Montague

Yesterday was a ”layday”, sitting out the winds in Montague. Things were even worse than predicted, as another boat recorded 70 knot wind. Opus would occasionally heel over from the wind force on her bare mast. However, the promised rain never came, prrhaps frightened away by the high winds. in fact, the winds knocked out power to the island for the day, though it was back on late afternoon.

We did get a lot of things done. Slowly Opus is transforming into a ship for the cruise.

Today the winds are projected to be right on our nose, so its another day of motoring, then meeting up with Quijote tonight. We will transship fuel to us from them, 9 fuel containers, which id twice as much fuel as Opus carries in her internal tanks!

Frantic Departure

Our original plan was to depart White Rock on Wednesday and spend the night at Montague. so, if course, the weather gods decided to give us a storm. winds ranging up to 30 knots. That gives us a few options.

One would be to ride it out at anchor. Unfortunately, Boundary Bay is completely open to Georgia Strait, with no protection from wind or wave. The inshore winds would have presented a very real danger. Second would have been returning to the dock in White Rock. Unfortunately, with low spring tides, there was not enough water to float her during the day. she would have been grounded. Third would have been to go to Blaine (or return to Point Roberts) and weather it out there. That would mean customs twice more (once into the USA and hen back into Canada).

Instead, we departed early and went to Montague – our planned stop for Wednesday. we’ll sit here for two days, picking up Sam on Wednesday and then departing on Thursday after the storm has passed. However, the hasty departure has left Opus in disarray with a few critical tasks undone. Today we will be tackling those as well as getting the cabin back into reasonable shape.

We are supposed to meet Quijote, our buddy boat, here at Montague, but they have had a wrench thrown into their works too. unfortunately, they are holding fuel that Opus will need to proceedon the original itinerary. we’ll see what happens…

On the way we had an opportunity to refuel at sea, testing out one of the procedures. the shaker siphon performed wonderfully, and we transferred nearly 5 gallons in just a few minutes. Refueling opus from fuel jugs will be reasonably easy even for one person to do.

I didn’t sleep well Monday, frantically planning our transit, so after arriving at Montague, I slept most of the afternoon and last night. The last 48 hours took a toll! unfortunately, that leaves a lot to do today. Time to get cracking!

Baby steps

11:49 AM and the morning was disturbed by the sound of a throaty diesel coming to life. It grumbled and coughed, like an old man waking up before he wanted to, but eventually settled into the day. It was left to its own devices to wake up while Kay and I attended to other mundane things such as disconnecting shore power, disconnecting the spring lines, and doubling back the bow and stern lines.

12:08 and Opus slipped into reverse, the last two lines were disconnected from the dock cleats, and the journey began. Kay scurried about the deck pulling up fenders, coiling lines, and basically clearing the decks of the detritus from leaving the dock as we motored along the exit from Point Roberts on our first leg of the Alaska voyage. The tide was low, so the banks towered above us, perhaps a mild hint of some of the things we might see later as we get further north.

The weather was one of those drab rainy days that make everything that much less comfortable. Normally, from the mouth of the Point Roberts Marina, we can see all the surrounding islands plus the northern shore of Washington. However, not this time. We could easily see far enough to be safe, but the rain prevented us from seeing anything other than water and a gray dissipation in the distance. We could easily have been at sea, for all the land, other than Point Roberts, we could see., It was back to depending on electronics and compass.

The first waypoint was the bell buoy off the south end of Point Roberts. On the way towards it, we noticed that our SOG (that’s Speed Over Ground – the measure of how fast we were getting to our destination) had plummeted from what should have been about 5.5 knots down to 3.5 knots. At first we thought perhaps it was the dinghy adding drag to us, so we drifted and brought the dinghy back onto deck from its towed position. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to make a lot of difference, and a certain amount of anxiety rose in me as I considered whether, perhaps, Opus is not ready for this journey. However, as we proceeded, our SOG picked up. We, apparently, were simply fighting against the combination of headwind and outgoing tide. By the time we were half way to White Rock, our destination for the night, our speed was comfortably back up over 5 knots.

For once there weren’t any crab pots surrounding the White Rock jetty, nor were there people on the government dock with lines and traps hanging off. Still, it was going to be a bit of a challenge as there was a tail wind pushing us into the pier, but off the dock. With a bit of team work, though, Opus was made fast. We had arrived!

