At Dock in BackEddy Marina, Egmont
So a couple of nights ago we were stern-tied in Smuggler Cove, only one of three boats. Calm, peaceful and quiet. Then three more boats show up. Then another. Then a south wind starts to blow right on the beam and three more show up. And all of them attempt to tie up south of us.
We had left Nanaimo behind a couple of days earlier and crossed the Strait. We managed to sail for about an hour before the winds died down, then motored the rest of the way. Unusual for this time of year, the winds were coming from the north and showed no sign of change for at least five or six days. We spent a night at Secret Cove Marina to top up the water and batteries and enjoyed a half-price pre-season discount. The next morning we did the short motor to Smuggler Cove to relax and start settling into cruising mode.
I deliberately tied up on the north end of the cove as last time we were here it was also a north wind and I, and everyone trying to tie up, had been blown south, which made it difficult to stern tie upwind of another boat. Well, best-laid plans and all that — it didn’t work out so well.
The first three boats in tied up at the far south end of the first cove, well away from us. The next boat in, a Hunter from a charter company, thankfully also attempted a ring well away us, but later gave up and moved because they couldn’t get their anchor to hold (they eventually moved again and may even have left, but I was too busy to notice).
They were replaced by the first of two boats that came in at the same time. The skipper bravely tried to keep control of the stern but eventually the boat swung in a 360° circle and managed to wrap the as-yet-untied stern line around the boat. They got it straightened out, but the poor fellow with shore duty somehow set off his inflatable and was fighting the wind, the dinghy painter and the stern line with this big yellow doughnut around his neck. Eventually they did get tied up, but their anchor started to drag and their stern crept precariously close to the shore. They eventually gave up, raised the anchor and left altogether. I noticed they left their line behind — although they were back bright and early the next morning to retrieve it — so I am not sure what prompted the exit.
But I barely noticed any of this at the time. Because, and please forgive my hyperbolic judgementalism, the “sailors without a plan” had arrived at the same time and proceeded to keep me distracted for the next hour. It was obvious from the beginning they had no plan, very little clue and an old, cantankerous boat with a helmsman who, as far as I could tell, was so decrepit, he didn’t stand up once throughout the whole debacle.
They initially dropped their anchor in the middle of the cove and looked like they were going to tie up off our bow, nose into the wind, 90° to us, alongside a lovely Bayfield ketch. They did drop their anchor a bit far out for that, though. I remember saying to Leslie, “I wonder what their plan is?” Plan… Ha!
They launched their dinghy with an engine that wouldn’t start and only one oar. The fellow in the dinghy had instructions, but obviously was not an experienced cruiser so really didn’t know what was going on. The skipper of the ketch was out on his deck giving him advice and, it turns out, offering to take the stern line while they got things straightened out. That was the first time of many that I thought I might go help. He eventually made it to shore. But now for some reason, he (or they) gave up on that idea.
Meanwhile their boat is not anchored well and is threatening my neighbour’s bow as the helmsman fails to gain any stability in the situation and the boat is running back and forth over the anchor. At this point I am still fairly sympathetic, as I have done much worse and provided even more hilarious entertainment. Still, a banged-up old boat with literally shredded sails and three aged crew — the sole seemingly competent person was a woman who wasn’t doing any of the jobs requiring competence — doesn’t leave me with high hopes for success.
Someone decides to shift tactics and the dingy heads to the rings just upwind of us. They had a reel of 1000-plus feet of stern line, so the fellow in the dinghy was able to put out a lot of line, leaving most of it floating in swirls off our bow. Now I’m starting to get a bit concerned as their plan would swing their boat from being nose into the wind to beam on, immediately upwind of us. I know from experience that this is not an easy task in calm water and virtually impossible in any sort of wind without a lot of muscling, and the boat did not look like it backed up well. Still, I remain hopeful and we continue to keep an eye on them, tempted once again to go lend a hand.
There they are with hundreds of feet of line in the water, the boat motoring back and forth over its anchor and the fellow in the dinghy looking lost on shore until I point out two nearest rings. Of course he chooses the one 20 feet from ours rather than the one further away. Of course he does. He crawls up on the rock and loops his line through the ring, then hops back into the dinghy. Then he discovers his line is tangled around the ring. I grab my jacket. And the boat on the other end of the line starts to do weird circles. I put my shoes on. And his outboard wouldn’t start again. That’s when I hop in our dinghy, fire up the outboard and make a beeline for shore. While he gets his engine restarted, I quickly untangle his line and start to feed it through the ring and he heads back to the boat.
