sailboatbliss

Cruising by sail in the Pacific NW


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Our Boat Shopping Checklist

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This post is for sailboat geeks – you know who you are.

I was just doing some tidying up to my old posts – it’s amazing how many typos I find even after proof-reading before publishing – and was struck by a fairly obvious omission to the topics I’ve written about.  I got to the “Selling Palomita” post and noted that it mentioned a list of desirable attributes that our next boat would have without mentioning what any of them were.

I love this topic, so it’s a bit strange that there is pretty much nothing in any of our posts that spell any of our ideas out.  This post is a list of things we looked for when we were searching for our boat, along with a look at how we did when we bought the Sabre.  Our base search was for a sloop or cutter rigged boat in the 40′ – 45′ range for less than $100000 CAD all in. The list will focus on items that are not easily changed.

Of course, these are just opinions and are based on my reading along with our roughly 22000nm of coastal cruising experience (and 0 nm of true bluewater experience) , cruising style, and intended use.  I will freely admit to being heavily influenced by John Kretschmer, so if you’re looking for rationale for any of these decisions, he’s a good place to start.

Long fin keel with moderate draft (max 6′).

This requirement was the one of the hardest ones on our list to meet in a 40′ – 45′ boat.  We ended up a centerboard boat with minimum draft of 5′ and a maximum draft of 8’6″.  The centerboard is complexity we didn’t really want, but the windward performance is excellent. The centerboard does make a clunking noise when sailing downwind if it is partially down, but is quiet if it’s all the way up.  Overall, based on 4500nm of sailing so far, we currently think of our keel arrangement as a great compromise.

A lead keel with a swept back leading edge and a ballast ratio between 40% and 50%

These requirements are easy to rationalize, but also hard to find.  The Sabre is has a ballast ratio of 41.5%, meaning 41.5% of her displacement is in her keel when she is dry.  This number will go down marginally as we add stores because the displacement will go up, but the amount of ballast in the keel won’t.  We wanted a swept back of lead keel rather than an iron keel or one with a plumb leading edge because characteristics create a keel that will take the ground better if (when?) we touch the bottom.

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A skeg hung rudder

We wanted both the protection and the tracking a skeg can provide.  The Sabre is a total miss here.   She has a huge, powerful balanced spade rudder  She is very easy to steer and tracks well.  Hopefully, we never see the day when we wish it was protected by a skeg.

A SA/D ratio higher than 16

This one is basically a power to weight ratio.  Too low, and the boat won’t move in light air, too high, and she’s tough to handle short handed.  The Sabre is just about perfect for a cruising boat at 17.15.  She is easy for the two of us to handle and is fun to sail in lighter winds.

Moderate shape

This one is hard to quantify, but basically, we wanted something that wasn’t optimized for dockside living nor designed as a slave to a rating rule.  There are a bunch of details that fall under this topic such as the bow and stern overhangs, the shape of the transom, but the easiest quantifier that I can think of is length to beam ratio.  Palomita is about 3.25, which means she isn’t overly beamy.  Given our budget and the necessity that we’d by default be looking at older boats, we were also looking to avoid the worst excesses of the IOR era.

Slab Reefing

We didn’t want the performance sacrifice and increase in complexity that comes with in-mast furling.  This item was non-negotiable, and surprisingly hard to satisfy; when we were looking for a boat, I went so far as to price out a new mast for one boat that otherwise fit the bill.

Inline spreaders

Sabre 42’s have a keel stepped, robust mast section supported by twin, inline spreaders and rod rigging.  I’d have preferred wire rigging, but like that the boom can be let out when running because the spreaders aren’t swept back.

Mid boom sheeting

Not the best for sailing, but so much nicer for living with.  Check.

Small companionway suitable for offshore work

The Sabre 42 has a great companionway from a safety at sea perspective, but there is one more stair than I’d like…we’ve both fallen down the last stair and will have to take care.  The bridge deck is super handy as an extra seat or buffet during happy hour.

Wide sidedecks to make access forward safer

20190730_112638You could land a plane on them. Check

New or dead engine

It was dead, now it’s new.  Check.

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Deep anchor locker

I’ve seen better, larger anchor lockers, but ours is adequate.  We currently have 275′ of chain plus a spare rode with 50′ of chain and 200′ of 5/8″ rope, so there is room.  We’ll probably take some of this out in an effort to lighten up the pointy end of the boat.

Adequate tankage.

This is our boat’s Achilles heel.  Our water and holding tank volumes are good – 120 gal. of water and 40 gal. of black water – but she only carries 44 gal of fuel.  We are constantly thinking of solutions and haven’t figured this one out yet.

Comfortable cockpit with good storage

Our Sabre’s cockpit is a little large with drains that are a little small, but it is also one of our favourite features.  The drains can be modified.

