sailboatbliss

Cruising by sail in the Pacific NW


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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone…The Dreaded Haul-Out

lori stripping bottomJust to be clear, all haul-outs are dreaded, some more than others.  Going in, we knew that this one was to be a “more dreaded” affair…a complete strip down to gel coat or barrier coat or whatever was there.  We also wanted to get a close look at some repair work that we found during our first haul-out in 2017.  The intrepid previous owner forgot that he owned a boat and tried a little rock crawling outside of Pender Harbour in 2015.  The resulting damage was not disclosed or discovered during our sale, and was an unpleasant surprise when we finally found it.  Despite the assurances of the insurance adjuster who surveyed the damage and the guy who did the repair, we wanted to know what the real story was.  All this uncertainty was our main motivation – just what was all that paint hiding?

But wait – there was more.

Our boat has a centerboard.  This is controlled by a cable that runs from the centerboard, through a turning block mounted over the keel and finally to a winch in the cockpit.  The cable is housed in a stainless steel pipe as it runs aft.  Most of this mechanism is below the waterline, and represents a substantial risk as it cannot be protected by a sea cock.  The system must be maintained and – big surprise – ours wasn’t.  The turning block in the bilge was leaking, and there was some evidence that the aft turning block was too.  At there very least, we needed to pull these parts and have them re-welded.

We hauled on a Monday after returning from an amazing week in the Gulf Islands on Sunday.

 

This was a pretty rude transition – from sitting on the beach to scraping goo off the bottom.

Getting started…

We had her pressure washed and had a good look at what we were starting with.  Welcome to our first surprise – hull delamination.

repair delamination

Now normally, this would’ve been a major shock, but we’ve dealt with so many boat surprises over the years that it was all pretty humdrum.

“Hey Lori, check this out.  The repair they did when Bill hit the reef is delaminating!”

“Nice…What would you like for lunch?”

I ripped as much off as I could and had a good look.  Fiberglass over bottom paint, applied by a “professional”.

After lunch, we started ripping out the centerboard mechanism.  This was also worse than we thought – Sabre decided that it was a good idea to put a bronze sheave in the submerged stainless housing and the resulting galvanic corrosion took out portions of all of the metal involved.   Over the next week, we stripped all of the conduit out of the boat, re-designed the system to eliminate the dissimilar metals, metal conduit and stainless cable, and hired a fabricator to make new turning block for both ends of the conduit.

centerboard sheave

We started the stripping the bottom on Tuesday.

We decided to to use a chemical stripper called DeFOUL by Protocol Environmental Solutions.  This is a water based non-toxic product that claims to remove multiple layers with one application.  The instructions were simple: spray it on with an airless sprayer, let it sit overnight, and scrape.  Looking at the thickness of the paint build up at the waterline, we anticipated needing at least two applications.

We suited up and started scraping Wednesday morning.  What a terrible job!  The DeFOUL did exactly what it was supposed to do, but the sludge that we scraped of got everywhere.  Shoes, hats…everything covered in a gooey, sticky, toxic (the paint is toxic) sludge.

 

 

A terrible job, but compared to the alternatives, relatively easy.  I’ve sanded and scraped before.  It’s is very physically demanding and time consuming.  It’s also dusty, even with a vacuum, and noisy.  Using DeFoul to soften the paint saved tons of time and effort. We started scraping at 9am and had the first 10 years of paint off by 3pm without the noise and dust of sanding.  In some areas, we were able to strip all of the bottom paint off with that first application.  That’s pretty remarkable.  Really messy but remarkable.

The rest of the paint wasn’t quite as accommodating – ultimately, it took two more applications to get through the next 10 years of paint.  I have no idea what it was, but that red paint was far more tenacious than the more recent paint.  Still, we had the boat mostly down to fiberglass and surprise number 3 by Saturday.

