Monday, September 16, 2019

A 600 mile summer-30 days to and from Desolation Sound

I think I've waited a long time to write about the trip this summer because it has been overwhelming to consider. I'm still not up to the task. In bare facts I took Aeolus from Friday Harbor up to Desolation Sound in one week. Through the Gulf Islands and then up along the Van Isle shore and then across at Comox bar. Part of my family flew in on Kenmore Air to join me at Refuge Cove and we had a great week poking up into the Discovery Islands and swimming at Newton Lake. One week later our younger son flew in and we had a week in Desolation Sound at our favorite haunts.
View from Rendezvous Island lodge docks. Center of the Universe. 

I can't give a location by location review of where we went, but let me say that throughout the northern parts of this trip we can verify that the Humpback whales have come back in force. We've cruised the Desolation Sound area almost every year for nearly 20 years, and never seen so many Humpbacks as we are now. We saw them nearly every day in all areas of the passageways.

My younger son stayed with me for most of  our journey back south, and it was symbolically significant. When we left Refuge Cove after dropping off the fliers, we began our trip south to cover the entire length of the Salish Sea. For we were not stopping in Friday Harbor, but moving Aeolus to her new home in Olympia. That, my friends, felt significant.

Our crossing of the Straits of Georgia was rather epic as the winds were SE 20-25 and we had a rip roaring sail under reefs all the way to the Comox Bar. You head down as far to Texada as you have the patience to do, and then have a close reach across. Waves were 2-4 feet and we were once again the only boat in sight on that major crossing. Aeolus is a sturdy vessel, a sturdy vessel indeed.

600 miles and never a mechanical failure of any kind. Prrrrr goes the engine.

An incredible adventure, filled with too many stories to tell. Swimming, jumping off high rocks, whales, deep time.

Deep time in wilderness. It is going home.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sunny trip to Spencer Spit

The internal tides had indicated it was time to cast aside the shore lines and set sail, and so we did. On a whim, and no more, we were already away from Friday Harbor when we decided to head to Spencer Spit on Lopez. It is a fine little place to be. We don't head there often because there is really nothing in the way of hiking or exploring but if you are happy to stick to one beautiful beach area then you can do no better.
A state of mind more than a place

We had a lovely time weaving among the Wasp Islands and arrived at Spencer before long. Doing the passage between Frost Island and Spencer Spit is always a delight, and is about the narrowest place we pass through. You always have plenty of depth, so long as you stay 5-10 feet of the Frost Island side, and being that close to poky rocks keeps you on edge. We tucked into the south side to avoid the north winds and had a few boats for company.

The day was spent exploring the beaches and doing beach yoga. Owen ran a fast mile and otherwise contentedly explored his elaborate internal worlds while Amy and I did the same. I managed to get some boat projects done to confirm the saying that cruising can be defined as boat maintenance in exotic locations.
Approaching the tiny gap between rocks and sand. 

A deeply restful night of 10 hours of sleep, and away we flew home the next day. A word here on sleep. Far, far too many adolescents are getting insufficient sleep these days due to having screens. One of the greatest gifts of the boat is that we sleep so deeply and well. It does wonders for our health and moods and for the development of our sons. It's how we should always live. Even at home we get good sleep, and insist the boys do too, but the boat takes it to another level. No need to get up to do the laundry or run an errand! Hooray for boat sleep.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Moving by the forecast, not the calendar: A middle Salish Sea tour

My son and his friend joined me for a splendid tour of the central Salish Sea this week. We left Friday Harbor on a pleasant afternoon and went up to Roche Harbor for the night. We needed to go to the Sidney Customs dock because our guest does not have a Nexus card.
What perfection 

Staying in Roche is always fine, though not quite the wilderness experience we enjoy. You can anchor all over but be careful to avoid the traffic lanes and expect to be bothered by fisherman going 25 knots all morning and evening.

After clearing customs, we went to Russell Island and enjoyed a great visit. The winds were all Southerly, and the north side anchorage is well protected in anything less than gales. My only grief about Russell is how badly overgrown it is with invasive plants that the Canadian Gulf Islands National Park people haven't gotten around to addressing yet. Lots of English Ivy, Holly and others.

We then scootled over to Winter Cove and enjoyed frisbee on the lawn and the drama of Boat Passage. The day was cloudy and rainy so it limited our enjoyment somewhat. We decided to journey on to Tumbo Island instead that same day, because the forecast was for next day to be the only nice day of the week.
Why do people stay at home? 

We had Tumbo to ourselves. Cabbage to ourselves. Great sadness that the rope swing on Tumbo has been broken. I believe someone like me may just have to replace it soon!

After a lovely evening, and a morning of hiking all over and making awesome beach sculptures, we headed over Boundary Pass to Jones Island for the night, to avoid the predicted Friday high winds. Boundary pass is usually benign, but not a place to be in winds over 25 knots against current.

Jones always delights. The boys went feral and at times we played some great frisbee.

Sunlight dazzling shoreside pines sway gently smells of summer.
Thank you Goldsworthy! 

Servicing your Oberdorfer 202M15

My Oberdorfer pump had started to drip seawater and I knew it was time to service the unit. There are several good resources for doing this, easily found with a google search, so I won't go into much detail here. Suffice to say if you have one of these they are easily serviceable for a fraction of the cost of a new unit. Watch yours, and when it starts to drip water, one of the two seals, the water seal, has begun to fade.

