Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Singlehanding

I left Victoria Tuesday morning and headed out on the Straight of Juan De Fuca, to test my single handing sailing skills. It worked out pretty well; I used a climbing harness and clipped in whenever I went forward, and I only flew the Genoa (a big jib), so the autopilot was happy. The autopilot doesn't like to work with the Mainsail up, for some reason. I think the main is too powerful, so it turns the boat a lot, and the autopilot is too slow to react, so it ends up weaving around a lot. With just the jib, though, it works great.
The seas were big, but I'm doing well and not getting seasick. I was a little worried about getting sick by myself, and then being weak and tired and having to do some difficult task and things getting dangerous, but I'm careful when I go down below, and try to keep my eyes closed as much as I can whenever I'm inside the cabin. It really helps.
I went to Spencer Spit (on Lopez Island) for the night, and tied up to a mooring ball. Then I took my trusty canoe ashore for a little walk around. There is a lot to do, even by myself. I can go ashore and walk around and explore the area, and its lots of fun.
Wednesday I got up and headed out to Cypress Island, where I tried out my rear spool, which is where I anchor out a little ways, then paddle ashore with a rope and tie the rope to the shore and tighten the boat up to shore that way. It works really well, because it allows me to keep tension on the anchor all the time, so I don't have to worry about drifting around and then having the anchor snag on something and drag away all night long. I think I'll try it more often, when I come to less inhabited places. So I climbed up a mountain on Cypress island, to Eagle Cliffs, and got a nice view of the boat and the surroundings.
And I saw this Orchid-looking thing growing in the shade in rocky soil where I think it gets a lot of rain. There were a few bunches of these flowers. Any ideas what they are?
Now I'm at Mom's house in Bellingham, and I'll be staying here until the weekend. Then I'll go back to Seattle next week.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cadboro bay (victoria)

I dropped Abe off last night, and I've been trying to figure out what I want to do now. I guess I can go where I like, but I don't know where I want to go. So today I slept in late, washed the boat, and went for a dive.
video
Then I cleaned the bottom of the boat off. I've got a video of the new bottom, but its big, so I'll try to attach it, but it might not work on this frail internet connection...
I've been poaching internet through wireless from houses near the shoreline, but it changes as I swing on the anchor, so I get internet for a minute and then none for 10 minutes. Oh well, you get what you pay for, I guess.
video
So I'm finally at the point of freedom. Before, I've had a plan. Before I had passengers. Now I am alone.
The boat is nicely suited for me. Its just about the right size for just me. I can put my stuff here and there and not worry about having to move it. With Abe and Ric, we had to sort through everything a bunch, to find things and to make it all fit. Right now I can leave my sleeping bag in the quarter berth (the one under the cockpit), rather than having to pack it up every morning! Thats pretty much unheard of, for me. Usually I have to pack and repack everything about 5 times a day.
There are downsides, though. I don't have the extra pair of hands to help me do things, and the weather around here is so varied that I think I'll be wanting those really soon. I think thats the true test of a sailor's skill, is the ability to successfully single hand a boat in changing weather. It requires good judgment, more than anything.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bellingham... Again.

I'm in Victoria now, but here's some more about Bellingham and the trip over to here.
I went out to visit my dad, and saw the solar array that he's been building. Its a huge array, with a swivel that is made out of a '57 ford pickup rear end, and it will provide around 2 KW of power when the sun shines on it. I was really impressed. He designed and built the tower himself, then ordered the panels, and is installing the panels as I type...

He is also working on a new tiller for me, so I should be equipped with that soon enough. I got a piece of African Mohagany for him to work on. After visiting with Dad, Abe and I headed out from Bellingham towards Victoria again. I had initially planned on taking Abe to Nanaimo, but he needed more time, and it seemed that the best thing would be for us to go straight to Victoria.
So we set off. We went to Lummi Island, initially, which is just across Bellingham Bay, and then climbed to the top of the island, a peak about 1640 ft tall, where we then climbed up to the top of a tree to get a clear view of the cascades to the east of us; Mt Baker and the Sisters. We also saw some of Abe's old Kayaking buddies, paddling along Chukanut, and we raced them...
After Lummi, we proceeded on to Sucia Island, and stayed the night there. The water was really clear, and there was bioluminescence. It was a really nice night. We went to shore and ate over an open fire on the beach, until the tide came in and put the fire out. Then we got up the next morning and headed for Victoria. There was no wind today (sunday) so we ended up motoring all day long, after a short stint with the spinnaker.
I'm dropping my brother off now, and from here on out, I'm not sure what to do next. I can stay around Victoria for a few days, and go downtown and walk around a bit, or I can sail north to the Canadian Gulf Islands. Or I can head back to Bellingham, taking my time going through the San Juans. Or I can head back to Seattle. I'm not quite sure what to do. The only deadline I have right now is Gnarly Gnines, a frisbee tournament on May 10th. I want to go back to Bellingham to pick up the Tiller handle, and to take my mother out for a weekend. I want to explore the Gulf Islands, and I suppose I could mingle the two of those together.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bellingham

