disengage.ca a quest for the technomadic lifestyle

8Oct/123

Catching Up, Part 2: Boatyard

Round two of this set of blog updates, this is the chapter I like to refer to as "Dust, Pain and Exhaustion: Oh God, Not Another Boatyard", or perhaps "How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part Four". It was a couple of months of hard labour in unpleasant working conditions, but we got through it and have a stronger, faster, more capable boat as a result.

 

first time hauling out on a trailer

first time hauling out on a trailer

We hauled out at 'Talleres Navales Bercovich', under the supervision of the main boss, Abel. That's not Abel on the trailer - that's Mark, or 'Tarzan', who was a great deal of help to us tracking down materials and figuring out random problems.

 

you're going to back us through that?!

you're going to back us through that?!

The guys in the boatyard were extremely capable with their equipment, and managed to back us through about a hundred meters of very, very cramped quarters between many other boats being stored for the summer months.

 

we must have hit the rocks at some point

we must have hit the rocks at some point

Once we had the bottom powerwashed and the boat blocked, we got started - clearly we had hit the bottom at some point. Whether it was dragging anchor in Tsehum Harbour in Sidney BC, or maybe when we dragged anchor in the A9 anchorage in San Diego, at some point we tore a bunch of fiberglass off the bottom of the rudder and the skeg on which it was hung. Time to grind it out and patch it over with new glass.

 

Miya grinding fiberglass in the sun

Miya grinding fiberglass in the sun

Miya took on the topsides as her main project - there were dozens of places where the 25-year-old fiberglass had cracked from expansion or been worn through or damaged, and each of those spots would have to be ground out, fiberglassed, sanded, faired, sanded, primed and painted.

 

building the base for the new forward hatch

building the base for the new forward hatch

We picked up a very nice new bathroom hatch at Second Wave, a used-sailing-gear store in Seattle, but I had never yet had the chance to properly install it. The old hatch coping had to be cut away, and a new lip had to be fabricated approximately one inch smaller than the old one, and then the whole thing would need fiberglassing for waterproofedness. This was a task I had been looking forward to for over a year!

 

you should really click this photo

you should really click this photo

Working in a boatyard quickly drops your standards - at the end of a day of grinding fiberglass a shower is critical, but this is what we had to look forward to... two inches of stagnant water and a large dead cockroach. If you were lucky you got to the showers before the sun went down - as soon as the site cooled off, the mosquitoes would descend in a cloud!

 

Miya laying up fiberglass patches

Miya laying up fiberglass patches

Miya continued to work on fiberglass patches, while I worked on structural patches on the hull. We had to make several trips to the marine store for more epoxy resin - we went through three large gallon-sized tins of resin (and accompanying tins of hardener), each costing about $180 USD.

 

fixing bubbles and blisters under the waterline

fixing bubbles and blisters under the waterline

You can barely make me out in this photo, but I'm working away under the port wing, patching ground-out blisters and bubbles in the hull fiberglass. The garden is still going strong at this point; you can clearly see the carrots growing out the rear window.

 

the rudder, removed for repairs

the rudder, removed for repairs

Eventually I realized that the rudder had more damage than previously thought, and it made a lot more sense to remove it to work on it. It also made sense to spend time overdrilling all the previous mounting holes, filling them with epoxy, and re-drilling them, giving the hard-working rudder a much stronger connection to the fitting hardware.

 

the damaged swing-keel

the damaged swing-keel

The swing-keel on a Searunner trimaran is simultaneously one of the best and worst features of the boat. It's the best feature, because it allows us to float happily in one meter of water, but if the keel gets damaged it's a real hassle to pull it out to repair it. The binnacle (the pedestal the steering wheel is mounted on) has to be completely removed, which means disconnecting the steering, the engine controls and a bunch of wires.. and then you have to drag the filthy thing up across the decks and lower it to the ground for repair. Our keel, being waterlogged from breaks in the fiberglass, weighed about 200kg!

 

our boatyard friend Doug

our boatyard friend Doug

The boatyard was apparently quite quiet while we were in residence, though there were a few longtime denizens to spend time with - shown here is Doug from Snug Harbour Sails, a salty old sailor who would come visit with us regularly and made the time in the boatyard markedly more bearable.

This photo was also taken shortly after the sun drove me a little bit nuts, and haircut one of two occurred... Miya helped, but mostly it was me sitting under the boat with the clippers removing the bulky weight of hair that was nothing but a liability in the yard.

 

grinding pointy nails off the ceiling

grinding pointy nails off the ceiling

Project after project slowly got done. For instance, those pointy nails in the ceiling of the bathroom, the ones that punctured both Miya and my head on numerous occasions? TERMINATED.

 

whoops, another bit of rock damage found

whoops, another bit of rock damage found

The more time you spend looking at the bottom of a boat like the TIE Fighter, the more damage you realize you have to repair. Looks like another bit of rock-rash here that'll need to be ground out and fiberglassed.

 

the end of another long, hot day

the end of another long, hot day

At the end of eight-to-ten hours of hard labour, punctuated by the occasional break to jump in the nearby ocean to cool down, there's very little that can be done besides crashing hard. In this photo you can also see the ill-fated broccoli plant on the right side of the garden, attempting to take over the rear cabin... we never did get any broccoli crowns from that plant.

 

Miya planning our next destination on our day out

Miya planning our next destination on our day out

At some point we realized that if we wanted to continue being sane, rational humans, we'd need to take a break from all this work. We packed up our things and took a shuttle bus back into La Paz, where we spent the day wandering and doing our best tourist impressions, much to the delight of the locals. Many margueritas later, we stumbled back into the boatyard.

 

cutting big holes in the deck

cutting big holes in the deck

During our time away, we paid a visit to Sea Otter Jimmy, a local with the same make and model boat as ours (though in MUCH better shape!). Jimmy's boat, s/v Sea Otter, had four more deck hatches than ours, giving him a tonne more wet-storage space for line, cleaning supplies, beach toys or whatever. We were jealous, so we took a bunch of measurements and decided to cut hatches into the TIE Fighter.

My tan is getting deeper and deeper...

 

a tiny sample of our nightly guests

a tiny sample of our nightly guests

The mosquitoes in the boatyard were TERRIBLE - and the TIE Fighter, having no sealing hatches (not that you'd want them anyway, the boat would become a sauna), was the idea place for them to congregate. Miya visited the fabric store and returned with this sheer fabric, which she made a series of overlapping mosquito screens with, hot-glueing them to the walls of the cabin around the opening to our berth. Several iterations later, we finally had our first good night of sleep.

This photo is just the ones we found dead at the bottom of the mesh at the end of the first night!

 

laminating the new keel, using rocks

laminating the new keel, using rocks

When I finally got around to grinding out the problems in the swing keel, as I ground around the edge of the keel the laminated plywood suddenly jumped apart, leaving me with a giant, heavy, waterlogged, delaminated mess. It was time to face the facts: that keel was finished, and a new one would have to be built.

I went to town and found a place selling plywood - I had six sheets shipped in, cut them into the shapes I needed and coated them liberally with epoxy glue, then laminated them all together by weighting them with heavy rocks while the glue dried. I also destroyed our angle grinder during the "shape the newly-laminated raw keel into a foil shape" stage of the construction.

