Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cost to Cruise - April 2013

That time again, and perhaps a good thing - might be well to get a post up OTHER than travel logs!

April brought us into Canada for the summer (except for a short trip back east planned for in July).  We have been enjoying our time, seeing new places and revisiting old places.  At 1st glance it looks like Canada is a great low-cost place to cruise, but perhaps this months costs summary needs a bit of explanation:

Yes the bottom number is great, but what about those negative numbers for moorage and transportation?  Well, we received our deposit refund from Friday Harbor, and Delta (believe it or not) actually refunded our non-refundable tickets on the trip to nowhere!  Other items of note:

  • Groceries at almost 2x the normal run rate represent us rebuilding our stores, esp meats, combined with the cost of food in Canada.  We figure things are upwards of 50% more expensive here than in Friday Harbor!  Part of that might be that we have started cruising into places where groceries are at times in short supply, and higher just because of the location.  But still, we have noticed what everyone else says It Costs More in Canada.
  • Dining Out seems in line, but the behind the scenes truth is - we dined out (coffee shops) a LOT less; and still the costs were the same....  Again, the higher prices in Canada.  Where Kristi and I can get a lunch for say $35 in the states, it is $50 here...
  • Medical reflects the new pay-it-once policy we have.  We closed out some loose ends in April, watch for low numbers here going forward (we hope).
  • And Communications reflects the transition from Verizon internet into Telus.  Setups, partial months, etc...
Solar is starting to get on its feet producing an average of 114Ah's / day, again exceeding the  modeled 110Ah/day.   I noticed while dumping this months data on three days the Solar controller went into Float mode.  This means we were not taking all the energy being produced.  Most likely this is because I have been putting more hours on the Generator than we normally might, doing final proofing of the new Arduino based  controller / regulator.

And speaking of Generator..   42Hrs!  WOW.  I know I had been doing a lot of trial runs to proof the new controller, but 42hs is almost 4x our normal run rate...  Given the generator now has full throttle control and will slow down the engine as the battery gets charged (kind of like Honda generators), I do know we have not been in such a rush to turn it off - and have at times just left it humming along quietly.   Combined with the new just-flick-the-switch way to start it - hum .  .  .  will be interesting to see how our usage patterns shape out.

More Wallace

Yesterday was a fine sunny day.....until we stepped outside!  It was a VERY cold wind blowing, so we bundled up for our exploration of the northern part of the island.  Daryl from Tortoise, whose yacht club supplies park hosts for Wallace Island through the summer, told us 'Don't believe everything you see on that sign!'  We had been debating whether we wanted to go all the way to Chiver's Point, which the sign said was 2 1/2 miles.  He said, 'Nah, it's only 1 3/4'.

We took a small detour to look at Princess Cove.  There is private property with a dock on the right, and a park dock on the left.

The day before, I noticed that the island had a 'spine'.  This day I decide the island is a sleeping, stony dinosaur, and it's spine extends the whole way, end to end.  It takes awhile -- longer than we expected -- to reach Chiver's Point, but the view is worth it!  The ebb tide is ripping through the small channel between Wallace and the Secretary Islands.

There is a bench, somewhat below the crest of the island, so we are -- only a little -- sheltered from the whipping wind.
The view FROM the bench

The view ON the bench
It is VERY cold -- I've said that before, haven't I? -- so we don't sit still for very long!  We make it back to the boat for a late lunch, and low tide.  I'll post the previous night's channel shot side-by-side with a low-tide shot for comparison:

Actually the 'high tide' one wasn't really high tide.  The rock on the left completely disappears at high-high tide, along with a bit more of that tail on the right.  Also disappearing at high tide?  The reef you can see out there in the photo on the right.  Yes, it is on the chart, but many people forget about things they can't SEE.  We do not want to be these people.  (If you can't see the reef, click on the picture to see it bigger.)

It's still pretty windy today, and we are feeling lazy.  So we decided to spend another day here.  Al is lubing the windlass -- it had started sticking when we wanted it to let the anchor go.  Then he's going to cook some oysters for his lunch.  Not sure what I will dig up for myself yet.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wallace Island

Last summer we acquired a copy of the book 'Once Upon an Island' by David Conover, about a couple post-WWII who bought Wallace Island and built a vacation resort.  It is a quick and good read.  I read it a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of visiting Wallace Island.  Al began it a couple days ago, and after arriving on the island yesterday afternoon and exploring a bit, he said 'I'm anxious to get back to the boat and read more about it!'

