Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt.5 - Cheese Burgers in Paradise

The heat had been almost unbearable, so heading out of Ganges was welcome as the marine breeze would help keep us cool. Well that was the theory anyway. What little breeze that was out there soon diminished and we found ourselves on near flat calm water. Our plan was to head over to Galiano Island and check out Montague Harbour Marine Park.

Charlene on deck as we depart Ganges

This voyage was really the shortest passage of the trip. We were passed by the Mayne Island Ferry as we transited. I was curious if we could secure a mooring buoy for the evening. There was a bunch of American boats in the area. Vacations were now in full swing on both sides of the border, so I thought an early recon of the Marine park might yield a vacant buoy. 
We have tried in the past, unsuccessfully, to secure one of these coveted "tie ups" at a Marine Park closer to home for an evening. I was really hoping to avoid disappointment. 

As we approached the narrow entry into the channel that leads to Montague Bay, a couple of boats were making their exit. Charlene said "That looks encouraging." 
It wasn't long before Corleto had motored into the Bay proper. I got my binoc's and began to scan for empty buoys. 

"I think we are gonna be OK Charlene, I see at least 4." 
Another faster boat was about to overtake us, and with this first come first served rule, I was worried that faster vessels would beat Corleto to the punch. 
My fears were unfounded as we closed in on a row of about 3. I steered Corleto to one that was close to shore, but suddenly one appeared just ahead. 
I relayed to Charlene who was now with boat hook in hand up on the bow, that we would be trying for the closer one. 
I reduced throttle and maneuvered toward our target. 
Charlene reached out and hooked it on her first attempt. I put the engine in neutral and scampered ahead to help her secure the line. And Just like that we were tied up. Our first mooring buoy.

Corleto nicely tied up to a mooring buoy at Montague Harbour

The experience of tying up to a buoy and just relying on your boat systems was one we both had been looking forward to. We celebrated with a light snack and some relaxing on the deck under the shade of our makeshift cover. There was a slight breeze that kept us cooler than being in the sun. 
After a bit we got aboard our dingy to explore the park. It took us about 15 minutes to row to the dingy dock. Note to self for next time: Take a buoy closer to shore or get a small outboard. 
We explored around the tenting grounds and a bit of the shore line, but the heat of the day was just too much. So we headed back to Corleto for an afternoon snooze and some quiet time. 
After reboarding, I decided to perhaps go for a swim.

Thinking about jumping in
Again a new experience to jump off my boat into the water. I hesitated thinking what if I cannot get back aboard, why would I jump off a perfectly good boat? Because it's like 95˚ and I did this all the time when I was a kid. 
In I went with a rather big splash. 

The big SPLASH!

Damn that water was cold! It took my breath away. I swam right over to the dingy and grabbed a hold. Charlene said I had a smile that lit up the whole bay. I swam over to the swim ladder and climbed back aboard. That was fun. 

It's chilly!
We settled down and relaxed and watched the vessels come in an fill up the remaining buoys. It wasn't too long before a friendly couple who noticed our boat came over to introduce themselves and to invite us to next years Catalina Rendezvous. A short time later the park ranger came by to collect the park user fee. A bargain at $12. 

My Cheese Burger in Paradise- with extra cheese

As the sun began to fade, we fired up the BBQ and treated ourselves to two of the finest cheeseburgers we have ever made. We enjoyed a cold Corona and watched an amazing sunset. This place truly was a slice of heaven.

Thank you God.
Days like this are savoured. They are what vacations are meant to be, relaxing and restful to the soul. 
And one more- Heaven

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt.4 - The Salt Spring Hat

After two nights tied up at Telegraph Harbour on Thetis Island, it was time for us to part ways with the crew of the Tarka. They would be headed to Maple Bay and then on to Sydney and we were destined to Salt Spring Island.

Another traveler as we head south in very gentle breezes.

