Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A New Chapter

Retriever has treated me well. The two of us have successfully been to SE Alaska and around Vancouver Island. We've made countless trips through the San Juans, Puget Sound, and the Gulf Islands. Retriever was the first cruising boat I had, and I couldn't have asked for a better craft.

But life changes. Retriever was purchased just before I left Seattle for college in Colorado. The boat was a getaway, not a full time home.

Since finishing college and moving back to the Pacific Northwest a year and a half ago, I've been "homeless." Not really, of course. I've had plenty of places to stay, but none that was my own. I spent last fall, winter, and spring primarily on Mark Bunzel's (the owner of the Waggoner Guide) 30' Tollycraft. The rest of the time I was either traveling or back at my childhood home. Economical, but not ideal.

Living on Mark's boat was a great experience. For no cost, I got a "trial run" at living aboard. I learned I definitely wanted a stall shower, an electric head, more than 50 gallons of water capacity, and additional clothing storage. I developed a wish list for what I'd want on a liveaboard boat.

Last summer's circumnavigation of Vancouver Island gave me additional perspective. A new boat needed to be economical to operate, seaworthy, and easy to maintain. No exterior teak, please. I wanted more range, too, so I wouldn't have to buy fuel at every fuel dock I passed. And a second stateroom would be perfect for guests and extra storage.

On my way back from the trip around Vancouver Island, I noticed what looked like a very nice 2001 Willard 40 for sale in Anacortes. I swung into Cap Sante and took a look. Later that week, I made an offer, but we couldn't agree on price.

In September I visited the Boats Afloat Show on Lake Union. I crawled all over a bunch of boats, and kept coming back to the 37' Nordic Tug.

Fast forward a month and I have a 2000 Nordic Tug 37 under contract. It's powered by a single 330hp Cummins diesel. At displacement speeds it gets excellent fuel economy, yet it'll still cruise at 14+ knots when needed. With 370 gallons of fuel, range worries are minimal, at least if I can keep my hand off the throttle.

The boat has a comfortable motion and is reportedly very seaworthy. A full keel protects the running gear from logs and rocks. A 600 amp hour battery bank, 2500 watt inverter, and 5.5 kw Northern Lights generator provide plenty of electricity when away from the dock. She's got a nice sized stall shower, vacuflush head, forced air diesel heat, refrigerator and freezer, four burner stove and oven, a guest bunk room. Pilothouse side doors make single handing easier, and an electric davit on the stern makes launching and retrieving the dinghy trivial.

A sea trial is scheduled for the end of this week and a survey next week. If all goes well, I'll take possession late this month or early next month. Hopefully all goes well!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Around Vancouver Island: Distance, Hours, and Fuel Consumption

This trip was much shorter than the trip to Glacier Bay and back. Somehow I averaged both a higher speed (7.3 vs 6.7 knots) and better fuel economy (3.82 nm/gal vs. 3.71 nm/gal). I attribute this to carrying less weight this trip.

Total distance: 1,244.1 nm
Total engine hours: 170.3
Average speed: 7.3 knots
Total fuel burned: 325.4 gallons
Average fuel consumption: 1.91 gph (3.82 nm/gal)
Total fuel cost: $1,788.78 (assuming CAD and USD at par)
Average fuel cost: $5.50/gal

Day 63: Sylvan Cove to Twin Bridges

I awoke to the sound of foghorns from ferries passing through Thatcher Pass. When I looked around, I saw almost nothing. Visibility was just around 200 feet.
Leaving Sylvan Cove in fog
After an hour or so it began to lift, and I headed off. The current in Thatcher Pass was ebbing so I got a nice boost in speed. The fog had lifted much; visibility was maybe 200 feet. Radar was a must have.

In Rosario Strait I stayed close to Reef Point on Cypress Island to avoid the ferries. Only one other boat on the radar screen the whole way across, except for two ferries.

By the time I got inside of Guemes Channel the fog had lifted and the sun was out. I fought a strong current through Guemes Channel, but eventually made it through to Twin Bridges. More big boats going fast in Swinomish Channel, and again, massive wakes.

Thanks to my scrubbing of the bottom in Barkley Sound, growth on the hull was minimal. The trim tabs and bottom of the engine mount were a bit of a mess, but not too difficult to clean up. I unloaded the boat, scrubbed everything down well, and headed back to Seattle.

16.9 nm today
1244.1 nm total

Day 62: Henry Island to Sylvan Cove

Off to Sylvan Cove today, where the dock is for our cabin. I left pretty early, and cruised quickly to Pole Pass before slowing down to displacement speed the rest of the way.

