, we will go the longer way. We pick up Adrienne in Seattle on the way home and she will stay with us for 4 days.  We're looking forward to seeing her and hearing about her summer in Paraguay.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sunshine Anyone?


It’s true we’re still having a blast, enjoying the new boat and learning new things every day. But we must admit it’s more fun when the weather is warm and sunny. We woke this morning to the pitter-patter of raindrops, as forecast, and it didn’t let up all day. After spending the morning on the boat in Reid Harbor at Stuart Island hoping it would clear, and having no such luck, we untied from the buoy and made the 4-mile crossing back to Roche Harbor, an uneventful passage. The afternoon consisted primarily of more puttering: showering, writing a “boating checklist” (as suggested by our son Ryan) of things to do in preparation for taking off and when returning after a boat trip; packing up items we haven’t used and realize we will likely never need, so can free up limited storage space; and learning how to use a few more aspects of the varied equipment on the boat (notably the GPS). We’re here at Roche Harbor for a wedding tomorrow and desperately hope the weather will clear, or at least the rain will stop, as the wedding is scheduled to be outside.

Our friend and neighbor Elizabeth Simpson is providing flowers for tomorrow’s wedding, so she came up to Roche Harbor by ferry today. She called to suggest we meet for dinner, so 6:30 found the 3 of us at The Madrona Grill for a meal. The food was delicious, and it was nice to catch up with Elizabeth. We also got a sneak preview of the wedding flowers which are gorgeous!

By nightfall the rain stopped, but the air is still heavy with moisture, fog and the threat of more rain. At 9:30 pm it’s astonishingly quiet considering there must be upwards of 1,000 boats in this harbor and many, many people. Maybe it’s like “Baja Midnight” we’re accustomed to among RV travelers in Mexico, and everyone on San Juan Island goes to bed early? We’ll join them!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Say What????


“You can’t come on the dock. Women have to stay on the boat,” the nice woman who had just caught our lines asserted as Cathryn stepped off the stern.

“What?” Cathryn asked, incredulous.

“Women aren’t allowed to get off the boat. Only the Skipper can come on shore until you clear customs.”

“I AM the Skipper!” Cathryn declared, perhaps a little more forcefully than absolutely required.

“Oh, well in that case, you can come, but he has to stay on the boat,” she conceded.

Anyone think this story suggests the ratio of boating couples in which the male is the exclusive Skipper?

For the past 5 years, throughout our ownership of Secret Wish, our 23-foot SeaSwirl cuddy cabin, Cathryn never docked the boat at a fixed dock, and only periodically drove it on open water (until she once hit a log, after which she drove it somewhat less frequently). As we discussed the idea of buying our new, larger boat and spending more time on it than we’ve done in prior years, Bob stated he had a pretty strong preference for not being the solely responsible Skipper and wanted Cathryn to become co-Skipper. She agreed to give it a try. As a result, on this 12-day trip to the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands, Cathryn has done about 75% of the driving and 95% of the docking. While her skills are developing pretty smoothly, her confidence is taking a little longer to settle in. This morning’s directive from the woman at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Office in Roche Harbor, where we’d arrived to clear Customs before proceeding to our night’s destination on Stuart Island threatened to setback the progress of her confidence. Bob, on the other hand, thought the incident was hilarious, enjoyed having the speaker brought up short, and always appreciates upsetting those who bring sexist thinking to their points of view. While waiting to be called to the counter by a Customs Agent, Cathryn noted wryly that she was, in fact, the only woman in line. Welcome to boating in 2010.


Well, if we thought this morning’s event was sexist, we gained a little perspective this afternoon. After checking in with Customs at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island we cruised north 4 miles to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. This is one of our favorite San Juan destinations and has a nice state park with a dock, several floats and a dozen buoys. We were lucky enough to snag a buoy and will spend the night here. Once tied up to our buoy, we rowed to shore and hiked to the Island School about a mile away.


The school currently has one teacher and a student body of two! Posted on the wall of the school was a copy of the rules for teachers from 1915. As you can see, we have made some progress as a society.


As we were eating dinner tonight, we looked up to see another near collision, this time between two sailboats. Luckily a collision was avoided, and each boat cruised off.

Lady Washington @ customs dock Roche Harbor

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cowichan Bay


When we met up with Greg, Terry, Jim and Phebe yesterday morning, Terry urged us to make a stop at the town of Cowichan on Vancouver Island. Since it’s situated only 7-8 miles south of the town of Duncan on Maple Bay, where we planned to reconnect with long-time friends for dinner, we made it today’s destination.


