Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day 27-28 of the 1st Voyage: In which we make a big decision, change our course, and the Deck Boss gives new meaning to “Breakfast of Champions”.

As we while away the hours here in CRBC (as the cool people call it…well, us at any rate), it has become fairly obvious that a change of plans is in order. We are already a week behind the group travelling up to Alaska and we most likely have another week to look forward to in this garden spot, so we have opted not to go to Alaska. And truth be told, we’re not that upset by it. We’ve all been to Alaska, albeit on cruise ships and, in the Captain’s case, aboard commercial fishing vessels. We’ve snapped the photos, taken the whale tour (apparently you DO have to buy a ticket!), and bought the souvenirs (best damn beer bottle opener ever!). But we have grander schemes—Alaska and the Inside Passage were meant to be our shakedown cruise (although we were hoping for a 5.5 as opposed to a 9 on the Richter Scale)—and now we are free to pursue them. If we can ever get out of CRBC.

Those that know us (there you go, rolling your eyes again), know that our dreams lie beyond the Pacific Northwest. We want to head down south to San Diego then hook a left and keep on going. We want to experience the open ocean—vast expanses of blue water and bluer sky—and explore places that are so far removed from what we know that it will make our former lives seem unreal. We want to have adventures. And we need to do it while we’re still (fairly) young and naïve, lest fear hold us back. The Captain likes to say, “Life begins where the land ends.” In other words, sometimes you have to lose sight of who you were to become who you know you really are. Wait, what? Ooh. That’s deep! But it does come down to this: life is inherently full of risks and every day you don’t step off the curb and get hit by a bus is another opportunity to have an adventure. The bigger the adventure, the bigger the risk. Sometimes the risk pays off, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes you get stuck in Campbell River for two weeks, but either way you’ll have a really interesting story to tell at cocktail parties.

But I digress. Now that Alaska is off the table, the tentative plan once we get out of here is to mess around in Desolation Sound, explore some of the islands, head back down to the San Juans, continue to not see any orcas, and gradually make our way back to Everett. Once there, we will do a haul out and take care of the last few items on the maintenance list and if everything is shipshape (finally got to use that old cliché!) we will make our way out toward the coast before the legendary fog sets in around the end of September.

Until then, however, life in CRBC plods on. The brightwork is underway, we await shipment of our manifold, and Basic French Lesson 3 has been completed (although we all agreed that lessons should be held before lunch, as it’s hard to parle un peu Français when you’re in a food coma.) That being said, we did have an unexpected event. During breakfast, the Deck Boss suddenly exclaimed, “It’s gone!” I told her she had nothing to worry about as there was more bacon in the freezer, but she was in fact talking about her filling. At least it started out as a filling, then it turned into a cap—no, a crown. Yes, a crown. Wait a minute. Never had a crown on that tooth. Tooth! The tooth is gone! Well, half the tooth at any rate. Whatever it was, it was gone. Time to find a dentist. Much like their American counterparts, Canadian dentists have an aversion to working on Fridays, but after a few calls we found one that could not only squeeze her in but was within walking distance.

Now, the term “walking distance” has always been a source of contention among the crew. If the “walking distance” is 15 minutes, the Captain will get out his stopwatch and aim to take five minutes off that time. I’ll generally tack on a couple minutes only because I’m easily distracted (is that an orca?). The Deck Boss will take that 15 minutes, multiply it by 2, add 17, subtract it from her age, then add an “ish” to the end. On particularly hot days, “ish” can add a full half hour to the journey.

But she’s a trooper and walk to the dentist we did (and under a particularly hot 85 degree sun I might add) where they fixed her up nicely and gave her a “temporary” cap that she could wear until she could get a proper crown. (I put “temporary” in parenthesis because the dentist informed her that the cap would be good for approximately 2-3 years. Would it be that all things were that “temporary”?)

So what happened to the tooth? Well, let’s just say the bacon was mighty crunchy that morning.

Editor’s Note: We'd like to send a shout out and a big “thank you” to Dr. Fran and her staff. If you’re ever in Campbell River and find yourself in need of a dentist, they’re awesome!

Day 25-26 of the 1st Voyage: In which on parle un peu Français and the Bosun gets demoted.

If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then we’re remodeling a bathroom in heaven. With still no word on the elusive manifold and consequently no idea when we’re getting out of here, we decided that we would just have to make the most of the situation. So we held a crew meeting and asked ourselves, “What could we do that would keep us busy, keep us sane, and keep our mind off our current predicament?” The answer was obvious. Brightwork! For lubbers, brightwork is the wood (specifically the varnished wood) found on a boat. When the brightwork is “done” it glows golden honey in the sun and is enticingly smooth to the touch. It’s also a royal pain in the butt to do. The alternative to not having your brightwork “done” is to let it “go silver” which is where you let the elements do their thing and the teak turns naturally grey and a little rough. This is fine, too, and it’s not uncommon to have a combination (“done” on the rails and brow; “silver” on the decks). But if you come across someone who says they actually prefer “silver”, it really means they just couldn’t stomach the aforementioned pain-in-the-butt aspect of the whole process. And what a process it is: sand, varnish, dry, sand, varnish, dry, sand, varnish, dry, lather, rinse, repeat, until you have at least eight coats. It’s time intensive and requires at least a week of clear, warm days—and right now we are lousy with time and hot weather. So, yes! We shall do brightwork to stay busy. That…and learn French.

For those that are confused (hands?), when you first begin to contemplate a voyage of this magnitude, the question inevitably arises, “how am I going to fill my days?” A sailboat—especially one of this size and with this many systems—requires constant maintenance. So there’s that. There is provisioning as well as exploring to do in every port. That takes some time as well. There is taking Otter out on his morning, noon, and evening constitutionals when in port and extensive Tinkle Turf cajoling when at anchor. More hours shot to sh*t (pun intended). But one of the best parts of living and travelling aboard a boat is that you suddenly have the time to do all those “things I’ve always wanted to do but could never find the time aka hey, it’s a 24-hour marathon of Happy Days reruns well now my dance card is punched so sit on it, Potsy. Ayyyyy.” (Or as they say in Canada, “Ehhhhh.”) At any rate, learning a new language was on just about everyone’s list so what better time to start than when you’re holed up in Campbell River waiting on a manifold?

So why French? Spanish would be the most logical choice, especially since we’ll be heading south at some point and will no doubt be spending time in Mexico. But we opted to go with French for two reasons. The first being that we’ve set our sights on crossing the Pacific to French Polynesia, and from what I understand, it’s full of French people. And by that I mean that whether they’re wearing haute couture or a loud hibiscus-print shirt, they are disinclined to converse in any other language but their own and when called upon to speak l’anglais will do so with deep resentment. I have also heard that if you at least attempt to converse en français, they will warm to you instantly and the cost of goods and services will only be twice the going rate as opposed to the normal 400 percent “Yankee Doodle Yahoo” markup. The second reason we are going with French is because the Deck Boss minored in French, the Captain took two years in high school, and the Bosun can throw you some attitude in French plus 15 other languages. I, on the other hand, took Norwegian. So I need all the help I can get.

The first two sessions (via Pimsleur) went great…for the Captain and the Deck Boss. They had each retained enough from their educations to remember basic words and proper pronunciation. I got confused and kept saying, “Do I understand English?” instead of “Do you understand English?” (although after a half hour, I was inclined to answer “no”.) It didn’t help my concentration when the Captain decided to start punctuating all his sentences with the Maurice Chevalier “hoh, hoh, hoh.” Ah well, c’est la vie. Guess I’ll have to wait till we get to the advanced courses to learn to say, “Put a sock in it, Pepe le Pew. Hoh, hoh, hoh.”

