So…it has been awhile since we last posted but we do have a good excuse!! After spending a week with family and our niece in the interior of British Columbia, we came back to Blue Tale and continued to work on her to get her ready for sailing. Just after Canada Day, we decided enough is enough, got some supplies from the stores and set out sailing. At that point we decided that no matter how hard we try, there would always be a project that needed to be worked on giving the excuse that we would have to delay our departure and stay at the dock! The last two weeks of sailing, in reality, was a shake down cruise to see what additional projects would need to be completed on the boat to make her safe for long term sailing and what equipment we needed to invest in if we want to go further afield with the sailboat.
Well, it worked out well or not so well depending on how you look at it! We sailed for about six days around the Gulf Islands from Cowichan Bay, to Poets Cove in Bedwell Harbour, Montague Harbour and then to Clam Bay before shorting out our electrical system.
We decided to sail from Clam Bay to Nanaimo as Nanaimo was the nearest major centre to Clam Bay and also has a good selection of marinas and boatyards that could look at our electrical system. Unfortunately, we ended up staying longer than we both would have liked at the Nanaimo Port Authority while the boatyard, Stones Marina & Boatyard, fixed our electrical system. The Nanaimo Port Authority is a great place to stay, if you have to. It is central to Nanaimo, close to a few coffee shops, the grocery store, liquor store and most importantly, The Harbour Chandler Ltd. We can’t say enough good things about the Harbour Chandler, not only is it one of Rob’s favourite marine stores now, but the staff are excellent and also very, very, very helpful!! While we waited for our electrical system to be fixed, we approached Harbour Chandler about issues we have been having with some of our newly acquired navigational equipment. We’ve had problems with our chartplotter (Lowrance HDS7 (Gen 1)) and our VHF radio (Standard Horizon, Matrix AIS/GPS 2200), both brand new, the chartplotter a year old and the VHF radio two weeks old. No matter what we did or tried, we could not get the two units to ‘talk to each other‘. We spoke to several people about it including the technical staff for both companies and they could not tell us why the units were not communicating or working properly. When we approached one of owners (Denise) at the Harbour Chandler about it, she didn’t even hesitate and had her son Mike (he’s got lots of install experience) come to the boat to see if he could have a go at it even though we did not buy the equipment from them. In the end, both units were faulty (go figure?!?). As mentioned earlier, even though we did not buy the original units from The Harbour Chandler, they replaced both units for us with no problem as they are dealers for both of the products and we ended up with a newer chartplotter (Lowrance HDS 7 Gen2) and only had to pay about $300 for the replacement of these two units. Now that’s what we call service!!!!
The electrical work took about two days and in the end the house batteries were replaced (we have 4 new 6V-Trojan house batteries), some wiring was replaced due to bad corrosion (1977’s wiring) and the inverter was also fixed. We still have a lot of wires that are not connected behind the inverter box and in the engine room and are not sure what they are connected to or if they are even needed. This happens when you have an older boat; many people have worked on it and the history of the upgrades are not well documented. We will eventually have to follow many of these wires to their sources but for now they are covered in electrical tape.
We left Nanaimo on July 12th and headed slowly back to Cowichan Bay as we needed to pick up some parts for the manual bilge pump (Whale Gusher 30) that has not been fixed yet and is an important safety equipment if our electrical bilge pump goes. The last time we ordered the parts for the bilge pump, it took 6 months to arrive, from Ireland!!. Hopefully, it won’t take as long this time!!
We sailed from Nanaimo to Silva Bay and then on to Prevost Island before making it home. Overall, the sailing was great! I would say that we sailed 50% of the time and motored 50% of the time. That is the luck of the draw when the winds are ‘variable’ around the islands. We were able to get the boat sailing up to 6 knots a few times and heeling to almost 20 degrees, but generally we only averaged 4 knots. This area is also a good place to learn navigation and anchoring as we needed to factor in tide changes and currents when sailing, going through narrow passages and anchoring. We did have one interesting anchoring experience that happened to us in Clam Bay of all places. We needed to leave early and at a reasonable time from Clam Bay to get through Dodd Narrows to Nanaimo to ensure we went through the narrows during slack time (when the current is at its minimum). Dodd Narrows is a 60 metre wide narrow passage between Vancouver Island and De Courcy Islands that can have currents up to 9 knots with strong whirlpools. As we were retreiving our anchor (using our manual windlass just to point that out), we discovered that our anchor chain wrapped and twisted itself around a deadhead log about 18 feet long and 20 inches round. Rob came up with an ingenious method to unwrap the log;
- Rob got into our dingy and took along our Mantus chain bridle/snubber.
- Sophia brought the log to about 2 feet below the surface (lots of strain) using the manual windlass while Rob attached the hook from the bridle to the chain in between the log and anchor.
- The bridle was then brought back to the drum on the windless and the strain on the chain was shifted allowing the chain to relax and open up. This allowed the log to slide out and back to the murky depths of Clam Bay along with whatever creatures where attached to the log. Rob thought these sea creatures looked like they could latch on and suck you face off, kinda gross; Sophia, being more rational thought they were Sea Anemones but she was not willing to touch them either!
We later found out from a older Australian couple that Clam Bay and numerous other bays/coves, etc. in BC were holding areas for log booms; lots of sunken logs to chose from.
During our sailing time, we also had the misfortune to go over a crap pod while the engine was running after leaving Silva Bay; those things are everywhere!! Fortunately, it just missed the shaft and there was no problem! Another ‘misfortune’ we encountered was on our last night before heading home – we were setting the anchor in Glenthorne Passage in the southern part of Prevost Island when we were reversing to make sure the anchor was set when the engine suddenly died and we realized that the painter (tow line) from the dinghy became wrapped around our shaft. Luckily the anchor was down and holding, but Rob still had to go over the side into the water to undo the wrapping. Luckily and I stress luckily, the painter only wrapped around the shaft once and after Rob un-cleated the boat end, the line just slid off as Rob pulled on it (no knife needed!!) and there didn’t appear to be any damage to the shaft. Rob has admitted that it is his fault as he usually (religiously) shorten the painter when coming into harbours/anchorages. We were able to start the motor up with no problem and could than set the anchor properly. That did not make it for a restful night, unfortunately. We were concerned that we did not have the anchor set properly; Glenthorne Passage is a narrow passage about 100 feet wide and we were anchored right in the middle between several boats and were not able to put out our full 4:1 scope, so we were checking the anchor several times that night!
In the end, the sailing provided us with a new/revised list of things we would like to fix on the boat to make her more manageable, easier to sail and safe for both of us. Now on the top of our list is replacing the manual windlass with an electrical one. The manual windlass is not difficult to use and we would not have moved it up on our wishlist but after almost loosing a few fingers, we have decided that for safety reasons we would need to replace it sooner than later. Few other things we would like to replace or install are the bowsprit, water tanks, solar panels and a new stern pulpit. Sigh, but we’re still smiling and having fun!! ~ Sophia and Rob