Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring sailing Strait of Georgia with Gilbert

Yesterday, we left Coal Harbour catching the turn at First Narrows under the Lions Gate Bridge. Westerly wind of 10 knots on the nose, we didn't bother raising sail but motored the 2 hours round to the Deep Bay anchorage beside Snug Cove on Bowen Island.

It was just dark as we anchored. Lots of boats this long weekend and lots of new anchor buoys to confuse things adding to the clutter of crab traps. Three tries and as usual I was very thankful for the electric winch.

That was one of the first additions I made to the GIRI nearly 20 years ago when I first purchased the boat. Another place and another time I'd had to set the anchor in 80 feet with all that chain to haul and winch in a couple of times before I decided on motoring to a wholly different shallow anchorage. I was so exhausted and irritable that on reaching land I ordered this Lofranz Italian 1000 watt wonder machine which has served me so well all these years.

Gilbert spends the night in his little canvas dog house. It keeps him from pooping in the night on the boat. Nothing would lose a Captain's good will faster than stepping in wet poop in the middle of the night while running above to check some unusual sound. It works better for me but Gilbert is beginning to like his little house, actually going to lie in it during the day. I think he knows it saves him from walking the gang plank or being flogged for bowel infractions. He tires around 10 pm and after a whirlwind of puppy activity he crashes.

At 6 am he wakes. For a few moments he yawns and plays with toys then he yelps. This is my cue to donn sweats, release him from his bed, and carry him on deck. Gilbert, the great naval dog, has already learned to poop on deck, up by the anchor. There's more sniffing and turning than ashore in this new environment but eventually he settles into the task. So having peed and pooped I can take him below.

Angel the cat has followed and now wants her wet food. She's picky. It has to be Fancy Feast. Gilbert stares at her while she eats. She looks down on him enjoying her food that much more. I go back to bed. Oddly Gilbert seems to think this is play time.

Given that I couldn't get any more sleep, I weighed anchor and headed to sea. It was a beautiful sunny day with 10 to 15 knot winds from the north west. When I rounded Bowen Island I turned into the wind and raised the sails. The sleepy eyed blond was on deck too.

The Wagner Autopilot doesn't like the main sail to be all the way up but is happy with the self furling foresail being all the way out. I always think that other sailors must wonder at me having a reefed main in ideal weather. I really don't like hand steering. It interferes with having coffee, reading and stroking a cat on the lap.

Laura entertained Gilbert or held the cat the cat when I was forced to steer. We crossed the Strait doing 5.5 knots with 2000 rpm engine for charging the batteries being drawn on by the autopilot.

When we'd been about to leave on Friday, Graham and Umberto having kindly put up the netting Eric had brought us from Pocomarine, this all being necessary for the puppy's first sea voyage, the Yanmar engine failed to start. I checked for shorts then at a loss phoned James Giesbrecht to discuss the universe, electricity and best made plans of mice and men.

"I wouldn't recommend it, and certainly I'd say in court I never did recommend it or would ever do it myself, but rumor has it that sometimes with a lot of sparking and potential explosion of boats a captain has been able to hold a spanner across the solenoid and starter engine. Now if you live and there's anything left of you to complain remember I didn't ever tell you about this."

"It's alright," I said. "Tom did that on our way back from Hawaii when we'd not used the engine for a day or two and it started without Tom being blasted into nanopieces."

There were a lot of sparks. A whole lot of sparks. A veritable closed space Celebration of Fire fireworks display. When I'd stood on deck pressing the starter and Tom was where I was now, he expressed some amaze but being an engineer and lacking poetry had not fully apprised me of the sheer wonder of being next to the Big Bang moment. I was glad it was diesel in the bilge and not gasoline and thankful my shirt didn't catch flame. Yes, Laura was on deck, with Gilbert and Angel. As she pressed the starter I jumped the engine, loving that rumble of first life as the Yanmar became sentient all over again.

Now I was glad the engine had started in the morning and wasn't taking any chances on the batteries not having a lot of juice. I needed to replace or rebuild the starter and solenoid since Jim thinks needing to jump it's means it's old and worn. Since I'm old and worn too maybe I could use with a spanner.

Muddling navigation brought me to Porlier Pass right at the 'turn'. This is thoroughly astonishing to me. When I began sailing I plotted everything out and calculated distances and ETA's. For years I was wholly obsessive about this. Today I get up because the dog wakes me, leave because he won't stop playing, muddle with coffee and sails and aim roughly at the islands across the strait and repeatedly end up where I'm supposed to be on time. I wish I'd known it was this easy so I'd not have been so regimentally obsessive that first decade.

Porlier pass was quiet with no rapids to speak up but the under surface whirlpools pulled at the steering nonetheless. Then it was Trinicomalli Channel. Laura was happy with this. She'd felt sea sick on this crossing. It turned out she was dehydrated and felt right as new when I plied her with Santa Cruz organic gingerale, God's gift to sailors.

Gilbert had upchucked once when a big boat passed fast and close causing us to lurch back and forth. This didn't bother him much at all. He was more upset that we wouldn't let him eat his vomit.

In the protected Trinicomali Channel it was hard staying awake to keep watch on all the other sailboats enjoying this favoured pleasant sailing stretch.

Blue Water Cruising Association was having it's spring rendezvous in Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island. We'd been planning on joining this being members and enjoying the meeting of boats with the beach fesitivities.

Yet here was Ganges Harbour and Bedwell would be another 2 hours cruising. We opted for Ganges. Maybe we'd continue on. I thought I needed more fuel too. Nearly bashing a big white cruiser, the owner and his gorgeous mate, were generously pleasant as I pushed my floating boat away from them with my fending pole to tie up at the Ganges Marina Fuel Dock. As it turned out I only needed 10 gallons and much to my discontent and surprise the Ganges Marina Fuel Dock no longer allowed us to fill up the water tank which was down as I later found out only 10 gallons as well. Not only that the marina was full up.

Salt Spring Marina attached to the best restaurant Moby's was also full but the delightful folk there were hopeful they'd have a slip the next day. I was content to anchor and then the tiredness set in. I had the dinghy overboard and the motor on but then when everything was ready I had a shower and rather than going ashore lay down to nap.

Laura was happy to read and later made a magnificent steak meal which we ate watching the ridiculous Land of the Lost video starring Will Ferrell.

Gilbert was already asleep at 10 when I crawled into the V berth so Angel the cat could use me as her bed.

This morning Gilbert yelped. I took him on deck. He peed and pooped. Another exciting sailing day began.

I don't have any more time or room to write now but I will tell you later about the blood letting battle with the pirates, the mermaids coming out of the sea, the sea monsters and the alien space ship inhabited with lizards wanting to eat human flesh.

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