The other order of business that came up during the crew meeting was the incessant insubordination of one Edgrrr T. Cat, Bosun. It was no secret that he and the Deck Boss had a contentious relationship even before the voyage began. Back in our land-locked days, the Captain and I had placed Edgrrr with the Deck Boss so as to facilitate a remodel of our bathroom and he reciprocated her kindness by being generally ugly and plying his poop deck with matter of the most heinous odor that it necessitated the opening of doors and windows (which was probably part of his escape plan.) Once aboard, he took to lying in wait each morning for the Deck Boss to come into the galley to make coffee at which time he would hiss and spit. Yet the rest of the day, he could always be found near her—lying right next to her, perched close by, sitting on her books, lurking in her shower (at which point he was banned from her cabin so of course it became the one place he always HAD to be.) It was agreed upon by the rest of the crew that he was a brownnoser—sucking up while secretly vying for her title (and cabin)—and to combat his morning offensive, it was decided that Edgrrr would not be allowed to leave the aft stateroom in the early morning. Thus, he has been demoted to Cabin Boy. That, and he drinks.

Pictured: Cabin Boy 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 24 of the 1st Voyage: In which we find ourselves trapped in “paradise”, eh.

An undertaking this magnitude is not without its challenges. We knew when we set out there would be times of difficulty, distress, and extreme discomfort—it’s just the nature of travelling, especially by boat. Storms, seasickness and lack of safe havens will be inevitable, just as other mechanical and electrical malfunctions will be probable. It’s never a question of “if” but “when”, and in a way we willed it upon ourselves because “better here than out there”. Early on we adopted a mantra—discovered on a bumper sticker (the great philosophical archive of our time)—that goes thusly, “Attitude is the difference between adventure and ordeal.” Truer words were never spoken (although the survivors of the Poseidon Adventure might feel differently.)

So here we are just 24 days into the odyssey, facing our first major hurdle—dead in the water (literally), and waiting on a part not readily available. Our local guy here in Campbell River is looking as is our guy in Everett. We’re hoping that one will hit pay dirt sometime before we become naturalized Canadian citizens (that’s three years, right?). Until then, we can only try to make the best of the situation.

Where is here? Here is Campbell River, British Columbia. A town of about 30,000 spread out so far along Discovery Passage that it actually seems like a town of 3,000. The marina is right across the street from a shopping complex so we have access to a supermarket, a Charbucks, and a Canadian Tire (woohoo!) but everything else (if there IS anything else) is not really within walking distance. Editor’s Note: There is also a liquor store, but it took some doing to find it. No one could tell us where it was, just that it was “in the old Blockbuster store.” (which narrowed it down to about 3500).

The marina itself is not terrible, but it’s not exactly great. It’s more geared to the whale-watching outfits (again with the orcas!), the sport fishing boats (Salmon Capital of the World), and the inter-island water taxis (that all think the “no wake” zone does not apply to them), so it’s a little rough around the edges. But they do seem to be in the process of gentrifying in a “we’re a working marina, but want to appeal to the ladies so throw up some hanging flower baskets” kind of way. It also seems to be run completely by kids who know nothing about boats, marinas, or how the world works. The Captain stopped a staff member on the dock—a kid of about 16 or so—and had this enlightening conversation:

TC: “Where can we find the closest pump out station?”
Kid: “The what?”
TC: “Pump out station. For pumping out the head.”
Kid: “The what? Do you mean for pumping out water?”
TC: “No. For pumping out sewage.”
Kid: “Oh! Like your bathroom? I think people just put it overboard, eh.”
TC: “Nice.”

Yes, nice indeed. And now this is home for the unforeseeable future.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 22-23 of the 1st Voyage: In which we find that much like plane crashes, bad things always seem to come in threes.

Remember how I mentioned earlier that this was our shakedown cruise (i.e. “better here than out there”)? Well come on over, baby, there’s a whole lotta shaking going on! Where should I start? The diesel engine, the battery banks, or the fire?

When we limped into Campbell River on Sunday, we knew something about the diesel wasn’t copacetic. We were hoping it was a clogged fuel filter—that the engine just wasn’t getting what it needed at the higher speeds—so off we hurried to the marine supply store to pick some up along with two new 12 volt batteries. The Captain changed out the fuel filters, went to start the engine to pump some diesel through them, and nothing happened. And no, it wasn’t just the fuel filters being mischievous, it was definitely something to do with the motor itself. Where did that come from? The Captain would have to think on that one. In the meantime, back to the 12 volt batteries. Raven has several “battery banks”—there are eight 24 volt house batteries for the big systems, a separate bank just for the engine starter, and two 12 volt batteries that not only run the various electronics (including GPS and our sailing instruments) but also start the generator (VERY important as this is where we get most of our power when anchoring and/or at a dock with no shore power.) Lately, the 12 volts had not been keeping a charge. Not being able to find replacements in any of the ports we’d visited so far, the Captain had made do with a battery charger. But here in Campbell River, we found some. So as the Captain pondered the engine conundrum, he set about pulling out the old 12 volts and installing the new ones. Easy-peasy. Or so we thought. The first flip of the switch and it blew out the 12 volt battery isolator. Not good. And the stores were closed. That will have to wait. Back to the engine. A couple hours later, he remembers a fuse that was changed out over two years ago when we were having electrical issues. He found a new fuse, switched it out, turned the engine over, and it roared to life!  One down, one to go.

The next morning, the Captain obtained a new battery switch and set to work pulling out the old one and installing the new one. No easy task. Open up a panel or a floorboard in a boat and it’s organized chaos—wires, hoses, pumps, motors, fuses, tanks, more wires, more hoses, extra bags of dog food (they had to go somewhere) all mashed and mushed into impossibly small spaces. With great effort, the Captain got the new switch wired up and installed, flipped the switch, and BLAMMO! Sparks! Smoke! Acrid burning plastic smell! We quickly shut down all the power and opened every door, porthole and hatch, and turned on every fan on the boat. It took nearly an hour for the smoke to finally dissipate. A call to a marine electrician was made. Luckily, the damage was minimal—two wires burned up—and the culprit was found. The manufacturer of the 12 volt batteries had labeled positive as negative and vice versa. It’s a wonder we didn’t blow up the whole boat! After a few hours, all was fixed, cleaned up, and working again. Success! All systems go! Except…the diesel would not go down without a fight. We tried turning over the engine for good measure and it struggled. “Fuel filters and fuses? Ha! Go big or go home is my motto!” said the engine. “I’m sending one warning shot across the bow, then I’m bringing out the big guns. Let’s see how they feel about water in the oil!”

To the uninformed (myself included), water in the oil is not a good thing. At best, it’s a messy job to set it right; at worse, it can cause your pistons to seize up which pretty much destroys the entire engine. A diesel mechanic was brought in. And the prognosis? Not good. A cracked exhaust manifold. A part that was made exclusively for Nauticat. And, further, a part that was discontinued 10 years ago. So the search has begun, and now we wait . . .

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 21 of the 1st Voyage: In which the Strait of Georgia plays nice, but the diesel doesn’t.

