Updates since last summer

It’s been awhile since we updated the blog.  We’ve gone on a few trips, and made some more upgrades.

Here are the highlights of the last half of 2015 and the first half of 2016:  Lots of pictures, not much text.

Big improvement in the wheelhouse:  A new floor.  We chose a cork floor.  So far, she’s holding up well:


There are no straight lines on a boat.  Every piece was scribed.


So good to see the old floor disappear


2015 Labor Day cruise to Victoria BC for the Victoria Classic Boat Festival:

We transited the locks (small locks, outward bound) for the first time with just the 2 of us.  It was totally uneventful, which is what we like.

Spent a day in the San Juans, then went to Customs at Bedwell.  Coming into Bedwell, there must have been a strong current, because the boat made a sudden 90 degree turn without us touching the controls.


A sudden turn coming into Bedwell Harbor from the southeast

We headed next to Secret Cove, where we were hosted by the very gracious Ericssons.


The Olympus and Teal


Teal heading out

We ended up staying in the cove for 2 nights before heading over to Genoa Bay, on Vancouver Island.  While we were there, we decided to accept patina.  Instead of sanding down the interior of all of the doors and refinishing them properly, we decided to take a halfway step: take all the paint drips off, sand down the rough spots, and layer on a few coats of varnish.  This actually greatly improved the appearance, and was a good stop-gap measure.  The gap that’s being stopped might extend several years…


Work in progress


Improved look



We next went to Sidney Spit, one of our favorite locations.  Our friends Paul and Erica flew into Victoria and made their way to Sidney Harbor, where we picked them up in the Go Fast Boat and brought them back to the Gyrfalcon.

The four of us headed to Victoria for 3 days of fun.



The harbor


Commodore Ken’s boat, the Patamar


The water taxi ballet


Gyrfalcon at Victoria Harbor

We even won the award for the best liveaboard!

After Victoria, we headed back through Friday Harbor and US Customs, then went to Deer Harbor on Orcas Island (back in the USA), and spent the evening kayaking, before heading home the next day.


Deerleap at the dock next to Syrene II in Deer Harbor


Paul and Erica coming back from kayaking

Peter managed to damage his back hauling lines going through the locks, and his injury didn’t respond to conservative treatment. He ended up on the surgeon’s table in December, but somehow managed to recover enough for our next trip:

The Christmas Bird Count:

We have been providing the platform for the pelagic Christmas Bird Count in Seattle for a few years now.  Basically, we take the boat out to Shilshole Marina the evening before the day of the bird count.  Our intrepid bird counters plus bird nerd wannabes come on the boat at 0 dark 30, and we head out on a prescribed course that has been followed for the past 20 years.  We count the birds that we see, and add them to the tallies of all the other Christmas Counts in the Seattle count.  We’ve had about 15 people aboard  each of the past few years.

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Cathy Britell’s photo of the Gyr returning from the Bird Count.  Note the intrepid birders on the foredeck and the fantail.

The upgrades:

We have spent the past year making numerous upgrades to the Gyrfalcon.  Some are cosmetic, some are for comfort, and some are for safety.  Here’s a list of the ones we’ve made since last July:

Canvas for the vents and for the roof freezer and railing on the pilothouse roof

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The cowl vent canvas is a big improvement over black plastic garbage bags adorned with duct tape.



Rubber padding on the dock piling

Canvaswork on cables and hydraulic tubing in the guest quarters

New VHF radio with fog horn and loud hailer

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New radio–easy to reach and has an auto foghorn.


AIS (Automatic Identification System) an electronic transponder system that allows us to “see” other boats (if they have AIS) on our charts and they can see us. It tells us what kind of boat, how big it is, how fast it is going, and where it is going (like an airplane flight plan)


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The new AIS unit

With upgrades to the boat, work travel for Peter, and with Nancy based in San Francisco for her job, we didn’t have much chance for weekend trips so far in 2016.  However, last weekend, we went to the Bell Street Classic Boat Weekend and had a blast.  More firsts for us:

First time going out through the Large Locks by ourselves.

First time into Bell Street Marina by ourselves (it’s a tight entrance)

First time time inbound through the locks with just us 2 (small locks)

We (Gyrfalcon, Peter, and Nancy, that is) were featured on a local Seattle early morning television show. We had more than 750 people tour the boat over 2 days. After the public has seen all the boats, they get to vote for a People’s Choice Award. This year, Gryfalcon won!

And now we’re less than one week away from heading north.  Destination: The Broughton Islands.  Stay tuned for more adventures.

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Week 3: Summer cruise to Desolation Sound

Week Three

Here’s an overview of Desolation Sound (screenshot of Google Maps).  We started the third week anchored in the east part of Desolation Sound, anchored on a bay on the mainland of BC.

Desolation Sound overview

Desolation Sound

We also thought those of you not familiar with this area might want the big picture of where we’ve been.  Here’s another Google Maps screen capture from Seattle up to Desolation Sound (Desolation Sound roughly between Campbell River and Refuge Cove, and our home base in Seattle on the lower right of the map).



Saturday, July 11, 2015. Tenedos Bay. We woke up to rain – all day. Regardless, Nancy circumnavigated the little island in the middle of the bay via kayak (it was high tide), and tried her hand at a jellyfish video (inspired by Jacqueline’s efforts earlier in the trip).   She agrees that it’s a skill that needs more practice.

Jellyfish in Tenedos Bay

This was the changeover day. Week 2 guests were leaving and Week 3 guests were arriving. We left the Gyr at 9:15 am with the Wisdoms to get to Refuge Cove in time to pick up Randy and Peggy – who had flown over on a floatplane from Campbell River. This was our second trip to Refuge cove, so we knew the drill.  Randy and Peggy were good at photographic documentation (a much appreciated attribute in our guests), so we’ll use their photos to show you Refuge Cove, albeit in the rain.


