Spring 2018 Round Up

Well our spring 2018 cruise is done. We went a bit later this year due to time commitments but since we were headed north to the Broughtons it was still a pretty uncrowded affair. We only had three and a half weeks, but we were determined to make the sojourn north again. In retrospect it was a bit rushed (especially as we had a timetable involving picking my brother up in Port McNeill) and I am not sure I would do it again with that little  time — then again I am such a fan of the Broughtons I probably would. It just a different kind of cruising than we’ve become used to.

Day 1: 24.5 nm (Lasqueti Island*)
Day 2:  58.5 nm (Gowlland Harbour*)
Day 3 : 27.5 nm (Blind Channel)
Day 4: 38.25 nm (Port Harvey)
Day 5: 23.5 nm (Mound Island*)
Day 6: 0 nm (Mound Island*)
Day 7: 6.25 nm (Spout Island*)
Day 8: 14 nm (Port McNeill)
Day 9: 0 nm (Alert Bay)
Day 10: 26.25 nm  (Echo Bay)
Day 11: 15.5 nm (Kwatsi Bay)
Day 12: 25.5 nm (Lagoon Cove)
Day 13: 15 nm (Goat Island*)
Day 14: 0 nm (Goat Island*)
Day 15: 21 nm (Port McNeill)
Day 16: 35 nm (Port Harvey)
Day 17: 42.5 nm (Shoal Bay*)
Day 18: 26 nm (Von Donop)
Day 19: 0 nm (Von Donop)
Day 20: 43 nm (Van Anda)
Day 21: 28 nm (Secret Cove)
Day 22: 24 nm (Nanaimo Harbour)
Day 23: 1.5 nm (Stones Marina)
Day 25: 0 nm (Stones Marina)
Day 26: 0 nm (Stones Marina)
Day 27: 0 nm (Off the boat)

Total nautical miles travelled: 495.75 nm (918.12 km)
Time travelling: 92 hrs 50 minutes
New places visited (see asterisks): 6

As you can see we only spent more than one night at an anchorage on 3 occasions — quite the contrast to last year where only twice did we not stay more than one night.

Wildlife spotted

Humpback whales: 12
Pacific White-sided Dolphins: ~100
Deer: 2
Sea cucumbers:  a bunch and 2 different species
Bald Eagles: uncountable
Barn swallows: a passel
Purple Martins: some?
Slugs: multiple!

Spotted for the First Time
Mink: 3
Dall’s Porpoises: ~5
Minke whales: 2
Sea urchins: tons, both green & red
Chitons: various
Violet Green Swallows: 4 or 5

Boat Troubles

This years trip featured more than our usual share of boat-related issues.

  • Electrical weirdness — We raised the sails almost immediate after leaving Nanaimo Harbour b and a few hours later the chartplotter was so dim it was almost unreadable. After we started the engine if brightened back up again. This continued throughout the whole trip. I checked all the connections but didn’t find a solution. (After we returned to dock and properly cleaned all the battery terminals the problem seemed to clear up.)
  • Webasto heater— it ran just fine the  first few times we used it but on the morning it hit 11° C, we just couldn’t get it to fire. It gave us a 3 blink error code for the first half dozen attempts but then it became a 6 blink. After we had access to the web again I discovered that 3 blinks was a low/high voltage error (see point above) and that 6 was a Temperature Sensor Interrupt (which necessitated ordering a new part).
  • Jib Furling — after sailing downwind in 30+ knots, when I rolled the jib in it didn’t wrap around the stay properly and left a little flap of sail that caught the wind. After entering Discovery Passage the winds picked up, caught the flap and started unfurling my sail. This became so bad we had to turn back into the wind and unfurl it and wrestle the sail back in again. What seemed like a straightforward procedure took about half an hour and had me on the foredeck getting pummelled by the jib sheets.
  • Main burner thermocouple — the main burner started cutting out halfway through the morning hot water boiling procedure (much to the dismay of the caffeine starved crew). I cleaned the thermo couple and dismantled the burner to give it a scrub but it was all to no avail. So for the rest of the trip we had to rely on the two small burners which meant cooking was a very time consuming affair. I opted not to have the new thermo couple shipped to me and that turned out to be a good thing because getting the old one out eventually necessitated drilling out old screws and retapping the holes.
  • Lost oar — we lost the bottom part of one of the oars somewhere on Johnstone Straight. It was odd because the conditions weren’t half a s rough as they had been on days previously. I called a head to Port Mc Neill to see if they could order me a new oar and they said they would try. But upon arrival it turns out that oars are such a specialized thing that they couldn’t find one that would fit. So we bought a paddle as a backup and resigned ourselves to more motoring that we usually do.
  • Overturned dinghy — after surviving the 25+ knot winds in Knight iInlet we breathed a sigh of relief and turned up Clio Channel. Unfortunately the winds funnel down Clio even more and soon were gusting in the mid 30s. When they hit 39 knots the dingy became air born and then flipped and landed upside down. I managed to pull it in and right it but our new paddle, the seat and the fuel tank were gone. A few MOB turns later we had recovered the seat and the fuel tank but the paddle was gone.

