Friday, December 20, 2013

Gig Harbor-Seattle-Bremerton Yacht Club

Day 1: Gig Harbor to Seattle

Distance traveled: 24.9 miles

Travel Time:  3 hours, 2 mins

Despite a somewhat formidable weather forecast from NOAA, Thursday morning dawned calm and sunny. We slipped our lines at Peninsula Yacht Haven in Gig Harbor for the last time, as this is the trip that will result in our moving Next To Me  into a slip at Bremerton Yacht Club, which we joined 6 weeks ago.

Mt. Rainier kindly showed her face as we rounded the mouth of the harbor at the lighthouse.


We saw only one recreational vessel the entire trip, but the Coast Guard was busily zipping around.


And 3 commercial fishing vessels were out doing their thing in the cold weather (temp about 38).


Winter cruising just doesn’t get much better than this! Washington State Ferries and Mt. Rainier (14,409’ elevation) are two iconic figures in the Seattle area.


Coming into Elliott Bay on the shore of downtown Seattle we had to stop the boat for a bit, as 3 ferries and a freighter converged in the Shipping Lanes right where we had to cross. Those ferries travel at 20 mph, and we only do 8 mph, so it’s pretty crucial to stay out of their way.


Bell Harbor Marina, owned and operated by the Port of Seattle, is literally right downtown, only blocks from another Seattle icon, Pike Place Market and with spectacular views of city lights at night, with the ferris wheel and Mt. Rainier in the background. It’s a steal of a deal at the winter rate of $1.00/foot plus $5 for electricity. See Next To Me slightly right of center in the bottom half of the photo, just behind the blue skiff?


After securing the boat and registering with the Harbormaster, we walked to Pike Place Market, one of the oldest and best Farmer’s Markets in the nation, open 7 days a week and hugely popular among both locals and tourists.


Our son Ryan and his fiancée Jaime (wedding less than two weeks from now on New Year’s Eve; exciting!) live in a downtown condo a few blocks from Bell Harbor, so at 6pm they joined us on the boat for dinner. We had lots to talk about and hope we enticed them to come boating with us next summer if not sooner.

Day 2:  Bell Harbor Marina in Seattle to Bremerton Yacht Club in Bremerton

Distance traveled:  18.8 miles

Travel time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

After a calm, comfortable night we awoke to SNOW, a first for us in terms of boating experiences.  While “following summer” around North America doing The Great Loop in 2012-13 we never even saw really cold weather, much less snow, and mostly had hot temps, so this is a new one.



Today’s weather forecast, regardless of sources checked (Bob checked many), said it wouldn’t be a nice day by any measure, but the morning was to be better than the afternoon, and we didn’t want to be in downtown Seattle all weekend without a car, so at 8am slipped our lines and headed west, destined for Bremerton Yacht Club.

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As expected, the wind blew 20-25 mph with gusts to 30, and waves were 3-5 feet for the first hour in the open section of Puget Sound. The southerly wind was directly on our beam, and Next To Me handled it well, but was so roll-y we couldn’t walk on the flybridge or outside decks, wore our life vests the whole time, and Cathryn was tense. As you’ll note if you look at the green track marking our course, we altered our route to the southwest, then to the northwest to make the waves easier to steer and tolerate. Bob is great about putting on a calm, confident face which contributes to Cathryn’s willingness to tolerate travel of this type. In any case, it was nowhere near as bad as our day in the Atlantic Ocean off the shore of New Jersey in June 2012 where we encountered a squall and 8-foot waves, and keeping that perspective helped.

photo to byc

Now we’re happily tucked into our new slip (where even in the blustery wind our docking went well!) and plan to spend two nights on the boat before returning home by car.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Vashon

The Tacoma Yacht Club sponsored the “Winter Vashon” sailboat race on Saturday, Dec. 7.


Because of the way the currents run, always northbound through Colvos Passage on which we live, sailboat races always begin with the sighting of  30-100 sails or spinnakers off to the south down the Passage.