We had a decent breeze to begin and enjoyed the feeling of being on our own. The routing would take us around the southern tip of Kuper Island then around the northeastern tip of Salt Spring. We had a gentile wind coming from the North West and this enabled us to enjoy a very long run with our drifter sail doing the lions share of the work. 

Rounding the point headed into Ganges

The heat was incredible and we kept ourselves hydrated. The passage was very pleasant. The 20 NM trip took just over 5 hours and we arrived at the Ganges Marina just after 15:00. 

First thing on the agenda was to get up a tarp for shade. Unbelievable just what a bit of shade can do for the overall temperature on the boat. 

Tied up in Ganges- you can see the tarp and the shades we used to keep out of the sun
Charlene was excited to be on the island as she was looking forward to going to a local museum and looking up an old friend who had roots on the island. This was my first time setting foot on Salt Spring, so everything was totally new to me. The marina was very close to any and all supplies one might need to restock the pantry. We found ourselves that first evening just to be content to restock our Ice supply and to sit and enjoy our boat treats watching the parade of American boats of all shapes and sizes come and tie up. There was no question Ganges was a busy marina. 

We had a great nights sleep and began day two on Salt Spring with a walk to the local museum. It was a kilometre inland and in the freaking heat seemed longer. But the walk was worth it as we arrived at this little homestead that now was the local historical society's museum. We were greeted by a rather friendly senior gentleman who bore a striking resemblance to Sir Richard Attenborough. I thought for just a second that we would be headed to Jurassic Park!

The Farmers Society Museum
Sir Richard gave us a personalized guided tour of the treasure trove of island artifacts contained in this little homestead. It really was quite the little gem and if you enjoy local history, then you got to go to this place if you find yourself on the island. 

Meanwhile, after returning to the boat for a afternoon snooze and some boat eats. Charlene and I broke out the backgammon board. Bets were placed and the skippers confidence was high. As you can see by the picture below, that confidence was soon shattered. (I'm playing white) It did not go well and as Forest Gump would say: "Thats all I am going to say about that."

The Ass Kicking - Charlene gammoned the skipper.

The other treat in Ganges is the Saturday Market, its less that a 5 minute walk from the berth and you really get a flavour of what Salt Spring Island is all about. People selling their wares, the only thing missing was someone singing "Sweet Molly Malone,,,,,, selling cockles and mussels alive alive O." Oh wait there was singing,,,,,,

The crowd at the Ganges Saturday Market
The trip to the market turned out to be a very successful one, as Charlene, who had been searching since last summer for a wide brimmed hat, was hoping to find her prize. It wasn't long before there she was standing before a mirror trying on hats. I had seen this movie before. 
This time the ending would be different as she found something that she liked, that kept the sun off her face and could be worn on the boat. It was the tri-fector. 

Charlene sporting her prize.

The market had pretty much everything, there was art, clothing, baked goods, jams, jellies, fresh farm produce, fresh meats, fresh fish and seafood. It certainly would be something I would return to during any future visit. 

We celebrated by treating ourselves to a local fish and chip supper from a food wagon just outside the marina. We would "take out" and enjoy with a nice cold one on Corleto's cockpit, again watching the parade of boats come and go into the Marina.

A toast to a great day
But as day 3 came to an end, Charlene in her hat, restocked ice and provisions in the galley, we both felt restless to leave. But where would we go? I had only planned and plotted to Ganges. 
Sunday morning came fast and we were anxious to get moving. 

We untied and cast off from Salt Spring and I set a course for what I hoped would be a little slice of Paradise. 
Where too?
We would not be disappointed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt. 3 - Pirates!

With the engine glitch of the Pass now behind us, it was time to sit back and enjoy what was before us. We had a 9kn breeze coming from the north and since we were headed south, running with the wind would be a nice comfortable change from the strong winds and seas of our Crossing.

