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.

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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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The Year of Delignification, Part 2

Water in the forward bilges

We have 14 bilge pumps on the Gyrfalcon. In each of the largest compartments, there are 2 pumps deep in the bilge and a larger emergency pump above them in case the primary pumps are overwhelmed. Last winter, we noticed that the pump in the forward bilge was working quite a bit when there was a bit of chop, we were shipping water somewhere. We discussed it with the brain trust at Haven, and they decided that it was most likely on the port side of the bow where the most forward planks met the anchor guard. We decided to open the can of worms, since they felt it would not be a major repair. One should always be careful of what one wishes for. It turned out that the bow end of six planks were rotten.


One of our Delignified (Rotten) Planks – looked good from the outside

Although the outside of the planks appeared solid, the insides had – you guessed it – delignified. Because the boat is so long, the individual planks are long as well. But that’s OK because…

We buy lumber by the tree

It is hard to get good fir planks. After Mount St. Helens erupted, there was a lot of fir from downed trees available. A lot went into planking for wooden boats. Unfortunately (and for reasons that no one seems entirely clear about), this fir was substandard, and, when used for planking on boats, rotted out after just a few years, causing major headaches for owners and shipyards alike. Because of this debacle, many folks in the Puget Sound area no longer trust fir.

But I guess it depends on where your fir originates. I got a call from Stephen Gale of Haven sometime last year. He said, “Peter, I am up here in Canada with my sawyer, and he just took down a really nice fir tree. I think we should buy it for the Gyrfalcon. It is long enough that we can get some good planks out of it. I’m sure we will use it.” He was right. The problem we have getting planks is not the thickness of the boards, but rather the length. We have very long planks on the boat, and there aren’t too many really long fir trees available. Besides, there is something classy (although frightening) about being able to say, “We don’t buy boards; we buy lumber by the tree.” We used most of our tree this spring on the various projects on the Gyrfalcon.

Our tree

Our tree, before it was converted into planks for the 2015 projects


Some of the planks ready to be shaped and put on the Gyr

Once we made the decision to open the area, we had no choice but to continue until all the bad planks had been replaced. Here are a few pictures of this project


Starboard bow: After the anchor guard and the six bad planks were removed

The original planks were attached (in 1941) with Monel Steel spikes. Monel is a vey hard grade of steel. Unfortunately, one is no longer avaliable

Original Monel spiked

Original Monel spikes

We tried to save as many of the original spikes as possible, but sometimes they became distorted and unusable during the removal process

A bucket

A bucket of Monel spikes removed with the old planks

When we couldn’t re-use the original spikes, we substituted large bronze screws. At $9.00 a screw, we tried to salvage as many of the Monel spikes as we could.


Bronze screw replacement

Here is a shot of the new planks in place with a fresh coat of bottom paint


New planks in place

Soft spot in a plank on the port side

Last year when we were painting the hull before the Gryfalcon went back in the water, we noticed there was a large soft spot in one of the planks between two portlights in the aft section of the port side. Although it did not appear to be a significant problem at the time, it was not good thing, so we had planned to have it repaired this year. It was a fairly straight-forward repair – only one plank was affected, the underlying frames were solid, and there were no unexpected findings. A new plank was fitted and painted, and we are good to go.


Plank between the portlights removed


New plank after painting


The sponson is the long piece that projects out from the hull of the boat between the deck and the waterline that protects the boat from contact with other objects. It is also called the rub-rail. In our case, the sponson originally consisted of two laminated pieces of fir which were capped by a solid piece of ironwood. Over the years, our sponson on the port side had suffered damage. Last year a piece about 6 foot long fell off the boat. It had been repaired once before, and the repair did not last.

We knew that the sponson had to be replaced at some point – it was no longer functional where the chunk was missing, there was probably water getting into the boat in the damaged area, and it was aesthetically unpleasing.  Replacing an 88 ft sponson was no easy task.  The end result is a piece of art.

