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Friday June 20th 2014
Day seven of the Broughtons Flotilla

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Today, we are off to Claydon Bay at 0800, if all goes according to plan. 

Laurence called net at 0730 and we all left the dock at eight as planned, then motored out of the harbour and around the west end of Malcolm Island.

Conditions are calm.  We ran into winds of five to ten knots here and there, and Syd wants to sail, so we are drifting around out here alone.  The rest of the fleet is nowhere in sight and it is raining.  I'm starting to count the days until I can get off this boat.  Eight days.

I know it has to get better than this.  I not in a good mood and that will change.  I am dog-tired today.  Maybe it is just having nothing to do and not being under pressure to do anything at all.  Maybe it is the weather.  Maybe it is the company.

I slept, off and on much of the morning, having slept poorly last night because Syd decided to run the furnace.  He knew full well that the heat is intolerable in my tiny cabin and that the heat drove me out of my cabin onto the couch in the salon.  As far as I could tell, the whole boat was already at about twenty degrees C.  Did I mention, he is a peculiar guy?

Although the heater is Espar, it must be an older cruder model than mine.  Mine has zone controls that allow one cabin to be heated up and not the others, unless heat is desired there.  This furnace puts out most of its heat into my tiny cabin and very little elsewhere.

This morning, I figured out how to block the vent in my cabin so I am now able to sleep in there, but any time we have to shut off the engine, my bed has to be torn apart to reach the shutoff because the solenoid was causing the engine to shut down and had to be disconnected back in Vancouver and it is only accessible under and beside my bunk.

That equipment failure happened back before the voyage and was not fixed at either Powell River or Port McNeill -- and he won't let me fix it even though that sort of thing is my specialty.  I will admit that the working space is crowded and I do not have a multimeter, but it should be doable.  We could at least attach a cord to pull from outside the engine compartment, but, no.

Oh, and the main alternator on the main engine is burnt out, too and was from the start.  I pointed out the charring on my initial boat inspection.  Only when the panel voltage dropped to 11.8 and I managed to convince him that that voltage level is not normal and can be harmful to the batteries did we finally use the generator to top it up.

The main alternator appears to be a common 70s thru 90s Ford diesel truck alternator and readily available anywhere.  I had them on my late 70's Thunderbirds and installed them as replacement on my fleet of trucks when the stock alternators repeatedly failed when we delivering bees to pollination at night. 

When we were hauling trailers with a heavy lighting demand, and using the truck heaters and the headlights, we found the stock Ford alternators could not handle the load.   If the battery was run down, as it was when we left lights on while unloading after dark or just before dawn, the current draw regularly blew out alternators, making the return 150-mile trip in the dark difficult.

I was told I could get a rebuilt alternator in Port McNeill, but given the captain's doubt about my talents, I concluded I would be wise not to stick my neck out.  In any repair job, unexpected things crop up and if that happened, I could look bad to someone who just does not know about these things.  So at this point, I am just sitting back, helping when asked, watching, and praying.  It's a good chance to catch up on my reading and writing.

This boat is a 1998 model and although it is a top model designed and equipped for offshore voyages, is loaded with toys, has been well maintained and updated by the previous owner -- and was bought for twice the money mine was, I would not trade straight across for my boat.  I find this boat uncomfortable.

A lot of people would kill for a boat like this, but I have to admit I like cruisers with big cabins, big cockpits, dual helms, and full cockpit enclosures.

Production boats designed for charter, like mine, are on the receiving end of a lot of trash talk from sailing purists, but they have been refined over time to provide the maximum amount of comfort, performance and reliability -- and fix-ability -- possible in a carefully thought-out compromise.

That is not to say there are not a lot of great (and expensive) features on this boat.  I won't try to list them because there are too many, but IMO, some are not implemented or documented as well as they could be.  One example: it is possible to helm from the salon, but the visibility is bad and there is no wheel.  The interior is very nice, too, but frankly, excepting the upholstery, I prefer my own.  We'll see what I think when I get back on Cassiopeia, though.

There!  Now I'm in a better mood, but here is our forecast...  Maybe I am not.

We arrived at Claydon Bay around 1900h, about three or four hours after the others and not before the captain went into Carriden Bay first and told me to prepare the anchor.  When I asked, "why here?", he argued, told me crossly to look at the chart, and insisted this was our destination until I pointed out that this was not Claydon Bay, and  asked if it were, where the rest of the fleet was, and he began to listen.

We proceeded to Claydon Bay, found a good spot and anchored, then he tried to determine why the generator would not run.  It had quit earlier in the day, but it was hard to diagnose above the sound of the main engine.

We will need the generator before long since the main alternator is not working and the batteries will run down over time.  If we go to a marina tomorrow, we can plug in and recharge, but in the meantime we must be careful with power consumption.

I have known the boat has three fuel tanks, which is unusual -- most similar boats have two -- and had idly wondered why.  On repeated questioning just now that the generator quit, I discovered this one tank reads empty and always has, but was not filled the last two times we fuelled up as it is apparently hard to fill.

I was unaware of that fact, and now that I know I'd bet money that this is the problem.  I'm guessing that, even reading empty, there was just enough in the tank from the previous owner to run the generator a few hours but that now it is really empty.

