troubleshooting fridge at Westsound

Yesterday was a run in the fog from Montague Harbor across the shipping channel (Boundary Pass, so named as the Canada/USA border runs down the center of the channel) and in to Roche Harbor.

When I woke up in the morning the nice view from my arrival had changed – I was suspended in a white wall of fog, and the boats I had anchored near to were invisible. Hmmm… I thought to myself, I had not considered the issue of zero visibility as a possible impediment to a morning departure. Nobody was moving in the anchorage – had one taken the dinghy and headed to shore you first had to know which direction shore was. Environment Canada indicated the fog would lift by mid-day. I decided to make breakfast instead.

An hour later the first couple of small boats moved through the anchorage, apparently traveling from anchored boat to anchored boat in hopes they were going towards shore. They disappeared into the fog. I hope they made it. I cleaned up the boat some more. And then the fog lifted enough around the island’s heat, clearning a lane to see where the top of the island was but not the shoreline. That was enough to get folks moving, several boats weighed anchor and I followed suite – radar running, AIS running, chart plotter running, boat running slowly into the wall of fog.

Visibiility remained between 1/2 mile and 100 feet for the 18 mile run across to Roche. It was particularly exciting to hear the rumble of large engines fom the ferry boat that went by, and the radio was humming with folks announcing they were crossing Swanson Channel, or Boundary Pass, or anywhere else they were going where they couldn’t see anything. At one point a big boat let off a series of 5 short blasts on the horn (the danger signal) and I stopped with the motor in neutral to try and figure out what was going on. Almost immediately a boat called me on the VHF – “Tiger Beetle, did you just stop?!” I was surprised to be called, so I responded – “Yes – there’s something big out here and I don’t know where it is but I can hear the motors”. They indicated they were 200 yards behind me, following my AIS track, and they were going to be coming up from behind. That was weird, but at least they didn’t hit me.

About Roche Harbor the fog lifted as I entered, it’s a big place with a fancy resort an an airport and a US Customs dock. I asked an anchored Canadian where the Customs dock was, they pointed, and I found a slot on the dock. A short while later I was back in the country (question: what happens to a US boat if the US Customs denies entry? – would one be nowhere at that point?). A quick run over to Westsound to tie the boat up, then dived in and pulled out the fridge compressor.

This morning I’ve been on the phone with Dometic, received
troubleshooting instructions via email, and am back on board armed with jumper wires, volt & ohm meter, and screwdrivers to troubleshoot the unit. Unfortunately Dometic is on the east coast, so there’s no chance of getting the unit shipped out today if it needs servicing, but I hope to at least narrow down what the problem is today, and then sort of what needs to be done. There’s a PC board that can go bad (and be bypassed, I’ve learned), there’s also the electronics module that is a black box that can also go bad, and then there’s the Danfoss BD50 compressor itself – those are supposed to be fairly bomb-proof – so I will find out (hopefully) what’s up.

And it’s stopped drizzling, it’s going to be a fine day for weather. And now it’s back to compressor troubleshooting…

- rob

a visit to Active Pass, it’s Wednesday evening

Today was a good day, the forecast southerly breeze appeared along with high overcast and minor chop across Georgia Strait. Not a lot of boats were out given the forecast had no sun in it and the passing rainy drizzle may have kept some folks in the anchorage in warm bunks. On the other hand, Beetle was out and about, slightly damp at times, under power and headed for Montague Harbor en route to Roche Harbor (to arrive at Roche tomorrow and clear US Customs).

Traveling over open water has its merits, wide open, traffic is not compressed into a narrow channel, fewer rocks to miss, and an all-round pleasant time. I was actually hoping to get inside Gabriola Island but that didn’t work as the timing for my arrival at the passage to the west side of the island (and given the southerly breeze that would have been the leeward side of the island as well) was at max flood, +7.1 knots, and I did not want to play the game of trying to force my way upcurrent in a narrow channel. Likewise Porlier Pass was out as it had more current and I was outside at max flood. Active Pass on other hand is far enough along the island that by the time I got there it well past max flood, and the pass is much wider than Gabriola or Porlier, therefore less current. However, Active Pass had thick fog and two ferry boats including one of the huge BC Ferry kind that decided to play through at 19 knots when I was also making the run at 3.4 knots over the ground. The ferry boat captains called up on the radio (AIS is a good thing, they know a) that you are there and b) what your name is so when they call they call by name. Much nicer to hear, “Tiger Beetle, this is BC Ferry” as opposed to, “Sailboat in Active Pass, this is BC Ferry”. I moved off to starboard and they shot by. The second ferry boat gave me a short blast on the horn as they cleared the fog and saw me, I waved, and that was fun.

