Back in Seattle

It’s been a long time since I blogged because I’ve been focused on getting back home, and then I’ve been taking a little rest. At the end of August, my engine broke down just north of Seymour Narrows, so I had to get towed to Brown’s Bay marina by the Canadian coast guard. My mom loaned me the money to buy 20HP Suzuki outboard, and my girlfriend picked it up in Port Alberni on her way to visit me. She showed up with a large Garelick mounting bracket many tiny bits and pieces from Fisheries Supply, too.

I installed the shift and throttle cables and the wire harness, moved my starter battery to reach the short battery leads at the back of the boat (as I didn’t have enough electrical connectors or supplies to extend the battery leads–one thing I forgot), got some help from locals tacking all 130 LB of it onto the back of my boat, and it got me home.

I’ve got a 48 North article out about this in the October Issue. It was still a great trip, I got to see and learn a lot, and I don’t regret it. I had a fixed window of time off from work from two jobs that I had scheduled far in advance. It’s not ideal to have to cram everything into a set window with a sailboat, but for anyone who works regular hours for a living, that’s just reality. If you ever want a chance to do anything, you have to do your best to be ready by the scheduled window, and that’s all you can do: finish the things that are the most critical, then leave the rest till later.

I wanted to see how far I could get, having worked as hard as I could to be as ready as possible by a deadline. I got over halfway up the eastern side of Vancouver Island and I singlehanded over 400 nautical miles total. (Sixty of those miles were overnight in the fog with my AIS in the Strait of Georgia, from Comox to Nanaimo. 1am to 10am was the only weather window between storms.) I’m planning to try again, probably looking at Summer 2021 instead of 2020, though I’m not 100% decided yet. The reason is, I’m saving up for a brand new Beta inboard engine, and I’ve also got some boat work to do. I don’t want to be set back in saving up for the Beta by the expense of another trip so soon, and I’d like to have the Beta for my next attempt, since outboards have issues with over-revving in large waves.

This year I plan to focus on refinishing my cabin, adding cabinets, shelves, new teak veneer on the bulkheads, drawers, etc. But first, I’m doing a fairly long routine maintenance and clean-up checklist. Responsibility and protecting the boat first, then fun later! Also I get a great deal on all Whitecap teak products where I work at Fisheries Supply, but since I’m paying my mom back for the outboard (which will serve as a backup or secondary engine during my second attempt at the island), it’ll still be awhile before I can buy them.

Also this year I want to go out sailing more regularly, singlehanded.


I love my new dinghy motor!!!

Yesterday I was searching the Comox/Courtenay classifieds for used dinghy motors without success. So this morning I took the bus to Parker Marine in Courtenay. They only had brand new motors and they didn’t know where I could find a good used one, because the good ones usually get snapped up quick. I asked them to show me what they had in my price range.

They showed me a 2.5Hp Yamaha stowed away on the side shelf.

Thanks to a combination of your donations (shout out to Orit for the $150!) and a little loan from my parents and some of my own money, I was able to get it brand new. Well almost, it had been used once and returned, and for that reason it was discounted by $200 CAD. But it has a 3 year warranty, it works perfectly and I don’t have to fix anything. How refreshing for once!

I didn’t know this video cut off after 2 seconds, but here I am zipping around Comox Harbour.

It took a minute or two to zip effortlessly out the breakwater in the chop and get out to my boat at anchor.

Then later I had to move my dinghy from the fuel dock clear to the other side of the harbor at the guest dock, so I zipped out the breakwater and over there. It was fun to put it in high gear and get splashed cuz it was hot out.

I now realize that 2.5Hp is more than enough power to zip me around. The only reason people get more for my size dinghy is if they’re transporting, like, 4 people and a bunch of stuff. Not an issue for me singlehanding!