This is the coffee shop and snack bar.


This is the store where we reprovisioned and did a load of laundry.


The dock on the left is where the float plane lands. The shed on the right is where David left his ukelele.

I had asked Randy to bring some chicken, since we had not been able to bring any across the Canadian border at the beginning of the trip – due to concerns about avian influenza. Randy had bought chicken in Campbell River at the Walmart – we grilled it that night for dinner. The Wisdoms’ plane didn’t leave for a couple of hours, so they bought souvenirs and had a snack at Refuge Cove. David put his ukulele in a dry shack on the seaplane dock for safekeeping. When he got back to Seattle, he realized the uke was still in Refuge Cove. A flurry of emails ensued, and he and his uke were eventually reunited.

Back in Tenedos Bay, it was too wet to hike or swim or kayak. Unfortunately for Randy and Peggy, it was supposed to stay that way all weekend.  But the rain was good for the area–it has been a very dry summer.  So Peter did what he does very well–channeled Tom Sawyer and got Randy to polish brass.


Sunday, July 12, 2015. Tenedos Bay to Pender Harbor (via Little Bull Passage). We left early, hoping to catch some sun farther south. We cruised for most of the day.


From Tenedos Bay down the east side of Texada Island



South of Texada Island and west up to Little Bull Passage

In the afternoon, we decided to anchor in Little Bull Passage off Jedidiah Island southwest of Texada Island.  To maneuver to the anchorage, Nancy was turning the boat in the harbor by reversing the port engine and putting the starboard engine in forward, with the rudder over to port.  Despite this approach, the stern of the Gyrfalcon seemed to be rapidly approaching the rocky shore (and some alarms began to beep loudly).  Thinking that the boat was being pushed by some local currents towards the rocks, Nancy tried to turn more rapidly, giving more reverse engine on the port side, and more forward starboard engine.  To no avail–the rocks got even closer.  At this point, we glanced at the tachometer in the pilothouse and realized that the starboard engine was not responding to the throttle–basically, we just had one engine in reverse, and one in neutral.

Long story short–the alarms indicated that  the starboard actuator was dead, and we had no way to control the starboard engine from the bridge.

The actuator is a box in the engine room that transforms the electrical impulses from the control unit in the pilot house into mechanical activity. One part of the actuator controls the clutch in the transmission, and the other part controls the throttle on the engine.


This is the control unit.  It’s in the pilothouse and controls both engines


This is the starboard actuator.  Note the “N” that Peter wrote on the casing.


It was the clutch part that had failed. Putting the port engine in forward stopped our imminent demise, and then Peter managed to get manual control of the starboard engine in the engine room. We tried for a while to get the actuator to reset, but it kept alarming. Peter also noticed the transmission oil pressure was low, but he was more worried about the actuator.


Here you can see the actuator (upper center) with the cables running down to the transmission and the throttle (lower right) for the starboard engine.

After we realized that we could get out to the middle of the larger bay between Boho Bay and Little Bull Passage, and manage to stay in one spot, Peter called Ben at LUBR (Lake Union Boat Repair), and tried to figure out what was wrong.  As Peter was checking to see if the transmission for the starboard engine was hotter than the port (it was), the engine decided to make itself clear and overheated, and spewed hot antifreeze into the engine room. Peter managed to quickly turn off the engine, and then discovered that the fan belt on the impeller pump (required to pump raw seawater to keep the engines cool) had come off its pulley. Total disaster.  In any case we were down to one engine. This is probably something we should have found out before–how well does the boat do on one engine.  We now know:  the boat steers well in forward and cruises at around 7.5 knots, but does not back well at all.

It was a very tense day for both Nancy and me, but we worked well under the pressure. Randy and Peggy were very understanding as we tried to figure stuff out.  We all read manuals together and tried to diagnose the problems.  Being that all 4 of us are veterinarians, diagnosing was something we felt comfortable doing  (Of course, Peter and Randy, being anatomic pathologists, can only diagnose things after they are dead.  On the other hand, Peggy and Nancy, being of a more clinical bent, can diagnose while the patient is still living).  We considered our anchorage options should we need repairs before returning to Seattle, and decided to backtrack and limp back to Pender Harbor, a protected anchorage where we anchored in Hospital Bay for the night (all the marinas were full).


From Little Bull Passage back east, south of Texada Island, and up to Pender Harbor



Our anchorage in Pender Harbor


Monday, July 13, 2015 – Pender Harbor to Nanaimo. Randy woke us up – even though we had not dragged anchor, somehow during the night we slipped between 2 small boats tied to moorings.  I think that Randy had been up most of the night, re-reading the manual for the controller system and actuators, trying to figure out what went wrong. We still can’t figure out how the boat had shifted. Perhaps we had a lot of chain lying on the shallow floor of the bay, and during the night, the chain uncoiled and we moved.


From Pender Harbor, across the Strait of Georgia, to Nanaimo

We left Pender Harbor at 5:30 am, since we were awake and it seemed to make sense to get to some place with more repair facilities where we could get help if we needed it.  Besides, we were in a much calmer state in the morning (5 on a scale of 0-10 where 0 is totally freaked, and 10 is a zen-like state) compared to the night before (2 on the same scale). The Strait of Georgia had just a small amount of chop and wind – a little lumpy but not too bad. We got to Nanaimo early, so there was plenty of room to anchor.  We set the anchor two times, and finally got to a place where we (1) could swing freely and not hit other boats and (2) would not need to back up to get off the anchorage in the morning.  We sent Randy and Peggy off to kayak and hike on Newcastle Island.


Randy and Peggy kayaked and explored the area

Nancy and I reset the anchor twice more before we were happy.