Today’s weather is more of what one would expect British Columbia to look like – damp, overcast, and wonderful misty fog in amongst the trees lining the hillsides that disappear up into the cloud.

Tonight is organize the boat a bit, tomorrow appear at the US Customs dock at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, and then head over to Westsound. There are three trashbags (bolsa basura, I believe) to be removed as there are limited trash facilities in the Desolation Sound area, a bit of cleaning out of the dinghy to remove sand and gravel and seaweed, then it will be time to pull out the fridge and start making phone calls to find out what my options are as regards repair or replace.

I did pass a large tree complete with roots, it was floating about the Strait, and not a whole lot else. Quiet out there today, minimal traffic. And I passed my first tug boat. Normally they go way faster than Beetle, even when towing three giant barges behind. I noticed that Pacific Fury was on the AIS display, he would cross my bow, but when I looked with the binoculars I didn’t see a bow wake from him. I checked the AIS again and found that he was making one knot. That’s slow. Upon closer inspection I reailzed he was towing a gigantic set of logs behind. Logs in a tow are difficult to spot as they lay very low to the water; one normally expects a tow to be quite visible behind a tug, but logs in a string sure aren’t. The logs must also generate a terrific amount of drag as I went by the tug as though he was only making one knot compared to my 6.2.

And now it’s on to complete interior cleanup and then to bed. 10 hours on the road from Pender Harbor to Montague makes for a long day and I’m ready for a good night’s sleep.

- rob

Checking out Garden Bay in Pender Harbor

Well, Environment Canada wasn’t perfectly on the spot with their forecast, resulting in a super nice day to move south to Pender Harbor; Beetle is anchored in the back of the bay adjacent to Garden Bay – the anchorage in Garden looked darn near full, leaving tons of room just outside in water that is not much deeper. There was some drizzle along the way as clouds moved by overhead, and the dodger did a good job of acting as instant navigation office, complete with bean bag chair, binoculars, the autopilot control (steering is a good thing), charts, and a good book. It’s difficult to spend much time belowdecks as there’s a fair bit of large tree trunks floating about, so it works out to scan the water ahead with the binoculars for things to avoid, read a page, and scan again. Books take longer to read with the approach, but Beetle doesn’t bang into things either.

Tonight it is warm and muggy, and the telephone worked for the first time in quite a while. AT&T has a Canada add-on for their wireless service, and while it’s a long shot from their Viva Mexico plan, the Canada plan does bring the cost of calls down from $1/minute (standard international roaming rate to/from Canada) to $0.38/minute for the 80 minutes the plan supplies. The key is that anything over 80 minutes is charged at 50 cents/minute which is half of the non-plan standard rate. And amazingly enough, if I recall correctly, an international cellular data plan from AT&T for use while roaming in Canada prices out at $250/GB – which is impressively high. The lady at AT&T customer service told me that nobody should pay that and I would be much better off getting a local SIM card on TELUS or Rogers and having cellular data directly through them. Of course one has to actually visit a place that has a store that has a SIM card, and the places I have been are surprising devoid of such stores. Now that I am on my way south there is limited interest in doing so. But at least my telephone is working tonight, a fun thing! Kristen was able to call and lte me know about her SCUBA diving class, and then she’s off to visit Nic (Iolanthe, we met in Mexico) at Catalina Island and do her open water dives with him – very cool!

My current intention is to listsen to Environment Canada again tonight and based on their latest forecast I will either hang here a day to let a southerly blow move through, or head on down the Strait towards the States if the weather is not forecast as 20 knots from the SE north of Nanaimo (that’s one of Environment Canada’s areas – Georgia Strait north and south of Nanaimo each have their forecast). The goal is to get back to the States where I have reasonably priced telephone and internet service and then do a little digging about the refrigeration system; then I will know if I need to replace it or repair it. Given the cost of materials just up the road in Canada, it’s cost-effective to procure things on ‘my’ side of the fence, as it were. I’m amazed that people would drive from the States to Canada to fill prescriptions – everything else I’ve run across is less expensive south of the border.