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U or G shaped galley suitable for cooking while underway

The Sabre’s G shaped galley is huge, but it is the right shape and there are spots to wedge yourself into.  Hopefully the large galley isn’t a liability at sea – it hasn’t been yet and we’ve used it underway regularly in all conditions including a multi-day ocean passage.  It should go without saying that it is fantastic at anchor.

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Good sea berths

There are two 7′ settees with square corners.  No complaints here.

Two heads and an aft cabin

We wish that the saloon was a little smaller with a little more storage behind the settees, but overall, we really like our layout. Aside form maintenance, we like having two heads, especially when there is company on board.

Good ventilation

With 10 opening ports, 4 dorades, and 6 hatches, it’s easy to keep air moving through the cabin.

Affordable

Yeah right…it’s a boat.  We weren’t even close to our target price, and the spending never ends.

 

 


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Westcoast Shakedown – Sailing Non-Stop Down the West Coast of Vancouver Island Part 2: The Passage

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It was sometime last spring when we first proposed the idea to do a 3 or 4 day “practice passage” down the west coast of Vancouver Island at a Bluewater Cruising Association meeting.  At the time, we didn’t think much of it – it just seemed like a good idea.  As the end of July approached, it seemed so much more, especially with the unstable weather we’d had through the first 3 weeks of the summer.  However, in spite of this dodgy weather and our apprehensions, by the time we tied up in Shearwater on Saturday July 27, we’d gotten a 3 day usable weather window and were mentally committed to doing the trip.  The nervous energy of the last few days didn’t disappear, but the pointless hand wringing did and was replaced with a fevered effort to get stuff done as fast as possible so that we could get underway: recycling, last minute grocery shopping, diesel, propane and laundry…all in just over an hour.

We started motoring south down Hunter Channel, next stop Sooke, just after noon, in gentle southerly winds and mostly overcast skies.  We could’ve beat down the channel, but our schedule and the light winds kept us motoring.  Eventually, we exited the very tight archipelago at the south end of Hunter Channel and motored into the open water of Queen’s Sound.  Surprise, surprise, the weather was still not quite as promised.  Instead of sun and a glorious reach, we got clouds and a motor in the sloppy leftovers from the departing south-easterly.   Not very exciting, but the monotony was probably good – it turns out that it’s just as hard to stay nervous when you’re bored doing the activity that was making you nervous in the first place as it is when you’re busy running around preparing for that activity.

We motored for quite a while, choking down what should have been a wonderful meal along the way.  Eventually though, our patience and faith in the forecast was rewarded and we were able to sail in light winds on a close hauled course straight at Cape Scott.  Fortunately, Palomita sails very well in these conditions and we were happy to trade the din of the engine for the satisfying swish of the water.  By 9pm, we were doing 7 knots on a close reach.  We were 32 miles north of Cape Scott and it was magical.

Before we left, we’d decided on a formal watch schedule starting at 10pm and ending at 8am.  Our plan was to do a 3 hour watch each, and then a 2 hour watch each.  We figured we could manage the daylight hours on an informal basis.  With a little tweaking over the two nights we were out, this system worked really well for us, and unlike our previous experiences sailing through the night, neither on us really got to the point of total exhaustion.  The first watch on Saturday night was mine, and it was a highlight.  The night was pretty much perfect for sailing to weather: Palomita rose to the gentle seas with enough wind to keep her moving fast, but not so much that we were on our ear.  The ride was so pleasant that we both spent our off watches in our regular bunk.  At midnight we were 11 nm from Cape Scott,  still on a close reach doing 7 knots, and it was still magical.

We rounded Cape Scott – which is really a 5nm wide pass between Vancouver Island and the Scott Islands – at about 1:30 in the morning, where we decided to turn the engine back on for 20 minutes to power through the wind shadow of the Scott Islands.  My watch had ended at 1:00, but because we weren’t sure what we were going to find at the cape, I stayed up until we were clear of the pass.  We’d never done this long of an overlap between shifts before, and we really liked the time together – so much so that we think it should be a regular part of our night watch routine.  Along with breaking up the monotony of sitting alone quietly while on watch, it gave us an opportunity talk about the conditions, other vessels, our location, our course and our sails.

I turned in when we were able to sail again.  Unfortunately, Lori’s watch lacked the sailing perfection that mine had.  The wind continued to veer into the west, but it didn’t build.  When you are sailing into the wind, the wind speed the sails feel is a combination of the true wind speed and the boat’s speed.  Palomita will sail quite well in 8 knots of true wind speed as long as the wind is coming at her.  As you turn to have the wind behind you, the wind in the sails drops.  If you are sailing dead downwind, the wind you feel is the wind speed minus the boat’s speed.  We don’t sail downwind very well at all in 8 knots, especially if there are waves.  As the wind shifted aft that night, the wind across the deck fell to the point where Lori had to fire up the motor for another half hour just to keep the boat moving at a reasonable speed.  By the time I got up at 4:30, reality finally started to catch up with the forecast, and the wind had risen enough to keep us moving well as we sailed towards Brooks Peninsula on a broad reach.  It was the beginning of a remarkable day.

