Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grab A Beverage - Seriously, There Is A Lot To Read

Some of you have said you understand that I have been too busy to write.  Others have said you need to write because we need to know what you have been up to.  Here goes but keep in mind to avoid boring you to sleep I am giving you the abbreviated version.  I have not posted since May 3 – wow, that is two and a half months ago and a lot has happened. 

While at Granville Island the season for Spot Prawns opened.  I thought I would trundle over to Fisherman’s Wharf to partake in the festivities.  Not so lucky me, the festival sold out as soon as they opened.  The line up was miles (or so it seemed) long.  The reward for those who scored a ticket was to taste prawns cooked by renowned chefs of Vancouver.  All was good for I scored prawns the next day and shared them with friends Cecilia and Dave for a scrumptious seafood festival of our own aboard Ta Daa.

As previously written, I was invited to crew aboard Red Heather and sail her home from Maui HI to Victoria BC.  John, the skipper of Red Heather hosted crew for a BBQ at his Squamish home.  To my delight it happened to be when I was on Granville Island.  Crew members, Ian and Gary, offered to drive me to Squamish.  It was a great social get-together to meet the crew.  The biggest tip I took away from the Pacific crossing was to dress in layers, layers, layers.  I intend to take that advice seriously.

Crossing the Salish Sea (formerly known as the Strait of Georgia) can be very entertaining.  One would think that you have all the room in the world to sail and maneuver.  Not so!  In one crossing of the Strait I encountered cargo ships, freighters, tugs with tow, BC Ferries, Seaspan Barge Ferry, trees, Styrofoam blocks, porpoise, seals, power boats of all sizes and other sail boats.  While on the water there is a saying “Might has right” meaning that anything bigger than you has the right of way.  There are also rules to follow in the shipping lanes.  For the cargo ships and freighters I had to alter course or just plain slow down and wait for the big guys to move along.

One of my biggest fears on the water is snagging a crab or prawn trap line.  If this happens more than likely the line will tangle in the prop and perhaps the prop shaft.  To rectify the problem someone would have to dive to the line and cut it free from Ta Daa.  My next stop, after Granville Island, was Ganges.  Leaving Ganges is like navigating a minefield.  There are prawn and crab buoys everywhere in Ganges Harbour.  I had finished my usual routine of getting underway and was now scanning the waters ahead of me.  To starboard I saw a crabber busy picking and pulling his traps.  To port I had just motored past some more buoys when they instantly disappeared underwater.  Immediately I throttled back and put the boat in neutral.  My heart sank and I felt sick in the pit of my stomach.  Silence as Ta Daa glided gently in the water.  I heard no thumps and bumps.  I felt no tugging on the bottom side.  I scanned three hundred and sixty degrees.  I, wiping the sweat from my brow, soon realized the buoys disappeared as a result of the crabber retrieving his ‘string’ of traps.  With confidence I put Ta Daa in gear and extremely relieved continued on my way.  Shortly after I had full sails out making my way to Tsehum Harbour where I would stay the night. 

In May each year Brentwood Bay Power and Sail Squadron hosts a cruise.  This year is was May 12 and 13.  We depart Tsehum Harbour (Sidney BC) and arrive at Victoria’s Inner Harbour then return. The cruise has been renamed, in honour of my husband, to the Ron Harris Memorial Cruise.  This year we had twelve boats, thirty-five people and seven dogs.  Guests aboard Ta Daa included friends Janis and Ken with furry friend Coach.  A good time was had by all!

May 18 (May long weekend) I departed WestBay Marine Village for Bedwell Harbour and more specifically Poet’s Cove.  It is the annual long weekend Bluewater Cruising Association rendezvous.  Sonia joined me for the weekend with her husband and daughter meeting up with us at Bedwell.  We managed to sail for a good portion of the way.  At Turn Point freighter activity picked up considerably.  Sails in!  Also on this day Sonia and I listened to a Mayday call.  The distress resulted in two gentlemen late 50’s, early 60’s in the water.  They were pulled aboard another boat.  One fellow lived and the other did not.  I can only urge all boaters to always wear a lifejacket or certified buoyancy device of some kind.  When on the water you have to expect the unexpected.  It was surreal listening to the distress and the steps taken to save the two men.  We were helpless and so near yet so far. 

