Cruise to Learn
Saturday: Day one elementary keel boat. When I booked this week, I thought it included meals and was suppose to be an easy week of learning to sail and cruise a 30-40 foot sloop. What we got was quite different. The first two days of the week were grueling. We were grouped with 20-somethings who had great energy. I am in my sixties and my wife in her fifties. We just did not have the energy needed to keep up with the course. The first day we did 10 to 15 man-overboard operations which entailed dropping a bumper, then going into a beam reach, once everyone was assigned a role, we would come about and go into a broad reach to get downwind of the bumper, then harden up to a close reach and stall the boat to come to a stop slightly upwind from the bumper.
Actually, the class was very thorough. We started with just the main and sailed all points of sail. Then added the head sail. I have been sailing for quite a while, but a suggestion to feel the wind on my face was completely new to me. I was very mechanical in sail adjustment and used the tell tales to determine the direction of the boat, but did not fully appreciate the other wind direction clues. Looking at the water was one, the wind on the face and ears are another, the windex at the top of the mast is another, the luffing of sails yet another.
We were ready to go home on Saturday night. Both of us were bone weary. But after a night's sleep, we tried another day. The second day was almost a grueling as the first, but just as illuminating. We were sailing in very light air. A sailboat race just a mile away was on hold due to lack of wind, but we were sailing. Carl Richardson, our instructor, showed us how to adjust the sails to make them work better in light air. When the wind came up after lunch, he showed us how to flatten the sails to de-power them for the higher wind speeds. After the two days of sailing we were bushed. The twenty somethings were still ready to go. We were bushed, again. Carl made us take the test, anyway. Both of us passed.
The rest of the week was dedicated to two courses for us, the Coastal Cruising Standard (ASA 103) and Bareboat Chartering Standard (ASA 104). The week was a voyage from False Creek, Vancouver, BC, to Desolation Sound and back to Powell River. There were three days of 33 miles each, the fourth day was only 10 miles, and the final day was another 30 miler back to Powell River with a flight back to Vancouver. Another couple joined us for this part of the class, Darren and Banu. Darrin is a engineer contractor working for Boeing. Banu was from Turkey, Darren from England.
The first anchorage was in Smuggler Cove. After anchoring, Carl took Darin and me to the marina store a mile away in the dinghy. He bought fishing gear and beer. The “girls” fixed dinner. We took turns fixing meals. Carl had his idea of a balanced diet. Breakfast was yogurt and fruit. Lunch was turkey and cheese wraps. Dinners were more varied. We had told him that we did not eat red meat, but he brought two dinners of red meat. Hannah and I managed to substitute turkey and chicken for the red meat main dishes which made more for the other three.
Beside the usual instructions we had some additional lessons to learn on this trip. The first day's addition lessen was to keep more than just one boat length between you and any crab float. I was at the helm and thought I had at least a boat length, but I managed to get a float tangled in the propeller. Darrin, our savior, dove in the water and freed the float that was looped around the propeller. The second lesson was that leaky propane hose connections are not fixed with fancy tape. We ended up getting a replacement at Powell River on the third day. We had to get a taxi to the propane supplier and obtain a new hose with an adapter. We had presence of mind to ask the attendant to goop the adapter, but not ask her to tighten the adapter to the hose end. Back at the boat, I discovered that the adjustable wrenches we had were too wide to fit between the adapter and connector, thus preventing me from getting a good purchase on the hose to tighten the adapter to the hose. I jury rigged a large crimper to tighten the hose to the adapter. I checked everything with a soap solution to be sure it did not leak. The third lesson is never, never let go of the main halyard. The line is heavy enough inside the mast to raise the halyard out of reach. Again, Darrin to the rescue. Carl and I raised him in the bosun's chair to bring down the halyard. Of course this last incident happened on our way into Powell River about an hour before our flight was due to leave. We made the flight in plenty of time.
Friday night to Sunday Afternoon
We had dinner at Granville Isle in Vancouver and then drove to Bellingham Friday night. We stayed there for two nights in order to recuperate. Both of us were just to tired to shop and go to Friday Harbor to pick up our charter on Saturday. We visited our cousins and had a lunch with them on Saturday and they were very kind and fixed us breakfast on Sunday. We shopped at the Co-op and Trader Joes in Bellingham for our two week charter on Trofast.
