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Thanksgiving cruise - Wake up something's wrong

We went for a two night cruise in icy weather just before Thanksgiving, and had a great time, well except for,
        "Wake up, wake up, somethings wrong."

I don't remember much, but I do remember, my eyes were burning, and  the cabin was full of nauseating diesel fumes and a light haze, which apparently woke her, so she could wake me.

The emergency was that the oil stove (Dickinson Bristol) was huffing and puffing, sending soot but mostly fumes with every huff/puff out every crack in the stove.   She said, is that supposed to do that?  Then she pointed and asked if flames were supposed to be shooting out there, down under the oven door by the sheet metal.

I don't know, I said, I just need to go back to sleep.

So, in a blurry daze, I shut the oil valve off and sneaked a peek under the cast iron lid. It still had a flame, the stove was scorching hot,  the insides were cherry red, and soot was built up and hanging in three inch long strings everywhere inside.  I know, I shouldn't have looked because it may have gone up in a ball right then, but I wasn't thinking clearly

I wonder why it was hard to wake me up, was it fumes, low oxygen, or the wine at dinner?

I lifted the lid and looked in the stove the other day, and yep its still a mess.

Later, when I figure out what went wrong and what to do about it, I'll add to this post.

Update 1/3/14
I think the problem was caused by too much fuel and no fan resulting in a too rich burn that sooted up the chimney, ultimately blocking the flue. The solution after cleaning up a huge soot mess all over the decks and cabin and cleaning out the stove passages was to reduce the fuel flow. (this required pulling the stove to get at the valve and was when I discovered a loose set screw) I reset the valve for less flow on low and now monitor the flame plus use the fan  to keep it burning clean.  Over New Years it burned 30 hrs non stop with perfect results.  The loose set screw caused too much fuel, but the real problem was me not turning on the fan to keep a clean burn.  I like oil and pulling from my main tank, but gee whiz what a mess.
Story about a soot belching diesel stove


What is Proper Dock and Float Etiquette at our State Marine Parks in the San Juan Islands

     We were having a lively discussion about whether a boater should pay .60 cents a foot for their entire boats length, or just the portion in front of the float. All we managed to do was come up with more unanswered scenarios.

  • If you have a sixty footer parked at a forty foot float, do you pay for forty or sixty?
  • If your twenty footer is forced to hang out ten feet because some lunkhead is hogging the dock do you have to pay for ten or twenty feet? (half the boat is probably too much in some places)
  • If a clown doesn't pull down to the end of the float and leaves seven feet of unusable space forcing you to anchor, should he have to pay for that seven feet he has wasted
  • What if same bozo parks his thirty five footer in the middle of a fifty foot float and wastes seven and half feet of space at each end, should he pay for the fifty feet he is really hogging?
  • Should the park ranger get involved in policing float etiquette?
  • Is it ok to move someones pride and joy seven feet without their permission?
  • How about the dinghy taking space floating at the back end, should it be counted too?
  • When two comedians are rafting at the dock and the sign says "no rafting" do they pay 60 cents per foot per boat or just the dock side boat, or the bigger
Seriously though, please be considerate and try to maximize dock space, some of our San Juan floats only hold two boats on each side, and our bigger or littler friends may easily wipe out more than they need to. There is not a boat out there that can't hang out a little at the pointed end, and that may make the difference getting another boat squeezed in at the other end.  You can be thanked or cursed, you're the skipper.

  • What if a boats sprit overhangs a another's dinghy, do they split the 60 cents a foot that they are sharing?
  • If the anchor buoy your tied to and already paid for breaks loose and floats away, can you get your fee back?
  • If a sailboat rafts with a power boat, what is their offspring named? is it sterile?

Reid Harbor dock on Stuart Island


Deception Pass Whirlpools in your Nightmares, Standing Waves and Currents

       I have avoided posting potentially scary pics.  I don't want  people with vivid imaginations to have runaway thoughts and fears.   But recently I spent half an hour in Deception Pass playing with the currents, letting them spin the boat while we watched whirlpools develop and subside all around us.
      We would run up a few hundred feet and then drift back, letting the boat spin and wander.

       As you know when the tide changes, so does the pass and the water conditions.  The changes happen in minutes and even seconds, so be forewarned that you can easily get into trouble here in any number of ways.  I'm not going to argue or defend the safety point or even seamanship. Thirty minutes earlier the water was so nice you would safely paddle a canoe. Thirty minutes later well that's another story too.