Beetle is doing well, ran the watermaker for three hours and refilled the tanks, and I’ve worked out that the iPad will repeat the navigation laptop screen when both devices are attaching to the small wireless router – this works well. What does not seem to work well is doing this through the Vesper WatchMate Vision AIS WiFi network – for a reason that I have not figured out yet, splashtop on the iPad will not talk through the AIS unit, despite the fact that this worked great all the way around in Mexico. Hmm… a networking engineer I am not, but I am learning more about it.

Enjoy the evening!

- rob

Might have rain tomorrow, if Environment Canada has it right

It’s Monday evening, Beetle is happily ensconced once again in Squirrel Cove, and the poor refrigeration compressor appears to have died – at least it no longer makes ‘clunk’ noises when it tried to start, so I’ve turned off the fridge and Beetle once again has an ice box (only no ice to go with it – not a significant problem, but something to resolve).

Departing Waiatt Bay this morning was another case of tip-toe through the rock field; I did have the advantage of having done it once before and managed to not strike anything with the keel. That said, the water is quite murky brown in there, the rocks are dark grey or covered with dark green seaweed – a good disguise if you are a rock and do not wish to be seen. Of course it sort of doesn’t work if you pop up above the surface at low tide, and at low tide when I departed this morning I could see the rock that I came close to bonking on the way in (I watched the depth sounder reduce depth to 9.7′, and Beetle needs 8′ to float). So I took a slightly different route on the way out of the bay and had much better depth numbers. I must admit I did not power out at full speed, unlike the sailboat that was in front of me – his approach was to aim straight at one rock, then make a quick detour around it when he got close. Clearly that skipper has been there before. On the other hand, I had only been there once and exited at roughly 1.5 knots of boat speed, and had plenty of water all the way.

I joined a small queue outside Hole in the Wall, and we waited around for 45 minutes or so for the water pouring out towards us to reduce in speed. With binoculars it was straight forward to establish there were no whirlpools in the gap, the water was smooth, so I decided to get into the ebbing river and see if Beetle could power through it. Turns out steerage was no problem, neither was making way, so I upped the RPMs and ended up the first boat to enter the gap. Once everyone saw me go they all decided to follow, which was pretty funny, especially as there was a rather large powerboat came in next in line and I hope he didn’t have to slow down because of me. Also had two maybe 90′ Canadian military boats (Navy?) go by headed the other way, they are a cheerful lot, lots of waves from the guys all out on the bow of the boat.

I spent some time this afternoon inspecting the south arm of Teakerne to see if that would be a reasonable anchorage. After watching a really big powerboat have trouble raising their anchor (fouled an old logging cable, perhaps?), and seeing the narrow ledge another boat was anchored on with a stern tie to shore, I elected to not try and replicate their situation – partly because if the wind fills in from the entry to Teakerne there’s a multiple-mile fetch that will generate reasonable size waves pushing the boats directly into the rocky shoreline, and partly because Squirrel Cove is right around the corner – so I went around the corner to Squirrel.

And it has just started to drizzle on the fleet anchored here, so Environment Canada does have it right. Solid overcast overhead at the moment, no stars or moon tonight up this way. But it is warm, so this must not be much of a cold front – perhaps there is a trof in the area.

So I’m having a quiet night tonight, anchor is down, dinghy is tilted up on the foredeck with the drainplug pulled such that any rainwater that gets in the dinghy will drain, and Beetle is having a nice fresh water bath. I had a nice shower as well, so everybody is extra clean tonight.

- rob

checking out the rapids by dinghy

Today I went out to check out what the rapids can look like – and they can look nasty. Certainly not nasty enough to prevent 25′ planing powerboats blasting through (I watched two do that), but the boiling swirling overfalling water was not something I wanted to play with from the dinghy. So I observed for a bit, then went ashore opposite Hole in the Wall and checked out a big bunch of logs that had separated from a log boom quite a while ago.

