With the world gripped in a second year of a pandemic there was no escaping the changes to daily life this rained down on everyone in 2021. I’m fortunate in many ways that I only have first world problems to manage. I did very little sailing in 2021 mostly because there wasn’t anywhere I could go; that I wanted to go might be more accurate.
I decided that with borders closed and local cruising grounds often overrun by boaters with limited options, 2021 was a good time to finally tackle a long overdue refit of the mast. It turned out that I was not alone.
This mast project turned out to be the most difficult and problematic one I’ve done yet. What went wrong? Almost everything. It’s hard to relive it by retelling. From contributing to a failed personal relationship, to thousands in extra costs because of pandemic supplier delays, bad weather, rushed work, competing mast projects, a back injury, and more, this one is now #1 on my list of Murphy’s What Can Go Wrong Will.
The mast is now finally back in the boat but not without a fair amount of pain and suffering (of the first world kind). While the rigging was being stripped off the mast to allow it to be painted we discovered a few issues that needed attention. This lead to my deciding to replace the standing rigging to fix the issues and get onto the newest version of the rod fittings. Unfortunately this resulted in an unforeseen 8 week delay waiting for parts to come from Europe. Add $2,000 for mast storage to the yard bill. The company I hired to paint the mast had quality control issues and mast had to be painted twice. By now La Nina is in full swing and the weather is just plain awful but my boat got its Christmas present. I started the project in September thinking it would take two weeks. Ha.
It will be another month or two into 2022 before the rest of the rigging can be completed as the weather is still awful. However, the mast looks great and is corrosion free and should out live me. The masthead has been redone with a new light, repositioned wind sensor and remounted VHF antenna. There is all new wiring and a spiffy new combo steaming light and deck light combo. The boom also got a lot of attention with a focus on a reworked gooseneck. Overall, things are looking good and like all projects gone bad, they don’t look quite so bad once you get it all buttoned up. Maybe 2022 will be a bit nicer for everyone.
Fortunately boating/cruising is one of the things we can safely do in the year of COVID-19. This is actually our second trip of the summer. We spent the 4th of July watching homeowner fireworks in Liberty Bay near Poulsbo, WA. It was a good first outing of the year. Because the Canadian boarder is closed, and likely to remain so for the cruising season, we’re going to keep it local this year. The trip to Port Ludlow in early August was a great 3 day weekend. We anchored out away from the cluster of other boats, only moving in closer on Monday after most everyone cleared out. We dinghy’d in to take advantage of the abundant number of walking trails in and around the harbor. Everyone was good about wearing masks and we “masked up” whenever we met someone on a trail. This is a popular stop of cruisers for a reason. Just far enough away from Seattle to feel rural and it offers lots of quiet on shore hiking, kayaking around the harbor in protected waters and a fuel dock if you need to top off. Need to take more pics next time.
This past summer I had the pleasure of spending two weeks sharing the PNW cruising grounds with someone very special. It was a truly memorable experience for both of us. Despite it being about the wettest two weeks in September we made the most of our time in both the San Juan Islands and the Southern Gulf Islands. We sat out the rainy, windy days, at anchor reading, cooking, or playing cribbage. I should say, me getting tromped at cribbage but having fun all the same. We visited a few of my favorite places and some new ones where we found many places uncrowded. With it being past the start of most school sessions, and Fall on its way, the crowds were definitely thinned. Next year maybe we’ll get a bit further out to see some new territory; Desolation Sound or maybe Barkley Sound. Here are a few pictures.
This is #5 for Kinetics. Not our best result. In fact, it might be the lowest overall result for us despite making almost no mistakes. The winds were very light both days and that’s not good for the Nordic 44. We pushed hard all day. On Sunday we made so many sail changes we lost count. We exchanged places with Sir Issac a few times and thought we might finally finish ahead but they slipped past on the final beat home to the finish into Lydia Shoal. Those with a longer history might have a different perspective but for me the winds have continued to be lighter every year with more and more shutdowns along the course. This plays well for the lighter boats that accelerate more quickly from a dead stop and carry feather light kites.
Still, when it’s not pouring down rain, the scenery is great. The stop over in Roche where we rent a nice house, cook great food, sit around the fireplace, and relax, also makes for great memories.