        My photography skills are lacking and water pics seem to always come out flat looking so I will describe the picture below.  What you see is a swirling rotation about thirty feet across. Placid calm water on one side of the swift flowing current is slowing the flow and throwing off one whirlpool after another. The whirls are both big and little and move with the current for about a hundred feet from creation to disappearance.  At this particular spot there are 3-5 visible at any one time eliciting ewes and awes from us as we yell and point out especially big ones to each other.  The inner whirl in this pic is funnel shaped, about 10 feet across  and very pronounced dropping about 12-18" in the center.  The white center is taking in air and continues down under water just like a land borne tornado funnel.  The wispy white air bubble tail is clearly visible below the surface for quite a distance.
Deception Pass currents, waves and whirlpools

With the motor idling and the boat drifting we not only watch hundreds of whirlpools form and die but we can hear sucking sounds the particularly big ones emit.  Of course the conversation always touches on how a swimmer would be affected, with or without a pfd.  Next comes the kayak and dinghy what if's. On this day a standing wave began to form while we dally about.
Some standing waves look a lot like a whirlpool on its side, only without the funnel  You can see the water well up from deep down, roll over at the surface and then dive back down.  When the action gets severe a nasty roller just sits there in one spot. If a small boat (kayak) gets sideways in any wave its liable to be rolled over, but in a fast flowing pass, it is best to be somewhere else.
This standing wave was developing unnoticed and still mostly flat, but as we drifted sideways over the beginning stages, our keel got hooked and we violently lurched to one side, heeling enough to slide the coffee cups on the table, and snapping my attention back to the fact we were in Deception Pass.

Having enough fun and games, and acutely aware that the tourists watching from the bridge were by now probably making bets on our ultimate demise, I pushed her into forward gear, gunned the diesel and made a broad swinging pass back through the standing wave spot, and then for good measure, turned and ran right down whirlpool alley straddling or bisecting every whirly in sight.  An hour later or with storm conditions, the pass may not be navigable.
Another perfect July day at Deception Pass


My new Sailing Dinghy is for sale, yes sale, not sail

Lesson Learned!
I was sure this purchase would work out, so sure I was ready to get rid of the Livingston, but Linda said I better hang on to it just in case. She was right, and I'm glad I still have the Livingston.

After a summer of cruises to our usual hangouts and a quick trip to Butchart Garden, I have given the new sailing dinghy the proverbial boot.  And as a final insult I removed the snap davits and re-installed them on the Livingston, done and done.

All the problems with the sailing dinghy individually are not a big deal, but when taken as a whole package, it simply was an intolerable situation.

read more >>>>


This sites purpose


Before ever going boating in the San Juans, I thought about it a lot.
 What's the right boat? Where will we put in, and park the car? Where will we go, spend the night, get gas. What about the horrible currents, Scary Deception Pass and whirlpools. Was it foolish, reckless, or endangering my family. 
The list of questions was endless and it was frightening making that first big step.


Needless Expense to be Avoided

 I hope I can save someone else the expense that I just brought upon myself. Some of you will recognize yourselves, but others will think, "What an idiot, anyone knows that." So all of the latter can just run along. This tip is for newbies and those who simply forgot. (that's me)

This weekend I went exploring (gunkholing) in extremely thin murky water.  I was running slower than dead slow with the transmission in neutral except for little short one second shifts into gear to keep inching along.

The water was flat calm, which gave me confidence that I could simply back out, wrong thinking.

My thoughts were that if I bumped bottom it would not matter at such a slow speed.  I also figured that with the prop not spinning I couldn't possibly do any damage. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And I know from past lapses in memory, and errors in judgment, that what happened,could, and probably would happen again.

I bumped at a speed much slower than I dock at, much, much slower, but with four and half tons of mass, we slid and scraped before grinding to a stop.  Then as near as I can tell the prop was on top of a rock, and even though it wasn't turning it still got a little bend in the brass right at the tip. It probably happenned when I leaned over the transom looking for rocks

After a close inspection, I found some fiberglass fibers exposed at several places along the bottom of the keel that need to be tucked in and repaired.

So what should I have done? easy, I should have anchored and jumped in the dinghy with oars. The problem was, in the murky water, I couldn't see rocks that were only two feet below the surface, but I didn't know that I couldn't see, until crunch.

The other solution would be to quit gunkholing, and those of that persuasion know that it isn't going to happen soon.

So the advice is, Don't let your toys touch bottom. Or, If you don't want to pay, don't play.
Elmo looking at Krakens four bladed propellor
If you look closely, you can see the leading edge of the prop is wrinkled a little.  Left over from my heating it and flattening the bend.   My big keel apparently wasn't big enough to protect it from sitting on a rock.


Princess Louisa Inlet - Chatterbox Falls - Skookumchuck Narrows - Malibu Rapids - Bad weather

Next summer our primary boat trip will be up to the Desolation Sound area, which we may skip and just go to Princess Louisa inlet.

There, I've taken my own advice and nailed it to the wall. Well actually I don't nail plans to the wall,  I have a pirate chart there. Posting on this blog will have to do.
Nail down that trip!    (Read my advice to myself)
No I don't have a chart yet, at least not a navigable one for the laptop, but I said I was going and that's the hard part. I really do feel a sense of relief  now that I have made the decision.

My next step is to make a mark on the calendar, oh boy, I'm hesitating, I don't know what date to go.
I need a calendar quick before my trip falls apart.
Chart - map showing sunshine coast from Vancouver to Malibu Rapids
If I did my homework correctly that red mark near the top is where
 Chatterbox falls and Princes Louisa Inlet is located

Any one interested in a cruise up here will want to go to Active Captain and read the reviews.
My plan so far is to trailer the boat to Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham and then run the 135 or so miles up the coast to Jervis inlet.  I think 2-3 weeks is a good time frame, but family plans may interfere.

