Thursday, 26 May 2022

Week 1... ending in Sointula

Desolation Sound: Towards Prideaux Haven
We've made fast progress North. 

Ballet Bay on night 1, Then Prideaux Haven (Desolation Sound) for nights 2 and 3. We chose Prideaux to get out of the path of a southerly storm (winds 30-40 knots),  which worked well. 

Next was through Hole-in-the-Wall and Okisollo Rapids to Owen Bay (night 4). Caught the ebb up Johnstone Straight for most of the way, unfortunately no sailing, for night 5 in Port Harvey the Broughtons.  A couple short hops (Cutter Cove, night 6) and Mound Island anchorages (nights 6 and 7), and finally to Sointula (nights 8-10).

Since day 1, we have been struggling with a mechanical issue: the propeller shaft "stuffing box" (this is the link between the "inside"  and the "outside")  has not been dripping (as it should) and has been heating up. David has been adjusting it 1-2x per day. VERY frustrating because we had hired a mechanic in Nanaimo at Stone's Boatyard to repack the stuffing box. Clearly it was done wrong. In Sointula at the dock, David pulled the stuffing box nut off, and still little water came out (it should gush out!).  Clearly, it was time for help! David called a couple mechanics in Port McNeill and got a bit of a run-around,  with no real positive help (and timing that suggested waiting for a week to be even looked at)... they didn't really seemed to want to deal with this non-engine issue. It was looking depressing. Then a local marine electronics dealer suggested I walk over and talk to Tom at the Tarkanen  Marine Ways here in Sointula. Such a refreshing change. Somewhat shocked, they sent a mechanic over to the boat within an hour. 

The likely problem: mechanic in Nanaimo used the wrong packing size (too large) which stopped water dripping through (the slow dripping normally lubricates shaft/stuff box and keeps it cool). So, while Pelagia was still in the water (some suggested we'd need to be hauled out), Ken, the Tarkanen mechanic, pulled out the old too-large (1/4") now-burnt packing, and repacked with 3/16" packing. First tests indicates the stuffing box now staying cool. Fingers crossed. (REALLY angry that "professional" work in Nanaimo so screwed up!). 

After some stressful times, we've added a true "rest" day here Sointula, and will head over to Port McNeill tomorrow for provisions, fuel,  etc. 

Malcolm Island Harbour (Sointula)

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Summer 2022 cruise begins: North to Haida Gwaii


Pelagia is all loaded up with provisions.

Sunday (May 15), we bus down to Vancouver to stay on Pelagia at the Rowing Club for the night.  The plan to leave the dock Monday morning, May 16th.

All going well, the "plan" is to head north as far as Prince Rupert, then head across to Haida Gwaii. This will be our 4th trip to Haida Gwaii; this time, we hope to "experience" the wild west coast of Moresby Island for the first time.

The plan is to be on the boat for 3 months, returning to Whistler mid-to-late August. 

Of course, not everything on a boat "goes to plan", so we'll see.

Note to those "following" us: we will be posting our daily (or almost daily) positions here:  , as well as less regular posts to this blog.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Haulout in Nanaimo 2022 -- bookended by great sailing

Nearing completion...

We booked a haulout at Stone's Boatyard in Nanaimo for 8am on April 5th. (Why Nanaimo? Well, we had an excellent experience at Stone's in 2013, so we thought we'd give it a try. Booking and getting marine work done in Vancouver has its issues.... As it turned out, so does Nanaimo.)

Big winds were forecast for Georgia Strait for April 3rd and 4th, so we headed across on April 2nd. We had a wonderful sail over to Silva Bay on Gabriola Island. A beam reach with mostly 10-15 kn winds, comfortable sailing with both mainsail and genoa. No distress; all fun.

The next day, April 3rd, winds were pinning us against the dock at Silva, and we wondered if we could get off the dock; but slack times for the passes were awkward if we didn't leave early. Seas were up on the outside (north side of Gabriola) as were winds. So we were not sure whether the outside might be a little to unpleasant. As luck would have it, a sailboat we knew left in the morning; we called SV Hannibal on the VHF, and Oliver indicated it wasn't so bad on the outside. So we decided to give it a try... if we could get off the dock, which we managed successfully (on our second try...). Out in the straits, we found rolly seas but 15-20 kn SE winds. A reasonably comfortable downwind sail under genoa to Entrance Island, where the wind and seas decreased, and we motored in to Nanaimo and caught a mooring buoy at Newcastle Island (which was nearly empty).

