Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Sailing Georgia Strait

We've just had spectacular weather for cruising. We departed from Coal Harbour, Vancouver, leaving the frenzy of the Olympic party scene, for the tranquility and beauty of cruising Georgia Strait. It was a magnificent Saturday with sunny skies and temperature in the 40's. No wind though. We just motored across Georgia Strait at the 5 knot cruising speed the 40 foot steel hulled 13 ton full keeled cutter rigged SV GIRI likes. Her 26 hp Yanmar engine just throbbed with the pleasure of passage.

In the morning I'd seen again the salt water cooling pump leak and remembered the one thing I had to do before cruising again. Jim Giesbrecht had completed the electrical repairs I needed. He'd also wired the new Electroscan sewage treatment plant,installed the new Wagner Autopilot pumpset, hooked up the stereo and put up a new antennae for the hamm radio. All that was stopping me from leaving was the leak so I phoned Land Sea (604-946 5996) the Yanmar parts dealer in nearby Delta. They have an emergency line and were kind enough to answer and confirm they had a new water pump in stock. For $150 they'd come in but confirmed they could ship it by air to Nanaimo, my first destination.

So Laura, my first mate, and Angel, the cat (commodore or admiral depending on the day's disposition) and I set out. It was a good decision. Not a single problem en route.

Dolphins joined us. They like to play about the bow wave. They're delightfully uplifting and bring good luck to a voyage. I love the stories of dolphins and porpoises rescuing sailors by leading them away from dangers or warning them of risks. These dolphins seemed just to be celebrating a beautiful day with us.

It was night when we entered Nanaimo harbor. I've a Furuno Radar, charts, Sailing Directions, 2 GPS units, and Tridata Autohelm Depth Sounder. I 'm an old sailor and don't trust anything really but binoculars, compass, lights and paper charts. I've even a sextant on board. I just hardly use any of that stuff anymore.

The Navionics Marine Application GPS plotter and maps for iPhone that served me best. It cost me, I think $9.99 but has more features and maps with plotter and waypoints and masses of information than what I paid a couple of thousand for 15 yeas ago to have on my computer. The standard equivalent program for the computer costs a couple of hundred dollars and then you have to buy maps on top of that. Technology is amazing with the advances. This iPhone apps serves all my navigation needs and I'm really feeling spoiled by it because of the accuracy and ease of operation.

We anchored in Nanaimo that first night because I'd had a surprise with a 5 foot depth reading heading for the marina. I've always anchored in Nanaimo Harbour off the Good Point of Protection Island. So that's what I did in 30 feet depth. It was a cozy night with the Dickinson Stove and a Coleman propane catalytic heater combination. My Dickinson Stove had begun to have troubles crossing the Strait so on Sunday I set to solving the problem.

I took apart the fuel line and cleaned replaced the filters, then checked the pump, even to the point of re wiring, took the carburetor apart a few times. I actually got it flaming amazingly only I couldn't turn it down so had a moment of consternation waiting for the fuel in the stove to burn up, higher and higher, after I'd turned off the fuel line and carburetor switch. I finally concluded it must be the pump which was rather sickly. That left us with low heat and coupled with the propane catalytic heater we were warm.

I made moose burgers with onions and garlic and small potatoes and carrots with sour cream. It was a meal fit for a king, the last of the moose.

The next morning I pulled up the anchor and drove the GIRI carefully across to the marina watching the depth sounder in this shallow harbor. At the marina the wharfinger answered on VHF 67 asking for the depth of keel before advising us to moor on the new Cameron Dock. Nothing could be easier as it was nearly empty. Lines and fenders out I was moments later at dock hooking up power.

Angel was amusing. She immediately jumped on the dock and rolled about on her back as if to say, 'land, thank god, we're on land again." We walked about the seawall to the wharfinger's office where we paid the $38 overnight fee with power and showers.

