2013 – Looking Back
January 9, 2014
It’s always difficult to come up with interesting posts for the blog in the winter season. This is the time of the year when we sit still for a while and catch up on maintenance and projects, and usually they’re not the most glamorous or interesting things to describe. We run the boat and all her many systems pretty hard throughout the year, and it’s much easier to do preventative maintenance than to fix things in remote places – don’t ask us how we know that.
2013 was an unusual year for us because we made the huge leap from one side of the country to the other. We did a lot of cruising but since so many of the great cruising areas out here are fairly close together we didn’t put as many miles on the boat this season.
We started 2013 in Marathon (in our beloved Florida Keys), Lat/Lon: 24 42.19 N 081 06.75 W (temperature: 80) and ended the year in Victoria, BC, Canada, Lat/Lon: 48 25.36 N 123 22.22 W (temperature: 45). In that time we traveled 1466 nautical miles (which does not count the miles ADVENTURES traveled on the freighter to get out here). That’s a big difference from the years we went to Nova Scotia and cruised around 6000 nautical miles in a year.
Moving to a very different cruising area has brought new challenges for us, and pushed us out of our comfort zone – which is a healthy thing. We don’t ever want to stop learning and growing.
We have lost some boating friends this year – far too soon. But both of our friends really lived their lives – they accomplished a great deal in their too-short time on this earth. Gary and Judy were extraordinary and beautiful people, each in their own way, and we remember them often. Their untimely passing reminds us how lucky we are to be able to have the adventures we’ve enjoyed so far, and we never try to take any of it for granted.
We are learning to embrace grandparent-hood. Jim’s son Jimmy and his wife Valerie welcomed little James in October, joining big brother Donald who is now 17 months. While I can’t come to terms with the “G-word” to describe my role in all this (I am FAR too young!), I can manage to be a “Mimi”. And I have the irresistible urge to knit a lot of little sweaters for them.
Jim has no problems channeling his inner child, so he’s always on the lookout for interesting toys. For. The. Babies. I think he prefers bigger boy toys, so I’m not sure who he’s really shopping for.
Christmas is all put away now, and the city has changed all the lights around Parliament back to plain white. Now it’s time for chores and projects, and dreaming about heading north to Alaska in the spring.
Seattle Boat Show
February 3, 2014
In past years we would make the trek from the Florida Keys up to the big Miami Boat Show for one long marathon day to talk with all the vendors and suppliers in the enormous Convention Center. We made up lists of questions and things we might want to buy well ahead of time – the boat show is a big deal for us. This year we went to the Seattle Boat Show instead, and it was a different experience – more than just the temperature (which was a reasonable 50).
Most boat shows run for a long weekend but the Seattle show runs for 10 days, which is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that it’s too long and most of the major suppliers don’t participate – the return-on-investment isn’t worth tying up some of the sales force for that long. The good news is that the show offers a ton of seminars – many free 50 minute sessions as well as some inexpensive 3-hour in-depth sessions, so we spent a number of days learning more about boating in this area. The seminars were very good, and we were able to get a ton of great information about routes and weather for heading north to SE Alaska as well as other little tips, history, and information.
The show floor was smaller than we’re used to, but it was interesting to see the different style of boats used in the northwest, as well as the emphasis on fishing, crabbing, and prawning. I don’t eat seafood so it’s all lost on me; the locals can’t figure out why anyone would want to boat out here if you don’t care about the seafood. Dare to be different.
The boat show was held at CenturyLink Stadium (in the conference center and indoor areas), which is the home of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. Every day at lunchtime the facility opened the field for boat show attendees, and it was really cool to walk out on the playing surface of an NFL stadium!Being in Seattle the week before the Super Bowl was a blast. I’m a life-long NY Giants fan, but I can appreciate any town where they are passionate about their team… and people from this area are truly rabid fans.