It started out nice. We had a five and one half hour passage to make to Campbell River, the rendezvous point for the gang going up to Alaska, and couldn’t have asked for a better day, especially in the Strait of Georgia. Wind on the nose meant motoring only, but wind speeds under 10 knots and a clear sky made for a smooth ride—quite a difference from the day before. Here we were gliding through the water at a steady 8 knots, admiring the mountains, marveling at the sea, and still not seeing one damn orca. Would it kill them to make an appearance? What, do we have to buy a ticket? And then it happened. It had happened before—but only in one other place. Each time we passed Point No Point in Puget Sound, the engine would rev down, then back up, then down, then up, and then it was fine. No one could give us an explanation, so we chalked it up to “funny currents”. It then happened a few other times in the past three weeks, but only sporadically and generally when two bodies of water were converging. But here we were in the Strait of Georgia—the only body of water in sight—and although it is notorious for fast currents, you wouldn’t call them funny (at least not to their face). And yet it became more frequent: rev down, rev up, rev down, rev up, rev way down, pause for effect, and rev back up. It turned into a cruel game: hum along nicely for 45 minutes or so; start feeling confident that it was just a passing thing; feel the diesel decelerate; get a sick feeling in the stomach in a will-it-or-won’t-it-die way, then relief when it accelerates back up to speed. And then our worst fear was realized: it revved down, down, down, and died. And here we were bobbing around in a vast body of water with no harbor or town in sight. I don’t recall now what we were all thinking. I don’t even recall any swearing (which is unusual for this crew). I do remember the Captain calmly asking me to get on the VHF and contact S/V Latitudes, crewed by a couple we met the night before in False Harbor and currently the only other boat in our line of sight. After I explained that we were dead in the water, they very graciously turned around and headed back towards us to extend any help they could. As luck would have it, the Captain was able to get the engine started again and we spent the longest two hours of our lives chugging toward Campbell River, willing the engine not to die just yet, knowing that the closer we could get, the lower the tow bill would be. But we did make it to Campbell River, we did get to a marina, and we did execute one of our lesser dockings (thanks, dude in the power boat, for popping open another beer and watching us fight the wind and current to get tied down instead of getting off your lazy butt and helping). But I don’t think we were prepared for what happened next…

Note to David Moore: We were really hoping we wouldn’t need the diesel mechanics book you sent us, but we’re glad you did. Thanks!

Day 19-20 of the 1st Voyage: In which we are broadsided, boarded, and bounced around all in one day.

Captain’s Coordinates: 49⁰ 10.25’ N by 123⁰ 55.82’ W to 49⁰ 29.70’ N by 124⁰ 21.43’ W

When Nanaimo Port Authority put us on the pier, they gave us a heads up that the VanIsle360 would be finishing up there on Friday (Day 19 for those keeping count and/or with a calendar…it’s still June, right?). They knew it was coming. We knew it was coming. So why didn’t they put us on the end of the pier in the first place instead of about a third of the way down? The Captain would like to know. Especially since they asked him to move Raven down—which he did by pulling her with the dock lines till she was a boat length down—then asked if he could just “go ahead and move her down once more” after she was all tied off. This is a 55,000 pound boat! It takes some doing! Editor’s Note: In case you’re wondering where the First Mate and Deck Boss were when all this went down…they were at a place that rhymes with “Charbucks” using the free WIFI. (Priorities and all.)

At any rate…back to the race. The VanIsle360 is a sailboat race that circumnavigates Vancouver Island—it takes about two weeks—the final leg being Victoria to Nanaimo. The boats had left Victoria around 8:00 am and the organizers speculated that the first boats would cross the finish line sometime around 6:00 pm. They warned us that it would be loud—as in, every time a boat crossed the finish line, they would sound a horn (the horn was located in a van at the end of the pier about 20 feet from our boat.) This would occur about 40 times (40 boats/40 horns) with the final boats coming in around 4:00 am-ish. It would also be loud in that as the boats finished, they would raft up all along the pier and the crews would then hang out, drink lots of beer, and generally cause a “ruckus” (their words, not ours). Okay, fine. We can deal with a little ruckus. Unfortunately, Mother Nature thought they should take their ruckus elsewhere and did the only thing she could to spoil the party…kill the wind. And no wind means a very, very, very slow race. It was pretty quiet on that pier. Just us, some beer, some BB King, and a van with a horn and no one to honk it. Yes, even the organizers had given up. Finally, at around 11:00 pm, a man with a walkie-talkie came scurrying down and we noticed lights coming up fast through the harbor. It’s a boat! Crossing the finish line! No horn! What? A few distant woo-hoo’s in the dark but all else silence. Still no horn. The boat glides by us—the only accolades coming from myself, the Captain, Otter, and BB King. They tie up behind us, fold up their sails, grab their gear bags, and wearily head out. Wow, what a ruckus.

The next day however…it’s 6:30 in the morning and I am awakened to frantic cries of “Come About! Come About! Come About!” I look out the porthole just in time to see the stern of a sailboat swinging toward us; its bow had already taken out one of the stanchions on the foredeck. I ran up and found the Captain with his body wedged in between the two boats in an attempt to minimize any further damage. Then I looked behind me—there were close to 40 sailboats jammed behind us, rafted together four deep all down the length of the pier. People scurrying about, equipment everywhere, multiple flags fluttering on all the masts, people clambering from boat to boat. Wait, what? Why are those guys clambering on MY boat? Guess the guys on the SS Oops-My-Bad figured as long as they were so up close and personal with our stanchion, they may as well tie up to our decks and haul their sails and gear across us and over to the pier. I guess the Captain did give them permission to do so, but you’d think they’d at least offer us some of the beer they were drinking at 6:30 in the morning to make up for the inconvenience of…oh, I don’t know…ramming our boat perhaps?

After that little bit of excitement, we left Nanaimo and headed out into the Strait of Georgia. It’s roughly 100 miles long, 20 miles wide, and a hotbed for high winds and heavy currents. One of our cruising guides calls it a “complex geographical area”, which is a nice way of saying “sh*tstorm”. Before we had left, the Captain checked three things: the tides, the wind, and if the Canadian Navy was testing torpedoes that day (because what’s a few waves when the real threat is getting blown up?) With a departure time set according to the ebb and a green light on not dying by underwater missile, it came down to wind. NOAA forecast that the winds would start out at 15-20 knots diminishing to 10-15 in the afternoon, i.e. about as good as you can get for this stretch of water. And so we set out. And it was a bumpy ride. For one, if by “diminishing” they meant “in the ballpark of” then they were way out of the ballpark as the wind rarely dipped below 20 the whole day and gusts were well over 24. And of course the wind was right on our nose so getting the sails out would have necessitated constant jibing to get where we needed to be and we needed to be there sometime this month. Secondly, the current was hitting us at an angle so we weren’t fighting it, but it wasn’t helping us along either. So high winds and erratic current leads to something known as “chop” and “chop” gets a little sucky after a few hours of nothing but. Imagine chunky little waves playing around in big rolling waves and it’s all going in different directions but not really going anywhere at all. Then imagine trying to power through it. Up and down and side to side and waves are breaking over the bow and the winds are howling and sea spray is hitting your face and everything tastes like salt. Imagine doing that for five hours. It was exhilarating, alarming, and tedious all at the same time. Tonight we’re anchored in False Harbor to get some rest, because tomorrow we get to do it again!

Pictured:  Boats rafted up after VanIsle360

Pictured: Crew of the S/S Did-I-Do-That?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 17-18 of the 1st Voyage: In which the Captain performs a trifecta.

We left Bedwell Harbor in the morning for an easy jaunt up to Ganges Harbor where we spent the night. I will remember this place for two reasons (and I am writing them down here because I know I will forget otherwise): First, you had to climb Mount Everest to get from the dock to street level. I’ve never seen a gangway that steep, although the toe holds they had embedded in it should have been my first clue that this would not be an easy traverse. Once you got to the top of the first gangway, there was a landing with about a dozen recycling bins and a small closet (I’m guessing that’s where they stashed the bodies of those that weren’t successful in the initial ascent). From there, another long gangway that swayed precariously over a deep ravine finally connected to the street. It was an exhausting climb to the summit. We had to hire a Sherpa for the Deck Boss or I think she would have tapped out at base camp.

