Thursday, August 18, 2022

New Spreader Boots and Boom topping lift

 It was time to replace my spreader boots and the old ones literally fell apart in my hands when I touched them. It's a bit of a pain to get the new ones on as they are just at my arms reach, even with the mast steps. 

Nice and new

Also replaced the boom topping lift out of an abundance of caution. The prior dyneema lift was almost 15 years old so I replaced it. Cheap and easy. New dyneema line and an excuse to go up the mast. 

The short so long

 A weekend get away is so short, and as I've said many times here, can feel so wonderfully long. Amy and I got away to Stuart Island for a mere weekend. We had calm winds and lovely weather and so motored up to Prevost Harbor for a bit more of an "away" feel than Reid. It was perfect. 

We dropped away from the crowd near the County Dock and walked out to the Tun Pt. Lighthouse on Saturday. Always a treat. 

This beautiful beast crossed our path--what a sight

Worth noting for any new to traveling these waters that there is a lot of local knowledge involved when it comes to the precise actions of the currents. Especially around Spieden Island. You have to give it a wide berth to avoid getting stuck in very powerful currents if there is either a strong ebb or flood, depending on which direction you are going. In our case, in summer, it is ebbing during the day and so we had to avoid Spieden as we headed north since it has a fast current trying to flush you out to Haro Straits. Doing this little avoidance, you can then get help along the shores of Stuart and Satellite, as the ebb is forced to turn north here to go around Turn Point. On this particular journey, I was able to average a pretty solid 5.X knots overall. 

Turn Point area

Such a gorgeous thing to behold

Morning visitors! Three species of Swallows-Violet Green, Cliff and Barn were all present on our lifelines. 

What to say? 

There is nothing like an escape up into the islands, as far north as you have time to go, to refresh and restore. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

More little things

 Was aboard this weekend to do a number of small projects, and over the years it's the small projects that add up to make a wonderfully safe and comfortable boat to journey aboard. One of the simplest and most important updates for our happiness was finally getting around to replacing the old cigarette lighter fixture on the electrical panel with a dedicated USB charging unit. For these many years, we've used a USB insert into the cigarette lighter unit and it consistently failed to maintain contact and would stop charging. 

What a little thing! And yet, now we have two USB charging outlets on this unit and no more fiddling with the cigarette lighter connection. 

About time! 

I also: 

  • Replaced all the fender lines with double braided, having used 3 strand forever. Much easier to work with! 
  • Reinstalled Mantus anchor as I had taken it home to rezinc some areas that had chipped and become rusty. 
  • Added distilled water to all 5 lead acid batteries aboard. Never, ever forget to do this on a regular basis. 
  • Treated the dodger with waterproofing liquid. 
  • Greased the port side Lewmar winch with Green Grease. 
  • Cleaned the top sides. 
  • Installed a new towel hook in the head to replace an old knob that once held the shower head that we have never and will never use. 
  • Replaced the oil absorbing roll in the bilge. Old one wasn't too oily but just gets stinky and nasty with accumulated detritus that gravity takes down there. 
  • Took the fire extinguisher home to get the annual recertification. 
I think I did a few other things, but this is enough to give you an idea of what I did in only one day. The life of a boat captain who does his own maintenance. 

Aeolus is in such great shape. I could literally throw some food aboard and leave for a Vancouver Island circumnavigation tomorrow, and believe me I'm tempted. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Return to British Columbia!

 We all know there is nothing like having something taken away to help you appreciate what you've lost. We certainly knew that British Columbia was our paradise, and yet when COVID shut the door it was deeply painful (no exaggeration) to be denied access. These two long years have gone by in a whirlwind of other challenges, fears and losses, made only worse by not being able to escape into the wilderness up north that so perfectly nourishes our souls. 

All the waiting came to end over Memorial Day weekend. Amy and I did as we've done so very many times before, boarding the ferry to Friday Harbor, boarding Aeolus on Friday night, and then letting loose the lines on Saturday morning. 

One change right now is that the Nexus card system is paused on the Canadian side. What this means is that you can't simply call in. You have to physically go to a Customs place, in our case Bedwell, and call from there. It's a bit silly as you don't have to wait around to see if a Customs agent shows up. You get your clearance number and go. 

Looking north to Pender Islands and Canada
We were on our way to...wait for it...where else...Tumbo! 