Outboard Motor Fundraiser

I have no choice but to do another GoFundMe fundraiser, because I need a little outboard motor stat. Here’s what happened: I got in my dinghy and I attempted to row out of the marina. There was crisp wind and current inside the breakwater but I barely kept up against it. I reached the breakwater and there were actual breaking waves. I went one foot past it and I felt it pushing me away from where I wanted to go. I made the decision to turn back just in time. A few more feet and I might not have been able to get back in! I am waiting till this evening till the wind eases up or turns in my direction to try again. Or maybe I can bum a tow off someone on the dock. But looking ahead, especially pulling into some of those anchorages on the west side of the island, I don’t feel comfortable in terms of safety without an outboard. I am going into Courtenay tomorrow in search of one, even a little 6HP. But I expect it to be at least a few hundred $ and a good chunk of my paycheck from my vacation time, and I still have to pay bills. Anything you can contribute at the link below would be helpful!

Hello From Comox!!

Hi everyone! I haven’t had WiFi or any way to update this blog since I left. And before I left I was frantically working on the boat to solve issues, which made me leave 10 days late, and also prevented me from blogging. Considering that I left on the evening of Saturday the 10th, I think I’ve made pretty good time getting to Comox in 1 week =)

Here are some pics.

Leaving Seattle at night to go to Port Madison. Thank goodness for my Vesper AIS which detected all the big ships and tugs flawlessly!

Cooking breakfast burritos in Port Madison, which lasted me a couple days. Although I forgot those little tortillas start to get gummy and liquidy after awhile.

Organized the storage lockers in Port Madison so I can actually get to stuff.

Left Port Ludlow early Monday morning to catch the second half of the ebb tide, and made my top speed of 9.8 knots, with moments of 11.5 knots. I crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which was pretty calm. As I motored up the west side of San Juan Island, I put my engine in top speed and I learned that Barbie’s Dream Engine does not feel happy in her highest gear. The exhaust got smoky, like she was warning me. I stepped it down a couple gears and over a half hour or so the exhaust went back to normal. I’m learning you shouldn’t push these old engines too hard!

The straits were very calm the whole time. There was not enough wind to sail, and anyway, I still hadn’t had time to finish rigging my sails. I was just trying to cover some ground and make up for lost time.

There were some confused currents in Boundary Pass going to South Pender Island from the San Juans, which just meant I had to be hyper vigilant with steering on the tiller to correct for the fact that it wanted to spin me in all sorts of directions.

I got all the way to Bedwell Harbour by around 4pm.

Tuesday I went to Susurrus Spa alllll morning: hot tub, sauna, steam room. Then I went back to the boat and cooked a feast that I’m still working on.

My boat anchored in Bedwell Harbour:

On Wednesday I motored up along the inside of Galiano Island towards Dodd Narrows

I loved it going through here. It was so glassy clam and sunny, and there was usually not a boat in sight. I had the whole place to myself. All the big container ships like to anchor up there, as you can kinda make out in the below photo. Even they were perfectly still like everything else.

I stayed in Pirates Cove overnight to wait for a favorable current at Dodd Narrows. This is me passing a catamaran that was going the other way out Dodd Narrows. I was hovering by the entrance waiting for slack tide, at 10:46am.

On Thursday in Nanaimo Harbour I went out to eat at a pub on Protection Island and then I took the ferry to Nanaimo Proper and got to work provisioning. I didn’t have a map or anything so I had to rely on my mom and Harriet to text me the names and locations of things through the Garmin InReach. It was this way that I found a grocery store and a marine chandlery.

On Friday I put up my sails for a few hours from Nanaimo Harbour to Lasqueti Island in the Strait of Georgia, but there wasn’t enough wind to turn off the engine.

In the evening I navigated through some reefs and rocks to get to Tucker Bay, where I anchored overnight.

On Saturday I waited till 1pm to leave for Comox because I wanted the current to be in my favor. This pic is on the way from Lasqueti to Comox:

Right now I’m sitting at the Komox Grind coffee shop near the marina.

I’m anchored in the harbor. I haven’t stayed at any marinas, just anchored. The Mantus with 150′ chain and then some rope for deeper places are keeping me good and stuck by the way.

