Saturday, October 20, 2012

Autumn Storms

Well it looks like summer has finally faded into the distant past. The sun is lower on the horizon during the day and the days are drawing in. By all accounts it has been an exceptional summer in Washington state and British Columbia, with over 85 days without rain in the past few months. Until this week that is. The temperature gauge is in single digits overnight and barely makes double digits during the daytime. We have had the first series of autumn storms passing through, one of which gave us 47 knot gusts in the marina (glad we were in the marina). The rain is now back and the forecast for the foreseeable future has no sunshine included and has either rain or showers every day. This cold and wet weather brings a new set of challenges for us liveaboards: Staying dry, warm, how to dry wet clothes and dealing with condensation in the boat, which gets worse with a greater temperature differential between the inside of the boat and the outside. So keep the inside cooler and have less condensation or keep the boat warm and have lots of condensation. Naturally the problem gets worse at night when the temperature outside drops and the differential is greatest. Jude is putting on extra layers each day. I don’t think she has got to putting on two pairs of socks yet but I can see it coming. Katya is coping with it well and does not seem to feel the cold as much as we do. I have been prone to that rather annoying habit parents seem to acquire and that is to regale stories of hardship “when we were young” Katya sighs, rolls her eyes and mutters expletives as I tell the story of how “when we were young” Sara and I used to share a bedroom in our house in Wales, that during the winter used to have ice on the inside of the windows and have mushrooms growing on the walls. The house was only heated by wood burning stoves so to get warm involved going outside, sometimes into the snow to get logs.  Bla bla bla. You get the drift. It also reminds me of the famous Monty Python sketch four Yorkshiremen. “ Oh you were lucky” To top all this off the rain has shown up a small leak in the forward cabin where the windlass (a device that brings up the anchor chain) comes through the deck. For those who own boats will know, leaks on boats are part of the everyday struggle. They appear, you spend an inordinate amount of time tracking them down, they are always in the most inaccessible place and when you fix one another one appears. This very small leak, a mere drip, requires taking the windlass off the deck resealing it and replacing it. It is probably a days work and may involve another problem showing up. Needless to say we are now looking forward to arriving in Sydney, seeing Mike, Irit, Gabe and Daniel and going for a swim in Mahon (rock) pool.

One of the jobs on our amaranthine list is to get the life raft serviced. The life raft is a six man inflatable raft that weighs about 40kgs. It sits on deck and in the event of impending doom you are supposed to throw this overboard, watch it self-inflate and calmly step “down” into the raft. i.e. you are only supposed to get into it when the boat is about to go under. These life rafts are supposed to be serviced every 3 years and ours is overdue for a service. Given that we are planning to go to Alaska next spring we thought it would be prudent to make sure it works. We therefore booked the raft in for a service and ourselves in for a 3 hour course on “life raft Deployment – The doos and don’t’s of abandoning ship” So we all trooped off to Tacoma, south of Seattle for our course. We were given a fine demonstration of the art of life raft deployment and were pleased that indeed that there was a liferaft in the sealed container and not a bag or rocks, and that it was in good condition. Phew. A new one costs around $6,000.  We were shown how to deploy the raft. How to get into the liferaft from the sea. How to make sure that we cut the line that attaches it to the boat if the boat is sinking. Always a good thing to know, and many other facts that we were blissfully unaware of but are actually quite important.   

We are all managing to quench our thirst for internet related activities despite having no fixed line, unlimited plan, blazing fast internet. We have a 5GB 3G data plan with ATT which provides access through the tethering facility on the iphone. It is not the fastest I admit but I bet it is faster than dial up. It won’t allow us to stream any movies and we have to watch the excess use charges, but it is sufficient. One thing that is frustrating is that we cannot leave it on all the time as our computers seem to be browsing on their own and use data when we are not using them. We did turn off Windows updates after we found that one update was over 500mb. I replaced the ancient Windows XP PC that was on the boat when I bought it with the one that we had at home. This has now had all our navigation software installed, runs our radar and is connected to the flat screen so we can watch rented movies. We unsubscribed from cable TV in Denver two years ago and went to Netflix only TV. No commercials and a good selection. Katya does miss Netflix but is reading a lot instead. Although she has read many books she finished her first “major” book yesterday and is moving on to the next. I have been reading books to Katya and Jude in the evenings. When the temperature drops, we climb into bed and I read a book to Katya and Jude. At the moment I am reading “The Light on the Island” an account of a 20th Century families’ adventures and strife living on an island in the San Juan islands. The book was kindly lent to us by Ken, a friend of Steve and Sandy who lives on Lopez island.         

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back in Port

Firstly apologies for all the spelling and grammar mistakes in my posts. I must read them four or five times before I post them and don’t see mistakes and then when I read it once posted they leap out. I also have to decide whether to use American or English spelling (Harbour, or Harbor, specialise or specialize etc) I wonder where American spelling comes from? Is it just a simplification that occurred during the days of colonial rule or did it happen after with some purpose or history. I must look into it. 