Brotherly Love

As I mentioned my brother joined us for a week (Port McNeill –> Broughtons –> Port McNeill). North Island Marina let us use their van to pick him up and drop him off at the Port Hardy Airport which is a great service. He hadn’t been on the water since he was a kid so if was a new experience for him. I asked early in the trip if he wanted to be crew or passenger and he opted for passenger. Still he managed to  spend his share for time at the helm and was a great help.

We saw tons of wildlife, hit the high spots of the Broughtons and generally had a great adventure.

In Conclusion

It was a great trip and over much too soon. We managed to meet up with some old friends, connect with some internet acquaintances and make some new friends as well. And we are still eager to do it all over again.

We managed to get back to a few spots we wanted to see again (including Alert Bay) and were blessed once again with a whole pod of dolphins traveling with us for a few miles. The only thing missing was some orca, but given that we saw a mother and calf pair of humpbacks I think we can let that slide.

 

A static version of the map for posterity.


—Bruce #Cruising

Instagram This Week

For all you doubters. This is definitely a whale :-) #humpbackwhale #blackfishsound #pnw #broughtonsFor all you doubters. This is definitely a whale 🙂 #humpbackwhale #blackfishsound #pnw #broughtonsThe fog burns off on our last morning before heading to civilization for supplies and a crew change.The fog burns off on our last morning before heading to civilization for supplies and a crew change.Why yes, it is a happy Fathers Day...Why yes, it is a happy Fathers Day…Chillin’ on an ancient midden beach at the site of Mamalilaculla, an abandoned Kwakiutl villageChillin’ on an ancient midden beach at the site of Mamalilaculla, an abandoned Kwakiutl villageWe had a couple of stowaways yesterday. - #welcome #swallows #birds #beautifulWe had a couple of stowaways yesterday.

#welcome
#swallows #birds #beautifulPorpoises greet us as we enter Kwatsi Bay. <3Porpoises greet us as we enter Kwatsi Bay. <3Echo Bay. Far-away in time. Chillin’ dock-side <3 #broughtonsEcho Bay. Far-away in time. Chillin’ dock-side <3 #broughtonsDoug’s at the helm as we head off to Pierre’s at Echo Bay. No sailing yet :-(Doug’s at the helm as we head off to Pierre’s at Echo Bay. No sailing yet 🙁

Things that make it more comfie

For those of you who charter — if you are anything like we were — you don’t bring much to the boat with you. And, given you aren’t likely to be aboard much beyond 2 weeks, that makes a lot of sense.  But when I was  doing my Turnkey Sailboat inventory, I came across a long list of things that we’ve have added to the boat now that we cruise in longer stints. These days we have a storage unit that has five big blue bins full of stuff that we haul on and off the boat, and most of it goes to making our boat a home again.

We’ve got enough stuff in storage that we keep an inventoried spreadsheet of it all.

Some of it is just things like our own linens, pillows etc. But there  are also the items, big and small, that we’ve discovered help make our shipboard lifestyle familiar and comfortable. So here’s a quick summary of what we add to make our “charter” boat a comfy home for us when we are aboard.

Things that came with the boat

These are a few things we didn’t buy but are oh-so glad to have. We are eternally grateful to the PO for providing them..

  • Rubber base floor mats: There are two of these. They are the ones with foam in them so they a) are comfortable to stand on, b) are insulated and keep our toes warm, and c) are nonskid so add a lot of traction. Easy to clean too — we love them. And they are only thing in this list that stays on board full time.
  • Fleece sheets: I can’t rave about these enough. Not flannel…fleece! When we are off-season cruising these things are so warm that it’s like someone has already heated up the bed for you. The only downside is if you wear pyjamas or nightgowns, you might be strangled by your own garments.

Things we added to the boat

These are all things we added to our boat after we purchased her. Some came aboard right away and others were slowly added based on our experiences. They are in no particular order and most of them aren’t especially earth-shattering game-changers. But there’s only one or two of these things I wouldn’t immediately replace if it was to lost or broken and that is only because we aren’t full time cruisers any more.

  • Cast iron pot: I bake  a lot of bread — no-knead boule to be exact. We picked up a cheap camping cast-iron dutch oven that is the perfect size for the boat.
  • Extra frying pan: I don’t know where I developed the habit, but I am a a two-frying pan guy. Especially when making pizza crusts.

  • Heat diffuser: We picked this doohickey up at a specialty shop in Victoria, thinking it would be good for making toast. It wasn’t. But The Boat Galley taught us it does a crackerjack job of diffusing the flames so simmering is way easier.
  • Solar showers (2): Moderately useful in the off-season (we use a kettle to heat the water when there’s no sun), in summer they make long stays at anchor a lot more enjoyable. And with a hatch above our shower they are convenient to use as well.