There have been a few challenges, like getting stuck at low tide in Pirates Cove and needing help from some nice power boaters to get free. And my engine has required some continued maintenance while underway, but it’s working just fine! And then there was the mosquito attack in Tucker Bay on Lasqueti Island, from which I am still recovering.

Comox will be my jumping off point for Desolation Sound. I won’t be leaving till Tuesday because a) hardly any place here is open today because it’s Sunday, and I need to wait till I can provision (I especially need to find a small outboard for my dinghy, because rowing across a large harbor against wind and current can suck sometimes!!), and b) I need a rest day! Today I’ll just walk around sightseeing.

Updated departure estimate

I’m working all day everyday on the boat. I should have the engine ready to start by the end of the day. I’m trying to figure out an issue with my house battery. It’s either the battery or solar panel. The issue is the solar panel has 100% charged my starter battery and both are connected with an ACR. When I put my multimeter onto my house battery when the panel is charging it, I can get 14+ volts. But when I disconnect the panel I get around 12.0v which is almost totally discharged. The starter reads 13v when not charging. I bought them both at the same time and the water levels are good. The house battery has held a charge for a long time previously. Also my inverter charger is hooked up to my house battery and it says the state of charge is around 75%, which conflicts with my multimeter reading.

Today I’m gonna charge both batteries with shore power and see if the house battery holds a charge. I will probably either have to buy a new house battery or add another 50w of solar power.

I have to finish buying food for the trip and I have to clean up. I have to finish wiring my mast lights, stern light, and nav lights. Right now I’m expecting to leave on Monday morning.

Less than a week before I leave

I have been working on the boat way too much to have the energy to update my blog in the past 10 days. I have pulled 3 all nighters since Tuesday. I normally blog on my lunch breaks at work, but I have been using my lunch hours for sleep lately. I finally got a good 10 hours of sleep last night so here I am, on my lunch break.

The boat splashed. I had a great splash pot luck with many friendly faces in attendance.

Meredith came over and we got to work aligning the engine. We got it aligned to within .003″ in less than 5 minutes because, not to toot my own horn, I had gotten it down pretty close already.

So I started to drill the holes for the lag screws to mount the engine. I was on the last hole and I drilled the hole clear through the bottom of the boat. Water started gushing up. I plugged it with my thumb and waited for Meredith to return from the bathroom. When she got back I simply said “My thumb is the only thing keeping this boat from sinking, but don’t worry I have a plan. Go get me some chopped strand and tear it up into little clouds. Bring me a flat head screwdriver.”

Meredith did so, muttering, “Woman. I leave you alone for 5 minutes!” She also brought me a hammer and a hex bolt. With the screwdriver I stuffed the chopped strand as far down into the hole as I could and then when it got stuck I used the hammer and the bolt to push it all the way to the bottom. The hole was a 3″ long channel of 3/8″ thickness. The packed chopped strand totally stopped the flow of water.

Meredith thought it wasn’t a structural solution. Lucky I had Splash Zone underwater epoxy. It also isn’t a permanent structural solution but it might do for now.

Meredith drove all the way down to Olympia at 11pm to get her dive gear. While she was gone I worked on mounting my solar panel

I also wired a GPS antenna that I’d bought from EBay in China to a Raymarine NMEA 0183 cable. The color code was different for the Chinese cable and after consulting with my coworker Rob I thought I’d figured out the correlations but I guess not because I didn’t get a fix. I don’t have time to figure out the color code. Oh well I can acquire my GPS position from like 4 other devices on my boat. It just would’ve been nice to see where I am while looking at the plotter.

We drove to my house in Kirkland to get my dive flashlight that ended up not working so we borrowed one from a marina friend who was still awake.

Meredith dove below the boat with a syringe of mixed Splash Zone that I had prepared.

She patched it up as best she could so I took out the chopped strand with some tweezers to continue epoxying from the inside. But the water started sleeping in so it must not have gotten a perfect seal. It was a very slow seep though.