Surprise number 3 and a questioned answered…

Surprise number 3 was the composition of the bottom: bi-axial cloth set in epoxy over a peeled bottom.  No gel coat.  Somewhere in the sales literature, we’d read that the boat had a barrier coat.  We didn’t expect to find a new layer of glass.  This layer, which should’ve been extended a little higher up the hull, explained the absence of blisters everywhere except the waterline.  Clearly the boat had had a fairly bad blister problem that some previous owner had peeled off in the distant past.  This is almost exactly what we’d done to our last boat and was a good surprise. Finally.

Things are looking up…

Spring break ended and the weather became unstable.  This required a certain amount of luck to get dry weather windows to coincide with our work schedule..we were lucky.

  • We ground off all of the repair work that had been applied over bottom paint and faired what was left.  The quality of the work done does not inspire confidence in our marine tradespeople.  How would one choose a contractor and ensure quality work?  I hope that I’m never forced to find out.
  • I ground out and laid up a patch for a small void that penetrated far into the laminate in front of the keel.  My hunch is that the boat came down hard on a rock in this spot when it was grounded.
  • I removed two unused thru hulls and patched the holes.
  • We replaced the bolts attaching the strut.
  • We put in a new depth transducer (why we did this is a tale for another day)
  • I ground out all of the gelcoat blisters at the water line and faired with epoxy filler.
  • We replaced the fairing at the hull / keel joint.
  • We applied 1 coat of Clovamastic epoxy barrier coat under 2 coats of Jotun Seaforce 200 bottom paint
  • We replaced the entire centerboard pendant system.
  • I polished and waxed the topsides

 

22 days with one Friday night off.  Haul-outs aren’t fun, but the feeling of relief and satisfaction when the boat went back in the water was.  As an aside, we are lucky to not only be competent enough to do this work (we actually got a job offer!), but also to have the opportunity to do the work.  Not all jurisdictions allow DIYers to work on their boat for fear that they will not be responsible.  In fact, there is at least one yard in Washington State that won’t even allow owners to change their own zincs in the name of environmental protection.  Not only do I doubt that hired guns would take the care that I do to do quality work on our boat, but we couldn’t afford our boat if we had to pay someone else to work on it.  I guess that this means that those of us that are still able to find places where we can work on our boats have a duty to work as neatly and responsibly as we can in order to put off the long arm of bureaucratic overreach as long as possible.  Happy painting!

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Doesn’t Like a Kitchen Reno?

lori in the galley

Plastic laminate – Arborite – is a pretty amazing material.  Our galley is thirty years old, and until this winter, everything was still original and looked to be in reasonable shape.  A few chips, but no burns or big scratches.  Impressive for a thin layer of paper and plastic.  The fridge and sink not so much.  Both were showing their age and in need of an update.

The fridge was our main concern.   The freezer would frost up so badly that the lid would get frozen shut as the frost worked its way up and out past the lid.  The lids themselves were heavy and held up by a spring that would drop the lid on your head if you breathed too heavy while rooting around for a cold beer.  To add insult to injury, the freezer itself didn’t even work well – it refused to get much below freezing in the bottom.  Upon further inspection, we found that this poor performance was due to water making its way into the insulation from the fridge drain.  The whole thing really needed to go.

The sink was mostly just ugly.  We decided early on that we wanted an undermount to make clean-up a little easier.  I could’ve built a counter using plastic laminate and dealt with finishing the edge at the hole for the sink, but chose to use a solid surface – Meganite – instead.  This material is easy to work with but has a reputation for cracking if it is installed incorrectly…time will tell if this was a good decision.

I find that many seemingly easy jobs have a way of getting complicated as you start making decisions about details.  If you aren’t careful, one choice early on can push you into a corner that is hard to get out of.  The big decisions for this project all required more consideration than one would think.  Just finding a sink that would fit was a nightmare…

  • what, and how much insulation material?
  • what would the box be lined with?
  • how would I fabricate proper lids with a latch and two seals on each?
  • how would I mount the sink?