On a happy note we had and entertaining, social and educational weekend not to mention great company and scrumptious food. 

Not all fun is aboard Ta Daa.  It seems some of my friends are catching up to me in age.  They are becoming age 50 and up – thank goodness.  My friend Leanne turned 50 so we girl friends kidnapped her to Whistler.  We had an amazing time riding the Peak-to-Peak chair, ziplining the canyon between Whistler and Blackcomb, eating great food and basically letting Whistler know we were in town.  Nope, not me.  I am not telling any stories - what happens in Whistler stays in Whistler, wink wink.  Suffice it to say we all came home exhausted and thrilled with a great birthday celebration weekend for Leanne.  

The next five weeks were even more amazing.  It all started with daughter Meghan joining me on June 7 aboard Ta Daa.  We set out together heading for Telegraph Harbour Marina on Thetis Island for the annual Hunter Rendezvous.  A highlight of this weekend is the blind dinghy race and a spit BBQ pig.  Marry the previous items with good friends and informative lectures and you have a perfect mix for a perfect rendezvous.  Sadly, I put Meghan on the ferry to Vancouver Island.  I was missing her as soon as I set out for Montegue Harbour.  There I met up with friends for more socializing and a couple nights of relaxation.  Winston and I walked the beaches and trails and read a lot.  Next stop Friday Harbour, WA.

Washington State sells a Marine Park Pass, which I purchased early in the year and before knowing about my trans Pac adventure.  I was determined to use it as much as possible in the couple weeks that I could devote to the Puget Sound.  Since my friend Karen recently sold her boat I invited her to join me for some time aboard Ta Daa.  She met me in Friday Harbour on the afternoon June 12. 

I am told that there is no such thing as coincidences. Keep that in mind as you read.  Karen sold her boat, Andiamo, to a friend of the fella they purchased Andiamo from.  Karen and her late husband, Jean-Luc, purchased Andiamo on Bainbridge Island.  She sold Andiamo to a fella on Bainbridge Island.  Scott is a gentle soul and understood the circumstances that brought Karen to sell her boat.  He also had Andiamo’s hull repainted and the rigging replaced.  He also renamed her to Kindred. 

On June 12, in the evening, Karen received an email from Scott telling her that Kindred had been re-launched and he had a set of Jean-Luc’s initials to put on the stern of the boat – so he could be with her as long as Scott owned her.  And, he was only going to be home the coming weekend and….  he asked Karen if she could make it to Bainbridge Island to personally put Jean-Luc’s initials on the stern of Kindred.  There was no doubt in my mind we could make it and I would get here there aboard Ta Daa.  The next day we set out.  We had a good sail across the Juan de Fuca and into Admiralty Inlet until the wind died.  Eleven and a half hours and seventy nautical miles later we arrived at Winslow Marina.  It was a personal journey for Karen and I could certainly feel the emotion and feel the presence of Jean-Luc while being embraced by their Bainbridge Island friends. 

While on Bainbridge, incredible rust-coloured algae grew in the marina and according to locals it was unseasonably early.  To us it clearly looked like an industrial mishap but not so.  Also abundant in Eagle Harbour was the bioluminescence.  At dusk the water glittered and this was a result of the jellyfish feeding on the algae, which in turn activated the bioluminescence.  This brought out the kid in us.  We grabbed, from the dock, whatever we could find to stir the water.  Wherever we touched the water it lit up in its blue-white brilliance.  Touching the water was not enough.  We splashed, we wrote with sticks, flicked rope, and splashed some more with paddles.  We were so excited we knocked on the boat of new friends on Red Thread.  They came out and totally thrilled started to play as well.  That was not enough.  I hopped in the dinghy to see what happened when the outboard engine stirred the water.  It was heavenly to see the water come to life.

New friends were made and old friends were re-acquainted however, all good things must come to an end.  Our next stop was Edmonds for fuel.  Karen and I got caught up in browsing the stores and the time flew by.  It was clear to us both that we had been swept up in the emotion of Bainbridge and the reason we were there.  It was time to move on and Edmonds was the break that we both welcomed.  Edmonds is a beautiful and clean gem of a marina not to mention the quaintness of the town itself.