I hope that the generator fuel supply has not air-locked.  It has a water muffler and cannot be cranked very long without sucking in water.  That would lead to bigger problems. Never run a diesel out of fuel if you can help it.

Not only that, leaving fuel tanks on boats empty is just asking for problems later.  In a humid environment, normal expansion and contraction and heating and cooling of air will bring cause condensation in the tank and diesel fuel systems hate water.

This just gets better.

We glanced at the boat's layout diagram and it seems that -- as unlikely as it seemed to me -- both the so-called auxiliary engine (actually the main and only propulsion engine) and the generator share a common fuel delivery line and filter system.  That would seem to rule out the dry fuel tank as a cause unless the previous owner wisely decided to separate them, but did not change the schematic.  A generator should never be allowed to run out the fuel supply for the ship's auxiliary engine, potentially stranding the boat at a bad time.

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma
that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it
as though it had an underlying truth.
 Umberto Eco

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Saturday June 21st 2014
Day eight of the Broughtons Flotilla

No Internet, no weather

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I slept nine hours last night, a record for me in past months, I'd say, and I feel refreshed this morning.  Seven more days.

Claydon Bay at 0730 is glassy smooth and misty.  A gentle rain fell all night.  We're anchored here with 130 feet of chain out, ready for the predicted winds that never materialized.

We now have no generating capacity other than the wind generator and the solar panels, neither of which will do much with no sun and no wind, but we have 12.4 volts left in the monster-sized house battery and can recharge whenever we tie up at a dock.  We'll see what the captain decides to do.  He is hoping to find a mechanic somewhere.  He trusts mechanics.  I'm trying to keep out of it.

*    *    *    *

The fleet is quiet this morning, lying at anchor in this cove, but the plan is to proceed on to Sullivan Bay, a distance of 4.2 nautical miles.

We have no Internet here, making it difficult to send in my daily report for Cooper Boating's website, upload this page, or even access the pictures on my camera.  I suppose I could use a USB cable to download pictures to the laptop if I get desperate, but I have become spoiled.

I understand we'll have Internet at Sullivan Bay.

Musing, I figured what the third, smaller, fuel tank was originally planned to be.  It is a reserve tank.  I noticed that in the drawings it has a valve to shut it off from the main line.

We did not splash the dinghy at Claydon Bay.  The captain prefers to carry it on the davits, even in calm conditions, making it a big job to go off-ship, so we did not go ashore or visit the other boats last night or this morning and we are now, at 0900, motoring very slowly, I assume to Sullivan Bay.  No discussion; the captain just asked me to raise anchor and off we went.

As far as I can tell, he is not annoyed or upset with me in any way.  This just how he is much of the time: introverted, preoccupied, and self-centred.

We don't appear to be on course for Sullivan Bay, but I suppose I'll find out in due time. He hasn't figured out how to read the plotter depths yet and the safety depth indicators are set far too deep, making safe water look dangerous and causing him to avoid perfectly safe areas and take circuitous routes at low speeds.  I'll have to change the plotter settings to reduce the confusion.

By default, chartplotters show a lot of unnecessary detail at depths far below the surface.  All that detail can obscure the important information at or near the surface which could actually be crucial.  There are adjustments to hide all but the relevant detail.

I see now that we are, indeed, headed for Sullivan Bay, and we are getting close.

We arrived at SB and tied up.  For some reason, I checked the strainers and discovered that the generator seacock was closed.  I gather the boss had checked the strainers, but forgotten to open the seacocks again. That explained why the generator shut down.  The generator overheated and the safety system shut off the fuel.

We opened the seacock and tried the generator, but it ran a short while and shut down again.  It became obvious that the raw water impeller had been destroyed by running dry.

Of course, the captain did not believe me and called the dockman who confirmed my diagnosis.  Then they set about trying to find a part in Port McNeill, seven hours away by boat, on the satellite phone.

Meanwhile, I was not wanting to motor over to McNeill just for a part and lose contact with the flotilla, so I walked the dock and talked to neighbours. 

The boat immediately in front of us at the dock happened to have a spare impeller for his Volvo engine and it was in good shape, and so I borrowed it.  When the destroyed part was removed from our generator, it looked sufficiently similar (a miracle) that we were able to use the Volvo part.

I was hoping to keep right out of this matter beyond finding the part, but I wound up down in the very crowded bilge, doing the installation, because the boss could not manage it after a half-hour of trying.

We started the generator and it ran fine.  Cooling water came out of the exhaust and I got credit for knowing something -- for a little while.

I saw a diver on the next dock and went to see what was up.  One of our powerboats had hit a log and bent both props.  They are still able to proceed at good speed, however, but had the diver take a look to make sure nothing would be damaged by proceeding.  It happened I have an old waterproof camera and I lent it to the diver to take pictures.  It took four before it died.  One of the pictures is at right.

Our group had happy hour on the dock at five, then I had supper in the restaurant for a change.  It cost me $50 and the portion was tiny plus the fish was overcooked, but the company was good.