We left Montague harbour at 8am on another sunny day, somewhat despondent as we knew that our summer sailing was coming to an end. We are destined for Anacortes, our port of origination, and the home for the boat over winter. We have to clear US Customs in Friday Harbour on San Juan Island, which is always a tedious and somewhat uncertain process, and then sail through the islands to Anacortes.

Canadian Ferry

We motor for about an hour through Plumper Sound, charging our batteries as we go, and head into US waters. No sooner than we had taken down the Canadian courtesy flag and raised the US flag and Quarantine flag as we enter US waters, a speeding US Border patrol boat came upon our stern and asked us to slow down and be prepared to be boarded. We answered the usual questions: where have you been, where are you going, where do you live, who is on board, how long have you lived in the US, do you have any guns, explosives, drugs or citrus fruit etc etc. These guys were OK and actually smiled unlike most of the US Border Stasi.

We sailed downwind the rest of the way to Friday Harbour at a leisurely 4 knots with cloudless skies and were the only boaters around for as far as the eyes could see. Jude had lunch on the go and we sat on deck watching the sun parched landscape pass by. The Customs official told us that Washington has had the driest summer on record. 80 days without rain, and still the prospect of another 10 more days to come.

We tied up to the Customs dock and got on the phone to let them know that we were looking to check in only to be advised that we would have to wait about an hour as the ferry from Canada was checking in passengers and they were short staffed. So we sat on the boat (we are not allowed to leave) and waited. Eventually an officer came and asked us to move to the guest dock and go to the office to check in. 2 hours later I completed the process. Urrrrrrr.

One of our favorite book shops is in Friday Harbour, it sells second hand books at about half the price of new ones and has a great selection. So off we went to stock up on books for us all. We will need to shed some soon as space is becoming an issue. Katya bought some more novels and school books and Jude and I bought some books on baking and Marine weather (very exciting). Oh we also bought a novel called Passage to Juneau which is about a sailing trip to Alaska, which we hope to be doing next year. We have all be reading quite a bit over the summer. Books that have taken our fancy and that have been recommended to us.    

It was now 6pm and we have to sail the 20 miles to Anacortes which will mean sailing through the islands in the darkness. We have not sailed in the dark since we sailed the boat up from San Diego. It always makes a trip a bit more exciting as not only is the navigation more complicated but obstacles, such as crab pots, logs, small boats, become harder to see in the darkness. A steady stream of ferries ply the waters through the islands and we have to make sure they can see us as well.

Dusk sailing from Friday Harbour to Anacortes

San Juan Islands Ferry at night

We safely navigate our way into the narrow entrance of Marina, carefully avoiding the unlit pilings, only to find that our slip has another boat in. It is too late to contact the dock manager so we maneuver into another vacant slip and tie up. It is a little tricky in the dark with only two crew!  

We have now been tied up to the dock for a few days and we are enjoying the easy access to shops and showers. We had been at anchor for about 6 weeks and any trips to land had to involve the dinghy or kayaks and all the ungainly transfers between boat and land. Its seems strange that we sleep soundly (mostly) while at anchor but if you think about it your boat and life is suspended from a single piece of chain about 1cm in diameter. It does not sound that secure but if we have set the anchor correctly it should in fact hold us even in a blow of 50-60 knots.

I have started the long list of jobs to prepare the boat for winter and when we are away. Priority number one though is to fix the aft head (loo)! Well we have gone for more than a month without a problem with it so that is not bad. This time it seems like a terminal blockage and the thought of what is to come is not a pleasant one. I have to empty the bowl as best I can and dismantle the pipe work. I can feel my stomach muscles going into a spasm just thinking about it. It turned out that the pipe from the bowl to the holding tank, which has an internal diameter of about 2.5cms (1ins) had narrowed to about 7mm. a build-up of “mineral deposits” was restricting the flow. I replaced the pipe and now I reckon the loo is capable of macerating and disposing of a young oak. And yes I did have to reach over the sink a few times.

Other jobs that have been completed since we returned are:

Change the engine oil and filter (required every 150 hours)
Change the sea water pump impeller
Change the 3 engine fuel filters and bleed the system
Change the engine coolant
Service the outboard engine (oil, plugs and filters)
Arrange for a diver to check the sacrificial zincs
A general clean and tidy of the boat

The good weather looks like it is finally coming to an end. Yesterday it was 17 c and today it has not got into double digits. Rain, heavy rain and showers are forecast for the next two weeks! I am sure we will be looking forward to getting to Sydney in November.         

We have secured a slip at the marina for the winter at a good rate and have a few people who will keep an eye on the boat whilst we are away. We are having some cockpit covers made that will enclose the whole cockpit which apparently is essential for travel up to Alaska with the rain and cold that will be experienced.

Katya seems to be growing every day. We had to go shopping yesterday and buy her some new clothes and shoes. She now takes the same shoe size as Jude! After the harrowing expedition to the mall, we went to see a lecture on sea creatures of the Salish sea in Bellingham as part of Katya’s homeschooling.

Well its back to work on reducing the items on the list.      

