Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Monday, September 17, 2018
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
I forgot to blog this morning. There was too much going on with finally getting internet, changing doctor's appointments in Honolulu since we will be getting home later than we anticipated three months ago, being able to video chat with Lori in Portland, catching up on email, etc.
Thankful got a nice slip in the transient section of Ganges Harbor that even included WIFI. We were surrounded by similar sized power cruisers, both Canadian and American, out enjoying the Gulf Islands.
Ganges Harbor was a busy place with all manner of pleasure boats coming and going, three Canadian Naval vessels in for the evening, and float planes constantly landing and taking off. It is a town definitely tailored for tourists, with lots of art galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques. Team Thankful had a good time exploring, and we went out to the Oyster Catcher restaurant for a great dinner.
We stuck around this morning so we could catch the open market early this afternoon. They had lots of good produce there, but we were concerned that fresh products aboard might create a problem when we cross the border into the US tomorrow, so we didn't buy any. I used the slack time this morning to go get a long overdue haircut.
We are on our way to Rum Island, just this side of the border. We will dash across tomorrow morning and reenter the US in the San Juan Islands.
Monday, September 10, 2018
We've had remarkably little of what I'd always considered typical Pacific Northwest weather, clouds, wind, and rain, over the past three months. The spell finally broke thirty six hours ago, and we have been living in dreary damp chilly conditions ever since.
We stayed put in Montague Harbor yesterday and had a sedentary day. Matt and Vicki went ashore for a while all dressed up in their foul weather gear and boots. I didn't feel like getting wet and stayed aboard Thankful.
It isn't hard to stay busy even when there's no action outside the boat. There are lots of books in the ship's library, I'm writing a lot, and there are three meals a day to cook and clean up after. Following dinner every night we have "entertainment", cycling between a couple of card games, scrabble, and movies. Last night we watched episode six in the "Horatio Hornblower" series. It is about an English Naval officer aboard an early nineteenth century sailing ship. Matt and I find ourselves imitating their manner of speech and saluting each other after watching, "As you were, sir!", "It is an honor to serve with you, sir!", stuff like that. It is making Vicki crazy.
The weather still sucks, but is showing signs of improvement. We have decided to give Ganges a try and are on our way there now. Steady as she goes, sir!
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Team Thankful had hoped to make the short hop down through the islands to Ganges Harbor yesterday where the cruising guide said there is lots to see. We encountered continued strong southeasterly winds after departing Pirate's Cove though, and Ganges is a poor anchorage with winds from that direction, so we revised our plans and headed to the more sheltered Montague Harbor a few miles away.
Along the way we passed six massive empty grain carriers lying at anchor. Ships aren't making money if they aren't carrying product, and we wondered why these were idle. Perhaps they were waiting for the season's grain harvest to be delivered to the coast for export? I can see why they would choose to moor here to kill time though. The water is shallow, but not too shallow, and the anchorage is totally protected by all the islands. It seemed out of place to see a bunch of large ships parked up in this otherwise pristine cruising wonderland.
Al Hughes and I were college sailing teammates forty five years ago. We lost track of each other after he graduated and I transferred schools, but we reconnected six years ago when he sailed in the Pacific Cup to Hawaii. I learned that Al was going to be cruising up here on his boat this summer, and we have been exchanging emails for the past couple of months hoping to bump into each other.
Al and his wife Lou's boat, Mary H, was at anchor in Montague when we arrived, so after getting settled in we dinghied over for a visit. Mary H is a unique fifty five foot steel powerboat. It looks to me like the designer just decided to add an extra deck level to a more conventional power boat. As a result she is quite high out of the water, but has as much living space aboard as many houses ashore. Mary H has three double cabins, the same number of house sized bathrooms, a huge galley, and lots of lounging space. They bought her three years ago and live aboard in Seattle's Shilshole Marina when they aren't cruising in Canada. It was great to meet Lou, catch up with Al, and tour their floating home.
After our visit with the Hughes we dinghied ashore and caught the "Pub Bus" to the Hummingbird Pub a few miles from the harbor. The pub was OK, but the real attraction is the transportation. Bus driver "Tommy Transit" is famous for his antics during the ten minute drive to the pub. He has most of an entire drum kit set up at the front of the bus which he plays with one hand while he drives the bus with the other on the narrow curvy island road. Musical instruments including tambourines, bells, rattles, maracas, etc., are handed out to boarding passengers so they can participate in the music making during the ride. It was good fun, stereo blasting, Tom skillfully accompanying one handed, passengers playing along as well.... and we didn't crash. Between songs he regaled us with stories of meeting Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald.