Read about the trip here >Malibu Rapids and Chatterbox Falls intinerary


Some Foggy Pictures of Rosario Strait and Thatcher Pass in the San Juan Islands

These pictures were from late July, so they are in the middle of a normal season. Don't let them scare you away, just be aware, plan ahead, and enjoy your outing.
Rosario Fog
This is looking southward at Rosario Strait, taken from the top of Eagle Cliff on Cypress Island, Thatcher Pass is the first inlet on the right, Lopez Pass is further down a ways past James Island. Notice the fog is in the middle of the strait, This is a light fog, probably only a mile or so wide, but if you were in your boat on either side of Rosario it would look like a solid wall of white, this fog formed in about thirty minutes. In another few minutes it could be almost gone or much much, well you know.

Fog in Rosario Strait
This is Rosario Strait from James Island (basically Thatcher Pass) looking across towards Cypress,  and up Guemes Channel. We cast off and entered this fog thirty minutes after the picture was taken. Two miles out we could no longer see James Island behind us but we could see Anacortes in front of us. The ferry was really laying on the horn which is a little unnerving. See the boat at far left just entering the bank. This is the other side of the same fog bank as the previous picture but from a sea level view.

Rosario fog
This picture is looking towards Deception Pass and we are in the middle of Rosario Strait, up around Bird Rocks. I think the pass is behind what looks like a low white mountain to the right of the railing stanchion. I wanted to go through the pass and on to La Conner but changed my mind after crossing over and finding the fog tight against the shore from Skyline Marina south. We were finishing up a relaxing five day cruise and I saw no reason to add a foggy finish. Notice how nice the water is on Rosario. Just two weeks earlier at this exact same place we were slammed on the beam for forty five minutes while crossing in warm sunny weather. We eventually took refuge by ducking behind Allan Island.  You can have fog, you can have sunshine, flat water or big seas, and as a bonus you could have it all together or any combination in a one hour crossing.

The purpose of this posting was to suggest that you be prepared for whatever comes your way.  On this trip we simply went a different way home. For others perhaps a good gps and lots of Dramamine is the answer.


Butchart Garden by Sea

     Not part of the San Juan's or even the Gulf Islands, Butchart Gardens should be on everyone's bucket list.
         I'll cover some of what I think are important elements for this adventure, but leave your trip planning to you.

  • We stayed at Jones Island the night before as our jump off point, but Roche or Stuart are closer. I wanted to be near to our Haro Strait crossing just in case some weather or other issues came up. Nothing did.
  • We planned our nine mile 1 1/2 hour crossing of Haro Strait to match up with low wind forecasts and slack tide waters.
  • Port of Sidney was our obvious Canada check in place.
  • We did have a Canadian chart in our plotter, a larger scale would have been nice but certainly not worth paying for.
  • You really should have a dinghy or kayak, but a dinghy motor is not needed to paddle a quarter mile or much less from where you anchor.
  • I planned to get to the garden early enough to anchor by 5pm, and then tour on the same day (before dark) and then again after dark.
  • Tod Inlet is big, you will have no problem finding a place to anchor.
  • Coming back, we carefully listened to the weather report for Haro Strait and took off at 6:30 am the next morning to beat out high winds. We never felt any wind or waves.
  • Checking back in at Roche Harbor less than 24 hours after we left was simple and quick.
  • It would have been very easy to extend this Canada visit to multiple days and destinations, but we had other plans back in the San Juans, for us this Butchart visit was simply a quick overnight-er. We will be back.
       The crossing was a cake walk, we followed our gps pointer straight to Sidney.  We had no discernible current set to counter, no swell to deal with.  The Port of Sidney customs dock is the first float when you clear the marina breakwater, no other boats were there so we glided in tied up and picked up the phone to check in.  Check in took a few minutes, they asked for our names, ages, boat name, and when we were leaving. Oh, and of course they ask about firearms.  They give you a long number which you write on a piece of paper and tape to your boat window.  That's it, your free to go.
We were in awe at the beauty and flowers at the Sidney Marina, not to mention all the very expensive big yachts.
Old customs phone for checking in at Sidney marina
For customs, just pick up the phone.
More pictures and story>>>


Did you know you can land your Dinghy at Lopez Village?

       Right along the bank in the center of the Village (by the fudge shop) is a short stretch of public beach. The property on each side of this beach is private, but the stairs are public  There are two little access places that I will locate in a minute. What this means is that you may anchor your boat and then come ashore by dinghy right in Lopez Village and you wont have to walk from one of the resorts almost a mile away in Fisherman Bay.
Lopez Village public access stairway
This is the public stairs you will look for from offshore

Lopez Village public access stairway
This is the sign that authorizes you to walk from the your dinghy on the beach to the grocery store only one block away. The beach beyond this stairway in the background is private.  Its odd that there are plenty of no trespassing signs telling you where not to go, but this is the only sign telling where you may go.