  • Folding boat seat: I love mine. Leslie doesn’t use it as much, but my back really likes the idea of regular angles in the otherwise curved confines in our cockpit.
  • Laundry bags: Such a simple idea. Ours are like big cotton sea-bags with a drawstrings that are big enough to put at least some of the folded laundry back into. I have my eye out for some that I will be able to pack all the folded stuff back into.

  • TV table: We decided pretty early on that since we were only two, that we would keep the salon table down in “bed mode” and use it as a lounging area  with pillows and blankets. So we have a medium-sized tv table we take out to eat on. It’s cozy, easy to stow, and saves us raising and lowering the main table.

  • Best Anchorages : Better known as Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage: British Columbia’s South Coast From the Gulf Island to Beyond Cape Caution, 2nd Ed: a great, great, great book for anchoring in the PNW and our go-to guide for deciding on new anchorages.
  • Popcorn popper: The manual kind with a crank you turn. I suppose we could just use a regular pot but we like popcorn and this does it just right. Besides we use it as a big pot to make rice crispy squares…how’s that for justification?
  • Kellet: Our friends gifted us with a kellet as boat-warming present — it is essentially a weight you add to your anchor rode to help keep it lying on the bottom. I have read a lot about them and there are some naysayers about their usefulness. But when we have a lot of rode out (and are off the chain portion) in moderate conditions, the extra weight is comforting and that’s worth something to us.
  • Mini Staub Cassarole: I brought this from home and left it for the boat. It is the perfect size for two, cleans easily and works awesome in the gas oven. And there is nothing like a baked pasta casserole to warm you up after a long day of sailing.

  • Inflatable life jackets: We have a rule and wear life jackets whenever underway. For all their failings, at least using inflatables ensures we do wear them 99% of the time.
  • LED desklight: Our aft cabin has at least six lights in it, none of which are easily accessible when you are actually lying down and reading in bed. So we picked up this cool LED light that runs off both 120v and batteries. It’s perfect!

  • Humidity meter/ thermometer: This little doodad is the ultimate authority on whether we are going to fire up the heater or not. And when we were full time liveaboards it let us know when it was time to open some hatches and get some circulation going…
  • Spinning clothes dryer: You know those ugly, plastic, clothes-hanger things? Well we had this spinning one for years that we never used and wondered what it was really useful for. Turns out it is the perfect size shape in a boat for drying things that can’t go in the dryer. Ours has a clamp rather than a hook so we can hang it in the doorway.
  • Shower squeegee: We shower aboard a lot. And a quick squeegee afterwards ensures they head is clean and dry for the next user. Bonus: it acts as a backup in case the cockpit squeegee for wiping the dodger goes missing!
  • Foil bbq trays: We discovered these late but they are a god send. I love BBQ chicken thighs but the amount of grease and fat that they leave all over my transom is a huge pain. With these foil trays I can do a quick sear on the grill to crust up the skin and then let them roast in the pan for 20 minutes without having to spend an hour cleaning up the next day.
  • Non-slip shelf liner: We lined all of our shelves with this stuff and have a bunch of spare pieces for various uses. It might not be as big a game changer as, well, a catamaran, but at least we can leave things like cameras and binoculars out and be pretty sure they won’t go flying when we heel.
  • Glass candle holders: Last, and probably least, we have a bunch of glass candle holders. If we are cruising when the days are short and the nights are long, we like to have a lot of candles going for light, a bit of extra heat and to save batteries. We find the glass votives handy for holding the candles safely and also to double as  containers for knickknacks, spare change and pens.

Open to Suggestions?

That’s our list, eclectic as it is. I am always looking for the next greatest thing so I spend a lot of time online analyzing other people’s systems — I have found quite a few useful little items that other people consider “necessities” that way. It’s great to see what matters to different people and to find new things to add to the wish list. It is amazing how the smallest things can make such a big difference and equally amazing how we come up with ways to make boating life just that little more homey.

 
—Bruce #Equipment

Cover Story

I’ve made the cover of a national magazine… both cover story and the cover image are from our spring cruise last year. My first national sale. Should be out in the next week or so…

A Turnkey Sailboat

When we bought Never for Ever we had one major requirement: we wanted a turnkey boat — something we could board and sail away for most of year without having to worry about anything major. But it occurs to me now, so many years later, that at the time I had no idea what a “turnkey” boat was. Or what a good deal we actually got. And, it occurs to me after writing the first draft of this post, I never realized just how much we got — so apologies for the length of the post.

In the boat shopping phase I had compiled a list of “wishlist” items that I wanted with the boat. Not so oddly given my inexperience, many of those wishes are still unfulfilled and, as I mentioned in a recent post, priorities change and now I am not so sure just how much I am now willing to invest to acquire them. Check the end of this post if you want to see a selection of some of the more ridiculous ones. But my original wishlist notwithstanding, our intention when we purchased Never for Ever was to cast off and head north, at least to the Broughton’s and further if we were feeling adventurous. We wanted to be able to cruise with no home port for up to 6 months and not have to worry.

And that’s what we got.