The second thing I will remember about Ganges Harbor is that they had the first decent-sized grocery store we’d seen in a long time and apparently I don’t know how Canada works. We were picking up a few items and, not finding one of our staples (no, don’t worry, we brought plenty of bacon with us), I asked one of the employees where I might find the beer. His eyes widened and he got all up in my personal space and said, “BEER?!!!” I sensed I had asked a loaded question and when he immediately asked if I was “from the States or Quebec” I very nearly went with, “Oui! Quebec!” thinking that might be the lesser of two idiots. As you may have guessed, Canadian grocery stores are not allowed to sell alcohol of any kind. Which suddenly explained the 16 liquor stores we had passed in the three blocks from the Marina to the Thrifty Foods.

Editor’s Note: there was a third reason that involved two navy training vessels, a bunch of new recruits obviously docking and securing a large boat for the first time, and the yakkity-sax music playing through my head while watching them bumble about, but given my own very limited skill set I thought it kind of pot-calling-the-kettle-blackish, but at the same time…it was awesome!

Early the next morning, we left for Nanaimo—or at least tried to. The dock had seemingly taken such a liking to our boat that it would not let us go. No matter how hard the Captain gunned the engines to get us away from the dock, current and wind conspired to keep us there. So the Captain simply faked them out—he slowly backed us down the length of the dock at a nice, steady, stealthy pace till the stern slyly peeked out from the end of the dock and then—PSYCH!—sharp turn of the bow and we were off the dock and on our way. Like a boss.

While setting the course for this journey up the Inside Passage, the Captain has identified a handful of “Navigational Nemeses”—particularly difficult bodies of water that have “bad reps” so to speak. The first of these lay between us and Nanaimo: Dodd’s Narrows. It’s not just a clever name—an entire body of water literally narrows down to a slim passage between two rocky outcroppings. It’s so narrow that only one boat may go through at a time, and it has to be timed correctly with the tide or else the current will push you through so fast that you won’t have the ability to safely withstand the slingshot into the immediate dogleg. Yes, you heard right—slingshot. As in, the water narrows, then blasts out, hits the water coming through the other side of the island, and shoots off to the left taking whatever gets in its way with it. A small sailboat, then a powerboat, both made a play, backed off, tried again, finally made it through. The Captain settled in behind two commercial fishing boats and followed their course; once he saw the trajectory they made during the slingshot, he was able to steer Raven into a better course. No muss. No fuss. Captain = 1; Nemeses = 0.

Editor’s Note: did you notice how I mentioned there was another way through (around the other side of the island)? It’s much wider, but is so littered with shoals and reefs that it’s extremely difficult to get through. They call it False Narrows because Sh*t Creek was already taken.

On the other side of this nasty stretch of water is Nanaimo, one of the larger cities in BC and a big center for boating. The harbor came up on us rather quickly so while I was readying the fenders, the Captain radioed the marina. That’s when the directive came in to “raise all the fenders one foot!” What? “They’re putting us on the big dock!”  The big dock in this case is a large concrete pier that acts as a breakwater for the rest of the marina. It’s generally reserved for commercial boats, extreme fat cats, and—apparently—us. The only problem? We were rigged for a starboard tie, and they wanted us on the inside. Normally this would necessitate moving all the lines from one side of the boat to the other so we could tie up portside, but not today. Because awesomeness likes to come in 3s, the Captain merely approached the pier, turned us on a dime, and backed us in…like a boss.
Pictured: Ganges Harbor with the Mount Everest of gangways in the background (high tide)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 16 of the 1st Voyage: In which the Deck Boss declares war on Canada

Today marked a milestone: Raven is now in her first foreign port. It sounds exotic, but the reality is that when you live in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia isn’t that much of a stretch. In our lubber days, the Captain and I ventured into Canada frequently and aside from the metric system, the currency, and the poutine, you’re really hard pressed to notice a difference. (What’s poutine? Pure, artery-busting goodness with a side of fries.) But Canada is indeed a foreign country with a border and everything so we were required to clear customs in a designated port of entry, which in our case was Bedwell Harbor. Located in the Poet’s Cove Marina, customs consisted of a short dock with a small house at the end. Regulations state that aside from tying off the boat, all passengers must stay on board until it has been cleared by Canada Border Services. Only the skipper is allowed off the boat. And so while we waited behind, the Captain headed off to the office with the snappy-looking folder I had prepared with passports, vessel documentation, notice of insurance, pet vaccination certificates, firearms registrations, etc. (In this instance, snappy-looking is plain purple. The Captain vetoed my first choice of a smart-looking flower motif). After about 15 minutes, I was starting to get a little worried. Are they going to allow the animals in? Is there a problem with the shotgun (you know, to scare off bears) permit? Are they questioning why three people need two cases of wine, three cases of Heineken, and a well-stocked minibar? After a while the Captain came hurrying back, “Where are the eggs from?!” “Costco,” I said helpfully. “No—as in where were they laid?” A quick look determined they were farm-fresh Washington eggs. “They may have to be forfeited, along with the chicken in the freezer.” Yikes! “Is the bacon safe?” I asked. “Yes, I think so.” “Thank, God!”

Unfortunately, the potential poultry confiscation did not sit well with the Deck Boss who immediately had a cow (which is okay, because beef is now permitted into Canada) and decided that any country that’s going to take away your eggs and frozen chicken breasts is not a place that she wants to be. We reminded her that, until recently, Canadians were not allowed to bring beef into the U.S. because of Mad Cow Disease, and that if they want to protect themselves against Bird Flu that’s their prerogative and besides, what does it matter as long as the bacon is safe? But once the Deck Boss gets on the hate train, it’s a long ride to the next station. So while the Captain went back up to customs to report on the chicken, the Deck Boss continued to rant against any regime that would deny an individual an egg salad sandwich and then proceeded to contemplate ways to bypass Canada altogether which, when your destination is Alaska, is nigh impossible. We’d basically have to take a sharp left over to Japan and then jog back up, and if she thinks Canadian customs is bad, Japan would most likely confiscate the bacon and THAT would be something to get upset about.

With customs cleared—and the eggs and frozen chicken breasts deposited into an “environmental safeguard” disposal bin—we found a slip in guest moorage and headed up to register. We were a sour trio: a Deck Boss with a grudge and an overwhelming craving for an omelet, a First Mate stuck in the middle of a border dispute and another dock with no effing cleats, and a Captain who was about ready to “turn this boat around”. But at the top of the marina was a very pleasant pub, and in the end there are few things that can’t be made better with a Bloody Mary and a shot of Jameson. Even the Deck Boss conceded that this part of Canada—and Poet’s Cove in particular—was quite lovely. And so we agreed to continue northward with the understanding that not everything will be like “home”, not every dock will have cleats, and it’s very likely that countries will have regulations that we don’t agree with but must respect. However, as part of the agreement, we will not be buying any Canadian eggs.  

Editor’s Note: Although Bedwell Harbor is a designated port of entry, it is so small that there are no personnel at the customs house—only a row of telephones. So all customs procedures are conducted with a border agent over the phone. The Captain told me later that the border agent he spoke with was one of the nicest he’s ever encountered—and quite funny, too. He asked the Captain if we could be trusted to dispose of all of our eggs and chicken or would he need to send an agent around. When the Captain assured him that we would be in full compliance, the border agent said, “Good! Because this is his day off. He’d be pissed!”