First, the old sponson had to be removed. In addition, the shearstrake – the planking under the sponson that connects the hull to the deck was also bad in places, so it was removed as well


Old sponson and shearstrake removed the entire length of the boat


Supporting frames and timbers under the shearstrake

As they removed the old sponson and shearstrake, they made a pattern at each frame member, so that the new sponson and shearstrake would fit exactly


Pattern placed over planks for the new shearstrake

The planks for the shearstrake were laminated from two pieces of fir, while the sponson was purpleheart (the same wood that was used for th horntimber).


Caulking the new shearstrake – 2 fir planks


Sponson (purpleheart) over the laminated shearstrake (fir)

Putting the new shearstrake and sponson on the boat was a team effort. Since our May 15 launch date was rapidly approaching, Haven threw a big crew at the project.


Installing a portion of the shearstrake


Members of the Haven team working on the shearstrake

View from above

View from above as the sponson is attached to the shearstrake

Relaunch in mid-May

After 5 1/2 months, we were ready to be launched again.  Two friends, Ken and Sarah, came over with us to Port Townsend as crew.  The moment a wooden boat goes back in the water is a scary one–until the boards swell, the boat takes on lots of water.  Since the Gyrfalcon had been out for so long, we sat in the slings awhile until everyone felt comfortable about setting us free.  The boys from Haven brought over a large auxiliary pump, but it was not needed. We stayed at the dock on Friday night, and were visited by friends Chris and Es of Island Fresh.  By the evening, the influx of water had slowed to a trickle.  We were off the next morning for Seattle.  It was an uneventful trip back.  As soon as we arrived back at our home dock in Seattle, we hopped into our 20 foot zodiac (the Go-fast-Boat) and headed back across the Sound to Port Townsend to pick up our car. The weather was so calm that we were able to go 35 mile an hour on the trip over – we got there in an hour and 45 minutes – the trip to Settle  in the Gryfalcon took six hours! Nancy piloted the Go-fast-Boat back to Seattle by herself, and Peter drove the car back. While Peter was waiting in line at the Kingston Ferry, he got a call from Nancy that she was safely home.  After we arrived back in Seattle, we started preparations for a big summer trip.

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The Year of Delignification, Part 1

Note: This is a long post about our extended time on the hard in Port Townsend from January to May 2015. We have divided it into two parts.

If you hang around wooden boats long enough, you get to learn a lot of new terminology. This year’s major new word was Delignification, defined as “removal of lignin from woody tissue (as by natural enzymatic or industrial chemical processes)”. Pretty clear, right?  Lignin is “an organic substance binding the cells, fibers and vessels which constitute wood and the lignified elements of plants “ So, lignin is what holds wooden boards together, and when you delignify, the boards crumble – usually from the inside out.

So how does this happen? My understanding is that when you have a combination of certain metals, wood and salt water, there is the potential to generate a small electrical current, which causes corrosion, which forms basic alkalis, which are responsible for the actual delignification. In order to prevent this, the metal pieces of boats which are below the water line, and thus exposed to the salts in sea water, are fitted with sacrificial zinc anodes. The idea is that the zinc is more attractive to the salts than the through hulls, and the zincs corrode rather than the through-hulls. For a number of years, it was assumed that one zinc: good, many zincs: better. This is not true, and the correct amount of zinc can be measured. We are assuming that we have been overzinced in the past, and this is largely responsible for the number of delignified planks on the boat.

I’m sure that this Baby Physics Lesson has left many of you with glazed eyes: Just remember the words of Stephen Gale at Haven Boatworks, “the boards have the consistency of cat puke.”

A [lank from the Gyrfalcon - rotted from the inside out - the missing portion has been delignified

A plank from the Gyrfalcon – rotted from the inside out – the missing portion has been delignified

Another visit to Port Townsend

All of this delignifiction menat another extended visit to Haven Boatworks in Port Townsend for some major work. We left Seattle on January 2, 2015, with our neighbors Andy and JoEllen Hathaway as crew.

Gyrfalcon leaves Settle for Port Townsend (Thanks to Jacqueline Kirchner)

Gyrfalcon leaves Settle for Port Townsend (Thanks to Jacqueline Kirchner)

When we arrived in Port Townsend, we realized that no matter how bad our problems – there is always a boat in worse condition. Here are a few shots of The Western Flyer – the boat where John Steinbeck wrote The Log of the Sea of Cortez.  After many years of service, she spent the last several years on the bottom, and has been rescued for restoration.