Screen shot of Fisherman Bay with Lopez Village access marked with red dot
This is a google images snapshot of popular Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island. The red dot locates where the public stairs and beach are located. The village is adjacent to the stairs so you can get ice cream and fudge with minimal effort. The grocery store is about a one block walk. Btw, only fifty yards from the stairs is the public restroom with a donations only hot and cold shower. Suggested donation is $2, and there is no timer, now how cool is that?
If you have a navigation chart, you will find the stairs is almost directly opposite the red dolphin nav. aid marking the  submerged spit at the bay entrance. (this means you will drive your boat within a couple hundred feet of the stairs, you cant miss em.)
I said there were two access points, the other is south of the red dot about 1-2 blocks, its a low bank off a gravel parking lot with no signs. The stretch between the two accesses is not public beach  ( see comments) but I would simply go right to the metal stairway pull my dinghy up and tie it to one of the galvanized legs.


This Years Baby Deer Crop in the San Juans is alive and well on Lopez Island

Baby fawn trapped on wrong side of fence
I came across this little guy while riding around Lopez Island, a minute later it joined up with its twin and trotted off.

If you would to see more of the fauna in the San Juan Islands click here >More animals pics

Jones Island Mooring Buoy Breaks Away

      Wow, it almost got us! Well not really but maybe it almost got someone.

We visited Jones one night right after the fourth of July, and we anchored between the park buoys and shore in only ten feet of water. We set our anchor well and tied to shore.  During the night it really kicked up, the wind came from the north blowing straight into the cove.  We were up at 3 am checking things, it wasn't until mid-morning that things calmed down.

Bid deal you say!

One week later we were back at Jones, and we anchored in exactly the same place, but the park buoy we anchored behind was gone, it was laying, along with a bunch of rusty chain up at the top of the gangplank.

Flashback to the night a week earlier and I remember a rather large yacht tied up in front of us, and we were worried about ourselves dragging onto the beach.  No one even considered that a park buoy would give way and set a vessel onto us.  BTW at Roche Harbor some years ago a big Bayliner dragged into us so we know first hand how difficult things can get when boats don't stay where you want.
Anchor buoy washed ashore at Jones Island with missing pin
Here's the buoy, The shackle pin is missing.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the chain inside the tube is ready to give way also.  SURPRISE!
I have suggested before that before leaving an expensive boat tied to one of these things, one should back down on them just like setting your anchor. Hopefully that's what the last visitor did to this one.
It's interesting that the parks dept. installed new pilings and floats at Jones Island but ignored the obvious deteriorated chains.

Much later, I happened to be talking with a ranger and mentioned buoy maintenance and he said they were handled by a different department. Oh well!  I'm backing down even harder.


Anchoring at Roche Harbor for the Fourth of July

     Our plan was to leave La Conner the morning of the fourth, then stop for kayaking at Deception Pass, next grab a quick walk around town and ice cream at Friday Harbor, and make it to Roche about five o'clock.

Arriving at Roche we were not shocked or surprised that the place was really crowded.  Being a believer that you can always find room for one more boat, we took a quick tour of the rafting lines and decided to find a place to squeeze in out in the bay. After anchoring and checking out our swing and the swing of those around us I upped anchor and chose another nearby spot, this time very close to shore, but also with a better view. I set two hooks side by side to keep us off the near by rocks should the wind come up. One anchor would have been fine but I slept better for the extra five minutes work.

The fireworks, as promised were very well done, the wind conveniently spun us around so that our cockpit faced the show and the smoke blew away from us.   All in all no complaints.
Sunset at roche harbor
This pic although lacking something, does convey it was sunset.

Roche Harbor dinghy dock is overrun
Our dinghy is the odd one with the cool wood seat and centerboard trunk.

One of many artworks and sculptures at Roche Harbor
Roche sculpture along foot path by county dock

Crowded 4th of July at Roche Harbor
More sculpture

No rust, must be stainless steel.

Seeing a price tag with a sculpture brings out the art critic and connoisseur, feel free to purchase.

We finished the cruise with a stop over and hike at Stuart followed by a hot dog roast and  windy night anchored at Jones. The next day we ran over to hike and sail Sucia where we spent a  rather noisy evening at the dock on Fossil Bay. The fourth day, after a quick hike on Matia, and a drive by of the salmon pens at Deepwater Bay (Cypress), we were back at our slip in La Conner.

This was a pleasant, low key enjoyable little trip of about 110 miles.
(I really like my new laptop gps)  read about laptop gps here

BTW, the news Wed. night (three days after arriving back home) was that one of the 85 foot for sale yachts we were all ogling on the fourth burned and sunk at the dock at Roche.  It's really shocking (a little scary too) to see news pictures of a yacht you had just admired, and now sunk with just its charred stern above water next to the dock.


How Long is Your Painter? Does it reach all the way to shore?

You know, that short little rope tied to the front of your dinghy!
Echo Bay on Sucia Island
This may look like an unpleasant circumstance waiting for our return, but it is exactly what we planned.

