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Archive for the ‘How to Live Afloat’ Category

I’ve been drawing a lot of attention on the dock in Anacortes, Wash., lately. Who wouldn’t while they’re stripping down to bareness in preparation for a healthy dousing of oil? Whoa! What?

You heard me right. Sundown’s varnish, especially on the cap rails, bulwarks and bowsprit, needs some serious attention to keep her close to bristol. We began sanding those areas readying to add more layers of shiny finish, but have changed our minds. We don’t want to be brightwork slaves, constantly taking time away from sailing and other adventures to keep up with varnishing, nor can we afford to hire anyone to do it for us. So, we’ve decided to strip off all the varnish and go with an oil finish”—Penofin Marine Exterior Oil Wood Finish, to be exact. It will need to be applied often for the first few months and then annually after that, but there’s no sanding between coats and the application process isn’t picky like varnish. Also, if we change our minds again and just can’t live without gleaming teak, we can always reapply layers upon layers of glossy glaze.

 

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Protecting the ocean

However, I must admit, after stripping Sundown bare while in the Colorado prairie dog field, I was lulled into believing that it was a one-and-done job. Never did I imagine I’d be stripping on the dock. But after trying to keep up with varnish for almost three years, an oil finish seems to make sense. We hope this switch pays off in more sailing time in the long run.

Stripping the underside of the rail

Fall 2011 – Stripping Sundown in the prairie dog field

How does all this fit into our summer cruising plans? Well, I’ll be cruising the streets of town on two wheels more than sailing. (By the way, I have a new-to-me Specialized Dolce named Sug—short for Sugar. My Diamond Back Ascent, Alice, was functional, but Sug allows me to travel farther faster and more efficiently.) Clay will be sailing or rowing Lil’ John, the new 9′ nesting punt he built. When we do go out on Sundown for short jaunts, we’ll be sticking to the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and maybe up to Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia (B.C.). Our scaled-back cruising plans for this summer aren’t all due to Sundown needing attention, however.

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When the wind dies, stroke…stroke.

My job duties are changing a bit (expanding) which will require me to travel back and forth to Fort Collins, Colo., once a month. I can’t be deep in the remote B.C. wilderness during this transition phase. And the company Clay works for, Anacortes Marine Group, just landed a huge (really huge, like the biggest!) job all reliant on his expert woodworking skills. He’ll be transforming a 65-foot Nordland to look and feel like a classic wooden yacht. He’s really excited about this project and feels it will be a signature piece of work.

So, while we won’t be traveling thousands of miles this summer, we’ll still be enjoying life afloat.

 

 

 

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On Matia Island with Mt. Baker in the background

What a weekend! On Friday, we sailed almost the whole way from Anacortes, Wash., to Matia Island on the northeast side of the San Juan Islands. Today we retuned back under sail most of the way. Friday’s sail dealt us a little excitement when the wind did a 180-degree shift when we hit a little squall, but we managed (or I should say Clay did, as I was below decks indisposed…I managed to keep my balance!). Today’s return “home” was perfect. The sun was out. The wind was blowing on our nose steadily between 13 and 17 knots, Sundown’s sweet spot for sure.

While moored in Rolf Cove, we enjoyed the antics of a seal, some river otters and many birds. Hiking around the island proved to be a fungus fanatic’s mecca. We couldn’t identify the mushrooms we found as fast as we saw them. Therefore, we didn’t eat any of the shrooms, either. Better safe than off on some wild trip of the psychedelic kind.

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But the best part about the weekend was it gave us time away from the dock. Last year this time, we were exclusively sailing or motoring, and anchoring in hidey holes protected from the forecasted winds. We were constantly on the move, unsettled. It felt…well, unsettled and scary and perhaps a little too disconnected. This year, we have a home base in Anacortes Marina. We’re really liking this community and becoming known in small ways, but I think we also need to leave as often as the weather permits, to enjoy the serenity of island time and nature, as well as to keep up our skills. So we’re hitting a balance now I felt we lacked till now. Either way, we’re living aboard and feel blessed.