The temperature Saturday was in the 20s as the boats passed our house about 11 AM, with a 10-15 knot wind.


Can you imagine how cold it must have been hanging off the rail with that wind blowing by?


The instructions being shouted by the helmsmen were crystal clear in the cold air as they tacked 50 yards off our bulkhead.


For half an hour our front yard was an exciting place as boats fought for position.


Then the last boats passed north around Prospect Point, out of sight, and the Passage returned to the cold, quiet waterway it had been an hour before.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We Passed the Winter Test

Distance traveled:  67.8 miles round trip

Travel time: 4 hrs 7 mins northbound, 4 hrs 35 min southbound

As we’ve mentioned, conventional “boating season” is May through September in Seattle. This Fall has had exceptionally little rain, and with the purchase of our new boat we wanted to discover whether we could expand the boating season comfortably. Well, if the forecast below doesn’t prove we CAN, nothing will!


Wednesday morning we slipped our lines and left Gig Harbor with Bob’s sister Lynn and her husband David aboard (who joined us for a week in Chattanooga and the Tennessee River on our Loop trip). Lynn and Cathryn had made fitted bedsheets and blankets for the V-berth mattresses in the guest stateroom, and we hoped to test their increased comfort over the sleeping bags in which friends Jim and Phebe slept two weeks ago.

It was sunny, calm and COLD! But the fully enclosed flybridge let in so much solar heat that we were soon removing coats, gloves and hats as we motored north. (OK, we’ll admit we used our Mr. Buddy propane heater initially to take the chill off the flybridge).


And just as if in Florida, we had to wear sunglasses to protect from the blinding sun the entire journey.


Our destination was Poulsbo, the Scandinavian-influenced town where we spent Oktoberfest weekend as part of an  MTOA (Marine Trawler Owner’s Association) Rendezvous back in October. Look how different the marina looks in December (below) . . .

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. . . compared to October (below). Doesn’t our boat look lonely above?


We wandered the galleries and shops in town for a couple hours in the afternoon, had lasagna, salad and wine aboard Next To Me for dinner, and stayed warm and cozy with the diesel heater running all evening and one electric heater warming the salon all night.

But yikes! It was 16 degrees when we got up in the morning, and we were happy to be tied to concrete floating docks instead of wood, so they weren’t slippery. The sunrise was pretty despite the cloud cover that rolled in shortly after, making the air temperature warmer, but not warm enough on the flybridge.

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As occurred two weeks ago, we journeyed home driving from the lower helm in the salon instead of from above. We saw dozens of Dall’s porpoises, thousands of water fowl, a few seals and sea lions and hardly any other boats except for the ubiquitous Washington State Ferries running from Bremerton, Southworth and Vashon Island. It was a wonderful trip, made all the better for learning this boat, and her Captains and crew, enjoyed winter boating in below-freezing weather!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Boating

We've already been on one Winter Cruise on Next To Me with friends Jim and Phebe. Today we depart with Lynn and David aboard. The good news is the sun is shining, an uncommon experience in December in Seattle. So we'll find out how well our diesel heater works, how we feel about icy docks, and how tough we are. Yesterday had high winds and waves, but today is calm and gorgeous. We'll cruise 4 hours to Poulsbo for an overnight stay.

To all our boating friends in Florida who are complaining about the uncomfrotable heat there: come on up and join us!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Almost every year for the past 29, we’ve spent Thanksgiving at home with parents, kids, and a few friends. This year our son Ryan was in Hawaii with his fiancée Jaime, one daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt were in Ecuador, and Adrienne and Justin were traveling to Ohio to be with his family. Justin’s parents invited us to join the group in Ohio, and we happily accepted.

Justin’s parents raised the family on an 11-acre farm outside Columbus, but work in the city, so own a condo there too. We  stayed at the condo with Justin and Adrienne at night, and the rest of the family at the farm. What generous hosts, those folks!

