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.      

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