 

freshly glassed new hatch covers drying in the sun

freshly glassed new hatch covers drying in the sun

The hatches for the newly-cut wet storage lockers are here drying in the sun, fiberglassed but not yet sanded or painted. I was pretty proud of my carpentry work on these - the hatches fit really nicely, and the extra locker space is definitely appreciated.

 

powerwashing off the old paint

powerwashing off the old paint

A month in, I finally convinced the yard that the best way to take off the old paint would be to rent me their largest power washer, which I knew would take the previous coat of (non-sticking) paint off, leaving the previous coat of (very good) two-part epoxy primer behind. The power washer was 7,000psi - compare if you will to the strongest power washer available at Home Depot being 4,000psi!

Also notable in this photograph are the second boatyard haircut, taking my hair down from the #4 clippers to the #1 clippers, or 1/8", and the fact that all the hard labour has kicked in and I'm looking a lot more ripped than before the boatyard. 😀

 

the paint on the topsides came off easily!

the paint on the topsides came off easily!

Sadly, I was very much correct about the paint on the topsides coming off with the power washer... but with the exposure of the grey primer came exposure of dozens - no, hundreds - of new problems with the fiberglass. It didn't help that the power washer also tore away any weakened fiberglass, probably creating at least half of those new problems, though it was pretty clear that those problems would have surfaced sooner or later anyway.

You can also see a bit of brown in the bottom right of the photo - Miya spent days on end repairing all the damage to the bows done by dragging the anchor chain up over the edges of the bows. We finally have a bow roller now, and will get around to installing it sometime in the near future.

 

...though powerwashing exposed a LOT more fiberglass problems

...though powerwashing exposed a LOT more fiberglass problems

With all the new patches, it almost seemed like we would have been ahead of the game to strip off the entire deck and replace the fiberglass, but it was a bit late for that - not to mention the price of fiberglass and epoxy in Mexico is prohibitive!

 

many of the newly-exposed patches

many of the newly-exposed patches

Another shot of the deck with all the new patches opened - before powerwashing we were pretty sure we were almost done with 'glassing the deck! It would have saved a lot of time if we'd been allowed access to the power washer much earlier on, but there wasn't much point in getting mad about it.

 

pulling out the propellor shaft

pulling out the propellor shaft

One of the big under-the-boat tasks was to replace the cutless bearings, rubber sleeves that hold the propellor shaft steady and perfectly aligned. Unfortunately to do this you really need to remove the propellor shaft, and I'd never done that before. Here Mark is heating up the propellor shaft coupling with a torch.

 

Miya's nickname in the yard: "Lady Polvo"

Miya's nickname in the yard: "Lady Polvo"

Miya's constant sanding, sanding, sanding of the deck earned her the nickname "Lady Polvo", where 'polvo' is spanish for dust or powder. The more we sanded, the more we had to jump into the ocean, which you can see about twenty meters behind Miya.

 

how to destroy a brand-new cutless bearing

how to destroy a brand-new cutless bearing

Once the replacement cutless bearings were acquired, the old worn-out bearings had to be removed. This I accomplished without much hassle, but when I went to put in the new bearing it seized halfway up the shaft - no matter how much I hammered it, it just wasn't going back in. I had the bright idea of heating up the stainless steel strut to make it expand and free up the brass bearing sleeve, but the end result was that the rubber part of the bearing separated from the brass part, rendering the bearing unusable. Nuts - that was a waste of a hundred bucks.

 

Miya diligently patching the deck

Miya diligently patching the deck

Miya, stalwartly continuing to patch all the deck problems. She was at this all day, every day, for weeks.

 

the rudder, fully repaired and re-hung

the rudder, fully repaired and re-hung

I finally finished up the patching and repairing of the rudder, and eventually we tracked down a new rubber gasket for the steering assembly - the black rubber bit in the center of the photo is actually the boot from the gear shift of a Mack truck, found at a place called "Diesel Professional" in La Paz!

 

a month in, and she looks far worse than when we started

a month in, and she looks far worse than when we started

It can be difficult to keep your spirits up when you've been working your fingers to the bone for over a month, and the boat looks far worse than it did when you arrived... but in reality she's much closer to finished.

 

the interior of the boat is starting to get less habitable

the interior of the boat is starting to get less habitable

...although now that we had to tear apart the kitchen to access the steering gear to reattach the rudder, there was a domino effect throughout the boat, and the normally tidy interior just kept getting more and more cluttered with tools and equipment.

 

many of the fiberglass patches complete

many of the fiberglass patches complete

This is the deck, two steps away from being finished. All of the brown patches are epoxy thickened with a talc-like powder, turning it into a fairing compound that flattens nicely and is very easy to sand. One more round of sanding, then a splash of primer, then another quick sand and she'd be ready for her final paint job!

 

the new swing-keel shaped, glassed and primed

the new swing-keel shaped, glassed and primed

Sadly I didn't take more photos of the swing keel during the construction process, but needless to say I was several long days under the boat with a large industrial-size angle grinder and an eight-inch 60-grit sanding disc, shaping the plywood laminate into a smooth foil. Two layers of 8oz fiberglass over the whole thing, then a PVC tube glassed into the pivot point to protect the wood, and finally several coats of industrial-grade two-part epoxy primer, and we're left with a swing-keel that should last for the rest of the life of the boat.

 

the deck, primed, sanded, washed and ready for paint!

the deck, primed, sanded, washed and ready for paint!

Once the fairing was sanded and the primer applied, a quick sand to make it all smooth and it's time to wash down the decks in preparation for the first coat of her final paint job!

 

installing the new radar reflector

installing the new radar reflector

After seeing all the big freighters and fishing boats offshore, we realized that our little wooden boat probably didn't show up all that well on radar, especially with our little metal ball-type radar reflector mounted six feet off the cabin roof. We did a bunch of research and settled on an EchoMax 230 reflector, that I mounted just above the staysail stay. Apparently this will make us look HUGE on a radar screen!

 

TIE Fighter with a fresh coat of (cheap) paint!

TIE Fighter with a fresh coat of (cheap) paint!

Once all the prep work was complete, the painting of the boat went very quickly, and we were done within two days. The bottom was taped and painted by the yard, but we rolled on three coats of latex-based housepaint quickly and efficiently.

In retrospect we probably should have just bitten the bullet and paid for the more expensive two-part epoxy paint. House paint is cheap and non-toxic, but it never really hardens completely, and you're left with more of a latex "skin" over the entire boat. Time will tell if this was a nightmare decision, but currently in the dry southern tip of Baja it is working out acceptably - there have been a few instances of the paint becoming tacky in wet weather though, and I am a bit nervous to see what will happen in damper climates, like the rainy season of Costa Rica.

 

wiring the binnacle so that we can remove it easier next time

wiring the binnacle so that we can remove it easier next time

As I mentioned, removing the swing keel requires removing the binnacle, which in turn requires cutting a bunch of wires. Rather than ever have to deal with that again, this time I added terminal blocks and ring terminals to all of the wires, so that they can be easily disconnected and reconnected. I'm a big fan of well-organized wiring!

 

Miya painting the bootstripe

Miya painting the bootstripe

The last step to painting a boat is always the boot stripe - a quick splash of color parallel to the water line. Jim Brown, the designer of the Searunner trimarans, says that a boot stripe can make the difference between a home-built backyard boat and a jaunty yacht, and so for the past two paintjobs we've added a grey stripe at the end. I am extremely fond of how this looks.