I decided a few weeks ago that alcohol was having a bad effect on my sleep, so have not been drinking anything alcoholic for several weeks, other than one beer the other night.  In fact, I have been giving away my brewing supplies and equipment to Shirley.  However, tonight I bought a bottle of malbec and drank a few glasses from it.  I enjoyed it, but my mind got active and kept me awake until well after midnight.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.
 H. G. Wells

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Sunday June 22nd 2014
Day nine of the Broughtons Flotilla

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I awoke at 0530, had coffee and some trail mix and went back to bed until 0745.  I was up for the 0800 radio check-in, had breakfast and we pulled out at about 1000, headed for Waddington Bay this time.

We'll go by the Queen Charlotte Strait route as the captain wants to sail and there was wind there by the weather reports at dawn.  I doubt there will be wind, but that's fine by me.  The distance is the same by either route, and we'll have Internet for the time we are out in the Strait.  There is not a lot to do while underway except read, write or sleep.  I have all the ship's manual, though and it is a good chance to study some of these systems.

Six more days.

I'm in a better mood today.  Maybe the wine was the tonic I needed.  I have  at least half a bottle left, but I don't want to be awake that late again.

I wonder if the sleeplessness was just the effect of a one-time pressure relief.  Ellen died about a year ago now and although it was expected and I was fine at first, maybe it is catching up with me.  Also, maybe I am biting off too much.

We motored out into The Strait and found enough wind that Syd was able to sail.  I wrote, read and slept.  When I woke up, I noticed we were on course for Echo Bay, not Waddington, and had to set up a new course.  These two destinations are quite distant from one another and require different routing.  Seems every time I go to sleep and someone else is at the wheel, I wake up to find we are on the wrong course.

At any rate, I am in a better mood and the skipper seems to be giving me a little more credit for the intelligence and experience I was recruited for -- plus the day turned sunny.  In such beautiful country, it is hard to be sour.

Not only that, we were treated to the best dolphin show I have seen since the Sargasso Sea in 2009.

I posted some video to Facebook and will post more to my site when I have cheaper Internet.

We arrived at Waddington Bay around 1800 and found a spot to anchor.  Again we have no Internet here, so pictures will come later.  After we anchored, Ian came by in his kayak to catch us up on the news.

At present, Syd is making supper.  He likes to cook and does a pretty good job of it.  I decided to drink some more red wine and risk the consequences.

I had a glass or two and it again kept me awake until I took two Benadryl sometime after midnight.

In the evening an American couple dropped by in a dinghy.  They have a Sceptre also and are anchored outside the bay.  They saw us go by and thought they would visit.

They had to have a tour and oohed and ahhed over everything.  Apparently Scepter owners are a cult.  Theirs is several years newer, but similar.  They spent several years in Mexico with theirs and are back here in the Northwest to cruise British Columbia.

When any organizational entity expands beyond 21 members,
the real power will be in some smaller body.
C. Northcote Parkinson

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Monday June 23rd 2014
Day ten of the Broughtons Flotilla

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Today, the flotilla meets in Echo Bay.  Echo Bay is only five sea miles down a narrow channel, but Syd wants to sail, so we may be out in the Strait all day.  That's fine by me.  There is Internet out there.

Sailing around in light wind does not appeal to me much.  I get enough sailing when I am going places that I don't usually go out just to sail anymore. I'm more into gunk-holing, living on the boat, tinkering, and exploring on shore.

Around 0900, we lifted the anchor and motored out a glassy-smooth Arrow Passage towards the Strait in search of wind.  Predictions are for ten to twenty-five knots of wind, but so far, nothing over four.  The forecasts here are even less accurate than at home.

A week today, I'll be waking up at home, thinking about long grass and bees.  I see the forecast is for a hot day there.  Up here, the days are cool.  The sun is up at home and everything is green, including the pond.  I see the surface is overgrown with duckweed.

At noon, we are drifting around under sail on a glassy sea.  The wind indicator says we have four point five knots of wind, though and we are moving at two knots.  I think I'll have a nap.

That did not work out.  I was not sleepy, but this is a great opportunity to work on the books and catch up on various computer tasks, so that is what I am doing.

The skipper seems happier today.  He is getting the boat under control and learning it to the point where he is getting comfortable.  I can sympathize with him in that he spent a whole lot of money on this boat and then has had issue after issue.  He has taken the courses, had the training, done the dreaming, but now it is showtime.

He is also smoking a lot.  At first, he was wearing the patch and trying, I assume, to quit.  For some, quitting smoking is very difficult.  I personally never had a problem not smoking unless I was with smokers, in which case I'd smoke. 

Seeing Ellen die of lung cancer and seeing what happened to my friend Frank who has COPD, however, has cured me of any desire at all to inhale smoke and I find the idea unappealing.

Now, at 1658, we are motoring back to Echo Bay in the rain.  A potluck supper was to begin at 1700, so we are late.  We also don't really have anything much to offer.  By the time we get there and get tied up, it may be over anyhow.

Even with all the expensive and advanced gadgetry on this boat, the captain loves my little $125 eTrex legend GPS and uses it for navigation to augment the chartplotters.