Let me explain.  When we arrived many hours earlier at a much lower tide, we beached the dinghy and walked away just like so many other times. Knowing the rising tide would float our boat, and we were going for an all day hike I ran my line all the way up to the permanent driftwood pile, above the high water mark.  Its true the dinghy will eventually float free and may wash up on shore, but the weather is fine and wakes are frowned upon at Echo Bay.
If I was really worried I could have deployed a light anchor that does not dig in, then when we returned I would have simply hauled it all to shore dragging the anchor with it.

So what, you say?

The point is, when you outfit your shore boat you should anticipate needing a really long rope just in case you need it. My current dinghy has a fifty foot floating line, and if I can't reach something solid, I go find a dog-bone shaped rock and carry it to where I want to tie up. Some skippers carry a small dinghy anchor and rode, then simply carry it up the beach.

Having your dinghy float away doesn't always mean you will lose it forcing you and your crew to swim out to your boat.  In popular anchorages someone will probably come to your rescue.

Now this next point is very important.  Conditions at the shoreline may change from flat glassy water to two foot waves in just minutes. A far off storm can send waves your way, or a ship may pass by. The resulting pounding waves may flood your dinghy or seriously damage it.  With this in mind there will be times and places where you should carry your dinghy up the beach to safety. It is very reassuring knowing your shore boat will be there waiting for you when you return.


How to launch at the Port of (fill in name) and the importance of having alternate plans

Never pee into the wind, check.
Never tug on Superman's cape, check.
Never buy a lottery ticket for an investment, check.
Never say never, check,  err-unchecked, err.
Never depend on the marina, check, check, and double checked.

Kraken on way to San Juans
Rest stop on way to La Conner for launching, and then on to the San Juans
In preparation for this seasons cruises I called ahead to the Port of Skagit County in La Conner to arrange for a travel lift launch.  Good news I'm told by the very nice lady on the phone, "We have a forklift that lifts 11,000 pounds and we are open until 6:30 pm."  Okay great, I'm thinking, we can get there around 3 pm and we only weigh 8500, perfect, oh yeah, how much?  "Only $20 or $25 if they have extra work."  Fantastic, for only $25 I don't have to dunk my trailer brakes in salt water, this is too good. (and it was)

Reality, or what really happened:
First the ports forklift  can only lift 5,000 lbs, and they didn't want to even try.  Second they don't have a travel lift, but a  light duty overhead tram with a sling, and again they would not try.

My options are -- go away.

Next, at 3 pm we parked on the main drag outside the still open La Conner chamber of commerce where I asked about private boat yards and was supplied with the telephone numbers for two marinas with big travel lifts. A quick phone call determined both businesses were willing to sling my boat for about $125 if I came back tomorrow.  I begged for compassionate emergency service, explaining I just drove for six hours depending on the ports promises only to hear, "Do you want to reserve a slot tomorrow, we have customers today."  "No thanks," I said.

Plan B, we quickly drove over Rainbow Bridge to Shelter Bay Marina to check out the boat ramp, only to find it high and dry with a falling tide that still had two more hours to go.

Plan C, we quickly drove back over Rainbow Bridge to the La Conner city ramp located almost directly under the bridge.  I asked a fisherman fueling his boat out of a tank in the back of his pickup how far the ramp extended. "To the end of the dock," was his answer.  Keeping in mind the tide was falling, I went to the far end of the float and with a boat hook began probing six feet down while moving up the ramp. Once many years ago I backed off the end of a ramp dropping the trailer about two feet, then became hung up on the end of the concrete. So, better safe than sorry, now I always probe or somehow determine I will have plenty of ramp.

With about two hours of falling tide water still ahead, a thirty five foot trailer and boat, a thirty foot float with a six foot depth in the middle, fours hours of daylight left, I said lets launch, and began rigging fenders and dock lines while the fisherman finished filling his boat with fuel.  When his pickup cleared the single lane ramp I backed down and she floated free.  Five minutes later, my rig is locked up and parked in the city provided spaces, and we are on board motoring towards our waiting slip in Shelter Bay.

Total cost - launching and parking, $2.50 per day. Total frustration - not too much.

There is no moral here, my advice as always is, give yourself plenty of time for plans B, C, D....

BTW, I spent a full hour hosing and flushing my trailer with fresh water after retrieving it from the ramp parking lot later that day.

In the fall I will likely reverse the procedure, but try to do it near high tide.
I will probably mention something here unless it is really boring.


Where is Cypress Head Campground and why should you camp there?

I stopped for a quick look around at Cypress Head.
There are quite a few campsites and trail access to all of Cypress Islands trail system.
With a cove on both sides of the head you should be able to find some protection when anchored.
Cypress Head campground, cypress Island

Cypress Head campground, cypress Island

Cypress Head campground, cypress Island
The camping sites at Cypress Head have the best view I have ever seen, but the exposure to wind goes with the view.
Cypress Head campground, cypress Island anchor buoys
One side of the head has mooring balls, the other side nothing, but I would choose the side without a swell for an overnight visit.

For those of us without any idea where this place is - you will find Cypress Head on the east side of Cypress Island on Bellingham Channel.  It is a short kayak paddle from Guemes Channel or Washington Park in Anacortes


What can boaters do when faced with persistent San Juan Islands fog and Rosario Strait must be crossed

persistant fog bank blocking Thatcher PassThis is a view down Guemes Channel across four mile wide Rosario Strait at what would be Thatcher Pass if you could see it.