Next steps were successfully negotiating the customs system here, declaring all our items. They elected to send a pair of officers out to see us after I had to correct my customs declaration – I had read the unit prices of items rather than the extended prices, and so had to revise my declaration upwards. Meanwhile, Anne was standing on the dock with the wagons of things she had brought for us to onload – mainly provisions – looking uncomfortable in the rain. As we didn’t know how long it would be, we sent her home, to call her back after we were legally “in” Canada.

One more loading run and we have now loaded almost all the provisions, other than last moment items, is aboard. The cabin is once more a disaster scene while we figure where it all will be stowed, but Kay’s expertise will surely make short work of it.

Today we take opus off the dock and anchor her out west of the jetty due to the low tides that would have Opus in danger of grounding during the daily low tide. We’ll bring her back to the dock on Tuesday afternoon for the last few things and then on Wednesday we say goodbye to to White Rock, point our bow towards Montague, and there we will welcome aboard our next crew member and also join up with Quijote.

The eve of the voyage…

At some point the preparations are done, or at least as complete as they are going to be. All that remains is trying to sleep so as to be rested for the big day when the dock lines are untied and stowed, the gear shift is set to reverse, and you back away fr9m the place where you have sat for so long.

It becomes time to prove yourself and your ship.

Tonight is that night.

Tomorrow we leave Point Roberts to embark on a 3 1/2 month journey that will take us from the southernmost border of Canada, to the northernmost state of the United States and back. This is a trip that spans over 2,300 nautical miles, and nearly 10 degrees of latitude. It is the first long voyage of Opus under Anne and my command.

First night of the big sail

I moved aboard Opus yesterday in preparation for the voyage to Alaska. Moving aboard, also, was first mate Kay. Anne helped us move aboard and then did we tornado of activity straightening and organizing.

Kay, of course, was busy also, organizing, planning, working on storage and provisions, hand in hand with Anne. Together these two are the move-in dynamic duo!

We moved our personal effects and everything other than food aboard, which is still at home base while we put the finishing touches on Opus. There is still a lot to do, including a bit of requiring of the switch panel, adding storage nets, and of course stowing away all the tools and spares that currently clutter the cabin.

Last night was a very windy night, and the boom was creaking and squeaking, the foresail cover flapping and adding a vibration to the ship. Around 4:00 I woke up and went out on deck to lash the boom down. First time wasn’t enough and I had to add a second lashing. Not sure what to do about the foresail cover. Maybe have to just live with it.

Today is going to be a little more electrical work and installing the storage net in Kay’s berth as well as working on her reading lamp/usb charger.

It was a dark and stormy night…

Ok, actually it was day time, and the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, but that doesn’t set the ominous mood that we need for this tale.

3 crew and I had brought Opus up from White Rock to Vancouver’s False Creek to position her for the first crew sail. The crew sail had gone off swimmingly, with 5 crew taking part in the sail from Thursday evening and into the night, returning to the Granville Island dock at 10pm. After a quick jaunt across False creek to the Yacht Club and one fine morning there, I set out to single-hand Opus back south to White Rock so as to have her near home while doing boat-puttering chores.

Opus can be a handful to singlehand, especially as she doesn’t currently have a working autopilot. Thus, putting up the sales involves setting her on course, running up to the mast, cranking the sails up a bit, then running back to the helm when she starts to fall off course. Put her back on course, run back to the mast, etc., etc. etc. until the mainsail is up. Once the mainsail is up, the rest can be done from the cockpit and is a bit easier. Owing to that, plus the weather conditions, I had decided to motor Opus most, if not all, the way home. As a sailor, that galls me, but sometimes it’s the best decision.

The wind was blowing in from the west and Opus was doing a bit of pitching as I motored out of False creek and English Bay towards the Georgia Strait – straight into the “teeth” of the wind. The chop was steepening, making me even more happy that I wasn’t running back and forth on the foredeck to crank up the sails.

Eventually I rounded Point Grey and pointed her nose south for the 12 mile run south to Roberts Bank, after which I would head south east for another 17 miles until I was able to hook around Point Roberts and enter Boundary Bay for the last 8 miles to home.

During the trip from Point Gray to Roberts Bank, the weather had become more mild. The engine was pushing me steadily along and I was throttled down to about 2200 RPMs. The steep chop that had been pitching Opus was now from my beam, but it had abated somewhat so that Opus was pleasantly rocking side to side.

And then the engine stopped all on its own.

