6-14-2011, Nanaimo, B.C.

It seems like it was a long time coming, but we’ve finally begun the travel portion of our adventures.  We are now cruising around Vancouver Island, passing through the San Juan Islands and up the Strait of Georgia.  There’s not much wind today, so we’re motoring at the moment, but we had all 5 sails up earlier this morning.  Hooray!
We spent longer in Astoria and worked on more projects than we planned.  The bowthruster we bought earlier in the year and expected to install here turned out to not fit our boat very well (it’s intended to attach to a flat section of the keel or the stem, the leading edge of the bow), so we ended up purchasing another one.  We’ve sent the original one back to the distributor, and he’s hoping to sell it to someone else for us.  A good lesson in – hmmm, well I’m sure we learned *something*!  The new thruster is a more conventional design, which required a transverse hole (or “tunnel”) to be drilled through the bow – not a huge deal for a fiberglass boat, but more difficult for our ferro-cement hull.  We contacted a local concrete contractor who hooked us up with the regional experts in complex tasks like ours, and helped us figure out exactly how to position it.  Since the hull is curved in all directions, it was not necessarily straightforward to find the “true” horizontal & vertical frames of reference.  Then the contractors had to figure out how to mount their drill to a curved surface in order to core the 13″ tunnel where the propellers sit.  That was a really fascinating job, and took the entire first day they were here.  The second day they drilled a vertical hole to “T” in with the first one, for the electronics and motor.  These folks really knew what they were doing (although they admitted that they had never been asked to put a big hole in a boat before), and we had a beautiful tunnel through our boat that was the talk of the neighborhood.
Then it was up to us to install all the pieces and build up a pair of fairings (bumps on the leading edges of the tunnel to reduce the drag caused by the water hitting up against the back walls as we move forward).  We did this over the Memorial Day weekend, switching to a different type of fiberglass resin partway through because we ran out and virtually everyone who carries this kind of product was closed, except that Home Depot had something similar.  Anyhow, we managed to get the whole thing done and painted up before the boat went in the water that Friday, and were thrilled to play with our new bowthruster and rudder.  We had a big scare the next day, though, when we tried to use the bowthruster again and it didn’t work in one direction.  Turns out that some water had gotten in the hold from the exhaust of the water-cooled generator, and we believe the electronics were wet.  Once it dried out, things were fine, but then we spent a few more days working on a better way to make sure that water can’t accumulate in that hold (and this involved drilling another small hole in the hull, to pump out).  This puppy uses a *lot* of power and a short could be a pretty dramatic event.
Altogether we spent almost a month in Astoria, and we wish we could have spent a bit more time enjoying the town.  We worked our butts off!  Whenever we did get into town, we encountered friendly helpful people who made the whole experience a pleasant one.  It’s an odd experience seeing your home get hauled up in a crane and set on half a dozen blocks of wood, balanced between stands made of 2″ pipe looking for all the world like schoolchildren pushing with their little hands against a whale.  We climbed a 15′ ladder innumerable times each day to get in and out of the boat, carrying our groceries and tools, bicycles and laundry.  Because of environmental concerns, they restricted our activities to those that don’t release water outside the boat, making laundry and and dish-washing a bit challenging.  Fortunately we were allowed to use the bathroom facilities of the marina a half mile away.  We had a wonderful view of the Columbia Bar, and we saw cruise ships, freighters and even a pair of tall ships come in and go out.  Our experience with the Port of Astoria was excellent: they’re extremely helpful and very competent.  Also Englund Marine is within walking distance and they have (almost) anything a mariner could ask for!  We probably took an average of 4 trips to Englund a day!
There’s a local flock of birds that frequent the boatyard (flying overhead most of the day and congragating on the pavement at dusk in regiments which made Kathy think of the Buckingham Palace Guard), and which have a harsh grumpy sound to their call.  We never found out specifically what they are called, but we took to calling them the “querulous terns”.  The week before we left, something odd happened in the tern community, we’re not sure what, perhaps an illness, but three birds turned up dead in the parking lot one morning.  The entire flock stayed away for 3 or 4 days, and the silence seemed a bit eerie to us after becoming accustomed to their constant complaining.  Eventually they did return, and we wondered whether they missed their compatriots or just how much they “knew” about what had happened.
After we went back in the water, we spent about another week at the dock, reinstalling the generator, reattaching the stays for the main mast (which had to be removed in order to fit in the travel lift) and securing as much “stuff” as we could manage for the ocean passage.  During this time we realized that our main bank of batteries was not charging as quickly as they should and discharging much more quickly.  We found the receipt and it turns out they were 9 years old. Man time flies.  So we decided to spend a day replacing them.  12 batteries in, 12 batteries out: roughly 750 pounds each way – but now we can feel more secure about our water, refrigeration, lighting and pumps (especially since we don’t yet have our solar panels in place!)
Fortunately we found a wonderful window of weather and (except for a sighting of three Orca just as the sun set) the trip north from Astoria to Victoria was uneventful – an event in itself!  As usual for this time of year the wind was out of the Northwest; exactly the wrong direction – so we motored the entire way.  The seas were extremely calm, even glassy at times and we rolled into Victoria Sunday evening.  We found the customs dock and went through the customs process over the phone, then went around the corner to find a slip in the Port of Victoria’s guest docks.  We all needed a good night’s sleep – but it was not inexpensive!  We paid over $200 for a night in the middle of the city, walked to dinner and slept like it was going out of style.  Monday Dan & Kathy rode the city bus out to Butchart Gardens, a must-see tourist attraction that Kathy’s mom has been espousing for years.  This may have been the first sunny day of the year, and the whole town was out wearing shorts and smiles.  The gardens were spectacular in the early summer sun, and we especially enjoyed walking around the Sunken Garden and Japanese Garden.  Dan’s sister (Aria) and father (David) preferred to spend their day in town, visiting a coffee shop and catching up on email.  It was a pleasant day for all.
However we’re pushing a schedule a bit now.  David will be leaving us on Friday from Campbell River, a town halfway up Vancouver Island.  He’s got a professional conference to attend in Bulgaria, so his tickets are fixed.  We left Victoria early this morning, and have spent the better part of the day motoring.  We were pleasantly surprised to catch a glimpse of the peak of the elusive Mount Olympus, covered with sunrise-pink snow.  We’ve seen quite a bit of traffic today, from ferry-boats to tugs pulling barges to 3 Canadian military ships on exercise to tiny pleasure-boats fishing.  We haven’t seen any whales (yet) today, but we’re certain they’re waiting for us further north.  Fortunately we’ve made good time today, so if there’s some wind tomorrow we can spend a little time doing some real sailing.  Tonight we’ll spend at anchor in Nanaimo’s harbor.  We’ll need to pick up a replacement pump for our main water, because we’ve got a bit of a squeak and a leak, but that may be a story for another day…

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