I think this could rival Glenthorne Passage for my favorite spot this season.

Viking Star in cozy little Conover Cove.  We came in not long after low tide -- we thought we had planned better than that.  For the first time ever, I was put on the bow of the boat to watch for rocks  as we crossed the very narrow, shallow channel to the cove.

The famous cabin, covered and filled with placards by visitors.  SO much better than carving in trees, or writing on walls.

Picnic Point.  Al has no trouble stepping out onto the narrow trail on the spine of a ridge, but this is as far as I go.

In a few places, driftwood has been placed over muddy spots.  Even raccoons like to keep their feet clean!

 On Honeymoon Beach, the starfish are appropriately paired up and tucked away in corners.

I don't remember if the fruit trees are remnants from the time of the Conovers, or the previous owner of the island, Mr. Chivers.

The stormy view from the dock, over Salt Spring Island to snow-covered, fog-shrouded mountaintops on Vancouver Island.  This is high tide -- the channel narrows SIGNIFICANTLY at low tide.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Catch Up

Well, perhaps just a short post to update you on our recent changes in location.

We left Glenthorne Passage (my favorite spot so far) on Wednesday, bound for Ganges, a port we had visited previously on a charter trip in 2008 (?).

We came onto the breakwater to do some heavy provisioning and take on water.  Two trips to Thrifty Foods pretty well filled our 45-quart Engel freezer, the freezer and fridge compartments on our 'dorm room' unit, and re-stocked our canned goods cupboards.

We pulled off just as the two-hour limit ended, and chose a spot to anchor.  Geez, pretty soft mud!  It took three times to set our 'never fail' anchor!

The next day we left the boat early and headed to TJ Beans for coffee and a bit of breakfast.  We hit many of the tourist shops, and hit the pub for a burger for me, fish and chips for Al, and beer for both.  And then we hit the liquor store.

This might be a good time to whine a little bit about prices we have come across in Canada.  Shopping does exercise our brains a bit, trying to convert kilos to pounds, but meats and dairy seem exorbitant!  A STICK of butter was 2.68, about the price we would pay for a POUND of butter in Friday Harbor.  Cheeses are about double.  Chicken breasts we bought on sale (family pak, buy one get one free) still figured to be $10 a pound.  Steak at the butcher counter was over $18 a pound.  Another reason to become vegetarian, or at least cut back drastically!

Liquor prices are about on par with Friday Harbor.  We had expected that, after the recent law changes in Washington State.  But in Canada, bottles of wine that we had paid $8-10 for in Washington/Oregon are priced at $18-24 -- easily double!  We are definitely cutting back in this area as well.

We had thought we would remain in Ganges until Saturday, giving us time to experience what we've been told is a great farmers market.  But Friday started out sunny, so that Al didn't take a coat when we went to shore for morning coffee.  Clouds gradually accumulated, and the breeze picked up.  Al decided to go back to the boat for a coat, and I visited a bookstore.  We visited the library, and walked a lot more than we had before, finding the other grocery store in Ganges.  As we made our way back to the harbor, I said to Al, 'I'm not sure I WANT to spend another night at anchor in Ganges Harbor.'

Al agreed, so we beat it back to the boat, and pulled anchor.  We wanted to top off our water tank, and buy gas for the dinghy, so we headed to the breakwater.  As we approached, the wharfinger (Americans say harbormaster) came out to wave us off, saying we would have too much difficulty getting OFF the dock with the wind and waves as they were.  But Al is 'THE MAN'!  We used no lines at all at the dock; the wind and waves DID keep us pinned right there.  We decided water was enough and we'd get gas somewhere else.  And Al powered off easily.

And we made it to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island.  This was another stop on that previous charter trip.  (I remember Captain Rick getting his sailor's palm out and repairing a sail, and Sharon SO EXCITED by the sea life revealed at low tide.)

Sunset at Montague Harbor

It has been a calm spot to rest, except for the hike we took last night.  We had heard that he Hummingbird Pub was worth the trip, and that there was a bus that would pick you up at the marina.  Well, the marina told us that the bus doesn't start until 'the May Long Weekend', but if you put out your thumb, someone will give you a ride.  Nope.  Other than the 12% grade out of the harbor, the walk wasn't really that bad, but we were beginning to question if we were heading the right way, when there it was!  The food was GREAT!  And the waitress thought one of the guys would be willing to take us back to the marina, but when Al asked, he said his van was in Vancouver, sorry.  And they didn't see anyone in the place who would be heading our way.  SO, we tromped back again.

