First step taking Opus back to Canada

Yesterday I transported Opus from Point Roberts to Semiahmoo Marina. This is the first step in bringing Opus to Canada.

Why the jaunt to Semiahmoo instead of going direct from Point Roberts? I’m so glad you asked…

In order to come back into Canada from the United States, the following procedure has to be followed:

  • Have a sample taken for a COVID test. This must be done in the United States before crossing into Canada
  • Receive the results of the COVID test
  • File those results into an app called ArriveCanada. This must all be done before crossing into Canada
  • Within 72 hours of the COVID sample being taken (see step 1) cross into Canada.

What happens after that isn’t important. It’s that 72 hour deadline that is critical. If you don’t meet that, you have to start the process all over again. The last time I crossed from Point Roberts, the results of the COVID test were delayed (They came out negative for me), and I crossed into Canada with 10 minutes to spare before the test became invalid.

Keeping that in mind, I didn’t want to be 2 hours away from a border crossing. Thus, I’m now positioned about 30-40 minutes from a border crossing.

So how was the trip from Point Roberts? An adventure, like always. Opus seemed sluggish. Considering that she’s been sitting in Point Roberts Marina for 3 months, I imagine the grown on her hull is slowing her down. I’ll have to dive her and see. It will be a good time to double check the zincs too.

Upon arriving and getting settled into her slip at Semiahmoo Marina, I found that the fresh water system doesn’t seem to be working. it was working yesterday morning, so that’s going to be my main focus today, along with cleaning off all the bird berry-poop from the decks (which I did a few days ago, but it’s back).

After that comes the usual boat tasks of cleaning up, plus it seems the catches on two cabinets have come loose and I need to fix those. So, plenty of things to keep my busy for now.

Working on the boat

I think next time I start a series of boat projects, I’ll bring JUST what I need for ONE project aboard, do that project, then go on to the next. Why? I seem to spend a lot of time moving all the stuff from HERE to over THERE so that I can get to THIS part, only to find that I have to move all the stuff from THERE to THAT OTHER PLACE so that I can get at one of the fittings, then move it all to HERE so that… etc. There’s just too darn much stuff aboard right now to get much of anything done.

Still, slowly, progress is made.

I had come back to a deflated dinghy. It took a while to find, but I think I have that fixed. I’ve also started to try to sort “stuff” into “things to keep aboard” and “things that are just taking up room at the moment” in an effort to pare down what’s aboard and actually try to get it into a shape that is usable.

Oh, yeah, and I scrubbed the decks.

And started repairs of the cap rail split. This is involving making a set of dams and then epoxying the cap rail down. After that’s done will come the sanding to smooth everything out. The dams are going to be made of painter’s tape and I’m hoping I don’t make a botch of it, getting epoxy all over the fibreglass, where I don’t want it, as it oozes out of the cap rail where I do want it.

I’ve also been working on the plumbing a bit, though as I alluded to above, it’s slow going as I keep having to move so much stuff around. The main thing I want to figure out is what the proper position of all the valves for the head are so that we can use the head and not run afoul of fouling a harbour.

Other than that, been helping another boat diagnose electrical problems with their GFI plugs, and apologizing to some other boaters. You see, the pedestal at my slip doesn’t seem to be supplying power. I didn’t expect anyone to be at our dock this weekend, so I simply plugged in to the pedestal for the slip on the other side. This, unfortunately, puts my power cord at about waist height. No big deal if there aren’t other people on the dock. Unfortuantely, 3 other boats came in. So now my electrical cord is in their way. Fortunately, they’ve been good sports about it, but probably tomorrow I’ll move the boat (or get the pedestal fixed) so that I’m not creating a hazard for others.

I have a whiteboard full of boat tasks to do, again. Once I clear these, I’m sure it will fill up again, but it does feel good to clear a whiteboard once in a while so that I feel like I’m making progress.

An unpleasant set of surprises

Last night was my first night back on Opus after needing to go home for a bit to deal with things like doctor appointments, renewing my driver’s license, and my birthday. UUpon returning to Opus a bit over a month later I found some unpleasant surprises.

The boat yard had not fixed the heater on the boat. Apparently, in the confusion of the boatyard changing ownership, that work had not been done. They had, however, moved my boat over to the dock closer to the boat yard. Unfortunately, when they plugged Opus into the dock suupply, they had not truly checked that power was coming into the boat. In their defense, the only way to truly know is either to try to run the microwave or, alternately, there is a single, small, LED on the panel that will tell you. instead, they looked at the battery voltage levvel, saw a high number, and assumed that the shore power was working.