Day 13-15 of the 1st Voyage: In which we unwind in Roche Harbor and get wound up for the Inside Passage.

Of all the places we have visited thus far, this one quickly turned into a favorite. Roche Harbor was once a company town, but is now a resort town. It’s not very big—marina, grocery store, couple of restaurants, and a few shops centered around the historic Hotel de Haro—but it’s heavy on old-timey charm. It could easily be a seaside set in one of those movies that takes place at the turn of the century where the gents wear straw hats and the ladies carry parasols and they stroll a lot—usually singing. The Captain doesn’t like movies where people sing. Except for Sweeny Todd, because at least there’s bloodshed to offset all the singing. He says it works there because the singing “moves the story along”. When I told him that there are other musicals where the singing does advance the plot, he countered, “Well yeah. But they don’t shave as much.” And I guess he has a point. But I digress.

Roche Harbor also has a reputation for being a go-to destination for the Fat Cats, so named (okay, we named them) for their propensity to not only buy the biggest, fastest, most bloated powerboats available, but also purchase the matching 20-30’ dinghy to carry their wallet in—they know how to accessorize! And so there we were, nestled among the champagne and caviar set, happily noshing on our Heineken and Costco cheese. But don’t worry, we’re not going blue blazer on you just yet. This is what is known as the “shoulder season” in that it’s technically summer but not quite July so moorage hasn’t shot up yet. So we can enjoy the perks of the “ahoy” at the “hoi polloi” rates. And nice perks, they are: they send out someone to help you with your lines (which is awesome because it only leaves me the stern and spring to mess up), they give you access to the resort facilities, and—most wonderful of all!—they provide free pump out service. Now, if you have a boat, you already know that this is like winning the lottery and free car washes for life all on the same day. If you don’t have a boat, bear with me because we’re about to get graphic. Instead of a bathroom, boats have a “head” and instead of a sewer system, boats have a “holding tank” and whereas the sewer system will whisk your business off into the great unknown, a boat’s holding tank must be pumped out when it gets full. Or else things get a might funky. Almost all marinas have a “pump out dock” where you can tie up, attach the hoses, and clean out your tanks. Some marinas have portable pumps that you can wheel over to your boat while it’s in the slip. But the really boss marinas have a guy in a little boat with a big tank and a powerful siphon that will tie up next to your boat and take care of your…um…business. And so on our third day at Roche Harbor, the SS Phecal Phreak (motto: “We take crap from anybody”) pulled up alongside and cleaned us out. Oh, glorious day! Editor’s Note: Friday Harbor marina, though not a free service, will hook you up with their own mobile boat, the awesomely-name Pumpty Dumpty.

But I digress again. Our first afternoon there, the Captain lowered the dinghy and took it over to the fuel dock to fill up the tank, and then went out for a joy ride. Not long after he called my cell phone, “Grab your life jacket and meet me on the dock in 10 minutes!” He said he had something amazing to show me. I was really excited because I thought maybe it would be an orca (we’ve been in the San Juan Islands—the whale watching capital of the world—for over a week and the closest we’ve come to seeing an orca is a picture of one on the side of the whale watching boat as it came chugging back into the harbor with all the happy “I’ve-just-seen-an-orca” people on it.) And then I was thinking, holy crap, we’re in a 9’ dinghy, this better be a small orca. In fact, is this such a good idea? Orcas are like 20’ feet long and I’m not sure but maybe our dinghy is only 4’. What is he thinking? Why would he be taking me to see a 30’ killer whale in an inflatable raft?! And then we turned off into a secluded harbor and there—even better than an orca—was a Nauticat 52’. Now if you don’t know us (and count yourself lucky because those that do are already rolling their eyes), WE have a Nauticat 52’! Why is this so special? (Aside from the fact that Nauticats are the best damn boats in the world?) Back in the early eighties, the builder, Sitalia Yachts of Finland, only made a handful of the 52s before deciding that the world could only handle so much awesomeness and therefore they should concentrate on their other Nauticat lines. After 30 years, not many remain so the odds of rounding that corner and seeing another 52 were staggering. We buzzed her in the dinghy a few times, then decided to be total geeks and talk to the owner. Best decision ever! Larry, the owner of The Big Finn, is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and a true adventurer--he’s been everywhere that we want to go, including up the Inside Passage to Alaska. He very graciously accepted our invitation to come aboard Raven and brought detailed maps of his journey north. But for every story of the staggering beauty coupled with the calm water here and the good anchorage there became somewhat overshadowed by choppy seas here, extreme fog there, “this place gets tricky”, and “don’t let it intimidate you”. And I’m not bringing this up because Larry was trying to scare us (he totally wasn’t), I bring it up because we have been working so hard and so long to make this odyssey a reality—it’s taken two years just to reach this point, to make that 180 change in our lives, and it’s taken longer than that to get the courage to do it—that until now, we haven’t had the time to really think about the journey itself. And now that we’re here. We’re doing it. We’re living the dream. And holy sh*t! What were we thinking? Are we ready for this? Why didn’t anyone try to stop us? Alaska is going to kill us! If the sea doesn’t get us, the bears will! But no. We’ve come too far. We won’t quit. We’ll do it. We’ll do it for Larry.

Editor’s Note: The next night we had beers with Winston and Cynthia—an amazing couple that run a large megayacht for a seafood industry Fat Cat. They’ve owned many boats throughout the years, been all over the world, even ran charter boats in the Caribbean. If Alaska doesn’t kill us, we’re going to make it our life’s mission to see at least half the places they did and have twice as much fun. And that’ll be saying something.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 12 of the 1st Voyage: In which we nearly lose the dinghy with the dog in it.

With gale force winds predicted in the islands and Deer Harbor being very well protected, we opted to stay “on the chain” for a couple of days. So the Captain decided that this would be the ideal time to test the accommodation ladder. For the lubber, an accommodation ladder is a structure that attaches to the side of your boat and unfolds into a staircase from deck to waterline to help the timid, the infirmed, the elderly, and the Tinkle-Turf-be-damned-I’m-holding-it-in-till-we-get-to-shore get into the dinghy.

On the open market, these start at around five boat bucks. The Captain, who in his civilian life was also known as NPR (Never Pay Retail), is not an open market kind of guy. So when he couldn’t find one used, he designed and built his own. It is an awesome structure—six feet of solid, formidable, weighty aluminum. And so much easier to attach when you’re testing it at the dock than here in the open water where the only speed the other boaters seem to know is “autobahn”. So it did take some doing—and some line, halyards, more line, cushions, cussing—to get it attached to the side of the boat what with the forceful rocking caused by their wakes. But at last it was attached and ready for testing!

The Captain tried it first, and naturally made it look easy. I tried it next, only messing up a couple of times (“Step lighter! Don’t step there! I know it’s a step, but don’t step there!”). Once the last of the bugs were worked out, it was Operation Get Otter Off the Boat (or “Operation who’s a GOOT Boy?). The dog hadn’t relieved himself in 24 hours, so we figured he’d be eager to go. We figured wrong. I’ve read where dogs don’t see things the same way that humans do—shapes and colors are perceived differently. So whereas we would see a nice sturdy ladder going down to a nice sturdy dinghy with some water around it, Otter saw a watery darkness with six feet of solid, formidable, weighty darkness ushering him into what may or may not be a watery dark Tinkle Turf. He wasn’t taking any chances; he absolutely refused.