That wall of white is creeping up the tip of Cypress Island.

You can navigate through the soup and wonder about ferries or turn like that cruiser did, and run around behind Cypress island to cross Rosario over to Peavine or Obstruction Passes. The detour adds only a little bit of time and three miles extra travel, but misses todays fog bank. This is a common situation. Further south at Lopez or Cattle Pass, or Deception it will likely be the same.

Here is a link to a foggy article that may enlighten some > Dealing with fog in the San Juans


Some pictures to Share to make you smile

Rainbow outside wheelhouse
Kind of a miserable day but a bright future

left side
right side
new family on the move
That time of year again

More cruising pictures worthy of viewing - click here > Lots of great San Juan images


Does the law require non-swimmers to wear life jackets (pfd) in the San Juan's - No it does not, but some folks on some boats must wear pfd's.

Oh boy, let's argue.
                  Seriously, you should be conversant with and follow pfd rules, they make sense and save lives.  This article is a semi-non serious look at the actual usage on board cruiser vessels.

        First of all I'm not trying to make an argument but make a point of different thinking. (just for fun)
Here goes -
        If, and I mean if only one life jacket is worn on board, most would say it should be worn by a clumsy non swimmer because they will most likely need it. In this intellectually challenged exercise I suggest that the one and only life jacket should be worn by the most capable person because no one else on board is likely to be able to save him.
             The most capable person will have to save himself when no one else is able, hence he should wear the life jacket.  Because >> When the most capable person is gone the rest may perish, when the most capable person needs help, who will help him. So with this way of thinking we must preserve the most capable so that the less capable may then be helped.

       Was that clear? OK try this scenario  -- The skipper gets knocked overboard (crazy crew screws up) and is unconscious in the water without a pfd.  By the time the clueless crew can recover (if ever) him/her, its too late.    Now the remaining persons on board are at greater risk without the numero uno.

        Next scenario  --The clumsy helpless crewman trips and goes in the drink without a pfd. The immensely capable skipper springs into action, rescues the klutz in minutes and saves the day.

        My backwards conclusion is that in the first scenario the skipper may have survived had he been wearing the only pfd, but the klumsy klutz crew probably would have survived without a pfd due to the skill of the skipper.

        What! What is he suggesting, that the skipper gets the only pfd? Outrageous! Blasphemy! What about the Master's responsibility to ship, crew and passengers - Keel haul the laggardly sot.

      On a serious note:
        Look around the docks where all the boats are coming and going and you invariably see the women and children  (even pooches) bundled up in the latest good looking approved flotation apparel. Makes sense, right? - save the hapless and helpless from succumbing to a maritime accident lurking around the next slip or piling. Look closely and many times you see the person stepping (we never jump do we) from boat to dock or dock to boat, handling lines, pushing off, keeping track of passengers, other boats, etc, etc, is not wearing a pfd. All the passengers that are seated and doing nothing are properly belted in, but the one person really in harm's way, the one person all others depend on, the one person the others may not be able to save - is not wearing a pfd at all.

       I need to end this tirade by saying that simply having pfd's on board may keep the regulators happy but won't help the unfortunate skipper over the side, while his helpless family watches him struggle.

        There are certain times (docking-working on deck) when all crew and skipper should be wearing safety gear - and that is just good seamanship.

Sobering thought!
discussion for wearing pfd's


How many Anchors do you need for cruising in the San Juan Islands when Visiting the Marine Parks

One anchor!
      The quick and easy answer is, "you need the same amount anywhere you go"
No help so far, Okay lets talk a scenario that could be any of us.

You arrive at your first nights anchorage, a quiet little protected bay with a rocky bottom.
What a great vacation, hot dogs over a campfire onshore, some wine or beer, a really restful nights sleep, rich coffee in the morning, and then when you try to raise the anchor your hooked to the biggest rock in the world. after hours of pulling from all directions you finally give up and cut the line, ouch, 250 bucks worth of anchor and rode, gone.  Oh well, your not going to let a lost anchor spoil a perfect vacation and off you go to the next idyllic spot in the San Juan's.

Now it really hits home, the dock is full, no one offers to or wants to raft your boat.  So you think, that's okay, I'll just go ashore in  the dinghy find an anchor shaped rock, bring it back to the mother ship, and tie it to whats left of the cut rode. Except the rode is too short, and you need to stay on board to keep circling in the boat because no one in your crew (wife and children) is qualified to run the boat while your rock hunting.  So your current ex-spouse rows to shore, and .... see where this is going?

What should happen is you break out a spare anchor and rode that's stored and ready to deploy once you tie off the bitter end.  Your admiring first spouse and children think you're a hero.

