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Twenty Five Boating Chores to do before next season arrives in the San Juan Islands

             Some chores are critical and some don't apply to all of us, but everyone has boating and sailing things to do before getting underway.     

         This website is supposed to be about  sailing and boating in the San Juans, so if I am stepping out of line here -- be sure to quit reading.

           For me and probably most of us, I pretty much quit boating during the winter months but I do go out a little and still must take care of routine chores.  I procrastinate more than I should and sometimes I win, but more often my procrastination causes me more problems and to spend more money.

         Recently I've done a few very important chores, and some busy work which is more fun, and I'll list off a few right now. Maybe a few readers will be reminded of something they forgot to take care of last season.

The numbers and order mean nothing but I think it looks cool to make lists.

  1.  I just pulled completely apart my  trailers four wheels and bearings. Oh gawd what a greasy mess. I went through one and a half  rolls of paper towels.  One wheel had runny grease, so runny it ran out like heavy oil and it was lighter colored than the grease in the other wheels.  But it was full and showed no signs of not doing its job. I figure water must have gotten in and mixed with the grease, but I have seen frothy water contaminated grease and this didn't look like what I've seen. I cleaned it all up inspected the seal lip and repacked everything. All the brakes were totally covered and saturated with grease and brake lining debris making a black mess, which explains why the brakes never work as good as my other trailers. I have made a mental note to replace all backing plates and brake components next time. (more procrastination) Honestly now, they still work good enough, I hope. I ended up repacking two wheels completely, one I looked at and put back together and one just got some grease added . I feel confident about my bearings now and don't have any worries for upcoming road travel.
  2. I cut off the dinghy line that was too long and got caught in the prop last summer.
  3. My last window leak has succumbed to Captain Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure because I got smart enough to apply it to both the inside and outside surfaces.
  4. I have refilled about a dozen non refillable propane tanks. (fyi - my cost is about $1 per canister and I do not in any way suggest that anyone refill non refillable bottles)
  5. I built a kicker motor adapter bracket so my 5hp Honda sits sideways and now clears the water as well as the dinghy's gelcoat while being carried on the mother ship.
  6. I have added rigid SS standoffs after dropping the dinghy and rope burning my hands.
  7. I have built two kerosene lamp holders so I can hang my lamps from the ceiling hooks.
  8. A few months ago I touched up the bottom paint.
  9. I added a vinyl drip rail gutter to the cabin roofs, a project that I worried about being able to apply straight but it turned out to be really easy and looks great.
  10. I added a site tube to my water tank, so I can see the water level without putting a flashlight behind the tank and then guessing.
  11. I haven't yet, but I do have the yellow pad I'm going to use to create a ships manifest list of everything stored on board including where each item is stored. Then I plan to transcribe the list and print out a good looking copy to be kept in my ship's log book.  Yes it is true, I can't remember where I put things.
  12. I built a new front hatch using half inch Lexan and something that looks a lot like oak.
  13. I have taken satellite screenshots and loaded my laptop with all the likely ports of call for my up coming Sunshine Coast cruise to Princess Louisa Inlet in the middle of June.
  14. I bought two used Canadian charts, since my chart plotter doesn't have anything north of Vancouver.
  15. I changed my motor oil last fall so it would sit with mostly fresh oil through the winter.
  16. I have upgraded my bicycle to  tires full of that anti puncture anti leak glop stuff.
  17. I already wrote about fixing the stoves oil drip valve adjustment so it actually is adjustable.  I was forced to do that from prior procrastination caused problems, but I still want credit.
  18. I got on my stomach in a half open hatch, and with a mirror and flashlight checked the water level in my batteries.
  19. I traced my windlass wiring and discovered an off/on switch I had forgot about. Now my windlass works again after hand hauling chain last year.
  20. I added a mid-ship cleat on the starboard side, the PO must have always tied to port or didn't see the need for proper spring lines.
  21. I installed some good looking golden maple click-lock flooring that closely matches the old teak, at least in color.
  22. I accidentally broke off my am/fm radio antenna, but it still works pretty good so I just cleaned up the fiberglass shreds and pushed a rubber cap over the jagged end.  
  23. I replaced all the uv damaged tie cords on my cabin top kayak rack.
  24. I have built and installed all the components to convert my Livingston dinghy to sail, some fine tuning is still needed but I have had several successful (and fun) sea trials. I may just procrastinate and go with it as is, I can finish up the little stuff later.
  25. I just started what was to be a simple port side light relighting. It seems banging on the light wouldn't cause it to work anymore. When I turned the brass screw heads, both stripped so I drilled them out. After pulling off the lens I grabbed the drilled studs with vise grips and broke them off.  Now there is no way to reattach the lens and I have not even gotten to why the light doesn't light up. More on this later, I'm on way to Ace to find 2.5" x #6 brass screws, I know, "fat chance."
Still to come this year I hope:
  1. Fix the bimini tie downs, not done yet
  2. Drill or make a drain hole for the front hatch (limber holes were forgot, don't ask)
  3. Fill flat fenders with more air and look for leaks.
  4. Find plates that fit in sink or cut a quarter inch off the pretty fishy painted ones my wife likes.
  5. ???