It rained hard last night, and this morning the air was warm and thick with humidity as well as smoke from almost 500 forest fires burning in the interior of British Columbia.  We made the trip south to Cowichan slowly, then settled in at Cowichan Bay Fisherman’s Wharf because it has laundry facilities and is immediately adjacent to the village.  After showers and laundry, we wandered the streets and sidewalks of Cowichan. It turns out to be a delightful little town full of restaurants, galleries and shops with none of the touristy feel of Chemainis, the town we visited two days ago via B.C. ferry.  We puttered along for several hours, buying only one item, a “Super Solar Shower 5-Gallon Black Bag” for future use when we’re tied to buoys and don’t have power to heat hot water on our boat.  We’ve seen zillions of sailboats equipped with these on this trip.  Most of the power boats we’ve run across are larger than ours and equipped with generators which can be used for heating water when anchored out.


At 5:00 we walked to the Rock Cod Cafe to meet long-time friends George and Marlene Blumel who we haven’t seen in 3 1/2 years since we got together at Whistler for skiing.  Cathryn first met George and Marlene 30 years ago when she crewed on Lightning sailboats on a racing circuit. George was an intense skipper, and Marlene was his always-cheerful sidekick.  We became fast friends and have kept in touch over the years, attending their daughter’s wedding, visiting at their home on Maple Bay, and exchanging letters, emails and photos periodically.  We had a delicious dinner, lively conversation, and caught up on each other’s family news and other major life events.  We’re very pleased to have seen in them and promised to connect again next summer when we make another boating trip to Canadian waters.


Today’s Lessons

We’re learning new things every day.  According to Chapman, the boater’s bible, that will continue even if we live long enough to collect 25 years of experience. Only minutes after we left the dock at Thetis Island this morning as Cathryn was removing covers from the GPS and marine radios, the engine suddenly cut out. We made several  attempts to re-start the engine, then because we were only 20 feet from the breakwater float, Bob tried to snag it with the boat hook so we could return to the dock for trouble-shooting.  That didn’t work either. Another boater spotted us floating aimlessly and asked if we needed help, then jumped in his tender to rescue us. His first question was “It’s not something simple like that red thingy is it?”  Though this question meant nothing to Cathryn, Bob took it to mean he was asking if the dead-man (or interrupter) switch had become disconnected. On checking he found it wasn’t completely disconnected, but apparently Cathryn had knocked it loose with her knee, so firmly re-attaching it allowed us to start the engine right up!  We were pleased our first problem turned out to be one easily solved.

En route from Thetis Island to Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island, we heard one end of a lengthy conversation between a distressed boater near Bellingham and the US Coast Guard. The boater had apparently grounded on a rock and was quickly taking on water. We heard only the Coast Guard dispatcher’s voice, and he remained calm, thorough in his questions, and helpful.  He dispatched a rescue boat from Bellingham, called for other vessels in the area to assist, ascertained that the sinking skipper ws wearing a life vest, and suggested that he get off his boat and into his tender. Another boater arrived shortly to assist, and it quickly became apparent that once the skipper transferred to his tender, he no longer had communication capability as his marine radio was installed on the now sinking boat.  Note to self:  bring portable hand-held marine radio as back-up to the permanently installed radio.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thetis Island, British Columbia


Yesterday we made another lengthy (!) crossing to a new location: 20 miles from Montague Harbor to Telegraph Harbor on Thetis Island. One thing we’ve learned in recent days is that Canada has very different practices from the U.S. in terms of handling boat waste.  In the U.S. almost every place you go has a pump-out station for emptying boats’ holding tanks. Not so here. In all of the Gulf Islands, there are only 3 pump out stations we’ve been able to identify.  As our holding tank is small, we need a pump-out every 2-3 days. Apparently boaters in Canada dump their waste tank at sea, employing a macerator and sea cock, two items we don’t have on our boat (Do you see a retrofit coming? We do!)  The upshot of this is that we’re limiting the amount of time we spend on buoys in more remote locations, and alternating stays in marinas where bathroom facilities are available.  Sheesh – we go round and round about bathrooms, don’t we?


Anyway, we settled in at the Thetis Island Marina, and after ascertaining the laundry facilities were out of commission, headed out on a walk. Thetis is a small, rural island with 350 residents, most of whom are retired folks.


They have a very unique post office consisting of  perhaps 75 locking mail boxes beneath a corrugated tin roof and posts with no walls. There is a plain wood box with hinged lid in which residents drop envelopes which appear to constitute mail from one resident to another. A resident comes along periodically and distributes said mail to the appropriate residents’ box, and a Canadian postal worker comes over on the ferry each day to pick up and deliver mail from off island!  We walked the road to the Telegraph Harbor Marina at the far end of the bay to have a look and returned to Thetis Island Marina for a beer and calamari on the deck. Bob continues to search the world over for the best ever calamari – so far “The Monsoon” on Zanzibar still holds first place honors.) 


Last night we exchanged text messages with friends Jim and Phebe Richards who  boarded “Gold Rush”, (a 60-f00t trawler owned by friends Greg and Terry with whom we all did an Inside Passage trip to Ketchikan last summer) on Monday to do a trip in the vicinity of Vancouver Island and Desolation Sound for 2-3 weeks.  Turns out they were spending last night at Ganges on Saltspring Island, so this morning they came to Thetis Island to dock near us for a visit. We gave them a tour of our new boat (takes about 60 seconds) and then settled on Gold Rush to see what work Greg his done since last summer and catch up on news. What a treat to see them all here in Canadian waters!