Another year, another RYH event with Sloop Tavern Yacht Club here in Seattle. We used this year’s race as a practice and warm up for the upcoming Round the County race in the San Juan Islands the following weekend. It was good we did. There is always that familiarization that that needs to take place after not being on the boat for a few months. Conditions were quite nice for November in the Northwest. The course took us across the Sound, and there the wind died, and at that mark and we made a tactical error. I should say, I did, which cost us time and let our competition get by us. The wind went from North to East in that rounding and having an A2 running kite up was not the best plan. We recovered and put the A2 up later in the leg more towards the East side before another upwind leg and final downwind leg to the finish. We managed to eek out a 2nd in class on rating. Fun day, and the competition in our class was good.
I’m positive 7 months have never seemed to go so quickly before. However, looking back on the first half of 2019 a lot happened and the majority of it was very good. Kinetics and crew participated in some good racing and we enjoyed the company of some new crew, making new friends in the process. We had to skip a couple of favorite races when schedules proved difficult but quality is preferred over quantity. Here are a few pictures (not enough, sorry) from some of these adventures. More to come later in the year as we look forward to some cruising and of course Round the County in November.
Every year Round the County delivers one of the best racing experiences in the Pacific Northwest. The weather in November almost guarantees some challenging conditions. Combine that with the amazing geography of the San Juan Islands and you have all the ingredients for some great fun sorting out tactics and strategy. This year the weather was dominated by mild, light wind conditions so knowing when and where to stay out of the current was the key to doing well. It also generally favored the lighter boats that accelerate quickly in light, puffy conditions. On Kinetics we had some new and veteran crew ready to do our best with the mighty beast.
We failed to stay out of the current enough on Saturday fearing a lack of wind under the lee of Lopez Island after a late start. That put us way down in our division 3 which was dominated by the J105’s that day. The wind was a bit too light to get the big Nordic 44 moving well. On the plus side, we finished and the weather was really nice with sailing in water with almost no chop or swell of any kind.
After an excellent start on Sunday, hitting line within seconds of the horn, we sailed out to Turn Point on Stuart Island where the entire fleet went about trying to find the best way around in an adverse current and light wind. Ultimately it was decided to short tack around the point. Others went way outside in what looked like a visit to Canada. Amazingly, the cross border people did OK and for the boat Sir Issac, it was a brilliant move putting them way out front. That boat has a lot of sail area!
The next few hours of the day were spent struggling to stay out of wind holes that seemed to land on us from out of nowhere. A lot of boats went south after Waldron Island and others stayed out in the channel. There was current in the channel and without enough wind to keep us moving we fell behind. Soon it was looking bleak for us. We went from good to awful. But maybe not as bad as the ones that got 5 horns from the container ship!
However, never give up in a sailboat race as you never know what the winds have in store. As we approached the turn around the east end of Orcas Island the wind started to build and we were soon gybing downwind with the A2 at a decent pace. We picked off a few boats in the process. The big surprise was when we passed the Peapods and saw the majority of the fleet parked up short of the finish in zero wind! Kinetics was riding a wall of wind, at times 15 knots or more, right down to them. It was hard to believe. I had trouble figuring out what they were all doing as boats were trying to get to the finish line from the north and the south but almost no one was going right at the line. Time Bandit came up to us from astern and was soon really the only boat close. Time Bandit being a very successful team from many previous races was probably wondering why we were in their way!
We hooked up with them, letting them go below to lead the gybe in (although I grumbled a bit about the timing). The two of us rode the wind right up to about 100 feet short of the line where the wind died. Our momentum carried us across the line in front of what I suspect were some very surprised crews. Unbelievable finish. Lucky? I guess so but we worked hard to get to that spot that got us over the line and we had our own bad luck on the way there. Some days it goes your way.
Many thanks to my crew this year who persevered and helped make this RTC one of the most memorable. Thanks, Ann, Dave, Jeff, Jenn, Mike, Sara and Tim. Below are links to more photos.
A fun new addition to my post is Jeff’s YouTube 360 video with our start and finish. Use your mouse to view the action in any direction!
Checked into the Van Isle Marina just north of Sydney in Tsehum Harbor. Very nice marina and a super helpful staff at the fuel dock. Took a short walk around and the facilities are first class. I’m tucked in between boats that look rather expensive. I’m hoping the behemoth of a power boat across the dock gives up the only water spigot in sight so I can fill my tanks. That thing must hold a few thousand gallons of water! They probably have a hot tub and shower twice a day.