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Getting settled in Anacortes. Working (yep, that “W” word). Sailing. Connecting with friends and wildlife. We’ve had a lot going on and it’s all good. (more…)

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We’re having a wild time here in British Columbia!
In Ocean Falls, Clay made friends with a seal while setting a crab trap. After he vacated Lightfoot the dinghy, the seal hopped in it. I’m going to start calling him the seal whisperer. (Make sure your sound is on and the volume is turned up!)
One day we were “bear-ly” dressed in Eucott Bay’s hot spring (check out the map below). While soaking in the rock-rimmed “tub,” we watched a grizzly on the opposite shore. Once back on Sundown, we saw another grizzly and two black bears!
The next day, Clay went out fishing in Lightfoot. I stayed behind to work and am sorry I did, as he had a close encounter of the whale kind. He says he didn’t know whether to try to get to shore, make a run back to Sundown or just stay put. He choose the latter,  and to hold on tight to the dingy and his bowels.
We’ve also enjoyed the company of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, many kinds of birds and some sea lions. Here’s to living life on the wild side!

Where in the world are we?

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Clay scantily clad on the beach?

When we’re not sailing, you probably imagine we’re strolling on white sand beaches at sunset, dipping our toes in the surf. Actually, we’ve only walked on two sand beaches in our journey so far and we had our Bog boots on. One of the beaches was about 100 yards long by 50 feet wide until the flood tide when it shrunk to about 100 feet long and 10 feet wide, but there was sand, nonetheless. The other was during gale force winds (34-47 knots knots) with rain coming down in sheets. It was marvelous! We HAD to get off the boat that day after being cooped up for a couple previously, so we dressed in our foul weather gear and dinghied to the Hakai Institute landing in Pruth Bay to hike to the west side of Calvert Island where we could check out the Pacific Ocean. Then we hiked to the island’s northern shore—just because we could. (more…)

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When Kim and I aren’t moving from one anchorage to another, I stay busy doing important stuff like maintaining the engine and fishing. I won’t do the math, but it has been an expensive hobby so far. I started with a rod and reel, a couple dozen big lures, a crab trap and a prawn (shrimp) pot. I’m down to the crab trap and about five lures…and I haven’t lost my rod and reel yet, either. Nor have I come home entirely empty handed, so perhaps I’m close to breaking even.

During our recent journeys, we’ve enjoyed some amazing sailing days and were blessed to have a traveling companion, Chris on Puget Escape, to capture some great Sundown moments for us.

When we’ve been able to go ashore and bushwhack around, we taken photos of lots of different plants, mushrooms and animals of the Pacific Northwest, and have seen signs of the First Nation People in the form of petroglyphs.

Life is good!

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Friends are made fast when cruising. Since we’re confined to a boat the majority of every day, it’s wonderful when we get to interact with people. (Yes, Clay and I have each other and we actually still like each other, but I’ve already heard all of Clays stories. He loves having a new audience.)

Our friends Bob and Sandy, who we met in Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, traveled with us for a few days when we first entered Canada. We window shopped in Ganges, hiked around Wallace Island, played cards and just hung out. Our time together with these kindred spirits came to an end when they decided their turn around point was just before Dodd Narrows. So Clay and I continued on as a duo until we anchored in Walsh Bay in Desolation Sound preparing to go through the Yuculta and Dent Rapids. That’s where we met our new friend, Chris Bowman.

Chris recently retired from running the nano fabrication facility at Carnegie Mellon University. He’s on solo trip in his 36-foot Catalina, Puget Escape. We became fast friends in the course of a week (was it only a week?)–eating dinner together every night while reviewing the next day’s weather and routes, listening to music and just getting to know one another. He’s super smart, well-educated, an experienced sailor and a pilot, so we appreciated having his opinion about conditions. (It was the old “three heads are better than two” theory at work.)

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Chris and Puget Escape sailing across Queen Charlotte Strait

It also was comforting having each other nearby to render aid if necessary, like when Chris’ dinghy painter got wrapped around his boat’s propeller and Clay got to use his newly honed propeller unfouling skills (see one of our recent blog posts for details). Or when we snagged an underwater logging cable with our anchor. Chris was preparing to help free us from the bondage just as we were able to unhook ourselves from the steel tether.

Clay and Chris also fished together. It was fun to watch the two of them head out in Chris’ RIB (or rigged inflatable boat, which is a big dinghy with a large outboard motor on it…think FAST!). They both sported large grins making them look like they were up to something, which I’m sure they were. Their excitement was contagious when they caught lingcod, black bass and rock fish, as well as crab and prawns. Together they laughed off the days the fish and the lures got away.

But the Broughton Islands are Chris’ turn around point. After a couple more weeks, he’ll head back south to Olympia, Washington, where he moors his boat. We are continuing our northerly passage bound for Alaska.

The frequent goodbyes are a bit sad, but on the flip side, it’s exciting to see who we get to meet and befriend next. Who knows, maybe we’ll even find our friend Steve Jones. If all has gone according to his plans, he should still be making his way back to his home in Craig, Alaska, and might just be around the next bend.

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