This little unit is easy to hold in the hand and to see compared to the plotter in the cockpit which is a distance from the helm. We also use the eTrex every night as an anchor alarm as it does not depend on the ship's batteries and can be kept right next to a sleeping sailor.  I have the same charts on it as we have on the larger units, so it shows every detail that the bigger units do.

We motored in and tied up by 1800 and found that the event was delayed and we were right in time.  Although some brought main courses, most just brought appetizers.  Bill had caught and cooked a fish, so everyone shared a bit.  We stayed a while, then went back to the boat and had a steak supper, seeing as we had steaks out thawing.

Follow us in real time on the Spotwalla or Spot website.

When any organizational entity expands beyond 21 members,
the real power will be in some smaller body.
C. Northcote Parkinson

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Tuesday June 24th 2014
Day eleven of the Broughtons Flotilla

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Mist and rain. No wind.  Five more full days until we dock in Powell River on the 28th.  Six until I fly home.

I'm enjoying myself a bit more now.  Things are going well, and we are on schedule.  No major mechanical issues have cropped up and all the boats are keeping up.  The fleet did have one serious log encounter, a windlass gypsy fail, another windlass fuse blow, and of course, our electrical issues, but otherwise, it is all good.

Today we travel a few miles to Qwatsi and tomorrow, a slightly larger jump to Lagoon Cove, then, we start making larger distances towards Powell River.

We cast off our lines at 0900 and motored out to the Tribune Channel and raised sail.  Conditions were perfect for running wing and wing, so we tried out the pole.  That went well and we were making over six knots downwind.

When we came to Kwatsi, we learned our guides had not made reservations and the docks were full.  Not only that, but we learned secondhand on  the radio that the guides had trouble with their battery and had abandoned us for Port McNeill.  Our options were to return to Echo Bay or proceed to Lagoon Cove.  We were on a good downwind run so we chose Lagoon, rather than backtrack.

The wind followed us down Tribune Channel, but we did have to gybe the genoa at one point and discovered that getting the pole down was not as easy as getting it up.  We wrapped the spinnaker halyard in the foresail and had a few other issues before we got the boat around.  Good thing I insisted on lots of space for the maneuver.

Shortly after, we were treated to a dolphin spectacular.  Dozens of dolphins,  or maybe a hundred, appeared all over the bay and accompanied us for a half-hour at least, racing the boat, crossing the bow, surfacing and sometimes leaping.  I filmed until I got tired of it after twenty minutes of close-up action.  I'll post video when I have cheap and fast Internet.

The day had begun misty and rainy, but after we passed Qwatsi, the sun came out and the day ended bright and warm.

Later, as we approached Minstrel Island, Syd saw a whale.  I was napping at the time but got up, only to miss it.  The whale only surfaced once that we could see.

We motored into Lagoon Cove and tied up.  The dock people were about the friendliest and most informative of any we have encountered so far. 

The electric toilet uses a lot of water and Syd was counting on using the watermaker to turn sea water into fresh, but it had not been maintained properly and he could not use it pending service.  We were about out of water and Echo Bay's water was on an boil water advisory, so we hadn't filled there.  Syd filled the tanks with fresh water on arrival.

Fresh water on a boat on the sea can be a real issue.  "Water water everywhere, and nary a drop to drink" is the quote.  Drinking seawater is dangerous due to salt content. 

The watermaker removes salt and impurities from seawater -- if it works.  On a long voyage at sea, wise sailors carry their drinking water in jugs and don't trust the tanks not to leak or be accidentally emptied by a faucet left on. 

A person does not last long without fresh water: "Seven minutes without air, seven days without water, and seven weeks without food" is the rule I recall from childhood.

I discovered that somehow, out Spot satellite tracker had turned itself off during the day, so our track on the web will be incomplete.

We had spaghetti supper with the crew from Raven Magic, planned the coming day's travel to Port Harvey, and then called it a day.  We have rapids to transit at about 0900.

The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.
John F. Kennedy

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Wednesday June 25th 2014
Day twelve of the Broughtons Flotilla
Six more months until Christmas

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I awoke at 0530 after a good night's sleep.

Last night I dreamt of Ellen again. I dreamed about her yesterday afternoon, too, pleasant, comfortable dreams.  I haven't dreamed about her much since she died and find this interesting.  I suppose I am going through adjustment.

She will have died a year ago August 15 and we are having a memorial and  placing a gravestone on the 9th of August.  August 9th would have been her seventieth birthday.  I have to send out invitations, but have been slow getting off the mark.

We are promised a sunny day today.

I'm enjoying the trip more the last few days.  I'm a social person and like to get onto the docks and see people.  I've had a chance to do that the last several stops and I'm also getting more respect from the captain.

Speaking of walking the docks, it is truly a small world.  Last night, I noticed we have a case of Coke that neither of us drinks, so I took it out on the dock and passed out a couple to kids fishing, then offered the rest of the case to nearby boats.

Most people drink the diet version, so it took several tries before I found a taker.  I finally managed to give it to a couple on a serious-looking offshore boat complete with vane steering. After accepting the gift, the captain looked at me for a minute and said, "I remember you from the Bluewater Rendezvous last May".  I looked up, and there at the spreader was the familiar Bluewater burgee.  He did look familiar, but I have a terrible memory for names.