I hope your commissioning chores are as fulfilling as mine are. Lets see wax or polish, what's the difference again?
Saddlebag Island quiet times


What Is The Perfect San Juan Islands Boat - What Equipment is Mandatory

    I  was talking to someone the other day that was earnestly looking for a boat for a passage to Hawaii. He remarked that the vessel he was considering did not have an anchor windlass and he sure would like one.  That comment got me thinking about how often one needs to anchor on the way to Hawaii, and then I thought what else do we think we need but really don’t need at all. 
                In the San Juans we anchor all the time, plus an anchor can be a last chance emergency brake when the motor conks out.  On the way to Hawaii I just don’t see any use for an anchor or windlass, and I doubt motoring very far is in the cards either, so a dependable motor ranks somewhere behind standing rigging because if the mast folds up and goes over the side in the San Juans it’s a big deal and probably will require motoring  back to home base.  If the same thing happens a thousand miles from shore its more than a big deal, it could mean a rescue, so having stout rigging is a must going to Hawaii, but not in the San Juans. How about tanks, do we need a holding tank in the San Juan’s, the answer is no, but they are very handy if you do not want to be tied to resorts and shore side facilities. On the way to Hawaii, I think a holding tank won’t be missed.  Fresh water tank, yes. I think you need one going to Hawaii, but in the San Juans, no, you can make it from place to place with a sports bottle in your pocket.  How about a compass, I think yes in both scenario’s.   Radar is a resounding not needed in either case but a gps and radio I think you need, and since they are relatively cheap and portable there is no real good reason not to have them with you. A chart plotter is not needed but a paper chart is needed whether going to Hawaii or hanging around the San Juans.
How about a refrigerator, nope you can get by without one and save a lot of juice at the same time. 
Did I leave out anything big?  Yes! No!  Of course you need basics like a bilge pump or a bucket, but let’s face it a dinghy is handy but not required, so is a new suit of sails.  I think a good argument can be made for having an emergency life raft out in the middle of the ocean, but not so good an argument in the San Juans.
The purpose for this line of thought as I said in the beginning was to think some about
what gear is really needed on my boat, or on the boat  being considered.
Click below to read more


Practicing What I Preach

          One way to plan a cruise to the San Juan's!

     Many times on this site I have suggested that the most important planning thing to do is set a date, and the rest of the cruise will come together, that philosophy has not changed.  But that doesn't mean you can ignore important details expecting them to magically fall in place.  Someone still has to grease the wheel bearings, apply for passports, order techie toys, mow the lawn.
     Just put a big X on the calendar and then sit back and let your cruise plan unfold (bad word choice, sounds too much like unravel) just sit back and let your plan develop.  In our case, with some prodding (one poke) from my oldest daughter, I agreed to go to Roche Harbor for the 4th of July.  No big X date on exact arrival but the 4th is the 4th, so I figured  we would arrive in the general area a few days earlier.

     Now, some months later,  the plan is starting to come together.  I have a day planned for bike riding on San Juan.  I have a  campfire night planned on shore at Jones for hot dogs.  I have a toss up day to get Ice Cream at Blakelys or Friday Harbor, and it looks like if I can make my Livingston Dinghy sail properly, I will have the day of the 4th to sail around Roche Harbor dodging anchor lines and other dinghies.  Yesterday another daughter announced she and her friends had camping reservations on San Juan Island, also over the 4th of July, and that I could give her, her friends and their bicycles a ride over to Lopez on the 2nd, and then they would ride the ferry back that evening.  The plan for Saturday after the 4th is still open, but I know it will fall in place just like always.