OK, dinghy scenario.  Your youngest children that have just mastered rowing are off somewhere nearby while you snooze or read a book.  Little do you know but they just lost both oars and the wind is quickly
Click below to read more

Solo Circumnavigation Under Sail Without an Engine No Less

      It's true, I have joined the ranks of solo sailors, except before my head gets too swelled I must admit I simply sailed around Coon Island. But I did do it solo, and I didn't bring a motor.  
     When I cast off  that  melancholy mid morning, right after breakfast, heading southerly, I was immediately faced with a 1.5 mph adverse current that began to drag me  backwards. Thankfully my 30 year old, new to me,  9.5' sailing dinghy performed well in the  light airs easily overcoming the current.  Soon I was past the point of no return, rounding the tip of Coon Island, being careful to avoid the sunken breakwater barge. Once around the point my trusty vessel was caught in a spinning vortex that would terrify a less experienced sailor. The tiller became unresponsive as we spun through several 360 degree turns.  In desperation, and trying not get hit in the head, I used my free hand to tame the boom and back wind the mainsail. Finally free of the barges eddy's, we were off on three or four rail down tacks making quick work of the island's west side. 
         Only a few minutes after eating and with no food or water on board, I was approaching what would become the final turn and then a telling downwind romp back to the dock I had left 1,500+- seconds earlier. Letting out the main sheet, and slacking the out-haul there was nothing left to do but bask in well deserved glory as I approached the dock from the opposite direction I had departed from less than half an hour earlier that morning. 

        After handing the dock line to an admiring power boater, I was greeted warmly with, "I see your problem, you have a loose nut on the end of your tiller."

One of two Coon Island floats, on shore are composting toilets, shelter, fire rings, and a few campsites.
       Coon Island is in the Multnomah Channel, a side shoot off the Columbia River. The entire half mile long  23 acre island  is a county park,  (JJ Collins Marine Park)  and my favorite place to overnight near my home in Portland.

       Now that I have become infected with the circumnavigation bug I am setting my sights on bigger and more challenging goals. This summer in the San Juans I will attempt Jones Island on July 5th, but I'm not promising any biggies such as Sucia, and of course Orcas is just a dream for my 9.5 sailing dinghy. ( maybe for Orcas, I'll bring my 2.5 hp Suzuki kicker, and a sandwich)


What is "Current Set" - The San Juan's and Puget Sound are full of potential Catastrophes - Ignornace is Bliss

        Is it really a close call if you don't know about it?  If a catastrophe almost happens, is it worthy to note?

        When your boat is drifting towards a lee shore, but still has two hours before running onto the rocks is it a big deal?

      Ignorance really is bliss, that's for sure.

         I don't know how many times I have almost sunk, no one does, like Donald Rumsfeld once said, "We don't know what we don't know."

      I know this though -- one time crossing Rosario Strait heading into Thatcher Pass, we were all staring out the front and not paying attention to our sideways set (side drift) when out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement that turned out to be rocks coming at us fast. (full flood must have been 3+ knots) The current was forcing us sideways straight onto the rocks of tiny Pointer Island. I swung hard over and pushed her to full throttle, our outboard barely pulled us away with one hundred feet and two or three seconds to spare. I shuddered thinking of my family on board and almost quit boating right then and there.

       Another time, just after leaving Sidney Spit to cross Haro Strait, when suddenly out of the dense fog loomed the green aid marking Mandarte Island.  Once again I had not paid enough attention to the current set and was almost swept onto the rocks.

       And again, once we ran out of gas in the "Narrows" and the current quickly whisked us towards an anchored construction barge under the new Tacoma Bridge. Quick action switching tanks averted an unpleasant incident with just minutes to spare.

     So, I have admitted to three times that I know of, where my inattention to currents has almost had disastrous results.  How many more are there that I don't know about, I don't know.

     My problem is, I tend to watch where the boat is pointed or where I want to go and not where we are really going.

     Ignorance is bliss, but is no way to skipper a boat.

Fast water at cattle pass in the San Juan Islands
You wouldn't cross in front of a ship making 6 knots,
so why pass barely upstream of rocks in a 6 knot current?


Roche Harbor 4th of July reservations at the Marina

I called the Roche Harbor Master today to see if a slip was open for the 4th of July

The answer was NO.

I was told they hold a lottery in February and I missed it, rats.  Looks like I'll be anchoring out this year.

Just thought I would pass this along.
btw this was 2013



Traveling to Butchart Gardens by Boat - Itinerary - Canada/USA Customs - Anchor in Tod Inlet

         For  us, one of the best parts about cruising the San Juan's is not having to make any reservations or depend on anyone else.  After a quick stop at the store for food, we just go, and then let the  relaxing begin the moment we cast off. Four days, five days, ten days, I quickly leave everything behind, (including the wine and Hershey bars by mistake) all my thoughts are of traveling and  carefree times.

          However, many times my plans are waylaid by life's little curves and family events. Life curves that I have little control over, and family that - well that just takes precedence over my cruise plans.

          Case in point, it took me four years and three tries to finally see in person the flag lowering ceremony held each balmy summer evening at Roche Harbor.  One time I missed the cruise altogether, and another time a boat dragged anchor into us just minutes before the cannon went off. When I did get to witness the entire show it was just by happenstance that we were there, for I had given up and mostly forgot about the cannon firing sundown ritual.  So when this baby replica of a middle age artillery piece blasted a hole in my thoughts, and its muzzle flash lit up the manicured lawn, I was taken by surprise to say the least. Oh I may have yelled or screamed just a little but no one heard me. The blast was not really deafening but very loud never the less, took me by surprise and captured everyone's attention.  Then the returning echoes bouncing off Henry Island from across Roche Harbor drowned out all evidence of my heavy breathing and rapid heart beat.  What did he just babble? (how to relax?)

click below to read about Butchart Gardens!