I’ve watched a lot of Youtube videos in the last couple of years of people buying their first boats and you know, I have been surprised by the kinds of things boats can come without. And by the kind of work that has to go into some of them — even if they weren’t project boats. Before we bought, and over the years since, I have regularly checked in at YachtWorld and tracked prices, models and ages of sailboats for sale in the PNW. My parameters always change but essentially I look at 36-40 foot boats under $120,000 CDN. But I also keep an eye on boats under $50,000 to see what there is in classic boats that an extra $30,000 of refit would make cruise-worthy. This seems to be more of what the current crop of younger YouTube sailors are doing and their equipment lists vary significantly.

But what we bought was a $120,000 boat that was ready to go. And I want to do a summary of what was on Never for Ever when we got her and maybe rate items on a scale of frivolous to necessary.

Must have’s

There weren’t many items on this list.

  • Reliable engine. We bought an ex-charter boat with 2000+ hours on the Yanmar. I had the opportunity to talk to the original owner and was convinced that it had been maintained and my reading led me to believe a marine diesel is good for up to 5000 hours. And so far it has proven to be true. I am not so worried about engine hours anymore.
  • Solid rigging and sails: turnkey meant we could trust our gear while we were “learning the ropes.” We did spend a bit of money post-purchase on this but we were building on a solid foundation.
  • Canvas. I new I wanted at least a dodger (can you buy a boat in the PNW without one?) and a bimini. One 2 week spring charter to the rainy Broughtons without one was enough to convince me. And as we were staying aboard over the winter, a full enclosure was high on the list. And that’s what we got. I definitely think this was the plus I thought it was going to be. I spend a lot of time in the cockpit and we sail a lot in the shoulder seasons. Just the side panels cutting the cold wind paid for itself many times over.
  • Windlass. Actually I had no idea that so many boats were sold without a windlass or with manual ones. But given our two handed crew system, I definitely think it is an addition well worth having.

These side panels turned out to be our favourite bit of canvas.

Wanted

Some things I knew I wanted:

  • Chain rode: 110 feet (120 feet now) of chain and another 300 feet of rope rode have made a lot of our anchorages comfortable and worry-fre.
  • Outboard (and RIB): we got a nice 8 hp Yamaha that is just enough to get the two of us and our gear up on plane in our West Marine RIB. While I think we could do without the planing, it has made some of our explorations a lot more feasible. Now we occasionally get frustrated when there is a third person and can’t get up on plane. And the RIB? I would never get a non-rigid bottom—I have put enough holes in the pontoons as it is.
  • Webasto hydronic heater: I love it. But would I fork out the $$ to buy such a cantankerous piece of equipment? I don’t know. There are a lot of other heating options that might make more economic sense.
  • Robust autopilot: we got a tough chain driven autopilot and I love it. We have cruised without an autopilot and long days get much longer if you are always at the wheel (especially without an enclosure). And I have seen enough flimsier autopilots to make me appreciate how robust ours is.
  • A good house bank: we have 450 amp/hours of batteries. I knew we wanted to avoid the expense of marinas as much as possible. Our bank gives us 4 days at anchor without having to fire up the engine. These days I think this really is more of a “must have” than a “wanted.”
  • Midship cleats: such a small thing. But we have chartered boats with just the two of us and that middle cleat makes docking in difficult circumstances so much easier. Something I would immediately add to any boat.
  • RAM mic: a remote, helm-mounted mic for the VHS really is a necessity if you are cruising busy waters. The ability to communicate with other traffic, contacting crowded marinas or even listening to the Coast Guard from the cockpit just makes cruising a whole lot safer in my opinion.

I really appreciate having the remote VHF mic.

This is our new chain. But we got 3 years out of the old one.

The outboard and the handy Forespar crane.

Wanted Now

And there were some things Never for Ever came with that I hadn’t realized I wanted. I have subsequently seen a ton of boats that were sold without these “necessities” but they are things I personally would add almost immediately.

  • Charger/inverter: she came with a Magnum with a remote screen — I love this thing. A 2300 watt inverter (that we rarely use but is nice to have) combined with high tech charging system for maintaining our batteries. We later added the BMK (Battery Monitor Kit) and it has made life on anchor so much less stressful.
  • Cockpit cushions: I didn’t realize how much time I would spend in the cockpit and how quickly these would become a necessity.
  • Closed cell foam: (in the the above cushions) it means we can leave them out and have a reasonable expectation they will be dry without having to have them dry in the sun for hours.
  • High density foam mattress topper: our aft cabin was one of the reasons we chose the Hunter and the 3 inch memory foam topper was icing on the cake. It’s certainly something I would look into adding to any boat I was spending a lot of time on.
  • Radar: I know, I know, but who would have thought there was so much fog on the West Coast? <head smack>
  • Racor: it never occurred to me boats would be sold without a secondary fuel filter. Seeing the problems some of our boating buddies had fuel-wise I wouldn’t leave the dock without one.
  • Screens for all hatches: well maybe all was an unnecessary bonus, but having some opening ports with screens really is a necessity.
  • LED lights: Never for Ever came with 4, at least one in each space except the aft cabin and we quickly remedied that. Incandescents are a huge power hog and, despite the price of LEDs, if you are spending any time on anchor, they are worth the cost.
  • Rail mounted bbq: I didn’t realize this was a necessity but it really, really is.