This was one of the roughest sections of the trip, not because of the wind or current but rather the massive wakes from passing boats. One a**hole in a 37’ Tollycraft Big Sky zoomed by just 140 feet away from me…with a couple of guys in a 10 foot aluminum skiff midway between us. Big Sky was going about 16 knots and threw an absolutely massive wake.
Thanks for the wake!
Despite the inconsiderate boaters I made it to Sylvan Cove easily enough. I tied up to the dock, walked around for a couple hours on shore, and returned to the boat. My neighbor was heading out fishing and I joined him. Only one small king salmon, about half in inch too small to keep. Oh well, we weren’t fishing for long.
Evening view from Sylvan Cove
17.4 nm today
1227.2 nm total

Day 61: Friday Harbor to Henry Island

After breakfast, a shower, and a quick trip into town, I headed out of Friday Harbor bound for Henry Island. Henry Island is just across from Roche Harbor and it forms the northern shore of Mosquito Pass. Seattle Yacht Club has an outstation there, and I figured it’d be worth checking out.

I had an easy trip up San Juan Channel. The current pushed me along nicely for the first half, then slowed me the second half. Lots of boat traffic, and the water was correspondingly rough as big motor yachts sped past me.

Roche Harbor was busy, as usual. The SYC outstation at Henry Island is about a mile from Roche Harbor’s docks, and it is much quieter. The outstation is beautiful, with a massive lawn, barbeques, walking paths, etc.
"American Pride" is the name of this boat...but the owner isn't proud enough to register it in the USA (and pay taxes).
Beautiful sunset from Henry Island
The sun was shining bright, and I did lots of reading on the lawn. I’m reading a book called Trekka Round the World, about John Guzzwell’s circumnavigation of the world in a self-built 20’ sailboat in the 1950s. It makes going around Vancouver Island in the C-Dory seem like a stepping across a puddle.

10.6 nm today
1209.8 nm total

Day 60: Friday Harbor

I’d planned on heading for Henry Island today, but never made it. While I was eating breakfast an older gentleman walked past and got into a 17’ Whaler behind me. He obviously had some mobility problems: two canes and very small steps. We struck up a conversation and he mentioned that he had a house in Barkley Sound. He also said he had parkinsons and was on his way out to pull some crab pots. I volunteered to go along to help out, since I figured he might have some difficulty pulling his gear.

Unfortunately this was the rainiest day in the last month and a half. I suited up: Xtra Tufs and head-to-toe Goretex. Then we set off at 28-knots into driving rain. We pulled the pots at Shaw Island (no keepers), then headed around to a boat launch to pull the boat out of the water. He’d forgotten a critical piece of the trailer winch at the outstation back in Friday Harbor, so I drove his truck and trailer back, grabbed the part, and returned to the launch ramp.

By the time I got back to the boat all my outer layers were soaked (but I was dry inside!) and it was past lunchtime. So I stayed in Friday Harbor. More wandering town, relaxing on the boat, and even a quick nap.

Day 59: Sooke to Friday Harbor

I was up early, not so much because I wanted to be, but because the fishing boats rocketing out of Sooke made the anchorage awfully rolly.

The wind had picked up through the night, and conditions didn’t sound great on the Strait. Westerly winds, to nearly 30 knots, had been blowing much of the night. But the forecast called for moderating conditions, and that’s what I noticed on the weather buoys. The wind slackened and the seas dropped below three feet. Good enough.

Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca was a bit bumpy, but with the seas coming from behind it wasn’t uncomfortable. I had to dodge a few big ships along the way and was thankful it wasn’t foggy.
Playing with the big boys
This reminds me of Alaska
As I approached the San Juans I called US Customs. They quickly and painlessly cleared me back into the USA. By mid morning I was tied up at the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Friday Harbor. I took a long shower (no coins!), made a late breakfast, and wandered the docks.

I walked along the docks in the evening and met Jim and Joan from Wild Blue, another C-Dory. They poured me a drink and we chatted about our summers. They live aboard for the summer, working for one of the local whale watching outfits. Cool, eh?

41.4 nm today
1199.2 nm total

Day 58: Bamfield to Sooke

Transiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca requires fair winds and good current conditions. Currents run several knots in the Strait, and it makes little sense to burn a lot of extra fuel fighting the current.

The winds were forecast to be light and the currents would be favorable beginning around eight or nine in the morning. Since current wouldn’t be much of an issue for the first 25 miles, I decided to depart at 6:00 am. This got me out early enough to beat the afternoon winds, but late enough to avoid unfavorable currents.

I woke up at 5:30, checked the weather, and got the boat ready. The weather was perfect: light winds and rippled seas. No fog, either.

I shoved off before 6:00 and joined a sizeable fleet of sport fishing boats heading out. Once clear of the harbor, I throttled up. The autopilot worked perfectly!

The next four hours were pretty boring. Low swells, no waves, low clouds, no boats. Altogether a pleasant trip into Port Renfrew.
Calm water and low clouds. It may look foggy, but visibility was a couple of miles.
I’d expected to stay the night in Port Renfrew, but there wasn’t much there. A couple small marinas, catering mainly to sport fishing boats (with the attendant smells) were all that was around. I stopped and gathered some info for the Waggoner. The weather was so nice that I decided to continue to Sooke.

After another couple of uneventful hours, I pulled into Sooke. I tied up at the public dock and settled in. A note at the top of the dock said the harbormaster would be by in the evening to collect moorage fees.