It’s pretty easy to tell how long something has been around based on how much marine growth is on the wood, plus plants growing through the log chains is something of a giveaway. These are big logs, perhaps 30″ across and 60′ long, with big holes drilled in the ends of two of them for hooking up with chains. The other half dozen logs were similar size but with giant staples in the ends instead of holds; I imagine the staples are used to pass wire cables through and keep the logs organized as they are being towed behind the tug boat. My understanding is that some operations still tow logs through the water behind tugs, and other groups actually pick up the logs and stack them onto barges, and then the barges are towed. Biggest tow I seen so far is as triple tow one one tug, it was a huge two. Makes me think of triple-trailer trucks cruising across the Australian outback.

When the water slowed down for the afternoon slack I hopped across the upper rapids to visit Owen Bay, which has a public dock at one end of it. I was hoping to be able to walk up to Hyacinth Lake from the head of the bay, but that’s not going to work as there are a series of nice houses at that end so I would be walking across someone’s front lawn to reach the lake – and people up this way seem to be fairly private and probably would not appreciate me landing my dinghy on their yard and then walking through. Instead, it might be fun to tie up at the public dock and walk up the path to an overlook of Hole in the Wall, this is a path that several area guide books mention as being a good vantage point for seeing the area from up high.

The dinghy continues to work well, and the fridge compressor continues to be problematic. So far the compressor is keeping the ice box cold, but the compressor is starting to use more power than it should as it is having trouble getting started in such a way that it will stay running. Rats! But a minor rats, just something to take care of when I’m back at Westsound.

I did get some nice images o the moonrise tonight – big moon up against the mountain side, with trees in the foreground plus the reflection on the water. I was hoping to get such an image (I was practising last night), and think I may have one that have all the elements coming together. It sure helped to not be taking the picture in the black of night, as the moon is rising as the sun is setting, which meant a lot of light in the foreground and that helped to not overexpose the moon (which is seriously bright).

I’m going to send this note out, check email to see if any news of the world came in, and then go read a book for a bit.


- rob

A Saturday in Waiatt Bay

It’s been a good day here in the bay, the terns are out and about, went ashore in a couple of places, worked out the speed of the dinghy at various RPMs, and now the moon is up and it is almost full and almost at this year’s closest perigee tomorrow – I got some fun pictures of the moon tonight, and if the sky is clear again tomorrow night I can try for some more.

Right around 5:15 this evening a whole bunch of boats appeared simultaneously, all intent on getting in and having the hook down. I was wondering why all at once and then it dawned on me – everyone was waiting for the same tidal gate and when the slack occurred everybody could move forward.

In addition to the relatively large number of large immaculate boats there are a few of the scruffier looking boats in the anchorage; this morning I was awakened by the sound of a sander going and sure enough there was a couple busy sanding the hull paint, and later on they were out in the dinghy painting the hull. And another boat, a converted fish boat that looks beautiful, lots of varnish, they were busily sanding and painting and varnishing in the warm sun and taking advantage of the calm water to work from the dinghy as well. Kinda neat to see folks working away on projects that would normally have been done in a boat yard and instead they are out on the water just keeping up with the maintenance. For my part I polished stainless steel for the morning, not having any paint to work with.

The variety of dinghies is amazing; what’s even stranger is most of them are large, many have roll bars in back with mounted lights, 40-80HP outboard motors, and most have a horizontal bench seat with backrest and steering wheel to control the outboard. Almost all of these big dinghies are on the large power boats as they are way too heavy to lift and stow on your average sailboat deck. it’s pretty funny to watch couples tool around in their dinghies, sitting side by side on the bench seat and driving along – they look just like they are in an aquatic station wagon. Usually they are going along at sedate speeds, and then every once in a while one will shoot through the bay at full tilt planing speed, hair blown back, and zoom! – they are around the corner and gone or alternately drop to zero speed and pull up alongside a 60 or 70 foot poweryacht. Makes those of us that have to sit sideways on the tubes and hold onto the outboard tiller/throttle by hand feel slightly inadequate. I wonder how much gasoline fuel the big boats carry to feed these larger outboards? I would not be surprised if the big boats have an entire fueling system (100 gallon tank, pump, hose, nozzle) on board just to keep the dinghy operating.