By now, enough time had passed since the disaster of Sunday afternoon that I (Peter) felt ready to tackle the engine problem. I took the protective shroud off the starboard engine, and discovered that we had actually lost 2 belts. One of the alternator belts had broken, and the impeller belt was off of its pulley but intact. I replaced the impeller belt, and it showed no signs of wear – nor had the tension on the pulley slipped. The only explanation that we could come up with was that, when the smaller alternator belt broke, the loose end of the belt got wedged under the impeller belt and lifted it off the pulley. Without the impeller belt, the engine rapidly overheated. I have no idea how this related to the actuator failure. My guess is that after the actuator failed, we manually moved the transmission from forward to reverse rapidly many times in an attempt to regain control, and that stress may have caused an already compromised belt to break. Fortunately, the actuator is designed so that when it fails, it automatically goes into neutral to prevent further disasters (hence the lack of control–starboard engine in neutral when we thought it was in forward–in the initial panic in Little Bull Passage). We also learned that you can manually control the transmission/throttle  from the engine room, but it is not as smooth as using the controls in the pilot house.

In any case, I replaced the belts, put the shroud back and started the engine. It ran smoothly and cool, and the transmission pressure was normal. This was one of the happiest moments of my life. I had fixed the problem, and we did not have to rebuild the transmission (Ben had gotten a quote for around $25,000 for a rebuild.)

After Peter solved most of the engine problems, we went onto Newcastle Island and took a hike to the lake. Several folks from the Canadian CYA came over to visit us in the afternoon.


Boston Whaler full of Canadian CYA members

Later in the afternoon, a fellow came by in a small boat and set some crab pots. I asked him if this was a good spot (we had not had too much luck with crabs on this trip), and he said this was his secret spot – totally reliable, and that if he was planning a crab feast, this was the spot he came to. We had heard this kind of fish story before, but we set our traps anyway. Randy and Peggy came back raving about what a cute town Nanaimo was. The four of us took the GFB into Nanaimo for dinner. There are a lot of nice restaurants in Nanaimo, but by the time we arrived, most of them had closed. Fortunately, an Indian restaurant was still open.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 – Nanaimo to Sidney Spit.  First thing in the morning, Randy, Nancy, and I went out to check our crab traps – we had 14 keepers. I now swear by local knowledge!  Here are some photos of the experience

Our crabpot and the catch.

Crab details….

Nanaimo to Sidney Spit

Nanaimo to Sidney Spit–a beautiful cruise

We left Nanaimo in the morning, went on the eastern (outside) of the Gulf Islands, came back into the Gulf through Porlier Pass at slack and then cruised on to Sidney Spit, one of our favorite anchorages in the Gulf Islands. The anchorage is wide and shallow. There are always lots of boats close to shore, since it is so close to the town of Sidney, but we tend to anchor deeper, so we seldom have close neighbors. Randy and Peggy took the kayaks and explored the island for most of the afternoon.


The beach at Sidney Spit


At Sidney Spit, we boiled the crabs for dinner.


Crab Feast in the Pilothouse

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 – Sidney Spit to Reid Harbor, Stuart Island.  Today we had to re-enter the United States. We were still anxious because we felt disabled with only one engine, and were not sure how much control we would have when docking. The closest Port of Entry was at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Nancy called them on the phone and explained our situation. They responded that they had a half dozen boats in line, and that it would not calm down until late in the afternoon, and that if we were disabled, we should call Vessel Assist to tow us into customs. They suggested we go to Friday Harbor (halfway around the island), since they are generally less busy. That turned out to be great advice – not only did we get in with minimal waiting, but the Customs dock is long and we had it to ourselves.


We left Sidney Spit, passed by Roche Harbor (on the north end of San Juan Island, went to Friday Harbor, and backtracked up to Reid Harbor, Stuart Island


Just north of Roche Harbor, we experienced some amazing currents.  We can be cruising along with hardly any current, and then suddenly enter an area where the water is almost boiling, and where it moves the 167-ton Gyrfalcon around as if it were a toy.  It’s hard to show that in a photo, but maybe these give you some idea of the currents and chop.


Boiling water north of Roche Harbor

Customs is funny. They generally don’t want anyone off the boat until the captain has cleared customs. With our issues, I hopped off the boat to tie the spring line, so that Nancy could bring the boat in on one engine. A sailor who was moored across from the Customs Dock came over and helped me with lines. Nancy did an absolutely superb job of bringing the boat right to the dock.  As I was tying off the lines, I looked over and saw that the (crippled) starboard engine was actually in gear rather than neutral, and was pushing the boat forward. The mark for neutral on the actuator is not correct – and you can’t tell when the boat is underway if the propeller is turning or not, so instead of coasting in the dock, we were actually making around 2 knots. After we turned the engine off, and I told her what had happened, Captain Nancy responded, “I thought there was a strong current today.” She is definitely getting this captain thing down.

The Customs Agent – Agent Heater – watched us dock. Afterwards she apologized for not helping (she had heard about our predicament), but explained that agents are not allowed to touch a boat (liability). She said, “I’ve been around boats all my life. That was a beautiful docking.” Captain Nancy is still beaming.


She wasn’t quite beaming at this point, but definitely more relaxed than earlier.

After we cleared customs, we cruised back up the eastern side of San Juan Island, and spent the night in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. Randy and Peggy took kayaks to explore the island.  It’s a great place to explore by on land and on water, with a place to beach kayaks, and lots of trails.


Peggy heading off in a kayak


Beached kayaks at the head of Reid Harbor, Stuart Island


Wildlife sighting


Peggy and Randy with Reid Harbor in the background

After Randy and Peggy were in their kayaks, Nancy took off with her camera in one kayak, and I followed her a few minutes later. I found her close to shore. She motioned me to come over quietly. She had found a family of river otters. The mom had caught a Dungeness crab, and was feeding it to her pups. It was very cool to see, and even though the light was very dim, Nancy managed to get some great shots.