There were four other passengers that got off with us after the bus ride back to the marina and we noticed that they walked to a car, got in, and a drove away. They could more easily have driven straight to the pub, but chose to park at the marina instead so they could catch the bus and enjoy Tommy's performance.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Thankful pitched and heaved for six hours yesterday as she worked her way down the coast of Vancouver Island directly into a fifteen knot headwind and lumpy sea. Things really would have become interesting if the wind had shifted further to the east, putting us on a lee shore, but fortunately that never happened, and at 1PM we were entering the shelter of the Gulf Islands.
Canada's Gulf Islands are a part of the same group that include the US's San Juan Islands. They would likely all share the same name if not for the international border that cuts right down the middle. There are hundreds of closely packed islands in the two groups, and with little distance between the islands there is not much room for seas to build. The forecast calls for continuing strong winds for the next few days but it won't have any impact on our cruising here.
There was one bottleneck, Dodd Narrows, that we needed to negotiate at the north end of the Gulf Islands to get into the group. The tide can run through the pass at up to nine knots, so most boats time their passage for slack water when there is minimal current. We were shooting to arrive there at 315PM, slack high water, but ended up arriving about forty five minutes early.
Dodd Narrows is a busy place, and boats were stacked up on either side waiting for slack water. A similar sized cruiser that arrived right ahead of us didn't even slow down. He powered right through against four knots of current and made it through unscathed.
The pass is only wide enough for one boat. If boats heading in opposite directions were to arrive at the throat of the channel at the same time things could get very interesting. There are no rules on which direction has right of way either, so the potential always exists for some real entertainment as boats traverse the narrows. A group of hikers were standing on the shore to watch the fun.
Matt decided that the time was right after a couple of boats successfully made the passage in both directions. We went through while the tide was still flooding at three knots, but we didn't provide the audience ashore with any interesting stories to tell their friends.
We decided to stop for the night in Pirate's Cove on De Coursy Island. The island was the home of one of the twentieth century's most notorious cults, and its leader is rumored to have amassed a treasure of forty three boxes of gold coins weighing close to 1,000 pounds. When the cult collapsed in 1934 the gold mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps it is buried here in Pirate's Cove? It didn't feel like Thankful's anchor hit any boxes of gold when I dropped it in the harbor yesterday.
Speaking of anchors, as I write this the Thankful crew is watching a thirty five foot double ended sailboat pull up its anchor here in the harbor as she departs. The male skipper is standing on the end of the bowsprit with a hose washing the mud off of the anchor chain as his female mate works the handle on their manual anchor windlass. An electric pump is providing water pressure for the hose.
We've noted that the systems are the opposite aboard Thankful. Our windlass is electric and we use a bucket to scoop water by hand for washing mud off of the anchor chain. At least the skipper of the sailboat has delegated properly by having his mate do the heavy lifting....
Friday, September 7, 2018
The Strait of Georgia was kind to us yesterday. The forecast southeasterly winds never did fill in. Thankful dodged another bullet.
After crossing the strait the topography changed for the first time in three months. I didn't see high mountains when I looked out through the ship's wheelhouse windows. The section of Vancouver Island we were coasting along was one long low hill to our right, and empty open water to our left.
We were heading to Comox Harbor on Vancouver Island so Vicki could make a social call on Cyndy, one of her leather handbag business clients. Cyndy had a retail store in a town a few miles away. The ladies spoke on the telephone, arranged to meet for dinner, and discussed an afternoon visit to the store.
Thankful stopped in at Comox's fuel dock on our way in and we topped up her tanks with 300 liters of diesel. A thirty five foot sailboat that we had been powering next to, also on their way south, tied up next to us at the fuel dock and topped their tank off with 24 liters. Wow. That really highlighted the difference between the sailboat and powerboat programs. Sailboats end up powering almost ninety percent of the time up here because the conditions are rarely suitable for sailing. However, they are far more fuel efficient under power than we are. The added expense is well worth it for the added comfort we have though, particularly in this part of the world where it is often cold and/or rainy.