 

I did a poor job repairing the minikeel; live and learn

I did a poor job repairing the minikeel; live and learn

Apparently when you repair a keel you should use more fiberglass and less filler, as I discovered painfully when we finally got the boat ready to be lifted up and put back in the water. My repairs just didn't stand up to the pressure of lifting the whole boat - this was actually good to find out; if we'd been lifted with a travelift this error never would have come to light, and then next time we ran aground we'd be faced with a much larger problem. The trailer was pulled away and we spent an extra few days in the yard grinding and fiberglassing.

 

back into the water!

back into the water!

FINALLY, two months to the day since we'd been hauled out, we were back into the water. Of course, there was a strong wind blowing and as we drifted away we were blown right back into the shore, forcing the boatyard owner and his employees into the water, fully clothed, to help push the TIE Fighter back out into open waters before she ground onto the rocks... ahhh, memories.

More to come...

 

5Oct/121

Catching Up, Part 1: Pre-Boatyard

OK! So! It's been over six months since the last posting, and I'm finally just now finding myself with enough free time motivation to update the blog with what we've been up to. Miya and I just returned to La Paz after a month-and-a-half whirlwind "vacation" back to Oklahoma and Vancouver, respectively, culminating in a return to the Black Rock Desert for the incredible Burning Man Festival.

Regardless, we're back now and I haven't updated since March, so it's time to bring you up to speed about where we've been. There were four distinct chapters to the past six months: pre-boatyard, boatyard, post-boatyard and traveling back to the first world. I'll break these parts up into four pasts just to keep things logical.

So! Without further ado, here's some photos from the pre-boatyard chapter.

 

dehydrating fruits and veggies

dehydrating fruits and veggies

Miya picked up a food dehydrator online in San Diego and started drying fruits and vegetables. It's a lot of work, but the results are worth the efforts. Flashing forward a few months, Miya's mother actually bought me a hand-cranked apple peeler/slicer, which is something I'd been envying for a long time now, and Miya just dried the first batch of Red Delicious apple slices, which we've been eating all weekend.

 

another gorgeous sunset in La Paz

another gorgeous sunset in La Paz

La Paz certainly has no lack of natural beauty, and each evening we're treated to a spectacular sunset. It's gotten to the point that we're not easily impressed anymore, which is both amusing and sad; it's strange how quickly you can acclimatize to any situation, and no matter how otherwordly, sooner or later anything can become "normal".

 

Miya fishing near the Isla Espiritu Santo

Miya fishing near the Isla Espiritu Santo

We did manage to pull ourselves away from La Paz for a few days, and spent an amazing ten days or so living in anchorages on the Islas Espirtu Santo and Paritida, just north of La Paz. Uninhabited, the islands are beautiful rocky deserts surrounded by blue waters teeming with fish. Here Miya is pulling in one of her trolling lines - the colors above her are the woven hammock we found in La Paz.

 

dinner acquired!

dinner acquired!

Aside from trolling from the TIE Fighter when we're underway, Miya also enjoys trolling behind the inflatable dinghy when we're exploring, and in this case she landed some sort of fish that we have never managed bothered to identify. Is it a bonita? Who knows! It was delicious.

 

another sunset, from an anchorage on the Isla Espiritu Santo

another sunset, from an anchorage on the Isla Espiritu Santo

Certainly sunsets at anchor in the city are beautiful, but they've got nothing on sunsets in (nearly) empty anchorages out on the islands! This was taken in the northernmost anchorage on Isla Partida. Not shown is the 35kn winds that picked up after midnight - we had a 15kg 'Delta' anchor down, but I jumped into the dinghy in the pitch black night to kedge out a second anchor just in case... we're able to anchor the TIE Fighter very close to the shore due to her shallow one-meter draft, but when the wind picks up the rocky shoreline starts to look terribly dangerous...

 

the anchorage in daylight

the anchorage in daylight

The anchorage on Isla Partida in the daytime - nowhere near as scary in the daytime!! Funny how howling winds and pitch black with no moon can turn even the prettiest tropical anchorage into a scary place. Here we could swim to shore and hike up into the hills, which were riddled with sandstone caves, some of which showed signs of being inhabited hundreds of years ago.

 

dinner with greens from our garden

dinner with greens from our garden

Summertime brought excellent growth to the garden, and Miya explored the local grocers to feed us with the best things she could find... here is avocado, tuna, eggs, potatoes and peppers served on green lettuce from the garden.

 

another round with the dehydrator

another round with the dehydrator

Nothing quite like harnessing the sun to help with food production!

(sure, that's what I like best about this photo... the dehydrator... right...)

 

I... well... joined a volleyball team.

I... well... joined a volleyball team.

Leading up to "Bay Fest 2012", a call would regularly come over the VHF radio - "Volleyball practice today, 5pm, no experience necessary!". Back when I was a young pup I enjoyed beach volleyball every summer at camp, so it wasn't too great a stretch to think I might enjoy it again. Despite not having volleyed, bumped or spiked in well over twenty years, I got back into the routine very quickly and greatly enjoyed the activity.

 

Miya as the demonstration-babe for a safety seminar

Miya as the demonstration-babe for a safety seminar

During Bay Fest, one of the seminars was put on by our friends Rob from s/v Keetya-1 and Will from s/v Shaman - they enlisted Miya to help with their "Safety Aloft" session, teaching us the basics of working safely on a mast.

 

our friends Tim and Meredith from s/v Luckiest, and Jody from Avatar

our friends Tim and Meredith from s/v Luckiest, and Jody from s/v Avatar

The end of Bay Fest was a big costume party blowout, but very few of our new friends had costumes - this wasn't a problem, as both Miya and I travel with a big tickle-trunk of costumes each. We were able to costume Tim and Meredith from s/v Luckiest, though Jody from s/v Avatar already had his own costume planned out.

...and that brings us up to the 2012 haulout, which I will have to present as another blog post.

 

28Feb/122

San Diego, Round Two

We were in San Diego for almost two months, but that time seemed to blow past us at an extremely accelerated pitch. Our 'Cruising Permit' (the customs paperwork allowing the TIE Fighter to remain in the US while being a Canadian-flagged vessel) would expire February 1st, so we had to hustle if we wanted to get all the pending projects completed before we left for Mexico, where everything would be an order of magnitude more complicated!

When we originally cleared customs in Port Angeles, Washington back in September, the customs officer asked how long we'd like the permit to be - we laughed and told him that we intended to be in Mexico before Christmas. He nodded and said

"I'll just give you a couple of extra months anyway, just in case you run into bad weather..."

I guess he must had some experience with that sort of thing...

Anyway! On to the photos!

San Diego at sunset with fog rolling in downtown

San Diego at sunset with fog rolling in downtown

San Diego, despite being a bizarre mix of old-money Republicans and impressionable young military personnel from the midwest, had its moments of beauty. Click this photo for the full-size version; check out the sunbeams reflecting off the mirrored buildings and through the early evening fog bank!

 

a frankenstein part I built for the water maker

a frankenstein part I built for the water maker

At no point did we expect that the water maker install would be simple, but I have to admit I  was expecting all of the parts to be readily available. That wasn't really the case, and I had to build this fitting to attach the product water feed to the tank inlet, while also adding a vent line so that the water maker water feed will never see more than 3psi in back pressure - apparently that would irreversibly damage the water maker membrane, which is a very expensive replacement.