Albatross

After going off shift, Lori managed to sleep for a couple of hours, but the by the time she got up, I had no desire to lay down.  The cloud cover was still close to 100%, but we were moving well and I was having fun sailing.  We also had lots of wildlife to enjoy: albatross, petrels, and shearwaters in the air, and multiple humpbacks in the water.  The whale sightings sound great, but having a humpback surface or breech right beside your boat can be a little nerve racking.

The morning progressed, and the wind built as forecast.  By the time we were rounding Brooks Peninsula, 50nm south of Cape Scott and commonly regarded at the most demanding headland on Vancouver Island, we’d pulled the main down and were running under jib alone.  It was only blowing 20 kts, and we could have left some of the main up, but the boat goes fine in that much wind with only the genoa out, and it’s safer -we can run almost dead downwind without having to deal with poles or boom preventers – and we were expecting the wind to keep rising through the day.  As an added bonus, the sun started to make an appearance.

It’s hard to describe our day running between Brooks Peninsula and Estevan Point in a way that adequately describes our experience.  Pictures can’t really show what we saw, never mind what we felt.  It was at times awe inspiring, amazing, monotonous, and exciting.  Rounding Brooks had been easy – the wind and seas were was still moderate – but the conditions built steadily through the day as we made our way south until winds were blowing a steady 28-30 kts, gusting to 35, with an average seastate of  2-3m.  This means that the odd 20 footer rolled under our keel.  Spicy, but not scary.  In fact, this time was some of the most amazing sailing that I’ve ever done – just us and our boat doing hull speed in big waves and sunshine.  It’s amazing what being in the midst of “it” does to your mind – the positive effect of actually being fully engaged in an activity instead of just thinking about it.  This is a lesson I have to learn over and over again.

 

The fun lasted until the wee hours of the next morning during Lori’s watch.  It’s not easy to sleep with the sails slatting as they alternately filled with air and then lost it as the boat rolled.  Lori kept heading up – turning into the wind – in an effort to increase the wind over the deck, but by 4 am it was pointless – we were on a close reach doing 4kts and pointing right at Hawaii. We were 15 miles off of Ucluelet when we fired the engine back up and turned the boat 90 degrees to port to get us pointing back at our destination.20190729_060417

Day three was pretty mellow compared to the day before.  We motored for quite a while, a couple of hours of which were in the fog.  Gale force westerlies were forecast for Juan de Fuca Strait, but these usually fill in early in the afternoon, so we motored on, anticipating a great sail to finish the trip off.  Juan did not disappoint…by noon we were sailing again and by three we were running under foresail only.  We’ve done this stretch under these conditions before, so this sail had a distinctly laid back feel compared to the day before.

We finally pulled into Sooke Harbour at seven.  It was blowing pretty hard over the spit, and we spent quite a while poking about looking for a good spot to drop the hook.  In the end, we settled in a tight spot just off the spit near the entrance to the harbour.  We were the second boat in, so our tight spot was really tight..not the best, but the winds were supposed to stay out of the west all night so we hoped we’d be fine.  We were, but the wind and tight spot didn’t inspire the confidence I need to sleep well.

We arrived in Victoria at about noon the next day after another great sail through Race Passage.  The sail was absolutely fantastic, but even so, the difference in our stress levels when we tied the lines to the dock was palatable.  We were supposed to meet friends on the dock, but they were a day late.  Good thing – we spent the afternoon tidying up the boat and hit the sack early. We would’ve been terrible company.   

It’s been a month and a half since we arrived in Victoria which has allowed plenty of time for reflection.  Lori maintains that she had “type 2” fun – the kind of fun that is better in hindsight – but that she’d do it again “for a purpose”.  I get it.  There is no doubt that the time leading up to us getting underway was fraught with needless angst, and that living on a small boat at sea is tiring and uncomfortable.  But I’m having trouble 20190730_151035squaring up the time frame of my fun.  I missed being out there almost immediately – cruising in Desolation Sound just wasn’t the same after the high adventure of surfing down 10′ waves for hours at a time.  Three days is just a small taste, and it’s highly likely that  sailing like this for days on end would grow to be routine and might (would?) eventually become tiresome. The bottom line is that, regardless of how we handled it or felt about it, the trip was totally worth it.  There is no other way to test yourself, your boat, and your systems other than to get out there and sail, and I’m happy to report that we passed this test.

I’ve created a companion video for this post.  You can view it at https://youtu.be/KzFp5lLq6Dg

Some of what we learned:

All of our little steps over the years have lead us here with confidence.  I’m pretty sure the next trip like this will be much easier in terms of pre-departure anxiety.  Everyone who wants to head offshore would benefit from a trip like this.

The autopilot (Raymarine Evolution EV200 with a linear drive) can handle fairly challenging conditions, but oversteers using the settings we were using.  We will have to tweak these to try and get it to steer a more consistent course, especially when the boat starts rolling in cross seas.