It wasn’t.

So when I got onto the boat, the batteries were being slowly drained. They weren’t in terrible shape, but it could have been much worse. Considering they are brand new batteries, I don’t want to subject them to the abuse of overly discharging them. We caught it in time, fortunately.

It turns out that the shore power at my temporary slip isn’t working. Right now I have an electrical cord strung across the dock to an empty slip’s power, but that’s not a good solution. Also, at the moment, I’m not comfortable moving Opus by myself. It’s been a month and I hadn’t had that much practice with her beforehand. I want someone there to catch lines and right now there isn’t anyone.

It’s not a good situation as the power line is across the dock at about thigh level. It’s a danger, but I don’t have a lot of choice at the moment. I’ll have to hope that the dock continues to be deserted over the weekend.

Today was searching for the leak in the dinghy. No luck so far. The search continues. Also accomplished putting up the sail cover on the foresail, which has been exposed to the UV abuse all this time. Now it’s safe and secure inside its coccoon. I’ll have to work with the system a bit more before I can say that I’m “fluent” in the cover. however, once it was on, it cinched down nicely.

Working ashore

Part of the work to do in preparing for the racing season is to get a rating from one of the big origanizations – ORC or PHRF. Several members of the team got together to measure sails, which is part of the numbers that PHRF needs to set a handicap. The sail measurements coupled with measurements of the boat itself are run through a handicapping program that yields a theoretical speed for the boat. That is then used to decide the handicap.

The handicap is set so that boats of different design and lengths and sail plans can compete with each other. For instance, Opus could not hope to compete against an IMOCA or a foiling sailboat in a head-to-head race. Some of those boats will do over 40 knots in the right conditions whereas Opus is unlikely to break 10 or 12 knots. The handicap is expressed as a certain number of seconds per mile of race course that is subtracted from our elapsed time. So if a boat, say a foiling boat, is expected to finish a 100 mile course in about 4 hours, averaging a little bit less than 2 1/2 minutes per mile, Opus would be expected to cover that same course in about 12 1/2 hours, averaging 7.5 minutes per mile. Our handicap should be in the neighbourhood of 5 minutes per mile.

Of course, we all want to be the first over the finish line – what is called “Line Honours” in racing.

You may notice that there are two more timers running on the pages now. They are both estimates, but tell us how much time until our first “big” races – SwiftSure and Southern Straits. We may do some racing before then, but those are the first goals we’re really aimed at and training for. I’ll be firming up the timers once the race organizers announce the actual dates of the races.

Those are the two big races for us in 2022, though I have my eye on a few other ones such as Malaspina Straits. We’ll also be doing some long-duration sails on our own over weekends and perhaps even take a week to do a whirlwind circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.

Busy Days

Not everything that we do is related to fixing up the boat. Sometimes the vast majority of the work is not boat related. This has been the case since our last blog post.

Racing is, generally speaking, not a one-person sport. It’s a team competition in which the individual skills come together to make something better than each individual. However, these individuals must work and live together in a confined, uncomfortable, potentially rolling and pitching, potentially hazardous, environment. It’s important to get the right people.

Crew selection has been occupying my time – recruiting, interviewing, and vetting crew. Yes, there are people that, based on a simple interview, I’ve had to decide were not right for the crew. It might be some lack of skill, though those can often be corrected. More importantly is that they have to be the right kind of person.

What is the right kind of person?

They have to have primary qualities, the loss of either of which is an immediate disqualification. The first of these qualities is a respect and willingness to work with others. A racing boat is no place for someone who will be derogatory or negative about a team member. There is simply no way to get away from such a person other than to have left them on the shore. The second is a willingness to commit to the team — to work hard to improve themselves and the team. Racing is hard work. It alternates boredom, excitement, terror. Somewhere in there we also find it fun. Ok, I suppose that implies there’s a streak of masochism in us somewhere. I’ll leave that to the shrinks to figure out.

Since this is a multi-year campaign, we know at the outset that there will be people that will drop out of the team. Life circumstances change, interests change, we discover that what we thought we wanted to do isn’t what we actually want, we find that there’s something about the team that isn’t right for us. All of these are reasons to leave, and that’s OK. What it means, though, is that we have to start with a roster that’s bigger than what we expect to end up with. Partly this will cover the inevitable drop outs and partly this will cover the people who can’t make a particular race for one reason or another. For example, the Van Isle 360 and the Vic Maui races are long races, taking weeks to complete. People might not be able to take that amount of time off of work. It’s tough to tell your boss you need a month off to go sail racing. Not many bosses or customers are that understanding.