When we got back to the boat, we checked google -- 9.6 km total, JUST under 6 miles round trip!  Now we don't feel so bad about the Shepherd's Pie, or chili with garlic bread!

The weather report says the winds are going to blow stink from the northwest tonight, so we are hoping to get into Conover Cove on Wallace Island.  We will ride the tide, leaving about 1PM.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Morning Reflections

When you wake up in the morning and look out your window, what do you see?

If you are like me, you perhaps are first checking the state of the weather -- is the sun up yet?  Are there clouds in the sky?   And if you are a boater, there are more questions to answer -- are we where we were when we went to bed last night?  Is the tide rising or falling?

You may make note of the other earth occupants making themselves heard to you.  What do you hear?  Lawnmowers?Traffic noise?  Garbage trucks?  I am so blessed to mainly heard birds -- loons, eagles, geese, songbirds.

A friend commented on one of my recent posts to facebook, "You live among such rich beauty and have the time to notice it!"

And I try, very hard, not to miss it.  I don't want to take it for granted, when I am surrounded with it.

But then it blesses me again, with surprise.  Yesterday morning I heard a loon cry.  The loon is the state bird of Minnesota, and I am a native Minnesotan, so I do get a little thrill when I hear one, and I stood up to look around the boat to see if I could get a glimpse of it.  This being such a small inlet, and being the quiet of the morning and the loon so loud, the cry echoed, and I did not see a loon in the direction I first looked.

But I did see something splashing near the shore.  Is that a seal coming onto the beach?  I grab the binoculars for a closer look.  And what an amazing sight!  It is an eagle -- swimming!  I had read that they CAN swim, and now I was observing it!  He kind of crawled up on shore, then took 2 or 3 hops.  Yes, he has something in his feet!  He is looking around, and then he flies onto a low branch on a nearby tree and begins his breakfast feast.

This morning held a different kind of magic.  The morning light shines on the trees, the rocks, the water -- it reflects, creates shadows, illuminates.

The native people of these waters carve totems.  But did you know they also occur naturally?  This one called to me, and I had to try to get the image to share.  Not ten minutes later, he was pulling up his blanket of water to sleep again.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lunchtime Entertainment

Today's forecast is the best day for the next week, as far as sunshine, though it is supposed to get a few degrees warmer toward the end of the week.

After breakfast, dishes, and showers, we pulled anchor and moved toward the spot Al scouted on the chart a few days ago.  I kept the helm out of little Royal Cove, and headed north/northwest toward Prevost Island.      It was definitely the longest spell I've been at the wheel since we left Friday Harbor, and it was good to get a bit reacquainted with wind and waves, set and drift.

We dropped the anchor again in Glenthorne Passage behind Secret Island, on the SW corner of Prevost Island.  For San Juan boaters -- it reminds me of a tiny Reid Harbor!  I took a couple of quick pictures, and set to making my curry chicken spread for lunch.

Secret Island, looking towards Ganges.

It's very 'park-like' here.

Just as I was putting our plates on the table, I heard an eagle cry.  Soon, he moved closer.  And then ---- he began fishing!  I wish I had a better camera and better skill to capture those dives!  At least five times, but no success.

The closest I got to clicking a dive, kind of an abstract photo fail, but look at that perfect fan of a tail!

To show how close he was.  All dives took place between the boat and this tree on shore.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Happy Hunter

After a rainy morning, we decided to go to shore and explore Portland Island a bit.  We took the cross-island trail to Princess Bay.  There wasn't a lot of change in elevation, so there was a LOT of standing water!  The trail was quite swampy in places, and there was even a stretch where an elevated boardwalk was installed.  We seemed to be followed by various flying insects -- 'Ahhhhhh, fresh warm blood!' they seemed to whine.

At Princess Bay, a lone kayaker was just arriving.  He is Jeff, from southern California, this summer paddling from Olympia to Alaska.  But he's already had BIG adventures, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico, and he has hiked the east coast from Florida to New England.  Now he's taken to the water!  Good luck, Jeff!

