Maiden Voyage to the San Juan and Gulf Islands July Part 1

REPOST from last night (technical difficulties)

Thanks to our guests for providing many of the photos in this post.

After the Bell Street Rendezvous in June, we took the Gyrfalcon back to Lake Union Boat Repair. The gang at LUBR (loo-ber) were  installing new electronics (radar, chart plotter and depth finder), mounting the chest freezer and the small inflatable on the upper deck, replacing the cable on the anchor drum and servicing the anchor winch. Nancy and I then left for Washington, DC for our annual Pathology meeting.

We got back from DC on Friday evening. Our departure was scheduled for Monday morning. Needless to say, we spent a busy weekend doing last minute projects and provisioning for the trip. We spent Saturday at Costco and the grocery store and bought food, and wine and beer for the trip.

Our guests for the Maiden Voyage were Paul and Erica from Indiana and Dennis and Bonnie from California. Paul and Erica had been with us on our trip to Alaska 2 summers ago, and Dennis is a sailor on  Monterrey Bay. Paul and Dennis are also veterinary pathologists, so I felt as though we could issue continuing education certificates for the cruise.

Dennis and Bonnie arrived mid-day Sunday, and Paul and Erica came in later on Sunday evening.  They all helped us get ready for the trip. We thought that different folks would take turns cooking meals, and everyone either brought things they needed (specific brands of peanut butter), or picked them up before or during the trip.

Everyone except Nancy and me were coffee drinkers, so we went and bought a Mr. Coffee. Captain Ralph was very happy – apparently he had had enough of us tea drinkers and decaf junkies.

Paul and I planned to cook seafood risotto on our first night out (Monday). I had cooked it before when he was visiting, and he wanted me to teach him how to make it, so we prepared for Dueling Risottos. I went to the market on Saturday afternoon to pick up the ingredients, and happened to mention to the fishmonger that I was not cooking the clams and mussels until the next day. Her eyes widened in horror. “You can’t do that. I can’t guarantee that they will still be good. After all, they are living creatures.”  Suitably chastised, I said I would return in the morning. She said that the order would be ready at 6:30.  Dinner Sunday was an ongoing event.  Nancy went to pick up Leland (see below), and Peter cooked BBQ chicken for the gang.

 

Day 1 (Monday, June 30th)

Paul and I went to the market first thing in the morning and picked up the happy, healthy shellfish along with a few other items. We also stopped by SeaMar to pick up some fishing gear.  By the time we got back to the boat, Capt Ralph had arrived. He is spending the summer as captain of a sport fishing boat in Southeast Alaska, and flew back to Seattle for our trip.

We also had Leland from Haven Boatworks with us for the first day. On the trip back from Port Townsend after the repair work, some of the new bearings were running a little hot. Leland had come to Seattle once and tweaked the bearings, but we still were not sure if they would be dependable. We decided to have Leland come over the night before, spend the night on the boat, and then accompany us to Port Townsend to watch over the bearing on the trip over. The plans was to spend the night and possible the next day in Port Townsend working on the bearings if necessary.

We left the dock by 9:00 am. Our first stop was the fuel dock, where we got 775 gallons of diesel (a magic number because that’s where one of the price reductions kicks in – the more you buy, the less expensive it gets). Nancy backed the boat into the fuel dock.  Of course, Capt Ralph and the guy working the dock go way back (third cousins or whatever).  But what impressed Erica the most was the other boats in the area–our neighbors at the dock were some of the boats from the Deadliest Catch.

Erica with one of the ships from The Deadliest Catch

After that we went through the locks. Large lock again. We had Chris Martindale from LUBR on board for the first part of the day – he needed to set and adjust the electronic compass, so that information on the GPS chart plotter was correct. The procedure is to drive the boat around in circles for a little while until the boat “learns” which way is North.

In the large locks

In the large locks

Exiting the large locks

 

After we had cruised around in a large circle for an hour or so, Chris blessed the system, and we dropped him off at Shilshole marina, so that he could go back to LUBR.

Our crossing to Port Townsend was uneventful.  The bearings stayed well within the acceptable heat range, and we figured out a schedule of how often to check and grease them. Leland felt bad that he had nothing to do and kept asking for projects, but we figured it was well worth it to have him along, and told him to enjoy himself.  We think he managed in the end.