It’s a bit of a trek for us to travel from Victoria down to Seattle (by car). 30 minute drive up to the ferry, 90 minute ferry ride over to the mainland (wiggling through the beautiful Gulf Islands – always fun), a 30 minute drive to the US/Canada border, then a 3 hour drive down to Seattle. We take advantage of being in the US to mail things (it’s faster), and buy a few things (it’s cheaper, minding the rules about what we can bring back into Canada)… so it’s always a Big Trip with lots of errands and shopping. We also took our amateur radio (ham) license exams, and we both passed the Technician and General. Ham radio will let us add more communications capability in remote places with the SSB/ham radio we have on our boat, and it will be fun to experiment with a handheld ham radio when we hike up tall mountains, etc. Studying for the exams was a good challenge too, and we might go for the next license level when we have time next winter. Never stop learning.
Snow, Ice, Fog and Alligators
March 6, 2014
We haven’t blogged in a while because we were traveling – by air and by car – back to the east coast to visit family, friends, doctors, and to attend the DeFever Cruisers Rendezvous. It was a hectic trip where we crammed a ton of things into a short time, but it was a fantastic trip… except for the weather. We started in NJ to see Robin’s brother and sister-in-law (and their great dogs), an old childhood friend from the Sea Scouts, then we got caught in a snow/ice storm as we drove down to Maryland to visit friends. It was pretty slippery driving that last part of the trip, but we arrived in one piece.
Everyone laughs at us for spending the winter in the Pacific NW, but it’s much warmer and nicer here than it was back east (except for the Florida part of the trip). We weren’t used to all that cold and snow! We did all our annual doctor visits and they renewed our warranties for another year. We saw some Power Squadron friends, and we got to see one of Jim’s brothers and his wife, but missed his sister Margaret because of another snow storm that slammed us in Virginia. We holed up in a hotel for 2 nights to wait out the record-setting snow and had a few things cancelled because of it. We wrapped up the northern part of the trip spending some time with the Halls and then visiting with Jim’s son, his wife Valerie, and to meet the newest grandbaby – James (4 and a half months). Little Donald is 21 months already – an active little man!
We escaped the ice and snow, driving down to Florida to visit more friends, then a quick stop in Orlando to shop at the ham radio store, then on to see Jim’s Dad in Clearwater. From there we drove to lovely Captiva Island for the DeFever Rendezvous, and it was great to see so many old friends and all those big flared DeFever boat bows!As you might notice in the photo, there is a lot of fog in the air. What was really strange was that the fog persisted through most of both days – highly unusual. It dampened our hair and clothing but not our spirits, though it made for a very odd “sunset beach party” since we couldn’t see the sun and barely saw the beach!
We zipped down to Marco Island to visit boating friends, and they took us on an adventure looking for wildlife in the Everglades – which was terrific. Even though we had warm days we saw lots of alligators.Our friends showed us some hidden little gems – nature walks and small state parks with interesting things, such as this example of a strangler fig.
We saw anhingas, wood storks, bald eagles, herons, egrets, glossy ibis, moor hens, and a nice kite, but my favorite were these little burrowing owls.We really crammed a lot into a quick 3 week trip, but we miss our family and friends and it made us very happy to see everyone. There’s never enough time to see everyone we want to – we keep trying.
March 20, 2014
Not only is today the official First Day of Spring, but the season has already arrived here in Victoria (the warmest place in all of Canada in the winter). We’ve had temps in the 50s, and the cherry blossoms in town are already past their prime. The daffodils have been up, and the adorable little water taxis have reappeared in the harbor in front of the Empress Hotel.Bob and Cathryn from Washington came up to Victoria on their boat for a few days, and we hosted a dinner party with them and our Victoria friends Diana (my knitting buddy) and Perry. We used to have a lot of these kinds of parties, but we don’t know as many people out here… yet. We did Roxy’s Ribs in the pressure cooker, and had a very fun visit!The days are getting longer by about 3 and a half minutes per day – it’s very noticeable. To celebrate the arrival of spring, we headed over to the famous Butchart Gardens to see what’s in bloom this week. I was afraid that I missed the cherry blossoms, but was happy to learn that the Gardens are a couple of weeks behind downtown. We’ll go back in a week or two to see how things are coming along, but in the meantime we enjoyed the crocus and daffodils…
The amazing thing at Butchart Gardens was their “Spring Preview” display, where they took over the entire restaurant, emptied it completely, and installed an elaborate indoor garden complete with stones, meandering pathways, a pond, and an explosion of spring flowers. Incredible!! The amount of work that went into that display was staggering – all to make something fleetingly beautiful. Lilies, orchids, rhododendron, hyacinth… I can’t name most of the flowers, but it just blew us away. I can’t wait to see what will be next.