Our modest 160W solar array kept up with the demand over 24 hours no problem with no engine run time.  I’m hoping that by expanding it considerably – we’re thinking of adding another 400W – this will remain true in lower latitudes.

5 miles is not enough sea room off of either Estevan Point or Brooks Peninsula when it’s blowing.  More is better.

Shorter watches with a scheduled overlap made the night watch go so much faster.  The trick is to sleep as much as possible during the day to stay rested.  We’ve sailed overnight a grand total of 10 nights – I think that it’s likely that longer watches would become easier with more experience.

We’re both pretty immune to seasickness, but there is a limit.  Neither of us really felt like eating for the whole trip.

25 – 30 kts behind you in the ocean is still fun, but I wouldn’t want to have to sail into it.  30 – 35 is doable, but is pushing it as far as fun goes.

Our boat is fun and easy to sail, even shorthanded.  We already knew this, but we appreciate it more as we learn more.

 


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Westcoast Shakedown – Sailing Non-Stop Down the West Coast of Vancouver Island: The Go / No-Go Decision

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Sleep deprivation…check.  Lack off appetite…check.  Exhilaration…check.  Scary…well maybe a little. Rewarding…absolutely.   I’m not sure how we ended up committing ourselves to a multi-day non-stop voyage down the west coast of Vancouver Island, but we did.

It’s not really a big secret that we have spent a huge amount of time and money refitting our boat with designs on going further afield sometime in our future.  For a couple in our situation, the reasons to do a trip like this are pretty simple: how else can you see how you, your boat, and it’s systems handle being underway in a true ocean environment over multiple days other than going out and trying it.  We weren’t really looking for fun; we just wanted to test ourselves and our boat.  So we decided to sail as much of the BC coast as we could over a 3 or 4 day period at the end of July.

We chose this itinerary – as opposed to just sailing out into the ocean for a couple of days – for a few reasons: the prevailing winds in the summer are NW, so we could reasonably expect to have a predominately downwind sail with conditions similar those found sailing south down the west coat of North America, or westward in the trades.  Secondly, the five sounds on Vancouver Island’s West Coast are all fairly easy to access, even in bad weather, meaning that we’d have the psychological crutch of shelter if the weather turned bad. Lastly, it seemed like a really good way to get south and back into reliable summer weather quickly.

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But like so many other things, there’s so much more to a trip like this than just picking a a destination and going sailing for a couple of days.  In addition to planning around the weather, provisioning, and setting up the boat for being underway for multiple days, there is dealing with your brain.  I wish there was an app for that.  My brain isn’t always my friend.  In fact, it’s often my nemesis.  When we’re doing things that are bigger than things we’ve done before, my brain likes to fire up my imagination, making up lists of possible maritime disasters and other unlikely catastrophes.  I’ve figured by now that these imaginings are pretty much a waste of time and energy, but it still sucks being anxious.  My hunch is most people are no different.   

Our singled minded commitment to our boat over the last 3 years also added an extra dimension that, unlike our entirely predictable pre-departure jitters, I didn’t anticipate: what if we decided not to go at the last minute – would our excuse hold up to scrutiny? Would a bail this time mean that we’d always bail? What if we went and hated the trip?  For me, there was way more at stake than just a 3 day sail – in my head, this would either be a vindication or a condemnation of all the blood, sweat and tears we’ve poured into Palomita.  Like I said – my brain isn’t always my friend.

We left Ocean Falls on the morning of July 27 in a downpour.. things looked kinda grim.  Even if the rain stopped and the sun came out as advertised, the weather window was tight with a new low pressure system due to pass over the coast in only 3 days.  And as is so common when a system moves on to be replaced by high pressure, the winds were predicted to swing strongly into the north-west.  The last forecast on the night of the 26th called for winds to 35 knots south of Brooks Peninsula.  We could manage the shortened schedule, but 35 knots was way more wind than we’d like.  So we motored south with some serious doubts.

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As we neared Shearwater, the rain slowed and patches of blue arrived.   We tuned in to the 10:30 forecast sure that it would just confirm that the winds were going to be heavy over the next few days, and at the very least, we’d  postpone our trip for another week, and maybe scrap it altogether.  No such luck – the new forecast called for the wind to build to a westerly breeze of 15 knots (perfect) over the afternoon, swing to the northwest through the evening, and finally build to NW 20 – 30kts the following day.  Strong, but within our comfort zone.  The forecasts from both Windy and Predict Wind were even better with winds to only NW 20kts as long as we stayed fairly close to the shore.  With these forecasts, any reasonable excuses for bailing disappeared…we were going to do our third circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, this time without stopping on the West Coast.

 


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Hanging out in the Discovery Islands

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Anchorage in a nook in the Cordero Islands

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the different strategies for navigating the tidal rapids north of Desolation Sound.  In that post, I mentioned that we always time our journey to coincide with the ebb while going north, and the flood going south, even if it means leaving in the dark.  As entertaining as that sounds, leaving at 2am to catch the tide isn’t super high on my fun list.  Thankfully, there are alternatives.