Tarka- Hank going forward to adjust his headsail

It wasn't long before Tarka was way out on front with Corleto struggling to keep up with her working jib.
I looked at Charlene who was now nice and settled and said I think we should put up the drifter. She looked at me with that look and said, "If you think you should than do it."
I scurried forward with the drifter bag over my shoulder and doused the jib. I packed it tightly to the rail leaving it hanked on the forestay. Then I hanked on the drifter above the jib and then hoisted the halyard. The light breeze instantly filled the sail. The sail change gave us an extra knot in speed. We now could catch up, at least keep up and not fall behind.
It was not long before we had to make a starboard turn between the north end of Thetis Island and the Decourcy group of Islands. This put us on a very nice beam reach and Corleto responded quickly. That was some nice swift but, calm sailing after that turn and both Corleto and Tarka enjoyed the exercise.

But as all things do, this beam reach soon came to and end with another course correction making our heading due south towards Telegraph Harbour. Again we were running with the wind but our speed was of the 2.5 kn range.

Tarka closing in

I looked over at Tarka who was now closing in on us. It wasn't long we were running close parallel courses. Hank had this grin on his face as did Caroline. He had what looked like a boat hook in his hand, and for a minute I thought he was coming close to raft up or something. Then, all of a sudden, he points this boat hook towards us and lets fire a stream of water.

Tarka's crew using stealth as the close in- we didn't suspect a thing.

We were under attack! The only thing missing was Tarka flying the Jolly Roger!
Lucky for me Tarka's gunnery and range control systems were a bit off, the volley of cold water fell short of it's intended target. And now the element of surprise was lost.
Of course we all laughed like madmen at the hijinx.

Note to self: Arm Corleto with Kinc's long range potato cannon for next year!

Before long we were headed into the long channel up to Telegraph Harbour. I was concentrating so hard as we entered the harbour, as it is narrow and busy. A float plane landed next to Corleto and scared the shit out of me as I did not hear it until it was beside us.

Corleto tied up at Telegraph Harbour- Tarka in the background

Ah yes, Telegraph Harbour and what a treasure this place is. We pulled into the dock tied the boat down, and on the finger next to us, that Pirate ship, Tarka, her crew still smiling about the brief skirmish at sea. We all would laugh about the encounter again as we shared a meal on day two. Corleto's skipper would get his revenge on the horseshoe pitch.

Lots of laughs aboard the target vessel Corleto

Hank and Caroline are wonderful travel mates. We felt very privileged to have joined them to this point of our trip. Their humour keeps everyone entertained. But Telegraph Harbour is where we both went on our own courses. Tarka was heading to Ladysmith and Maple Bay, Corleto to Ganges on Salt Spring Island. We would keep tabs via texts.
We will catch up again at our home marina in Horseshoe Bay. I am sure there will be many stories to share then.
Telegraph Harbour Marina- If you get a chance- go there
Goin' for a row around the Harbour.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt. 2 - Gabriola Passage

" I had thrown him a curve and he worked around it, but I knew it would bother him to the point he would have to act"- Corleto

As darkness fell on Silva Bay, we enjoyed the company of Hank and Caroline, the crew of Tarka our crossing mate. The conversation was all about what lay ahead around the Gulf Islands. What was not lost on us was the timing of the slack at Gabriola Pass.

Gabriola Pass is a narrow stretch of water  between Gabriola Island and Valdes Island and it links the Straight of Georgia to the protected waters inside the so called barrier islands of Valdes, Galiano, Mayne and Saturna. At a high tide the currents are too strong for Corleto's mighty 11 HP. The same for a low tide. So there is an ideal time that of course varies each day when the currents are such that they effectively cancel each other out, this is known as "slack" or the "turn".

Caroline, Charlene and Hank aboard Tarka for the post crossing debrief

Hank and I had both agreed that the best time to hit the pass was at 08:00 which meant an early morning cast off to get there. We said our good nights and retired to Corleto's warm and comfy confines. I went to turn on the 12 volt lights and nothing. Darkness. Other 12v systems worked, so it wasn't a battery. I cursed as this was the second electrical failure of this short trip. We relied on head lamps for our light and made ready for sleep. I closed my eyes with much on my mind, not the least of which was transiting my first narrow pass and whether I had an electrical fault that would somehow affect my starting battery. It was beginning to sound like I was about to repeat the Bellingham experience of multiple failures. I would have to draw on those lessons learned and deal with these nuisance problems.