My first thought was fuel starvation – that somehow I had run out of fuel even though all my fuel calculations told me that I had plenty. Still, I keep a jerry can of fuel aboard just for these sorts of circumstances. On the other hand, I had a more important problem. I was close to shallows and (slowly) drifting into them. I had a choice to make — either put fuel into the engine and hope that would solve the problem so I could motor onwards, or forego the engine and instead get at least one sail up and hopefully sail away from the shallows. I elected to go for the sail and after a bunch of back and forths had the mainsail up and was once again making way. Once I was sure that this was working and that I had sufficient room from the shallows, I added the foresail into the mix and now I was sailing.

If I knew the engine was OK, I’d have been a happy camper, as sailing is the reason I have Opus. She’s a sailboat, not a motorboat, after all.

Once all was sorted out, I hove to and proceeded to add fuel to the tanks. This, as later thought and experience would show, was a mistake, but we’ll get to that later.

The engine started right up and I figured we were good. I had a working engine and my sails were up.

And then the engine stopped.

I could get the engine to run for about a minute before it would stop.

There really is no place for a sailboat to put in along that stretch of shore, so my next plan was to start sailing, but which way? My choices were, basically:

  • Continue southwards and then into Boundary Bay
    • Advantages to this is that I know the waters well – that’s my home grounds, plus Opus is normally berthed at Point Roberts, so that’s where I have all my support.
    • Cons are that sailing through the dogleg into Point Roberts would be tricky single-handing and docking under sail on her is a maneuver that would be fraught with possible problems as I’m not yet familiar enough with Opus’ sailing characteristics.
  • Turn around and head back towards Vancouver
    • Advantages are that there are an abundance of Marinas and services there, including the marina where we bought Opus. Plus I had just come from there and so I knew the areas current conditions pretty well.
    • Cons are the same docking under sail problem. False creek is far too busy for me to risk sailing into there, which means sailing into anchor in English Bay or else taking her up to North Vancouver and trying to find a place to put her there. In addition, I don’t really know any of the businesses and waters very well there, and single handing means being a bit too busy to be studying charts as I approach.
  • Head west towards the channel islands
    • Advantages are lots of anchorages and marinas there, though I’m not sure how many of them have services for the motor
    • Cons are the big barrier island pair that I have to get through via either Active Pass, which is busy with big ferries who have the right of way (and Active Pass has steep enough sides that I’m not sure there would be wind) plus a strong current unless I get through it at the right time. Alternately I could go through Georgeson Pass, which doesn’t have super strong current nor ferries, but is narrow in places. fortunately, I’ve been through Georgeson often enough that I don’t need charts. I would still be concerned about being shadowed from wind, though. Last possibility would be to head south until I could get to Boundary Pass and use that, but that’s a long sail and takes me further south than trying for Boundary Bay.

Even if I made it through Georgeson or Active Pass I’d still be faced with the question of where to go after that. This made the “head west” choice the least palatable. In the end I decided to press on to Point Roberts and Boundary Bay. I also radioed the coast guard to let them know the situation, but that I was proceeding under sail at this time.

The sail south to Point Roberts was pretty uneventful, though the winds were pretty light. One of the reasons we had bought Opus was that I had seen that she could sail in pretty light winds, so though more slowly than I had planned, she and I were still making progress at speeds ranging from 3 or so knots up to about 5.

All this came crashing down as I turned eastwards. The wind started to wane and as I came near the “Bell Buoy” off Point Roberts, it died completely. I had given the land a wide berth as I didn’t want it blocking my winds, but apparently didn’t quite give it enough, or the evening doldrums had set in. I was basically adrift.

Fortunately, I have a C-Tow membership and I decided enough was enough, it was time to call in the cavalry. They connected me up with a tow captain, who runs one of the whale watching services. He was currently conducting a tour and would be a few hours, which was understandable – he can’t just sit around waiting for some hapless boater to get in trouble. Besides, I was in no danger at the moment. I was caught in some swirly bit of current and basically drfting in slow circles near the Bell buoy.

After a couple of hours, the C-tow captain passed by with his boat still full of tourists and said he would drop them off then come back. He and I had a bit of a chat and then he roared off.

He never came back.

He did call, however, and we had more of a conversation which came basically down to, “He can’t tow me into any of the ports for the United States. Opus draws too much water to be towed into Crescent Beach, and he refuses to tow me to White Rock where I could anchor or even potentially tie up to the dock. Basically, after a number of hours of waiting for his help, he wasn’t going to do anything.

Side note: The above is NOT the fault of the C-Tow organization and when I related to them the above story, they were quite unhappy. They have provided me with sufficient assurances and compensation that I’m fairly certain they are a good organization and trying to do the best they can with coordinating independent contractors. DO NOT condemn the organization for what happened above.