Unfortunately I have determined my beleaguered raw water pump is now leaking at the shaft seal and I don’t dare take it apart again without another to replace it. Summer Canadian cruise over. I will start the trek home in the morning. Between boat issues and the wildfires with all their smoke I think it is time. It was a good run considering I almost had to turn back before I had hardly started. I will have to visit Butchart Gardens another time.
August 15, 2018
Six days since I had cell service good enough to upload photos and update this post. The big news is the fires in BC and all the smoke. The past few days have been progressively getting worse. At first it looked like just haze but that orange tint was telling. Today is slightly better but after a hike around Sydney Island’s Sydney Spit park I could feel it in my lungs. The forecast is for some improvement by week’s end but then more of the same next week. I’m seriously considering calling it quits early and heading home. The fires are all over BC and I suspect it could be weeks before it gets any better. I will make a stop at Butchart Gardens on Friday and see what it looks like for the weekend.
Since the last update I’ve been to Clam Bay which would have been nice but the weather was cool, cloudy and the smoke was moving in. Just wasn’t feeling that good so moved on quickly. My cruising buddies, Dan and Irene were heading for Montague Harbor for some margaritas so that sounded good. It was nice but again the smoke, weather and crowds didn’t resonate. Moving again we headed over to Ganges to stock up on supplies and I wanted to see the town. I like Ganges as a place to stop and resupply. Easy access to food, stores and so forth. The fuel dock looked like a no go for me so I passed on fueling up. The smoke was getting really bad so after catching the Farmer’s Market on Tuesday afternoon which was the best one I have been to in a long time we pulled anchor the next day.
I want to see Butchart Gardens while I am up here and you can do that by anchoring out near one of their entrances and going ashore in the dinghy. Dan and Irene wanted to stop at Sydney Island so I figured I would see that with them and go to the Gardens after that as they are heading back to the US. It has been really fun hopping around the islands with them. We went to some places they have never been and they showed me the ins and outs of cruising this part of Canada.
Have not been to inspired to take photos because of all the smoke but here are some from the past few days.
August 9, 2018
Here in Nanaimo with cell service so I can upload some pics from the last stop at Valdes Island Marine Park. I met up with Irene and Dan there where we slipped through Gabriola Pass and into Dogfish Cove between Valdes and Kendrick Island (it’s tiny and claimed by the West Vancouver Yacht Club). Very pretty spot and room for just a few boats. The marine park is the northern end of Valdes Island and undeveloped but there are some existing roads to walk. It was nice and a first time visit for all of us and then we were off to Hornby Island the next day, a 5 hour trip north.
Hornby Island. A cool spot to visit and as far north as I will go this year. It is very popular and we estimated at solid 60 boats in Tribune Bay one evening. It is a large bay and during the day the big sandy beach is buzzing with Canadians and other tourists here to enjoy one of the best beaches for swimming (water was 72) in BC. The Island has a hippy vibe. A campground nearby plus all the boaters makes this a great place for families. This week has been a hot one. It seems we’re in a heat wave here in the PNW and it sure feels hot, even on the water. The only negative for me here is the mosquitos found me. I visited the little co-op, which is well stocked, and bought some window screen to fashion temporary bug screens on my ports and hatches. Since I got mega zapped in Mexico I seem to be sensitive to the bites and swell up nicely!
The stay here in Nanaimo will be brief. Too many boats in too little space. Too noisy. Too smelly. Anchoring in crowded bays with boats of various sizes and different anchoring hardware is a bit too much work. I always seem to, despite trying, fail to get it right when I have to crowd in. My all chain setup and boat often end up sliding up next to some small boat on all rope requiring me to pick and move. We’re out of here. The Dinghy Dock Pub music trivia night was a riot though. Here are a couple pics from Valdes Island.
August 4, 2018
Ladysmith Days! It was parade day in Ladysmith so I hiked up to town to see the sights and watch a parade. I walked First Street for the better part of the historic portion and then some. Some well preserved early 1900’s buildings in use by businesses was nice to see with a few waiting for someone to find a new use for them. This reminded me a lot of Winslow on Bainbridge Island and the parades they have there each year featuring a lot of community spirit. I had a nice conversation with a gentleman that works for the Maritime Society and he provided some interesting local color. I found a cool used book store and picked up a copy of How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone for $2 Canadian. I even found a nice crepe and coffee shop for lunch on my way back to the marina. I’m glad I stopped here. Nice marina, interesting town with a good deal of hitstory built on the labor of natural resource extraction and processing.