After Greg, Terry, Jim and Phebe departed for more northerly waters, we walked the road to a B.C. Ferry dock nearby and walked on the ferry to Chemainis on Vancouver Island. The ferry arrived at Thetis 90 minutes late, having been diverted by the Coast Guard this morning for some unstated reason. Chemainis is an artsy and very touristy town, complete with 40-foot busloads of tourists, we learned on arrival. It is famous for its some 40 large murals painted on the walls of buildings around town depicting its history over the last 200 years or so, with lots of emphasis on First Nations people, logging and fishing.  The murals really are spectacular, and we wonder what inspired the town to undertake such a project.  It appears to have paid off in terms of attracting lots of folks who walk the town and take photos, no doubt spending money at the restaurants and shops that line the streets as well.


Late afternoon found us on the deck back at the marina, eating calamari and drinking a beer again. Aren’t we easy to please?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ganges to Montague: New Territory


While this is our first time in the Canadian Gulf Islands on our own boat, we traveled to Bedwell Harbor and Ganges last year on Gold Rush (click here). Yesterday we left Ganges about noon after visiting the gas dock and pump-out station. We had a major voyage ahead of us: a whole 8 miles to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island, new territory for us. We’re staying at the Montague Provincial Marine Park which has a 300-foot floating dock and a couple dozen mooring buoys. Unfortunately all the buoys were full, so we’re tied up at the dock. Additionally, the bay has at least 3 or 4 dozen boats at anchor, though it doesn’t feel crowded except while motoring your way through to get to the dock.


We’re busy, or at least as busy as we allow ourselves to be, reading our boat owner’s manual, Chapman ( the boater’s bible), and the Waggoner Cruising Guide. After our experience at Sucia Island with the sailboat that slipped its anchor and almost crashed into us, we’ve undertaken a fair amount of reading regarding the gear and technique required to successfully anchor, and will be ready to give it a try on our next trip. We’ve learned that our boat is outfitted with a suitably rated anchor, but which is at the lower end of the recommended weight and only outfitted with enough chain and line (rode) to anchor successfully in 20 feet of water and in less than 20 knot winds. We suspect the designer’s plan was that the boat would typically be anchored for “lunch” stops during which the inhabitants would be sitting there watching all the time, not sleeping below deck for the night.


This afternoon we went on two walks: one beach walk to explore the park, and another down the road to the local marina to check it out, and of course stay long enough for a beer on the terrace. This cruising life is tough!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ganges, Saltspring Island, Canada


We left Sucia Island yesterday under cloudy skies with 15mph winds and 2-foot seas. The crossing to Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island was no fun, if also uneventful. We did note how much better the new boat handles in somewhat rough water compared to our former boat. Canadian Customs at Bedwell went smoothly, and shortly we continued northwest to Ganges on Saltspring Island, a busy harbor teeming with boats coming and going, and where the sun soon came out.


Ganges is a bustling seaside village with shops, restaurants, galleries, interesting public art, an excellent grocery and hardware store and well-developed waterfront sidewalks, pocket parks and wharfs on which to walk. It’s nicely done and somehow manages to avoid the overly-touristy feel of many such villages. We took mid-day and evening walks to town and cooked dinner in the marina on our barbecue.  We were last here one day short of a year ago, on our first day of cruising the Inside Passage aboard the trawler Gold Rush, you can read about it here. (click on the word “here”)

Today we move on to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island, a spot recommended by several folks we’ve met.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Early Morning Excitement

After a calm, pleasant, mostly sunny day yesterday during which we puttered on the boat, read our books and went for a 2-mile “hike” on Sucia Island, we started today with a bang. Literally! Cathryn woke at 5:30am because the boat was tossing around in the wind which had come up substantially during the night. She lit the catalytic heater to warm the cockpit area and settled onto the chaise with her book.


Shortly Bob came above deck, and almost immediately yelled “Look at this sailboat!” just as a bump was heard at the bow of our boat! Cathryn jumped up to see what he was yelling about, saw two feet off our bow a 32-foot sailboat banging on the buoy to which we were tied, hopped onto the bow of our boat and began yelling “Hey!” and banging with her hand on the side of the sailboat. Moments later the occupants of the sailboat emerged from below deck, bleary eyed and a bit confused, obviously roused from deep sleep. They acknowledged their anchor had slipped and scrambled to get their engine started and back away. No harm was done to either boat, but the adrenaline rush it produced certainly woke us up, and we suspect our visitors, faster than any cup of coffee!

Assuming the wind and weather settle, we’re off to the Canadian Gulf Islands today with plans to clear customs on South Pender Island followed by grocery shopping at Ganges on Saltspring Island. No telling where we’ll spend the night.