We found the mosquitoes to be QUITE annoying, but as long as we kept moving they seemed to leave us alone.  We took the trail that edges the northern shore of the island back to Royal Cove.  There was a lot more 'up-and-down' on this trail, so that our knees creaked a bit.  We heard a LOUD noise, and had some trouble deciding what it was for sure, but finally believing it was a frog.  There were a few tents on Arbutus Point.

Al had noticed the 'hundreds of oysters' on the shore, did some research online, and got his Canadian fishing license.  So he dropped me off at the boat and took his bucket to shore.  He says I don't need to cook dinner for him as long as we stay here.

Al sees dinner.  I keep hoping for pearls!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our First Stern Tie Adventure!

We spent the night in Fulford Harbor -- oops -- spelled Fulford Harbour here in Canada.  There is a small ferry that goes between there and Saanich Peninsula, and since he moves pretty quickly, he CAN throw a pretty mean wake, as we found out when we were overtaken entering the harbor.  But the spot we chose to anchor in was at the end of the harbor, where the ferry had slowed greatly for it's turn to the dock, and the wake was just a gentle roll.

This morning, we had something we wanted to mail, and I hoped for another latte, so we got in the dinghy to go.  Wow.  I think those were the biggest waves we had ever rode with the dinghy.  We ran our errands and poked around in couple of establishments, decided to skip a walk to St. Paul's church because it was starting to rain.

Ooooo, look at the water!  I think the waves got a bit bigger!  But, we are going more 'with' them than the trip in, so it will be okay.  Uh huh.  Rather than sitting on the tube like we usually do, I kneeled down on the floor of the dinghy, keeping the center of gravity as low as possible.  It wasn't too bad, and the trip went faster than I expected.

Once we returned to the boat, the adrenaline (and the caffeine?) kicked in!  I wanted to get some of my transcription work done, but I was afraid that working with my head down on boat tossing on the waves would get the best of me.  I was fully prepared to spend a miserable afternoon and night and even said "I sure do not want to go out there!", but Al insisted on moving out of the SE facing harbor when increasing SE winds were forecast.  And remembering two of those 'It's all been great, except for 3 days' in a similar situation on Sucia, I couldn't protest.

We checked out the possibility of anchoring in the lea of Russell Island and decided it would be a good backup.  Then moved on to Royal Cove on Portland Island. Portland!  Sounds like home!!!  There is even a Hood Island around the corner from Royal Cove.  Royal Cove is rather small, but well protected from all but NE winds.  The forecast says the winds will move to the northwest sometime tomorrow, so we should be okay.

We knew we would have to do it sometime once we began to move north -- stern tie.  We had bought a spool of 3/8" poly line -- it is bright yellow, and floats.  We wanted to keep our orientation in this small cove, and we had no audience for our first attempt.  Everything went very well!  We first set our main anchor and backed toward the shore.  Then Al paddled the dinghy to shore with the line.  THAT'S when I remembered the camera.  So once he was safe on shore, I asked if it was okay for me to get the camera.  It was, and I came back to get him tying where a blue ribbon indicated a ring in a block on shore.

Here's the spool set-up.  It turned SO easily on the broomstick that I didn't worry about it falling off the chairs, but perhaps in future we will have the chairs face the other way.

Spooling 'Viking Star' style!

And here he returns to the boat.  We will take up the slack and tie off to the cleat.  The tide is going out, so we will monitor and loosen it if necessary.

Why does the boat go sideways???

And here, the water is calm.  We hit 28 knots wind-speed on our way over, but since our arrival at Royal Cove our wind gauge has only gone to 8.  Several ferries have passed by, and the wakes have been minimal.  I think we can be happy here for a few days, maybe even through the weekend.  THIS is the kind of place we like most to explore.  All of Portland Island is the Princess Margaret Marine Park, with trails and campsites and a freshwater pump.  We'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Abundant Wildlife

One of our favorite things about cruising in the Pacific Northwest is the abundant wildlife.

And I have to tell you, I am REALLY appreciating my 'new eyes'!  Today I spotted an eagle atop a tree along the shore of Salt Spring Island, and Al said, 'You've become the eagle-eye at spotting eagles!'

Well, HE was the first one to spot the Orcas yesterday morning as we moved across Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay.  We immediately put the engines in neutral, and I was amazed how LOUD their breath sounds were across the water!