 

the remains of the impeller

the remains of the impeller

One night just before Christmas, just prior to having the water maker up and running, we decided to make a run to the fuel dock to fill up our water tanks. We made it out of the A9 anchorage and around the corner a few hundred meters when suddenly our engine alarms started screaming...

We blew the seals on one of our freshwater pumps on the way down - it was still working, but leaking coolant. I had a guy in San Diego rebuild the pump ($50 instead of a $400 new pump), but when I reattached the pump I didn't properly bleed the air out of the coolant lines. A brand-new impeller was just spinning away with nothing to pump, and it was destroyed within minutes.

Mostly I'm impressed with myself, that I was able to determine the cause of the problem and fix it within about an hour, without having to call for help or even consult any manuals. That kind of thing really helps with a person's confidence in taking their vessel far offshore.

 

 

the bridge to Tiajuana

the bridge to Tijuana

As it turns out, Tijuana is a $2.50 public-transit train ride from downtown San Diego, and so we decided to take a brief day trip south of the border. Tijuana is everything that I dislike about Mexico, condensed into a single city - a stark contrast to La Paz, which is absolutely nothing like it.

 

a spraypainted "zebra"

a spraypainted "zebra"

Between hundreds of shopkeepers (all bafflingly selling the exact same items for the same prices) yelling at us to come into their stores and restaurant owners offering cheap tequila (followed by "I've got something for your nose, amigo!"), there were random street "displays". This one, a burro spray painted with zebra stripes, was apparently available for tourists to take their photo with... for a fee, of course.

 

laundry day

laundry day

The first step to arriving in a new city is to figure out where the basics are coming from - internet, showers, groceries, laundry, etc. Most of the facilities were a good five kilometres away from the anchorage, however, so we made the most of our time and split up the tasks between us. This is Miya, with all of our laundry packed into a series of heavy dry bags and our collapsible pull cart, headed for the laundromat.

 

one of the acrobatic mackerel

one of the acrobatic mackerel

In my last post, I began by describing hundreds of tiny acrobatic fish hurling themselves at the side of the boat. Later that day I discovered that several of the fish had leapt into the dinghy! The internet told us that these fish were mackerel, but unfortunately it also told us that you should never eat fish that you've found dead; there would be no way to know how long the fish had been dead. Pity I hadn't looked into the dinghy earlier, these little guys would have made for a delicious breakfast.

 

Miya at the masthead

Miya at the masthead

One of the biggest projects I wanted to have completed before leaving offshore was the ham radio install. This required several trips up the mast; one to affix a temporary backstay (length of steel cable holding up the mast) to measure the length of the new antenna, one to take down the temporary backstay, and one to affix the new backstay.

After hoisting me up the mast with our largest winch, Miya decided that it would be easier for both of us if she went up and I manned the winch.

 

the pelican mafia

the pelican mafia

The pelicans in San Diego were pretty much completely unafraid of humans, and would regularly surround our boat during their fishing expeditions. A few times they almost appeared threatening...

 

yup, it's grand

yup, it's grand

When we realized that the Grand Canyon was a short-ish eight-hour car ride away, and that we'd be unlikely to be anywhere near as close to it every again, we decided to take a few days and go on a road trip. Despite the cold January air, the canyon was everything that television and movies made it out to be: a very large, very beautiful hole in the ground.

 

pretty steep drop there

pretty steep drop there

 

obligatory awful tourist take-our-photo shot

obligatory awful tourist take-our-photo shot

This is us enjoying the last moments of  warm sunshine, just prior to the sun falling below the horizon and sending us sprinting for the car and warm sweaters. The desert gets COLD at night!

 

heiroglyphs in the painted desert

heiroglyphs in the painted desert

The canyon was nice, but to be honest we preferred the drive through the Painted Desert and the strolls through the petrified forests. If you click this photo and look right at the centre, you can see the 6000-year-old drawings on the side of this boulder, known as "Newspaper Rock".

 

continuing our world tour

continuing our world tour

Miya and I have a habit of visiting places with identical names to larger, more famous places; in 2011 we visited Moscow and Paris, both in Idaho.

 

salvation mountain!

salvation mountain!

Salvation Mountain, at the entrance to Slab City (as seen in the movie "Into The Wild") was probably the highlight of the epic January road trip. The life's work of a devout born-again Christian artist, the mountain is made from found materials, mostly dirt, hay bales, wood and leftover paint... lots and lots of paint.

Slab City was fascinating as well, though less photogenic - a squatter community in the desert, completely off the grid and self-reliant, on concrete slabs left over from an abandoned military base. I could see myself spending time there, especially if it were with a group of like-minded adventurers.

 

Rich recording voiceovers

Rich recording voiceovers

Following the trip to Arizona, we jumped a plane and headed to Vancouver to help throw Sequential Circus 10, an event series that I've been throwing (well, with the heavy assistance of a group of close friends and dedicated volunteers) for the past five years or so. In this photo, Rich Hamakawa is recording voiceovers (in the booth, the vocal talents of France Perras) for use as the introductions on each of the podcast recordings. Sitting in the TopFloorUnderground studios with good friends and a bottle of nice tequila is a fine way to spend an afternoon.

 

photo by Luke Szczepanski

photo by Luke Szczepanski

I have to admit, we do throw a helluva party. This is Drew 'Vespers' Betts performing for a packed dancefloor. All of the performances at Sequential Circus shows are live acts.

 

another excellent photo by Luke Szczepanski

another excellent photo by Luke Szczepanski

Much fun was had by all - thanks for the great photos, Luke! Much more of his most excellent work can be found on his Flickr site.

 

Miya working on the garden

Miya working on the garden

Back to San Diego and back to the grind - with only a few short days left until we left, I had my hands full with important travel-related boat projects, like finishing the water maker install and getting the ham radio up and running and retrieving up-to-date weather info. Miya took advantage of the boat being in "project mode" to make a mess on the deck, building her custom garden boxes. It's worth noting that Miya's blog, http://www.thenomadist.com, has lately been far more up-to-date than my own. 🙂

 

installing the through-hull for the water maker

installing the through-hull for the water maker

The hardest part of the install was the through-hull that needed to be installed below the waterline. Normally this would require a haul out, but we decided to try it in the water. I plugged the new brass scoop fitting with a small softwood plug, got all the tools and fittings ready, and then did the unthinkable: I drilled a hole into the bottom of the boat directly into the ocean!

I figured that given the balmy San Diego weather the water would be warm enough to do the install in just my swimsuit, but once I jumped in I quickly changed my mind and switched to my wetsuit. In the end verything went smoothly, and overall we only had about four litres of seawater pour into the bilge.

 

project day, viewed from above

project day, viewed from above

The project days were fruitful, and if you click into this photo you can see many of them on the go - the flippers on the deck from the water maker install, the detritus from the garden construction, pillows out on the bow nets to air out, the blue bins of winter clothes out in preparation for cold offshore nights, the new Achilles dinghy and the old Zodiac dinghy alongside our venerable folding "beater" row dinghy... so much going on in this photo!

And that brings us to the end of January! One more blog post to go and I should be actually up to date and back to posting about things as they happen, instead of posting about them two months later...

