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

The Boozephiles

 

A post shared by The Boozephiles (@theboozephiles) on

A year and some ago C said “We should try some cocktails.”

We said “Ok.”

She said we should take pictures. Maybe have a website.”

We said, “Uh…ok.” We are so articulate.

“She said “Try this…”

We did. It was good. And boozephiles.com was born. We also added @theboozephiles on Twitter and theboozephiles on Instagram. So once a week we gather, try a new cocktail and occasional make faces when it doesn’t suite the tastes, palatesor sensibilities of one of us.

That was 67 drinks ago and we are still going strong. So tag along if you want to discover some wonderful new concoctions or learn about some old ones. And let me know if you have any suggestions.

Sourdough Roundup

I mentioned the other day I was working on my sourdough skills. 

Loaf #3 looked like it was going to be a complete failure (no rising action, so I feared for the denouement…) so while I didn’t completely abandon it, I decided to start a new levain so I could try again on Sunday morning. Upon waking Sunday am, the first batch had risen magnificently so I shoved it in a hot oven and 40 minutes later I produced this:

But that left me with a fresh levain all puffed up and ready to go. So I decided to go ahead and make another loaf.

So I suppose a bit of background info and vocab is in order. Sourdough is made from a sourdough starter which is just flour and water that has been left out and fed regularly with more flour and water until it attracts enough of the natural yeasts in the air to start reacting without additional yeast. Once you have a good starter going you can store it in the fridge and feed it once a week or so (with flour and water) indefintiely. 

When you decide to make bread, you take the starter out, feed it up for a day or two or three (again, flour and water…getting the trend here?) to make sure it’s going again. Then take a tablespoon or two, add more flour and water and let it sit overnight. This gives you a levain which is what will go on to form your bread dough. The starter just goes back in the fridge until next time. The levain is then used, with even more flour and water, to form a wet dough which you allow to rise (this stage is called autolyse) for an hour or so. Then you add salt and go on to make the bread in a fairly traditional manner. It kills me that this stuff is, other than a tablespoon of salt, completely 100% just flour and water. Ain’t science cool.

The first loaf was a boule (round, french-type, bread thing) which I made in a preheated dutch oven, but for the second loaf I wanted to try something different. I decided to form it while it was rising and then stuffed it into my oven  — on parchment paper — using the proofing setting with a bunch of boiling water in pans. What do you know, 4 hours later the loaf had risen fairly well. I then moved it to a Staub casserole, scored the top (to let out the steam that causes a quick rise in the initial part of the baking) and popped it back into the oven at 475° or so.

 

Voila. The temps and cooking times varied and I will have to experiment a bit more to nail down the process but they both turned out fine. Loaf #1 had a bit more “sour” to the sourdough, but they say that happens when you let it rise longer.

Sourdough Experiments

A couple of weeks back I decide to try my hand at sourdough. In principle its pretty easy, but nothing is really all that easy when it comes to bread. 

After a few false starts I successfully got my starter to work. It’s pretty amazing what flour and water will do if you let it “fester.” Then I moved on to my first actual loaves. I will call them a tentative failure because although the final product was edible, it wasn’t in any way what it was supposed to be. Both loaves formed a hard crust when rising and then fell inside the crust. But I ate it anyway.

My next loaf was at Xmas and I used a slightly different technique and sealed the dough with clingwrap to keep the moisture in. This one worked out pretty damn good. I am not sure why.

Today I am working on attempt #3. I think I will let it rise overnight in the fridge and bake it tomorrow. I’ve got my fingers crossed…

Instagram This Week

Competitive food bank shopping! Annual donation all dropped off at Station 14. Time for some Tony’s Pizza...
Competitive food bank shopping! Annual donation all dropped off at Station 14. Time for some Tony’s Pizza…
The latest lead piece. #stainedglass #sailboats
The latest lead piece. #stainedglass #sailboats
Last minute colour change? #cantdecide #stainedglass #artistsdilemma
Last minute colour change? #cantdecide #stainedglass #artistsdilemma

October in the Gulf Islands

I had been bugging a buddy of mine to go sailing for years now and he finally managed to get a week off…in the middle of October! But what the hell, Never for Ever has a heater…

We also talked another old buddy into tagging along—this would be the first “road trip” we had taken since just after high school—exciting stuff. As I had previously mentioned neither had much experience on boats so I was a tad nervous about making sure everything was right.

The Cruise

I arrived early to make sure everything was ready and to sort through our stuff in storage for anything I wanted on our short cruise. I walked over and met Brian S (did I mention both my friends are named Brian?) at the Seaair terminal and and brought him back to introduce him to the boat. Then we grabbed the courtesy car and made a provisioning run.