After that, we paddled around the bay. We checked out an old wooden boat there, and talked to the owners. It turned out that the owner had been a mate for Bob Jacobson on the DuPont Dynamite boat in the early Seventies. Jacobsen, when he wasn’t delivering dynamite to Alaska for DuPont, was also the owner of  the Gyrfalcon at that time. Once again, wooden boats are a small world.  And then there was the DuPont connection–Randy currently works at DuPont, and Nancy worked there before moving to Seattle.

There were also lots of belted kingfishers and the typical harbor seals.



And then it was back to the boat for a little R&R, at least for Nancy.



Nancy in Reid Harbor.  Much more relaxed now that we’re through customs

Randy, Peggy, and Peter got down to work and cleaned the remaining crabs (we were not able to eat them all last night). We had over two pounds of crab meat that was delicious.



Randy and Peter picking crabs


Thursday, July 16, 2015 – Reid Harbor, Stuart Island to Port Townsend.  We are now finally headed back towards home.


The inset gives details about Port Townsend.  We’ve come full circle.  During our first day out on this trip, we had collected provisions from Island Fresh, which is on Marrowstone (one of the islands to the east of the PT anchorage)


We had decided in the last few days to slow the itinerary because of the engine trouble, but to still enjoy the trip. Although we have often made it between Stuart Island and Seattle in one day, we decided to break the trip up this time. We made a relatively short run to Port Townsend. We anchored in our usual spot off from Haven Boat Works, and spent the afternoon visiting Port Townsend (Peggy and Randy), talking to the Haven Boatworks folks (Peter and Nancy) and generally relaxing.  We had a last farewell dinner on the Gyr, and a beautiful sunset.


Port Townsend heading towards our anchorage


Our last night at anchor.

Friday, July 17, 2015 – Port Townsend to Seattle.  The last anxiety-raising tricky bit was going through the locks in Seattle.


The final leg from Port Townsend to Seattle

The locks are never easy – on a “normal” weekend, you sometimes have to wait an hour or more for your turn through. In addition, there are always currents that push the boat backwards and sideways. Our last few days had given us greater understanding of how to handle the boat with only one fully functional engine. The first thing we did was radio the lock keepers and explain that we had limited maneuverability, and requested the small locks.  Under normal conditions, a non-commercial boat is not supposed to contact the locks, but we did it as a courtesy call, hoping that they’d understand that our limited maneuverability would make the large locks difficult.   The small locks are much easier to maneuver through compared to the large locks, even with a fully functional boat. The lockmaster told us that they would accommodate us, but we would have to wait until they were through with a full load in the large locks.

The problem was trying to keep the boat facing towards the locks and not drifting over towards the outflow of the large locks (where big ships were about to exit).  With one engine in reverse, the boat pulled strongly to starboard, so the result of jockeying back and forth was to move closer and closer to the path coming out of the large locks.  After Nancy tried for a bit to keep the boat in the right location,   I went down into the engine room where I could control the starboard engine manually. (After the Customs experience, I had marked the spot where neutral actually was with a Sharpie.  Remember the N in the photo of the actuator). This was our system:  Nancy would call a command out (Reverse, low rpms) to Randy who was standing at the Pilot house door, to Peggy who was standing at the top of the engine room, to me who was at the controls. It was a lot like the game of telephone, with the added excitement of the noise of the engines making it difficult for me to hear. We got the commands right almost all of the time. I yearned for the days when the boat had a speaking tube and a telegraph in the engine room.


Ladder looking up from the engine room

After 40 minutes or so of jockeying for position, we were called into the small locks (where there were about 4-6 guys with long boat hooks, just in case).  It turned out that we didn’t need any special help; we locked through with no trouble.  We had called LUBR to tell them of our arrival time, and when we got close to LUBR (just west of the Ballard Bridge) we pulled into the linear dock.  It’s a starboard tie facing west,  requiring turning 180 degrees to come into the dock, and there was a bit of wind, but the docking was flawless.  Ben said to Nancy: ” You used to just drive this boat.  Now, you’re a captain”.   Our July 2015 journey was now officially over.


We have to give a special shout out to our friends Peggy and Randy. They are not boat people, and really came along for a relaxing cruise.  We’re certain that this trip was not what they expected, but they were real troopers: they rose to the occasion and were a real help during this, our first real trial about the Gyrfalcon, as well as being great guests/friends and providing many of the photographs for this blog.  And Peter learned Peggy’s technique in making delicious breakfast burritos.  In the end, we think they still had a good time. Thanks, guys.


POSTSCRIPT: It turned out that the actuator failed because a $6 potentiometer burned out.  Here’s Mark from LUBR taking the offending actuator off the boat for repair.





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Week 2: Summer Cruise to Desolation Sound


Sunday July 5, 2015 – Teakerne Arm We had haze in the morning – which thickened all day. There was no wind.  The sun stayed a bright orange ball in the sky. The haze was caused by smoke from forest fires on Vancouver Island. The wind was blowing the smoke due East to Desolation Sound. Someone at Squirrel Cove told us there were 131 fires about the area –most from lightning strikes.


Susan and David checking out the charts and enjoying being on the Gyrfalcon

We spent the morning doing chores. Peter installed the new GPS in the GFB. Nancy and David repaired the door in Stateroom 1. We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took the GFB back to the waterfall and hiked up the trail to Cassell Lake and swam.


Navigating the hills at Teakerne Arm Provincial Marine Park


We think it’s Susan Wisdom’s first (and maybe last) technical climbing event. There is a ten foot section on the trail that requires one to hold on to a rope on a sheer vertical surface. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but we decided that if we told Susan about it before the event, she would refuse to go. She did fine.