Two nights at Newcastle Island, we had little chance (or wish) to go ashore due to a constant sequence of gusty cold winds, sun, heavy rain, seeming to repeat every 30-60 minutes. And it was cold: fresh snow was low on the hills around Nanaimo. Our Espar hydronic heater was much used!

Tuesday April 5th, we arrived at 7:55am at Stone's, and they were ready and waiting to haul us out. Haulout went smoothly, and Pelagia was pressure washed before being put in the stands by about 930am. We then waited for work to begin (we had decided to hire Stone's for painting, wash & polishing, and some minor mechanical).  By 3pm, nothing significant had begun. So, we went off and checked in to our motel room at the Buccaneer Inn (highly recommended), just down the road. 

We were happy with the 2018 application of Micron CSC bottom pain. After 4 years, the bottom primarily had only a thin algae coating, and the bottom paint still looked pretty good after pressure washing (except for mussels under the keel, and worn pain at the bow, along the waterline, and the trailing edge of the rudder).


Lifting out of the water at Stone's

Pressure washing Pelagia: the 4-yr-old bottom paint was in pretty good shape!

Work finally began in earnest on Wednesday 6th -- better late than never: Two coats of Micron CSC anti-fouling (we were surprised by it being black --we never asked for this colour change -- but decided we liked it), stuffing box repacking, a new throttle cable, and another try at the small leak in the hydraulic steering.

We were pleasantly surprised by friends Gillian and David from SV Carousel, who offered to drive up to Nanaimo for us to get together. We had an nice dinner together at a nearby Greek restaurant. Thanks G & D for entertaining us!

We had hoped to "splash" back in to the water on Thursday 7th. But this was not to be. The second coat of antifouling, which we expected to be applied on Wednesday, was done Thursday. The stands were moved and a 1st coat on the new bare spots were finally applied late Thursday.  Waxing and polishing didn't start until late Thursday (4 pm'ish). It was not finished that night. 

We also did some work ourselves: the topsides were waxed/polished; the pilot house non-glass windows polished to remove yellowing and some scratches (Novus7100 Plastic Polish Kit); windshield wiper motor connections repaired; several new zincs added.

Friday April 8th: We were worried we would not make the ~12-1 pm tide window (it is very shallow at the haulout): waxing/polishing still had to be finished, plus the 2nd coat on the stand patches needed to be done. Management further encouraged the waxer/polisher to rush the job (which he did, with some patches missed and lots of splatter).  By noon'ish, we were essentially ready to splash. Once in the water, the mechanic came to adjust the stuffing box after some "burn in" time. We got away with only about 0.5 metre extra depth to spare, and headed back to Newcastle Island to the same buoy to decompress -- a day longer on the hard than should have been needed. But we celebrated it being finished.

Heading back in to the water... better late than never

Saturday April 9th: The forecast for the Strait of Georgia was suggesting 15-25 kn NW winds. We decided to give it a try. Just before Entrance Island, we found winds of 10-15 kn, so we rolled out the genoa. We ended up have an excellent fast downwind sail (genoa only) all the way to Stanley Park, at times a little rambunctious with winds 20-25 kn (gusting to 30 closer to Vancouver). But again, no distress and mostly fun (except for trying to get into our berth at VRC with a 15-kn crosswind).

Downwind sailing to Vancouver (visible in the distance)

Our new position tracker at: (only the endpoints with dates are accurate!)

Conclusions: it was a long way to/from Nanaimo, to find boatyards there now have some of the staffing/timing issues found in Vancouver. BUT: the work got done. And the sailing was excellent. Not so sure about the next haulout location... we'll see.


Update: One week since splashing and sailing back, the hydraulic leak is almost stopped... perhaps only 1-2 drops since splashing.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

The best chart package for Pacific Mexico: OpenCPN and O-CHARTS

Zihuatanejo harbour (O-Charts & OpenCPN)
Zihuatanejo harbour (O-Charts & OpenCPN)


Best charting package: OpenCPN

I have long touted OpenCPN. It the most (or among the most) full-featured charting packages. It is continuously being updated/upgraded with new features, and support easily obtained.

