Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Check-in/OK Port Townsend WA USA

GPS location Date/Time:08/31/2011 13:40:05 PM
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We left Otter Bay around nine. The weather forecast for the next several days said winds of 5-15 MPH and wind waves of 1-2 feet, rain in the San Juan Islands.  It was wrong!  Everywhere we went it was flat as glass, so the horse got out of the barn, and we ended up crossing the straight! Lesson learned; believe your eyes, not the weatherman.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mellow Day


Today was far more relaxed than yesterday. Following a run, showers and re-fueling the boat, we took off at 10am, utilizing our previously discovered “slow speed” to conserve fuel, as we only planned to travel 25 miles.  We’ve learned that traveling at 15-20 mph can be stressful, watching for debris in the water (hitting a log can cause major problems, as we discovered in 2008), other boat traffic, and navigating unfamiliar territory while underway (recall there are no road signs or lanes of traffic on the water).


Traveling at 9-10 mph is mellow.  We like mellow.  The Great Loop next year should suit us well, as we expect to buy a trawler that will routinely travel at 8 knots or so.


We arrived at Otter Bay Marina on the west side of North Pender Island 3 hours later and found it to be a beautiful,  well designed and maintained marina. We went on a walk up the road (to nowhere, as it turns out), caught up on email, and had a beer while reading our books.  Life is good.

Check-in/OK Otter Bay, No. Pender Island BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/30/2011 14:28:40 PDT
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Pushing Our Comfort Zone

Yesterday morning in Pender Harbor we listened to the marine weather forecast for the Strait of Georgia for the next 3 - 4 days. None sounded good, but yesterday’s was the best of the batch, so rather than hang out for days, we decided to give it a shot.  The crossing is 25 miles in wide open water, and both the wind and waves are big if current or weather has any impact. We don’t take it lightly.boat 2

Out we went, first due south so we’d be at the point where the crossing is the narrowest, and where we had a place to duck into if we didn’t like what we saw.  After going only 3 miles, we didn’t like it at all, and knew it might still get worse, so headed into Secret Cove to consider our options.

We listened to an update of the marine forecast, and it said  the wind would die down late in the afternoon. So we hung out in the protected harbor until 2:30.  Out we went again, and it was definitely better, but still an uncomfortable two hour crossing. We must emphasize, it was uncomfortable because of the banging around; never did we feel it was dangerous or anywhere near exceeding the boat’s capabilities. It just felt like a horse who couldn’t make up its’ mind whether to gallop or canter, so switched back and forth between the two. Nonetheless we felt we had stretched our comfort zone.

We arrived back at Thetis Island, a favorite stop, and found conditions calm with flat water, clouds and cool temps. And internet!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Drum Roll: an Announcement!


Last Summer when we acquired our new (to us) boat, we invited blog readers to participate in a contest to come up with its’ winning new name.  We received numerous entries from family members and friends, all of which were amusing and appropriate.  This made it a tough choice.  In the end, we selected a name most reflective of our history in figuring out the best way to enjoy our retirement adventures.


Those who have followed our retirement journey over the last 4 1/2 years recall we first bought a 12-foot A-frame Chalet trailer and spent a couple months camping in Baja, Mexico for the winter. We adored this trailer, and Baja, but when Bob said he wanted to spend the next winter in Baja too, Cathryn responded “Not with me, unless we buy a trailer that has a bathroom!”  Our favorite beach camping spots in Baja have no bathroom facilities, unlike most  places in the U.S., and Cathryn is no longer a Girl Scout.  So . . . . we bought the Arctic Fox, our 21-foot 5th wheel trailer.

Next, we started going on extended (one week) boat trips to the San Juan islands.  Eventually we tired of staying in marinas, or at docks in State Parks, and wanted to be able to anchor out at more remote spots.  Again, Cathryn said:  “Not without a boat that has a bathroom!”  Seeing a pattern here, Bob sold the 23-foot bathroom-less boat, and we bought the new boat with a bathroom.

So . . . . the new boat’s name?   ALWAYS AHEAD (some would prefer to see it written as Always aHead; for those  who are familiar with nautical terminology and know that “head” is the name for a bathroom).  This name was suggested by Cathryn’s father, Crawford Rice, who is always quick to come up with a witty response for any circumstance.  So, we expect to end this trip with a christening ceremony, and have already registered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and with the Canadian Customs officials as “Always Ahead”.  We love the new name, and thank Crawford for the great suggestion.

Check-in/OK message Back at Thetis Island

GPS location Date/Time:08/29/2011 18:25:40 PDT
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Check-in/OK message Pender Harbor BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/28/2011 16:49:41 PDT
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Relaxing & Exploring


We slept in this morning and had coffee watching the sun come up over the steep fjord walls, not  hitting the dock and boat until 10 AM.