We were hoping to watch them leisurely, but a small boat came from the opposite shore and moved very quickly to where we had seen the whales surfacing.  'Poof!'  No appearance for a long time, long enough for the small boat to lose patience and move on.

Since we are so slow, we did see the whales coming up again, and we able to watch for a bit.  We believe it was a daddy, mama, and baby.  The best shot here, we think this shows the mama.

I found this heron on the dock at Genoa Bay Marina.

And just because I am thrilled at every eagle sighting, and we had such a close 'drive-by' this time, I felt three shots were justified.  It kept a close eye on us, over-the-shoulder. 

Our approach

Yes, I see you there....

Yeah, go on, get out of here now.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Views of Paradise

We have enjoyed our time here at the very end of Finlayson Arm of the Saanich Inlet.

We had thought this area would be quite remote and peaceful, but it turns out we could hear road noise!  The major highway of Vancouver Island, Highway 1, passes just over our heads.  It IS mostly blocked from our view, but if you are looking at just the right time, you can see trucks through the leaves.

Small boats come and go, and crabbers check their pots.  A large boat left the small marina for a day trip yesterday -- they were back in the afternoon.

Lucy even left her nest on Saturday night!  We saw a goose flying in towards her rock, and we thought it was her mate checking in, but it went to the top of the rock instead of into the water.  My research tells me that she must still be in the 'laying' stage, when they may leave the nest in the evening.

We have been watching/listening to a gang of sea lions this weekend.  I told Al we were watching the circle of life, but I wasn't sure exactly what point it was -- mating? birth and swimming lessons for young? simple feeding?

Goldstream IS a spawning creek for salmon.  This morning I saw two seals feeding just below Lucy's rock -- she was keeping an eye on them too!  Mostly they were playing with smaller fish, but there was one that was big enough for the two of them to share.  I think their mother didn't teach them to chew their food properly -- one was hacking and coughing with his mouth wide open -- and I could imagine him saying, 'Fishbone!'

I'll leave you with a few shots of the area:

The small marina south of us, with Goldstream Creek going up from the left.  The fog rolled in on Saturday night.

Sawluctus, a personal island.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keeping an Eye on Lucy

I am glad we haven't disturbed her, at least as far as we can tell.

I call her Lucy.  Goosey Lucy.  And as far as we can tell, she hasn't moved from the nest yet!  There is another goose that swims below on occasion and honks to her, but not knowing the nesting habits of geese, I don't know if he's checking in for a shift change or just offering verbal support.

In the heavy rain we can see her shaking the raindrops from her head.  When the sun shines she may tuck her  nose under a wing.  She sometimes rotates orientation just a bit, but in almost 24 hours we have never seen the spot vacated.

Let me give you another view of her perch, now that I've introduced her.  The picture above is zoomed as much as I can (16X).  The picture below is still zoomed in a bit, but you can see the water now.  Those poor goslings are going to need to stay IN the nest as long as possible, because once they leave, they won't be able to wander far!

OK, I just did a bit of research at http://www.preservewildlife.com/geeseworld.htm.  Apparently, the female will not leave the nest, at all, once she starts incubating, which takes an average of 28 days!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Butchart Gardens

My favorite kind of post -- where I just post lots of pictures with captions!  And of course, the pictures didn't post in the order I selected them, and there are so many that I won't bother to move them around, which I find rather difficult to edit in blogspot.  

The iconic view of the Sunken Garden.  Note the Trees of Life (arbor vitae) on the left, and the Old Chimney on the right.

The Sunken Garden is in the old limestone quarry.

There was sun, AND rain...

The view around 1907?, Tod Inlet on the left with the wharf, the gardens will be at the center of the photo.

We found our wedding colors!

Garden maintenance is constant, but this seemed a little  out of the ordinary!

I'm not sure I've seen an Orca on a carousel before!  Butchart dogs Winston and Bella were also featured.  That's Bella behind the orca.

The view across the Italian Garden, to the entrance to the Dining Room, where we had a superb lunch

Al was especially amazed by the hedges.  We were told the largest free-standing hedge in North America is here -- it's not this one.

Captured raindrops

I can see our dinghy at the dock on the left.  This is the Butchart Cove access to the garden.  An employee came for us on a golf cart and brought us to the visitor center to begin our visit.

In the Japanese Garden, the bamboo would fill and dump with a thump!

One of our favorite paths, with one of my favorite people upon it.