It was 23 degrees with a bit of snow on the ground  on Thanksgiving Day. Ten adults and two toddlers enjoyed a feast, watched football, tromped around the farm and had a great day.


The farmhouse where Justin grew up is lovely, much of it restored by his Dad, Jeff.


On Saturday extended family, friends and neighbors gathered (about 50 people) to celebrate Justin and Adrienne’s August nuptials . Fortunately the temperature climbed into the 40s and most of the snow melted.


Bucolic scenery around the farm.


Skeet shooting is a source of fun in many families, but Adrienne’s only done it once on a previous trip to Ohio with Justin, and we had  not done it ever. Out came the clay pigeons and shotguns, and lessons began.


Little Annie (Adrienne) Oakley demonstrated her sharp shooting skills. Who has acute enough vision to spot two clay pigeons in the air in the photo below? Justin got ‘em both.


Steve, a peace Corps friend of Justin’s who performed their wedding ceremony, also gives shooting lessons. Beginner’s Luck had Bob, Cathryn and Adrienne all smiling with success at nabbing those pigeons!


Another day was spent driving to Cincinnati, about 2 hours from Columbus, for a reunion with Looper friends Craig and Barbara from “Blue Heron”. We had lunch on the Ohio River seen in the background below, about 400 miles upriver from the stretch we traveled in September 2012.


What a great Thanksgiving trip!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Winter Cruising in the PNW

Distance traveled:  19.2 miles Friday, 16.7 miles Saturday

Travel time:  3 hrs 17 mins Friday; 2 hrs 45 mins Saturday

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In the Pacific Northwest the boating season is generally thought of as May through September. Puget Sound and adjacent waters only vary from about 48 degrees in winter to 55 degrees in summer, and never freeze, but the days are short and the weather is cold and rainy outside that season.


One goal in buying the new “Next To Me” was to attempt to expand the cruising season by getting a boat large and warm enough to be comfortable on the water even in “off “ season. We learned on this trip, accompanied by friends Jim and Phebe, that we succeeded.


After a good night’s sleep at the Kingston Marina and a leisurely start to the day, we headed south with Bob at the helm. We drove from the fully enclosed flybridge with a “Mr. Buddy Propane Heater” keeping things comfortable despite the 15 - 20 mph wind, whitecaps at times , and temps in the high 40s. Jim again shared helm duty.


After tying up in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, we wandered the streets of Winslow, the attractive adjacent town, peeking into nautical shops, checking out local real estate, and enjoying the prolific public art. On return to the boat,  Phebe made dinner in celebration of Cathryn’s birthday: beef curry on couscous, salad and apple crisp with almond flour crust and lots of candles on top, accompanied by singing and wine. Yum, and what fun! We’ve lost track of the dozens of birthdays the 4 of us have celebrated together by sharing dinners, attending concerts and lots more.


Saturday morning brought blinding sun and blue skies. After a leisurely start (apple crisp for breakfast anyone? You bet!) we continued south, traveling at slower speed (7 mph) and driving from inside the salon at the lower helm for the first time ever, sitting comfortably and warmly inside.

Overall a great trip: time with good friends, a chance to try out winter cruising and more time honing our single screw boat handling skills. 

One of the things we’ve always said we liked about boating is that it offers a chance to continue to learn new skills in our retirement. Well, we can report that by buying a single screw boat we’ve guaranteed the continuation of the learning curve.

We each absolutely nailed a docking using our new back-and-fill technique. We can also report that we each completely muffed another one. We like to remember that batting .500 in baseball is almost unheard of and considered terrific!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gig Harbor to Kingston

Distance traveled:  35.3 statute miles

Travel time:  4 hours, 21 minutes


Thursday morning we pulled out of the slip at our home marina with long-time friends Jim and Phebe aboard. Some of our Looper friends will recall meeting them when they joined us for a week in the Florida Keys in February 2013. November is not considered prime “cruising season” in the Pacific Northwest for good reason, but we were cheerful and excited about the 3-day cruise, despite the temperature around 50 and gray skies with rain in the forecast.