On chatting I learned he is from Cremona, straight west of Swalwell fifty miles and they are on their way to Alaska.  For all I know he may have told me all that last May.  Can't recall.

It turns out he is a ham, and sometimes runs the Northwest Marine Net on 3870 at 8 AM MT.  I'll have to check in.

*   *   *   *

The three boats in our small group left Lagoon Cove at 0830 and motored down through Chatham Channel at slack, being careful to stay in the range.  We arrived at Port Harvey around noon and tied up. 

Soon the other boats began arriving and it turned out that Corus was with them.  They had jury-rigged a solution to their battery problem and avoided the trip to Port McNeill for repairs.  Apparently they had rejoined the others shortly after we passed and all had stayed at Qwatsi after all.

We spent the afternoon visiting and hiking up through the bush.  Supper was pizza in the restaurant, but we ate steak on the boat since we have so much food on hand.  I bought some wine and drank two bottles of red.   I slept well. 

Syd is starting to relax and smile a bit more in spite of the fact that in addition to the other problems, he now has some real problems with our mainsail furling.  The sail has separated from the bolt rope in places and it is difficult to raise.  Repairs by a sailmaker will be needed before it is of much use.  That is a problem with electric winches.  They are powerful enough to tear things when a manual winch would get difficult to turn and the operator would notice that something was binding.

Everyone is a genius at least once a year;
a real genius has his original ideas closer together.
 Georg Lichtenberg

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Thursday June 26th 2014
Day thirteen of the Broughtons Flotilla

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Today is beginning sunny and warm.  We leave at 0800 to time Race Pass so we pass through at slack or a slight flood.  Currents can run up to six knots and the wind promises to be from the northwest.  This combination can result in lumpy seas during the ebb.  Moreover, at ebb we would hardly make any headway and also have little or no control.

We arrived at the planned time, but I see that the tide is already running and checked my own tables.  I see that the 'Race Passage' table that was being used is actually the one down near Victoria, not the local passage. We are doing ten knots.  Forecast notwithstanding, the wind proved to be against us and from the southeast, but the skipper has decided to sail, so we are tacking east.  We are bound to make headway as the current is carrying us. We have about two hours to get to Blind Channel Marina before the current reverses. 

The sailing went fairly well, but with a bit too much heel, then too much luffing as the skipper did not want to reef until he was overpowered, then couldn't.

At times I cannot see any reasoning behind his decisions, and they can be very arbitrary.  Today we stopped dead at one point because he was worried about a reef marked on the chart.  I had to explain the reef was down deep and not a concern, although that fact was apparent on the charts in front of the helm and he had plotted the route and laid in waypoints before departure.

The main gave trouble again and now we discovered the clutch cannot hold the main furling line, resulting in the sail bagging out and consequent troubles furling and unfurling.  I usually try to keep out of things and follow orders as he gets resentful or obstinate at being told, but sometimes I have to tell him.

At any rate, we made it to Blind Channel Marina, a lovely spot with good facilities and tied up for the night.  I had a beer with the folks on the upper deck of Raven Magic, then some of our group went for supper in the restaurant.  Syd and I have so much food that we chose to eat on board: steak, broccoli, potato, and carrots.

We are expecting wind and weather tonight and the waves and wind are building already.  The marina is open in the direction of the wind and waves and the halyards are already slapping, so we may be in for a rocking time tonight.

After supper, I began to wash the dishes, but hot water stopped coming out of the faucet and I could hear the electric freshwater pump had quit.  We have a foot pump, but it delivers only cold water.

So Syd checked the bilge and it is full of water, almost up to the cabin sole, and flooding the water pump, I assume.  The water tanks indicate that they are almost full, so I told him to taste the bilgewater.  If it is salty, we have a big problem.

It's not, but apparently, when filling the water tanks on a previous occasion, he heard a loud bang.  Then, when filling at Lagoon Cove, he left the water running during supper and found later that he was filling the bilge as well.

To me, that suggested that a water tank blew out from hydraulic pressure back when he heard the bang and that a top seam had split. 

When a water tank is full and the hose is blocking the filler hole, pressure builds fast in the tank and blows out a seam.  That releases the pressure, but any further water spills over and into the bilge.

Typical hose pressure of forty pounds per square inch at the 1-1/4" filler hole translates to the same forty pounds per square inch over the whole tank interior which can typically measure well over 400 square inches per surface, or translate to at least sixteen thousand pounds lifting the top.  That will distort the tank, then pop a seam.  This is one of the first things any instructor or wise boat owner will tell his crew  filling tanks and will monitor carefully.

So, my guess is that one tank leaks around the top and the surplus goes into the bilge.  We were OK while motoring, but when we sailed, the full tank was tilted and spilled more water into the bilge.

We also discovered that the bilge pumps do not work automatically and the boat could sink at the dock if it developed even a slow leak.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln

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Friday June 27th 2014
Day fourteen of the Broughtons Flotilla

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
(Currently offline for duration of this trip)

Today we are off to Big Bay Public Dock and the departure is to be at noon to ride the tide.  That is according to our guides who have been wrong a number of times, so I will check for myself.