We decided to go with 5 – 6″ of polystyrene insulation – the pink or blue boards you can get at a home improvement store.  The other easily obtained choice – polyisocyanurate – is more expensive and has been shown to have an R value that decreases as the temperature decreases.  Not good in a freezer.  I lined the box with epoxy and glass and didn’t include a drain.  This one piece liner can’t ever leak into the insulation.

The openings for the fridge and freezer were the biggest challenge.  I replaced the massive teak structure that defined the original openings and the lid insulation with styrofoam assemblies covered in fibre reinforced plastic panelling (FRP).  I attached the FRP to the styrofoam with thickened epoxy.  The lid insulation rests on teak trim rings in each opening.  These rings support the lower seal and gas filled support struts.  The lid insulation is in turn affixed to the Meganite lids with silicone.  I added a small step around the top edge of each opening for a second seal. We’re super happy with the results – it all looks like it came from the factory.

I sourced the sink through Amazon.com and had it delivered to a friend in Anacortes.  Amazon .ca didn’t have it and the RV shop I called in the valley wanted double what I paid.  Sometimes shopping here really sucks.  The counter material is not designed to support the weight of a sink, so I build a frame to rest the sink edge on.  This also serves to support the counter as required by the installation instructions.

The counter itself was fairly easy but time consuming and stressful.  It required a huge amount of planning, prep, and travel to make sure everything lined up correctly.  The most important step was to build templates for everything.  Essentially, this meant building, testing and trimming an entire counter out of MFD before starting on the Meganite; working on the finished product using only the old countertop and measurements as a guide likely wouldn’t have produced the same results.  I did almost all of the fabrication work after hours in my shop…every test fit required driving to the marina and humping the piece in question out to the boat and back before proceeding.

The counter is held in place by a few blobs of silicone to allow the top to move as the temperature changes – not really the most secure method, particularly if we’re knocked down, but it’s the the only one recommended by the manufacturer.  Putting screws into the counter is a guaranteed way to induce cracks.  To add some structure to the assembly, I am adding a fairly substantial fiddle around the front edge edge and a moulding along the back edge that will be screwed to the cabinetry to clamp the counter down.  This should allow for regular movement and help secure the counter against irregular movement in the event of an “accident”.  I would’ve liked to use the original one piece laminated fiddle, but didn’t think there was enough meat to make it robust enough for a worst case scenario.

counter done

Aesthetically, we’re both really pleased with the results.  It looks new and fresh.  But more importantly, it is also functionally superior to the original.  The undermount sink makes wiping the counter down a treat, and the fridge should be far more efficient with dry insulation, a reduction of wood in the top assembly, and proper seals on the lids.

 

 


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Installing an ECHOTec Watermaker

panelLori and I have always maintained that a watermaker is completely unnecessary when cruising the BC coast – so what changed?  Well…we spent some time on a boat with one.  We still don’t think we “need” one, but the freedom of just using clean, fresh water whenever you want is very alluring.  Every swim can end in a fresh water rinse, dishes get a thorough rinse, and water shortages aren’t an issue like they were on our cruise to Haida Gwaii in 2015.  They come with a number of costs though: space, maintenance, energy, money – lots of money, and the effort of a significant install.  I tend to gloss over this cost over when I take projects on; this time was no different.

We started by doing tons of research.  I started by assuming that my search would lead inevitably to a Spectra simply because of their incredible efficiency.  But there are more things to think about than litres per amp hour.  After a lengthy detour to an AC system that we could design ourselves, we eventually decided on an 50 litre/hour ECHOTec DC system for a few reasons:

  • It will run off our existing DC system.  We didn’t want to rely on extra gear like a generator (ugh) or an inverter.  We normally have an excess of electricity, but will eventually upgrade our solar and alternator to ensure that we’re never short, regardless of the weather.
  • They are very simple – the system is essentially a DC motor, a plunger style high pressure pump as used on a pressure washer, and a membrane.  Nothing is automated.
  • They are a little less expensive than a Spectra – but not enough to be a major factor in the decision.
  • It should produce 100% more water in one hour of run time than we currently use per day when we’re being fairly liberal with our water use.  We figure a couple of hours of run time every second day will more than meet our needs, even if we turn into water pigs.
  • The vendor (Hydrovane) is local and well established.