Next up: a hike up the Trapper’s Cabin Trail. This trail was described by various sources as 2 hours, one-way, and very strenuous.  This being a “down” day, we only did about half of it.  A good work out going uphill and some careful footwork on the downhill side.


This was the so-called trail, marked by orange plastic ribbons every 100 – 200 feet or so!


We returned to dock, then rewarded ourselves with a beer and a short nap  -- slackers, huh?


For the afternoon we dropped the tender in the water and took a little rowing tour of the vicinity. Waterfalls are everywhere in the Princess Louisa Inlet.


There were lots of seals in the water, all of whom disappeared as soon as we reached for the camera.


We returned to the dock around 5, and shared cocktail hour with our neighbors, Bob and Kathleen from Camano Island, retired for bbq dinner at 7, and are now settled in with a glass of wine and our books.

We will also note that when a spot opened up at the far end of the dock (opposite end from where the seaplanes dock), we moved. Not only did this get us out of the path of incoming or outgoing seaplanes, but left us with no foot traffic passing by us.  This afforded a first opportunity to try out our “black bag shower” (common for sailors, not so much for motor vessels) while standing on the swim step of our boat.  It worked great, and since the weather has been sunny with high temps in the 80s, we certainly need our daily shower.  Not a bad day!

Check-in/OK message Princes Louisa Inlet BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/27/2011 17:04:51 PDT
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Friday, August 26, 2011

WHAT???? No Way!!!


Our son is rolling his eyes at Cathryn’s use of exclamation points, we’re sure, but in this case, we think their use is warranted.

During our 7 years of training as boaters, some in a classroom, some in the school of experience, we’ve imagined many disasters that could happen, as they’ve happened to others.  We’ve imagined on-board fires, hitting rocks, becoming grounded, or worst of all, sinking or falling overboard and drowning.  But NEVER have we worried about what happened to us today.


After settling in at the dock here at Princess Louisa Marine Park, we undertook a common activity for us: walking the dock to look at all the other boats (about 15, in this case). We stopped to talk to a couple on a 42-foot trawler who are up from southern Oregon.  Ten minutes later we heard people down the dock loudly exclaiming, and Bob looked back and noticed someone was on our boat. Next we heard someone say a seaplane had hit one of the boats on the dock!  Guess whose boat?  That’s right – ours.


A 4-seater Cessna seaplane had arrived shortly after we did this afternoon, unloaded its’ 3 occupants plus 2 big dogs, and 2 hours later they were ready to depart.  As they headed out of the seaplane docking spot, the pilot mis-judged his clearance, and his left wing smashed into our anchor light, and rear of our bimini and aluminum canvas support frame. Since we didn’t actually see it happen, we’re relying on the reports and photos of others who did, but we’re told the impact turned his plane toward our boat, and the propeller came within a foot of smashing into the boat. Spectators from nearby boats began running away and yelling, saying they expected the airplane to crash through our boat and into the dock.  Fortunately, that’s not what happened. 

When we realized what was going on, we approached the seaplane, asked who was the pilot, and identified ourselves as owners of the boat that was hit. The pilot was absolutely mortified, appearing near tears, and wouldn’t look us in the eyes. He was busy duct-taping the damage to the leading edge of his wing, where a light was smashed. If you look closely, you’ll see the duct tape on the wing to the right.


While Bob examined the damage to our boat, Cathryn got the pilot’s business card, asked to see his driver’s license, asked the name of his insurance company, (which he couldn’t recall) and gave him our “business” card with our names, phone numbers and email address.  The pilot was clearly nervous, said he didn’t want to file an insurance claim, and asked what we thought the damage would cost to repair.  We have no idea, but it didn’t seem extensive. Our anchor light is destroyed, the frame for our canvas is bent, some webbing straps broke, and there’s a bit of damage to the canvas.  If there’s more, we haven’t yet ascertained it.  The pilot pulled $500 out of his wallet, gave it to us, and told us to please let him know if we needed more to cover repairs.

When the pilot took off from the dock a second time, he did not decline the offers of assistance from others in getting the plane turned clear away from the dock AND our boat!

So . . . . there’s our excitement for the day. How was yours?



We left Egmont at 9am and had a relaxed trip up Jervis Inlet, cruising the 40 miles at 7.5 knots to conserve fuel. The scenery is magnificent. The channel is 1 to 1 1/2 miles wide, the water anywhere from 300 to 2,000 feet deep, and the snow-capped granite mountains covered with fir, hemlock and spruce trees rise on both sides of the channel to 3,000 feet elevation. Waterfalls abound. The scenery is reminiscent of sights we saw on our Inside Passage boat trip with friends Greg and Terry on their trawler in August 2009.