Over the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve managed to approach our passage through the rapids on dates with no great morning departure times – they’ve either been crazy early, or a little too late.  This, along with our increasing desire to limit the early morning heroics, forced us to re-examine our passage planning for this stretch of water.  These ideas all work best on the inside route through the Yucultas, and are as follows…

Idea #1 – Arrive late.  Who said that you need to be in Forward Harbour by 2 in the afternoon?  We’re talking about summer travel here; the sun is out til after 9pm!  As ridiculously simple as this sounds, it took a few years for us to really look at this as an viable alternative to leaving early.  The key is that it’s only 30 miles from Yuculta rapids to Forward Harbour.  Even at only 6 knots, that’s only 5 hours; with the tide behind you it’s more like 4.  If you transit Yuculta Rapids at 3pm, that puts you in Forward Harbour at the still civilized hour of 7pm.

Idea #2 – Hang out between the rapids.  You don’t need to spend the night between rapids to make this one work, just patience.  The plan is to catch the last of the ebb through Yuculta, Gillard and Dent, and then relax as you poke your way north.  Go for a walk at Shoal Bay, fish at Hall Point or just bob along slowly and enjoy the scenery.   There really isn’t that much current to fight for the first 12 or so miles after Dent Rapids, and you will have about 6 hours to kill before running Greenpoint Rapids.  Besides, there is something really powerful about surrendering your schedule to the turn of the tide.  Be sure to time your transits so that you are at Dent at slack and are pushing through the last of the flood at Greenpoint.

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Heading north

Idea #3 – The obvious one – spend a night at one of the many cool places in the Discovery Islands.  Some options that we have used (there are many that we haven’t):  Big Bay.  It’s always abuzz with activity, has a dock, reasonable anchoring, and a great walk to Eagle Lake.  Big bay is a little like a toilet bowl with a rock in it – watch both the shoal area and the currents.  Shoal Bay.  Also a busy place, but with a more laid back atmosphere than the bustle of Big Bay.  Thurston Bay Marine Park.  Quiet and a little off all of the the main tracks north.  Cordero Islands (Greenpoint Rapids).  A very pretty anchorage right on the main channel.  There is room for eight or nine boats in the two nooks between the islands.  Blind Bay.  An upscale marina (but not too upscale) with a great walk and a good restaurant.  The current at the dock can be tricky, but the staff are eager to help.  If you want to continue north via the inside route, you’ll have to time your departure for the end of the flood as the currents in Mayne Channel and Greenepoint Rapids run opposite to each other.

Despite the cold water, the channels north of Desolation Sound offer a laid back experience that is significantly different from the crowded waters in northern Georgia Strait.  If you’re not in a rush to get north and the tides don’t allow you to blast through, take the opportunity to slow down and explore.


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The Shake Out Cruise – A Review of Our Sabre 42 CB and Some Pictures From Our Summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally!  After all the work we completed in the first 6 months of 2017, we relished the opportunity to stretch our legs over a couple of months of cruising and really see what we had.  Our original plan was to spend our first week in the Gulf Islands to test our new systems and get familiar with them before setting off north for more ambitious destinations; we thought that the comfort of knowing that we’d always be close to help and supplies would take the edge off.   However, after a fun and relaxing first weekend near Silva Bay, we decided to head north to cruise with friends using the logic that everything seemed to be working fine so far and that Desolation Sound isn’t really that far from assistance if we ran into a problem.

Our first real test came on our 4th day out on the passage from Silva Bay to Pender Harbour.  This is a 33nm run to the north, and can be a challenge in a strong northwesterly – the prevailing wind here in the summer.   It was in blowing in the low to mid 20’s on this day, and Georgia Strait was in a bit of a mood with a steep 3′ chop.  Period is everything when it comes to waves, and Georgia Strait is notorious for generating waves with a short period.  It was 4 seconds on this day – short, steep and wet.  Perfect weather for learning!

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Hard on the wind in Caamano Sound

We got our first “new boat” lesson when we went to put up the main.  The halyard on the Sabre is wire, and it has considerable mass.  As soon as I attached it to the headboard of the main, it started to flap all over the place, and in short order, had wrapped itself around the steaming light. With the boat bouncing and the spray flying, I gave up trying to free it pretty quick.  The day would be a headsail only affair!  The lesson?  Put the main up before it’s too rough.

Turns out we didn’t need the main anyways.  With the 130 genoa all the way out, we took off like a freight train – doing up to 7 knots at 40 degrees apparent, straight through the waves.  Fast, fun and wet.  We could’ve pointed higher with some main up, but the wind built and eventually we had to reef the 130 down, so perhaps having the main up would’ve been too much.  Regardless, the speed and comfort in difficult conditions were impressive.