 

21Sep/111

Neah Bay

Well, we're away.  We left on Monday September 12th 2011 as planned, leaving Vancouver about ten hours later than expected but making good time across the Georgia Straight, spent the night at the mouth of Porlier Pass and motor-sailed the next day down to Cadboro Bay just east of Victoria. We crossed the Juan de Fuca on Wednesday, cleared customs and spent two days in Port Angeles, then motored on up the Juan de Fuca arriving in Neah Bay on Friday night. The weekend was spent carefully watching for a "weather window", in which we could set out with six to ten days of reasonably good weather to look forward to... but then I made an expensive mistake.

We've entered another one of these infuriating "hurry up and wait" scenarios, as a result of my carelessness while working on the steering system. I was removing a sprocket when it got away from me and clattered down the centerboard trunk and into the ocean. Given that we're anchored in soft mud in about 10m of water the chances of finding a heavy 10cm chunk of dark bronze were pretty slim, but we had a diver go down twice to look anyway. The replacement part is on rush delivery from Ontario and will hopefully arrive in the next few days.

The big question now is whether or not we've missed our weather window to head out into the open ocean, or whether the big storm winds of October and November are upon us. Traditionally, the end of October is the absolute cutoff time for heading out on an offshore passage south from the Pacific Northwest, but what with the changing weather patterns of the past couple of years it's anyone's guess.

Too much has happened lately to give a full rundown, so I will return once more to a pictorial style of blogging; here are a few snapshots of life over the past few weeks..:

Chad Taylor and Dan Ross jamming on the bows

Chad Taylor and Dan Ross jamming on the bows

During the last weeks leading up to the final departure, we spent as much time as possible hanging out with friends, enjoying what little summer Vancouver had to offer up this year. With so many projects to complete, perfect moments like this were rare but treasured.

 

installing spreader lights, repairing the steaming light

installing spreader lights, repairing the steaming light

Most of the boat projects were one-man jobs, but Miya had to winch me up the mast several times for minor repairs. The next time we haul out I will likely run a few more wires up to the masthead; it'd be a much better place to mount the Ubiquity Bullet router and high-gain wireless antenna than the current location on the aft cabin roof, for instance, and someday I'd like to mount a webcam up there as well.

 

Jared and Thu departing on S/V Resolution

Jared and Thu departing on S/V Resolution

Our friend Jared has been working on his boat 'Resolution' for the past year or so, and left about ten days before we did for San Francisco.  He's taken a few different routes than we have; going with a smaller monohull for instance, installing davits and monster solar panels and choosing a SatPhone instead of radio communications. It's been very interesting to watch another geek take on the challenges of living aboard on his own terms.

 

electrical room complete

electrical room overhaul completed!

I've finally gotten the electrical room into a state that I can consider "finished". New features since the last photos - a smart alternator regulator on the far left, and a homebrew fuel polishing system on the bottom left, comprised of a pair of Racor diesel fuel filters and a Reverso fuel pump. The polishing system should help keep our engine Maude healthy even in the third world, where fuel quality can be questionable at best. Incidentally, since the last cooling system overhaul she's been running like a top!

On the extreme left you can see a little piece of the yet-to-be-installed Spectra Ventura 150 watermaker; the next compartment over houses our water system, and that project will be a fun challenge I'm sure... it will require a haulout to finish as the watermaker will need two new through-hull fittings, one for seawater intake and one for brine discharge.

 

first aid kit

first aid kit, populated

If you're planning to head offshore, you'd best be prepared for whatever may come to pass - and the first-aid kit on TIE Fighter was not exactly anything to write home about. Taking careful notes at both a Red Cross First Aid course and a pair of Bluewater Cruising Offshore First-Aid seminar, I assembled our new kit into a bomb-proof Pelican 1550EMS case which should survive anything that we throw at it. The kit contains everything from happy-face bandaids to hardcore prescription antibiotics and injectable painkillers.

An awesome first-aid kit is only half the battle though; Miya and I have enrolled in a Wilderness First Responder first aid course in San Francisco in October, which is an intensive 80-hour course covering emergency first aid in remote scenarios where professional help might not be coming right away.

 

leaving Vancouver

the middle of the Georgia Straight at sunset

Once we finally got away, the stress of getting ready to leave didn't fall away as easily as planned. We were off, for sure, but tensions ran a little high while we adjusted to the new state of being. The first night we pulled into an anchorage in the dark, and currents and tides and deadheads made the situation questionable, but once the full moon rose everything came into focus. Waking up the next morning everything was much clearer.

 

freezing on watch

freezing on watch

Neither of us were prepared for the realities of sailing in September; I think we were both spoiled by the 29º temperatures in Vancouver the days leading up to the grand departure. All of our winter clothes were packed away in tupperware containers in the amas, but those were quickly pulled out as it became apparent that gloves, hats and scarves would be necessary. We are very glad to have high-quality foul weather gear, and look forward to soon sailing in warm waters.

 

raising the courtesy flag

raising the courtesy flag

Before clearing customs into a new country, a vessel should fly a yellow flag - the symbol for the letter 'Q', or 'quarantine' - to indicate to the port that the vessel has not yet cleared customs but intends to. After clearing customs, the yellow flag is replaced by a flag of the country being visited, known as a 'courtesy flag'. Raising the courtesy flag of the US is something I had been looking forward to for a very long time, as it marks a huge milestone in this adventure!

 

morning in Neah Bay

morning in Neah Bay

Neah Bay, at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, is the last safe harbour before heading out into the open Pacific Ocean. It is a small Makah indian reservation with a population of about 700 people, but we are still able to steal internet access from several open wireless networks using our high-powered antenna and router. The bay is wild and beautiful, with loons calling in the night and thick fog rolling in regularly.

 

surface analysis for the eastern pacific ocean

surface analysis for the eastern pacific ocean

This is a 'weatherfax' transmission, retrieved from the internet. This is basically our window into what's going on weather-wise on the open ocean, and once we have a working HF ham radio rig on the boat we should be able to pull down these images for free from wherever we happen to be on the ocean. Learning to interpret these images is a steep learning curve, but once you get past a few key hurdles the information becomes somewhat fascinating.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about moving onto the ocean is the amount of knowledge about the world around me that I've been forced to learn - it boggles the mind that the tides move in and out with such regularity, yet mere meters away from the ocean Vancouver has a half a million people who have no idea what phase the tide is at any given time. Similarly, I feel like I've been living with the weather for my entire life, looking up at the sky without having the foggiest (heh) idea what I've been looking at. The more I learn about how weather systems function, the more I want to know!

 

working on the reefing systems

working on the reefing systems

While we wait for the weather to change to a more favourable window there are dozens of small projects that didn't get finished before we left Vancouver. In this photo I'm working on the reefing system; a series of ropes and pulleys and hooks that helps to get the main sail "reefed", or shortened by a third - or two thirds - in case of heavy winds. Now complete, the improved reefing system will help us to sail even when the winds blow at gale force or higher.

 

out in the zodiac with a local diver

out in the zodiac with a local diver, gps in hand

When I dropped the sprocket from the steering system into the ocean, I essentially paralyzed us; we can't steer at all. We're not only stuck in Neah Bay, we're stuck right where we've anchored until we can replace the part or work around it somehow. Miya walked the local docks looking for a diver, and to our luck the first person she talked to offered to dive for us. Daren Akin, a local diver, went down twice to try to find the part - sadly he was unable to locate it, though the attempt was greatly appreciated!

I cannot believe I did this. I really need to rewire my brain to assign more importance to small bits of hardware when working over a big hole that leads to oblivion. You'd think I would have learned that lesson from my bicycle.