During the night I figured what I would do to solve the 12v problem but it could wait till our next port of call. The main thing was to concentrate on piloting the transit through the pass safely and efficiently.

What I woke up to- anticipating the day to come

I woke to an amazing predawn sky. I was filled with anticipation and a bit of nerves. We had a breakfast of fruit and cereal. The excitement was palpable with Charlene eagerly going through our pre trip routine. Oil - Check. AC Electrical Breaker - OFF. DC Switch to Battery 1. Glow Plug count to 25. and IGNITION. My earlier fear of the engine not starting was for not.

The next thing I know we are headed out the channel toward Gabriola Passage. Hank calling on the radio asking if everything was OK.
"Yes we're good, over."
It is agreed that Tarka will lead as I figure experience out front is a good thing.
"Corleto, this is Tarka, is this speed OK for you, Over."
I looked at our speed, we were doing 5 kn and keeping up.
"Tarka, speed is good I am at about two thirds power, over."

We progressed into the pass. My smile was large and my confidence was high. I increased speed to keep up with Tarka. This was going smoothly.

Tarka off my port bow, just as we approach Gabriola Pass

That is precisely when Corleto decided to make the skippers heart beat just a bit faster.
I went to reduce RPM's on the throttle and nothing. That's strange, I thought. I turned the leaver the other way and Corleto's engine increased speed. Now she was running full on. My speed increased. I tried in vain to throttle down, but was unsuccessful. F bombs could now be heard on the deck.
Moments before F-Bombs
Just then Hank calls on the radio.
"Corleto, hows everything going, over."
Hank has impeccable timing.
"Tarka, we have developed a run a way engine, I cannot throttle down and I am increasing speed. I will have to figure something out when we get to open water at the end of the pass, Over."
"OK, we'll stay to starboard so you can overtake on our port, Over.
"Afirm Hank. Corleto Standing by, Out."

I quickly watched the temp readings on the panel. They were normal, so far so good. My mind began to race as to what could be the problem. Charlene who was remarkable, calm while her skippers heart was about to explode, said- "It's got to be something simple. Start with that."

Calm and helpful Charlene 
I explained to her that we would deal with the engine throttle when we exited the pass. There would be open water and room to make mistakes.
I smiled and accepted that Corleto was up to her old tricks and she would need attention.

We exited the pass and the first place I began to look was the linkage. I grabbed and held the cable and moved the throttle with my hand. The engine responded. Then I could see what had happened. A clip had come loose and the linkage cable had no leverage when it was being adjusted from the helm. It was a quick fix and it made for happy smiles.

The culprit clasp

All fixed and working A-OK.

All the while Corleto, smiled at her skipper. I hope she was proud.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt.1 - The Crossing

Now that was fun. My skipper is turning out just as I had hoped. But I still had a trick or two to keep him humble and in line- Corleto

The day had finally come. The provisions had been loaded and the fuel tanks had been topped off. I could hardly wait to cast off and set a rendezvous course with the sailing vessel Tarka. The planned crossing of the Straight of Georgia to Silva Bay was now upon me and I was as giddy as a school girl in anticipation of the voyage.

Giddy as a school girl- happy to be on our way.

The plan was to leave Corleto's berth at 08:00, but a glitch when I checked the oil level before firing the engine delayed the departure. Then a second glitch. The Chart Plotter would not turn on. I quickly checked to make sure I was plugged in. I was, so no power to this 12v outlet that is just inside the companion way was indeed a problem. I quickly rerouted the power cable to a second socket that is located forward. It worked. So crisis avoided for the time being. The Chart Plotter fired up and a short time later Corleto was slipping her lines and making her way to the rendezvous area that Hank, Tarka's skipper, had chosen.