We now have a final list and I’d like to welcome the following people.

Alexis Baker, Alex Brydon, Kevin Diakiw, Wayne Foulds, Lee-Ann Hollander, Gunnar Jonsson, Kevin-Neil Klop, Cliff Lieuwen, Fraser Mah, Bruce McGarvie, John Mitchell, Nigel Phillips, Aren Tulchinsky, Ada Yim, Boris Zanic

In the days to come, I hope to be adding a bit of a biography of them to the website for them to shine!

A Tale of Two Cities

First, apologies for the delay in posting this. The internet has gotten a bit sketchy lately on Opus.

As with many buyers, before our purchase we saw a number of boats. Much like the three bears, some were too big, some were too small Some were too fat, some were too thin. etc. We did make an offer on two boats, only to have them rejected, so those were too expensive.

One of the boats we saw was a steel-hulled expedition-class sailboat, built to go through the northwest passage (thought it never did). At the time it was still “winterized” with tarps over the deck that we had to crawl through. Other people were interested in it as well and we were informed as we boarded for our inspection that a couple from Texas were very very interested in it and were going to be making an offer. After going through it, we decided that, though it was interesting and checked a large number of boxes, it wasn’t the right ship for us.

As I’ve been on Opus, I’ve been using the shore facilities such as bathrooms. As such, I walk the length of the dock several times per day. Lately there’s been a boat that’s caught my eye. A pretty boat, blue hull, ketch rigged (two masts instead of the more common single-mast sloop rig). Saturday night there were, for the first time, some people on it and, even more importantly, dogs. So I went to say hello to the dog… um… people.

We got to talking a bit and I found that they were new owners as well. Since I’m a new owner on my boat, there was a bit of instant cameraderie and we got to telling each other the story about how we had come to own the boats that we did.

They had bought Alioth unseen — which is a very brave thing to do, especially as they don’t have any sailing experience. That’s a lot of trust in the broker, so I was naturally curious about who their broker is. They mentioned a name and I was surprised and pleased – they used the same broker I had.

Meanwhile something began jangling in the back of my head.

They described how they had pretty much settled on Alioth and were paniced when the broker informed them that another couple was coming out to see the boat and might be offering on it. They had a heart to heart discussion amongst themselves and made an offer that night.

You probably have guessed by now. Alioth is the steel-hulled, expedition-class sailboat that I had gone to inspect, and these were the couple that were “highly interested” in it. Now, here they were, docked 5 slips down from where I am.

It can sometimes be an amazingly small world. So tomorrow (the 7th) we’re going to take Alioth out and do some exercises to start teaching them how to work Alioth.

In other news, I finally got my COVID test and will be able to cross the border and go home on Wednesday!

Headed home soon

There are still a lot of things left to do on the boat, but we’re almost done with the things the insurance company needed us to do. It’s not been for lack of trying to get them done, stuff just takes time.

The most recent task completed was replacing the batteries in Opus. Previously, she had lead-acid batteries. They are fine for many things, but they do require maintenance – refilling with distilled water and they aren’t sealed. This means that the could tip over and spill acid in the boat, which is bad. Even worse is that they can offgas during charging and that gas is a combination of oxygen and hydrogen. You know, the stuff that caused the Hindenburg to burn? It’s combustible with the slightest of sparks.

So we replaced them with three “AGM” batteries. This had several advantages. The first is that one of the old batteries was going bad and would soon need to be replaced. We could have replaced it with another lead acid battery, but those are “old technology”. You shouldn’t mix lead acid with AGM batteries because of differences in how they like to discharge and charge. Before I go any further, I should explain how the batteries on Opus are set up.

There are three batteries. Two of them are hooked together to act like one. These are “deep discharge” batteries, aka “house” batteries. They aren’t intended to output a lot of power in short bursts. They are the “slow and steady” batteries that take a long time (relatively speaking) to discharge and are used for most of the electrical stuff in the boat such as lighting, the solenoid for the propane system, the radios, the chart plotter, etc. The third battery is the “starter”. It is used to run the starter motor for the engine. It has to output a lot of power, but only for a short time (10 seconds or so).

The starter battery is like a sprinter, the house batteries are like marathoners.