I did learn that Beetle’s new RIB dinghy is traveling at 12 knots when on plane and throttled back to just keep the boat on plane, and will run 17 knots at full throttle and flat water. That’s fast! A way to run efficiently is to feed fuel to the motor until the boat pops up and levels out on plane, and as soon as that happens the motor revs go up and the boat accelerates a lot – then I can reduce fuel flow to the motor and the boat will slow down; the game is to give the motor just enough fuel to keep the boat up on plane. It takes about 1/2 throttle to get up on plane, and then backing off to 1/4 throttle will keep the boat there.

And I leanred the folks at Quadra Island have two Provincial Marine Parks around the Octopus Islands, one on this side of Quadra and one on the other side. Oddly enough they don’t quite touch in the middle (the parks are marked on the navigation charts, so you can see the boundaries). When I went for a walk today on the path between this bay and the other side’s bay (about a 1/2 mile walk on a path) there was a sign nailed up on a big tree indicating that there remained 395 hectares of private property that needed to be purchased and given over to the Park system to connect the two parks – and an extra note to the effect that this had happened in April of this year. Now I know why the park boundaries look odd – the charts still have the old park boundaries printed on them.

Enjoy the moon tonight!

- rob

run through Hole in the Wall to Octopus Islands

It was a great meander up through the islands from Squirrel Cove to Hole in the Wall; the mountains are both close and tall, and according to the chart more than a few of them have lakes way up on the top – I found that most interesting to think about large pools way up high. Didn’t see any waterfalls, those mostly happen in the winter when it’s raining a lot and the lakes overflow and the water cascades down the mountainsides.

I did see a lot of timber cutting operations going on, various stages of fresh clear-cut where it looks like the backside of the moon, areas of recent regrowth (lots of short green trees filling in square patches within hillsides of tall darker green trees), and almost complete regrowth (patches of new growth not quite as tall as old growth, but you can’t see the bare trunks of the old growth anymore). I’ve been reading a book, “In Search of Ancient British Columbia Volume 1″ which has a section on the ice ages and this is a pretty dicey area if you’re a tree: the book states that 650 years ago the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age and the glaciers here in BC grew, “mowing down well establishd forests” until 100 years ago. I’ve not heard of either period, and makes me interested to learn more.

On the way to Hole in the Wall, while motoring up a channel, a sailboat on the other side of the channel suddenly made a 90 degree right turn and headed over towards Beetle. I knew that Al on Dogbark was in the area (well, in the area on his smaller boat Louise, his other boat Dogbark is an Open 60 racer and I chased him to Hawaii on 1 or 2 SSS TransPacs). Turns out it WAS Al and Louise + the dog on Louise, and it was super fun to run into a friend out here in the middle of nowhere. He looks great, and I got to meet Louise and the dog.

And then on to Hole in the Wall, which features a wide channel coming in from the East leading to a narrow gap at the West end. It’s the gap that causes all the excitement, featuring overfalls and whirlpools and all sorts of good clean sailing fun as an enormous amount of water flows in and out through the gap four times a day. I showed up an hour early (two hours before slack, and slack lasts for 4 or 10 minutes depending on which way the flow is changing), and thought it would be interesting to wander on up and see what the rapids were doing. At that point a long skinny open boat with a big outboard shot through and the fellow swung by to let me know it was still running at 5 knots, and he pointed out where the back eddy is that will take me up to the mouth of the rapids, then he shot off downstream. I went up and sure enough there were big whirlpools spinning in tight circles 20 feet acroos with a 3 foot drop in the center, and the entire whirlpools were being flushed through the gap and spinning out into the channel on my side. You can motor right up to the whirlpools and watch them spin – easily big enough to put the whole dinghy in, and then the dinghy would be below the water surface at the bottom of the whirlpool. When the whirlpool collapses there’s a great big splash as the whirlpool wall crashes back into the hole in the center.

I waited an hour and drifted back downstream, then headed up to the gap and pushed on through, running at 8 knots through the flat water (no overfalls) and stayed to the left to avoid the now-smaller whirlpools to the right, and it was straightforward to run through. Minimum SOG I saw was 2.4 knots, and then POP! you’re out and looking at an entirely new set of water – the Octopus Islands. I’m anchored for the night in Waiatt Bay, it’s larger than Squirrel Cove with fewer boats here than there, super quiet, the full moon is just about with us, and it’s a lovely evening. Tomorrow will be explorating with the dinghy!

- rob