Seems it can get foggy here sometimes 🙂

We have a battery monitor now!

The bbq gets used more than the stove.

Bonuses

And here a few things, big and small, that we got on Never for Ever that have made life a lot easier, but I don’t think I would include them as “must haves” when boat shopping or outfitting.

  • AIS receiver: when I finally got the Standard Horizon VHS hooked up to the chartplotter, it was great to be able to track AIS targets…just added a level of safety.
  • Handheld vhf: the boat came with one and it sure is handy when we are off exploring in the dinghy.
  • Campbell Sailor 3 blade prop: I am not experienced enough to  know just how much benefit we get from this, but I will say the boat backs well and the prop gets lots of good reviews online.
  • Autopilot remote: until it stopped functioning one day I never realized how much we used it. It’s nice to be able to huddle under the dodger and still be able to dodge logs etc.
  • Boat manual: as an ex-charter boat she came with a manual that listed all the common systems and instructions for use. Not a necessity in any way, bit it helped us get up to speed quickly in those first few weeks.
  • Forespar Outboard Crane: almost a necessity with the 8hp motor and it makes it really convenient for the two of us to get the engine on and off the dinghy.
  • Backup Fortress anchor kit: we’ve never used it but this little kit with anchor, rode and convenient carrying bag is a nice addition to our tackle.
  • 5 fenders, extra docking lines: who knew how much this stuff costs? You can always use them and it’s nice they came with the boat.
  • Brass barometer: we love to track the changes and see how they relate to the actual weather.
  • 4 speakers: what can I say, we like music.
  • 2 sets of drinking-safe hoses: self explanatory and great to have at some marinas where hose bibs are few and far between.
  • 4 life jackets: spares we don’t use but makes having guests easier.
  • 200′ of stern line: in the PNW? Without one you are limiting your anchorage choices.

Our shiny prop.

I was so happy the day I got the remote working again.

When it’s busy, you end up stern-tying a lot.

Hunter 386 Brochure

I dug up the original sales material for the 2003 Hunter 386. Here are a few of the “optional items” that Never for Ever came with from the factory:

  • Aluminum Boom Vang: I am not sure what the standard option would have been?
  • Electric Anchor Windlass: see above
  • Inmast furling: I’ve not seen a 386 without this option, but maybe they did make a few.
  • Inner-Spring Mattress: this is a not option.
  • Refrigerator/Freezer (as opposed to an icebox)

A Great Deal

So, quite the list eh? I really didn’t realize how well equipped a boat we got until I started working on this list. I have not seen a lot of boats for sale that didn’t include at least a few of the above, but I have seen an awful lot that that didn’t weren’t equipped with most.

Comfy and dry and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Not Wanted on This Voyage

I will finish off with some of the things that were on my original boat-hunting checklist that didn’t make the cut. I am not saying that I wouldn’t want (or need) them if we were cruising in different waters  but for now they have become extravagances I mistakenly  thought I would need.

  • Fitted sheets (And we didn’t even sleep in the v-berth!)
  • Hammock (Really? This was on my wishlist?)
  • Watermaker (In the Salish Sea? Because freshwater is so  scarce?)
  • Drinking water filtration system (see above)
  • Generator (Still dreaming, but such a luxury)
  • Solar panels (Still, still dreaming… I think…)
  • 100 amp alternator (Sell, not the worst idea but oh, the expense.)
  • Wifi booster (because I wanted to stay connected? Sheesh.)
  • Davits (I think I was in a lazy phase)
  • Code zero (Sail envy is a thing!)
  • Fender socks (Because they look tidier?)
  • AIS transponder (Oooh, an electronic toy!)
  • Folding wheel (What was I thinking? Oh right, that crowded cockpit on the Bavaria 33 we chartered…)

—Bruce #Equipment

A Video Update

Well I finally got around to  finishing my videos of our Spring 2017 cruise to Desolation Sound and the Gulf Islands. I have been working on them since we got back, but could never bring myself to invest the energy to just finish them. As a result the final product looks (and sounds) a little rushed and unpolished. But they are done in time for me to start contemplating 2018 videos…so that’s a plus.

BC Map 2015

A few notes. I wanted to use maps and realized that technically speaking I couldn’t use anyone else’s without violating copyright. So I decided to build my own BC coast map based on several sources. A fun way to refresh my Abobe Illustrator skills. Then I animated them using Adobe After Effects. After a lot of hours, I came to the conclusion that I was doing things the hard way again. But c’est la vie — I learned a lot about what not to do. And they worked out pretty nicely. The whole thing was put together using Adobe Premiere.

I shot everything on my iPhone 5, Nikon Coolpix L80 and SJCam GoPro knockoff. I then used my iPhone 7 for the voiceover. I tried writing a script, but it came out worse than if I just winged it. So I wung it. And it shows. I was however, surprised at the quality and if I concentrated when actually speaking it was pretty damn clear.