We got our second lesson soon after setting sail.  However, this one was more of a reminder of something we already should’ve learned: make sure the hatches are dogged BEFORE setting sail.  Not long after settling into the groove, we took green water over the deck.  A good portion made it over the dodger and right into the cockpit.  A short while later, it happened again.  Wondering about the integrity of all of the window seals etc, I asked Lori to see if it was dry below.  It was not.  Just as she descended into the cabin, we went through yet another wave; the cascade of water down the fore-hatch was clear evidence that it was not dogged down tight.  Oops…The lesson here is embarrassingly obvious.

We learned our third lesson after docking in Pender Harbour : it’s probably a mistake to ignore a  leaking fuel tank.  (Yes, I know the “bad things happen in 3’s” thing is a cliché, but it really was the 3rd and final major lesson for the summer.)

We’d discovered the leak a few months earlier, but decided to ignore it as it was only leaking a teaspoon or so every week.  We put an oil sock in the bilge and a pad under the tank and moved on.  The rough crossing disabused us of this notion.

Soon after docking, I checked the bilge only to find the pad and sock quite heavy with diesel.  We debated leaving it, but decided it was now too much to ignore.  The next day, I emptied the tank and pulled it out.  Upon inspection, it was clear that the hole had always been of a significant size, but had been partially blocked with diesel sludge.  The agitation from the rough sail changed all that and turned the small drip into a cascade. Although a new tank is on this winter’s boat job list,  I’m happy to report that the temporary patch I put on at the beginning of July is still drip free; JB Weld is amazing stuff.

The rest of the summer was relatively uneventful.  The 2 systems that I was most concerned about both worked well: we put 180 happy hours on our new diesel with no significant problems, and the electrical system worked as designed, with full batteries every day thanks to our new solar system.  I’m also happy to report that by August, I was spending almost no time doing maintenance or improvements; things just worked!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome thoughts on the Sabre 42 and some comparisons to our Mariner 36

Overall, we are very happy with her; she’s roomy, fast, and comfortable.  The cockpit is wonderful for entertaining, and has plenty of places to brace yourself when it gets rough out.  We weren’t sure how we’d like the sail plan with it’s relatively small head sail and large main, but we’ve found the boat easy to sail and the smaller foresail an asset when beating to weather.  Down below, plenty of hand holds make getting around fairly easy, and the large galley is a delight to work in.

Sailing:

  • With the main up and centerboard down,  she’ll point quite high and makes very little leeway.  We raced her in June, and were pointing as high as our friend’s C&C 33 – around 30 degrees apparent.  EDIT 2019… We replaced the autopilot, and now can steer to the wind instrument.  We’ve found by cracking off to 32 – 33 degrees and easing the sheets just a little bit, we pick up at least a half a knot of boat speed in light to medium winds.  No more trying to point as high as 30.
  • Our trip across Georgia Strait was fast but wet.  She tended to sail through the larger waves (6′) without slowing down.  This is partially a product of the shape of the chop in Georgia Strait.  A 3′ significant wave height means we saw the odd 6′ wave.  All of them had a 4 second period.  These are steep waves that didn’t really allow the boat to rise to them.   We’ve only really had this one day of beating into strong winds and we looking forward getting out in the strong stuff again to learn more.
  • When going downwind under all whites, her best VMG is dead downwind, even in fairly light winds.  We’ve rigged permanent preventers, so sailing deep is pretty stress free.  In really light winds, we still tack downwind flying the asymmetrical spinnaker, but we seemed to need this extra power less often than we did with the Mariner.  In heavy winds, her longish keel means that she tracks quite well.  In contrast, the Mariner sailed so much faster on a reach that we often tacked downwind in light to medium winds.
  • There are genoa tracks and cars on the toe rail; moving the sheets outboard for downwind work dramatically improves sail shape and provides chafe free leads. We tried all kinds of things to achieve this on the Mariner; none of our efforts were as satisfactory as the outboard leads on the Sabre.
  • She stands up to a breeze, despite the fact that the keel is only 5′ deep.
  • The helm is super light.  After 13 years of sailing with an unbalanced rudder hung off a skeg, our new spade is almost too light.  On the bright side, it’s not tiring and the autopilot doesn’t really ever work that hard.

Motoring:

  • We replaced the Westerbeke 46 with a Beta 50.  At 2000 RPM, she’ll do 7 kts on roughly 3 litres/hour (just under a gallon).  Max RPM is 2800.    This efficiency is similar to the Mariner, which is fantastic considering the Sabre is 6′ longer and 2000 lbs heavier.
  • She doesn’t pound when sailing to weather, but does when motoring, especially when compared to the Mariner with her v sections forward of the keel.  Bottom line; she’s designed to sail, not motor.
  • The cockpit is super quiet!  The motor is under the sink, not the cockpit, making conversation under way a pleasant, no shouting, affair.  As an added bonus, the noise below is about the same as the Mariner.
  • She turns in her length, and backs up fairly straight.  I was worried that the distance between the prop and the rudder would mean that slow, close quarters maneuvering would be difficult, but this hasn’t been the case.