 

Miya playing Nintendo on a rainy afternoon

Miya playing Nintendo on a rainy afternoon

So now we're stuck, with most of the projects out of the way and a boat fully stocked and ready to travel. The delay has been a blessing in some ways, letting us finish up work that we hadn't had time for and giving us a chance to catch our breaths and adapt to the new realities of life on the road, to sleep in and prepare for the monster ten-day marathon sail down to San Francisco.

Soon the company in Ontario from whom I've purchased the replacement part for the steering column will send me the tracking number for the UPS shipment, so that I might have a better idea of when we'll be out of here - but until then, we remain at anchor.

14Apr/113

Photoblog: What’s Up?

Wow, what a busy couple of months!

I've been neglecting the blog, which is something I need to remedy.  In my defence, I've been very very busy.  So, in lieu of posting the ten or fifteen posts that I should have been posting all along, I'll have to just get the queue out in a very condensed fashion.

Returning to the format of the 'What I Did On My Summer Vacation' series of posts, here's a rapid-fire "clips show" of the last two months.

staring down the barrel of a yanmar diesel

staring down the barrel of a yanmar diesel

I started and finished a two-week class in 'Advanced Diesel Engine Maintenance', in which we tore the above Yanmar 2QM marine diesel engine completely apart and put it all back together.  I'll probably never take the camshaft out of my Yanmar 3HM, but at least now I'm pretty sure I could if I absolutely had to.

 

notice to move from the Kitsilano anchorage

notice to move from the Kitsilano anchorage - click for higher-res

This one warrants a blog post of its own - but then again a lot of these pics do.  This is a formal 'Notice To Move' from the Vancouver Port Authority, as delivered by the VPD while I was sitting safely and soundly at anchor just off Kitsilano Beach.  The officer explained that everyone was getting these notices as an advance move, so that if the Port Authority decided at any point to tow boats out of the harbour and impound them, they could do so without warning.  He also explained that the notices were the result of meetings between the City of Vancouver Parks Board and the Port Authority, over just who's responsibility it was to pay for the cleanup of Kitsilano Beach after anchored sailboats were blown ashore and wrecked in windstorms.

What really bugs me is that since then, talking with other liveaboards here in False Creek, it would seem that this notice was only delivered to abandoned or unattended/derelict vessels left out at the anchorage, and that I was the only liveaboard sailor to receive a notice.  Strange, especially since I feel like I've proven myself to be a responsible and conscientious mariner, and I have never been blown ashore.

The notice says that I am anchored without having seeked permission to anchor, but as of now the Harbour Master has still not replied to my email requesting permission to anchor.  I really do hope that this notice is the first and last interaction I'll have with the Port Authority, but I can't help feel a bit of foreboding.

 

goodbye, creamcycle.  you were a good bike.

goodbye, creamcycle. you were a good bike.

In my ongoing quest to simplify and minimize my life, I finally realized that my beloved bicycle just doesn't fit "indoors", and storing the Creamcycle outdoors all winter was slowly killing her.  There's room for a bike in the starboard ama if I arrange things very carefully but that's a lot of valuable storage space taken up, especially with the prospect of Miya also having a bike aboard.  After much research, I decided that the path forward would be to purchase a Montague Boston folding bike, and migrate all of my pro-grade components from the Creamcycle over onto the Boston frame, and vice versa, and then sell the result on Craigslist.  More on this soon.

 

snow drifted up against the generator

snow drifted up against the generator

February 26th 2011 brought the first and last big snowstorm of the season.  This pic is a little difficult to make out, but if you look closely you can see the snow drifted up nearly over the cabin window, with a melted/windshaped cutout around the Honda EU2000i generator, wrapped here (as always) in a white tarp to keep the weather out.

 

March 4th was my 35th birthday, and we celebrated by sailing the TIE Fighter across the Georgia Straight and over to Pender Island for a weekend-long multi-birthday party with twenty or so friends in a mansion on the highest point on the island.  Seriously swank - a hot tub on the roof, and 360º view of the Gulf Islands!

Miya took this video at a particularly stressful moment during the journey across the Straight - we'd had lovely 10-15kn winds coming out of English Bay, but as we rounded UBC the winds jumped to 20-25kn and we struggled to reef the mainsail, which wasn't rigged properly for reefing.  Shortly after we succeeded, we suddenly lost steering...

The rest of the trip got steadily worse, and by the time we arrived at the west side of the Straight the wind was blowing a steady 30kn with pouring rain and 3m waves occasionally breaking over the decks.  We arrived shortly after dark on Friday night, exhausted and happy to be somewhere warm and dry - I don't think my boots dried until Sunday.

 

DR spraying the sails down with fresh water

DR spraying the sails down with fresh water

We moored the boat at Otter Bay for the weekend while we relaxed at the mansion.  This pic shows Dan Ross spraying down the sails with fresh water, after being soaked with seawater.  You really shouldn't allow sails to sit with salt on them - the salt attracts moisture from the air so the sails will never really dry out completely, which is really bad for the lifespan of the sails, not to mention the probable cause of the large rust stains visible on the headsail.

 

new battery charger installed!

new battery charger installed!

I picked up a brand new modern battery charger for a little under half price on Craigslist and installed it, finally taking control over the charging of my batteries!  Prior to this I had been charging the batteries directly from a 20a DC-DC converter, which is effective but inefficient, and very very hard on batteries.  With the new ProNautic C3 50a charger, my time to fully charge the batteries dropped from seven hours to just under three hours.  Take note of the mess of wires in the background - this was taken after I had already pulled two full laundry baskets of unused wiring out of the boat.  Apparently at least one of the former owners of the TIE Fighter had rewired the boat, but hadn't bother removing any of the old wiring!

 

winch maintenance begins

winch maintenance begins

One thing I noticed during the Pender "sea trials" trip was that the winches on the mast had begun slipping.  I've owned the boat for over three years now and have never serviced the winches, so maintenance was definitely overdue.  I had dropped Miya and DR off at Swartz Bay, and TIE Fighter was now anchored in Sidney, BC, so I had my evenings free to work hard on boat projects.  Servicing winches is messy work but quite introspective and satisfying, much like I imagine cleaning a rifle must be.  This pic shows three of the mast winches disassembled and my first experiments with using 'Simple Green' to clean the components.  Result: 'Simple Green' does not effectively clean winch components.

 

the daily ritual

the daily ritual

Being anchored in a new place makes me quickly slip into a comfortable routine.  I finally got around to repairing the broken Bodum hand-crank coffee grinder that I purchased last fall, and this pic shows my morning ritual in progress - a pot of steel-cut oatmeal and quinoa on the galley stove, with a Bialetti 'moka pot' of coffee percolating beside it, lit by a sunbeam.

 

new day tank, visible (barely) way in the back

new day tank, visible (barely) way in the back

Yet another project that I'd been putting off; the aft cabin furnace needed a day tank.  The hard part about diesel furnaces is that they need to be supplied with diesel fuel at about 3psi - this can be achieved with either a small electric fuel pump, or with a gravity feed from a tank stored at least four feet above the fuel intake.  The problem is that as far as I can tell, very few companies make a diesel tank with an outlet port at the bottom of the tank!  After researching the costs of having one manufactured (about $300), I found this water tank, rated for chemical storage, at the wonderful Sidney Boaters Exchange for a whopping $8.00.  Another $6.00 in parts, fittings and tie-downs and I was in business!