After getting settled into a slip in the harbor, Team Thankful took off to hike to Cyndy's shop. It looked to be two miles away as the crow flies, an easy afternoon stroll. Three miles and forty five minutes later we were barely halfway there. Vicki called Cyndy to fill her in on our status, and Cyndy was shocked to hear that we were attempting to make the journey on foot. She insisted on picking us up, and a few minutes later we were enjoying sitting on our butts in her air conditioned car.
We checked out Cyndy's store, which was quite nice. Her store just happened to be next door to a craft brewery, which got Matt's and my attention. It was fate that drove Team Thankful to stop in for a pint before catching a cab back to the harbor.
Cyndy joined us for pleasant dinner at a pub overlooking the harbor. A good time was had by all.
Thankful departed Comox at 630AM this morning. The dreaded southeasterlies are still forecast, and Matt wanted to get an early start to avoid the worst of them. As I write this we are pitching and heaving down the Strait of Georgia along the coast of Vancouver Island. It looks like the forecasters got it right today, but we haven't seen more than twenty knots of wind so far. We have thirty five miles of open water to cross before we get to some shelter in the Gulf Islands.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Thankful departed Tenedos Bay at a civilized hour yesterday and headed west twenty five miles to Von Dolop Inlet. Once again, the sea was glassy and the weather beautiful except for the lingering smoke from forest fires. We arrived at the narrow entrance to the inlet right behind another power boat and followed him in.
One of the cruisers we met up in Alaska said that Von Donop Inlet was his favorite anchorage in the Pacific Northwest, so we had to give it a go. The deep inlet has a large shallow lagoon at the inner end. The two mile long entrance channel is narrow along its whole length and in places is only 150 feet wide. We worked our way in to find ten other boats scattered at anchor around the lagoon. Apparently it is a favorite of lots of folks. No problem, there was plenty of room. We found a relatively isolated spot and dropped the hook on the east side of the lagoon.
The cruising guide said that the high trees surrounding Von Dolop cut off any wind that is blowing outside producing a flat calm in the anchorage, and that's what we found. It was still for our entire stay, and the air temperature got up over 80 degrees during the late afternoon. It almost felt like Hawaii.
Matt and Vicki worked on sprucing up the teak rails. I took a nap. Team Thankful had a pleasant afternoon. Fortunately, there were no guitar players in the anchorage so we also had a quiet evening.
We got started at 6AM this morning for our assault on the Strait of Georgia. The strait is a relatively large body of water between the mainland and the southern end of Vancouver Island. Being that large, significant waves can build if the wind is from the wrong direction, and the forecast is for moderate south easterlies this afternoon. That puts Thankful on the leeward side of the strait during the crossing, the wrong side, so we are trying to get across before the wind fills in and makes things uncomfortable. It is still glassy out here as I write this. So far so good.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Thankful entered a new world after successfully running the rapids yesterday. All of a sudden we were seeing pockets of high end residential developments along the shore. Marine traffic increased noticeably as well. There were boats everywhere, and the balance shifted from the predominantly commercial power boats we were seeing up north to recreational sailboats.
We've been hearing about all the fires in Western Canada and the US, but until yesterday hadn't seen any smoke from them. The smoke filled in just past the rapids as well, and at times the visibility got down to less than a mile.
Thankful was headed for Desolation Sound, a popular summer cruiser's destination in this part of the world. We've heard that most folks are gone by Labor Day though, so we were hopeful that it wouldn't be too crowded. We pulled in to Refuge Cove, one of the primary provisioning ports in the area, and were pleased to find it nearly empty. Some more beer, ice, and food and Thankful was off and headed for Tenedos Bay, one of the main anchorages in the sound. We found three sailboats anchored together in a protected part of the bay, and a couple of power boats scattered elsewhere. We talked about anchoring near the sailboats, but opted instead for a more private cove a quarter mile away.
Except for the smoke, the weather was perfect. There wasn't a breath of wind, the sky was cloudless, and the temperature was in the seventies. Matt and I dinghied over to a trail head where we hiked a half mile up to an inland lake. He went for a swim but the water was a little to chilly for me.
Somebody on one of the sailboats had a guitar, and last night we could faintly hear the well lubricated crew singing '60s folk songs in the cockpit well into the evening. That can be fun when you are involved, but not so much when you aren't. Good choice on the isolated anchorage.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Matt screwed around for most of the day trying to get the windlass to work. First he removed, took apart, inspected, reassembled, and reinstalled the control box. It appeared to be working before he started (we could hear the solenoids clicking in), but not after he was finished so he repeated the whole process and got it working again. He checked the connections. He checked for continuity. He checked the voltage. Everything seemed to be fine, but the windlass still wasn't working. He kept messing with it until it miraculously started to function properly, and now it seems to be working fine.