Then we took the GFB across Lewis Channel to the Squirrel Cove store, bought 300 feet of 5/8 inch polypropylene line for stern tying, bananas, and stainless steel bolts to attach the transducer. They have an interesting pricing scheme–they sell all stainless steel hardware by weight only. We cruised around Squirrel Cove and then returned to Teakerne. We saw 2 dolphins at the head of Teakerne. We (Peter, Nancy and David) pulled the prawn pots  – got 4 more prawns and a tiny octopus.



David had brought his ukulele up (this was actually a 3-ukelele trip, as Jacqueline also brought her uke for the first week).  Peter and David worked on a few songs.  I think Peter might have David convinced that he should start with a song with just 3 chords.



Here’s a list of the birds we have seen on this trip so far: Bald Eagle, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Turkey Vulture, Red Crossbill, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Oystercatcher, Red-tailed Hawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Common Loon,  Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Glaucous-winged Gull, Heerman’s Gull, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Caspian Tern, Canada Goose, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, and Purple Martin. Not a bad list, considering that we weren’t bird watching!

Monday, July 06, 2015 – Teakerne Arm to Gorge Harbor. There was less smoke than last night, but it was still very hazy. Nancy kayaked in the morning.


A smoky morning for kayaking

To leave Good Sex Cove, we let out some anchor, and David and Peter went on shore in the GFB – David used a fid to release the knot in the Amsteel line. Susan pulled the line aboard. We lifted the anchor. Nan took the Gyr out to the middle of the Arm. We used the crane to load the GFB on the upper deck, and headed down the Lewis channel around the south end of Cortes. We needed to use our radar because of the poor visibility due to smoke.


Leaving our anchorage at Teakerne Arm

After we came around the southern end of Cortes, the smoke began to lift a little. We went through the gorge – but did not see the pictoglyphs discussed in Curve of Time.  We anchored at the end of the bay between several shellfish installations. We took the GFB to Gorge Resort to buy propane, tomatoes and lemons, and asked if we could purchase water. The marina would not sell us more than 50 gallons, but said if we stayed at the marina, we could fill our tanks for free. Peter immediately made a reservation for the next night. We came back to the Gyr and washed down the decks (since we knew there would be lots of fresh water in the tanks the next day). After that, we finished the gasket replacement in the hatch in the – galley – a job we had been putting off for over a year. It was much easier with 4 people to help with the contact cement on the gasket (unfortunately, as we found out later, even a new gasket does not stop the leaking). Grilled chicken and sweet potatoes and bread for dinner.

teakerne to gorge

The day’s voyage from Teakerne Arm to Gorge Harbor

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Yet another oystercatcher on Stove Rocks, Gorge Harbor

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 – Gorge Resort. We went kayaking among the mussel farms in the morning. Nan applied another coat of varnish to the rear steps. We motored across the bay to Gorge Resort, and moored at a slip just inside the first pier. The resort was very civilized:  it had water, internet, a swimming pool, and a restaurant at which we ate. And did I mention they had water? This made Captain Nancy very happy.

Gorge Harbor

We spent the first night at anchor northeast of Ring Island,and the second night at Gorge Harbor Marina, in the northwest part of the harbor.



At a slip at Gorge Harbor Marina


Susan refreshed after her swim

The boat across from us was from Terre Haute, IN. The owners came aboard and toured the Gyr. Another guy from a boat called Maggie spent 45 minutes on the dock talking about the Gyr. At dinner, Nancy mentioned that she had lived in Sawyer MI.  A women at the next table said – Sawyer – you’re kidding – I grew up in Benton Harbor. Small world. She now summers on Cortes. When Peter asked how she picked this island on which to spend summers, she said:  “I followed my acupuncturist”. A good guru is hard to find.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 –Gorge to Pendrell Sound. We left Gorge Harbor, cruised around the south end of West Rendonda Island (past the Twin Islands)  and up the Waddington Channel to Pendrell Sound. We anchored off a small island near the head of the sound.

Gorge harbor to pendrell sound

Here’s our course from Gorge Harbor to Pendrell Sound


Pendrell Sound

And here is where we anchored, right south of the little island below the 180 mark.


There were lots of commercial oyster sprat farms. While cleaning the prawn bait boxes, one fell apart in my hands and sank. Because the charts are not terribly detailed, we could not tell how deep the other prawn pot was – the float was vertical. Decided to leave it – it did not sink.

Nancy’s varnish on the back steps came off with the tape – these back steps just do not want to be varnished.


Varnish salvage surgery

After that, David and Nancy did salvage sanding/varnishing.  The water in the sound was very warm–we all jumped in and swam around and floated in tubes.


Unbelievably warm water

For years, people have been telling us how warm the water is in Desolation Sound, and we were like, “sure, we believe that.” I mean, let’s be reasonable. In Seattle, the water is 56o F all year, and Desolation Sound is over 200 miles farther north – 200 miles closer to the North Pole, for goodness sakes.  We are now believers. It is that warm.  The transducer put the water temp (maybe about 3 ft below the water level) at 75F.  It is so comfortable for swimming. I don’t know if it is the sunshine, or the rain shadow from Vancouver Island, or just plain magic, but it is true. Dinner was hanger steak over salad with grilled peppers.

Thursday, July 9, 2015 – Pendrell Sound. The prawn trap was empty this morning, so we reset it in the same place. Peter is 66 years old, and David is 75 – two old men who don’t have a large number of trap pulls left in them – especially for zero results.


Intrepid prawn hunters

We loaded kayaks on the GFB and went to Roscoe Bay Provincial Park. There’s a sandy beach at the west end of the bay so David and Susan could kayak. We all hiked into Black Lake and swam in the refreshing warm water.  We had a nice picnic at the top of the cove before heading back.