Well, that’s when we find out, unbeknownst to dinghy dude and me, that the crew on the boat have pulled up the fricking anchor. So they are motoring around dragging hundreds of feet of floating line while loosely tied to the shore. Just upwind of us. In 15-knot bloody winds!
They circle around to drop their anchor again, but this time 40 or so feet south of our bow. We have 80 feet of rode out so the fact that they are dropping the anchor just in front of us makes me very nervous for what the night will hold. Silly me. As soon as they get the anchor down and let out a little scope, they start drifting right into us. By now I am back in the dinghy and rush over and get between the boats while they drop one — yes, one — fender. Of course they drop it to the waterline where it won’t do any good, and of course the loose line is more likely to foul one of the dinghy props. The fellow in the dinghy follows my example and gets between the two sterns while I position myself just forward of the beams. I tell Leslie to start our engine. Just in case.
So there we are, beam to beam, separated by two dinghies holding the boats apart and the full weight of both boats on my anchor and my stern line. That’s when the person at their wheel decides to drive straight ahead. Which, at the angle we are now at, would be straight over my anchor rode and would likely knock my anchor loose as well. A little firm talk convinces him otherwise, but suddenly he’s taking direction from me, the guy stuck in a dinghy between two boats, rather than paying attention to what the hell is going on. Bugger.
By walking their bow off our boat, we get them fended off and pointed almost upwind, and they start to pull the anchor and move off. And then drop the bloody thing only 10 feet further on, and we do the whole bloody thing again. Seriously. Almost an exact repeat, but this time their stern is farther back and they almost take out our stern line. Once again, I’m stuck being a human fender between the two boats, and we manage to fend them off. Then we did it ONE MORE TIME. Seriously seriously. They did it again, and this time neither of us got the dinghies in between in time and they actually scraped the sides of the boats together (no damage, thankfully — I believe it was rub rail to lifelines).
I have no friggin’ clue what their “plan” was. Plan… Ha! I have no idea what they thought was going to happen. Or if any of them were even thinking by this point.
I wedge the dinghy back in between again and finally manage to get my dinghy bow to their beam and give it some throttle. Doing this, I could now push them away and keep them away while they tried to pull in the copious amounts of stern line floating around.
Oh, and I left out the part where loops of the stern line they had retrieved started to tighten, catch on loose objects in their cockpit and fling objects around the still-seated helmsman. It was one of those moments where you are suspended between fear and hope something bad would happen to him. Luckily for my future peace of mind, fear won out and I desperately wished he wouldn’t lose an eye in the chaos. I also remember almost screaming at the woman reeling in the line as she got her fingers wrapped in it as it started to tighten on their winch. It’s amazing how much gibbering the back of your mind can do while you are concentrating on the job at hand.
Eventually they get the line in and between their winch and me pushing their boat, they get the stern over. The situation settled out with a too-tight stern line, too little rode and boats way too close for comfort on a tide rising another 10 feet. But they were happy; someone even quipped that it hadn’t been as bad a stern tie as some Navy captain had once done. Me? Not so happy and not so confident that we were done with the drama.
Actually, I kept waiting for them to catch their breath and leave; or at least try again (somewhere else) with everything a bit more secure. But nope. They were definitely there for the night.
So we ate dinner (in the cockpit), played some cards (in the cockpit) and watched the sun slowly set (in the cockpit). I eventually decided to tie the dinghy alongside as a fender for when their anchor dragged and they swung their bow into us in the middle of the night. And we confirmed a plan B for loosing our stern line if we should need to escape from their dragging anchor. Then we retired below and listened to the winds climb. I checked again at midnight, right around high tide, and all was still well. Although they had no anchor light showing…sigh.
Elsewhere in the cove one of the first three boats that had looked to be decently anchored further down also must have dragged. It was a 45-foot, almost new charter boat that had a full crew and a speedy little dinghy that had been zipping back and forth. So they tried, sensibly, to tie up beside the Bayfield, nose into the wind, but then abandoned the attempt. I found out the next day they gave the boat too much throttle and pulled their own anchor. So they also, again sensibly, abandoned Smuggler Cove and joined what must have been a growing party at Secret Cove Marina.
Oh — I left out the guy anchoring later in the evening, dropping his anchor just off the neighbouring ketch’s bow with around a 2:1 scope and a gale forecast. There were some words between the two boats until he finally moved. Unfortunately his new spot was closer to us and our uncomfortable neighbours, still with a small scope and still no stern tie. But all the fight was out of me by then.