I still suspect we have an intermittent problem in the motor itself, perhaps worn or dirty brushes on the rotor. It is too tough to deal with that here, so we will keep our fingers crossed that the windlass keeps working. If it doesn't, no big deal. Captain Cook didn't have an electric windlass and he got by just fine.
Yesterday we traversed an area of very narrow channels that experience extreme tidal flows. I was driving during the afternoon in the worst of it while Matt was playing with his windlass. We were bucking an adverse current that was as strong as four knots at times. I worked hard to find the eddies along the shore for relief. The current would occasionally throw Thankful sideways, heel us over, and knock us off course by up to forty degrees. It was very exciting.
We got tired of fighting the current and looked for a place to hole up for the night. We found an interesting spot, Shoal Bay, in the cruising guide, just a few miles ahead of and pulled in. It turned out to be a real gem with a floating dock to tie up to, a beautiful valley, and a hike up to an abandoned gold mine near the top of the mountain. Matt and I hiked uphill for an hour and made it to a lookout near the mine before turning around. It was a great spot, and a great day. There are a few permanent residents in the bay, and they own a couple of big friendly dogs, Tulip and Taz. The dogs are the community's unofficial officials, and they have the run of the valley and pier. Last night as we were preparing dinner they decided to come aboard for a visit. Matt gave them a little snack, and then of course they had no interest in leaving... ever. He eventually had to escort them off of the boat and close the gate through the bulwarks to keep them from reboarding. Tulip sat on the dock and yowled to let us know that she wasn't happy about the new arrangement.
Today Thankful is still in an area of extreme currents, and we just went through Dent Rapids right behind a sailboat under power. We timed our arrival at this rapids to take advantage of a favorable tide. The sailboat was thrown back and forth by the swirling current in front of us, heeling and yawing as she went through. Matt was concentrating at the wheel to keep us aimed down the channel and out of the eddies. He hit fourteen knots of boatspeed over the bottom. That's six and a half knots of current. Matt did a better job of staying out of the eddies than the sailboat's skipper did, and we just passed him in an area of less turbulance. The rag hanger's skipper was absent from the wheel as we went by, the boat being steered temporarily by the autopilot. We joked that he probably had to dash below to change his underwear.
Monday, September 3, 2018
Thankful wove her way east through the Broughtons yesterday until we got to the narrows of Chatham Channel where we expected to encounter an adverse tide of about four knots. Rather than fight it, we decided to anchor for lunch in Cutter Cove and wait until the tide turned. At 2PM we pulled the hook and powered through the channel in a slack tide.
We weren't sure how far we would make it yesterday. Thankful is working her way east towards Desolation Sound, and we figure it will take about three days to get there. Coves and inlets suitable for overnight anchoring are everywhere, so we are just moseying along until we get tired and then stopping for the night. Last night we decided to stop at Port Neville where the cruising guide indicated we would find a free public pier. The pier was full when we arrived at 5PM. No problem. We proceeded further into the protected inlet and anchored in thirty feet of water in the lee of a headland. We anchored just past a Beneteau 44, a bigger version of my boat in Hawaii. Thankful had anchored next to the same boat in Tracey Harbor a few nights ago.
Matt noticed yesterday that the electric anchor windlass didn't always engage when its control button was pushed. This morning it crapped out completely when I was on the bow pulling up the anchor. The windlass wouldn't work in either direction. We could hear the solenoids engaging when the up and down buttons were pushed, but the motor didn't run. We ended up pulling up the anchor by hand. It appears that the problem is either in the power supply or the motor. Matt is busy trouble shooting the system as I write this.
I wrote in an earlier blog about being mortified to find that we had inadvertently left a fender dangling next to Thankful as we powered along one day in Alaska. In the US, hanging fenders underway is like putting a "Student Driver" sign in the window of your car. Apparently that is not the case here in Canada. A significant percentage of the boats here leave their fenders out all the time. It is common to see a boat go by with four fenders hanging on each side swinging as the boat rolls and waves hit them. I wonder if those same boaters leave their Christmas lights up all year long too?