And that’s why we couldn’t do something smart like put in an AGM battery for the starter battery and move the old starter battery to replace the house battery that was going bad. Further, our battery charger doesn’t have one setting for the starter battery and another setting for the house batteries. It wants them all to be the same type.

So we decided to replace all three batteries with AGM batteries, which are sealed batteries. No maintenance to speak of. They had the further advantage of larger capacity, so we can go longer between having to charge them up (though it then takes longer to charge them again, too. Nothing is free).

You would think that this would be an easy matter. Disconnect the old batteries, pull them out, put the new batteries into the battery cabinet, reconnect the cables, and voila! Done. Nothing is ever that simple on a boat.

How many cables do you think goes to the batteries? It would make sense that there would be one for the positive terminal and one for the negative terminal, right? multiply that by three batteries and you’d expect a maximum of 6 cables. Further, the “rules’ say that one cable is red (the cables that go to the positive terminal) and one cable is black (the ones that go to the negative terminal). How difficult can this be?

Except… there are 10 cables in there. 3 of them are red, the rest are black, which makes no sense because I know all 3 red cables go to the house batteries. Where are the red cables for the starter batteries? (if you’re curious, the 3 red cables that go to the house batteries are one cable from the charger to the battery, one cable from the battery to the rest of the boat, and the third one is used to tie the two batteries together to make them act like one, larger, battery. The same is done for three of the black wires). Ok, the house batteries are hooked in, but why are all the starter battery cables black? At least ONE of them has to be going to the positive terminal or else the starter won’t work.

We eventually were able to determine what was the function of 3 of the black cables. Two of them were, indeed, SUPPOSED to be red. Another, was definitely supposed to be black. That left us the fourth wire and we couldn’t figure it out. So, we made the assumption that it also was supposed to be black. However, not being complete dimwits, we turned off every bit of power in the boat, disconnected shore power, turned off all the switches, and then connected the cable. Nothing bad happened, so that was promising.

One person positioned themselves next to the batteries and the other person went to the control panel and turned the switch to the “1” position (which connects ONLY the engine battery). Almost immediately I heard “OFF! OFF! OFF!” Yes, I was the dummy at the control panel and I turned it off immediately.

We had guessed wrong. the last wire was ALSO supposed to be red.

So the configuration for the house batteries makes complete sense. 2 red cables plus the jumper cable on the red terminals of the house batteries, ditto for black on the house batteries. The starter battery is ONE cable on the negative terminal and THREE cables on the positive terminal. Those three are SUPPOSED to have red markings on them, but all four are dark black.

Oh, why was he yelling OFF OFF? He could hear the sizzling as the short started to fry insulation and wiring. Fortunately, we were fast enough to prevent anything truly bad from happening. If I had been by myself, it would have been a lot, lot, worse. The sequence would have been connect up the wire, walk through the doorway to the nav station, turn the switch on, run back to the battery, hear the sizzling, run back to the nav station, turn the switch off. By that time, there’s a good chance we would have had an electrical fire on board.

Fortunately, the batteries are all sorted out. We have boots on order to cover the terminals so that they can’t be shorted as well as strapping so that they can’t move around on a pitching boat.

The only other real job to do for the insurance company is one that I’m still waiting for the proper parts for. I understand it’s on back-order, so after a bit over a month of living on Opus, I think it’s time to go home this week for a month.

Opus may be the new lady in my life, but I really miss the important lady who’s been keeping the home together. It will be good to see her.

Once upon a day so dreary

While I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door…
— from “The Raven” by E.A. Poe

It truly is a dreary day. The skies are grey and fat raindrops hurl themselves in suicidal fervor upon the decks and windows. It’s a good day to be doing cabin chores, to whit cleaning up the place. However, like the erstwhile protagonist in Poe’s immortal poem, things seemed to hound me today.

I started with doing dishes, and promptly spilled some dirty dish water over the counters. No sooner had I cleaned that up and continued in cleaning my few dishes, when I spilled dirty dish water on myself. And that set the tone for the day.

So it’s through a plethora of boat bites and scrapes that I slowly straightened up some of the cabin which had, once again, fallen into some amount of disrepute while I was chasing down the battery charger. Unfortunately, the battery charger still eludes me, so likely the cabin will be straight for only a short time while I go looking for it again.

Meanwhile, with the cold and dreary day, it was a fine day for chicken soup, though honestly the noodles and chicken sounded far more appetizing than the soup until I sipped some and realized a hot liquid was exactly what I needed, though I could have done with less salt in it.