Today is raining and grey.  We leave in late afternoon for the next stop, but Syd wants to go sailing this morning, so we may leave early.

The captain was up at 0700, so I got up too.  We had breakfast and he is drying out the bilge with an electric heater.  I decided to see why the automatic bilge pump did not bail us out yesterday and discovered the float is stuck.  This is not unusual since many people do not clean their bilges or check the floats.  I always do.  My bilges are cleaner than my dinner plates.

At any rate, this bilge is dirty and the float is stuck.  I pulled it up and loosened it so the pump would run and suggested adding detergent to cut the oil and so the motion of the boat will clean as we go, but, no.

We left Blind Channel Marina at about 1500, well ahead of the others and motored up Cordero Channel to Philips Arm where we went up a ways and back, then cruised by Shoal Bay dock and idled around a bit to wait for the others.  At slack, we all went through Gillard Pass without incident and tied up at Big Bay community dock with the others.

We had a final barbecue and called it a day.  The slack in Yaculta Rapids is at 0520 and we want to be there right on time as that opportunity is very short and then the whirlpools start up again as the current increases to as much as ten knots at flood. We can only do seven or so.

At 2100h the captain decided to run the generator for no apparent reason -- the batteries showed a good state of charge --  and in spite of my admonition that it was unnecessary, would disturb the neighbours only a few feet away and cause fumes -- not to mention that it was under my bunk.

An hour and a half after midnight the generator was still running and accomplishing nothing, so I woke him up and he finally shut it down -- probably just so I would not bother him -- and silence finally descended on the Bay.

We're all capable of mistakes, but I do not care to enlighten
you on the mistakes we may or may not have made.
Dan Quayle

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Saturday June 28th 2014
Last Day of the Broughtons Flotilla

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
(Currently offline for duration of this trip)

The captain was up at 0420 and I got up shortly after.  He occupied himself with smoking and making breakfast, but I thought it wise to start up the plotter to re-check the route and the tides.  It turned out there was no GPS signal on the plotter!   This is serious.

I fiddled around and could not figure it out.  The GPS switch was on.  The captain was more interested in breakfast than being ready for departure at the small window of opportunity we had to make it through Yaculta Rapids at slack -- our only reason for rising this early.  Next opportunity was at noon.

He was still intent on leaving, even without GPS, and does not seem to realise that he is heavily dependant on it.  He was going to go regardless and not doing anything to come up with a workaround, so I called the other boats and arranged to follow them.  That way we would not stray onto hazards.

I have my handheld GPS, but was not sure of the battery status since it uses rechargeables, and the captain is always turning off various random power switches on the panel the charger without notice, so I am never sure that they are fully charged and won't go flat unexpectedly.

Then I found another switch and the ship's GPS came to life, so we had active charts on the plotter and were good to go.

By then, though, it was past departure time, the other boats were off the dock, and we had still not started the engine.  Syd was below washing dishes instead of making ready.

He said to untie, but until the engine is running, warmed up, and someone is at the helm, that is unwise.  I suppose I could have taken the helm and done the whole thing, as I do when sailing alone on my own boat, but he is supposed to be learning to single-hand and I leave that part to him unless asked otherwise, which was not the case. 

Finally, I asked him, "Are you the captain, or the dishwasher?".  He finally started to focus and we managed to get off the dock in time to catch up.

We traversed the Yaculta Rapids without incident and are now steaming south down Calm Channel.  With luck, we will be in Powell River tonight. Strong winds are predicted on the nose, but lately the forecasts have been pure fiction.

One thing I am noticing is that my Garmin Charts seem to be incomplete in this region.  I seem to be missing the large scale charts for the Cordero Channel and Yaculta Rapids.  Garmin claims AFIK that all the paper charts are included, but I see some are not.

I see the red LED water alarm on the Racor Filter is on and mentioned it.  No response.

If I seem a bit critical and worried, I am.  As much as I appreciate the opportunity to make this trip at no cost and the fact that I do not have to sit at the helm, I am concerned that the boat has as many flaws as it does and the captain seems unable to deal with them.

Sailing and boat maintenance is technical.  The sea is unforgiving.  He is planning to go offshore for a year and has taken courses and apparently passed them, but from my perspective, at this point, it looks to me like suicide.  I wonder if by preventing and mitigating small disasters on this shakeout voyage I am setting him up for a big one down the line when there is no one there to save him.

I wonder if I am tiring of sailing.  The idea of sitting for long hours in a cold cockpit does not appeal.  I do enjoy travelling a few hours at a time, though, and think I'd enjoy an offshore passage with the right company -- and my own boats are much more comfortable.

In Swalwell, the day looks to be rainy and windy.   One more sleep and I'll be home.  That will be a big change from the last two weeks.  I'll have to get my mind back on the bees, and I'll be busy.

I'll be happy to be home to see my friends, my pets, and my house, but I'm in no rush.  I'm having a good time and have met some great people.  We have had good times together. 

I should really get east to see Mom, but I have the memorial coming up in August, so will be tied down until then.