We arrived at the Malibu Rapids, entrance to the Princess Louisa Inlet at 1:00 and found, to our surprise, fast-running water, but no white water. This was very good news as it was 3 hours yet to slack tide, and we hoped not to have to wait. With heightened alertness, we moved into the narrow rocky channel and fast water, saw our speed immediately increase 5 knots (due to current), and before we knew it, we were through!  Anti-climactic, and happily so.




An hour later, we’re tied up at the dock at Princess Louisa Marine Park at the base of Chattterbox Falls, a 1,200 foot fall dropping off the sheer granite walls above.



Check-in/OK message Chatterbox Falls BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/26/2011 15:01:26 PDT
Message:We are happy, well and having fun.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Egmont, Bathgate General Store & Marina


We got a late start this morning after a run, then moved north and east 25 miles to the mouth of Jervis Inlet.  Jervis Inlet is the 40-mile long fjord leading to Princes Louisa Inlet, at the head of which is the famous Chatterbox Falls.


We pulled in at 1pm and filled up with fuel, making sure we  got in every last drop to maximize our range for tomorrow’s trip, as our fuel tank is really smaller than we’d prefer with no fuel available until we return.  One reason we picked this marina in Egmont is because they advertised internet, and since we didn’t have it last night, we thought it would be good to catch up before being out of touch a couple of days.


Unfortunately the internet here doesn’t work. So you’ll be reading this in delayed fashion a few days from now.  We did manage to get the laundry done, then went on a hike to Skookumchuck Rapids, 5 miles round trip.


The rapids are at the entrance to Sechelt Inlet which heads south from here almost 15 miles. During a flood tide the current can run  12-16 knots and have overfalls of 8 feet! Today it was  only 6-8 knots, with overfalls of 2-4 feet. The pictures don’t do it justice. It was impressive.  We don’t plan to run this rapid in our boat, but we do have to run the Malibu Rapids adjacent to the Young Life Christian Camp in order to get into Princess Louisa Inlet. We’ll be timing that as close to slack tide as possible.


Check-in/OK message Egmont BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/25/2011 14:16:04 PDT
Message:We are happy, well and having fun.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thetis Island to Secret Cove via Nanaimo


After spending a second night at Thetis Island Marina, we left at 10AM to conduct an experiment.  We wanted to see how far we could extend our boat’s cruising range by cutting our speed from a typical 18 mph to 8 mph. 


Three and a half hours and 31 miles later, we pulled into Nanaimo, filled up the tank and discovered that at the slower speed we had about twice the range as at the faster speed, two hundred miles.


This is important in that we want to head up to Princess Louisa Inlet which is 100 miles round trip from the last gas dock. Given the rule of thumb of 1/3 out, 1/3 back, and with 1/3 in reserve, the 100 mile range at the high speed is way out of our comfort zone, so we were very pleased with the results of our experiment.


At 2:30 after doing some chart shopping in Nanaimo, we had to decide if we were anchoring out there, or making the 20-plus mile crossing of the Strait of Georgia, a large body of water similar to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We listened to the weather radio, and it sounded like it could go either way, so we  made the decision to stick our nose out in the Strait to check it out for ourselves.  Turned out that things looked good (unusual that late in the afternoon, as normally the wind comes up causing 4-8 foot waves), so here we are in Secret Cove, on the Sechelt Peninsula on mainland British Columbia.

We plan to make a short travel day tomorrow, then take the long slow journey up to Princess Louisa Inlet on Friday.

(Note to self: you’re planning to make a 6000-mile journey next year at 7-8 knots, . . . . . so get used to it!)

Check-in/OK message Secret Cove BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/24/2011 16:41:12 PDT
Message:We are happy, well and having fun.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Thetis Island, British Columbia

We just finished our coffee in Cowichan Bay and were about to head out for a morning jog along the roadways of Cowichan when the rain began this morning. 


Instead, we showered and headed slowly to Maple Bay in the rain, only 10 miles north on Vancouver Island.  Our long-time (30 years) friends George and Marlene have a lovely home on the bay. They picked us up at Maple Bay Marina and took us to their place for a delicious lunch and 3 hour visit.  We saw them under similar circumstances while boating in this area last summer, and it was good to catch up with them again.


By the time we left Maple Bay, the rain abated and we traveled 13 miles northeast to Thetis Island, a place we spent several days last summer and enjoyed.  We had dinner at the Pub at Thetis Island Marina, a delicious lamb burger.


Temperatures remain mild despite the clouds, and the weather forecast for the rest of the week says the sun will return. We’re happy and having fun. Life on the water is good.