       So, we put the big X on the calendar, and the plan is evolving, I can't believe I used to actually stress over vacation details.  I wonder if I should enter the blind dinghy race the day of the 4th.  hmmm!

Just in case someone needs an exhausting check list to stress out over when making plans, take a look here.
Cruisers - Mother of all Packing lists!   <<< click there


A reminder for me again! Murphy's Law!

        My dinghy, just like many others is mounted on snap davits across the transom and stood on edge for travel.  This has been my preferred system for many boats and even more dinghies. To tilt and raise the dinghy up and out of the water I have two nylon lines attached to cleats on the far side.  I wrap one line around each wrist and then with a heave, I lean back and pull the dinghy up onto its side. Next with the dinghy balanced in a somewhat neutral position I carefully tie off both lines by wrapping around the stern rail and back to the dinghy cleat.  For lowering the dinghy I wrap the lines several times around the rail creating a friction brake, then effortlessly let out enough line to set her back in the water.

   So far so good, but here's the reminder part. Last week while lowering the dinghy, my cleated lines somehow became loose, I didn't see it in time and the dinghy fell without any braking wraps. I had one hand on a line but was unable to hold it, so it whistled through my grasp taking with it a bunch of my flesh leaving me with a painful rope burn.  To  add insult, after the dinghy fell I discovered my oars were about to slide out of their poorly knotted  lines as well. Some regulars may remember these are the same lines I managed to wrap around the prop at Jones Island last year.  I'll save the procrastination post for later.

     There are lessons and reminders here.

  • Even though I think I tie great knots and cleat well, I failed.
  • I should have a redundant tie off system.
     This experience got me thinking, what else is about to trip me up?
  • loose bolt/nuts
  • cotter pins not spread enough
  • zincs, corroded fasteners
  • belts, hoses, clamps, 
  • electrical connections, battery condition/quality
  • are my flares expired, where is my whistle?
  • anchor shackle pin seizing wire
  • fuel system, (this is a big potential problem area) fuel stabilizer 
  • waste system (that reminds me, I think the vent is plugged)
  • fresh water chlorination, (oh yeah, forgot that too)
  • diesel exhaust smell in the clothes closet, still not addressed!
  • hatch seal
  • dock lines are still a mish mash of old ropes and  one fender is flat
  • telescoping boat pole is jammed at five feet
I put this list together in a few minutes, so there is plenty I missed.
No preaching this time,  but I hope I got some of you thinking.

Understanding the Rule of Twelfths Formula for Tide Predictions in the San Juan Islands

Disclaimer #1 
I have read this little tool rule many times by different authors and each time have come away confused and surprised at how such a simple idea can come out so convoluted and nonsensical. I wrote my clearly understandable version below and tried it on Linda who knows and understands the rule only to hear  "Your writing is  confusing, why did you say tidal range?"
Using the Rule of twelfths when anchoring
"The Rule of Twelfths"
 First, lets think in terms of where we will apply this tool.  For me it is when I need to anchor and I don’t know how far the tide is going to drop or rise.  Will my keel touch bottom in two hours, will the anchor drag while we sleep?  These important questions need answering before setting the hook.

       To employ the rule you must know some approximate facts first. #1, what is the tidal range in the area, ie. if the tide book states high tide is 8.5 feet and low tide is 1.5 feet, the total range the water rises or falls is 7 feet. As you know every day is different and varies by area so our first fact is just an approximation.  #2, we need to know what time high or low tide is forecast.  These two facts are all we need to know and we can arrive at the anchorage and make a good estimate of what to expect.

       Most areas have a six hour duration from low tide to high tide so we need to think in terms of six one hour segments. During the first hour the water rises or falls slowly. During the second hour the rise or fall picks up speed.  During the third and fourth hours, the water is moving at its fastest rate, and the fifth and sixth hours are slower and mirror hours one and two.  That’s the cycle that is repeated regardless of area or total range.  Slow at first, picking up speed, very fast, then slow down, and come to a stop, in six hours and then repeat.