Heading down to Roscoe Bay


Susan and David returning from their kayaking adventure


Nothing better than a picnic at the beach


Swimming in Black Lake, Roscoe Bay Provincial Park

After we got back to the Gyr, Nancy discovered she had left her shorts and shirt on a picnic table, so she and I returned in the GFB – at 35 mph – flying (took 15 minutes).


Successful rescue

Peter, David, and Susan are gin and tonic fans, but Nancy is not.  So David, ever resourceful, invented the GYRHITO.  It is a drink designed somewhat pragmatically–David scrounged for ingredients on board and combined them.  Here’s how you make a Gyrhito:  Notice the wooden spoon repurposed as a muddler (thanks to Peter Riess, I now know that there is such a device). The ingredients for a proper GYRHITO include: rum, mint, fresh lime, lemonade and seltzer water, muddled and served over crushed ice.

And the final result was quite tasty!


But lest anyone think we’re roughing it–take a look at this menu:  For appetizers, wheat thins and a nice blue cheese on Cheetos.  For dinner, we had burgers and tater tots.




Dinner in the pilothouse


Hanging out on the fantail

Friday, July 10, 2015- Pendrell Sound to Tenedos Bay. Peter got up early and kayaked with Nancy towards the head of Pendrell Sound. We found several clusters of loose oysters on a rock, and put them in the kayaks. David and Peter shucked around 20 oysters ranging in size from small to massive.


Oysters everywhere in Pendrell Sound


The oysters plus scrambled eggs made for a tasty breakfast. We checked out the prawn trap–it only contained 4 of the little lobster things. It probably wasn’t on the bottom.

Pendrell sound to tenedos bay

The last leg of Week 2–from Pendrell Sound to Tenedos Bay

We motored over to Tenedos Bay.  We got to Tenedos Bay early enough to get the center of the bay – so we did not need to stern tie. Peter noticed a leak in the crane – it was due to loose fittings on the return side (low pressure), so we got drips, but not spray (read https://gyrfalcon88.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/labor-day-cruise-to-san-juans-gulfs-and-victoria-bc-part-2/ blogs for the details on an earlier crane incident). Peter tightened fittings, and the leaks stopped.

Nancy and Peter kayaked around the island and over to the trail to the lake. After several false starts we found the trail to Unwin Lake, and went and sat on a rock looking over the picturesque lake. After dinner (salmon and pasta) Peter caught a rockfish off the fantail. It was the first fish caught by Peter from the Gyr.


Peter’s first fish

The next morning, we took the Wisdoms to Refuge Cove to catch their float plane.

It was much easier to get them into the boat compared to Week 1 guests.

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Our travels over week #1 to Desolation Sound

We realized that some of you might like to see our route as we headed north towards Desolation Sound.  This post is an accompaniment to Week 1.

First part of trip

Day 1, from Seattle, stopping at Pt Townsend (east of Pt Wilson) and heading north…

Second part of trip

Heading north across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the San Juans, through Mosquito Pass, and ending up at Reid Harbor, Stuart Island.  Following an overnight at Reid Harbor, we continued on to Bedwell for Canadian Customs, and then on…

third part

Leaving Bedwell, heading up to Clam Bay, where we spent the night before going through Porlier Pass and into the Strait of Georgia.

to copelands

Up the Strait of Georgia, to the east of Texada Island, to our anchorage in the Copeland Islands.

copeland to squirrel

From the Copelands, we headed north and spent a few days in Squirrel Cove, then headed over to Teakerne Arm, for our last anchorage of the first week.

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Week 1: Summer Cruise to Desolation Sound

Our long summer trip for 2015 was to Desolation Sound in July.  We had 3 sets of guests, each for a week.  Week 1 was Jacqueline, her daughter Emily, and Tom and Jessica.  Week 2 was Susan and David.  Week 3 was Randy and Peggy.  We had never been to Desolation Sound, so we spent a lot of time talking to boat friends about where to go and what to see.  Some of the best advice was from Dave and Tami, owners of Summer Wind.  We ended up making a PPT with charts and information about where to anchor or stern tie.  It was invaluable.

Photos were taken by Jacqueline Kirchner, Tom and Jessica Freeman, David and Susan Wisdom, and Peter Mann and Nancy Everds.

Saturday, June 27–Seattle to Stuart Island, Reid Harbor. We left Ewing Street Moorings at 6:30 am, and went through the small locks.


Threading the needle: Entering the small locks


The Gyr pretty much fills up the small locks.

We steamed to the north side of Marrowstone Island to a prearranged rendezvous point for provisioning. Chris and Esther and several of their friends motored out in their speedboat and delivered pork chops, bacon, pork roast, one dozen eggs (no poultry in Canada), garlic, greens and several dozen oysters from Island Fresh.


The crew from Island Fresh, Marrowstone

As we left Marrowstone, we heard a great conversation over the radio.  A tug captain was towing a barge south in the shipping lanes, and was talking to a cabin cruiser that was slowly motoring off of Marrowstone Point.  After some discussion about intentions and planned courses, the tug captain indicated that the pleasure boat should take a different route because, in his words:  “I don’t see myself altering course in the near future.”

We headed north (it was calm across the Strait of Juan de Fuca), and briefly saw 2 Orcas off Lime Kiln Point. We went through Mosquito Pass, through Roche Harbor, and anchored in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  We put kayaks and the GFB out for evening recreation.


Peter and Tom anchoring in Reid Harbor


Getting Emily in a kayak

 Sunday, June 28–Stuart Island to Clam Bay. We left Reid Harbor at Stuart Island in the late morning. We cleared customs at Bedwell – excellent docking by Captain Nancy. We started to head towards Ladysmith, but realized we would not make it by dark, so instead we went to Clam Bay – between Thetis and Pennlauket (which used to be Kuper) Islands.  It was our first time there, and it was lovely.  We had raw and grilled oysters for dinner – fantastic.  There were eagles on the shore, and a beautiful sunset.