My favourite OpenCPN features:

  • Accepts most chart types: Raster [BSB/KAP (such as CHS and NOAA raster files), mbtiles; Vector (S57 ENC (such as free NOAA files), some S63, CM93v2, and  O-SENC]
  • Excellent waypoint creation and management
  • Excelleny route creation and management
  • Presentation of AIS target information 
  • VDR (Voyage Data recorder): Save depth, AIS, etc data for later re-playing (and creation of depth surveys) 
  • and much more!

This open-source charting package is available free for PC, MAC and Linux, and for a very small one-time fee for Android. (Due to Apple's iOS licensing issues, OpenCPN is not available for iPhone or iPad.)

Best source of charts for Mexico's Pacific Coast: O-Charts

I've recently had the opportunity to review the O-Charts (Open Charts) Mexico charts. I've focused on the Pacific coast.

(1) O-Charts' SEMAR charts:

A new addition, O-Charts now offers official Mexico charts from Mexico's SEMAR. Charts are in two sets, one for Mexico's Pacific coast and the other for Mexico's Gulf of Mexico coast. Each chart set is offered for a very reasonable price (26 to 30 euros/set), which includes free updates for 1 year (update frequency is reported to be weekly). Most of these charts are fairly recently issued and/or have received recent updates. They are not old charts "from the 1800s" so often alluded to by misinformed cruisers.

SEMAR (O-Charts): Entrance to Sabalo (Mazatlan)
SEMAR (O-Charts): Entrance to Sabalo (Mazatlan)

SEMAR (O-Charts): Sabalo (Marina Mazatlan)
SEMAR (O-Charts): Sabalo (Marina Mazatlan)

Pacific Mexico: The O-Charts' SEMAR packages are from SEMAR's ENC (vector) charts. Although extensive,the SEMAR ENC collection is missing several charts from their RASTER collection. This means a few key locations for cruisers are missing from O-Charts' SEMAR package. With two exceptions (see below), these few locations on raster charts missing from SEMAR ENC are all easily replaced by also purchasing Blue Latitude raster charts from O-Charts.

Commercial chart sources, such as Navionics and C-MAP, all obtain their Mexico chart information from SEMAR. Sometimes these commercial charts include data from both vector and raster from SEMAR are included, other times only vector. 

However, it is important to note that SEMAR data (and thus Navionics/C-MAP) often does not cover popular small-boat anchorages. 

The solution is to add Blue Latitude charts, as shown in the following example for Isla San Francisco, below:


Navionics: no data for Isla San Francisco
Navionics: no data for Isla San Francisco

SEMAR (O-Charts): no data for Isla San Francisco
SEMAR (O-Charts): no data for Isla San Francisco

Blue Latitude (O-Charts): Detailed Isla San Francisco
Blue Latitude (O-Charts): Detailed chart for Isla San Francisco (from guidebook)


(2) O-Charts' Blue Latitude charts: 

O-Charts has for some time offered the two Blue Latitude chart sets for the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico (36 euros per set). These chartlets, found also in the excellent Blue Latitude guidebooks, provide GPS-accurate charts for all the main harbours and hundreds of small-boat anchorages on Mexico's Pacific coast (excluding the west coast of the Baja peninsula). NO other charts provide such detail.  

These charts are essential for west coast cruisers.  


For cruisers, the combination of SEMAR and Blue Latitude charts, both available from O-Charts, provide excellent coverage of Mexico's Pacific coast.

The two important exceptions:

O-Charts SEMAR Pacific chart set is missing detailed charts for two key locations for cruisers on the west coast of Baja: Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria/Bahia Magdalena. Unfortunately, these locations are not part of the Blue Latitude chart sets, as they do not cover Baja's west coast. 

There are easy solutions for charts for these two Baja locations:

  • Most up-to-date chart cards for chartplotters (Navionics, C-MAP) will have detailed charts for these two Baja locations (derived from SEMAR's detailed raster charts)*
  • Navionics and C-MAP iOS/Android apps also contain detailed charts*


* Note: Navionics/C-MAP do not provide more detailed charts (compared to O-Charts' SEMAR) for other areas of the west coast of Baja. For the many poorly charted locations on Baja's west coast, I recommend making detailed satellite images (mbtiles are best) using SASPLANET/SAT2CHART and OpenCPN.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Another ski season begins (2021-2022)... will COVID shut Whistler down early again?