Plan B: The Sling. A few weeks before the odyssey began, the Captain had been researching alternative ways to get Otter off the boat in the event that Otter did not find the accommodation ladder very accommodating. He found the dog sling. I’d seen a documentary where an orca (or was it a cow?) needed to be airlifted, so they wrapped it in canvas and lifted it up via helicopter. The orca (or was it a cow?) just hung there limply in its own personal tote bag till it got to where it needed to be and was set free. This could work! We opened the package and there was a very impressive canvas cloth with lots of buckles and straps and rings and . . . how many openings? Let’s see . . . four legs, one head, one tail…that’s six, but shouldn’t it just be open on the head and tail side? What’s that one for? I don’t know, let’s try it. No, that’s not right. Take him out and turn it around. Okay. No, that’s not right. I think it’s the same way as before. Take him out and turn HIM around. No that’s still the same way. Okay, turn it and him around and let’s try that. What’s this extra hole for? Does his winky go through that? Shouldn’t that big flap support his neck and not his butt? What the cuss? What do the directions say? There are no directions; just a picture of a dog already in the contraption. Well, where’s his winky?

We finally get him into the sling (correctly, we think), attach it to a halyard and start lifting. Instead of hanging limply like the orca (or was it a cow?), he starts squirming and twisting and shimmying. The Captain immediately lowers him down, “This isn’t going to work. All it’s doing is pressing into his bladder. He probably REALLY needs to go now.” And for a brief moment, I was thinking maybe we should swing him over the Tinkle Turf.

Plan C: Go down with the dinghy. Sounds simple, should have been simple. Put Otter in dinghy while it’s in the davits. Lower Otter down with the dinghy. Captain gets in dinghy with Otter. Captain and Otter go speeding to shore! Went more like this…Put down plank for Otter to cross from deck to dinghy. Coax Otter into dinghy. Otter stumbles into front of dinghy. Caribbeaner holding front of dinghy to davits breaks loose. Front of dinghy falls sharply, only saved by bow line attached to deck. Dinghy with Otter now hanging at precarious angle from davits. Otter scrambling to stay in. Captain pulling up bow line while First Mate lowers stern. Otter rights himself and dinghy finally evens out. Dinghy hits water with loud thud. Otter wags tail. Captain and First Mate have simultaneous delayed heart attacks.

But at least the story does have a happy ending. Otter got to shore and did his business and felt much, much better! The Captain and the First Mate? Not so much.

Editor’s Note: In case you’re wondering how we got Otter back on the boat--as we suspected, he had a much easier time going UP the accommodation ladder than down. I’m sure it had something to do with him looking up at us as opposed to down at the water, but it’s also possible that he’d had enough dinghy lifts for one day.

Pictured:  Non-Tinkle Turf User 

Day 11 of the 1st Voyage: In which we never mention day 11 again.

Left Friday Harbor. Had a lesson in sailing down wind. It did not go well. There were tears.
On a positive note, we anchored successfully in Deer Harbor and took the dinghy in to get ice cream. So that was nice.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 10 of the 1st Voyage: In which we have a $30 part flown in by seaplane because that’s how we roll.

The primary reason we chose to begin the odyssey by travelling the Inside Passage to Alaska and not head straight to warmer climes is twofold. For one, the Captain is the only one with any experience and this will give the rest of us an opportunity for some “on the job” training so to speak before we hit the really big water. In other words, if something should happen to the Captain, the only thing we’re qualified to do is throw him the life ring, then watch as he grows smaller in the distance. With some proper training, however, we’d be able to throw him the life ring, radio the Coast Guard, and then watch him grow smaller in the distance. What? Like we know how to turn a boat off? I think you have to have Navy training for that.

The other reason we chose the Inside Passage is what we like to call our “better here than out there” philosophy. In her 32 years of service, Raven has crossed the Atlantic thrice and spent years cruising through the Caribbean, up and down the coast of Mexico, and all over Puget Sound. However, from 2010 until we purchased her in 2013, she had been dormant—dock-bound at the brokerage, rarely taken out, not well maintained. The old girl was a little rusty, and a lot of her systems needed updating. She needed new sails, updated electronics, a top end rebuild of the diesel engine, a bottom job--and those were just the larger items. In the past two years, the Captain has put a lot of work—and love—into bringing her back to life and making her seaworthy once again. He has spent countless hours scrubbing, sanding, repainting decks, varnishing teak, installing new running rigging, running wires for electronics, installing radar and GPS, installing solar, building davits, replacing hoses and pumps, installing new switches and relays, updating lighting, etc., and that doesn’t account for the time just fixing things. The number of systems (and all their potential problems) aboard Raven is mind-boggling and I’m pretty sure they’ve all gotten in line for an opportunity to take the Captain down. But they haven’t beaten him yet. He belongs to the “get your hands in there and get them dirty” school of training where you work things out by thinking them through and then rearranging all the parts so that it makes sense. So far, it’s Captain = 62, Systems = 0. Today, the water maker threw its hat into the ring.

The water maker is a nifty piece of equipment in which we can…wait for it…make our own water. Didn’t see that coming, did you? But in actuality, when properly functioning, we can pull water out of the sea, desalinate it, run it through some filters, and turn it into very good drinking water. We have the capacity to make upwards of 400 gallons of water a day. Today, unfortunately, all the water we were making was spewing out into the boat, as in INTO the boat and not the holding tanks. Bring out the towels! The culprit, as discovered by the Captain, was a fitting on one of the hoses that was 1/16th too large. The water maker had been recently serviced and, come to find out later, the “expert” didn’t have the right part, so he “improvised”. Glad we didn’t hire him to service our life raft—would hate to pull the ring and have an inflatable duck pop out because he was “improvising” that day. Needless to say, new hose plus improper fitting meant no spare on board. Editor’s Note: Raven is a model in redundancy. Not only do we have backup safety, navigation, and electronics systems on board, we also carry spares of just about every part imaginable: from bilge pumps, props, and anchors to filters, impellers, and fuses. Had we the room to carry more teak than we do, we could probably build a backup Raven.

Unfazed—and not finding the part at any of the marine supply stores in Friday Harbor—the Captain put in a call to Seattle. This was at 8:30 in the morning. The part arrived via seaplane on their scheduled flight at noon. The water maker was fixed and running by 12:30. Captain = 63, Systems = 0.

In the end, we’re glad it happened because “better here” where we’re within a day or two of parts and/or service “than out there” in the middle of the ocean where, as the Captain likes to say, “God lost his shoes.”

Editor’s Note: There is one system on Raven that was an “add on” and one in which the Captain was not a proponent: Raven is now equipped with air conditioning. Since we will ultimately be taking Raven down south—as in equatorial south—the Deck Boss insisted on having “coolth” installed. Given the unusually high temperatures the past two weeks, the A/C has already made this a much more pleasant journey and it has not gone unnoticed that the Captain seems to be enjoying the “coolth” the most. So much so, that he did concede to the Deck Boss, “Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. More cocoa?”

Also a shout out to Kenmore Air. Their same-day courier service to anywhere they fly is a flat $25.00. We couldn’t have fixed our water maker without them. (What? You think we have THAT kind of money?)
Pictured: Kenmore Air. Your pilot is Gary. Your copilot is a hose gasket.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 9 of the 1st Voyage: In which I hope you like jammin’, too.

