Friday, February 7, 2014

I spoke to soon....

Winter has definitely still not departed. We awoke to snow on the decks this morning and more promised for later today. I felt for Katya as she trudged off to school, adorned with her wooly hat and gloves. It was not quite as cold overnight as the previous night but I did get up at 4am to turn the heating on. At least my toothpaste was not frozen this morning.

Here is a video of one of my favorite sailing moments from last year. We were sailing down Chatham Strait and across to Egg harbor on Coronation island Alaska. The wind was blowing 20-25 on the beam. Great fun. (If you cannot see the video below click this link:  sailing to Egg Harbor, Alaska )

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter is nearly over, or is it?

Hopeless, appalling, slacker is what I say! Yes that’s me. It has been 5 months since I did my last post and so much has happened in the intervening time, more than I am sure I will remember to include in this post but here we go.

Friday Harbor
After much deliberation we decided to spend the winter months in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands which are off the coast of Washington State. A number of factors contributed to this discussion:- the primary one being that it has an excellent public school system as our intention was to place Katya back in school to recharge her social batteries, ascertain how well we had done at homeschooling her and to give her an unforgettable experience of going to school on an island. In addition to the schooling we also chose Friday Harbor because it has (reportedly) significantly less rain than Seattle or other towns along the Washington coast, a mere 27 inches compared to around 40 inches in Seattle. It is supposed to be in a “rain shadow” and has around 250 sunny days a year as well. As of today, the 7th Feb 2014, I can report that I believe what they say. We have had very little rain over the past 5 months and have seen a good deal of sunshine.
Friday Harbor from the top of the mast

Friday harbor is a pretty town on San Juan Island, and I believe it is the capital of the group of 172 islands, most of which are small and 4 have a ferry servicing them. San Juan Island has about 5,000 people in the winter which swells to around 9,000 or 10,000 in the summer months.

We secured our winter spot of the main breakwater in the harbor which provides us with a fantastic view over the San Juan channel, plugged in the shore power, turned on the heaters and filled up the water tanks for unlimited showers and prepared for the onslaught of winter. We still have our car so we spent some time exploring the wonderful island and its beaches.

The weather remained glorious in what I think is termed an Indian summer. Boaters still continued to arrive in Friday Harbor on their way south from Alaska back to their winter homes and we enjoyed meeting many people and hearing all their wonderful stories of adventure and mishap.

Katya was enrolled into school the day after arriving and she started the following day. She settled in amazingly well, (I am so proud of her) and has made some great friends already. We have been very pleased with the school, class sizes are small, the teachers very capable and are genuinely interested in helping the children, I was also impressed that all the school meals are not only healthy but all the ingredients are grown on the island, one up on Jamie Oliver. Katya immediately joined the book club and the choir and has since joined up with the basketball club.

We soon settled into a new pace of life: Katya going to school and Jude and I cleaning the boat after a long season and starting to wade through the project list, which as any boater knows is a never ending list of maintenance and repairs with some inclusion of new toys or gadgets thrown in for good measure.

After a few weeks we got to know most of the long term liveaboards and the winter liveaboards and decided to hold a dock party to get to know everybody better and an excuse for a bit of a knees-up. Since then we have formed some great friendships with the other people on the dock. John and his dog Phoebe, or is it Phoebe and her human John, Phil and Gerri, Keith and Jenny, Al and Kristi, Rick and his dog Ted, Lynn and Fred, Glenn and his cat Nemo and many others. We have had some great times with them and they have all been so helpful. It will be sad to part from them in the spring.

Jude off to Australia
Sadly Jude had to leave on the 7th November to go and see her ailing father in Australia and to have a double knee operation. As of the 7th February she is still there and we are both missing her immensely. It has been a bit of a steep learning curve for me since Jude left, having to play mother for Katya and relearning how to cook something other than simple meals.

Life becomes a routine again when you are in the marina: get up at 6:30, make breakfast, clean the boat do some shopping, tick a few projects off the list, pick Katya up from school, cook supper, do homework and then to bed. I am enjoying the time spent with Katya very much. We have our moments of stress, usually involving math homework, but I feel that I am very luck to spend so much time with her in these formative years of hers. I am not sure she feels the same though!

The jobs on the boat have been mostly enjoyable other than the inevitable problems with the head (loo) which clogs up every now and again. I finally took the plunge and decided to strip them down and give everything a thorough cleaning. I was amazed to find that there was a huge build up of “mineral deposit” in the hoses since I replaced all the hoses in March. Fred kindly gave me some Rydlyme and I was pleased to see that this dissolved the crud very quickly, much better than vinegar. I am going to change my flush water over to fresh water from saltwater which I understand will help reduce the problem.

New lick of paint
Jude and I washed, waxed and polished the whole boat before she left and Sarita  looked beautiful until the first winter storm came through and covered the her in salt again. Decks were scrubbed and treated with Wet and Forget to keep the algae and mildew off (excellent stuff). I serviced the main engine and generator, replacing the oil, coolant and impellers and have still to check the valve clearances. I scrubbed the engine room clean of its 12 years of grime and gave it a lick of BilgeKote paint so that now it looks like new. All the hoses and their clamps have been checked and replaced where necessary.