Corleto's crew- Charlene sitting at her favourite perch- Tarka in the background
Once we had established contact on the VHF and maneuvered to a close proximity, sails were set and we were off.
It wasn't long before Charlene noticed Hank reducing sail as we rounded the tip of Bowen Island. A brisk 18kn wind was waiting. This was the very first time since owning Corleto that I had reefed the main. I gotta thank my man Aaron for showing me how to rig and execute a reef while under sail. We pressed on, hitting our waypoints and making good speed toward Silva Bay.
Charlene took the helm for a period and boasts the speed record for the crossing at 5.8 knots towing the dingy. I thought that was very impressive.

Charlene at the helm, I know we were going fast.
The seas built as we crossed and Tarka was always nearby, usually ahead, but every once in a while Corleto would gain speed and catch up. We were in no particular hurry, we were on vacation. We did see two pacific white sided Dolphin on the crossing, just off the port bow, between Corleto and Tarka.

Tarka and her crew- Hank on the helm and Caroline on watch

But as with any sea journey there often is a period of adjustment. Call it getting one's sea legs. Charlene was trying to get her's and as fate would have it the increasing winds and waves did not help.
There came a time when she looked at me and said "Can we just get there, Please." Fortunately we were only some 3 NM from Thrasher Rock.
She did tell me that she wasn't going to be able to go up front and douse the jib. So that meant I would just have good ol' Otto on the tiller and do it myself.

With the sails down and the diesel running I steered Corleto toward the entrance into Silva Bay. I Followed Hank in and a short time later we were tied up at the Silva Bay Marina. Charlene and I had just completed our third crossing. This one under sail. There were smiles all around. And this was just the beginning.

Safe and Sound in Silva Bay

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Farewells and Good Bye's

Sailing has given me much joy over the past year or so. It has also introduced me to some remarkable people. Those introductions have developed into friendships.

The first person that we got to know when we came to our slip last year was a fellow named Aaron. He was at that time, the owner and the skipper of a racy boat called Serenity Now. Serenity was moored in the slip next to us. Aaron was very welcoming and unbelievably helpful. His knowledge of all things mechanical and his willingness to lend a hand when you need it most, and his gentle personality, make him tops by any measure.

Aaron introduced us to some others around the Marina. There was Hank and Caroline, owners of the sleek blue beauty named Tarka, and veteran coastal cruisers Richard and Pat of the sailing vessel Habu.

Every trip to the marina is always much more complete if we run into any of all of these fine folks. They have all become our sailing family.

June is aways a month of preparing for the summer cruising season, with last minute projects, or cleaning, provisioning and planning. This June however was a bit different as we prepared ourselves to bid farewell to the sailing family's original member, Aaron. He and his friendly sea dog Kia are relocating to Vancouver Island and although we are happy for Aaron and his new beginnings, we all are selfishly sorry to see him move on.

The occasion had lots of wonderful conversation and FOOD!

Before his move, the "family" got together for a farewell pot luck at the dock. The food and conversation were wonderful and we all agreed that we should have done this sooner. It wasn't a week later that Aaron was on his way to his new home port, Campbell River. The dock here in Horseshoe Bay just won't be the same without him.

Charlene and The man of the hour- Aaron

Pat hands out the Desert.
Not long after Aaron cast off, Richard and Pat slowly and surely piloted Habu from her slip. They go away for two months or more sailing north to the quiet bays and rugged north central coast. Again the marina is just not the same when you look over and see Pat and Richard's slip empty.

Habu, making her final departure preps.

We look forward to leaving ourselves shortly. Corleto is going to join Tarka and her crew as we passage to the Gulf Islands very soon. I am sure when we all get back together for the next dock pot luck, there will be many new and great adventures for us all to share. But until then it's farewell and good bye,,,, for now.

Charlene and Corleto, ready to go.