Well, in the morning I woke up to calm winds and the sight of our pestiferous neighbour’s stern floating serenely 5 feet off our dinghy with lovely little coils of thin yellow line floating alongside. Seems the wind had sawn through their patently insufficient stern line (it looked maybe 3/8″ poly but sure as hell was not 1/2 or 3/4 inch that every other bloody boat I’ve ever been on had — and yes I was, at this point, completely out of patience). Anyway, their line had parted and they had swung stern into us. Thank god their anchor held. Still, I imagine when the line parted and the winds were up, they must have been bouncing off our dinghy.
So I waited with my coffee. My old professor used to say “comedy is excess.” This was bloody hilarious. Eventually around 9 a.m. they poked their heads up. Their heater had been on for an hour but no one had thought to check on their precarious anchor and pathetic line.
“Oh,” she said. “At least we didn’t touch.”
“Oh,” I replied, “I think we probably did.”
“Ah,” she said. “Good thing you put the dinghy there.”
“Well, I think we’ll move the boat and just anchor in the middle while we get ready to go.”
“Ah. Well, then. Good luck,” I rejoined.
So they moved out to where they had dropped anchor the first time, and just swung for a couple of hours. At least there was no wind. It turns out they were part of the larger group of six boats, two of which were the ones who had bailed the day before. I wish these guys had have been that sensible.
The fellow and his wife from the Bayfield ketch that was initially threatened by the shenanigans came by to say he had videos of the whole thing. We watched one later, relived the whole thing, had a beer, toured his boat and made a new friend.
Other than that, it was an uneventful visit.
I will post the video later if I can…
—Captain Why #Posts
Thursday’s Child is a almost new Hunter 33 we first encountered at the Hunter Rendezvous last year. This year she is anchored off our stern in Protection Bay in Nanaimo’s harbour. What’s notable about her is not evident in the above picture.
This morning I was enjoying the almost noon sun in our cockpit when I glanced up and saw a dinghy floating off the shoals at the entrance to Newcastle Island Passage. At second glance I noticed that there was no one in said dinghy. It occurred to me it might be tied off to a float or anchored, but as I watched it really did look like it was drifting. So I hopped in Laughing Baby and putted off to check. As I circled it, it appeared it did have a line in the water but on closer inspection I determined that line was not attached to anything. A quick glance revealed no overt identification although there was a bag with a towel. I grabbed the submerged line and started slowly back to Never for Ever, scanning the shore and the docks for anyone frantically waving.
Back at our boat I had a closer look, but there didn’t seem to be anything that indicated the owners other than a dog’s life jacket and the aforementioned bag with woman’s shower gear. So L cast me off again as we had decided I would head for the docks as the first likely place to ask around. As I circled the boat, I noticed Thursday’s Child was sans dinghy and thought I would hail her on the way by, just in case. Sure enough the owner popped up with a confused look on her face wondering what I was doing with her dinghy. She was obviously relieved as there is nothing quite so unnerving as being stuck on a boat with no way to get to shore. Since she was in the midst of an important call, we tied off the boat, exchanged names and thanks and I zoomed back home. All’s well that ends well.
For what it’s worth, our itinerary, since leaving Victoria for good, has been Montague Harbour, Wallace Island and Nanaimo. And the supposedly steady south winds have been determinedly north—right on the nose the whole way. We did manage an hour or two of beating int 20 knot winds while waiting for slack at Dodds Narrows.
The last few days have had some extraordinary low tides, all less than a foot of datum. So we decided, obviously, to spend them in the shallowest cove around: Conover Cove on Wallace Island. We had attempted to visit numerous times before but the small cove has always previously been filled to capacity. We pulled in just after low tide and as soon as we hit the bar we hit 0′ on the depth meter. Now I have my meter set for 6′ below the zero mark which gives me about a 2.5 foot buffer. Usually I am glad for that, but in this particular case it was unnerving to not actually know my real depth. We set up to stern tie in a fairly strong NW wind and managed to do a great job of it; except for one small thing. We had initially set the anchor stern into the wind, parallel to the shore. This allowed me to row ashore and get a line tied off without the stern swinging downwind and me having to wrestle it back like int previous attempts. What I failed to account for in my brilliant plan was that this meant the anchor would have to swing almost 180° to reset in the strong wind hitting us on the beam and that my scope didn’t really take into account the actual distance from the shore. As it was we did successfully tie up with a strong wind hitting us on the beam, the stern sitting in 5.5′ of water (I measured), 35′ of chain out and an anchor that I wasn’t 100% had reset. And the tide tomorrow was going to be about .3 of foot lower.