Check-in/OK message Thetis Island, British Columbia

GPS location Date/Time:08/22/2011 16:33:40 PDT
Message:We are happy, well and having fun.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crossing Into Canadian Waters


After a quiet night on the Swinomish Channel in LaConner, Washington, we got a pretty early start and headed north. The Swinomish Channel is a 23-mile shallow, narrow waterway, and the “No Wake Zone” extends its’ entire length, so it took us awhile to get to open water.  As the weather channel was still calling for Small Craft Advisories in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we were pleased to have avoided it and headed directly through the San Juan Islands, stopping only at Deer Harbor to gas up at U.S. fuel prices one last time. 


We stopped in Sidney Harbor on Vancouver island to clear Canadian Customs (a snap), then proceeded north to Cowichan Bay where we’re docked for the night at Fisherman’s Wharf, a working fisherman’s marina where we spent one night last year too.


A walk along the Cowichan waterfront looking at galleries, cafes, a Wooden Boat Museum, tiny houseboats and finally the wonderful bakery where we bought a loaf of bread brought a nice end to our afternoon.


Total Travel Time; 5 hours, covering 65 miles.

Check-in/OK Chowichan Vancouver Island BC

GPS location Date/Time:08/21/2011 14:06:08 PDT
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Olalla to LaConner: 72 miles

After a slow start this morning, we dropped the line off our buoy at 1:30 and headed north.  As is often the case, the wind had come up in the afternoon, and it was a bit bumpy going up Colvos Passage and on past Seattle.


As we moved further north, things got smoother but there was lots of boat traffic (as one would expect on a warm, sunny Saturday), so we had to pay attention to what was going on around us, thinking through the “Rules of the Road” all the while. No lane markers in Puget Sound.



Given our late start, we didn’t think we’d be comfortable crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so we traveled up the east side of Whidbey Island which allowed us to get further north, and positioned us to cross over to the San Juan Islands and perhaps the Canadian Gulf Islands tomorrow morning, avoiding the Strait altogether. Good call as there’s a Small Craft Advisory in the Strait tonight and tomorrow.


We entered the Swinomish Channel about 5:30 and pulled into downtown LaConnor a little after 6PM.


We’re now tied up at the location you can see in our Spot message below.  A great day and a great start to our annual boating trip.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Check-in/OK message LaConner WA

GPS location Date/Time:08/20/2011 18:28:11 PDT
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Check-in Pleasant Harbor, Brinnon WA

GPS location Date/Time:08/06/2011 17:25:40 PDT
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Our last night on Hood Canal before heading home1

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Check-in Twanoh State Park, South Shore Hood Canal

GPS location Date/Time:08/04/2011 17:59:39 PDT
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After the fog lifted at Port Ludlow this morning, we made a 45-mile run south into Hood Canal to Twanoh State Park, where we're now hooked on a mooring buoy a little offshore of the park.  It was sunny and hot (for the Seattle area, anyway -- 79 degrees), and the water here is 70 degrees, unlike Puget Sound where it's 50. The snow-capped Olypmic Mountains were out in all their glory, and there are hardly any boaters in Hood Canal, in part, we're told, because there are so few protected anchorages and only one place to get gas, just west of Alderbrook Resort, where the price today was $5.19/gallon. We used our propane barbecue grill mounted above the swim step to cook dinner tonight and are enjoying a glass of wine as we watch the sun go down.  Life is good.

Bangor Trident Submarine Base

Something like 20% of the US nuclear arsenal is based here in Hood Canal. Look close and you will see a sub.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Boating Season Officially Begins

Summer came late to Puget Sound this year. We rarely had two sunny days in a row until mid-July.  We’ve now had a couple of weeks with temperatures consistently in the 70s. We’ve done many afternoons of boating, lots of successful crabbing (with Adrienne and her boyfriend Justin too), and Ryan borrowed the boat for a weekend, but we’ve made no overnight trips until today.


This morning we left Olalla at 10:30 under sunny skies with glassy water and no wind – perfect! On our northbound journey we came across a free-floating buoy (the second one this week – maybe we should open a buoy store, Bob says) so salvaged it. Other than that, saw lots of navy vessels coming into Seattle for Seafair weekend, a dozen Dall’s porpoises and a few seals. By 1:00 we arrived at the Port Ludlow marina 42 miles north where we’re tied up for the night.


One of our favorite activities is walking the docks looking at boats; today we were especially interested in trawlers in the 40-45 foot range, as that’s what we expect to buy in January to begin our eastern seaboard Great Loop trip.

Check In Port Ludlow WA

GPS location Date/Time:08/03/2011 14:35:09 PDT
Message:We are happy, well and having fun.
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Bob and Cathryn