We haven’t used our watermaker yet, so we don’t know for sure if we made the right call, but the logic and numbers still make sense to us.  We’re pretty confident that we have the right system.

The Purchase

We started by having Will and Sarah from Hydrovane visit the boat.  Not only are they the vendors, but they are also experienced bluewater sailors with experience living with the ECHOTec model we were considering.  We had a great morning talking about their adventures and our plans, along with a thorough look at our boat and the spaces we could use for the various parts of the system.  There are a number of large parts that needed a home:

  • The motor and high pressure pump.  The
    watermaker crate

    Pretty exciting – new boat toys are always fun to unpack.

    pump doesn’t reliably create the lift required to suck water – even with a boost pump to feed it water, it is best to locate it as low as possible.  The pair is also big and heavy.

  • Pre-filters.  These consist of a pair of domestic 10″ housings, plumbed in series.  This assembly is fairly large and needs to be easily accessible
  • The pressure vessel for the membrane.  It can go anywhere, but it’s long.

Will and Sarah brought a pressure vessel along as they believe that this is normally the most problematic component to fit due to it’s length.  We tried under our V-berth – it’s tight but it fit.  We measured out potential locations for the other major components and placed our order.  A month later it arrived in two large wooden crates.

The Install

We unpacked the crates and laid out all the parts on our living room floor to check them against the parts list.  Everything was as advertised, but the mountain of individual pieces was more than a little overwhelming.  Despite the simplicity of basic water making process, the addition of alternate circuits for testing, flushing, and pickling (preserving the membrane from biological growth for long periods of downtime), requires a significant selection of fittings and hose to figure out.  Thankfully, the relatively well written instructions helped to clear up some of the questions before we set to work on the boat.

I tackled the major components first: the high pressure pump and motor, pre-filters, pressure vessel, and control panel.  We originally planned to put the pump/motor assembly on the cabin sole in the V-berth, but this area was also a prime spot for the pre-filters due to its accessibility.  The filters won that tug of war.  We settled on sacrificing a difficult to access drawer and previously unused space under the v-berth for the pump/motor assembly.

This installation required that I replace the drawer with a strong shelf to support the substantial weight of the pump and motor and cut an opening for access to the space from above.  I glassed the shelf to the hull and painted the compartment before bolting the pump motor assembly in place.  I finished this step by using the old drawer front to cover the hole that the drawer used to occupy.  I cut a hole in the old drawer front to make room for the motor and provide ventilation, and hinged it to the cabinetry so that I could access the compartment from the side as well as from above.

 

 

I finished the pump installation by running a #2 wire from a breaker near the positive bus at the battery box all the way forward to a terminal block.  This run will power both the high pressure pump and the feed pump.

The pre-filters and pressure vessel were both easy to fit, requiring only a few holes for plumbing.

The control panel was another matter.  We paneloriginally decided to install it in a new cabinet on a small counter at the head of the v-berth.  I even went so far as to drill holes through the counter and fabricate a teak cabinet.  However, the number of wires and hoses connected to the back of the panel ultimately made this location unworkable.  We finally settled on sacrificing a small but useful storage space near to the cabin sole and adjacent to the pump / motor compartment.

Plumbing

I thought that the rest of the installation would be pretty simple – it’s mostly plumbing.  But there were also two more filter housings to install – one to filter chlorine out of a fresh water rinse circuit and one to house a water hardener – along with the boost pump and a water strainer.  Like the pre-filters, the rinse water filter housing and water hardener housings are both domestic 10″ housings and require accessibility and a bit of space.  The other issue we were starting to think about was how many spare filters we’d need to buy and store plumbingto fit in all of these housings; along with the domestic water filters under the sink, we were now 5 housing all requiring regular maintenance.  We thought about this for a while, and finally decided to re-plumb the pressure side of the entire cold water system in order cut that number by one.  This was a lot of work, but was worth it as it improved our existing system and cut the number of requires spares by 20%.