We departed Port Neville this morning just behind the Beneteau. Once we got out of the harbor we found that the wind was blowing right behind us at fifteen knots down Johnstone Strait, our main highway for the day. The Beneteau unrolled his jib and is sailing next to us. He looks good under sail, but I am content in the controlled environment of Thankful's wheelhouse.
Sunday, September 2, 2018
It only took us a couple of hours to get to Echo Bay yesterday after zigging and zagging our way through the Broughtons. Matt had read that Echo Bay, a floating visiting boater oriented facility like Sullivan Bay, was very popular and he was concerned about being able to get a berth. We found it to be almost completely empty when we arrived.
In the office we met Tove, half of the couple that owned and managed the floating resort. She and her husband Pierre have been in this business for more than forty years, and as much as they have loved it were calling it quits. The marina was for sale. Did we want to buy it? Matt looked up the listing info on the internet after we returned to Thankful. Fourteen acres of land surrounding the marina and all the infrastructure for a measly $1.9 million Canadian. Such a deal!
Tove told us that the season is just about over now. They are full of boats all summer, but most cruisers have gone home. She also told us about a forty minute hike to Billy's Museum in the next bay. We were itching to stretch our legs, so off we went singing songs to scare the bears away. As we walked out of the forest and up to a couple of shoreside buildings we found eighty two year old Billy sitting on a bench outside his museum.
Billy was a fisherman, collector, and story teller who has lived his whole life in the area. He started collecting as a kid, and his museum was full of pre-contact native stone tools, old glass bottles, artifacts from the fishing industry 100 years ago, and stuff he picked up on Pacific beaches. He had a decent collection of glass balls, and we got to talking about those. He showed me some new ones he'd collected recently, glass inside of a plastic case. I'd never seen one before. Now I'll know better than to ignore plastic floats that I see on beaches.
Billy was also the author of three books about his life's experiences. There were copies on sale in the little shop next to the museum.
The Thankful crew attended the resort's prime rib dinner last night, the last such event of the season. We weren't sure what to expect. It was a bring-your-own plates, utensils, beverages affair. Tove and Pierre are pretty good at this after forty years though. The prime rib dinner for fifty guests was excellent, and lots of fun. We sat at a table with Allen and David, two guys on the first long cruise out of Vancouver aboard their new to them used cruising sailboat. They are having a ball and hope to take longer cruises in the future, perhaps to Mexico and Hawaii.
I turned them on to Noodle's Notes, my free on-line Hawaii cruising guide. This morning before we departed Allen yelled over that he had downloaded the guidebook after returning to his boat last night. They'll call when they get to Hawaii.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Thankful had a short day for a change yesterday. Our destination, Sullivan Bay, was only four miles further into the Broughtons than our anchorage at Tracey Harbor. We took it easy in the morning, got a late start, and moseyed in to the bay just after noon.
Sullivan Bay is a floating community tucked into a protected inlet much like Lizzie Cove, except this is a commercial operation focused on supporting upscale houseboats and visiting yachts.
We haven't seen many luxury houseboats this summer, but this community has a couple of dozen. They are moored to the floating piers just like the visiting yachts are. I'm not sure what I expected floating homes to look like. Perhaps a cross between a boat and a normal house? I was surprised by their appearance though. They look just like homes you would see on land, but they are all sitting on top of floating platforms. Some of those platforms are steel, like the barge Judy had her floating home on in Thorne Bay, Alaska. Some are on concrete floats, but most are on criss-crossed log floats that are lashed together with cable or chains. I wonder how many years it takes before those timbers get waterlogged and sink? What happens then to the home sitting on top?
The proprietors have generators that run 24/7 to provide power to the community. There is a store, restaurant, and laundromat among the floats. Water tanks on the hill ashore provide catchment water, but signs warn users that it must be boiled before drinking. The water also has an unappealing tanin coloring. They had free WIFI in the covered party area outside the restaurant, and we spent some time there catching up on email.
A couple of float planes dropped off and picked up passengers while we were there, and a ferry delivered supplies to the store. It was a busy little community. We wanted to have dinner at the restaurant, but all forty seats were booked for last night's prime rib dinner. Shucks.
We did four loads of laundry, bought some supplies in the store, and spent a restful night tied to a pier.
This morning we are continuing deeper into the Broughtons, headed for Echo Bay. The forecast said it would be windy today, but it is glassy at the moment. Perhaps the 1,000 foot high peaks surrounding Thankful are protecting her from the prevailing winds?