We made the ferry at 3:00 on Sunday and arrived at Friday Harbor a little after 4:00. Trofast was moored in the marina next to the ferry terminal. We did a little checking on the boat that evening and made dinner that night on the boat. What a pleasure to get back to our kind of food. Salad, fish or fowl, a vegetable or corn or potato or rice, and a salad. We discovered packets of precooked rice at Trader Joes that are perfect for a boat. Just heat and serve the rice, no boiling, no ½ hour to fix. Plus the packets do not require refrigeration before opening. Monday, we made the manager and her helper take us for a check out cruise. That was when we discovered the main sail needed repair. We also noticed that there was a fresh water leak in the hoses to the heads sink. This caused the pressure pump to cycle every 8 minutes. Mike, the hired hand, spent the morning fixing that leak and did a very nice job. He even fixed a related leak in the hot water line that was caused by it rubbing up against the exhaust manifold. He tied the hoses back so they would not be able to do that again. They also took the main sail to the sail loft for repair. It would not be back until 10:00 AM Tuesday morning. We had dinner out at the Downriggers. It was just above Trofast.
It rained. We stayed in port and read. We went for a walk in the evening when the rain broke and happened upon the community theater where a four piece group from New England was playing. We went and had a very pleasant evening.
Wednesday and Thursday
We motored to Jones Island early so that we could get a mooring ball. We also were given a crab trap and I obtained a license for $35. We bought some bait for $6 Tuesday in Friday Harbor. Since it was Wednesday, I could set the trap, which I did. I set the trap just outside of North Cove a bit. We dinghied into shore and hiked the island, very pretty and pleasant hike.
The lesson today was that leaks can occur on a poorly maintained boat. Trofast had a bad leak which I noticed before we left but the problem did not register with me until we got to Jones Island. The automatic bilge pump was pumping about a cup of seawater every 30 seconds. I first thought it to be the packing gland. I looked at it and it was dripping a drop of water every ½ second. I searched the tool box for tools to adjust the gland and could not find any working tool. I found one monkey wrench which had been left in the bilge. It was salted up and rusted to an unusable state. I went up to the cockpit and looked around for a fellow sailor. The universe was kind to me and about that time another Catalina 34 was nosing around North Cove for a mooring. I hailed the skipper and asked if he had tools to adjust the packing gland. He said he had and would come over right after he anchored. He did. We adjusted the gland so that it did no leak when stationary. It dripped a drop every 45 seconds when I put the boat in reverse. Perfect. I offered the man a beer which he accepted. We sat in the cockpit and chatted for a little when he said that he knew me. We had worked together in the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and told me his name. Sure enough. He had been my manager for a couple of years about 25 years ago. I had not recognized him, but he had me. We talked about old times and new times. He said he was a failure at retirement. He went out and got a part time job and had to interrupt his cruising and go on a business trip the following week.
After he left, we went down inside and Hannah could still hear water running. I opened the bilge and say water running from the starboard aft. I opened the access under the galley sink and water as streaming over the water heater. Getting lower to see above the water heater, I saw that the hose to the galley sink had parted from the sink drain fixture. Someone had used duct tape to secure the hose to the fixture. The hose had parted from the fixture and fallen below the water line and was letting sea water in at an alarming rate. I closed the thru-hull and studied the problem. On my earlier search for tools I noticed a large hose clamp in the tool box. I disconnected the drain fixture from the sinks. This was simple as only hand fasteners are used. The hose would fit into the fixture with a very snug fit, but there was nothing holding the hose in but that pressure. I put a slit in the drain fixture so that the clamp would deform the end to capture the hose. I clamped the hose and tried to put back the knife drawer which allowed easy access to the drain. The clamp interfered with the drawer. I rotated the clamp to give clearance and the drawer went in with no interference from the clamp. I opened the thru-hull and was finished with that repair.
That evening sitting in the cockpit I got a message on my cell. The coverage was very spotty in the anchorage. I could get a signal only on the stern and only when the boat was oriented in a particular direction. I tried calling back the party. We had asked them the previous week if they would like to join us for an afternoon sail. The party had a four seat twin engine plane and would like to fly his wife and another couple up to join us in an afternoon of sailing. We had stayed at the couple's house on our way up to Vancover, the Thursday before this vacation. After much maneuvering we finally got contact the next day and made arrangements to meet them in Friday Harbor on Friday afternoon.
It rained again on Thursday, so we spent the day reading and watching nature.
