Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blunden Harbor

Departed Port McNeill at midday and sailed all the way to Blunden Harbor. It was to wind again so we had to beat our way there with 17-25 knot true winds. Sunny. Great fun.

We were going to stay here tomorrow but they are forecasting 25-30 knots from the south east which would make a better sail for us than the usual North west winds so we will make the most of the south winds to pass Cape Caution.


Blunden Harbor

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life on the water again

It’s amazing how after only a few months we forgot exactly how wonderful living on the water is. Life becomes simpler, we become closer as a family, more dependent on one another. The freedom from land based routines to routines dictated by wind, tides and currents. We have choices of where to go, and how long to stay. Then there is of course the breathtaking scenery and abundance of wildlife all around us.
Dawn. Rebecca Spit

There is nothing like visiting new places and experiencing a jolt of awe when you see something for the first time. It’s like shot of adrenalin. The second time you visit a place it’s never quite the same as the first time you visit a place. You might not experience the exact same feeling but it is different. Knowing where you are going to and what you are going to see when you get there is a different experience, it can give you a feeling of security and familiarity. As much as I like visiting new cities visiting new natural places are more rewarding for me. Cities these days are becoming more similar all over the world: same  chain restaurants and shops, cars, architecture, and people are even stating to look the same, all due, no doubt, to better communications and corporate globalisation. Natural beauty on the other hand seems to me so much more unique from place to place and thus still gives me the “jolt of awe” when I see something new.  To be honest, I like both. Having been in the wilds for a while it’s nice to go to a city but it’s always great to be back in natural surroundings, spring, summer and autumn at least!    

We departed Anacortes with the wind to the west, the direction we were heading, so we motored until we crossed the Rosario Strait and through Thatcher pass when we raised the sails and turned off the engine as the winds changed direction to north. We were all feeling very smug in our cockpit with its new covers sheltering us from the elements outside. It does take a little bit away from the sailing experience and you have to rely on the wind instruments to sail rather than the wind on your face, but it’s warm and dry! Marvelous. I am sure we will appreciate it even more as we head north.

We sailed all the way to Friday harbor, checked out with US customs and immigration, decided to buy some more beer as it’s cheaper in the US, and headed off to Sidney, British Columbia, Canada. Again fortune was with us as the wind had shifted again and allowed us to sail all the way to Sidney with the current behind us, where we checked in by telephone to Canadian customs and immigration and raised the sails again for Montague harbor in the Canadian gulf islands. We had a very peaceful night on a park mooring buoy and headed out the next morning to catch slack tide through Dodd Narrows. We sailed on a beam reach all the way to the narrows, up Trincomali channel and Stuart channel, 15 knots true wind and a reef in for comfort. In the end we fully reefed Sarita and just the headsail as we were making such good progress we would be arriving at the narrows early. Even then we were doing 6 knots.  Grin factor 9.

Once through the narrows we had a short passage to Mark Bay in Nanaimo where we dropped the anchor, went into town in the dinghy, bought the provisions we would not take across the border and went for a walk along the beach on Newcastle island.

We had planned to leave early the following morning for a long 80nm sail to Rebecca spit but the forecast was for 20-25 knot winds on the nose with gusts to 30knots. We decided to stay another day, 20-25 knots is not normally that bad but given we had 80 miles to go it would have been of a slog and we did not need to endure that. Instead we had another pleasant day in Nanaimo. Looking at the weather during the day the wind never got above 15 knots so we would have been alright. So it was that we departed at 6am on the dot for Rebecca spit. Out in the Strait of Georgia it was already 15 knots against the predicted 5-10 knots, it slowly built and by 9am it was 20 knots. We decided to raise the sails and beat our way up the Strait of Georgia. It would take us longer but would save using the engine. We made some good progress and sailed for 7 hours then the winds died and we motored for a while until the winds picked up again and we raised the sails again. The Canadian airforce provided us with a wonderful show of acrobatics for a couple of hours. Their ariel display team were practicing off the coast of Vancouver island and we watched them perform as we sailed the rest of the way to Rebecca spit, arriving at 8:30 in the evening and dusk. It was a long day but we had sunshine all the way and some great sailing. We dropped the hook off at the north end of the spit in sheltered water. We were the only one there, in fact we did not see another boat he whole day other than the Comox ferry from Powell river.  
Crab dinner

After a peaceful night and wonderful sleep we were up again early the next morning to catch slack tide at Beazley passage and then on to the Octopus Islands, only a short 15 mile hop. Now that we are in the smaller channels the wind is either on your nose going north or on your stern heading south so we had to motor the whole way. The Octopus islands are one of our favorite anchorages. We had stayed there for nearly a week at the end of last season and had a great time kayaking and exploring around the islands. We arrived at around 9:45am to an empty anchorage and dropped the hook in the same place as before. It was another gloriously sunny day so we rowed our dinghy, Little George, to one of the islands where we explored and caught some crab. We had also dropped the crab pot in the water on the way and our luck was in as we had a total of three worthy specimens for supper.   Sitting in the cockpit we watched all the wildlife around us: Otters, raccoons, seals, eagles and many species of wildfowl. It was also warm. Yes 17c so we were in t shirts and I did go for a paddle, although not a swim.          

Driftwood sculpture shack - Octopus Islands

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Staying extra night in Nanaimo as 30 knot winds on the nose predicted for our sail to Rebecca Spit. Nice and sunny though tomorrow.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alaska here we come

We are off to Alaska!

Just before we leave....

Downright lax I say! It’s been many weeks since I made a post. Not only are we back from Australia we have left the US and are now in Canada. How did that happen so quickly?