By now I had managed to drift/sail into an area with a bit more breeze and continued sailing towards White Rock. I was concerned about the crab pots, especially as it was now getting dark. However, I decided that the crab pot floats and lines were better risked than my other choices — although heading in towards Blaine Harbour and dropping the anchor in Drayton Harbour was a distinct possibility. However, with weather forecast being for calm winds for the next several days, I decided that the shorter trip to White Rock was the best choice.

And so there we went, sometimes as slowly as .1 knot (that’s 1 tenth of a knot). 20 hours after leaving Vancouver, with the tide turning and the current starting to push counter to the direction I wanted to go, I dropped the anchor about 1 mile west of White Rock, shut down Opus, and went to sleep.

I didn’t talk about the wonderful support my Wife was giving me on the phone through a lot of that – she was instrumental in being a person with whom I could discuss plans, and who just plain kept me cheerful. I didn’t talk about the support of both the Canadian and USCG, both of which were ready to get me what I needed.

In the end, though Opus’ engine let me down, Opus herself did not. She was managing to make way in winds so light they could barely be felt. She kept me safe and, even when adrift, she would respond (sluggishly) to the helm so I could at least point her in the direction I needed.

Earlier I said that pouring the fuel into the boat’s fuel tank was an error. What I should have done is disconnect the fuel intake hose from Opus’ internal fuel tank and stuck it into the jerry can fuel tank, kind of like an outboard engine on a dinghy gets its fuel from a jerry can. Noted and I, hopefully, won’t make that mistake again.

We managed to get Opus back to Point Roberts where she’s undergoing mechanical fixes to her fuel system. In addition, during a test, her V-drive broke. The V-drive is what connects the propeller shaft to the engine. So even if the engine is running, with a broken V-drive, it can’t transfer the power to the propeller.

Hey, it’s a hole in the water into which we pour money, right? right.

At anchor – follow-up

Conditions continued to deteriorate with winds getting up to 30 knots. The waves continued to get worse, topping 2-3 meters. English Bay was completely exposed, not a good situation. However, I have confidence in Opus and her anchor which turned out to be well-placed.

Other boaters, however…

About 11:30 or so I went upon deck to check the anchor set. “That boat looks closer than it did earlier this evening,” I thought. 1/2 an hour later it was definitely closer. A LOT closer and I realized it was dragging.

I immediately started preparations in case they hit me – which they did. Simple preparations such as putting a few more fenders over the side (a compromise since they can also cause entanglement), putting on a PFD and tether in case I needed to work on the pitching foredeck, getting a headlamp ready and making sure I had a knife and tools at hand in case I needed to drop the anchor.

Now they were dragging me along with them towards the shore. It’s times like these that single handing becomes really difficult as there was no one to helm while I pulled up the anchor and, as the anchor is pulled up, the drift accelerates. So now I had a few problems. First is deciding whether to pull up the anchor, cut it away, or hope that it would snag and hold. That last seemed like a bad idea — hope is not a plan. I decided to try bringing it up, but be prepared to cut it away.

with engine started, both to provide more power to the windlass and also so that once the anchor was free, we could maneuver, the next step was to bring up the anchor. During the process, I saw the only sailboat that was between me and the shore go by, and started thinking it was time to cut the anchor free… and then I saw chain coming up.

Opus has 40 feet of chain connected the anchor and then 160 feet of line. With the chain appearing, i knew I was close, though bringing more aboard meant I would no longer have the option of cutting it loose. A knife does very little good against anchor chain.

The drag from the other boat had me broadside to the waves and wind, also not making it easy.

I did, eventually, get the anchor free from the bottom and left it hanging while I piloted away from the danger zone, then rushed back up to the bow to finish bringing it aboard. During this time, I discovered I could only turn to starboard. Something was jamming my rudder.

So, in a lurching sort of manner, I made it into False Creek’s more protected waters and made for the point of safety I knew best – Granville public dock, arriving here cold, wet, barefoot, bedraggled, sweaty, and all together shaken. Though you’re only supposed to be here for a few hours, and certainly not over night, I feel that whatever financial penalty there might be is worth it.

I called into security and told them the situation and they okayed me staying at the dock overnight, asking that I call into the business five in the morning.

Today will be assessing damage and figuring out what to do now – after I have some breakfast.

Addendum

I’ve called the business office several times today to no answer. I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile I’ve been trying to find a diver to examine the prop, prop shaft, and rudder, plus find a better moorage for Opus.