I dinghied out to the crap trap and pulled it up. I had caught a big starfish. It spanned 18”. I threw it overboard with the bait. I hope it enjoyed it. The state of Washington has a great scam going for it. $34 for a non-resident license, $5 for bait, and not having to provide any crabs. We did not see anyone bring in any crab on this trip. We did talk to a few people who said they caught crab, but that and fish stories are not dissimilar.
We made it back to Friday Harbor by 11:00. The group arrived about 12:45. The airport is walking distance to the marina. They walked down from the airport. We had obtained sandwiches. They brought some snacks and beer. So we got underway almost immediately. We sailed toward Jones Island and back. Winds were light. The sun was peeking around clouds, which made the day warm enough to be comfortable but not hot. Very nice sail. We got back to Friday Harbor about 5:15 and went to dinner at Vinnie's which is up the hill and back off spring street. Good food. We walked back to the airport and watched them take off. Nice day.
We had been living on Trofast for a week, now and went over to the pumpout station. There was a big power boat using the pumpout. They said they were taking quite a while because the pumper was very slow. They suggested using the portable pumpout. I went and got it. But it did not work the way I thought it would and I had the valves in the wrong setting. It sort of exploded. But it did not get stuff all over. It just blew a circuit breaker. The power boat finished and we were able to pump out the tank. The pumpout would turn off after a few minutes, but all we had to do was cycle it. More on the tank later.
The power boat took its time to get started. After we had pumped out tank and was ready to get away, the power boar decided to get underway, too. So we waited for them. They finally moved and then it was our turn. We followed them out of the marina, until they stopped right in the marina's outlet. They seemed to be getting mooring instructions from a dock hand. They sat there blocking the outlet for a good five minutes. They finally moved.
We got out of the marina and headed for Stuart Island. We motored all the way. We went to Prevost Harbor. It was late, but there was plenty of room to anchor, but we choose a “Mooring Spar”. That's when we decided to go to the landing. Hannah had things to do. I got impatient and thought I would get into the dinghy. This would have been my 6th or 7th time, so I was not worried about going in. Well, I did. I tried a different way of entering the dinghy which was unfortunately incorrect. I fell in with my pack on my back. The automatic inflating PFD did. The pack I was wearing, instead of having it on the boat to be handed down to me to place in the boat once I was in it, got wet. The digital camera was in the pack. It did not get submerged, but did get damp. It has not worked since. Dumb move on my part. We decided to stay on the boat the rest of the day.
We had to charge the battery using the engine. This meant running the engine for about an hour or until the charging started cycling. About that time I noticed a mooring ball much closer to the dinghy landing, so we moved to that. After the batteries were fully charged, we took great care in getting into the dinghy this time, and made a safe ride to the pier. We walked over to Reid Harbor and chatted with some nice folks from Seattle. We told them about my mishap the day before and the first thing they said was: “Do not turn the camera on until it is completely dry.” Too late, we had already turned on the camera.
We walked to Turning Point Lighthouse. The walk includes 150 steps, a couple of county gravel roads, and a couple of chests full of t-shirts, shirts, hats, and vests. The payment for which is done by honor system. Each garment has an envelop and price. We were instructed to mail a check or go to their website to pay for the items we took. We did.
The lighthouse was a collection of 100 year old buildings. The original lens was long since removed and replaced with a modern one that was not as interesting as some I have seen. I did notice all the cameras about. We were told they were monitored by Homeland Security.
I arranged for a slip at Dear Harbor. We hoped we could get a rearming kit for my PFD, but we were out of luck on that. The one inconvenience Trofast afforded us here, was that the power cord supplied with the 34' boat was only 30' long. Since we were bow in, we had to borrow a 50' cord.
Deer Harbor has a quaint little store at the marina. You can get beer, some staples, and a meal. We landed about noon, so we walked up to the Deer Harbor Inn only to find out it did not open until 4 PM. We trudged back to the marina and fixed ourselves lunch. We took it easy until dinner when we walked back up to the inn. The deck was full so we elected to eat inside which had a peculiar smell about it. We selected a window seat and asked if we could open the window, but it was painted shut. After five or ten minutes we no longer noticed the odor. We ordered seafood salad. It came after a long wait and was on the skimpy side. We were told that the salad included bread, which never came. We asked for bread when she delivered the salads, the waitress said she would bring some. We ate the salads slowly because we wanted some bread with them and we had all evening. The waitress came to clear the dishes and asked if everything was alright. We told her about the missing bread. She said she would look into it. She came back with an offer for desert on the house instead because the bread was hard as a brick. We had the berry cobbler. Still it would have been nice to have bread with our salad and the portion large enough for a dinner. After all the salad cost $17 each.