An hour later a fisherman informed me that I was in “his” spot. Now, some of the spots did have little signs that said “reserved,” but not the spot I was in. He’d left no fenders or lines, no indication that this was a reserved spot. Not wanting a confrontation, I agreed to move. He suggested I raft off an old, rusty behemoth…I pulled along side and quickly realized it wouldn’t work. So, off to anchor. I tucked in behind Whiffen Spit and dropped the hook, between endless crab trap buoys. Fishing boats came and went, typically at the perfect speed for throwing the largest wake.
Whiffen Spit Park
Last light on Whiffen Spit
On the plus side, Whiffen Spit is a large, beautiful park. It reminded me of Dungeness Spit, on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Still, Sooke ranks pretty low on the destinations I’ve boated to…

80.5 nm today
1157.8 nm total

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 57: Turtle Island to Bamfield

Off to Bamfield today. My plan is to spend the night in Bamfield, then probably head into the Strait of Juan de Fuca tomorrow early in the morning. The forecast looks great.

The trip into Bamfield was easy, and surprisingly not foggy. The autopilot worked, kind of. From Turtle Island to Dodger Channel (~6 nm) the AP performed well. Then I disengaged it to explore Dodger Channel (a great anchorage!). When I reengaged it, the erratic behavior resumed. I’m quickly developing a list of additions/changes to the boat that I’d like to make, and a replacement autopilot is looking like a priority. I’ll check with Raymarine when I get back to see if there’s anything I should try.
Dodger Channel
I emailed Les at EQ about the problem, and he hadn’t seen it before. He suspects the course computer. It’s either that or the pump. Either way, I have trouble dumping many hundreds of dollars into this AP when a new, much better unit can be purchased for not too much more. This isn’t too big of a problem right now, since the AP does steer me to the next waypoint. It just uses a bit of extra gas because of all the turning.

Bamfield is a neat little town. A big university lab is at the entrance. Then many homes, lodges, and marine businesses. The only way to get from the west side of town (the side with the road) to the east side is by water, so the harbor is busy.
Bamfield Marine Science Center
A sea cave at the entrance to Bamfield Inlet
Tomorrow I’m planning on heading to Port Renfrew. Then Sooke the next day (Thursday). I may go to Victoria or I may head into the San Juans…

12.7 nm today
1077.3 nm total

Day 56: Pinkerton Islands to Turtle Island

Time for mom to head home. We cruised back to Ucluelet and I dropped her off. Then I headed out for Turtle Island. I’d visited Turtle Island once before, but the anchorage was full.

This time I had it all to myself, which was good, since it’s a one, maybe two boat spot. I explored a bit by kayak. It’s a really neat anchorage, almost exposed to the ocean swells. From inside, the swells crashing ashore were audible.
Turtle Island
Then the fog rolled in...
By late afternoon fog started to roll in. By evening I was surrounded. I thought about exploring more by kayak, but was worried that I could quickly become disoriented and lost if a really heavy fog rolled in and obscured the view of Retriever.

A relatively minor boat problem has cropped up, one that seems to happen periodically and then fix itself. The S1000 autopilot has developed a mind of its own. It kind of holds a course, but often veers to starboard when engaging. I’ve tried holding a course for several minutes before engaging the autopilot, but the result is the same. When navigating to a waypoint, cross track errors (the distance the boat is from the intended course) rise to 150-200 feet in one direction, then 150-200 feet in the other. Very sloppy. The hydraulic steering system is full and steering is normal when using the wheel. I’ve tried messing with the settings, a factory reset, and autolearn (always fails…error code 6) to no avail. Sometimes it works great, other times it doesn’t. Weird.

21.8 nm today
1064.6 nm total

Day 55: Jacques-Jarvis Lagoon to Pinkerton Islands

We took a somewhat difficult route to the Pinkertons today, through much shallow water. I think we surprised a couple of kayakers at one point. They probably couldn’t figure out what a “big boat” was doing in 2.5-feet of rock-studded water!

Exploring the shallow areas is pretty cool. Lots of sea life is visible in the clear water, and there aren’t any other boats.
Is that a rock ahead?
When we arrived in the Pinkertons, we were the only boat. Nice!

More relaxing aboard. I napped. Perfect afternoon.

Before dinner we took the kayaks on a lengthy paddle through the Pinkertons. Not much wildlife, but beautiful scenery. Somehow I manage to inadvertently hit rocks regularly in the kayak. Thankfully I haven’t yet had that propensity when driving Retriever.
Paddling through the Pinkertons
Three other boats filtered into the anchorage during the evening. One anchored really close, just 170-feet away (I turned on the radar). It was a charter sailboat out on a training trip. A licensed captain runs the boat while paying guests learn how to operate a sailboat. Evidently the captain realized they were too close, and moved farther away soon after anchoring. I’m glad he didn’t train everyone to anchor so close!

3.8 nm today
1042.8 nm total