Opening day on Blackcomb Mountain 2021

The 2021-2022 ski season has started here in Whistler. Lots of snow for the first few days giving hope it will be a good one.

However, Vail Resorts/Whistler-Blackcomb is refusing to listen to the wishes of most Whistler residents, who have made it loud and clear that they want Vail/W-B to require proof of vaccination to ride its gondolas (see petition, below). The B.C. Provincial Health Officer requires proof of vaccination to enter bars and restaurants (and much else), but she doesn't seem to comprehend that ski gondolas are tiny enclosed places with only inches between passengers (there are 6-10 people crammed into each gondola, often with windows frozen shut, for a 20-25-minute ride). So, without a vaccine mandate from the Government, Vail/W-B is balking.

Nearly 12,000 people have thus far signed a petition asking for this vaccine mandate. Thus far, W-B/Vail continues to demonstrate it doesn't care about Whistler residents and others' safety.

So who knows about this new ski season. It too may be shut down early (in March) as has been for the past two seasons (skiing normally goes to the end of May). Another shutdown will be devastating for local businesses (and us skiers/riders)!

On the weather front: Yet another "atmospheric river" is hitting us. Been raining here top to bottom -- all that snow has disappeared halfway up the mountain.


Thursday, 16 September 2021

A Fall visit to the Gulf Islands

Sunset in Glenthorne Passage
September, 2021: 

A week or so planned in the Gulf Islands, hoping to meet up with cruising friends (SV Carousel and Chanter), as well as to visit family.

Day 1: Vancouver to Dogfish Bay (Kendrick Island): A good sail 75% across Georgia Strait (not too slow but not too crazy). First boat in anchorage (2-3 others arrived later). 

Day 2: A nice quiet night at anchor. Headed through Gabriola Passage near slack, and motored (calm, sunny) down to Montague Harbour, with idea of meeting others. Lots of available buoys -- didn't stop one boat from anchoring within the buoys, all to save a few bucks -- Montague was far too busy! We contacted others, and arranged to meet elsewhere next day.

Day 3: A quiet night on the buoy at Montague. Headed down to Irish Bay. Sunny and calm. We went for a kayak to Winter Cove (including out and back through Boat Passage) and met up with SV Carousel (Gillian and David), as well as SV Fanuei (David & Janet). We haven't seen Fanuei folks since 2007, when we met them up on the North Coast (we were on Dancer, our Landfall 38) . They were quite surprised when they realized who we were. (We've been on HAM radio for years as D&M from Pelagia... they never put 2 & 2 together.) The three boats had a fun meal together in Irish Bay.

Day 4: With Carousel, we head to narrow, shallow Annette Inlet (Prevost Island), while Fanuei heads elsewhere.  Drizzly rain, we get a short sail in, but mostly motoring. Quiet, drizzly, foggy evening, with dinner aboard Pelagia with Carousel.

Day 5: No wind, but also no rain. We head to Sidney Spit while Carousel heads to home port. Lots of buoys available at the spit, but not a lot with good depth (given near-zero low tide). Went for a nice walk.

Day 6: Quiet eve. We head over to Port Sidney marina, where we have a reservation and plans to go out with family. Got a little grocery shopping in, but we're not fans of Sidney -- far too "touristy". Unfortunately, only got to have dinner with 2 of our family, the others being nervous due to COVID worries. (All understandable, just wish we'd been told this before making marina reservation.) Still, had a enjoyable dinner with those feeling comfortable to meet up. 

Day 7: Escaped Port Sidney, and headed over to Glenthorne Passage (Prevost Island). Plan was to meet here with Lee and Wayne on SV Chanter the next morning. A few other boats, but not crowded. Beautiful sunset (photo),

Day 8: A quiet eve. In the morning, got message from Lee and Wayne that their grandson (who had just been staying with them) was sick, and off for a COVID test. Damn! Being cautious, we all agreed it best to cancel our get-together. We weighed anchor and headed up Trincomali Channel (against a NW wind) to Clam Bay, to set us up for Porlier Pass and Georgia Strait the next morning. The forecast for Georgia Strait was decent the next day, but later in the evening was forecast to change to gale force winds and heavy rain for a couple days. So perhaps it was fortuitous that we had to cancel plans with Chanter.