       So now we have a six hour period broken into one hour segments, it’s time to assign a value to each hour and the following is the backbone of the Rule of Twelfths  123321, (each number represents one hour) yes they do add up to twelve. In the first hour after slack water, the water will move 1/12 of the range, in the second hour the water will move 2/12 of the range, or double the first. In the third hour the water moves 3/12 of the entire range. So this means that three hours after slack, or three hours  before the next slack, the water has moved a total of 6/12 or halfway through its range.  We already know that at the halfway point the tide is moving at its fastest and is halfway in or out, so no surprise there.  When we arrive at an anchorage exactly halfway between high and low tide, all we need to know is the total range and we can easily determine how much more or less to expect.  Where this tool helps most is during the second hour or fifth hour, referring back to our rule of 123321 we see the fifth hour totals 10/12, and the second hour total 3/12 of the range. By reducing fractions we easily understand that in the fifth hour the tide has moved 5/6 of the range and only has about 1-2 feet still to go. In the second hour the tide has only moved  1/4 the range and so still has about 4-5 feet to move.

       Armed with this knowledge you can easily determine how much the water will rise or fall and anchor where the depth is best for your boat.  So remember 123321,  know the tidal range in your area, and what time high or low tide is forecast. The rest is just fractions.

Disclaimer #2
       As a practical matter, I don't park the boat with just a foot of clearance under my goodies unless I have a good reason, such as I'm at a dock at low tide and I know whats coming.  Swinging at anchor with only a foot to spare is asking for it in some locations.  For you naysayers consider what happens to your boat when a big swell comes your way, that's right it is followed by a trough.  Well not only does a one foot trough take away your clearance, but it slams you violently on the bottom to tell you so.

       So, even though the Rule of Twelfths is a fun exercise, and I recommend everyone understand the ups and downs of tides, (ha) I still look for lots of depth at low tide, set my anchors very well, and sleep even better.

Here is a link to the NOAA tide tables  > NOAA tide tables


My shore power cord got so hot the plastic plug melted and had to be pried off the connection

Where have we been for the last sixty days?      

       I have felt bad for not posting recently, but not anymore.  Just as I sat down it occurred to me that many of us are in the same situation. Winter projects, holidays etc. Now that I have time to write, some of you may have time to stop by, and the fact that two months has gone by is not an issue.

         One of my projects was to keep my boat from freezing solid and being damaged. So far so good.  We went for a Thanksgiving weekend cruise in freezing weather, which was my last post about the stove huffing and puffing soot all over the place. You know soot becomes snoot when it gets wet or rubbed or wiped or touched. It also seems to permanently sink into oxidized fiberglass.  Bad news all around, snoot is. The good news is that it cleans off  painted surfaces really nice and almost cleans off waxed surfaces.

        On New Years we went for another cold weather outing and the oil stove worked flawlessly now that I know to pay better attention to the burner.

      Now about the hot wire,  and warning  for all of us that know better.  My 30 amp power plug got so hot that it partially melted the plastic and I had a really hard time removing the plug from the receptacle on the boat.  

        The heat was caused by two things #1 the plug terminals must not have  made a good connection so I'm not getting 30 amps, instead I'm getting heat.   #2 the electric heater and battery charger in the boat probably combine for too much power draw, and with the cold weather I'm lucky I caught it before - poof - a different kind of snoot appeared where the boat is/was. My advice to myself is to check both ends of every cable connection for heat. What worry's me are the buried connections I can't get to.

Here's proof it can happen  - Clickety click   >>  >>  fire damage

Fire and smoke damage in our San Juan Islands boat
This picture shows smoke damage.  My first thought was that I could simply clean  the surfaces.
Think again skipper -- some surfaces clean really well and some become etched.  Smoke is extremely corrosive, and in a closed boat fire, flames may not be present but the smoldering fire pressurizes and forces smoke into and behind every nook and cranny.  Nothing escapes, not the field glasses, not the radio,  not the switch  panel or any electrical terminals .

      Within six months of this fire - all electrical switches, contacts failed.  Wires survived, but all had to be re-cut and new terminals crimped.  (The adjuster totaled the boat)

The cause of the fire was an overheated extension cord.  You can see the orange cord in the picture  So regrettable and preventable.


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)