The journey north was uneventful despite some rain for an hour, and particularly relaxing for Bob and Cathryn because Jim took the helm for almost 3 hours and Phebe for 1 hour, so we got to relax and enjoy the scenery.


We spotted seals and sea lions, a few Dall’s porpoises, a container ship or two, and several freighters, paralleling the shipping lanes for most of the journey.


Cathryn was at the helm when we left the marina and when we docked in Kingston, and both went completely smoothly, aided psychologically by there being THREE crew on deck holding “walk-around fenders” ready to save us from disaster in the event of errant maneuvers. No fenders needed. Boy, those “back-and-fill” lessons were a great investment of time. Thank you again Jim and Robin of M/V Adventures!


The Kingston Marina is an interesting stop. While the town is small without much selection of great restaurants, we thoroughly enjoyed the arrival of a Purse Seiner at the slip next to ours shortly after we tied up. They reported having a “bad day” on the water, having only caught 100 or so Chums (a type of salmon, which they also referred to as “Dogs or dog fish”).


They allowed us to come aboard to peek into the hold while a “Buy Boat” (who buys fish directly from commercial fisherman the day of the catch) tied up alongside to unload the fish from the Purse Seiner to the Buy Boat. Fascinating, as we’d never observed the process before. Both women fish handlers have worked fishing boats in Alaska for the past six years and were reported, by the men, to be outstanding “fish throwers”, and Tabitha admitted she’s also really good at catching fish with a rod.'


Three slips down from ours was a 40’ Beneteau sailboat with a woman in the canvas-enclosed cockpit playing beautifully on her 88-key electronic piano, not something we’ve seen aboard a boat before.


At 5pm Jim and Phebe’s friends Stan and Linda (who we’ve met many times, and we’re sorry we failed to take photos while they were aboard) arrived from their home to join us for dinner. A nearby Mexican restaurant over-fed us, and lively conversation ensued. We returned to the boat for wine and more conversation afterwards, then off to bed, groaning from over-full stomachs.


I, Jim, (first-ever Guest Blogger) am inserting a brief note to both thank our ever-gracious hosts and to highlight their outstanding docking abilities. Both of our co-captains have docked and undocked with remarkable precision. Neither Phebe nor I ever needed to actually deploy our ‘walk-around fenders’-----we were entirely superfluous! Since “Next to Me” is a single screw boat and one of the available slips afforded us only a foot or so on each side we were very impressed! We would enthusiastically ship out with these sailors to anywhere----say Tahiti????

Check-in/OK from Eagle Harbor WA

GPS location Date/Time:11/15/2013 13:16:34 PST

Click the link below to see where we are located.

If the above link does not work, try this link:,-122.52301&ll=47.62041,-122.52301&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The “Aha!” Moment: or Back-and-Fill, Round 2

Tomorrow morning we leave for a 3-day, 2-night boat trip with long-time friends Jim and Phebe. So today we went to the boat to do preliminary provisioning, get a pump-out, fill the water tanks and '”Oh, while we’re here, why don’t we do a little back-and-fill practice ?” (see previous post  on back-and-fill if you don’t know the concept).

So off we went. As people who like rules, we began by discussing “which way do we turn the helm hard if we want the stern to go to starboard when goosing it in forward gear?” and generally reviewing, verbally, the lessons we’d been taught by Jim and Robin last week.

After spinning the boat around in the middle of the harbor a few times, suddenly, we felt like we “got it”, and all the pieces came together. So we headed to a nearby dock to practice backing the boat into a slip. Cathryn docked the boat three times, very well each time, and Bob docked the boat twice, very well both times. Cathryn needed the third time to convince herself she really had it, while Bob just asked himself, “why mess with success?”

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Next we headed to another spot in the harbor and each took the boat into a face dock, bow first.  This felt a little less elegant than our stern-in practice, but it worked.