Since the odyssey began, we have found ourselves having to motor from port to port. In an amazing series of bad luck and/or maybe somewhere along the way we pissed off Mother Nature, it seemed that no matter which way we were heading, the wind (if any) was always right on our nose. In order for sailboats to work, you have to catch the wind—something that can’t be done easily when it’s coming right at you. And so when we left Anacortes for the 19 mile trek to Friday Harbor we decided that, dammit, we were going to sail! And as the Captain navigated out of the harbor and through Guemes Channel and I pulled in fenders and secured lines in a brisk 10 knot wind, optimism was high. So we put up the jib and killed the motor. And apparently killed the wind at the same time. Because the wind died. It not only died, it was buried, dug up, cremated, interred, disinterred, buried again, and became but a faint memory. But did this deter us? No! We had resolved to sail and sailing we were…at a blistering 1.5 knots (which in lubber speed is a bit less than 2 mph). The Captain remarked that we were lucky there was a current or we’d really be slogging. I admired him for his enthusiasm while wistfully watching seagulls paddle past us in the waves, pointing their feathered fingers, and laughing. Followed by the kelp.

Not one of our better dockings. Having learned my lesson from the Port Townsend fiasco, I had called the Friday Harbor Marina the day before and, using a carefully worded script, reserved a spot on the Breakwater C (as in Charlie) dock. Once we got into the harbor, I radioed the marina to find out where they wanted us on the dock. Easy peasy. Until the dock came into view and the Captain announced, “You do notice there are no cleats, right?” What the cuss?! Who builds a dock without cleats? Commercial docks apparently and/or docks that want to retain their rustic “dockness”. “Just pull the line through the gap between the dock and the ledge and tie it back on itself,” instructed the Captain. Okaaaay. Inner dialog during the docking procedure goes like this, “Smooth hop from boat to dock…nice! Scramble down the dock with stern line, jam it into hole…so far so good. Line won’t jam into hole. Hole obstructed by water pipe. Water pipe? Who the cuss puts a water pipe where the line goes through the thingy! Screw it – improvise! Jam everything through the thingy. Tie it to itself. How? What? What does that even mean? Captain looks cheesed but loopy tennis shoe tie will have to do. Run down to the bow…nice hustle. Grab tossed line from Deck Boss, jam through hole. Haha, Water Pipe! You thought you could fool me twice, but I’m on to you! Jam the line though the hole. ..I’m jammin’, jammin’, and I hope you like jammin’, too. Bob Marley! Why is the front of the boat pulling away from the dock? Should I run and secure the spring line? Hey, where’s the boat going? Uh oh, Captain has jumped onto the dock and is ordering me back toward the stern. Loopy tennis shoe tie has turned into unholy mess. Captain magically appears back on boat. How did Captain do that? Is Captain a wizard? If he’s a wizard, why didn’t he conjure up some cleats? I’m jammin’, jammin’ . . . “

Once the boat is finally secured to the dock and I have a chance to look around, I am grateful that the only people who witnessed this debacle were the crew of the megayacht tied across from us, a few people in the marina, the marina office staff, the fuel dock attendants, the tourists waiting to board a whale watching boat, the tourists already on the whale watching boat, the passengers on the state ferry, the people seated outside the restaurant at the top of the marina, and a very perplexed harbor seal. Because if it had been any more than that, I would have really been embarrassed.

The rest of the day was spent walking. And walking. And walking. True to its name, Breakwater C (as in Charlie) dock forms the outward perimeter of the marina and keeps it protected by breaking up the waves and the currents (such as those generated by the large ferries going in and out of the harbor). Raven was docked at the very end necessitating a near-mile long journey through too-large-for-the-regular-marina transient moorage, past the seaplane docks and the whale watching boat landing, through the marina itself, up a ramp, and up two flights of stairs to the marina office to check in. Walking briskly, it took us a full 10 minutes. Deck Boss clocked it at 25. Then it was back to Raven to finish buttoning her up, then back out and into town, then back to Raven for dinner, then back out to give Otter some alone-time with a shrub. But I bring this up only because it’s a testament to how truly special a boat Raven is in that many people made the trek all the way out to the end just to see her.
Pictured: Friday Harbor Marina. Photo taken at the top of the pier. Raven is to the far left two counties over.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 6-8 of the 1st Voyage: In which we have a day at the races.

Leaving Port Townsend, we found ourselves “running with the ebb” (i.e. the current was pushing us from behind and/or Otter and his bladder were willing us forward), motoring through Admiralty Inlet at a Ferrari-like 10.5-11.5 knots. Unfortunately, once we turned into Rosario Strait, the tide turned and we found ourselves bucking the current at a Kia-ish 5 knots. Otter looked at us, we looked at Otter, we motioned to the Tinkle Turf, Otter clamped his knees a little tighter. Apparently an iron will goes hand-in-hand with an iron bladder.

But soon Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes came into view and we began our careful approach…our VERY careful approach as the marina is nestled in and amongst very shallow shoals mined with very big, very sharp rocks, with a big hill looming over it all. There is a narrow passage marked on both sides by pilings bearing “Warning, here be Monster Rocks” signs or they may have been pictures depicting boats running aground as large boulders fall on top of them (I was too scared to look). Once through the narrow entrance, we were instructed to make an immediate, sharp right turn toward the fuel dock followed by an immediate, sharp left turn toward our slip. Nothing the Captain couldn’t handle, but even he wasn’t expecting the everything goes, yakity-sax chaos that awaited round that first turn: oblivious Thurston Howells backing their powerboats out into oncoming traffic, dinghies zipping in between the boats like high-strung fruit flies, and the yacht cutting us off as it was leaving the fuel dock with a dazed man at the helm who had the look of someone that just spent the equivalent of Bolivia’s GDP to fill up his tanks. Plus the annual Anacortes Waterfront Festival was in full swing adding loud music and the heavenly aroma of deep-fried fair food to the mix.

On the one hand, it’s overwhelming; but on the other, all potential onlookers were preoccupied and didn’t witness my less-than-stellar line handling on the dock in which I attempted to physically pull the boat forward using the bow line at which time the Captain reminded me that the engine does have the ability to go “forward”.

With Raven safely tied off, Otter was harnessed up and allowed off the boat. Aaaand he’s off! Going into the first turn it’s Otter in the lead followed closely by the Captain’s arm socket. The First Mate and a poop bag round out the top four. Deck Boss is still in the gate. They’re keeping a furious pace down the straightaway, up the ramp, through the crowds, and onto the green. Coming into the home stretch, Otter has pulled away from the field. He’s frantically going from bush to bush. And at the wire, it’s Otter for the win, the Captain in second, poop bag in third, and First Mate bringing up the rear. Deck Boss is still in the gate.

You’ve got to get up to get down (time). The nice thing about complete chaos is that it (generally) doesn’t last and the time that follows is all the more precious simply by virtue of its nothing-is-happeningness. And so we spent a couple of days in Anacortes provisioning, taking care of some personal business, wandering the historic district, talking with other boaters in the marina, and being generally chill. It’s when life slows down that the world opens up, and you really start to think about things. I witnessed this firsthand when I saw the Captain gazing upon Raven after washing her hull. His eyes lovingly looked her over from stern to bow, eventually coming to rest on the Tinkle Turf—that little three by four patch of pristine Astroturf—and I heard him sigh, “I should have brought my putter.”
Pictured: The Captain at the dock in Anacortescontemplating his short game

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day 1-5 of the 1st Voyage: S/V Raven First Mate’s Blog for the Journey Commencing June 1, 2015.

Day 1: In which we quickly learn that one day can rapidly become two...or more.