The next afternoon Brian R arrived and we finished off the “last minute” (insert the word booze) provisioning and, since we had missed slack at Dodd’s, went out for dinner.

We did spend an hour or so running around on some last minute errands. We couldn’t find the sides of the enclosure (they were stuffed in a locker) and the bloody Webasto wouldn’t fire up. This turned out to be one of the  major flaws in my plan. The Webasto hadn’t been run since  May and something had gummed it up. We tried again and again through the trip to get it running but in the end we did it without any heat.

Day One

We were off the dock at 1159 and hit Dodds just before the 1350 slack with Brian R at the helm. A half dozen or so sea lions were frolicking and hunting in the current and a few of them seemed like they playing chicken with us as we squeezed through the narrows. It was a sunny calm day and there was no wind so we motored all the way to Pirates Cove and I let the crew maneuver us around the shoals and in through the narrow entrance.

Apparently my instructions were clear and coherent because the two Brians managed to drop the anchor and get us secured in the centre of the cove with no issues. We crowded aboard Laughing Baby (three grown men apparently take up a lot more space than just Leslie and I) and rowed ashore to hike around. Unfortunately it was close to high tide so we didn’t see much along the shoreline but had a nice tromp though the woods regardless.

Day Two

We were off the anchor by 0945 and after just a few miles the winds started to climb and we hauled out the sails. They stayed a steady 12-15 knots as we tacked back and forth down Plyades Channel and into Trincomali. My stalwart crew kept the sails up and we beat right past Reid Island and into Houston Passage.

Eventually our tacks were getting broader and broader and the wind was dying enough that our progress south was almost non-existent. So we reluctantly hauled in the sails and started up the motor. The winds did pick up again but by that time it was getting late and we just wanted to get into Ganges.

We tied up on B dock at the Ganges Marina right at 4:30 and  then headed into town to explore. There was some interest in real estate potential so we picked up some flyers and debated the pros and cons of living on Saltspring Island before heading to the Oystercatcher for dinner.

Day Three

It was another nice day as we cast off around 1130 hours and motored out of Ganges Harbour. An hour later with the Channel Islands just ahead we (I think it was Brian S) spotted a spout just ahead which we quickly identified as a pod of orca.

I took over the wheel and sent the crew forward with cameras rolling. For almost the next hour and half a pod of 8 or 9 orcas led the way as we rounded Beaver Point and headed to Portland Island. At one point they completely disappeared only to reemerge about 100 feet off our port side. Needless to say everyone was ecstatic. We didn’t lose sight of them until we angled away to head for Royal Cove and they seemingly headed into Fulford.

We stern tied in Royal Cove around 1400 and once again headed ashore to explore. A short walk took us the middens at Arbutus Point where poked around before heading back to the boat.

Day Four

It was slightly rainy as we raised the anchor and the winds were predicted to be up. We motored west as we wanted to catch the current up Sansum Narrows. All day the wind and waves built and we were treated to a pretty bouncy ride. Everyone seemed ok with motion (which was a relief). Eventually we had 20–25 knot winds from behind as we cleared the narrows into Stuart Channel. We decided to head for Telegraph hHarbour and I called ahead just make sure they were open.

What I failed to asked them was what services they still had. Because we had all been talking about a hot shower and it turns out they had turned the water off and the showers and toilet facilities were all closed. Bummer.

And in all the rain we had been having all day I discovered that what had been, 6 months ago, a small intermittent leak from somewhere near the mast was now a raging torrent. We cleverly rigged up some string to direct the water into a bucket which allowed me to sleep in the salon and stay relatively dry. In case you are wondering I had left the tarp in the storage unit (why on earth would I need that for just 5 days…) and yes, the leak is now fixed in time for winter.

 

Day Five

The weather was better when we cast off the next morning and headed for early slack at Dodds. The plan had been to spend the last night at anchor in Nanaimo Harbour, but the winds were predicted to build from the south and some of the crew were jonesing for a hot shower. So we headed to the fuel dock instead (Brian S successfully  bringing us alongside) and then tied up in our slip for the last night.

The aftermath

The next day Brian S caught his flight out and Brian R and I cleaned up the boat and stored our gear. The plan had been for us to fly out by Seair the next morning but a fog set in and Seair wasn’t guaranteeing the flights would go on time. We ended up cancelling our flight and hopping on the ferry. It turns out our flight did go but by that time we were already at YVR waiting to fly back to Edmonton.

All in all it was a great, albeit rushed trip. The lack of heater wasn’t too much of an issue but something to keep in mind for next time. The leak was a bit more of an issue, but who could predict after such a long dry summer. And I successfully managed my first cruise with new crew. Hey, maybe I am good at this…

A static version of the map for prosperity:

 
—Bruce #Cruising