Of course, not long after we got the anchor down Clam Bay, we got word from Wayne and Lee that the COVID test came back negative and they were off to Glenthorne Passage (they keep Chanter not far away on North Pender Island). We were happy for them and grandson.

The afternoon in Clam Bay was very bouncy with the strong NW winds. Fortunately, winds quieted down by dinner, and it was a quiet eve.

Day 9: Woke up early for ~7am slack at Porlier Pass. Once through Porlier, we raised sails and had a nice, comfortable sail most of the way across (started the motor off the North Fraser Jetty). Put Pelagia to bed at the VRC, and made it home to Whistler for dinner. The strong winds and rain indeed came later that eve.

A nice Fall cruise, with COVID running interference.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Final days in busy Desolation Sound, then back to home berth

Warm Wednesday Lake (Malaspina Peninsula)

Hot and sunny with warm swimming and crowded anchorages; that's the Desolation Sound area in July and August. 

Surprising the anchorages are so crowded, given the lack of USA boats. So many Canadians have been hitting the waters, not all knowing what they are doing. With the ending of border restrictions, it is hard to contemplate just how crowded it will be next Summer (2022)! 

We enjoyed the swimming and the sunny weather, but became tired of the crowds. We especially became sick of those inconsiderate boaters who roared by with large wakes, made noise at night, and had no clue how to anchor. Although small in total numbers, their negative effect was way beyond their numbers.  

We did find a new-to-us anchorage in the Malaspina Inlet area, which we enjoyed so much we stayed 4 nights. It seemed like a newborn nursery, with many mother seals and their pups, and an eagles nest with eaglets. Small anchorage thus only a few (3-4) boats, with nearby hiking. Best not to advertise its location....

Eventually, we decided it was time to head home. An easy decision made after nights in Cortes Bay with RVYC boats continually roaring by (some far too close) with no concern for those anchored, and an especially obnoxious powerboater (definitely not RVYC) blasting his music late at night. As we left Cortes Bay, we motored slowly past him and told him we didn't appreciate his late-night music tastes, and that loud music late at night was not very considerate of others. He gave us the finger....   [Although we haven't done so, we often wonder if such boats should be named, perhaps on some "Boaters' Wall of Shame" website....] Yes, time for us to head home.

Managed a little downwind sailing down Malaspina Strait, and spent 2 nights in Ballet Bay. Surprised at how busy even Ballet Bay has now become; due to poor charting of Ballet Bay and especially its entry, most boaters in the past seemed to go to nearby Hardy Island Marine Park (formerly Musket Island MP). Now both are busy. Still, we had some nice kayaking and swimming in the area.

Heading down, we again managed some downwind sailing once past Merry Island, but it was frustrating as the seas in Georgia Strait were large and confused. Eventually, the seas overwhelmed the light winds, and we started the motor. We headed into Plumper Cove Marine Park for our last night, pleased to find several buoys available. Unfortunately, it was a noisy place, with Pelagia rolling to constant boat wakes until dark, and continuing to roll overnight due to swells from the strong NW winds out in the Strait. Should have gone on to Artaban. Next time....

Left early to get to our VRC berth with a high-enough tide. Very rolly, confused seas from Point Atkinson almost to First Narrows -- made worse by an ebbing tide against incoming swells. Made it  difficult to see the many logs, and we managed to hit one just before the bridge. It rolled along the hull, down the keel, then popped out behind us, thankfully missing the propeller and rudder.  Loud noises but, fortunately, no damage (David dived on keel to check when back in our VRC berth).

All-in-all, an excellent 2-month cruise. The Broughtons were great (especially near Cape Caution); cruising with friends on SVs Carousel and Chanter a joy. Desolation crowded but relaxing (well, mostly). A little disappointing that we didn't go above Cape Caution (due to Covid-19 restrictions by central coast First Nations), but not enough to take away from the good cruising. But, next year....

Summer 2021 numbers:
Total distance cruised: 746 nm
Engine hours:  130 hrs
Distance sailed: 66 nm