*    *   *   *   *

It is now 1300 and we are an estimated hour out of Powell River.  Winds are blowing up to to twenty-five knots and the wind and chop are both right on our nose.  We are pounding into the waves, turning 2500 RPM and making four and a half knots.  The sun is shining and it is a glorious day to be on the water.  Syd is at the helm and I'm down below writing this.

*    *   *   *   *

We arrived at 1445 but are very slowly approaching the port.  We'll be tied exactly where we were before we left.  The next job will be to clean the boat.  I fly home tomorrow evening at 1945h unless I change my flight.

I see things have turned sunny at home.

*    *   *   *   *

We tied up and did some boat cleaning.  Syd went off to do laundry and I packed, given the chance to use the space in the salon to spread things out.  Syd came back with hamburgers and he, Bill and I ate on Raven Magic.

Bill was stranded here, living on Raven Magic until Monday.  His van had refused to start when he returned from the flotilla.  He had found it was entirely out of gas, so he put some in, but it still would not go, so he put gas in it, bought a new battery and had the van towed to a dealer for repair.  They took his keys, but were about to close until Monday.

I asked what could be all that wrong if it was working well when he parked it and after hearing the story, said, "It can't be anything much.  Let's go start it up."

He had a spare key and booster cables, so we took the Cooper truck and drove to where the van was parked.  I looked the engine over first and saw nothing wrong, so we put on the cables and cranked it. The van fired up and ran just as if nothing had ever happened.

See our entire journey on Spotwalla

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular
representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.
Karl Marx

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Sunday June 29th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
(Currently offline for duration of this trip)

I awoke with the light at four something and lay there, dreaming fitfully, then, tiring of dreaming, got up.

The dream was about a truck running away down a hill.  It was my truck and I was not in it.  I was under it, working on the front end and it began to roll backwards, slowly.  At that point, I could have stopped it, but didn't.  I seemed somehow to be able to steer it from underneath, outside, in front, and was not too worried. 

However, the truck began to pick up speed and then traffic appeared below me on the hill. (Southbound Paris Street by Bell Park in Sudbury)

By then it was going too fast to stop, and I was nowhere near the brakes, but it could be steered crudely from where I was.  I figured we'd miss the traffic, but more traffic appeared. 

I could see this would not end well, so I woke up.  I really did not need to live it through to the inevitable ending.

I have to leave for the ferry around 1100 and it is 0630 now, so I have five hours.  Syd wants to take off the troublesome mainsail and I plan to help him if I have time.  Other than that, I have a few things to throw into my bags, some cleaning to do and I'm ready to go.

I'll be returning to hot weather at home. Time to set up the pool.

I'll be writing about bees again and maybe hear from some readers if there are any left.  I see that things are quiet on the forum, and maybe everyone is tired of my griping about events on the sailing trip.  (The happy happy version is on the Cooper Boating site).

*    *   *   *   *

It is now 1054 and I am sitting alone in the new Westview Ferry waiting room, having bought my ticket for the noon ferry to Little River.  Don will pick me up there and we will go walking docks, looking at boats until my 1945 flight to YYC.  Mike has moved to the farm, so he won't want to pick me up at YYC.  I'll take a cab to Airdrie.  We're scheduled to land at 2208, so I should be home before midnight.

This has been an interesting two weeks.  I would never have been able to imagine it in advance except very vaguely.  The names and places were known in advance, but reality is always different from what is anticipated after even the most carefully detailed research.

One thing I learned by accompanying this charter group is that I had very good teachers and have been a good student of sailing.  I suspected that a lot of people pay the fee, put in the time and are given a pass regardless of what they know -- or don't know.

Sitting here, it is hard to imagine I'll be in a different world in a matter of hours and far from the sea.  I'll be glad to be home, and be there for five weeks, but after that who knows.  I have not been to New York in a while and owe Aaron a visit.  I also know I'll be speaking at the BCHPA annual meeting in Richmond B.C. this September 25-27. 

My topic? "The Financial Side of Beekeeping".

How I Screwed Up and Why I'm Hoping You Won't
Why Money Matters, Even if Beekeeping is Your Hobby
Why are You Doing This, Anyhow?
What is Your Time Worth?
Pricing Your Products
Social Responsibility and Reputation
Turning Your Hobby into a Business - Is it a good Idea - For You?
Running a Beekeeping Business
Dealing with Competition - Making it Pay
Value for Money
The Law
The Taxman
The Bank
Happy Ending

I see Bruce found some old pictures and posted them on Facebook. 

That is me circa 1970.  And, yes, that is part of my long-gone 1956 Oldsmobile 98 collection in the background.

Was I ever that thin?  I've been growing my hair lately, but still have a ways to go to catch up with my hair back then.

Our Broughtons TripI've been wondering how far we went on the flotilla.  I'm guessing about five hundred miles.  I'll figure it out sometime.

The ferry took me to Littler River and Don picked me up.  We went back to his house and weighed my bag.  I'd added some books and a life vest on the trip and had to remove a few things into a carry-on.