We arrived back in the US on the 5th March having had a wonderful time in Australia. The flight back was good up until the point we arrived in Vancouver. We were advised, after our 2 hour wait through Immigration and customs, that two of our bags did not leave Sydney and would be sent on the next flight. We then boarded the small twin prop plane bound for Seattle, took off and just as we were in US airspace we turned around and went back to Vancouver. The problem: a faulty engine temperature gauge.  Now back in Vancouver we had to clear Canadian customs and US Immigration and Customs again. 3 Hours later (insert appropriate expletives) we were on another plane to Seattle then a bus to Anacortes. Tiered and exhausted we arrived at the boat at around 10pm to find that our WONDERFUL Friends TC and Kelly had left us a food parcel with all the essentials including some lovely cheese and salami. How grateful we were not to have to go to the supermarket for breakfast.
We were surprised that the boat was in great condition. The bilge pump had not activated in the 4 months we were away, the decks looked like they had been cleaned (Was that you TC?) and all the sheets smelt like they just came out of the laundry. Now for those of you that don’t live, or have a boat this is, in my experience, unusual. I expected to have some damp smelling cabin, mildew covered bedding and moldy carpets. The heating was on and it was great to be back home! Yes it’s our home. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Koji and Katherine

The weather was a shock to us at the start. Coming back from an Aussie summer to what was still winter, not that it was that cold, only 6-8c during the day and down to 4-5 overnight, it was the rain and clouds that made it a bit miserable. We can however look forward to summer starting very soon.
5 days after getting back our luggage had still not arrived. Let me correct myself, Jude and Katya’s luggage had not arrived. All mine and the Didgeridoo had arrived. We had to purchase some essentials including thermal underwear. After speaking to Air Canada 4 times a day for 10 days the luggage finally arrived. Thank goodness as it turns out that under a global convention, airlines are only liable to pay a miserable compensation of $400 per bag. That would not even pay for the suitcase.      

We planned to leave for Alaska on or about the 4th April so we have about a month to complete the preparations. Cleaning Sarita, inside and out, fixing the freezer, some mechanical repairs and provisioning at the last minute. Probably the worst job on the list was to replace the forward head hoses. 5 in total. All of which seems to have been secreted in the most difficult to get to places. After two days, bruised and scraped knuckles, frayed tempers and 18 feet of very smelly old rubber hoses we now have a forward head that I hope is a little less pungent.

We continue to be surprised by all the wonderful people we meet. TC and Kelly, who I mentioned before have been wonderful. They kindly looked after our car whilst we were away, brought us wonderful homemade preserves, invited us to their house, which is a wonderful farm / vineyard in the foothills and made us all laugh. Tom and Jan, who invited Katya to their house to paint (Jan is a great local artist). Bernie and Mary, who again invited us to their home with a magnificent view.  Koji and Katherine who live on their most unusual boat – The Orca -  who have values that they follow and I can only aspire to. All of them have made our time in the marina that more pleasant.  

Tulip Festival in Washington....

Talking of friends, we took a trip down to see our friends we met last year whilst cruising, Dave and Stephanie, who live on their boat in Polsboro. We drove down in the car stopping off in Port Townsend, a pretty old style Washington town and had lunch with them. It was great to see them again. Like us they have a long list of preparation tasks to complete before they depart for their summer cruise up the coast. David was in the middle of replacing his windlass, which gave up the ghost at the end of last season. As usual he was doing a wonderful job, everything meticulously thought out and reconstructed. We had a lunch, a couple of beers and then had to get going. On the way back we stopped off in Tacoma to collect our liferaft which we had dropped off at Westpac Marine to be serviced in October– (Tick another item off the list – do not pass GO and pay another $200, or more).

Probably the most important task we have on our list to complete is to get the freezer repaired. We have had a technician out a few times to have a look at it but with no luck. Its runs for a few days and then without reason it stops. David had sent me some very detailed notes on how he had cured his freezer problems and kindly offered to come up and try his magic on my freezer. I gladly accepted his offer and David and Stephanie drove up to see us. We spent and afternoon working on the freezer and fingers crossed the unit will last through the season and allow us to enjoy a wonder variety of meals and ice cubes for drinks.

Looks like we are good to go! Wait. Not so fast. Another problem surfaces after our sea trial to Sucia Island. The 12v house battery looks like it is on the way out. It powers some of the instruments and the VHF and SSB radios. Replacements seemed to be hard to find and delays of two weeks looked likely. This would mean that we will have to rush up to Alaska rather than take a leisurely route. After lots of phoning around I managed to find a couple of batteries, albeit larger than I actually need. We have lost one week but it’s better than two.

Jude and Katya went off to Costco to do the provisioning which we have to split into two trips as certain produce cannot be taken into Canada from the US and therefore has to be bought in Canada. They arrived back from the shop at 10pm with 4 large cart loads of food. This had to be ferried from the car to the boat and then stripped of all its packaging stored away in various cubby-holes where we hope we remember where we put everything.

The night before our departure TC and Kelly and Koji and Katherine came around for drink and nibbles, food provided by everybody. Koji and Katherine bought a lovely chicken and rice dish and TC bought some pizza. All food consumed we completed the evening with a visit from some new friends we met, Jake, Daniel and their children.  

Pre departure drinks. Dont be fooled by Koji's shorts. Its cold

All the packaging removed

At last! Off we go. We left at 8am. Koji and Katherine came to wave us off. How kind. First stop: Friday Harbour to clear US Immigration and then on to Sidney BC to clear Canadian customs and then on to Montague Harbour in the Gulf Islands. 50 miles and probably 12 hours.   

Just a bit of current behind us..