One of the biggest jobs on the list was to try and fix my VHF radio which has never worked well. I traced it down to a problem with the supply voltage and the gauge of wire feeding the unit was insufficient and created too much resistance. Phil also very kindly came over and helped my check the antenna and we made some changes there which improved the performance. I also noticed that the antenna splitter box has a power light that was not lit, so for the first time I took the cover off and found that a fuse had blown. So now the VHF radio works amazingly well.

Sarita and Perseverance

I also managed to get the Shortwave radio and pactor modem going so that now I can receive weather forecasts when we are out of VHF range, something I have been trying to do since we bought the boat. I also managed to get my ships radio license for the SSB radio and have been assigned a call sign – 2HCK5 and assigned an MMSI Number which has been programmed into my DSC VHF radio.

I have been frantically repairing anything I can find, removing any signs of rust and painting any bare metal with Rustoleum to protect them. The boards have been lifted and the bilges cleaned throughout along with every other crevice on the boat. I have rewired some of the electronics, consolidated some of the in line fuses in one place and removed some obsolete equipment. A new ships P.C has been installed and set up with the Nobeltec navigation package. The old one conked out on our way north last year. I don’t rely on this and I don’t believe a boat’s navigation systems should be run on a windows PC as they are not the most reliable system in a maritime climate – as last year proved. Still it’s a good back up for the Garmin chartplotter I have on the helm.

I have taken all the sails out of the locker and checked them along with the genoa which I had to have the clew chafe patch replaced. I bent on the staysail and the spare genoa so that I know they can be relied on if necessary.

John kindly helped haul me up the mast to replace the Windex at the top of the mast which was taken off by a bald eagle in Sitka.

Life in the marina has been very social, I cannot recall going out to dinner with friends so often since I was in my twenties, as I said there are a great bunch of people. We have been over to John’s boat numerous times for dinners and wine tastings, for coffee and tea and a quick beer or 3. Phil and Gerri on their wonderful new Nordhavn 52 Mermaid Explorer are a delight. Gerri kindly looked after Katya while Phil and I went out for a lads evening at the Cask and Schooner pub. God did I need a pint!

Winter is truly here
September came and went along with the Indian summer to be replaced by shortening days but still with lots of sunshine. We had our first snow of the winter and the temperature dropped to minus 9 C which gave us ice on the INSIDE of the boat and froze our toothpaste.

Victoria harbor
Christmas approached all too quickly and Katya and I made our first trip back to the mainland, or as the locals say “back to America” to do the Christmas shopping and a much needed trip to Costco. We decided that we would get away for Christmas and go and visit some friends in Victoria on Vancouver island Canada. We departed on a cold and dreary Christmas Eve and managed to sail most of the way to Victoria where we met up with Kirk and Kristen who are wintering in Victoria on their boat LingerLonger. TC and Kelly came over from Anacortes on their beautiful trimaran Strider and we went to Chinatown for a Christmas Eve meal. Kirk and Kristen kindly invited us to spend Christmas day with them on their boat which was a barrel of laughs. Victoria was quite splendid with its fine show of Christmas lights and other decorations and it really felt like Christmas.

3am Christmas morning
We departed Victoria on the 27th December and headed up to Butchart gardens. TC and Kelly were ahead of us and once in Haro strait we raised the sails and had a wonderful run in 25-30kts of wind. TC and Kelly streaked away in their Trimaran but we did hit 8.8 knots at one point. It’s great to get the old girl wound up again. We picked up a mooring buoy in Butchart cove and entered the impressive gardens just before dusk with TC and Kelly and waited until the last of the northern mid winter light vanished over the horizon and the gardens came to life. I was staggered at the number of people the gardens draw in, but given the amazing spectacle I can see why.

Sarita and Strider in Butchart cove
Lights of Butchart Gardens


Bedwell Harbor - Pender island
The following day Katya and I left the mooring buoy and headed off for some alone time on Pender Island in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Bedwell harbor on Pender island can be quite busy on the summer but just after Christmas we had the place to ourselves. We picked up a mooring buoy and took the dinghy to shore for a lovely walk through the Madrona and fir trees and then sat on the beach and lit a fire and watched and stunning winter sunset –red sky at night sailors delight! We spent the next day strolling along the beach, Katya doing artwork and we made homemade pizza for supper – always a treat (and a mess).          

Haro Hotel
For new years eve we took the boat up to Roche harbor along with Phil and Gerri and Fred and Lynn. John had moved to Roche, for a change of scenery, and we decided that it would be a good place to spend new years eve. John had some friends up from Seattle and we all spent a great evening aboard his boat drinking copious amounts of wine before going to welcome the new year in at the Haro Hotel where a band had been flown in by one of the other boat owners. One of Katya’s friends came over for the night so they watched some films back on Sarita.

Curry evening
I said earlier that I had been relearning cooking and I have actually been quite enjoying it. I decided that it was time to have a go at making an authentic Indian curry so I set about procuring all the ingredients and made chicken Jalfrezi, a Chicken Madras and a beef Rogan Josh, complete with homemade naan bread, cooked on the BBQ, and papadums with all the trimmings. Phil and Gerri, Fred and Lynn and Al and Rick came over for the evening. I will be doing it again is all I can say.