Miscellaneous

  • The quality of the glasswork is excellent, even in out of the way corners.
  • Access to almost everything is good.  The diesel tank was a piece of cake to remove and reinstall.
  • Cabin stowage is good, but for my tastes, the cabin could’ve been a little smaller and the storage behind the settees bigger.
  • Cockpit storage is excellent.  The two lazarette hatches provide access to a massive space that holds our cabin heater, fenders, paddle boards, fishing gear, stern line, dinghy wheels,  and dinghy pumps.  The sail locker is equally impressive.
  • The side decks are like runways, and provide excellent access to the foredeck.
  • The original install for the windlass was problematic.  The biggest issue was that the windlass didn’t drop the chain into the anchor locker; the previous owner actually hand bombed the anchor down when setting it, and peeled it off of the gypsy and flaked it by hand when weighing anchor.  I’ve since installed a new windlass and provided a lead for it to drop into the anchor by itself.
  • The bilge sucks.  There is a reasonably deep but small sump aft of the engine, but otherwise the bottom is flat.   I didn’t like it when we bought her, and I still don’t like it.  Unfortunately, most modern boats are built the same way.  The Mariner had a keel stub that would hold a significant amount of water and prevent it from sloshing around under the cabin sole.  Yes, I know the bilge should be dry, but that is pretty much impossible with a keel stepped mast.
  • The cabin top winches, clutches and cleats are just silly.  Not only are they toe killers and tripping hazards,  their location means that it takes 2 on the deck to take down the asymmetrical spinnaker.  With 2 of us on board, that means nobody is in the cockpit.  This is getting fixed this winter.
  • The anchor locker divider is also silly.  The top edge of the plywood divider is exposed to falling chain and moisture meaning that it will eventually rot out.  We took ours out and replaced it with a shelf.

Our Summer Route:

This year we were focused on learning the boat, so stuck mostly to places we’ve been before.  Most of the pictures are from the area north of Bella Bella – our favourite stretch of the BC coast.  Our route took us north around Cape Caution, up past Bella Bella and Klemtu via the Inside Passage, and finally up Laredo Channel  to Campania Island.  Our route south was similar, but we stuck to more open waters on the outside wherever possible to take advantage of the strong north westerlies that established themselves early in August.  Our best sail was a 45 nm run down Laredo Sound into Hecate Strait, around McInnes Island and into Queens Sound.


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Willywaws

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“Holy crap that was a big gust!” (My dad was there – I had to keep it PG)

After a long but eventually fruitful day of fishing in the drizzle, we pulled into Matheson Inlet in Haida Gwaii for a quiet night.  Our weather pattern had changed a couple of weeks before as the abnormally strong Pacific High of spring 2015 regressed into something that we think resembled normality for BC’s north coast- regular dousings interspersed with frequent but short lived sunny stretches.  In Haida Gwaii, these low pressure systems were textbook: sunshine slowly disappearing into the gradually thickening cloud bank of the warm front, drizzle followed by a short stretch of unsettled weather, and then the thick, wet cumulus of the following cold front.  The passage of these systems never lasted long, and were always followed by a day or two of warm sunny weather before the next system arrived.  In addition, none of the lows to this point had been were particularly deep or violent.

This changed in Matheson Inlet as the next low moved though the following day.  Nothing too extreme, just enough to remind us of the value of good ground tackle and conservative procedures.  We were also fortunate to be sitting alone in a completely enclosed bay with lots of swinging room.  We had 7:1 out, 100′ of which is chain: it pays to be prepared to sit out a blow.

The thing I found most interesting about the day is that I’m convinced that the wind was far less strong outside the bay.  The topography of Moresby Island – relatively tall peaks on a very thin stretch of land – lends itself to places where the wind is accelerated as it moves through the passes between peaks and down the valleys.  Environment Canada’s excellent resource on coastal weather explains it like this:

The narrowness of Moresby Island allows southeast winds along the east side of the island to flow over top and hit hard onto the waters of the inlets on the west side. In strong wind conditions, this makes it difficult to anchor or find shelter. The southernmost part of Haida Gwaii is particularly difficult in this regard, with Gowgaia Bay and Tasu Sound two examples of places where gusty winds come down off the mountains.

I can attest that the above is also true, but in the reverse, when strong SW’ers blow.  For us, these gusty winds meant sustained winds of 25 kts, with gusts to 46, or almost double the sustained speed.  The worst winds were during daylight and our situation was very secure, so we relaxed and enjoyed the spectacle.  Thank goodness for good anchors!