Anyway, back to trying to hunt down the battery charger after spending the day straightening up, cleaning up, and neatening up some cables. Perhaps tonight will be straightening up the nav station, temporarily.

A Salt and Batteries

Just when you think you’re seeing the finish line, more stuff gets added to the list.

Although the wind is what moves a sailboat, there’s still a fair amount of electronic equipment aboard – radios, navigation instruments, lights, etc. The power for these comes from batteries which are, in turn, recharged either through plugging the boat into shore power or by running the engine.

Right now, Opus has Lead-Acid batteries. These are the old-fashioned kind where you have to add water to them occasionally and where recharging them can lead to hydrogen gas escaping – which can be explosive when exposed to a spark. There are other downsides to them too, such as the potential to spill acid if they fall over, etc.

Newer battery technology are either AGM or lithium batteries. Both are “sealed” so that they don’t leak if tipped, don’t require maintenance.

In addition, there are two kinds of “drains” on a battery. One is the slow, steady, drain of the “house” batteries. This is the kind of drain that, say, lights or radios put on the battery. They aren’t asking for a lot of power, but they do ask for a lot of time. The other kind of drain is represented by trying to start the engine – it’s a LOT of power being needed for a short amount of time.

Opus has two “deep-discharge” batteries for the house drains (lights, radios, etc) and one battery for the starter drains.

Unfortunately, one of fthe batteries is going bad. I could replace it with another lead-acid battery, but due to some other factors, it’s better to upgrade them all right now. However, that leads us to another boat search as I look for the <deleted> battery charger.

You see, the boat has a battery charger that takes power from the shore power and uses it to recharge (or keep charged) the batteries. It’s a box roughly cigar-box sized and it should be easy to find.

Two days of searching and I have yet to find it. I know it’s on the boat because I have a control panel that monitors its operation. Meanwhile, the whole boat is, once again, a mess as I’ve been moving things from here to there to over there so I can pull up floor boards, bunk boards, etc., all to no avail. So the search will continue today, as will cleanup of the boat.

The constant mess and uproar is definitely getting to me. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll bite off only one project at a time and see that through to completion before going on to the next one.

I Think I See The Finish Line

In order to keep myself sane and remembering where the various projects are, I’ve been using a whiteboard to track things. It has been full of chickent scratches, stars, Xs, in shades of black, green, and purple. It seemed that just as I would get near to finishing a task, something would happen and I’d have to add a few more things onto the whiteboard.

It never seemed to clear.

But, over the last few days, things have been clearing up and now I think I see the finish line to complete all the insurance-mandated things that I can right now.

It’s a good feeling to think that maybe, maybe, there’s an end to this gerbil running in the exercise wheel and never getting anywhere.

There are really only three tasks remaining.

The first is getting the propane system working properly. We worked 1/2 a day on that and finally got it to the point of plugging in everything and… the system gave off alarms. We checked our wiring. Seemed right, but the system still gave us alarms. check it all again. Still alarms.

Finally it was getting late and we knocked off the time being. Josh went home and I… I couldn’t leave well enough alone and went back to trouble shooting. Eventually I decided to try something radical – let’s reset the whole control system. It SHOULD have reset several times when we removed power, but let’s try it again now, manually.


Wait for it…

Almost there…

Just a little more patience…

System reset and… no alarms. Everything’s fine.

That was this afternoon. This morning was working on the heating system for the boat. We managed to get everything hooked up and tried to start. It tried. It really did. It huffed. It puffed. It blew a little black smoke. The pump pushed fuel into it. We heard the igniter ticking.


Wait for it…

Almost there…

Just a little more patience…

Errors codes and it shut down. The error code was no flame detected, aka failure to start. So now we are faced with three possible options.

  1. Send it in to Wabasto main office for servicing – likely to be around $1,000, plus shipping.
  2. Junk it and purchase a new one, likely to be about $4,000.00
  3. Ignore the problem and leave it disconnected, which is likely fine for the summer, but fall and winter not so good when at anchor.

So that’s going to be a conversation with Anne tonight to plan out what we want to do.

The third task is replacing the safety lines on the boat. We are awaiting some hardware that is needed to do the job, and I’m hoping that will arrive tomorrow or Saturday so we can get to cracking on that one. I’ve already cut myself twice on the “meathooks” of the fraying safety lines and it’s not fun.