Our cruise was 8 weeks so I divided the videos up into 1 week episodes (except for the week on the hard), so 7 in total. I also shot footage on a very sporadic basis because I was often too busy enjoying myself to remember.

Anyway, I now have even more respect for all those YouTubers out there. Enjoy.


—Bruce #Cruising, #Posts

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

I mentioned in 2018 Wishlist post that getting our Scuba certification was something I had wanted to look into. I like the water and generally prefer to be under it than bobbing around on top so diving seems like a natural for me. And there have been several times in the boat ownership experience when being able to work on the boat below the waterline would have been helpful: checking/changing zincs, removing a tangled dinghy painter etc.. And snorkling without a wetsuit is often contra-indicated in our chilly water.

Against that I know I have control issues, mild claustrophobia and ears that don’t much like the deep end of the pool. I also remember reading Matt from Gudeon’s blog posts (SCUBA DIVING IN THE OCEAN IS FUCKING TERRIFYING) about when he got his certification in Victoria — the kind of creeping panic he experienced on his first dive is something I can really relate to. Maybe I don’t really want to do this? But why let that stop me?

The process of learning to dive goes something like this: you take an online study module (which in recent years has replaced classroom study), then do 4-6 hours of diving in a pool with instructors. After that’s done you have to do 4 separate open water dives over 2 days. If you pass you are certified to dive in open water down to 60 feet. There are several certifying agencies of which PADI (Professional Association of Divers) is the most prevalent. So I got it into my head that we could do all the school and pool work here in land-locked Edmonton and then do our open water dives on the coast this June. And since we’re going to be in one of the coast’s most beautiful places (the Broughtons), why not do our dives there?

Unfortunately there are no PADI dive schools in Port McNeill. Fortunately there is Sun Fun Divers. I contacted the owner, Steve Lacasse, who is a NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) instructor and he said he could do the instruction there, using the McNeill pool, and we could work the open water dives around our sailing schedule. We’d actually get to dive in the beautiful waters of the Broughtons: cool!

But for me, the panic/fear thing was a bit of a worry — so I went back to the local dive shop’s website (Ocean Sports) and found they offered a Discover Scuba package for just $60. This got us all the gear, an introductory booklet and around 2 hours of diving time in the pool. Perfect. So we signed up and Tuesday night had our first taste of breathing underwater.

Breathing Underwater

It was a great experience and we had a great instructor. Not to say I wasn’t hesitant, twitchy, mildly terrified and prone to idiotic mistakes…because I was. Leslie, on the other hand, was a natural. Afterwards she compared the experience to our first time climbing: an experience that for me it was a real hoot as I had no trouble with the heights or the gear and complete faith in the system; but for Leslie, she kept having to remind herself she could trust the gear (and me) and balance intellectual knowledge with visceral reality. Diving for us had the roles exactly reversed. There is something just not right about dipping your face in the water and continuing to breathe. And the Golden Rule of Diving is never hold your breath, so you could see how my brain might be at odds with the procedure — and it was. Leslie, meanwhile, took to the system like an eager fledgling jumping out of a nest.

But I got over it. Mostly. We started with a few beginner skills: clearing your mask, recovering your regulator, equalizing your ears, learning to use the BCD (buoyancy control device) etc. Recovering my regulator was something that took me a few tries to master since, according to the Golden Rule, you can’t hold your breath while trying to recover the damned thing.  I didn’t swallow too much water.

After the skills bit and some practice kneeling, and breathing, on the bottom of the shallow end, we left it behind and glided slowly to the bottom of the deep end. You have to take long steady breaths (a lot like yoga) and try to equalize the pressure in your ears every meter or so — NAIT’s deep end is around 4 m so that’s at least 4 times. Again, I had trouble keeping up and was having to really work at it: my ears started to hurt before I achieved equalization and I was always playing catchup. But eventually I got it so it was comfortable. On the bottom, the instructor threw a small toy torpedo at us and had us pass it back and forth for a bit. It’s a great device because it forces your brain to concentrate on things other than not drowning and remembering to breath, and helps prove to your subconscious it’s all going to be ok.

An hour and a bit later we left the pool with my tank nearly empty and Leslie’s still half full—a sign, said our instructor, that I was a bit more anxious than she was since that uses up more air. Leslie had a huge smile plastered across her face. I think she liked it. Me? Well it didn’t kill me, I didn’t panic, and I really do want to try it again. But I am still not sure I could commit to adding the salt water ocean, the dark, fish, currents and cold into the mix after only a few more hours in the pool. Maybe I should just take this intro course six or seven more times… 🙂

It’s an odd experience: as unlike swimming as BBQing is like using a microwave. Surprisingly (even after they tell you), there is not much crossover between swimming and diving. Even the act of maneuvering underwater with all that mass and using  only the fins has very little in common with  swimming underwater normally. And all the while you are expelling bubbles and breathing in compressed air, feeling the pressure of the water on your body in a way that is subtly unlike anything you have ever experienced, and operating in 3 dimensions which you suddenly realize you don’t actually do when swimming. If you are like me, every time your concentration slips from doing it, back to thinking about it, you have to wrestle with a sudden urge to head for the surface. Which, thankfully, I managed.