The rest of the water-maker plumbing was straight forward, but tedious.  Cutting the high pressure hose with a zip disk was easy, as was installing the fittings.  Much of the low pressure plumbing is routed from the control panel via 3/8″ hard plastic tubing and compression fittings – I used brass compression fittings and hose barbs to connect them to the boat’s systems.  The product water is sent to the tanks by tying the water-maker output line into the vent line – we’ll see how this works – and the raw water is teed into the wash down pump through-hull fitting, thereby reducing the number of needed through-hulls by one.  The water strainer and boost-pump are in the same compartment as the associated sea cock, and required a bit of wrestling to hook up.

hoses

The sea-cocks for the forward head sink, holding tank, wash-down pump and watermaker, along with the boost pump and strainer.  This compartment will have a shelf installed over the plumbing so that the through-hulls are protected and the space usable.

The test water line – you’d hate to inject bad water into your tanks – is teed into the foot pump spigot in the forward head with check valves in both lines to ensure the the foot pump and the watermaker can only send water out of the spigot, and not back into the system.

There’s more of course, but this covers the majority of the work required for the water maker to function.  For now, the feed water through-hull is still closed and, except for the membrane, the unit is dry.  I’m a little apprehensive about firing it up – there are tons of fittings and I’m sure some of them will leak.  I’m hoping for the best, and will post a report after we have some time living with the system.

 

 

 


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Working Through The Winter Blues

I’m a winter weenie.  Even in the lower mainland, which usually only has a wet stretch between fall and spring, I find it tough.  I think it’s the short days that are the worst, but the cold and wet don’t help.  There are fun distractions, but I spend too much time waiting for the spring.

Weeknights are the most difficult.  I have this really bad habit of sitting down, firing up the computer and surfing the internet or watching Netflix.  I kill precious hours doing essentially nothing, and then wonder where the evening went.  Not good.  Even worse, when the sun finally shows up again in April, I start working like crazy, trying to get all of the projects I want to get done finished before July.

I decided this year would be different – I would be productive during weekday winter evenings.  Hopefully this would also tick a few chores off the list earlier and restore some sanity to the spring.

So far, so good.  It’s still been cold and wet far too often for my liking, but I’ve been productive.  You’d think the list would getting shorter, but in normal way of boat jobs, it’s just changing as newly discovered jobs replace the original jobs.

I started with a re-build of the gooseneck.  After 30 years, the aluminum toggle was completely worn out, and the welds on the tangs were cracked.  After checking out the original supplier’s price I decided to get the tangs re-welded to the backing plate (thanks Pierre at Poco Marine – you’re amazing!) and machine a new toggle myself using an oversized chunk of  aluminum.   This was a small job that I got done before our cruise in November.   It eventually lead to a similar redo of the boomvang bracket too (thanks again Pierre).

 

 

The next job on the list was way more substantial.  When we bought the boat, I discovered rot along the bottom of the main bulkhead.  For anyone looking to buy a Sabre,  I think that this is a Sabre issue that is related to the design of the mast step – take a close look at the floor and bulkhead here before making an offer!

This bulkhead is also the wall of the shower stall in the forward head.  I cut the worst of the rot out right after we bought the boat, putting this shower out of commission for the whole time we’ve owed the boat.  Cutting the bottom of the bulkhead out revealed a seriously poor shower sump design that needed a re-work to be viable.  I fixed this by cutting all of the rot out and replacing the material with epoxy, woven rovings, and multiple layers of 1/8″ ply.  I also moved the sump pump plumbing and replaced the pump.

The shower was a big job, and I don’t really like fibreglassing, but it pales in comparison to the next item on our list: a watermaker.  I’ve written a post detailing the whole process, but suffice to say that it was a surprisingly complicated job that had a cascade effect on a bunch of other stuff: cabinetry, a complete re-plumb of the pressurized side of the cold water system – not a small job – and wiring..