Evening in Clam Bay

Monday, June 29Clam Bay to Copeland Islands. We left Clam Bay early in order to hit Porlier Pass at slack. We were a bit confused as to the proper time for slack tide. The electronic charts said slack was at 9 am, while the Canada Tides book said 8 am. We decided to trust the book. We went through around 8 am, and there was still several knots of current against us, but that was not enough to cause a problem. Later that day, we discovered that the times in the book were for standard time, not daylight, so 9 am was really slack. Crossing the Strait of Georgia was like glass – no waves, no wind.  We experienced the weird NW mirages.  At one point, there was a small boat that looked about 3 stories tall.  We told Jacqueline that the big white thing on the horizon was really a little speedboat, but ever the scientist, she did not believe what she could not see.  When the boat split into 2, I think she was convinced that it was a mirage.  We went up the mainland coast, and stuck our heads in at Secret Cove and Pender Harbor to look for possible future anchorages. Peter drove the boat in and out of both – first time for him using the props and rudders to steer and pirouette (if you can call turning an 88 ft boat pirouetting).  We anchored in a cove in the Copeland Islands, and did some kayaking.


Our anchorage in the Copeland Islands was in the bay north of the largest island


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Emily and Jacqueline kayaking

We were visited by a small boatfull of very drunk Canadians, who told us how beautiful the Gyr was.


We think she’s pretty too.

Tuesday, June 30 Copeland Islands to Squirrel Cove. We discovered that the  Garmin Chartplotter on the GFB had no data for Canada. We found out how important that was as we took the GFB to Savary Island for clams. We didn’t find any clams, but we realized as we were heading away from the island how shallow it was.  On the southeast side, there were lots of very large submerged rocks. Jessica and Nancy hung over the bow searching for rocks, and directed Peter to avoid them in a very slow trip back out to deep water.  That trip convinced us that we needed to get a new Chartplotter with a transducer.  Later, back on the Gyrfalcon, we steamed around Sarah Point, revealing our first view of Desolation Sound and the mountains on the mainland. Incredible. We went into Squirrel Cove on Cortez Island.

Squirrel cove

Our anchorage in Squirrel Cove was just south of the anchor symbol northwest of Protection Island.

We tried several anchoring sites in the cove – first was too close to a sailboat, second was taken by a boat as we approached, third was just right.  From our anchorage, we looked out through the pass between Protection and Cortez Islands. We went looking for a trail to a lake, but realized we were thinking of another island, instead, there was a trail to another inlet. But we got good practice with our new Anchor Buddy system on the GFB. We found rapids that went into a large lagoon. Jacqueline bodysurfed the rapids and managed not to get chewed up too much.  We watched 2 young guys trying to pull their dinghy from the lagoon back into the bay against the inflow of water.  We watched an older couple just sit it out, and wait for the tide to turn.  We put our crab pots out and did a little swimming in the bay.


Wednesday, July 1 Squirrel Cove.  We got 3 Dungeness crabs and several red crabs in the pots.


Tom and Peter crabbing

We went to the Squirrel Cove store – some by kayak, some in the GFB.

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Jessica kayaking

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Tom kayaking

We got supplies and gas for the GFB; it’s a nicely stocked store. You can only get gas at the dock at high tide – at low tide thedock is out of the water.  The store had a PC with an internet connection–we used it to order a new GPS/charts unit for the GFB, to be delivered to the hotel in Seattle where the Wisdoms would spend the night prior to their float plane trip to Desolation Sound.   Jacqueline and Nancy did a lot of kayaking. They found a small lagoon on the northeast side of Protection Island that remained full of saltwater but inaccessible at low tide due to rocks.  At high tide, it was possible to kayak into the lagoon.  The sandy bottom was covered with black sand dollars.




Jacqueline entering the black sand dollar lagoon at high tide


Black sand dollars


R&R for the captain


Nancy and Peter free floating


Thursday, July 2, 2015 – Squirrel Cove to Teakerne Arm.  We had a short crossing to Teakerne Arm.   There’s a provincial park there with a great waterfall.

Teakarne Arm

The park is at the top of the chart, near the 137 foot mark.  Bad Sex Cove and Great Sex Cove are on the eastern bay, east of the 25 foot mark.

Dave and Tami had told us about anchoring with a stern tie in Great Sex Cove, so we went looking for it, and found it around the corner from the waterfall.   We did our first stern tie – double line through an iron eye on the shore, near the head of the cove. We took the GFB out and dropped crab pots and discovered that we were anchored not in Great Sex Cove, but in one cove to the west (we saw the sign in the real GSC). We renamed our cove Bad Sex Cove.

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While all this was going on, we had noticed that the GFB was losing air (not a good sign).  However, the leak in GFB turned out to be in one of the air valves – fixed by putting on the cap.  We did lots of kayaking in Teakarne Arm on both days.  Nancy saw an oystercatcher actually catching an oyster.

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The oystercatcher, looking for an elusive oyster

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Hard at work breaking open a captive oyster

It uses its beak to work at the shell and hinge, and eventually pries it open.  She might have named them oysteropeners rather than oystercatchers, as the catching is not the difficult part.

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Lots of seals around our anchorage in Teakerne Arm


Friday, July 3, 2015 – Teakerne Arm. We were spending another night at Teakerne Arm, so we decided to reset the stern tie in the morning. We had some trouble with wind and current and could not get far enough back in the cove – Nancy was afraid of hitting rocks on either side. We ended up tying a single stern line. Bad idea. Our stern line is Amsteel. Once a knot is tied and under tension, it is difficult to untie. So we cut the lines both on the Gyr and on the shore, and moved to the real Great Sex Cove.