 


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Georgia Strait

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Aside from losing our steering in Choked Passage on the west coast of Vancouver Island, our scariest moments have all been in Georgia Strait.  But then, it is our proving ground and we take more risks there than elsewhere.  We’ll go out in Georgia Strait in pretty much any forecast and often go a few days between listening to the weather.  As a result, we’ve img_1112been spanked a few times, but we also feel that we are better sailors because of these lessons.  Outside of Georgia Strait, we are quite a bit more conservative – we pay close attention to the weather and pick times that we feel are within our comfort zone.  The experience in poor conditions in Georgia Strait has served to make our comfort zone bigger, and has given us some confidence that we can handle tougher conditions if we pick our times poorly.

Our scariest moment has to be on a passage from Smuggler’s Cove on the Sunshine Coast to Silva Bay on Gabriola Island in a late summer SE gale in 2009.  We’ve run with a gale many times, and have mostly found it to be fun if managed properly.  On this passage, we decided to go out and see what beating into one was like.

We motored down Welcome Passage very slowly, repeatedly burying the bow into the next wave and anticipating the moment that we could bear off and actually sail.  We’d tried (and failed) going around the north end of Thormanby the day before in similar conditions and decided that it was worth the tough motor south to get a better angle across the strait.

Eventually, we arrived at the passage between Merry Island and Thormanby Island, and decided to sail from there.   Based on our misadventures the day before, we pulled out only our blade (90%) and bore off.  After the brutality of the motor, the smooth motion of the boat under sail was a huge relief, and we all had smiles as she picked up speed and started over the waves at a pleasant 6 kts.  The bliss was short-lived.  Just as we were leaving the pass and entering the strait proper, an enormous wave reared.  I called for all hands to take cover under the dodger as the boat rose up the face of the wave and then fell off the top.  It was only the first of a series and the boat was still going down as the next wave rose up in front of us; the only way for us to go was through it.  I’m not sure how much green water came over the deck, but it looked like a wall and I got soaked despite my foulies.  Luckily, nothing broke, and the rest of the crew stayed mostly dry.   Of course there was a third in the series, but we were able to rise to it as we had to the first.

The rest of the sail was completely uneventful.  By half way across we had the main up too.  Eventually we even had to tack back eastwards as the wind on the west side of the strait was light.  Nonetheless, it was difficult to relax – its hard to describe what went through my head as that wall of water washed over the boat, but it left me uneasy for the rest of the day and still leaves a vivid image in my mind.  Now, we always tell people that we enjoy running in strong winds, but will never intentionally beat into 35kts again; once was enough.

Georgia Strait Summer Weather

Summer gales aren’t common, but strong winds are.   Our observation is that these are not based on the time of day nearly as much as they are in other locations such as Juan de Fuca Strait.  However, as I mention in my story, they can be highly localized; it is quite normal to have strong winds at Entrance Island and no wind at Merry Island (or the reverse).  NW winds seem to be strongest between Sisters Island and Entrance Island, probably due to the funnel that Texada and Vancouver Island create in this area; SE winds can be strong anywhere, but are often nasty farther south.  Fortunately, the strait is blessed with many reporting stations, and it is very easy to determine current conditions.  If you have access to the internet, it is also possible to get data for the previous 24 hours on Environment Canada’s website.  If you’ve been monitoring weather, this is a powerful tool as not only does it allow you to see trends, it also allows you to see any anomalies in the forecast.

Our experience is that the forecasts are fairly accurate, but almost always overstate the wind.  Of course, this is only true if they haven’t understated it; you take your chances betting on Environment Canada being conservative with their wind forecast.  Another thing  to remember is that the forecast is for the strongest wind in the forecast area over the forecast period, which is not necessarily the part of the strait you are planning to transit.  We’ve also noted that strong summertime SE winds usually don’t last for more than a day, and while NW’ers can and do set in for prolonged periods when the weather is warm, this isn’t the norm either.

Lastly, Georgia Strait is not really that big.  Given a good window, most boats are rarely more than 2 or 3 hours from shelter, and usually far closer.  In addition, there are lots of places to stop in most areas of the strait, many of which are worthy of being destinations in their own right.  So, enjoy the strait and all it has to offer – we are lucky to have such a beautiful body of water in which to learn our craft right on our doorstep.

Whiskey Golf

Whiskey golf is an annoying military area right on the rhumb line between Nanaimo and Pender Harbour, and is marked on all Canadian charts of the region.  It is used by the Navies of a few countries, predominately Canada and the USA, to test fire torpedoes.  If you enter it while it is active, not only will you be putting your vessel at risk of being torpedoed (they’re not armed with explosives, but that’s probably academic for most of us), you will earn the wrath of the military and be the day’s entertainment for all those listening on VHF 16.  To avoid all of this unpleasantness, simply monitor the VHF weather channels – they will tell you if area WG is open or closed.  You can also try VHF 10 to talk directly to Winchelsea Control.  Unfortunately, it is hard to make plans for transiting this area in advance as they don’t usually broadcast future usage dates.  We try to transit the area on a weekend – while this is no guarantee, the Navy seems to like days off as much as the rest of us, especially Sundays.