I hate messy wiring – I understand the attraction to just running a new wire when installing new equipment, but unless it’s done neatly, labelled and tied up in a logical manner, it just makes dealing with problems later a headache.  There are always problems later.

While I started this task because of the need to run power to the water maker, it is really a completely new job that I tackled because it’s relatively easy, low on the stress scale, and makes me happy when I open the panel.  I pulled tons of old wire out – some of it burnt – straightened out what remained, installed a new ground bus to get wires off of the panel buses, and tried to label as much as I could.  I have identified the function of about half of the ground wires so far, and the panel is now much neater.

It’s still early in the year, but the days are noticeably longer, and the boat is definitely better than it was in September.  Even better, I’ve cut my “sitting on the couch time” way down.  Is it summer yet?

 

 

 


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Other People’s Problems or Why Boat Maintenance Means More Than Changing The Oil

Campania Island

Yes, the work is all worth it.

The guy who owned our boat for the 9 years before us either didn’t know or didn’t care. There are so many things – simple things – that went undone.    One of our talking points during the sales negotiations was the lack of cruising gear aboard – no solar power, watermaker, self-steering etc.   Based on the condition of the gear that was on the boat, this lack of fancy toys was a good thing – it means the list of things we’ve fixed or thrown away and replaced is relatively short.

garbage windlassTake our windlass.  We left it by the dumpster so it wasn’t hard to find.  It was a good piece of kit in its day, but we knew it had to go when we first saw it.  Our biggest complaint?  The lack of an integral hawse pipe; while the windlass seemed to work fine, the thing just dumped the chain onto the deck.  It had to go.

Then we took it off.  It’s surprising that it even worked.  We’re definitely very happy that we didn’t settle with the minor inconvenience the lack of a hawse pipe represented and dug further.  Starting at the top:

  • the capstan was seized to the shaft.
  • 6 of the 8 fasteners holding the contraption to the deck were broken.  Yes that’s right, it mostly stayed put because of caulking and gravity.
  • the gearbox was full of water.
  • a heavily corroded casting – part of the deck attachment assembly.
  • heavy corrosion on the entire motor housing.
  • An unsealed deck core that required replacement – I’ve been to this dance before and didn’t like it much.

In short, unless you are one of those people you enjoys bringing uncared for equipment back from the dead, it was garbage.

And then there was our headliner under our port-side deck.  Much like the windlass, it looked OK.   On our first viewing, there was evidence of a small leak below a window, and we just assumed that the drip coming from the headliner was a bad window seal. Wrong.

rotten headlinerThe leak took a break for a couple of months during a cold snap, but when it came back, it came back big.   Dogging the window tighter made no difference; it wasn’t a bad seal.   So I pulled the headliner down.   It’s didn’t go back up.

Why do people let things go?  Both of these issues – just a couple in a long list – are simple routine maintenance.  A windlass only needs some love once or twice a year.  Take it apart and grease it – 15 minutes if you’re wearing a blindfold.  The windows – all of them – needed to be caulked.  This took half a day and stopped the leak.  The damage from not doing these things is just under $2000 IF you can do all the work yourself.  The previous owner went on at some length about the frequency of his oil changes, but clearly, did nothing else.  Thank goodness the boat wasn’t filled with neglected cruising goodies; I’m not a big fan of fixing other people’s problems.


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Thoughts on Anchoring and Anchoring Etiquette…or lack thereof

Pirate's cove november

Pirates Cove without the crowds

I wasn’t really planning on writing about anchoring, but I like stories that come from our time on the water, and this one was a surprise no-brainer.  Why a surprise?  It was November.  Who goes out in November?  And with the lack of competition for anchoring spots, how could there possibly be anything to elicit a story about anchoring?

Cruising in the November…on average, it rains 21 days out of 30, and the odds of getting three warm, sunny days in a row on a weekend are not good.  Previous to this year, I crossing the strait novwould’ve claimed that it was a statistical impossibility.  This year, the stars aligned and we we were able to enjoy 3 amazing days cruising the Gulf Islands a month after we normally put the boat to bed for the winter.  We took the opportunity to visit a couple of places that we’ve missed over the last few years:  Princess Cove on Wallace Island and Pirates Cove on DeCourcy Island.