We rose early to get our laundry done and bought breakfast at the cafe on the dock. About 10 we got underway. The evening before we were chatting with the skipper next to us and watched this particularly artful docking and we both graded the docking on a scale of one to ten. So that skipper gave us a 4 for our maneuvering this morning. I thanked him and continued on our way to Sucia. Everything was going fine. I handed the helm over to Hannah while I straightened up the lines. Hannah screams we are on fire. I came aft from the bow where I was working and discovered the engine room steaming. Hannah thought we were on fire and was trying to remember where the fire extinguishers were. I told her to stop the engine. She turned off the ignition. I pulled the fuel stop. I had a good idea what was wrong immediately. I check the thru-hull for the fresh water cooling and sure enough, when I check the strainer that morning, I had not reopened the valve. I opened it. I figured that the best way to cool the engine was to restart it. I did. I check to see that water was coming out. It was. The engine cooled right down and we continued on to Sucia through Presidents Channel.
We actually got two tacks of close hauled sailing in this day. This turned out to be the only sailing Hannah and I did on the trip. The tide was set against us and after two tacks were where back in the same place. We turned the engine back on and headed to Sucia. We poked our bow into Fossil Bay. It was full and only had 12 feet in it. That would probably be enough, since it was low tide, but we would have had to anchor very far out from the landing. We continued on to Echo Bay. There we found another mooring spar.
A little time after mooring on the spar, I noticed the dinghy painter going under the stern of the boat. I pulled it to bring the dinghy closer to the stern, but it did not come. It was fouled in between the rudder and hull. How it got there is a mystery still, but it took a while to figure out where it actually was fouled. My first thought was the propeller. I spent some time tugging in the painter, but could not free it. Until I asked Hannah to turn the wheel. I had her turn it to a stop. The line floated free. No tugging was required.
Hannah was very upset by the day's travel. She just could not calm down after all the movement and adventures, the closed thru-hull, the sailing, and the final straw, the painter stuck in the rudder. Again I reiterated that we would not be doing this type of vacation/trip again.
We started the engine to charge the batteries and noticed two free mooring balls which were closer to the beach. We got underway to get to a mooring ball. Just then I noticed another boat heading to the same mooring ball. We raced to the mooring ball. We won. They went to the other ball that was a little further from the beach. I felt good that we got the ball we wanted, but bad about being so selfish. I think mooring ball races happen a lot in the San Juans.
We dinghied to the beach and hiked to Coronet Bay. We soaked our feet in the bay and watched small fish and a large bug in the water. Teenagers were all over the place having fun with kayaks and swimming. We walked back and sat and watched the goings on in Shallow Bay in the afternoon. Then dinghied back to the boat. That evening we watched the Lady Wasington and the Cheftain anchor. They Lady Washington sent a dory of crew ashore to sleep. The ship's crew took the dory back to the boat. They set sail for part of the trip. The rest of there journey, they rowed.
Food was getting low. We were surprised at how the frozen food kept in the refrigerator. It thawed the first couple of days, but kept fresh. We got a bag of ice when we had the group sailing on the Friday. It stayed icy for quite a while. Milk stayed fresh the whole two weeks.
We got under way at 9:30 for Rosario. Rounding Lawrence Point on Orcas Island, I could not discern exactly where Obstruction Pass was, so I got a bearing from the chart and headed that way. After almost an hour, we were right off the pass. Bearings work great. We had reserved a 50' slip and arrived there at about 1:00 PM. Boat handlers met us and were of great assistance. They even asked for our trash. Blew us away.
We wandered around the resort and made reservations for dinner after the organ recital. We swam in the adult pool. Rosario's has two pools, one for families (kids), and one for adults with a bar. Quite nice.
Christopher Peacock gives a great one hour show. He does it four times a week. The resort is quite unusual with its memorabilia. He gives some background on the resort. The ship model of the battleship that was never built was quite well done. Dinner service at the restaurant was slow, like the service at Deer Harbor. We kept hearing that the people on the island run on island time. When we got the food, it was good. The crab cakes were huge and delicious. The salad was from a bag.
