Sunday, 23 September 2012


A new type of powerboat?
On purpose!

We brought Pelagia up the Fraser River to Steveston to pull the mast. It has been at least 20 years since she has had new rigging, so we figured it was time, especially given our plans to go offshore next year.  (Sorry for the over-dramatic headline....)

A little nerve-wracking at first, but all went well (and easy) thanks to Paul and Gus at Ocean Rigging (plus an experienced & careful crane operator).

About to lift...

Liftoff! The mast is out!

Now, please be gentle...!

And to think, folks back in central and eastern Canada have to do this every year -- yikes!

After this, we motored over to Port Graves/Artaban, and spent a night at anchor. But it just isn't the same without the rig and sails. Normally, even when we motor, we always have the hope of sailing. Not so today. How do powerboaters put up with all that boring engine running? We motored back home to the Rowing Club the next day.

[Of course, there was no wind on the way TO Steveston, when we could have and wanted to sail; but on the way over to Artaban from Steveston, there was a good SE wind, but we had no mast to sail!]

Mastless at Artaban...

We leave soon for a 2+ month trip to Asia -- so we plan to put it all back together in January. New standing rigging; tri-colour/anchor light; spreader lights; trysail track; and a new winch or two.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Having done two passages on two different boats (SV Berkana and SV Sapphire)  -- in which considerable time was spent in the galley --  I’ve learned the importance of a well-laid-out galley to both the mental/physical health and safety of the crew and also the enjoyment of the passage.  There is nothing more nerve-racking than trying to pour a hot (!) cup of coffee as the mug is sliding back and forth on a slippery surface or more irritating than trying to sleep while improperly stored provisions are banging back and forth in cupboards.  Then there is the balancing act of trying to cook when the wind is blowing hard, you are heeled 25 degrees, and the boat is bashing on the waves, and the only thing saving you from taking flight is a well-placed galley belt.  

On my first passage -- 23 days from Hawaii on SV Berkana -- I learned from skipper Jim the importance of safely storing provisions so they wouldn’t tumble out of cupboards or bang incessantly, and to have a map of where the goods are stored so you could easily find them when needed.  I also learned from Barb (skipper Jim’s partner) the importance of meal planning and how to provision for a 20+ day passage (which actually meant buying enough provisions for half more the number of days, or 30+ days).  I found that planning a menu of tasty, hearty meals that could be eaten out of a bowl was the best and often the only way to go given the weather conditions.  If some of these meals could be prepared (and frozen) prior to the passage, this makes life in the galley more trouble-free, especially during the first few days of the trip when you are trying to get your sea legs.  Also, catching two tuna over the course of the passage certainly made the meal planning (seared steaks, chowder, ceviche) significantly easier for me.

Somewhat mistakenly, I came to believe/expect that all boats were like SV Berkana and came with well-appointed safe galleys with non-skid surfaces and safety belts to prevent you from going ass-over-tea-kettle in those rough seas.  So when it came to my second offshore passage – 8 days (5 nights offshore) to San Francisco on SV Sapphire – I was quite surprised to see that not everyone was as fastidious about galley appointment and safety or storage of provisions as Jim had been and had taught me to be. To be fair, although designed as an offshore boat, SV Sapphire is a liveaboard boat and it was only planned to make a “short” offshore passage (the skipper was moving to San Francisco). Part of the issue with galley safety on Sapphire had to do with the galley’s layout. The storage of pots/pans, spices/condiments, etc were located directly above and behind the stove which meant that when cooking you often found yourself having to reach across a hot stove for spices or another pot.  This was extremely precarious at times when the weather was bad.  However, easy things like putting down a simple non-skid surface so that dishes wouldn’t take flight, or the installation of a proper safety belt, would have made my life easier in the galley.  Unfortunately, these were not present, giving us a difficult time with sliding mugs, bowls and pots. Add to this, the various provisions (especially canned goods) and plates etc were stored such that they moved around, making for a considerable racket while crew tried to sleep.

For the San Francisco passage, I took on the responsibility for meal planning, preparation, and making the shopping list of provisions.  I made my galley life significantly easier by preparing five days of frozen dinners – (i) smoked salmon pasta, (ii) beef chilli, (iii) beef stew, (iv) pesto pasta, and (v) a chipotle ground turkey and bean chilli – for the “offshore” portion of the trip.  These meals could be readily thawed and heated up without too much fuss and served along with a salad or freshly baked biscuits (Bisquick is my friend).  Like the other two crew and skipper, I stood my watches but found it tiring given that the end of my watches often coincided with meal preparation so I had less time to rest.

In winding up, here are my few simple tips for those planning a passage (especially, those of you who are responsible for the galley):

  • There should only be one crew member primarily responsible for the galley.  That does not mean that the other crew members cannot assume some galley responsibilities, like cooking.
  • Make sure your provisions are properly stored so they do not shift.  You may want to put down some non-skid in the cupboards to stop tins from moving during the passage.
  • Make a map of where the provisions are stored so you can get to them easily when you need them.
  • Advance meal planning and preparation can significantly reduce your stress level during the passage.
  • Provision for 1 ½ times the number of days of the passage.
  • Plan hearty one-bowl meals than can be cooked and served in all conditions.  You may want to make extra for warming up for lunch the next day.
  • Ensure you have a non-skid surface in the galley to prevent dishes from flying.
  • Ensure you have a well-placed safety belt. 