 

more splicing - the headsail sheets are now 340% better.

more splicing - the headsail sheets are now 340% better.

Evenings over the next two weeks were slow and quiet, so I got a few chances to move away from the "needs" projects a little and onto the "wants" projects.  Here's a pic of the snap shackles on the headsail sheets spliced into the sheets instead of tied in with bowline knots, and the bitter ends of the sheets backspliced.  This is not only faaaaaar more attractive, but also much smoother for tacking as there is less to catch on the inner forestay while the headsail slips across.

 

winches, cleaned

winches, cleaned

More detail on the winch servicing project; the acetone in the back proved to be a failure as well.  At some point a previous owner had serviced the winches by putting grease on the pawls.  Apparently - and this was news to me - putting grease on pawls is a no-no, as the grease tends to thicken and build up, eventually causing the pawls to jam.  For reference, you should only ever put oil on winch pawls; grease is fine (and recommended) for the gears, but the pawls only ever get oil.

The thick, gummy grease is difficult to get off of the components, but the ultimate solution turned out to be very simple: diesel fuel dissolves the grease and an old toothbrush cleans off the remainder. The glass and tupperware in the pic above are both full of diesel, stained an ugly greenish-black by the dissolved grease after soaking the components overnight.

 

winch 'spares'

winch 'spares'

While I had the winches apart, I took the opportunity to purchase a 'rebuild kit' from the local marine store, and replaced all of the pawl springs in each winch.  In this pic, the silver chicklet-looking chunky steel bits are the pawls, which are held against the gear sprockets by the little flat circular pawl springs, which causes the characteristic clatter of the winch in use.  Pawl springs wear out over time, but after cleaning the winches and replacing all the springs, my mast winches now work just like new.

 

mast winch mounts

mast winch mounts

The winch mounts during reassembly, after cleaning with diesel, brushes and paper towel. During this procedure it was so bitterly cold outside that I had to go back into the cabin after cleaning each mount to rub my hands together to regain feeling in my fingertips!

 

aft furnace installed and operational!

aft furnace installed and operational!

The aft furnace was critical during this period - prior to having the furnace working I was mostly confined to the forward cabin for pretty much everything except cooking, working my day job from either my bed or the "guest nest", which is what Miya has named the port-side single berth.

Upon first lighting of the new furnace, I nearly burned the boat down! It started up just like normal and worked great, but shortly after this photo the furnace began making a "chuffing" noise and the walls of the burn chamber started glowing red hot - I quickly shut it down, but it kept burning for a good five minutes afterwards. Apparently the diesel metering valve had been set for a much more viscous fuel, and when I measured and tuned the meter it was delivering more than three times the normal amount of fuel to the burner. Since the tuning the furnace has worked 100% as expected, keeping the aft cabin warm for days on end.

 

the 'boudoir' cubby, painted and shelved

the 'boudoir' cubby, painted and shelved

Speaking of the "guest nest", here is a pic of the newly-painted and newly-shelved cubby below the port side berth, which Miya has named 'the boudoir', and we've decided is her personal storage area while she's living aboard with me.  My personal storage space is the opposite cubby, which I have dubbed 'the study'.

 

the headsail, spread out at the sail loft

the yankee headsail, spread out at the sail loft

In the sail across from Vancouver, we tore the mainsail in no less than five places, mostly due to poor reefing skills but probably the fact that the sail is fifteen years old might have something to do with it.  I brought the sails in to Sidney's Leitch and Mcbride sailmakers to have it repaired and to get a quote on a replacement sail.  I was impressed with their workmanship and attention to detail, and by the personal service I received - they even picked me and the sails up from the boat, and dropped me off again afterwards.

 

cutting the hole for the new switch panel

cutting the hole for the new switch panel

The biggest project of all, while living at anchor in Sidney, was to gut and replace the entire electrical system of the boat.  This meant making final decisions on the organization and placement of the switch panels, and cutting into the walls of the cabin to install them.  Here I've discovered that the panel above the stove is only 1/4" plywood, and that I'm able to cut through it quite easily with my pocket knife.

 

LED lighting in the engine compartment

LED lighting in the engine compartment

As a part of the electrical system upgrade, I installed LED lighting into all of the under-cockpit cubbies, with the engine compartment getting extra attention as it's probably the one where having good lighting is the most critical.  Amazing how much cleaner Maude looks with good lighting!

 

cubbies in the forward cabin, lit up with LED strips

cubbies in the forward cabin, lit up with LED strips

The forward cabin cubbies - the 'study' and 'boudoir' - shown lit up brightly with the new LED cubby lighting system.  What a phenomenal difference it makes, having these formerly dark and dirty spaces now clean, white and bright.

 

a new outlet beside the bed

a new outlet beside the bed

I only have a 400w inverter on the boat currently, but that's more than enough to run things like laptops and cellphone chargers - I really don't have much else to plug in anymore!  Still, it's nice to have the convenience of being able to plug things in wherever you are, so I've installed GFCI outlets all over the boat.  This one is only temporary - I've replaced it already with a more modern outlet that has a green LED, so that you can tell at a glance whether or not the inverter is turned on.

 

the finished electrical panel in the galley

the finished electrical panel in the galley

The galley electrical panel installed and active! I've since also added a backlighting kit to this panel, so the panel labels glow a soft green at night. It's the little touches that really make the work feel professional, and give me great pride in having done it all myself.

 

the completed electrical system wiring

the completed electrical system wiring

I'm very proud of my wiring job - apparently fifteen years of being a network tech has some boat benefits after all!  All wires to the switch panels are cut to length and terminate in double-crimped flanged spade connectors on terminator bars, all grounds are bussed together with appropriately-sized wiring, and every subsystem on the boat has an individual circuitbreaker. TIE Fighter now has a modern, well-installed electrical system, onto which I can build with confidence. Next steps: a much larger battery bank, then a powerful solar array and possibly a wind generator. The "grid" just keeps getting further and further behind me.

 

propane canister packed up for bicycle transport

propane canister packed up for bicycle transport

On yet another trip to the Sidney Boater's Exchange I found a pair of nearly-new horizontally-mounted propane tanks for $100 each.  This was a great deal, as used horizontal tanks are very hard to find, and new ones are over $400 each - my propane locker can fit two twenty-pound propane tanks, but they have to be horizontal tanks, standard vertical tanks (like on a barbeque) are too tall for the locker.  Packing a propane tank home on my bicycle garnered some strange looks from the locals.

 

Xantrex LinkLITE installed and operational

Xantrex LinkLITE installed and operational

I also picked up a Xantrex LinkLITE battery monitor, which conveniently fit into the hole from the ancient (and dead) Heart Interface battery monitor that was installed on TIE Fighter when I purchased her.  Yet another step towards complete mastery of my electrical system - a former boss of mine was fond of saying "that which gets measured, gets managed".  This is absolutely true with regards to battery life; I can now measure how much electricity the boat is using at any given moment, and know at a glance how much battery life I have left before I have to run the generator to charge back up again.

 

sitting on a stoop on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

sitting on a stoop on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

After three solid weeks of heads-down work on the boat, a vacation was in order.  Miya's close friend and cousin Stacee was getting married in Puerto Rico, and Miya was the maid of honour so I was invited along as her date.  We flew to Vieques, a small rustic island about an hour east of San Juan.  Vieques is known for beautiful beaches, quiet towns and a large population of unfenced horses running free over the whole island.  At times I really felt like I was back living in Costa Rica again, and within the week my spanish came rushing back to me.