We had decided to go back to Friday Harbor and get the boat checked in early Friday evening, and take the 8:10 AM ferry out to Anacortes so we could visit Hannah's sister for lunch and get home at a decent hour. I checked the engine making sure the water inlet thru-hull was open after I check the strainer. I went to start the engine. It sort of started and then bogged down and quit. No amount of throttle or turning would start the engine. The fuel gage showed almost half a tank of diesel still left in the tank. The fuel shutoff was pushed all the way in. So I enlisted a knowledgeable boater to try his luck. He did not have any more luck with this engine. I called the Charter company and told them what happened and they said they would send a mechanic. Just phoning the charter company was not too bad. I used the resorts phone, but getting information from them was a different story. My cell did not have coverage in the marina, neither did Hannah's. We had to walk to the other side of the resort to get coverage on Hannah's analog AT&T service. My digital phone did not work. We had to call our house setter and Hannah's sister and tell her the change in plans. We did not hear from the charter company again. After two hours of nothing, I called the charter company from the resort's phone and got one of the hired help who related that they found a mechanic but he was not going to be able to make until late Friday afternoon. I gave her the phone number of the marina's harbor master who I had been keeping appraised of my situation and told her that since I did not have cell coverage in the marina, please tell the harbor master when the mechanic would be able to make it.
We made the best of the situation. The weather was nice and we lulled around waiting for the mechanic. Another two hours passed and still no word. I called the charter company again. This time I got the manager at Friday Harbor who finally told me that the mechanic was not going to be able to make it until Saturday.
Our food had run out, so we decided to try another one of the three restaurants at the marina. We ended up getting fish tacos at the bar at the head of the marina. Good food.
As we were walking to the restaurant, we passed a couple that reminded me of an old friend that I had lost touch with over 20 years ago. I turned after they passed and called out his name. They stopped. Turned around and said, “Yes.” We were both very happy to see each other. We had small sail boats together and he was a coworker. His family even went to the same church as I did. We made arrangement to meet later that evening.
We ate the meal and then went over for a great evening of reminiscing and jokes. He had chartered a Catalina 30 with his wife, brother, and a friend of the brother. They would not have been here this time of year, but the brother had taken a job driving school bus and so could not go their normal time of chartering in September. This was the first year they had chartered in August. We exchanged email addresses and hope to connect again when he is visiting Portland, again. We never would have connected without the engine failing as it did.
Woke up, ate breakfast. We cooked the last of the eggs. We had talked the marina store manager into selling us just 6 eggs instead of a dozen the first day we were at Rosario. Hannah fixed the first three Friday and then finished them today. We went for a walk and waited until the mechanic showed up, which he did about 10. He spent about ten minutes looking the engine over and then asked me the most peculiar question: “Where have you gone with this engine?” I told him Friday Harbor to Jones and back. Friday Harbor to Stuart Island, then Deer Harbor and then to Sucia. We came here to Rosario from Sucia. He was amazed. He said this engine should not have run as long as it did. The lift pump had been removed from the fuel circuit so the injector pump was getting fuel only by gravity feed from the tank. When the tank emptied to half full the gravity feed pressure was insufficient to provide fuel to the injector pump. We were lucky to get to where we had and that the engine failed to start when it did. Otherwise we could have been in a real pickle when it stalled. The lift pump was still on board and in place. The inlet had been piped to the outlet and the fuel line from the tank had been redirectled to the fuel filter, thus bypassing the lift pump.
The mechanic took about an hour to make sure the existing lift pump was working. He cleaned the strainer in the pump, which he found clogged. He thought that this was the cause of the mechanic bypassing the pump in the first place.
Of course the weather was doing something, too. Friday was beautiful. Saturday had high wind warnings and rain for the Northern Inland waters from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. With the engine fixed we were anxious to get back to Friday Harbor to get the boat checked in so we could resume our plans and catch the 8:10 AM ferry to Anacortes, now on Sunday. After consulting with the harbormaster Frank Joseph, we decided to go the two hours to Friday Harbor. We filled up the fuel tank at noon, just to be sure we would have fuel, and proceeded to Friday Harbor. All we got was rain about ¾ of the way there.
We moored at the harbor and went to the Doctor's Office for dinner. We wanted some chicken soup. They made the best home made chicken soup. I also had a hot vegetarian sandwich. Then we got ice creams. I got Rocky Road and Hannah got peach. We packed the car and was already for the ferry in the morning.
We caught the ferry at 8:10 AM. The “sailing” vacation was over. We stopped by Hannah's sister's for lunch which she provided very nicely. We were home to the dog and cat by 5:20 PM.