Some additional comments from David:
  • In addition to non-skid (e.g., Scoot-Guard), it helps if the galley countertops have some method of dividing them into smaller sections. This helps keep cups etc in place.
  • The gimballed stove is your friend (and essential!) -- place pots, cups etc on it while the boat is rockin'. (It helps to have a flat section on the stovetop  -- e.g., a griddle or partial cover -- for cups etc.)
  • Consider stable places for cups/mugs in the cockpit too.
  • Michelle made extra large batches of the pre-frozen meals; the leftovers were left in the pot on the gimballed stove and provided a quick & easy meal (breakfast/lunch) the next day.
  • Pelagia has most of Michelle's suggestions; we are working on the others for next year's passages.

[There are many books providing good advice as to galley arrangements -- for example, books by the Pardey's and Beth Leonard's Voyager's Handbook, among others.]

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Backpack in Garibaldi Provincial Park (B.C.)

Elfin Lakes, Diamond Head, Garibaldi Provincial Park

No better way to clear our brains from the challenges of our offshore crewing to San Francisco than to slap on the backpacks and head out for a couple of nights into the mountains.

Mt. Garibaldi & The Gargoyles
Mid week in September, the campground and trails were practically empty. A little frost in the night, but not a cold sleep. Very warm during the day.

On the 2nd day, we tried to day hike towards Mamquam Lake, but the trail became dicey, and the bridge over Ring Creek was out and the creek too full to easily cross. So we turned around, and then hiked up to the Saddle, and then up to the Gargoyles, and closer to Mt. Garibaldi. Great views! We went back down to our camp, weary but happy with our hiking.

Really!! -- I made it! (to the Gargoyles)

Clear heads!  Squinting in the bright B.C. sun.

The Elfin campground was in poor shape. But we soon learned from the rangers that this campground will be decommissioned; they are building a beautiful campground next to the lakes (and next to the Elfin Shelter), all with fantastic views. There were several workmen, rangers, and many helicopter sorties, all working on the facilities. We felt better about paying our $20/night camping fees.

Garibaldi Provincial Park (Diamond Head area)

We walked down to our car after 3 days/2 nights. A good backpack. This is good preparation for our coming treks in Nepal in October.

On the walk down -- view down to Squamish and Howe Sound

Friday, 7 September 2012

Back home in Vancouver

We flew back to Vancouver yesterday (Thursday Sept 6). Happy to be home -- happy to be back to Pelagia!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Arrived San Francisco (crewing on SV Sapphire)

We arrived in San Francisco today (Sept 3). Sapphire is staying in San Francisco; our crewing ends here.

The Golden Gate Bridge -- in the Fog
The Bridge -- still in the Fog
We sailed non-stop from Neah Bay (Aug 28) to Drakes Bay (Sept 2).   Approximately 28 miles north of San Francisco, Drakes Bay provided a wonderful, calm anchorage after 5 nights at sea -- a nice place!

It was a good trip, sailing wise. We sailed a least 80% of the way; max winds were about 32 knots (NW, from behind) and more often 10-20 kn NW.  We started out, after rounding Cape Flattery, with 20-25 kn SE winds on the nose -- a bit uncomfortable -- but these improved later the next day, eventually coming around to NW. We headed out to about 60 nm offshore, coming in closer around northern California. Interestingly, the biggest winds were definitely off of Cape Mendocino (30-35 kn). Of course, it was foggy coming in under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Not once were we worried for our safety. SV Sapphire is an excellent boat (Cambria 48), and skipper Jay knows his boat well and was conservative, not sailing her too hard, thus making it more comfortable for all of us.

There were three of us crew who came along to help Jay get Sapphire to SF: Brent, Michelle & David. We three crew worked well together and got along -- thanks Brent!  (Perhaps we weren't "railmeat", but we were often made to feel like it.) Queen of the galley, Michelle used her experience (learned from our trip from Hawaii with Jim on SV Berkana) to prepare meals which could be heated-up in one pot and eaten in a bowl. Before leaving Vancouver, Michelle pre-prepared and froze five meals. We were a well-fed crew thanks to Michelle.  

Sapphire is docked at Pier 39 -- an incredibly rolly, noisy berth with seemingly thousands of tourists staring down at you. Not our cup of tea -- we will not make Pier 39 a stop for Pelagia next year!

Michelle and I have moved to the comfort of a hotel -- we fly back home on Thursday.

Although we had previously done a much longer offshore passage (Hawaii to Vancouver in 2004), this trip taught new things, and reinforced things we knew but perhaps had forgot. We've crewed offshore before, but on this trip we gained further insight into how crewing has its ups and downs (especially downs). Advice for future: It is so important before agreeing to crew for all involved to fully understand responsibilities and any limitations (e.g., things you are not allowed to do). What may seem obvious (and normal) is not always the case once you untie the lines. Try and learn these before you sign on. The "crewing" insights were unexpected but definitely helpful for our sail south on Pelagia next year.

Overall, we think we are glad we did this trip. Offshore sailing is not always "fun", but we did re-gain experience and confirmed we are able to take Pelagia on offshore passages. Our crewing on Sapphire to SF this year makes us more confident and competent for next year's voyages (and better "skippers" working/sharing with crew).

UPDATE 2013:  We sailed Pelagia south to Mexico. When we were in San Francisco, we spotted SV Sapphire still moored at Pier 39 (on the other, quieter, side), no one on board, and listed for sale. Go figure.