I can, now, turn both ways as I was able to free a line that was wrapped around my rudder. I think Opus is ok, other than a scuff, but want her inspected before saying she is.

At anchor

We transported Opus to Vancouver this past Thursday. After a group dinner and bidding the, all goodnight and in the darkness of full night, I moved Opus out to the mouth of False Creek. I took an OK anchor spot because I didn’t really want to putt about the anchorage in the dark for fear of snagging some unmarked buoy. Setting anchor in 27 feet of water, I closed my eyes and to sleep.

Unfortunately, the predicted bad weather moved in. Between leaks in the deck hatches, a fluttering forestay, and a few nightmares, very little sleep was had. I was awake just about every hour to check the anchor. I knew I had set it well, but there is always the concern and trepidation of anchoring in a new place.

All day today it was gloomy and drizzly – the kind of weather that makes even a well-rested person tempted to put off chores. For one who is bleary with no chore being a “have to”, the temptation to doze the day away while doing just the inside housekeeping was overwhelming.

the sun did come out for a short time, but that was “the calm before the storm” so to speak. Tonight the wind is blowing over 20 knots, causing the forestay to vibrate like a guitar string. I’ve attempted to put a damper on it, but so far unsuccessfully. Meanwhile the chop is building and Opus is bouncing up and down and sailing on the anchor. It is going to be a long night again, I think.

Windy night

Last night was a bit windy. There have been other windy nights, but last night was different.

Every boat “talks” to you. It has its own vocabulary of squeaks, grunts, bangs, creaks and ticks that she uses to tell you what’s going on. Unfortunately, each boat’s vocabulary is quite different than another’s, and it takes a while to get to know how your, particular, boat talks. Last night was a long, dreary, lesson in that vocabulary.

It started out with the “bang! bang! bang!” that is also known as halyard slap. That one is pretty common on sailboats and is caused by the wind making a halyard flap in the wind, kind of like a finger across a guitar string. Since halyards lie against the mast, for the most part, they bang the mast as they flap. The cure to that is either to take the end of the halyard and fasten it well away from the mast or, if that’s not possible, to use a bungee cord around the halyard and one of the side stays, thereby pulling the center of the halyard away from the mast.

Because of how the sail cover is done, refastening the halyard was not going to be feasible in the dark. It would involve taking two covers off, moving a halyard, and then putting the two covers back on, requiring two precarious partial climbs of the mast (because the covers extend higher than I can reach from the deck). So I went with the bungee – which only required one precarious partial climb of the mast so I could place the bungee higher than the sail cover.

I suppose I could have waited for the morning, but there is no sleeping through halyard slap.

I had just dropped off to sleep when I was woken by a “creak.. ick ick ick creeeeeeeaaaak ick.” sound, which is new to me. I got up and moved to the center of the cabin to try to isolate the sound. It sounded like it was coming from forward, so I took a step that way. Now it was sounding like it was coming from the stern, so I took a bunch of steps that way. Further towards the stern.. another step. Towards the bow… move that way… this chase of the sound went on for about two hours until I figured out that it was the boom that was moving side to side in the wind. This, in turn, was pulling on the main sheet, which is fastened to a metal beam running across the boat midships. So why wasn’t the sound coming from there?

Because in making the beam vibrate, it was making the whole cabin roof into one sounding board, so the sound was coming from everywhere.

The solution was to go outside and lash the very end of the boom to the far sides of the boat, like making a triangle. That stopped the wiggling of the boom back and forth, and back to sleep.

To be woken up by more sounds, which get located and silenced, and back to sleep. To be woken up again by sounds, which get located and silenced, and back to sleep.

You get the idea.

So today was a really lazy day as I was groggy from sleeping in 2 hour increments. Tonight should be better so that’s where I’m going – to allow myself to be rocked to sleep tonight and hope that Opus is done talking in her sleep too, at least for tonight.

Oh, and remember my previous post regarding eagles? Well, found some more pieces of the wind instrument on my deck. I’m going to have to replace those instruments, but first I need to figure out a better way to keep the eagles from breaking them before I spend a thousand dollars on replacements.

Addendum, June 2

Eagles, as a symbol of the United States, are majestic, awe inspiring, birds.

Real life, though, not so much.

Although my wind instruments weren’t actually sending information to my chart plotter and other displays, there was always the windex up there – the simple windvane-like device that told you the apparent wind direction. I could rely on that at the very least.

Until today, when an eagle broke it off and then, as if to add a final “F_ you”, dropped it onto the deck right next to the helm.

Gee, thanks, eagle.