What Next?

And there is the quandary. We’d like to try again. And I have a reasonable expectation I will succeed. So we can go ahead and commit to this year, spend $540 apiece to get certified in Port McNeill although this will eat into our cruising time, run the risk of me not really wanting to complete the course in such a short period of time, and mean we are adding another grand to this year’s expenses, which might not be our best choice. Alternatively we can do the online/pool stuff here for around $399 each, gain more confidence and wait until we are in Nanaimo again to spend around $200 to $300 for our open water dives, which, money-wise, is a worse choice but at least spreads the costs out over two years. We can also wait until later in the summer and try to do the open water dives in a local lake, completing everything here in Alberta. Or just let it go for a year or two…

So we still aren’t sure if we want to commit to doing our diving certs this year, but I am pretty sure we are going to give this a go eventually. Leslie just enjoyed it too much.

This could be me someday?


—Bruce #Equipment

To Do 2018

So the 2018 sailing season is rolling around and it time to consider, or reconsider, the things I might want to get done this year. Perusing last year’s list I  notice I hardly added anything from my wishlist. In the end it came down to cost and convenience vs necessity. We are starting to get used to this once-a-year cruise idea and our priorities have shifted a bit. The “toys” are slipping down the list and small conveniences don’t seem to be as important anymore.

The big “issue” for me has always been power. We took almost  2 months off to cruise and, while I admit that we would have preferred to stay and extra night or two in a couple of anchorages, it turns out we had enough battery power to get the most out of most of the anchorages. The early spring weather worked in our favour as we tended to spend 2 or three nights in a place rather than being sucked in my sun and warmth and trying to eke out 4 or 5.  And contrary to expectations the winds were light so we motored enough to keep the batteries charged up without having to resort to marinas too often.

But, be that as it may, we do have a few things to work on this year and a few new things I want to investigate. Being over a 1000 km away from the boat is a pain.

Need to…

  1. The crew at NYCSS replaced the oars on the dinghy and they were too long—rowing was almost impossible…and we like rowing. A couple of minutes with a hacksaw will fix that…if I remember to bring my hacksaw.
  2. I need to check the automatic bilge pump. There was a lot of water in it when we went for that short rainy cruise in October last year. But I didn’t have time to check the switch. I mentioned it to NYCSS but I don’t know if they looked into it.
  3. A rubber seal on port aft locker was coming off. A bit of glue will take care of that.
  4. The hydraulic arms on the fridge and freezer lids were shot so NYCSS removed them for safety reasons. I bought two new replacements and need to install them.
  5. The 30 amp power cord has a burnt end. Which is a pain because we were super careful with it and never had an issue. I guess this is just one of those “charter” things we will have to just swallow.
  6. One of the board supports under the settee had broken loose so the lid sagged. Some glue and a clamp or two will fix that and prevent it from worsening.
  7. I want to measure up my sinks and see if I can get my wood-working brother to make me some custom cutting boards to fit in them.

I am currently waffling over a whole new cord ($100+) or just replacing the end, which would then not be sealed.

Want to…

  1. I really want to check my VHF antenna. I read about a few DIY tests and if necessary I would like to get a SWR Meter. I had replaced a connection below the mast a few years ago but there was a lot of corrosion and while I get decent reception I am suspicious its not as good as it could be.
  2. I really want at least one 12v or USB plug on the binnacle. And while I am at it why not add some to the aft cabin, v-berth and at least one more in the salon. I did something similar to NorthWest Passage before we took her down south so why I haven’t done it for my own boat I really don’t know.
  3. I have been working a lot in stained glass. Why not do a custom piece for the boat? So I would need to find a place and do some measurements, maybe make a template or two.
  4. I want to finally trace & document all the navigation-related and NMEA wiring. It is no use sitting here dreaming if you don’t actually know what is in place on the boat. I spend a lot of time dreaming about adding some cheap wifi… (http://en.usr.cn/Wifi-Serial-Server/WIFI-RS232-RS485-Ethernet-Converter.html).
  5. I am looking into acquiring some kayaks. NYCSS rents them for somewhere around $150/week which makes me conclude I should just buy my own because it will be cheaper in the long run. Or should I try  SUPs (stand-up paddle boards)? I just think some of the more isolated and picturesque anchorages might be nicer to explore by kayak rather than dinghy. Maybe I can rent them out when we aren’t there?
  6. I noticed last year the transducer speedo wheel had a broken paddle. I talked to Ian about it and he said he might have one kicking around. Otherwise I need to grab the spec’s and spend some time find an affordable replacement.