As winter departs, I’ll share a funny Canadian story. While waiting in line at the hardware store, the cashier told a story about her friend in northern Manitoba who left her purse in her car overnight. The new Canadian money is made of plastic instead of paper, and apparently it doesn’t do well in extreme cold – she found that all the new bills broke in half when she tried to use them. You can’t make this stuff up.
A Little Victoria Wildlife
Posted on April 5, 2014
We’ve been enjoying some warmer weather lately, and that means I can get to some of the outside chores that need attention. I was on the dock the other day and I watched this baby harbour seal zoom around and do loop-de-loops playing with a school of fish right near our boat. He stayed around long enough for me to get the camera and shoot some video. I’m still learning a new camera and this was my first attempt at shooting video with it – but the little guy was so cute, I had to share.
We’re seeing more seals, otters and even a big raccoon around the docks. Mergansers and cormorants fish nearby every day… the tulips are coming up, and the whale watching boats are busy every day of the week with tourists.
Getting Ready to Leave
Posted on April 17, 2014
I have “itchy feet” – it’s what I say when we’ve been somewhere too long and it’s time to move on. We’ve been enjoying Victoria for the winter, but now our thoughts are focused on cruising north to Alaska.
Of course Victoria is much more lively and beautiful with the nice spring weather. There are two large sail training schooners that have been coming in once a week. We have a front row seat to watch the procession of high-school students (they look so young) coming off the boats after their week’s adventures, and to see the new load of youngsters trudging down the dock with their heavy duffel bags and pillows. That kind of experience is so wonderful for kids – they are away from the Internet and they can just focus on the world around them, working together to help sail their beautiful boat. Everyone should get the chance to do something like that, and to learn that one can live a week (or more!) without staring into the glow of a smartphone.
All winter we’ve been wedged behind a big trawler, blocking any kind of view out the back of the boat. We were facing the seawall and the endless parade of tourists taking pictures of the mega-yacht (search on “yacht Zenith” and you’ll see our neighbor), and Zenith blocked the view out the galley window. We could still see some of the sights out the windows, but not as much as we hoped. Well, our trawler neighbor left yesterday and we got permission to slide down the dock to the far end where we have a fantastic view of the inner harbour and Parliament – it’s a nice way to wrap up our time here.
We needed to make one last trip back to the U.S. so we drove across the southern part of Washington to visit our friends in Walla Walla (“So nice they named it twice!”). It was our first time in eastern WA, and it’s so VERY different from this side of the Cascades – it’s much flatter and drier, with softly rolling hills. Agriculture is big business here, with vast tracts of cherry and apple trees (the cherries were in bloom – so pretty!) and grapes for wine. There are big windmills on the hilltops, and verdant river valleys around the Columbia and Snake Rivers. It’s pretty, but in a drastically different way than the craggy mountains and tall evergreens on this side of the pass.
We had perfect spring weather, and we had a ball with our friends – just talking, learning more about the area, and walking around to see some of the sights. I didn’t get a photo of the pheasant male standing proud on the railroad tracks or the coyote patrolling the hills as we drove around, but it was neat to see so much that was just different. We hope to get back there to explore a bit more and spend time with our good friends. It’s hard to move to a new place where you don’t know anyone, so having friends out here – some new and some we mostly knew by correspondence – really means a lot.