From Edmonds we headed up Saratoga Passage to Cornet Bay at Deception Pass.  For those of you who do not know, Deception Pass is one of those places where you need to plan your transit of this pass at slack water.  The current in this pass can run in excess of 7.5 knots.  We planned to stay at Cornet Bay a couple of nights to explore some of the Deception Pass Park trails.  As the saying goes, “Expect the unexpected.”  We had an uneventful trip up Saratoga Passage until we neared Hope Island.  Panpan, panpan, panpan was the announcement on the radio.  Mariners know that is serious and that a boat or person is in distress.  In this case it was a 27’ Bayliner in trouble.  As a mariner it is your duty to respond to a call if you are not going to put yourself, your crew or your boat in danger. 

I did not respond to the distress call until we scanned the area and had a visual o n the Bayliner.  We were the only boat in the area and his only chance of help before the US Coast Guard was tasked.  Que Pasa was the name of this boat.  The gentlemen aboard were not well equipped nor experienced.  We managed to tow them into Cornet Bay and docked them only to realize they were taking on serious water.  They managed to get the help they needed such as pumps to keep the boat from sinking before it could be hauled out of the water.  We later found out he hit a log and damaged the transom of his boat. 

On the morning of June 20 we attempted to leave Cornet Bay and transit Deception Pass but gave up due to fog encroaching our cruising grounds.  As we positioned ourselves to transit a sailboat emerged from the opposite direction and informed us it was not burning off, you couldn’t see fifty feet in front of you and it went on for miles.  We aborted our plans and headed back into Cornet Bay to weigh our options.  As the universe would have it, the fog burned off in the late afternoon and we transited the famous and infamous Deception Pass during the early evening slack. 

Flounder Bay on Fidalgo Island was the next stop.  Here we cleaned Ta Daa and spent time in Anacortes while it poured rain.  The next day it was fog again but luckily it was burning off by ten o’clock.  Off we headed for Spencer Spit on Lopez Island.  We had to cross Rosario Strait.  It was very busy with commercial and pleasure traffic which meant cargo ships, tugs with tow and power boats everywhere and going in every direction.  Once across Rosario we entered Thatcher Pass.  I looked ahead and could not believe my eyes.  Whales, whales, whales, orcas to be exact.  They were heading straight for us.  I throttled back.  We were in awe, we were fascinated, we were speechless, and shocked.  Neither of us expected it.  Karen took the wheel while I ran down for the camera.  I was not prepared for this.  I snapped what I could but mostly I enjoyed the moment.  They were so close we could almost reach out and touch them.  This was an experience to be savored.  I am sure one of them winked at me.  Amongst all of this excitement a vivid yet transparent vision of Ron emerged and overlay one of the adult orcas as it rode the surface before diving below Ta Daa.  It is a memory that brings tears to my eyes as I type. 
Both Karen and I were at a loss for words.  We could not believe what each of us, in our own moment, just experienced.  We quietly and slowly continued on our way.  When we snapped out of our dreamlike state we headed for Spencer Spit, hooked a mooring buoy and enjoyed a lunch of cheese and crackers complimented by a bottle of champagne, which seemed fitting for our close encounter with the orcas.