August 3, 2018
Finally have some cell service here in Ladysmith, B.C. so this is a long post. Stopping over in the Ladysmith Community Marina for a couple nights to resupply, charge the batteries, put a bigger hole in the raw water intake screen, do some laundry and see the sights. This town is an active logging center here on Vancouver Island. Tomorrow I will hike (up the hill) into town which is supposed to be frozen quite a few decades in the past. Photos to come on that. Turns out they are having a 3 day celebration with parades, music and more this weekend. I was lucky to get a slip. The marina is nice with all the amenities in good repair, clean and close. The Oyster Bay cafe served up a tasty veggie wrap. The two washer and two dryer laundry room was also very clean and I won’t have to wash things in the sink for a few weeks.
The nearby hardware store provided me with a 12″ long 3/8″ drill that I used to pop a big hole in the perforated plate that was clearly limiting my engine raw water intake flow. Just adding that 3/8″ hole turned the flow from a anemic burble to an enthusiastic gusher! Fingers crossed this may also solve my long running, mysterious steaming exhaust output. It looked like the previous flow was not enough to keep up with the demand of the water pump which might have caused the exhaust to be getting too hot and generate steam. I won’t know until I am able to run the engine at cruise under load.
Now backing up a few days, on leaving Spencer Spit things got interesting in a bad way. That day was one that might have ended my trip if not for some very good fortune and help from the best neighbors ever.
Within the first 30 minutes of departure I noticed my charging system did not seem to be working. With my battery bank already low from days at anchor this was not good. I made a quick stop in the next bay to have a look. I tried the backup regulator with no success. Clearly no amps going into the batteries. My intention was to go to Friday Harbor and hopefully get a slip or dock space that day anyway. Off I went. Within 10 minutes I hit a 10 foot floating log. All indications are the only damage was to my mental state. At some point I sent a text message to my neighbors Dan and Irene. They were already in the San Juan Islands but the important part is that Dan is a retired marine electrician. A really good one. They encouraged me to make my stop at Friday Harbor and just continue on to meet them at Stuart Island and let Dan diagnose the problem. He felt confident we could sort it out.
After finding Friday Harbor to be a madhouse of boats all looking for space I did a quick anchor out (after going aground momentarily while trying to find a spot!). I took the dinghy in and walked up to the store for what I needed (almost everything) and returned to a disgruntled fellow boater I had anchor too close to. Sorry about that. Up anchor and out of that zoo!
I reached Stuart Island, a favorite of mine from a previous trip, at the same time as Dan and Irene. We sorted our anchoring out and had a beer to unwind. With the engine cooled down Dan came over and he checked things over and confirmed that the alternator was not producing any output. Dang.
Hang on. His next suggestion is that I pull it off and we tear it apart on his back deck! Sure, why not. Irene made a great meal for us all and then I learned at lot in a couple hours about how these things work. It is one thing to read about it but much better to actually tear them apart and see it for real. Turns out the brushes, as he suspected were the problem. One was so worn it has come out of the holder and was no longer making full contact with the armature. An hour of tweaking, careful sanding and reassembly and I was back on my boat putting it all back together hoping this might get it working. If not, getting a replacement alternator was going to put me into a marina for several days waiting for one to be delivered to an island via float plane.
Started the engine up and bam, it worked. The output was still not 100% but it was charging at least and I was now at least not going to be dead flat in a day or so. Dan is the man.
The next day we get together and talk about what to do next. I’m prepared to figure out how to get a new one sent ahead somewhere that I can pick it up. However, Dan has a very generous offer to keep me going until I get back to Seattle. He happens to have a backup alternator, a spare, on board that he is willing to donate the brushes from. With new brushes I should be good to go until I can have mine rebuilt at home. Their boat has a killer solar system and they rarely need engine charging. He assures me even if he needs the spare he can borrow parts from the failed one to get the spare running and I tell him I will fly in parts wherever he needs them if that happens. What a relief it is to not have to head back or deal with ordering something and all the hassle. THANK YOU Dan and Irene!
Dan and Irene’s friends Axel and Daphne arrive at Stuart the next day and we all have a great time. The hike to the Turn Point Lighthouse is always nice.
Next stop we all agree is Canada! Deciding it would be fun to go to Montague Harbor as a group we depart together on 7/31. They go via Bedwell to check in to Customs and I use my CanPass and go direct.