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Jacqueline single tied around 2 old iron eyes.  However, they turned out to be rusted, so we had to redo the line, which meant cutting it again.  Our final tie was around a tree.  For some reason, we didn’t learn–we still used a knot, and thought we would probably have to cut it.  The line was getting shorter–now around 250 feet.  The whole process of moving the lines took about 4 hours.  We’ll need to get better at stern ties.


After the stern-tying extravaganza, we went to Cassell Lake.  We took the GFB to the Provincial Park dock, climbed up the trail next to the Falls, hiked back through the woods, and jumped in the water.  It was refreshing and beautiful.


Looking down at Teakerne Arm from above the falls



The falls at Teakerne Arm Provincial Park



Jessica diving off rocks into Cassel Lake




Peter standing on logs at the outflow of Cassel Lake



Jessica, Tom, Nancy, and Peter at the falls

Saturday, July 4, 2015Teakerne Arm. Peter pulled crab pots with Tom and Jessica –no crabs.



Jessica, Tom, and Peter pulling up prawn traps


Not a prawn

For all the work pulling up prawn pots we got only 3 prawns and lots of little lobster-like things that were too small to keep. At 10:30, we got the Week 1 gang on the GFB (no easy task–like herding feral cats!) and motored to Refuge Cove.




Leaving the Gyrfalcon for Refuge Cove


Refuge Cove

David and Susan Wisdom arrived on Kenmore Air at 11:30 am.


David and Susan arrive, complete with GPS from Amazon.com

We all had lunch together at the snack bar, and the Wisdoms/Everds-Manns bought food, liquor and block ice for week 2.  The Freemans and Kirchner-Connolly were the only passengers going back from Refuge Cove on the float plane – with a stop at Mink Island and Bliss Point for 1 additional passenger at each.


Our departing guests: Emily, Jacqueline, Jessica, and Tom

After seeing the Week 1 crew off, we came back to Gyr anchored on the Teakerne. When we were grocery shopping at Refuge Cove for the upcoming week, we mentioned to David and Susan that we had accumulated quite a few leftovers from the week before. They said, “That’s great. We love leftovers.” We ate leftovers for dinner.

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Press Release from the Gyrfalcon

TFI Charters is pleased to announce that Captain Nancy Everds has recently earned her 100 Ton license from the US Coast Guard. This means that Captain Nancy is now fully qualified to run the Gyrfalcon, and that we can now offer full charter services.

Here is a photo of Captain Nancy showing off her new license

Captain Nancy with her 100 ton license

Captain Nancy with her 100 ton license

Meanwhile, Chief Engineer and Bottle-washer, Peter, will remain belowdecks, where (some would say) he belongs.

Please join us is congratulating Captain Nancy on this achievement.

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Life on the Gyrfalcon:  A Poop Story

Life is never dull on a boat.

Our friends Andy, Joellen and Katie Hathaway have been staying on the Gyr while their boat, Twin Isles is on the hard in Port Townsend.

Before they arrived, we arranged to have the holding tank for the guest head pumped. For those of you who live on the land, the waste from all three heads goes into holding tanks (also called black water tanks).When the levels of waste rise, we call Pump-Me-Out, and they come by and pump all the waste into the tanks on their boat, and then properly dispose of it. It is a floating sewage system, and part of living on the water.

The last time Pump-Me-Out had been by, they left us a note that the vent on the guest holding tank was blocked, and they were not able to pump it out. However, since there was an indicator in the guest head, and it indicated that the tank was almost empty, I put unclogging the vent low on my to-do list.

Of course, that was when the poop hit the fan.

First the head quit working. We have a vacuum system. There is an electric pump that pulls a vacuum in a large accumulator tank. When one flushes the head, the vacuum pulls the waste through the accumulator,  then through the pump, and then pushed it into the holding tank.

The pump was running, but was not pulling a vacuum in the accumulator. After discussions with the gang at LUBR, we determined the most likely culprit was the pump. So I crawled into the space next to the head, and pulled out the pump. I took it into LUBR and we tested it – it ran fine and pumped a strong stream of water.

Further discussions determined that if the pump was good, and there were no obvious leaks in the system, the accumulator must be plugged. Last night Andy and I removed the accumulator, and discovered that it was indeed plugged , but mostly with a small amount of toilet paper. Which seemed odd to us, since we thought that the vacuum and the pump were powerful enough that they should have pulled that amount through with no trouble.

In any case, we put everything back together, and the head flushed fine. We were pleased but still puzzled.

This morning, Chris M from LUBR was coming aboard to check several items on the Gyr. I asked him to check out our work on the accumulator. He discovered that although what we had done was fine, there was back pressure in the system originating in the holding tank. He went down to the tank itself, and discovered that it was totally full (so full that the plastic tank was bulging outwards).

Remember the light on the gauge that said the tank was empty?  – It lied.

At that point I got serious about unclogging the vent – which was the reason that the tank had not been pumped earlier. Where the vent line enters the boat, there was what looked like a spiders nest with organic material and eggs, which was totally blocking the vent line.

So to review: A spider blocked the vent line, which meant that the tank was not pumped, so the tank filled and filled, even though the indicator said it was empty, and the back pressure prevented the pump from pushing the waste into the tank, and the accumulator clogged and the head would not flush, and the tank got fuller and fuller.

Chris thought that either the indicator light or the float mechanism had failed. Which was OK with me, since he had installed them, and we could all blame him. After the tank was pumped – no problem once the vent line had been cleared of spider condos – Chris came back and discovered that the problem was that the float balls in the tank were gummed up – probably because that tank does not get used unless we have guests, so over time, things dried up and stuck the floats. So now I can’t blame Chris, so I guess it was entirely the fault of the Spider (It’s never the Engineer’s fault!)

I know that people like to see lots of photographs on the blog, but I thought that we would not include any for this blog entry – besides smell was the predominant sense here.



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