We realized time was limited so plans were made to head to Prevost Harbour on Stuart Island.  There we tied to the mooring line.  We did two hikes, one short and a longer one the next day.  The longer walk took us to Turn Point, a picturesque light station more often viewed from the waters of Haro Strait.  Sadly the next day we had to head to Poet’s Cove to check into Canadian Customs then make our way to Sidney for Karen to return home and for me to make my way to the Comox Valley. 
For the past couple of years I have had a source of water making its way into the bilge.  A part of deciphering the problem is to taste the water; is it fresh or is it salty? Fresh it was.  The problem was a leaky starboard window and a leaky hot water heater.  In May these two issues were rectified.  The water in the bilge was not.  It was time for me to investigate again.  First the taste test.  This time is was undoubtedly salty.  What the hell?  This means a new problem.  On the way to Comox I overnighted at Mom and Bud’s on Salt Spring Island.  In conversation with two old salty dogs I remembered that the stuffing box on Ta Daa is not a dripless stuffing box… that means it should ‘drip’ salt water.  I told myself that I would look into it when I arrived at Comox.  The next day, enroute to Schooner Cove, it was driving me up the wall.  When I got docked I immediately pulled the boat apart to reveal the prop shaft and stuffing box.  It was not dripping.  It was a steady dribble.  AHA!  I know the problem, now I have to fix it.  Thanks to friends Ron and Monica I was able to get a ride to Nanaimo to purchase the appropriate size pipe wrenches.  Then with Ron’s tutelage the stuffing box was adjusted to stop the dribbling but seep enough to keep the shaft cool while under way.  Another lesson learned and another challenge has been overcome.  Thank you, Ron and Monica!
Off to Comox I go!  On the way I checked the stuffing box no less than four times and it was adjusted perfectly – no dribbling and just enough moisture to keep the shaft cool.  I can relax now and enjoy a dry bilge.  Some would say I was obsessed with finding the problem and with keeping the bilge dry.  I am a happy camper now and this will help in the winter with the moisture on board Ta Daa. 

Comox is always wonderful.  I get to invite everyone to my home for a change.  Only difference is they do not have to drive to Victoria to enjoy my hospitality.  In the days at Comox I managed to cook for the kids, have a birthday party for Amelia, have a girl friend night on board Ta Daa, have a sleepover with Stewart and my youngest grand-daughters, have oldest grand-daughter Rayna and more family members for lunch, for daughter and son-in-laws new house I got to pick colours, bricks and stained shingles, had breakfast with my dad and I managed to go out for dinner a couple of times.  I barely had a spare moment and I loved every minute of it. Whew, I was pooped. 
Sadly but expected, my little furry fella, Winston was diagnosed with congestive heart disease.  I had plenty of opportunity to observe him and take note of his behavior.  With the help of the Internet I was able to research before taking him to the vet.  As Winston is terrified of the vet, she was kind enough to examine him outside on the lawn of the vet clinic.  He is now on diuretics.  A good portion of his day is sleeping and he lets me know how much exercise is enough. 

Unfortunately it was time to leave and head south for home.  One last event to attend on July 13th and 14th was the Pig War at Port Browning Marina, Pender Island.

This event has been an annual event for 26 years between Brentwood Bay Power Squadron and Friday Harbour Power Squadron.  It essentially keeps the war over the pig alive and well.  If you would like to know more about this historic event Google Pig War San Juan Island. With great attendance we enjoyed a spit BBQ pig with all the trimmings, games, and great company.  I am happy to announce that Brentwood Bay won the Pig Trophy two years in a row.  The pressure is on for Friday Harbour to bring it home next year.  The pressure is on for Brentwood Bay to be the first to win the trophy three years in a row.  2013 will be a year to remember!

Sadly yet happily it was time to leave Port Browning for home at West Bay Marine Village.  Kathy, a squadron friend joined me for the trip home.  Weather wise it was dreary and drizzly.  I was thankful to have Kathy’s company.  Surprisingly, we were distracted from the weather by the amount of mayday and panpan calls on the radio.  There were at least six emergencies that the Coast Guard radio personnel had to deal with.  They ranged from small craft, with children aboard, being disabled to an airplane down near Schooner Cove / Nanoose area. 
Happily I was home because I must prepare for my trip to Maui and the sail home to Victoria.  Let the preparations begin.  I had to find a local vet for Winston.  On Len and Dawna’s recommendation I went to Feltham Pet Clinic.  I was thrilled with Dr. Kelli.  She now knows Winston and his circumstances.  We were able to discuss strategies in the event Tim and Tara his doggy sitters need to take him in. 
had to renew my car insurance, pay bills into the future, empty the fridge and cupboards of perishables, update this blog, upload cruising pictures, and ensure I have what I need to pack for the trip.  Packing for the trip is difficult, as I will be going from warm climate in Hawaii to cool and likely rainy out in the Pacific to summer on the BC Coast.  I was cautioned to pack lots of gloves and to be prepared to dress in layers yet pack light and compact.  Yikes this is a tough one but here goes.  Stay tuned.  I expect to be home between August 12 and August 19.  You will be sure to get and update on my ocean crossing.  Until then…

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