Where is this place? and what is it?

Hint, its in the San Juans (of course)

48* 47. 337' N   (how do you make that little degree circle thingy")
122* 58. 277' W
(anyone can figure this out, but can you do it in under 60 seconds? five minutes?)


What is the Cheapest Chart Plotter Available - My new laptop GPS is awesome and not expensive

       Not too long ago I posted that I needed a new gps, but couldn't remember why I needed a new one.  Sound familiar!
(update) I remember now, the curser quits moving while it redraws charts and sometimes it takes awhile to catch up, so its not really broken just too slow.

        Anyway I've been shopping gps units and have been shocked and irritated at the manufacturers high prices and total arrogance.

This is the way I see it! 

  • They sell us a product that does the same thing a highway unit does (mostly) for ten times the price. 
  • They then make us buy maps separately because the pre-loaded chart shows the shoreline as a straight line, and small islands are skipped completely. 
  • Then to top it off they quit supporting (selling chips) for older units forcing us to buy all new stuff, and start all over again.

  • And the stuff they make us buy are all in one units called mfd's (multifunctiondisplays) as if giving it a fancy name makes it a good idea.  Well most of us have tripped and broken a few eggs and when they are all in one basket, you know what happens.  If that was too to hard grasp, it means they all broke. It means when your mfd quits, you have lost your gps, your sounder, maybe your compass, certainly your chart. Why buy a paper chart when you have a  $5,000 chart plotter. oh yeah your knot meter too, but who cares how fast your going when your lost. Did I mention radar, yeah for another 5k+ you can get it in the same basket.

  • They're laughing all the way to the bank while we just gobble up their over priced products.

And this is what I did:

  • I bought a gps antenna (usb) and chart plotter program for my laptop, total cost $99.  Of course I already had a  $350 lap top  with a 15 inch screen BTW. (awesome detail)
  • it came with a dvd with every NOAA chart published
  • every chart is the most recent updated published
  • it works great and has all the detail the others choose to spoon feed us $350 at a time because NOAA is where the charts come from in the first place.
  • as a bonus I got chart number one (free online anyway) just a click away as well as tide prediction, coast pilot, all part of a full feature chart plotter navigation suite.
  • and even better I have a copy loaded  onto  my  home   computer  with  a    27 inch screen so I can cruise around when I'm not on the boat.
  • and if it quits, I can send it back to Dell (the lap top) or pick up a new one and load the program on as many computers as I want
Now here's the down side: (none) okay, it is not 3D.
  • I still need a separate sounder. (have two, that's a good thing)
  • and a stand alone compass. (got it) another good thing
  • I'm  afraid I will be keeping my charts handy in case my laptop screen goes blue or battery's go dead. 
  • redraw times are instantaneous, darn.
  • I still plan to keep my handheld, ( you know, eggs in a basket and all).
  • I'm worried someone will break into my boat thinking I have a fancy chart plotter hidden away.
  • I wont have any discontinued phone numbers for shore side businesses in my expensive discontinued chart plotter.
  • I'm sure there must be more negatives.
  • OK, here's one,  my lap top is not designed for salt water use. Hmmm? you know it cost $350, and that's not counting converting to boating units. (I think the boat unit conversion is multiply  7X, or is it 10X.)

Installation was a snap:
Just plug in the usb antenna and set on ledge by window, open laptop and power up.
In about five seconds the red menu box turns black meaning satellites are  detected and locked on.

One last point:
It works while in the car, but there are no detailed highway maps, only main highways on charts. I guess NOAA figures boats will stay in the water.

        I am really excited about this new toy (I mean tool)(nav aid)(gps)(chart plotter)
$99 chart plotter,  that's less boat bucks  than, than, than, well its less than anything I can think of except an led bulb I just bought for $ 8 plus shipping.

This is the pixlated logo for the Sea Clear program
I think you can download the sea clear program for free if you're techie prone. (I bought what someone had put on a disk)


Radio Use - call letters for fun and amusement

       Just for fun I've copied some of those letters and words the experts use. You know the ones we can hear really clear so they don't need to spell it out, but do it anyway!

BTW Sailing the San Juans is alive and well but it's January and 22 degrees outside right now.

For the pronunciation of letters and figures by radiotelephony or by voice over a loud hailer.
Letter Code Word Pronunciation
C Charlie CHAR LEE (or SHAR LEE)
N November NO VEM BER
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
Note: The Boldfaced syllables are emphasized.

Now for fun, spell out your boats name and say it loud and clear as if your  ( Alpha Alpha Sierra )  was on the line.

 Our current new old boat is  >>> Kilo-Romeo-Alfa-Kilo-Echo-November
What's yours?

If mastering radiotelephony talk was easy - try using flags!