The Dream list…

  • PADI dive certification. I would really like to get the course and pool work done here and then do the dives on the coast this year. It’s a long shot due to costs and scheduling but it’s something that has been on the bucket list for a while.
  • That pesky portable generator. Still on the list. Still waffling. I have been hearing good things about Ryobi’s and they are a couple hundred less than than the omnipresent Honda’s and Yamaha’s so you never know, but it is so unlikely.

Reading other people’s blogs and watching others YouTube videos I realize we really did luck out with this “turn-key boat. When I sift through Yachtworld dreaming about my “forever” sail-around-the-world boat I realize how much investment we would have to make just to get all the stuff I have been  slowly coming to think of as “normal.” I think my next post is going to be about all the things I love about Never for Ever and all the stuff she has. 
—Bruce #Equipment

We have a plan!

So we’ve booked off our time for the boat…and guess what! We’ve got enough time to make it to the Broughtons without killing ourselves, so as of now that’s the plan.

Broughtons 2018!

Yup, that’s right. We have almost the whole month of June to use Never for Ever ourselves and we are finally heading north again. We visited have the Broughton Archipelago twice —once with a Cooper Boating flotilla in 2014 aboard a charter boat and again in 2015 right after we boarded Never for Ever for our year-long seabbatical.  And we have been itching to go back because it is chock full of culture, wildlife and oh so much nature.

Sullivan Bay at sunset

So the plan (and it is still a plan right now) is to board around June 4 and sail north like the dickens to get past the tidal rapids as soon as feasible and then slow down for a leisurely  tour, hitting some old favourites and hopefully ticking some new ones off the wishlist.

Things to do before we go?

What might interfere with that basic plan is that I have a few things I kind of want to do out on the coast and they will take time that I am reluctant to give. L and I want to take the test for our ICC certification (International Certification of Competence ) because some day I am going to go sailing in Greece and Croatia and increasingly a lot Mediterranean countries are looking for some sort of official certification.

I also want to look into getting our PADI dive certificates. We can do the course work and pool dives here but we would still have to do our open water dive. And I am really leaning towards doing the whole shot out on the coast because we could get the drysuit  qualification at the same time for just a little more cost.

And then there is the Hunter Rendezvous (June 7–10 at Thetis Island). The timing sucks if we are going north, but we have been telling ourselves we wanted to go again and it really was a fun weekend.

Revisit

So where to we want to go back to? Here’s the list of our favourites that qualify  as must see’s in our books:

  • Kwatsi Bay, Sullivan Bay and Pierre’s at Echo Bay — three “resorts” that are chock full of boaters and fun and make up part of the quintessential “Broughtons experience.”
  • Waddington Bay — a stunning anchorage in the archipelago proper that we visited with the flotilla (and therefore stuffed to the gills with boats) and I would love to spend more time in.
  • Alert Bay — this is a ferry ride from Port McNeill and the U’mista Centre is a must see for everyone. And in our case, a “must see again.”
On Wishlist

I have been reading through other people’s blogs and flipping through Waggoner’s and started on a long list of potential spots I want to visit. But the following have been on this list for years.

  • Shoal Bay & Telegraph Harbour — these are technically on the way up. Shoal Bay has been getting more and more attention and I would love to visit this idyllic little spot before it becomes  really popular and some of the charm rubs off. Telegraph Harbour is a place we have been to by car and I just want to be able to say I sailed there.
  • Jennis Bay — another one of the quintessential “resorts” in the Broughtons but one we haven’t made it to yet. Tucked up Drury Inlet past Stuart Narrows it takes a bit more timing and effort to make it to. But it’s on the list.
  • Glendale Cove (Knight Inlet) — this cove is home to a grizzly watching outfit. Need I say more?
  • Booker Lagoon — I don’t know why I have always wanted to go to Booker Lagoon. Maybe because it’s a lagoon and I am from the Gilligan’s Island generation? Regardless I do and I fully intend to. Its supposed to be beautiful.

On the Maybe List

The rest are on the list mostly based on research and other’s journeys. I am open to suggestions, so if you have any, add them to the comments. I will also leave a list of places we have already been (and may go back to)  just for your edification.

  • Blunden Harbour (in Queen Charlotte Sound) — I hear it is wonderful and peaceful.
  • Goat Island (Crease Island) — near enough to Village Island for a dinghy visit?
  • Nimmo Bay — is hidden behind some faster water and also home to a really fancy resort. But we just want to visit the bay and hang on the hook for a while. We’ll save the spa for another day.
  • Joe Cove, Eden Island — sounds like a classic Broughton anchorage.
  • Laura Bay (east side of Greenaway) — Convenient location with a lot of recommendations.
  • Greenaway Sound (trail to Broughton Lake) — the old resort is now gone but the hike is supposed to be fun.
Been there

Cordero Islands, Blind Channel, Port Neville,Port Harvey, Lagoon Cove, Potts Lagoon, Growler Bay, Village Island, Shawl Bay, Ladyboot Cove, Tracey Harbour, Claydon Bay, Turnbull Cove, Pot McNeill, Sointula

Tracey Harbour

 
—Bruce #Cruising