Before starting out on this odyssey, it was decided that whenever possible, we would not adhere to self-imposed deadlines if things like weather, health, equipment or systems conspired against us. In other words, if something goes south, we don’t go north (and directionally vice-versa). So it was that on the day before our planned departure, the grey water pump went belly up. For the lubber, all water from the showers and sinks (i.e. grey or “somewhat dirty” water) drains into a holding tank, which then goes through a series of hoses, pipes, filters, etc. to be pumped directly into whatever body of water we are in. The culprit in this case was the pump itself—specifically a rubbery part within the pump called a “duck bill”.  Much as with a real duck, whatever goes in one end (hopefully) comes out the other. We, on the other hand, had a constipated and very confused duck that opted to suck water from the outside and spew it inside. This was confirmed when our captain bravely took one for the team and tasted the water which was, indeed and unfortunately, salty.  Editor’s note: Captain has lamented that first mate has not kissed him since.

Luckily, a quick trip to the marine supply store and $75.00 later, new duck bills plus spares were procured. But time lost due to flooding, pulling up floor boards, tightening hoses, removing hoses, sopping up water with every available towel, pumping by hand, relaying messages from inside to outside (tiny bubbles, bloopy bubbles, one big belch then nothing), some cussing, testing tasting the water, more cussing, tracing hoses, zeroing in on pump, disconnecting pump, hauling pump over to the marine supply store, procuring and replacing duck bills, putting the whole thing back together, more message relays (“the duck has been douched!”), cleaning up, and partaking in celebratory cigar, well--that pretty much killed our planned provisioning day. So it was decided that departure would be moved out two days—one for provisioning and one to recover from the heart attack.

Day 3-4: In which we finally leave Everett and set out into the world.

After a night of perpetual rainfall, we set out at 8:00 am under grey skies and a light drizzle to our first port of call: the fuel dock. Raven holds 500 gallons of fuel and sips it efficiently (roughly 1.5 gallons per hour when motoring). With the price of diesel at around $3.35/gallon, we could technically motor all the way to Hawaii for about 2 boat bucks. Editor’s note: widely used in the boating community, a “boat buck” refers to $1,000 in lubber money. And because the Raven crew loves to coin its own terms, $100 shall now be referred to as a “dinghy dollar”. Anything less than $100 was clearly not made for the marine environment and/or was mismarked. 

Big power boats on the other hand burn through fuel like a black hole consumes the vastness of the universe around it.  A yacht of like size to Raven (52 feet) would consume 10 boat bucks worth of fuel just to get to Hawaii. They might make it there faster, but at least we’d still be able to afford a Snickers bar once we got there.

After filling the fuel tanks, we headed out of the marina and into the sound. First stop: Port Ludlow for a two-night stay. With the wind right on our nose, we opted to motor there which takes a little under four hours. Calm water and a still-grey sky make for a smooth albeit chilly journey and once there we have our pick of spots on the long dock. This is ideal because being the novice sailor that I am, the more room I have to run along the docks calling out to the captain, “This cleat? That cleat? I’m running out of cleats here! Oh, that one back there? Yeah, I knew that.” (I totally didn’t know that) the better. Editor’s note: a cleat is that piece of hardware attached to a dock that boats secure their lines to. Not, as I first called it, “that thingy that the rope goes around.”

Day 5: In which we find ourselves part of a chain gang.

The original plan was to make the short journey from Port Ludlow over to Port Townsend and stay for two nights—primarily because Port Townsend is a marine mecca and we had already amassed a shopping list of things needed for the boat: spare 12-volt battery, some new line, bungee cords, to name a few. And also because it’s a nice place to visit what with its Victorian architecture and seafaring history. But unfortunately, time, tide, and tinkle turf conspired against us.

Many marinas will not accept reservations—transient moorage is strictly first come, first serve. The protocol is to radio and/or call about 30-45 minutes out and ask if anything is available. As part of my duties, it fell on me to contact the marina and procure a slip that can accommodate a 52’ foot boat with 8’ draft, 50 amp power, and starboard-side tie preferably along the linear dock (kinda sounds like I know what I’m doing, right? Ha!) It goes more like this: First Mate calls the marina and asks for a 52’ slip along the linear dock. The marina looks at the chart and says, “Yes—we can put you right in front of Bon Sante right before the dock takes a jog toward the travel lift.” Perfect. First Mate hangs ups. Captain asks, “Did you get a starboard tie?” First Mate calls marina back. Marina looks at chart and says, “Okay, go down the linear dock to the jog, turn around, we’re going to squeeze you between Resolution and Fran.” Perfect. First Mate hangs up. Captain asks, “You did verify it’s 50 amp, right?” First Mate calls marina back. Yes, 50 amp. Captain asks, “Did they indicate if it’s the north or south side of the linear dock?” First Mate calls marina back. Marina getting annoyed with First Mate. Marina comes into view—along with lots and lots of beach near the entrance and it’s not even low tide yet. Captain asks First Mate to call marina on VHF radio and verify the water depth. First Mate tries talking into radio, gets squat, desperately starts punching random buttons as marina entrance draws near, gets nothing, and goes into chicken-sans-head mode. Captain snatches radio from First Mate’s hand and tries hailing the marina himself. Nothing. First Mate—secretly relieved—goes to get cell phone, calls the marina, and in her panic forgets what to ask. Sheepishly hands phone to captain. Long story short: even though the marina is supposed to be dredged to 12’, it’s not exact (i.e. give or take about 3’depending on tide) and marina does admit that Raven could conceivably touch bottom during low tide. Thanks, but no thanks. Tonight we spend on the hook. Editor’s note: the part about the VHF radio was included because the Captain did admit later that he had it on the wrong hailing station; small consolation, although now I only feel like 99.1%instead of totalidiot.

On the hook/swinging on the chain. Anchoring is an art form—a choreographed dance in which Captain and First Mate work in unison to drop, drag, and set an anchor. The Captain at the bow controls the anchor itself and sends hand signals back to the First Mate in the cockpit who then throttles forward or reverse, steers left or right, till the anchor is firmly secured to the seafloor with enough chain for the boat to swing with the wind, but not enough that we swing into other anchored boats. The first one went perfectly and the afternoon was spent drinking beer on the stern deck, watching for dolphins in the bay, and desperately trying to coax a 95 lb. dog to do his business on a three by four piece of Astroturf.

We had procured the awesomely-named “Tinkle Turf” for those times when we would not be making landfall for hours/days/weeks at a time and naively thought that Otter would be ecstatic over the opportunity to mark the seven seas as his very own or, at the very least, “go before he explodes.” However, we underestimated the tenacity, bowel-strength, and knees-togetherness of a dog that is housebroken and proudly so. And so throughout the afternoon we would lead him out on deck to the Tinkle Turf, implore him to be a “good boy”, turn our backs to give him some privacy, and turn back around to find him happily napping on the little patch of green plastic. It was going to be a long day. And when the wind picked up to around 25 knots, and the anchor began to drag, it turned into a long night as well.

The second anchoring didn’t go as smoothly as the first. The wind and waves would kick up just as the anchor was about to set and bring us too close to the other boats, necessitating quick and constant readjustments. After about half an hour, the Captain was fairly confident that we were firmly anchored, but not enough so to get any sleep that night. And so began the vigil: riding out the ups and downs and side to side of the waves, watching our position in relation to the other boats in the anchorage. Was the schooner on our starboard side getting closer or farther away? Were we moving too far ahead of the small sailboat on our port side? Four of us were moving in the same direction with the wind, but two weren’t. Were they dragging anchor, or were we? Does Otter need to go out and be a good boy? Mr. Tinkle Turf is waiting!

The morning—the air still and sea as smooth as glass--revealed that we had indeed dragged or swung a bit wide, but not enough to cause alarm. The air inside the boat, however, betrayed the guttural distress of a dog in dire need of a tree so it was decided that we would cut the stay short and head out immediately for Anacortes.