The weather was sunny and warm. Our crew/guest spent the day getting used to cruising on the Gyrfalcon. Nancy drove and Leland and I watched the bearings and the engines. We had cold cuts for lunch and arrived at Port Townsend around 4:30. The original plan had been to dock at the marina in Port Townsend, but since we didn’t need to stay there, we went into the marina, dropped Leland off, turned the boat around and went back out of the marina and dropped anchor just off-shore.

Leaving PT

 

We had brought our large (20 foot) Zodiac (aka the Go-fast Boat or GFB) with us on the trip. It is too large to fit on the upper deck, so we haul it behind on a long line. During the trip, Dennis took on responsibility for releasing the line when we were under way, and bringing the line in tight (so it would not get tangled in the props) when we docked or anchored. He became quite proficient and earned the sobriquet, “Dinghy Dennis”.

After we anchored, we all went ashore to the Safeway in PT to get more groceries and fishing licenses.

Dennis and Bonnie at Safeway

Boarding the GFB at PT

After returning, Paul and I made tag-team risotto. After dinner, we all drifted off to sleep.

Dueling Risotto Chefs

Day 2 (Tuesday, July 1st)

The next morning we left Pt. Townsend and crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Neither Bonnie or Erica are comfortable sailors, and this was the crossing I was most concerned about. Most of the times we have crossed the Strait, we have taken a beating. Today’s crossing was like glass. Actually, I was hoping for a few waves so we could see how the Gyrfalcon handled in weather, but it was not to be.

Cpt. Ralph suggested that we spend some time off Lime Kiln Point on San Juan Island, in the hopes that some orcas might show up. As we approached, we saw quite a few whale watching boats (always a good sign). And then we were surrounded by orcas: singles, couples and small groups.

Orcas off Lime Kiln Point

Orcas off Lime Kiln Point

Orcas off of Lime Kiln Point

Orcas off of Lime Kiln Point

There was a lot of tail slapping and some spy-walking (when they lift most of their body vertically out of the water. We later read that this was a super-pod gathering (whales from all three of the pods in Salish Sea), and that there was quite a bit of cetacean sex going on. Dennis had brought a hydrophone on the trip, so we were able to hear the whales as well as see them. It was very cool.

As we approached Stuart Island, we saw a large blue barrel floating.  On the Guillemot, we used to retrieve all sorts of flotsam and jetsam while cruising in order to clean up the Salish Sea, but it’s a little more difficult to do so from the Gyrfalcon.  Nonetheless, this barrel seemed to beckon us to retrieve it.

 

Barrel wrestling

Barrel wrestling

Succcess

Succcess

Paul hopped into the GFB, dragged the barrel into the boat, and pulled himself back to the Gyrfalcon.  The blue barrel has now become our bottle/can recycling center, after a few modifications by Paul and Peter.

Barrel modifications

Barrel modifications

 

After a few hours of cruising from PT, we arrived at Stuart Island and anchored in Reid Harbor, which is a long narrow, deep anchorage. Most of the island is a state park. We took everyone ashore in the GFB and they took a hike while Nancy and I relaxed with Cpt. Ralph on the Gyrfalcon.

Stuart Island Anchorage

Stuart Island Anchorage

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Dennis and Bonnie on Stuart Island

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Stuart Island Anchorage

We were beginning to realize that after a day or cruising (driving for Nancy and engineering for me) that we were fairly worn-out, and really just wanted to chill out with a beer. Meanwhile our passengers felt like they had been cooped up for most of the day, and wanted to go ashore and stretch their legs. I think this will be the same whether they are friends or paying passengers. Lesson learned.

The food at Stuart Island was great–pizza for lunch, then salad with salmon and blueberry pie for dinner.

Pizza for lunch

Pizza for lunch

 

Dennis making pie crust

Dennis making pie crust

Blueberry pie ready for the oven

Blueberry pie ready for the oven

Salmon on salad for dinner

Salmon on salad for dinner

Day 3 (Wednesday, July 2nd)

The next morning Nancy put a kayak in the water and spent some time taking pictures of Guillemots in the harbor.