Winds were forecasted to be 15-25 from the NW, which can blow right into Reef Harbor, but we wanted to be there so badly we took the chance. Our Mantus anchor and ground tackle are as good as it gets. On Saturday we get there, after a marvelous trip east through Boundary Pass along the BC shore side. Near East Point on Saturna, two humpback whales appear! This is why you go, folks. 

On Tumbo and Cabbage, we felt elation. I could barely walk it was so beautiful and nourishing. Those islands...have something primal and ancient about them, besides not being developed. 

Cabbage Island

A bit of a bouncy night, with swell rolling in to the anchorage, but nothing too bad. We certainly had no fear of dragging anchor, and were in no danger. The captain in me stays wakeful in such conditions, but for no good reason. The sunset that evening was as perfect as they always are on Tumbo. The sun sets right into the ocean over the Straits of Georgia. 

Sunday dawned and we were off to Tumbo. Walked all around. Walked here and there. Basked in the glory of the wetland. Sat with a whole group of over 8 bald eagles at the south beach. Hung out with over 30 harbor seals hauled out at the point. Meandered among the birds. It was everything we loved and needed. We appreciated nothing that was not there, and the nothing that is. 

South Tumbo, watching eagles

Yet with more wind forecast, and a hunger to see more favorite places, we left Tumbo and went through Georgeson Passage against max flood to Winter Cove. In Georgeson, we slowed to 1 knot at times, but were able to make progress by playing eddies and having a strong motor and three blade prop. That passage is beautiful, and much more like passages up north than anything down in the San Juans. 

Winter Cove is a hurricane hole, and we enjoyed the walk out to the point at Boat Passage and the quiet afternoon reading in the cockpit. A lovely place. 

Monday we were away first thing under a heavy sky and rain. Damn currents are always against you no matter what in this area. We fought the ebb even heading south until we got all the way down to Jones Island. Going along Flat Top and by Waldron is always a treat. 

Boundary Pass is such a vibrant zone for wildlife too. Always porpoises. Used to see Dall's porpoises there, but no more. Lots of pigeon guillemot's and probably some rhino auklets. Maybe even some marbled murrelet's as I've seen them in that area before. 

It's 3 to 3.5 hours from Friday Harbor to Tumbo, and about 18 miles. You travel through time and space to a place far, far away, and a long, long time ago. 

Winter Cove, Boat Passage 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

When you really need to go...

 There reaches a point on my internal psychological thermometer when the needle points to red, and I simply have to go. No more staying. 

And so I went. 

Riding my magical BMW S1000XR up to Anacortes, I boarded the ferry and was quickly enraptured with the sights and smells. The entire journey to the islands was a profound immersion in bliss. I stood on the bow and breathed deep the sunshine and salt air at 17 knots. Arriving in Friday Harbor, I was walking on air. 

Aeolus in her element

I journeyed alone on Aeolus to Jones, where I communed with that perfect little island. I walked around the perimeter and felt each step sacred. You think I exaggerate, I don't. The aromatherapy of the northern Salish Sea is impossible to describe or replicate. The combination of salt air, plants of that mixture, and whatever else produces chemical scent is beyond comprehension yet sure to delight. 

Looking toward Waldron

It's nothing I did, and everything I was able to do, in this place so deep for me. The sun shone. I walked, I rowed the dinghy. 

I returned home on my two wheeled beast. 

I needed this get away more than usual. My needle was on red with syphilization stir craziness. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Fetch is not your friend, but courage is!

We flipped the switch and went to Aeolus this weekend despite the normal 1,000 reasons why we "shouldn't". It was a truly incredible trip, and we are just home and assessing what has been. The weather had a little bit of everything. We went up Saturday afternoon to Friday Harbor and it was benign. Sunday dawned mostly clear and the day was perfect for February. Our journey to Stuart was a magic carpet ride as usual. So much wildlife in Spieden channel. Sea Lions, birds. Mostly sunny and highs pushing 50 in the sun but cold in the shade. We did a favorite hike once we got to Stuart and enjoyed an all around wondrous day. Owen brought a friend and they spent the entire day, until dark, romping around and exploring. There is nothing better for young men than a day of aimless exploring in wild places together. Stuart isn't fully wild, being mostly private property, but it's undeveloped enough and has park and land trust lands in places you can explore. The entire island was clear cut to fuel the kilns in Roche Harbor, but the second growth trees are gaining some stature. We played games all night, ate great food, and enjoyed the warm boat. 
Spieden never disappoints for interest, now if they would only sterilize all those damn sheep so the plant life could recover and flourish! 