Princess Cove and Pirates Cove are popular places.   Princess Cove is one of the few places that we’ve abandoned in the summer due tobreakwater nov crowding.  Both anchorages are beautiful but exposed to North Westerlies – neither is bombproof.  To add to the mix are the stern ties that require that boats lie beam-to the prevailing winds.  Most of the time in the summer, the winds die overnight and issues are rare.  However, when the combination of crowding and boats stern-tied beam-to the wind is coupled with a fresh, unpredicted overnight wind, it creates a panic that has given both of these anchorages a bit a of a reputation.  Given the lack of boats and benign weather, there were no issues this time out.  But we were lucky that the weather held overnight as there were a few silly decisions made on other boats that put people at risk.  It’s not a wise thing to rely on weather forecasts for your safety – sound decision making, good gear and proper technique help keep us safe when the weather forecast is wrong, which is surprisingly often.  The following are our thoughts on anchoring safely, repeatedly.

Picking a place to drop your hook

Good practice is to pick a spot that won’t put others at risk if you drag – don’t anchor directly upwind of another boat.  Yes, it’s possible to choose well and then have a little shift in the wind put you upwind of a boat that was anchored before you, but you can use this idea to help pick good spots and eliminate poor ones, especially in uncrowded anchorages.  In the Gulf Islands, the winds blow SE or NW pretty much all the time, making following this rule even easier.

Rafting

Rafting is loads of fun.  We love rafting and do it frequently.  But…both of the times we’ve been involved in a dragging episode, we’ve been having fun rafted.  Dragging doesn’t make the fun better.  The first time, we dragged a couple of hundred feet through a very crowded False Creek at two in the morning.  We were ridiculously lucky to drag through the fleet and miss everything.  The second time, we were anchored in a very remote anchorage on the west coast of Vancouver island.  We weren’t even on the boats when they went walkabout and were lucky to escape with nothing but bruised egos.  We’ve learned this one the hard way: rafting is not without risk.  If you choose to raft, you’ve got to be extra vigilant and have a contingency plan for if the wind comes up.

centennial raft pirates

A club raft in Pirate’s Cove

Tying Ashore

It’s very common to tie a line ashore in BC.  It’s an easy way to increase the number of boats you can cram into a small anchorage, and the only way to anchor in a small nook with no swinging room.  If you do it poorly, it’s a great way to entertain your neighbours.  However, in many cases, as practiced in BC, it does not increase your security.

When they tie ashore, most boaters, us included, tie one lie ashore to stop the boat from swinging on the anchor.  In many anchorages though, the lay of the land and the shore-side anchor location result in your boat lying beam to the wind.  I’m not sure what the math is, but there is no doubt that wind on the beam creates far higher loads than wind on the bow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No swinging room here!

We hate stern tying.  In crowded summertime anchorages or tight spots it has it’s place, but generally we avoid it like the plague.  It’s a bunch of work that isn’t always easy and the whole wind on the beam thing is stressful.  If there is room to swing on the hook, we swing on the hook.  Still, we see people that tie ashore as a matter of course regardless of where they are – it’s a part of the routine that they follow for no reason other than that’s just what they do.   I suppose that leaves more room for me to swing in the middle, so…thank you?

What’s everyone else doing?

Often, this is an issue in places where people drop two anchors to reduce swing.  There are at least three other factors to think about.  The first is that if the wind is light, boats on a chain rode move differently than boats on a rope rode.  This has caused us grief in the past and now we try to anchor amongst other boats with an all chain rode.  The second is power vs. sail.  The windage of many powerboats coupled with the lack of a deep keel mean that they are usually more affected by the wind and less affected by current than a sailboat.  The last is that boats that tie ashore don’t swing.  The rule here is to try anchor and near boats that are similar in type and anchoring technique.