We made it to Bellingham. It was a wild downwind ride from Victoria, about 51 miles, maybe a little more. We had to cross the border, which entails going to Roche Harbor (on San Juan Island) and then getting inspected by a customs agent. The US customs agents are always tough, but this guy was pretty nice. We motored out from Roche Harbor, and right into the waiting jaws of the Coast Guard, who, upon seeing us, promptly dropped a zodiac into the water and came over to board. So after waiting for that to go through (like 30 minutes) we put up sails and tore off at a amazing 7 kts (over water, it was more like 3 over land). The current was torrentialy against us, building big standing waves, which in some places were almost 5 ft tall. We would surf down the waves and get up to 8.5 kts. And that is really scary, especially when your hull speed is 6 kts.

Over the past few nights, I've turned on a wood stove that I made out of a tea kettle, and it heats the boat up nicely. I spent about two months working on this stove, but it works nicely. Here's a picture of it glowing in the dark...


I need to post more pictures, so I'll put in some that I've taken from the Port Townsend. This is what port townsend looks like:


And here's Bellingham:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The first leg: Seattle to Victoria


Ric and I successfully made it to Victoria! Monday evening, we went under the Fremont Bridge, and out the locks, and then anchored just outside the locks. Tuesday morning we got up early and headed out north, stopping at Fort Flagler for a walk around, and then sitting at a mooring bouy in Port Townsend.
Wednesday morning we got up early and crossed the strait of juan de fuca. This is the longest crossing I've ever done, it was about 35 miles across mostly open water. At first I was worried about the south winds, blowing about 10-15 kts, so I put a reef in the main and put up a small Jib. The boat handled the winds great, so I then figured I could probably put up the spinnaker.
It was a terrific ride, we were going about 8 kts at one point, flying along and pulling the canoe behind.
White Knight (the canoe) decided to become a submarine, however. 8 kts is a bit too fast for a canoe, it seems.
After a little while the wind died, and we were forced to motor the rest of the way over to Victoria.
Customs was a breeze. I was worried about it, but we came ashore, called a number, and talked to a guy on the phone. He gave us a number that we put in our window. That was it. Call, answer questions, get the number, put it in the window. We'll see what the US customs is like tomorrow.
Coming ashore, there is so much beauty in this little city. The colors (colours?) are stunning, probably because there is so little color out on the water.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Trouble


I've been working on the boat in a frenzy, so today I went out to test a few of the things I've been working on. I broke the traveler (which is a hard thing to explain, but it basically controls the Main sail on the boat) a while ago, and I've been working out fixes to that. Finally I thought I had something.... But no. So I put in my second fix in, the backup plan... That seemed to be holding. So I thought I would take the boat out into lake union to test out the traveler.
And I broke the tiller off. I stepped on it on accident, and its old and rotten, so it broke.
Let me tell you something, its scary to realize you can't steer. If the wind dies I can use the motor, if the motor dies I can use the wind, if both die, then I paddle or something, but if the rudder breaks, I'm in a bundle of hurt. It doesn't matter if I have power if I can't steer.
Luckily I was in lake union when it happened, because I was able to get enough steering to turn away from the houseboats and get out to a place where I could drop anchor and work on a replacement. Right now I have a pretty strong piece of wood that will do, but I'm looking for a nice looking replacement. Its really just a stick, so its a pretty simple thing.
But important.
I'm glad to get a lot of these breaking things done now, rather than later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


There comes a time in a young man's life when he must grasp destiny by both hands and shake. To test the path that has been laid down by his father and to strike out on his own. That time is now.
A planned future, though safe, cannot sustain a man; his courage, perseverance and strength require uncertianty and obstacle to prove their worth.
Friendships, though some of the most precious assets avaliable, also must be traded for adventure and lonliness, when it helps to build character.
I am seeking to strengthen my foundation, to make my roots secure and strong, before I continue further on Life's winding road. I believe this is something all should attend to, now and again. Tend to your foundations to insure you have the strength and will to live your dreams.