So I hummed, hawed, dithered and rowed to the dock to see if there was space, and then decided to move the boat tot he dock. And there we sat for 3 days. And every day around noon, the three or so sailboat skippers would start peering into the water below their keels. No one actually touched bottom but Private Passage, the Hunter Vision 36, figured they had scant inches left on one particular afternoon.
The other effect of the low low tides (and high high as well—one day there was a difference of over 14 feet), was that the bar I had blithely motored across to enter Conover Cove caught two less lucky sailors out. The first motored slowly into the sandier center bit and got hung up for 4 or 5 minutes before backing out and heading for deeper waters. The second, a lovely custom Ted Brewer, hit the rocky portion on the north side of the entrance with a resounding clang and hung up. Luckily the tide was still rising. Unluckily the tide was still rising and a strong current kept pushing the stern closer to shore. After a tense 10 minutes or so, she finally floated off and cleared the rocky shore line with room to spare. Undaunted by his miscalculation the skipper brought her around through the center of the entrance and joined us on the dock a few minutes later none the worse for wear.
I also learned another helpful tidbit about naming boats. I gave them a call on the VHF to see if they needed anything but they didn’t answer. Who did answer after my second call was Victoria Coast Guard. Seems that Judith Anne sounds a bit too close to Pan Pan and they wanted to clarify my enunciation. I guess that takes HeyDay off the list of potential boat names.
The upside of low low tides is it did afford us some great beachcombing and a fascinating hour of floating in the sandy shallows watching the fingerlings, baby crabs and burbling clams, and a fun afternoon checking out the exposed rocks. We spotted some starfish (so happy to see them making a comeback) and what I believe were sea cucumbers (above) as well as the requisite clams, oysters, mussels and of course barnacles. The cove itself was filled with birds, from swallows and hummingbirds to a pair of vultures and we were entertained by both osprey and Bald Eagles fishing.
I do have to say though, as nice as Wallace Island is, I think I prefer Portland. More nature, less people and somehow more serene.
We are in Nanaimo for a few days doing some errands and then plan on heading up the Sunshine Coast to Desolation Sound. Still waiting for those south winds though.
—Captain Why #Posts
When I was buying Never for Ever I noticed a distinct dearth of online info about Hunter 386s. They were only made for two years and, while very similar to the previous two models —the 380 and the 376— I nevertheless thought there would be more information. But it seems Hunter owners are not the most gregarious bunch. When we visited the Victoria Boat Show a couple of days ago, it gave me some different design choices to compare to, so here is my contribution to the canon of the Hunter 386; hopefully someone, somewhere, will find it useful.
Let’s start with a little pro and con or, more appropriately, what I like and dislike. Keep in mind we bought our boat to live aboard full time for 8 to 12 months, but I have to say I would probably make the same ratings even if it was a part-time cruiser. We haven’t sailed a lot of other boats, but this is based on the ones we have and the ones we’ve toured at boat shows.
The Hunter 386 sails pretty well. I admit to having a bigger learning curve than I thought I would learning to reef her and getting the wheel balanced in winds over 15 knots. The first reef really should go in around 12 or 13 knots but we usually tough it out until we have a steady 15. The shoal keel doesn’t do us any favours but I will admit to a predisposition to trying to point too high in general so it’s not really a negative. And with the huge main, she sails fantastic in light winds. I have nothing to say about the B&R rig. The huge main took a little adjustment but our downwind sailing has been limited and I never really expect to go fast dead down wind anyway.
She manoeuvres well in close quarters, and docking has been a breeze except for those times I have managed screw it up. I’m not sure if it’s the Campbell Sailer prop, but prop walk is hardly noticeable, making backing up pretty easy as well.
All the lines and controls are well situated and, other than the aforementioned aft cleats, we have little or no issue with any aspects of handling her. There is room to get out from behind the wheel without crawling over the seats and the big binnacle at least affords lots of places to brace yourself when you are heeling. The lifeline gates are almost on the beam so are perfect for boarding and docking when you are not lucky enough to get a stern-in berth.
The 40 HP Yanmar is powerful enough for push her along at 7+ knots when there is no current and our cruising rpms of 2400 she does a steady 5.5 to 6 knots with fuel consumption of about .7 or .8 gallons (2 litres or so) an hour.
I’m not sure if the Hunter 386 is my forever perfect boat but she has been perfect for us for out liveaboard year and I intend to enjoy her for at least a few more years herein the PNW.
—Captain Why #Equipment, #Posts