 

Miya, post-serenade

Miya, post-serenade

At some point, walking from our budget hotel towards the posh resort the wedding was being held in, we were flagged down by pensioners in a small bar by the side of the road, invited in for a drink and to listen to the locals playing music and gabbing.  Here Miya has just been serenaded with very decent spanish folk music by the man on the left, and the one-armed man on the right had just finished telling her the story of his being stabbed in the abdomen two nights earlier, on the street a block from our hotel.

 

first scuba dive!

first scuba dive!

We took advantage of the tourist industry on Vieques and signed up for a one-day 'Explore SCUBA' course, which took us out to the end of an unused (but heavily secured) military pier for a pair of dives.  The waters under the pier were teeming with life, and I discovered to my great relief that the sinus and inner-ear problems that plagued me as a youth have not in fact followed me into adulthood - I am able to dive after all.

 

click for a high-res version

click for a high-res version

I've included this pic because I think it makes an excellent desktop wallpaper; subtle and not too busy.  Click the pic - or for that matter, any of these photos - for a higher-resolution version. We saw many sea turtles, as well as several types of ray and many, many different tropical fish.

 

ripping around on a little Yamaha scooter

ripping around on a little Yamaha scooter

Vieques is fairly small at only about seven miles long, but we soon felt the pangs of not having our bicycles. Renting bikes was an option, but at $25/day per bike renting a motor scooter for $50/day seemed like a much better option. In the three days we had the scooter the island was opened up to us in a way that was impossible on foot, and we explored the tiny back roads of the island.

 

probably my favourite pic of the whole trip

probably my favourite pic of the whole trip

There's something about the sunshine that makes everything a little easier to take... after a few days on the beach it was difficult to remember why we'd been so stressed out about all the little things back home.  This pic was taken at the "red beach", on our way back from the "green beach", where we'd discovered that tiny, vicious gnats come out in swarms as the sundown approaches.  Miya was strangely unaffected, but bites covered my arms in itchy red welts that lasted for several days.

 

yet another splice - this time it's rope-to-chain

yet another splice - this time it's rope-to-chain

A month or two ago I visited Miya in Seattle and picked up a 150' length of gorgeous barely-used eight-plait nylon anchor rode at Second Wave, yet another marine consignment store.  I think I might be getting addicted to used sailing equipment - this 3/4" nylon rode was a great deal though, at $50 for 150', compared with $1.60/foot locally!  I spliced the rope to a 40' length of 5/16" heavy steel chain, and this splice is currently holding me at anchor quite handily.

 

motoring away from Tsehum Harbour

motoring away from Tsehum Harbour

On April the 6th, I left Tsehum Harbour and headed back towards Vancouver.  I missed my tide window for Active Pass that day - with a sailboat you can only traverse the pass at slack tide, and slack tide was at 1pm.  I ended up sailing slowly up the Trincomali Channel and spending the night in Montague Harbour, which is a lovely anchorage but in a complete cellular reception black hole, ruling out any extended stay.  In the morning I packed up and headed out through Porlier Pass to begin my solo crossing of the Georgia Straight.

 

racing the rainstorm

racing the rainstorm

The weather for the first days sail was a mix of sun and rain, with long periods of spring-like warmth followed by cold rains and wind.  This rainstorm followed me up the channel for several hours, but when it finally caught up with me late in the afternoon it turned out to be an unexpected hailstorm!

 

self-portrait, about 4km into the Georgia Straight crossing

sailing ninja self-portrait, about 4km into the Georgia Straight crossing

The only real downside to sailing in cold weather is the long periods of inactivity, requiring you to basically sit outside in the cold wind for hours on end with nothing to do.  Even with proper foul-weather gear, two layers of wool sweaters and wool hats and gloves, it's still freezing.  Pair that with the inexplicable lack of a fly on my overall-style foul-weather pants, and the only real movement you have for the vast majority of the journey is the occasional trip indoors to pretty much completely disrobe to pee.  Still, apart from the puzzling lack of zipper, I am completely pleased with my Helly Hansen foul weather gear.

 

 

Here's a video, taken once everything had calmed down and I was moving steadily forward. After I came through Porlier Pass I was expecting some heavy winds and probably some waves, but the addition of the tidal surges from the pass made for some very, very stressful moments!  I got my second reef into the main, but not before stuffing all three bows into the waves several times, strewing tools from one end of the cabin to the other, and spilling the contents of my cupboards all over the floor, breaking a bunch of dishes and making an awful mess.  The rest of the trip across was spent with the double-reefed main and staysail, which I finally shook out near UBC.  I made an average of about 6kn across the Straight, but once I got the headsail up in more protected waters I reached 9.2kn coming into English Bay.

 

creamcycle, built up and listed for sale

creamcycle, built up and listed for sale

This is the "new" Creamcycle, built up as a fixie with all the brand-new components from the Montague bike and listed for sale on Craigslist.  Do you know anyone looking for a rad (if well-used) bike for the summer? 🙂

 

off to class, with a 20kg outboard in my backpack

off to class, with a 20kg outboard in my backpack

Yet another class with the Bluewater Cruising Association; this time an outboard motor repair and maintenance class.  Here it is Saturday morning at 8am, leaving on my bicycle with the heavy outboard in my backpack.

The outboard, we like to say, "worked really great until it didn't".  In Sidney, during a trip to shore, the outboard very suddenly quit with no warning, in the sort of way that makes you think something is very, very wrong.  Reading up a bit on the internet, I found out that you're supposed to change the gearbox oil regularly, which I hadn't - though apparently when you go to drain the gearbox oil it's supposed to be oil, not dirty water and metal filings.

 

outboard repair class, saturday morning, 10am

outboard repair class, saturday morning, 10am

Sitting in class, we learned all about the workings of outboards, stripping out sparkplugs and taking apart carburetors, and I slowly dug down into the problem that had caused the outboard to stop so suddenly.  Clearly the problem was in the gearbox, but could it be repaired?

 

what came out of the gearbox of the outboard

what came out of the gearbox of the outboard - photo by Jennifer Craig

When I finally got the gearbox opened up and stripped, a few pieces fell out - and some of those pieces were ball bearings.  Well - I use the word "ball" somewhat loosely there; the parts that fell out were anything but spherical.  D'oh!

End result?  The engine is apparently a write-off.  I can probably get a few bucks on Craigslist for it, for parts - but the cost of the replacement bits to get her running again are approximately four  times what I paid for the engine originally, and given that it was quite underpowered for the dinghy it was on anyway, I guess I'm now in the market for a good used 8hp motor.

 

freshwater system complete!

freshwater system complete!

Lastly, I finally added in and plumbed the third 100-liter water tank to the freshwater system. This has been on the bench for a while, but now the freshwater system is pretty much 100% complete - there's still a slow, weeping leak on the galley sink that I need to tend to, causing the water pressure pump to kick in about once an hour to keep the pressure up. As far as I can tell the only fix for that is to replace the whole faucet assembly it hasn't really been high up on my list of priorities.

 
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Phew! And that brings us pretty much up to current!  So many updates, with so little time. I've got to remember to try to spew this stuff out in smaller portions, but when things are moving fast it's really tough to keep up.