We then hiked around a local park, had fish and chips for supper, and he dropped me at YQQ in plenty of time to catch my flight.  We flew to Calgary on Westjet's Disney World "Magic Plane" which had been pressed into temporary service to replace the regular aircraft on that route.

I caught a cab to Airdrie and drove home, arriving at five after midnight.  The house was cold, so I lit the furnace.  After a shower and a little unpacking, I went to bed a little before 0100.

History is a vast early warning system.
Norman Cousins

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Monday June 30th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I woke up at 0730, feeling groggy.  I got up and discovered my ankles hurt when I walked. I took ibuprofen and went back to bed and slept. 

An hour later I got up and was about the same, so I took another and went back to bed.

Around 0900, I got up, cleaned the moldy grounds out of the coffee maker, rinsed it well, and made  breakfast.

I'm coming around, and my ankles are better.  That's good.  I'll need them for the bee work, not to mention just getting around the house.

Looking out, I see flowers blooming and the grass is high.  Inside the plants are great except for a few that look dry.  A few tomatoes were ready, so I had a snack.  Home-grown tomatoes are nothing like the imitations they sell in grocery stores.

I texted Ruth and learned they are in Drum, so I am off to meet them and get Zip.

I arrived in Drum at noon, Zip jumped into my van, and off we went.  I drove to Extra Foods and had no change for a cart, so went to Walmart where the carts are not chained up and bought a few things.  They don't have produce, but tomorrow is 15% off day at Three Hills IGA, and I prefer their hamburger, so I'll get the rest or my groceries there tomorrow. 

Loblaw's is a great example of a Canadian retailer that gets most things right, but does a few things that annoy the customer and makes the experience difficult and insulting.  That can be fatal for a business. 

Getting customers into a store is difficult and costly.  Stores spend big money on signs and flyers and offer specials and loss-leaders just to entice people to try them and keep coming back.  Once in the store, and happy, people tend to spend.

Anything that impedes easy and happy entry to the store is likely to drive business elsewhere, and Loblaw's is a prefect example of how Canadian retailers shoot themselves in the foot, then watch uncomprehendingly as US interlopers eat their lunch.

At stores Loblaw's chains. the carts are locked up and to gain entry with a cart, which is necessary to buy more than a few items, the customer must have a loonie.   Who carries loonies?  I don't if I can help it.  I hate pocket change.  I try to keep one in my van, but I have several vans and am not the only driver.

If the customer manages to get a cart and enter the store, the interior is very nice and the deals are good.  No problems there, although the Real Canadian SuperStores can be just a bit too spread-out and unspecialized.  The problems begin again at the checkout.

Although some No Frills and Extra Foods owners seem to have figured out how refusing to provide bags or charging for them is killing their business, the flagship SuperStores insist we drag tattered and dirty cloth bags to the store, as if every trip to the store is planned ahead.  On my last trip to the Airdrie store, they would not even sell me plastic bags.  At Walmart, the cashier automatically bags everything without comment.

Failing to provide bags punishes impulse visits.  It also insults those of us who recycle plastic bags and consider them to be more environmentally-friendly than driving home just to get a bag or buying bulky cloth bags that are not without their own environmental impact.

Not only that, the unspoken implication is that using plastic bags is somehow irresponsible.  IMO, plastic bags are very light and unsubstantial and less wasteful than cloth (or paper bags, which Thrifty's in B.C. insists on offering in place of plastic).

I believe that retailers trying to tell their customers how to carry their purchases and failing to accommodate their needs is insulting and incredibly foolish.

If they think plastic bags do not degrade and are a problem in that way, perhaps they are correct.  No one wants to see plastic film blowing around the country, or hanging on fences, and bags do get away from even the most careful people from time to time. 

The solution there is simple, though.  Someone has thought up a method of making these useful bags in a way that they last as long as needed, but quickly degrade outdoors.  If truth be told, though, even the standard bags cannot stand sun for long and soon (in months) turn to powder in direct light.  Try using one to protect something from rain outdoors and see what I mean.

So much for that pet peeve, but one last thing:

According to Wikipedia, shopping carts cost from $75 to $150 and I suspect few stores pay that much when buying in quantity. 

I wonder how many carts are really lost or stolen and if a $1 charge makes a big difference in that number.  The cash value of this loss has to be a very tiny fraction of the other losses in a store such as pilfering, employee theft, produce spoiling, etc.  Is it sufficiently high to justify insulting and inconveniencing customers?  Dunno.  I doubt it.

The other factor that holding a loonie hostage affects is the cost of corralling the carts in the parking lot.  People definitely do return the carts to the corrals better at Loblaw's than at Costco or Walmart and Loblaw's saves labour there.  Do they save enough to replace the lost business from annoying and alienating customers?  Again, dunno, but I doubt it.

I then drove to Three Hills to have some blood drawn prior to my appointment Wednesday and picked up some registered mail.

I'll be selling bees over the next week or two.  See my Bees & Hives for Sale page.

After supper I went out and worked through five hives. All had queens, four of them new queens, but the hives are too small to sell.  I may have hit on the four splits I made from one hive.  I hope that the hives I check tomorrow are bigger.

Always make room for the unexpected in yourself.
Steve Martin

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