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After she got back, we tackled one of our projects.  We wanted to mark the anchor so that we knew how much anchor was out.  Paul used sunblock to temporarily indicate length, and we made permanent marks with colored electrical ties.  Dennis used his cell phone for calculating anchor rode length, and Erica recorded everything.

140702__H8A4470_5D Mark III

A new use for sunblock

A new use for sunblock

More permanent marking using plastic ties

More permanent marking using plastic ties

Dennis calculating anchor rode length on a cellphone

Higher math calculating anchor rode length on a cellphone

Erica, historian extraordinaire

 

After marking the anchor, we headed for Canada. We left Stuart and headed around Turn Point. We headed for Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island, where there is a Canadian Customs Checkpoint. On the way across, we read the customs regulations to make sure we understood the limits on alcohol (2 bottles of wine or spirits, or 24 bottles of beer per person), as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. Although we boiled the potatoes we had on board and juiced the limes, when Nancy went ashore to clear customs, all they asked was that we keep the fresh produce and flowers we had on the boat while we were there. Clearance in Bedwell is done by dedicated phone lines connecting to an agent in Ottawa; there is not an actual agent on site.

At the Customs Dock, Bedwell Harbor

At the Customs Dock, Bedwell Harbor

After we had cleared Customs we motored up to Ganges, which is on Saltspring Island. Dennis and Bonnie had read about Saltspring and wanted to check it out. We dropped the anchor in Ganges Harbor, and sent the crew ashore to check out the town.

Paul and Erica at Ganges

Paul and Erica at Ganges

Dennis and Bonnie at Ganges

Dennis and Bonnie at Ganges

Ganges beer

Ganges beer

In a short while, the wind began to blow. Although our anchor did not slip, there was a sailboat that got fairly close to us when the wind shifted. We decided that rather than worry about hitting another vessel, we would move and anchor again in a different spot.  Our new anchorage was good, but a southerly wind pushed us fairly close to an island.

Anchorage at Ganges

Anchorage at Ganges

For those of you unfamiliar with boating in the Pacific Northwest, you should know that depths can change dramatically over a very short distance (think a steep mountain range with many peaks that has been flooded).  Depths can go from 300 to 30 ft in the distance that it takes to turn around.  The transducer for the depth finder is forward on the hull, which means, in an 88 ft boat, that the stern is at a different depth than what registers on the depth finder.  Erica, Nancy, and Ralph checked the depth off the stern the old fashioned way with a line and a small anchor.  We were okay at about 35 ft.   The wind continued to blow all night. Nancy was worried about the anchor dragging during the night, so she set the anchor alarm on the GPS, and spent the night in the pilothouse,  getting up every hour or so to check the anchor. We never moved.

Lesson learned: We need to purchase an intercom, so that Cpt. Nancy can sleep in her bed, and still hear the alarm from the GPS if the anchor should slip. Additional lesson learned: We have a 500 lb anchor and 125 feet of chain, followed by 600 feet of steel cable. It will take one hell of a blow to move the Gyrfalcon.  We had most of the chain out, but none of the cable, based on the depth of the water where we were anchored. During the night, the chain knocked against the side of the hull, and was noisy. Another lesson learned: search for deeper anchorages, so we can run the anchor out until all the chain is on the bottom, so that only cable is showing – it is much quieter.

Day 4 (Thursday, July 3rd)

We all spent the morning in Ganges. We took a hike in a city park with old-growth trees, and followed it up with lunch at a local fish and chips shop.

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Hiking on Ganges

Hiking on Ganges

Lunch on Ganges

Lunch on Ganges

After lunch we returned to the boat. Capt Ralph had another good idea: we could anchor in Brentwood Bay and go to Bouchart Gardens. Bouchart Gardens is one of those must-see attractions on Victoria Island, and neither Nancy or I had ever been.  Neither had Paul, Erica, Dennis or Bonnie.  Plus it would be good to go so that we could advise guests on future voyages. There was plenty of room in Brentwood Bay, about a half mile from the water entrance to Bouchart Gardens.  After we had dropped anchor (no wind today), we took the GFB over to the Gardens to check it out.

That night, Dennis and Bonnie took over the cooking duties and whipped up a chicken curry.

Relaxing on the upper deck

Relaxing on the upper deck

Captain Ralph training soon-to-be Captain Nancy

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