You can purchase all the parts you need at your favorite marine supply store. For those of us around Western Washington, Fisheries Supply is a reliable and locally owned resource. I needed to purchase the repair kit, as well as a new shaft. When you pull the pump off the engine, and remove the shaft, you need to look to see if it is scored and grooved. My pump had a very slightly grooved shaft, and I decided to replace it with a new one. They cost about $55 her in 2019. In the repair kit you get the two seals, and the carbon bushing, along with a new impeller and the O-ring.

Getting the old bushing out and the new one is easily done with a good size C clamp held vertically in a table vise. Use a socket of the right size, only slight smaller than the diameter of the bushing, and press it out using the C clamp. The new one goes in nicely using a washer as a barrier between the clamp and bushing.

The two seals go in easily, and evidently must be placed in so the lettering on their side faces internal to the pump, though I'm not sure why.

There is more to this, but like I said, do a google search and you'll find plenty. This is just a note to those who have these pumps that they need servicing and are easy to do.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Finally a warm weekend! And Orcas near Orcas...

We knew we were getting out this weekend and lucked out that the frigid weather finally turned to something at or above normal. For us, this means we had highs this weekend of the 60's and not in the 40's. All the difference in the world.
Spring Passage and Presidents Channel are beautiful and prone to rough seas

To mix it up we went to Sucia Island, which we avoid altogether in anything other than the off season, as it attracts hordes of people from nearby Bellingham and environs. We found Fossil Bay plenty busy, with the dock full and a few balls taken, but still room to anchor. The holding is good in Fossil Bay in mud.

We had a smooth trip from Friday Harbor and it's about 3 hours at about 6 knots. While we cruised along the northern shoreline of Orcas island, I became aware of what looked like wind surfers in the distance. After a moment, I realized they were Orcas! A whole pod of Orcas! There were young and old, and evidently, they were the transient Orcas and not the resident J, K, L pods. The transients feast on pinnipeds, and are doing just fine these days. We snapped a few long distance pictures, which do not convey the joy of it all.
See those dorsal fins near the left side of the photo? 

Get outside! Just go! Go! Go!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Finally a good solution to a stinky head

Like most, I suppose I have struggled more with the smell of the head on my boat more than I would ever wish to do. We deodorize our holding tank with an additive, so that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the ever present slight smell of urine and dead saltwater organisms. Don't get me wrong, we keep a CLEAN head.

For years, I have kept one of those simple pop up air fresheners in the head, to diminish the odor and make it more pleasant. Having been aboard a small marina worth of other boats, I can say for certain that this is a ubiquitous problem.

So my new happy solution? You may have noticed, gentlemen, recently, that all our public urinals now use these little textured plastic looking things that you pee onto. I was noticing that now all these public urinals have a more pleasant, albeit chemical, smell. Because my brain is old and filled with cobwebs, I didn't immediately see the application to Aeolus. But then I did.

I got online and found just what I was looking for.
Now you may think I'm crazy, but I attached a bit of electrical cable to one of these and placed into the bowl of my head. My wife was dubious. I said, "Give it a chance honey". Well it has been a good six months now, and I'll be damned if our head doesn't ALWAYS smell just dandy! Even when I am doing my business, it smells fine, and the lack of air circulation in the head doesn't make it smell gross. If you need to do something that is incompatible with having this thing in your bowl, it is easy to remove and place in the sink. It will have been washed over by saltwater after the prior use, so it is clean of urine.

You are either thinking I am crazy, and a fool, or wondering why you hadn't already thought of this. I'll take a 100:1 ratio of these reader reactions and still be happy I wrote about it.

A winter island untrammeled

My wife and I were without the boys for a week, so we took the chance to get away for a few days on our space ship. This February around the Salish Sea has been colder and snowier than normal. Record snow in fact. We had well over 20" at our house. And it has remained at or below freezing at night, so even the snow that fell many days ago is still lingering in shady places. Normal highs for this time in February are 51 and we have been lucky to have a day at 40.

With no prospect of warmth, we still got away for all the usual and multitudinous reasons.

Stuart Island was a bit of a war zone. The heavy snow has dropped trees and branches over all the trails and roads. We walked out to the lighthouse on one day, and the San Juan County Road is impassable to cars over much of the length. There are quite a few trees down between Reid Harbor and the old school, and a few other places. There are a small handful of year round residents on that side of Stuart, the non-airport side, and we saw one young couple drive by on their way to the west side in their unregistered and barely functional island truck. They must have cleared trees over in that stretch of road.

Anyway, the walk is always wondrous. Everywhere we went, we were the first foot steps in the snow. Feels so good down deep in our bones to walk for miles on a quiet trail or dirt road. Once at the lighthouse, it was blowing 15-20 NE and the wind chill was quiet unfriendly. We hunkered in the lee of the outermost building and watched a small group of California Sea Lions trolled the waters right at the point. It was ebbing, and they would more or less hand out among the kelp for a while, before drifting around the corner, only to approach again. We assumed they were feeding.

The next day we hiked to another of our favorite view spots, and there were large snowfields near the top.

We sat together, that sloping hillside and me, until only the hillside remained. Amy did yoga.

We were the only boat in Reid Harbor. Once again, this was a 3 day weekend, and there are many hundreds of boats in Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Deer Harbor and Bellingham nearby. Reid Harbor will have 100 boats in it on a typical summer weekend. Why no one heads out in winter will always amaze and delight me.