The Western Flyer


Just a few cosmetic repairs

The Horn Timber

Another new term. The horn timber is the fore-and-aft structural member of the hull sloping up and backwards from the keel to support the counter, which is the part of the stern above the waterline that extends beyond the rudder stock to the back of the fantail.

Bluprint of horntimber -

Blueprint of horntimber, outlined in red

The rudder runs through the center of the horn timber, and all the planks in the aft of the boat are tied to the horn timber. It is, to say the least, an essential part of the boat. And on the Gyrfalcon, the horn timber was delignified.

Last year, when we left Port Townsend, Stephen told us that the boat was good as long as we stayed in inland waters, but that we could get into trouble if we had strong following seas (the waves hitting the aft of the boat could play havoc with the weakened horn timber. Therefore replacing the horn timber was the Number One priority for the 2015 haul out.

The horn timber on the Gyr is massive (like everything else on the boat). The plan was to remove the old horn timber, and then fabricate a new one from several pieces of purpleheart (a very strong, dense, water-resistant wood). The plan called for replacing the current one piece horn timber with several pieces.  Using several pieces meant that the planks that ended at the horn timber did not have to be removed.  By using several pieces to form a huge laminate, the shipwrights would be able to maneuver the pieces in place and then bolt them together.

In preparation for taking out the old horn timber, the rudder was removed, both props and prop shafts were removed, and the sole (floor) of the lazarette had to be ripped out as well. The lazarette is the rear locker under the deck of the fantail. It is also referred to as the paint locker. Interestingly enough, the word is also used to designate a boat that is a quarantine station, or a hospital for lepers. We found lots of interesting things when the sole was cut out, but no lepers.

The shafts have been removed again - it seems like a yearly event

The shafts have been removed again – it seems like a yearly event


Forklift supporting the rudder post after removal of rudder

Rudder after removal from Gyr

Rudder after removal from Gyr

The first issue was to figure out how far forward the horn timber ran. If there was enough solid horn timber forward of the rotten portion, it would be possible to scarf (overlap joints) them together. Unfortunately, the Gyrfalcon is so heavily built, it was not possible to see the forward end of the horn timber – it was covered by massive frames – without removing most of the planks at the aft of the boat, which would have been extremely expensive, even in Gyrfalcon terms.

Nancy and I had heard that HC Hanson, the naval architect who designed the Gyrfalcon, had donated all of his blueprints and plans to the Whatcom County Museum in Bellingham. It so happened that we were in Pt. Townsend when the discussions about the exact layout of the horn timber were going on, so we took the ferry back to the mainland, and headed to the Museum Archives.

The Hanson papers were not indexed – just box after box of blueprints and other papers. The Archivist was great. He kept bringing us new boxes while we searched for the one blueprint of the Gyrfalcon that would show the exact placement and dimensions of the horn timber. It took about 3 hours. We found lots of cool blueprints of the Gyrfalcon, and finally came upon the exact one that we needed. We took photographs and sent them back to Haven, where they used them to determine the extent of the project. Fortunately for everyone, there was enough good wood to allow a scarf that would be strong and permanent.


Hanson blueprint, showing horntimber from above

It took 2 shipwrights just over 4 months to take out the old horn timber, fabricate new pieces, install the new purpleheart horn timber, repair the lazarette, and put all the running gear back in the boat. Unfortunately, we could not put more than two people on the project because of the small spaces involved – anymore and they would be tripping over one another. The following pictures will, hopefully, give a sense of the enormity of the project


Stern after removal of planks to gain access to the horntimber


Nancy inspects the horntimber


Leland in the lazarette, removing the old horntimber


Blaze and Leland discussing the project


Leland working on one of the new pieces in the shop

3-30 1

One piece after final shaping


All the pieces of the new horntimber fabricated and primed ready for installation

After all of the piece were manufactured, they were carefully inserted into the lazarette using the fork lift


One of the pieces being put in place


Horntimber and struts in place in the lazarette


Sideview, midway through the project. Most of the new horntimber has been installed; planks still need to be replaced


Largest piece of new horntimber in place

To be continued……

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