We dropped our car off to summer storage and we took the Washington State ferry from Anacortes, winding through the San Juan Islands to Sidney, British Columbia – a gorgeous ride on a perfect sunny day. From there we just hopped a city bus to get back home to ADVENTURES in Victoria harbor. We have a few last chores to wrap up and then we can cast off the lines and start this year’s adventures.
Working on the Boat
Posted on April 21, 2014
Before we can cast off for a long trip we need to finish a few maintenance items – we’ve learned that it’s much easier to perform preventative maintenance than to do repairs in some remote place. Some projects had to wait for warmer weather such as working on the davit (a small crane that lifts our 600 lb dinghy up to the boat deck).We used our ladder to help hold the heavy arm up in the air so Jim could disconnect the hydraulic lines – it’s always good when we can manage things by ourselves.
We had to replace some spacers between the sheaves as well as the “cable”, which is actually a synthetic rope (called Amsteel) that’s as strong as a steel cable. The rope is a bit pricey ($2/foot) and it requires an eye to be spliced at each end, but I’m a pretty good splicer. If we ordered the prepared rope from the davit company it would have cost $450!
The next project was to adjust the valves on the main engines – a job that should be done every 1000 hours or so. We put a lot of hours on our engines and it pays to take good care of them. It goes pretty quickly, though there are 12 valves on each engine to check. And while we were doing engine maintenance, Jim replaced the impellers that draw seawater through the heat exchangers to cool the engines. The old ones were in good shape, but they were getting too old…
In the meantime I’ve been giving the boat exterior a thorough washing and a bit of Awlcare. Cloudy/rainy days are the best for washing a black boat since the sun heats the hull too much and the soapy water can get baked on if I’m not quick enough with the rinse.
Sometimes people ask us if we want a bigger boat and we always say no. A bigger boat is more boat to wash and clean… things are bigger than two people can handle easily… and you pay for dockage and haul-outs by the foot. This is plenty of boat for us to take care of!
On the other hand, if you have to wash your mega-yacht, you need to be comfortable with climbing gear and heights!
Cutting the Roots
Posted on April 26, 2014
We’re cruisers and we’re used to being on the move. We go from place to place and meet different people along the way, and we’re forever saying “hello” and “goodbye”. We end up running into a surprisingly high percentage of people again, sometimes years later, and we love that. Winter is the one time of the year that we tend to sit still somewhere and because of that we tend to “grow some roots”. The more often we return to the same place, the deeper those roots can go. After spending 6 very happy winters in the Keys we had some very tough roots to cut, but the anticipation of new adventures in the Pacific Northwest took a little of the sting out of saying goodbye to dear friends and favorite places.
We’ve only been in Victoria for one winter, in a part of the country where we barely know anyone, but we found that it was hard to cut our fresh roots. For one thing, Victoria is a “sticky place” – it’s a place that’s just nice with lots to do and everything is convenient… so it’s easy to not-leave. But the harder thing is that we’re starting to make some friends out here – some boating, some knitting, and reconnecting with some from our previous lives.
The winter started out pretty lonely – there isn’t the kind of community of liveaboards on the docks that we’re used to on the east coast, and we barely even saw any neighbors much less got them to talk. Thankfully, I am a knitter, and I think it’s a universal truth that knitters like to gather and knit. I found the local knitting meet-up group and started attending the Tuesday and Friday evening knit nights. The first night I met another newcomer who also happened to be a boater and a liveaboard – how lucky is that?! And we hit it off and became great friends, often meeting for coffee and knitting on our own. After a while we got together for dinners with our spouses and it was great fun. Later on I got to know some of the other knitters and made particular friends with two more. Jim often came to Friday night knitting for a little while since we met at a cafe with good food and killer desserts. That solved the problem of what to feed Jim while I was off knitting, and he got to meet some of the gals and enjoy some conversation (and eat dessert – it’s all about the sweets). It’s much harder for guys to make friends, I think.
We’re very excited about our next adventures so that helped us make the difficult cut to those roots and cast off the lines. We’ll be back.
We headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and had a nice view of the Olympic Mountains to the south.