Here is my "before" picture... We'll see what I look like when I come back.

Monday, April 14, 2008

One more week. And I'm scared


Reality takes a while to set in sometimes. I have a pretty thick head, so it takes a long time for it to hit me. But this time next week I'll be heading out, starting the journey. I have three more days of work, then 3 days to prepare. What have I forgotten? What will I be leaving behind?
The cold hands of scrooge are grasping around my heart, and I'm starting to worry about not having enough money. My dreamy eyes are starting to see the problems with Altair, how she might be too small, the running rigging needs to be replaced, the traveler is broken, the holding tank should be plumbed differently... The list goes on. But all these things are just excuses for the fear of change inside me. Fear of letting go of the warm life I've been living. Fear of going my own path.



I guess thats one of my reasons for going though. To specifically go my own way.

On a side note, I was up in Nanaimo last weekend, playing at a tournament, and I got a glimpse
of what it will look like up north of the border... (see picture)

More on the plan.



Friday, April 4, 2008

The Plan...Sort of.

Everyone has been asking me, "So, what's the plan?"
And unfortunately, I don't have a very good plan. Like everything in the world, there is a lot of uncertainty in wandering. The only thing usually that holds true, or is planned, is the outset. So here it is: I'm going to go down to the boat on Tuesday, April 22, bound for Victoria, and then to Bellingham.
Once in Bellingham, (where I hope to be by the 25th of April), things get less certain. If Abe has some time, I'm going to try to head out to Victoria again, or to Nanaimo, to pick him up and head up to Kingcome Inlet. He has to be there May 1st, so it might be difficult to make it that far, but we'll have to see. If that all goes to plan, then I will make another choice. I can go down the west side of Vancover Island, which would test my abilities, or I can come back down the inside passage. This is something I will have to decide based on the weather and my confidence in the boat and my skill.
Of course, there is a lot that can happen on this plan. I might not be able to make it to Victoria quickly, or I might find out that I can't handle the weather out on the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
Should that happen, and I find that I don't have the right boat for this kind of trip, and I can't single-hand it, then it will be time for me to buy a plane ticket, say adios to this hemisphere for the first time, and head down to the New Zealand.
I've never seen the Southern Cross... Did you know that Alpha Centauri, the closest star to earth, is only visible from the southern hemisphere? Apparently it could have planets, too...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Advice

One thing I'm getting a lot of for free right now is advice. And I don't seem to be able to take it very gracefully. Maybe I'm a young rebellious youth who doesn't know anything about the world. Maybe I'm tired of hearing the same thing again and again.
One of the points of this trip is to do something dangerous. But Danger, besides being my middle name, is... uh... dangerous. So I better watch out. There are a lot of things that might make me fare better when staring down the double barrels of nature. I'd better get a GPS because thats necessary, and will make things safer. But my feelings right now, at least, are that if nature pulls the trigger, well, thats what happens.
Maybe I should bring a bible along with me....
Anyways, right now I'm in a struggle with what equipment I need and how much it costs. I bet my opinions will change quickly once I'm faced with a storm, but I wonder about the need for an EPIRB and a life raft...
Talking to people at work, I constantly hear advice that I need a lot more things, that I need to put my faith in technology in order to save myself. That a 27 ft boat isn't big enough. And they are partly right. I bet I'll be wishing for more room, wishing for a longer waterline, and more comfort and safety, but I've been wishing for way too long, and it just so happens that this is what I can afford right now, so I'll take what I can get.

On the completely other hand, I am not trying to be stupid, so I'm going to work my way up to testing the waters of the pacific. I don't intend to stick my neck out very far, and if I head out on the straits in a couple weeks and get scared, then I'll probably get the EPIRB. I'm really just (as my sister Rachel used to say) "Pissing and Moaning" about the costs of everything.