Not everyone uses these guidelines.  Anchoring on our cruise in November – Why, why, why…

We pulled into Princess Cove fairly early, and anchored just off the port quarter of one of three boats already there.  The boat downwind of us was a couple of hundred feet back, and tied fairly tight to the shore.  The third boat was 5 or 6 hundred feet behind us, deep in the bay.   We set the hook, and went for a walk, just as a power boat was dropping the hook upwind of the boat in front of us.  Not the best, but it what are you gonna do.

When we got back an hour or so later it was a different picture.  The boat we’d anchored behind was gone, and the lone power boat was now a raft of three, all on one hook, having fun directly upwind of us.  Why???  What was their plan if the wind came up?  How much fun were they planning to have?  Would they be OK at 2 am?  The forecast was incredibly benign, but I still wondered…why???  Did they even consider what would happen if they dragged?  Unlikely.  I definitely did.  It doesn’t take much wind to create problems with 3 boats on one anchor.

Things got more interesting at about 9pm when the last boat pulled in in the dark.  They also anchored in front of us, closer to us than where the boat that had left earlier was.  Then they tied ashore.  Why?  What was their rationale for all the futzing around in the dark?  No one else in our neighbourhood was tied ashore.  Did they even look?  What would’ve happened if we’d  swung to a SE wind or a drop in the tide?  I called over and told them that no one else was stern tied, but they were tired, busy, and not interested.  I shook my head and went to bed, hoping that no one was going to learn anything new about anchoring etiquette overnight. Thankfully it was quiet, and we didn’t.

poor anchoring

What are these people thinking?  Thankfully the weather cooperated and there was zero drama.

Anchoring well is probably the most important skill needed to cruise the way we do.  We’re lucky in BC – there are thousands of safe harbours with all around protection, most of which have good anchoring depths and a mud bottom.  This is not the norm in other places on the planet.  But even with our mostly easy conditions, anchor choice and technique can be controversial topics.  What do you think?  What are your favourite anchoring stories?  If you’ve spent any time anchored out on a boat, you’ve seen people having trouble on the steep part of the learning curve.  Please leave a note in the comments section.  Thanks!

 

 


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Ghosts

Do you believe in ghosts? I do. I see them all the time.  Sometimes I see them in the park across the street, in our backyard, or in a family member’s house.  Mostly though, I see them on the water.  Thankfully, they’re never frightening; in fact, the never seem to notice me at all.  They seem to congregate at the places that I’ve loved the best.  I think this is part of the reason that I like to see new places; the ghosts aren’t there yet. This summer, I saw them everywhere. While I enjoy seeing them, but they taunt me with the past, reminding me that it’s gone forever and that we only have the now.

The first encounter I had this summer happened at Princess Margaret Marine park on Portland Island. Lori and went for a short walk along the north shore to one of our favourite beaches, and there they were…playing in the water, watching the ferry wake roll in, and just chilling. It’s a beautiful, private spot and the ghosts seemed to be reveling in their surroundings.  The family that was using the beach didn’t seem to notice them at all, but the ghosts were there.  It’s possible that family is making their own ghosts…I didn’t ask.

I saw more in Tribune Bay, a young boy skim boarding and enjoying the carefree freedom of being a child on the perfect summertime beach.  He looked great: strong, confident and full of the promise of youth.  I desperately wanted to talk to him and ask about his day, but I don’t think that he’d have answered.  So instead, I just watched and marveled at his grace.  I’m pretty sure he’ll be there when I visit again.

Jedidiah Island is crawling with them.  All kinds, some of them older than the ones I saw at Tribune Bay, some of them much younger.  There was even a horse.  Gibralter, the high point of Jedidiah was particularly crowded, but maybe that because it’s so small.  They gathered close as we arrived at the summit, but were kind enough to let me enjoy the view.

Mostly, my ghosts are my young children, but sometimes they are friends. Occasionally I see me. I miss them all, but I’m here now. scan0009(2) Change is the only thing that stays constant. The ghosts remind me of everything that has come before, and it’s been good.