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roscoe Bay

Roscoe Bay

We arrived at Squirrel Cove Government dock at 9am after a slow but relaxing downwind sail from Rebecca spit. I went to the general store and O’Byrne, the very kind lady who owns the store, presented me with the two reconditioned propane tanks that I had ordered a week or so ago. I had them filled, said my goodbyes and went back to the boat. 

Roscoe bay entrance

On the dock we met up with Tony, a lovely 76 year old, ex Brit with beer in hand (at 9am) who was sailing around the area on his Hunter 42. It was great to have a chat to him and hear about his adventures. He was certainly making the most of his retirement, having mortgaged his house to buy the boat, following his wife’s death. he just decided to take off and have some fun. Good on him.
We waited around for an hour or so then headed across the channel to Roscoe bay which requires a high tide to cross a drying bar into the bay. This bay really looked secluded. You would hardly know it was there from the channel.    

There were only two boats in the bay when we arrived, one of which left shortly after. We set the anchor in a small cove on the north shore and settled down to some lunch. 

Later that evening we spotted a familiar boat arriving. One with Red Ensign (UK flag) on the stern. It was David, Stephanie and Sally (their dog) on Cambria. We had met David and Stephanie briefly early in the year whilst we were in Laura cove.

The following day the three of us went for a walk to Black lake to test the temperature of the water and see if it would be suitable for a swim and wash. It was! Great. In we went, Jude as well. It was actually quite warm and we spent a few hours languishing on the rocks and swimming. It is always good to have a freshwater swim and wash.

I baked another couple of loaves of bread and dropped one off to David and Stephanie and invited them to come over to supper.

We have now been in Roscoe bay for a week. How time flies by. We have been keeping ourselves busy by lots of walking, schoolwork with Katya, swimming and kayaking. Stephanie joined us on a walk up to Llanover mountain one day. The walk is about 8 miles there and back with an elevation climb of about 1900 feet. Katya did extremely well and not only completed the walk but won the slug finding competition with 2365 points. She also gained bonus points for finding a lizard with an orange stomach and a frog with green stripes (we need to find out what they are).  David won the game of Risk that we played over two nights and conquered the world by wiping us all out with his Black Army. We will have to have a rematch when we meet up again, who knows where and who knows when.

Katya's high scoring frog

Jude, Katya and Stephanie at the top of the mountain

A view over Desolation sound from the mountain

We are now drifting along at 5 knots with only the headsail up, sailing downwind towards Pender Harbour again as we make our way south. We enjoyed our time in Roscoe. Getting to know David and Stephanie, the freshwater swims and the secluded anchorage. We can feel autumn approaching. The evenings are drawing in and mornings are getting colder. We had the heating on for the first time this morning. My shorts have been packed away and our thoughts are now focused on heading back south, finding a place for the boat for the winter and getting ready for our trip (flights) to Australia to see Jude’s family.  

Rebecca Spit

Rebecca Spit

Having navigated Sarita safely through the fog and rapids from the Octopus Islands we arrived at Rebecca Spit on Quadra Island. As the name suggests the anchorage is a spit of land, only about 50 yards wide that juts out from the east side of the island near Heriot bay. We all dinghied ashore and walked up the beach looking at the huge amount of driftwood on either side of the spit. Katya loved walking along the logs and has been adding to her “art material” collection.

The following day we walked the 3 miles along the beach into town to see what it had to offer and find out where we could stock up on food and water. We were pleasantly surprised by Heriot bay. It had a well stocked supermarket and a good pub! Tonight is Reggae night with prime rib Sunday special on the menu! So we will come back later.

On the south side of the bay adjacent to Rebecca spit is a camp site along the shore of the bay.  Its past and present occupiers have been very creative with the driftwood that lies so densely along the shore and have made quite elaborate structures including verandas, staircases, some amazing rafts and rope swings, some of which are adorned with wood carvings in the local Native American style. Needless to say it took us some time to get back as we tested out some of the rafts and rope swings.

The same evening we dressed up (unusual for us) and took the dinghy into town where we had supper at the Heriot bay inn. Unfortunately we could not see the reggae band as minors were not allowed so we lingered, like teenagers, outside the pub and enjoyed the music for a while. A strong smell of herbal remedies filled the air. The dinghy ride back to the boat, which is about a mile, was interesting. Not only was it pitch black but the wind had picked up and there were a few white horses. Thanks to the trusty GPS on our iphone we managed to find our way back easily and we did not get wet.
On Monday we took the dinghy back into town and walked to the supermarket. We had a full trolley load of stuff which we had to take back to the dinghy and then back to the boat. Luckily the supermarket is prepared for the likes of us sailors and they delivered the goods to the dock for us FOC! Marvelous.

Tomorrow we are heading back to Desolation sound to pick up our new propane bottles. We will then have a full pantry, full tanks and enough propane to last us a month or so. Who knows where we will be next.

PS the forecast is looking ok for the next 10 days. Only a small chance of rain. Cloudy in the mornings but sunny in the afternoons. Fingers crossed.