Montague Harbor is on Galiano Island (named after a surveyor and map maker). It is a picturesque place with room for a lot of boats and a campground at the north end of the harbor. It is best known by boaters for its Pub Bus which takes people up the hill to a nice restaurant. The bus is driven by Tommy and he is the entertainment playing percussion with one hand and steering with the other. Everyone on the bust gets some kind of percussion instrument to play along with a stream of tunes on 15 minute ride. It was a blast and our bus was full. Not surprising as the harbor was equally full. The unexpected SE winds had driven in a lot of people looking for refuge.
I have a lot of pictures accumulating but the internet is still a bit slow so I will only be able to load a few now and hope I can add some later.
July 27, 2108
After a few very nice days in Hunter Bay I decided it was time to move on. I had no luck crabbing. Everything I pulled up was undersized. In a way, I was relieved by not having to kill and clean them. I am growing more conflicted about eating animals of any kind. The pressure we put on the fishery is too great I fear. This picture of Hunter Bay looks like so many other bays but it is a nice place for just stopping and relaxing I think. The only negative here is the water is muddy despite its blue appearance here.
I wanted to see Spencer Spit which is just a few miles North. I have. A bit crowded, as I expected, and the anchorage is rolly from all the power boat wakes. I went ashore to get some exercise and took a few snaps. The water on the North side of the Spit is clear as you can see in the first image below. The water on the South side is muddy and brown like it was in Hunter Bay. The last image in this set is the salt marsh on the Spit.
I’m ready to move on in the morning when the fog lifts.
July 25, 2018
Finally out of Port Townsend hanging off the hook in a quiet bay on Lopez Island in the southern end of Lopez Sound. The weather is about as perfect as it gets. I’m settling into not having an agenda. No plans. No timetable. Reading, listening to music, fixing some nice food and doing a little boat work. Yep. I actually started painting some of the non-skid today. I wanted to do it before I left but the anchor windlass project took all my time. With the perfect weather and no agenda it is the ideal time to spend an hour or two each day working my way around the boat. The first two sections look great.
Being out on the water away from the city is an amazingly wonderful feeling. We really need to take radically better care of this planet.
Uploading photos is slow using the intermittent cell phone service but here are few more from earlier in the week.
July 22, 2018
With a gap in project work and a spectacular Northwest Summer staring me in the face I saw no better time than to take off in the boat for the San Juan and Gulf Islands until I get bored or there is work. After installing a new windlass (not planned of course) I made my departure on July 20th under sunny skies, perfect weather and a favorable tide. Within a few hours I was anchored off the waterfront of Port Townsend, WA. Lot’s to like about this town and it is a great stopover for timing the crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Despite what I think is careful maintenance of Kinetics I have failed somewhere in the engine department. I find myself stranded and waiting for a water pump impeller to arrive on Monday. Sadly, I never noticed the spare that came with the boat was oh so deceptively wrong and failed to save the day. I must have missed changing the impeller on schedule and the existing one has become feeble. That or I haven’t found the root cause of the anemic water flow I see exiting the stern despite pulling almost every hose off the cooling system. Boat mysteries are something I have now come to accept. They just are.
So in the meantime I enjoy the beautiful weather, read, relax and take a few pictures. I am finally getting around to reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the driving force behind the company Patagonia. I like it and recommend it. We need more companies like Patagonia before it’s too late.
On a whim I entered the boat into the 2018 Race to the Straits (there is only one Strait) but whatever. It is a NW classic now with a cap at 125 boats. After last week’s rainy, windless bust of a race to Smith Island I figured what the heck. With bowman Tim on as crew the weather was way better but typically PNW being all over the place, not to forecast day one and a near drifter on Sunday. Still we had a great time albeit with some disappointing moments that were all our fault. I think that is what keeps us coming back despite the level of effort required to sail a 44 foot, 24,000 pound boat with just two people.
Day one we managed 4th place in class 11 despite some screw ups on my part. Day two we sailed a hard race downwind in light air with barely enough wind to keep big old Kinetics moving. Sadly I failed to get our halfway time in before the 8pm deadline so instead of a second place in class 11 on Sunday we were dead last! Rules is rules. We really enjoyed trading places with the awesome Sir Issac all day. That boat must be just as much work to sail with two people. Here are a few pics from the two days. Mostly other people’s boats. [results changed Tuesday morning and our 12:59 halfway time would have put us in second not first on Sunday].