We used the new Cubic Mini all afternoon and it is such a game changer. So much heat out of that thing. And very little smoke with the compressed wood logs we use. Keeps the boat around 73 and it was a chilly 35-40 most of the later day and evening.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains

Going back to Friday Harbor was festive this morning, as the wind was blowing 30-40 NE.
Cranking out the heat!

You are sheltered along Spieden, but when you pop out to head down San Juan Channel you are exposed to the full fetch of President's Channel in those NE winds. It was a choppy 3-4 sea. Aeolus just smiles. She puts her shoulder down and just cruises along. Fetch is not your friend, but experience, preparation and the right vessel and these things are routine. People stayed away by the millions and once again, we didn't see a single other recreational boat out in the islands, despite us having such a lovely trip. 

When we got back to the actual Port of Friday Harbor, which takes two hours at 5-6 knots by the way, the NE wind was shouting straight into the Port. At the breakwater there was awesome CLAPOTIS! Both one of my favorite words, and things, on the planet.  There were surf scoters hanging out in the maelstrom of random wave explosions. Once inside the breakwater, the problem is that wind was blowing straight down the fairway. I knew I had to maintain steerage while keeping my speed low. I used reverse throttle several times to bring myself to a dead stop, only to quickly get going again to try and stay between 2-3 knots. It was blowing a solid 35 down the fairway. I knew I had to get into the slip with a certain approach.
The luckiest people on Earth

Our family knows what to do. I entered the slip a bit early and at a much higher speed than normal. I must've been doing 3-4 knots. I had to maintain steerage. But right as maybe 1/4 of the boat was in the slip, and before we had calamity, I gave full throttle reverse just as Owen jumped off with lines. It was a thing of beauty. A helpful gentleman appeared as well and took a line. We never touched the dock or a damn thing. High fives all around. This is precisely why I always get starboard ties in FH, so you can come in hot in a stiff wind and not get pushed into your neighbor. 

Thank you Aeolus. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Cubic Mini Grizzly installed--Wow!

 Since we've had Aeolus, she has had a Force 10 kerosene heater that I have kept going and suffered through. It was obnoxiously loud, made the boat smell like kerosene, and put out only enough heat to slowly heat the boat about 30 degrees above outside temperature and so in the winter, to a tepid place. 

While I have pursued endless other boat projects, I have fantasized about what I would replace that old Force 10 with many times. Finally, this winter, I read about the Cubic Mini stoves and found my answer. After considering a new kerosene stove from Dickinson, I decided to go the wood route since we cruise in the great wooded PNW. 

The Grizzly. You can see the fiberglass blanket for heat protection. 

This won't be a full installation story because honestly it was quite straightforward. You get all the equipment with your purchase and just have to make sure you have the proper amount of vent pipe and top cap you need. On Aeolus, since I already had a kerosene heater, I didn't have to do any changes to the deck hole or fittings since they were already of the specified size for the Cubic system. 

On a Gulf 32, the best and only place if you have a dining table on the starboard side, is to mount it on the port bulkhead. The Cubic Mini instructions specify how much draft you need, but you will find that you can fudge this down a bit and do fine. The challenge is heat radiation, and rather than doing some major surgery to my cushions for fire hazard, I decided to purchase some fiberglass welding blanket and lay this over the cushion and have found it works great. The fiberglass blanket gets hot, but with a small air gap between it and the cushion, the cushion does not. 

I've been burning some local highly condensed wood sawdust logs that are made here in Western WA. They are super dense, and pack a lot of btu in their space. This is important since storing wood is an issue on a small boat. I am using two plastic bins with sealing lids to store the wood, and bought an empty paint can to store and transport the ashes. 

Let me tell you, it is a transformation of the boat. It puts out so much heat that we actually talked about turning it down! We took our fleece off! We took our hats off! It was warm. Not only radiating warmth, but temperature warm. The boat was 76 degrees and felt like 86. It's a game changer. We've always sailed year round, and with special love of winter trips, but now, it will be so deeply comfortable that we will find even more joy in our journeys. Our winter swims will be easier to contemplate! And it is a dry heat. So deeply dry. The little thermoelectric fan does a great and nearly silent job of moving air around. I wish I had made this change years ago and thank Cubic Mini for making a solid and functional little heater!