We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ll still mess up when docking. Wind, current, brain freezes, and ordinary screw-ups can catch a Skipper anytime. There’s a saying among boaters:  “Sometimes you watch The Show; sometimes you ARE the show.” Today, in Gig Harbor we were The Show, just in a funny way, not a bad way.

But we feel better about boat-handling now than we have since the day we bought this boat. Woo hoo!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Single Screw Training and Other Doings

Distance traveled:  5.3 miles going nowhere

Travel Time: 3 hours

When we bought the new '”Next To Me” in September, we knew a major challenge would be learning to maneuver and dock a single engine boat, wildly different from the same maneuvers on a twin engine boat like we had for our Great Loop journey. We may have underestimated JUST how different it is. A twin engine boat can be turned 360 degrees precisely in place by putting one engine in forward gear and the other in reverse, pivoting on its’ centerline. A single screw boat pivots, normally, from a point about 1/3 aft of the bow of the boat, so requires a much larger turning radius; a bit like the difference between turning a VW Bug compared to a 15-passenger van with a much longer wheel base . . . . unless you can master a skill called “back and fill”, a centuries old term derived from sailboats, but which operates on a similar principle with motor boats.

Yesterday we took “back and fill” lessons inside Gig Harbor, and you can see our path of travel on the recorded track below.


In October when we attended our first MTOA Rendezvous (Marine Trawler Owner’s Association) in Poulsbo, we met Jim and Robin. They’re full-time cruisers who’ve lived aboard their gorgeous 49-foot DeFever pilothouse trawler for 9 years. They cruised from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas and points in between for a number of years, then shipped their boat out here last Spring so they could cruise the waters of Puget Sound, Alaska, the Inside Passage and everything in between for 2-3 years.

Jim and Robin arrived in Gig Harbor aboard M/V Adventures on Tuesday and came to our home for dinner. Conversation flowed easily (along with the wine) and we laughed and told lots of boating and other stories. To our surprise, we found we’re all acquainted with some of the same “characters” from our respective east coast cruising, they as DeFever owners and us as Great Loopers. Cruisers really do comprise a small community in many ways.

Having a great deal of experience in all kinds of boats (including single screw canal boats in Europe), Jim and Robin offered to give us lessons in boat-handling and docking aboard “Next To Me”.  Fortunately Wednesday was dry and calm, if chilly.

So for 3 hours we drove in circles, learning how to turn and dock our 30,000 pound baby, and received instruction from Jim, with Bob and Cathryn taking turns at the helm. Jim explained the theory and physics behind the maneuvers, patiently walked us through them dozens of times and gave us feedback on what to do differently, and eventually got each of us to experience a successful docking. He was amazing in his calmness, patience and talking to us at the right level of detail, having judged our skills and knowledge accurately. And Robin does all the driving and docking of their boat!


We were tired but had increased confidence that we’ll master this thing after 3 hours of instruction. What a fun afternoon! We returned Robin and Jim to their boat, and they’ll stay in Gig Harbor a couple more days seeing the town.


October weather in the Puget Sound area was weird this year. It was unusually dry, and for a couple weeks there was dense fog every morning followed by blue skies and blinding sunshine in the afternoons.


The purse seiners came out, as they do every October,  engaging in lots of fishing directly in front of our house. Note the 133-foot wooden gaff-rigged schooner “Adventuress” sailing northbound in the background of the photo above.


Sometimes we can get a pretty good view of their catch if we use our binoculars as they pull up the nets.


Cathryn completed the Power Squadron’s “Engine Maintenance” class last night, and Bob has spent 40 hours in the engine room of “Next To Me'”, cleaning, repairing a few things, and painting the engine and bilge. He’s done lots of other projects too, some important for safety reasons (like replacing navigation lights whose lenses were faded to no longer be red and green, as they’re supposed to be) and others important for personal reasons (like replacing the stereo and speakers inside).

And we made the decision to join the Bremerton Yacht Club, so are attending meetings to be introduced and complete the membership process. We hope to get moorage there before we leave to travel for the winter so we can move “Next To Me” from Gig Harbor to Bremerton.