Land Sea said they'd be flying the water pump part to Nanaimo Marine Centre on Stewart Street. When I phoned them on the cell phone (boaters love cellphones) it wasn't in but they would deliver 4 deep cycle batteries and another fuel pump for the dickinsons. Jim had replaced 4 of my batteries, but didn't know I had the second bank. You have to complete changing all the batteries at one time so the old ones don't damage the new. I'd had these batteries since before I sailed to Hawaii and back so felt less pain at the $150 a piece cost. The fuel pump was that much as well.

The walk to the Nanaimo Marine Centre was a pleasure in the sunshine with the first cherry blossoms showing and the crocuses along the route. Nanaimo is really a beautiful city these days. I lived in nearby Parksville some 15 years ago and the changes that have occurred are amazing. It's really transformed from a logging mill port, with Harmac Pulp Mill across the bay, to a terrific little tourist destination. I've always loved the little town by the public marina with the Vinyl Café like record stores, second hand book stores, funky and fashionable boutigues, the old Anglican church with it's bell, St. Andrews United Church, the Old Court House but I'd never been to the Old Quarter. Laura and I had a lovely walk the few blocks up to this area where dozens of quaint old period houses had been turned into a yuppie and granola mix of shops, very Vancouver Island. Yoga mats sold next to the lastest in haute couture Crispin shoes, with mystic readings apparently while you received acupuncture. We loved it.

When we got back to the GIRI the Nanaimo Marine guys were trollying my new batteries down the dock. I had already taken the old ones out. I had taken a picture, drawn a picture, and labelled all the connections to be sure I had the new ones correctly connected together. I installed the new fuel pump and was sorry to see that the Dickinson Stove flame didn't go any higher meaning it was another problem and now I had an back up fuel pump.

Apparently by some screw up somewhere the water pump took a flight to Victoria only to be redirected to Nanaimo arriving at 3 in the afternoon on Harbour Air. Nanaimo Marine delivered it to the boat and I installed it while Laura was up enjoying the shower. After that the engine ran just fine, engine below 150 and no leak so the bilge pump stopped having to flush the excess water.

I had a shower then and enjoyed getting clean. A looney was good for 3 minutes of hot water and I found to my surprise that 6 minutes was more than enough for a pleasant shower whereas another three minutes was good for just standing under the nozzle enjoying the water neck massage. Later Laura told me she'd used 4 loonies and I wondered what she'd been up to. Her hair isn't that much longer than mine.

That night I found that the shank roast of venison I thought I'd packed was indeed tenderloin. Venison tenderloin! I didn't know I had any left. So more potatoes and carrots boiled then served with sour cream and butter. The tenderloin cut into medallions, marinaded in soy and tomato sauce with a touch of curry and lots of pepper, fried with garlic and onion. I just about died after that candle light meal.

I'd begun reading Jack Higgins Solo having already finished Loitering with Intent by Stuart Woods. These are great boat books. We'd planned to watch a movie only after dinner didn't think we could stay awake for a feature. The electric heater was complementing the tired Dickinson so we were toasty cozy in the v berth bed with 2 comforters and a cat.

This morning it was early up. The Dodds Narrow turn was at 10 am and I'd not done that passage so was uncharacteristically wary planning to do it by the book. I made coffee and Scottish Oatmeal with brown sugar and honey. Then it was double checking the tide charts and maps before untying from the dock and setting off.

Dodds Narrows is only 5 miles from Nanaimo and there are lots of warnings about it's narrowness and the rapids that run at 9 knots. When the GIRI finally passed through them it was actually flat water and easy as any tidal current passage could be. Now we've passed down Stuart Channel past Porlier Pass, the passage I normally take from Georgia Strait into this protected Tricomali Channel leading down to Salt Spring Island. Our ETA is a couple of hours for Ganges Harbour. It's been raining with about 5 knots of wind on the nose. I've known glorious fair weather sails up or down this channel with wing on wing and 15 to 20 knots of joyful wind but today it's just the iron jenny chugging us forward. It's chilly and wet out there and I'm rather content sitting at this computer in the cockpit with a Coleman catalytic heater at my feet, roughing it, really.

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