It if was just that I would’ve kept working on it but I also had a leaky raw water intake thru hull. I spent a couple early morning hours trying to understand the source of that thru hull leak and stop it with Splash Zone. When that didn’t work, I used caulk and chopped strand. It almost worked and it seemed totally dry. But then I would feel a bit of wetness somewhere. The water always found a way to continue a very slow seep, at some far away edge of my caulk. I decided to get the boat hauled the next day.

The next night, on the trailer in the yard again, we installed a brand new thru hull and strainer and sealed it with 3M 5200. We also poured epoxy into the drilled tunnel.

The boat was supposed to be put back in the water on Saturday at 2pm but the marina staff urged me to wait until I could pull my rudder and check the bushing. The tiller’s movement was stiff and there were about 20 degrees of play before the tiller started to move the rudder.

So tonight I’m gonna try to pull the rudder. If I end up needing to replace the bushing I’ve got a friend who does machine work who has offered to make me a new bushing.

I’ve also gotta do all that engine stuff we planned to do on Thursday night.

Because of this I might have to leave on the 2nd or 3rd instead of the 1st, my planned departure date. But lucky my last day of work before my vacation is Monday, so after that I will have 24/7 to work on my boat (with sleep in between of course!)

Week 2 to-do list… almost check, and more!

We were able to accomplish almost everything on the to-do list and lots more last week. We couldn’t bed the deck organizers, because it rained on Wednesday, which was the only day Harriet could come to work on the boat. We will work it into this week’s schedule.

Last week, I spent all day Tuesday pre-aligning my engine. I needed to at least know where the mounts should end up so I could lift the engine again and drill holes to fill with structurally thickened epoxy.

I had ordered a feeler gauge for this.

First, I needed to align the shaft to the strut, so it wouldn’t grind against the strut while turning. Many shafts sag on the bottom of the strut while on the hard, as did mine. So for my 7/8″ shaft I bought a short length of wet exhaust hose with a 7/8″ internal diameter and slipped it between the shaft and strut.

This lifted the shaft off the strut, although it made it a bit too high in the other direction, so that will need slight adjustment after the boat splashes.

I spent most of the time cutting down more and more of the mounting surface so the engine could fit a fraction of a cm farther to starboard. For the lateral alignment, I had to use the comealong and lift the engine over and over, since my engine doesn’t have mounts that adjust side to side, only vertically. I ended up very sore later that night from this. Not only was I in an awkward position behind the engine, but I had to keep hopping out the companionway and down into the cabin onto a low stepping stool, since the ladder had been removed to access the engine. I must’ve done this 50-70 times that day!

The vertical alignment could be done with the mounts and was physically easier. It was just a long process of twisting the nuts another quarter turn here and there until my feeler gauge no longer fit anywhere, and then I moved down to the feeler of the next smallest thickness, and repeated.

I ended up getting it within .005″.

.005″ might be enough, given that I’ve got a Delrin coupling in between the prop shaft coupling and the engine coupling to allow a little flex. The official Shaft Saver coupling allows for alignment within .009″.

It is empowering to know that I am capable of aligning an engine myself, in case I am ever out there and have to do work that requires lifting up the engine. Still, I would like Meredith to fiddle with the final alignment and check my work, which she will do near the end of the month when the boat is in the water. This will also let us feel how the shaft wants to sit in the water.

Also last week, I re-installed my anchor chain locker bulkhead in preparation for Harriet to install the windlass this week.

First I built up a surface of epoxy putty at the corners and then wetted out some woven roving on top of it, bonding it to the hull and wood. I also put a bunch of epoxy on the front of the bulkhead.

There were some gaps up top. So I cut up some wood pieces and epoxied them into the gaps.

Meanwhile, Harriet bedded a stanchion that had been removed by the previous owner.

She also called Lewmar and got help identifying and taking apart the winch that will be my cabin top winch.

She drilled large holes for the bolts and filled them with epoxy.

She also removed the old Bakelite winches from the steel mounts near the stern, in preparation to install some more functional Barient winches that were given to me by the marina staff. These will go with my other 2 Barient winches, at the mid-cockpit on either side.

I came to the boat several times after work last week and this week too. I stayed till 3am last night and slept 2 hours. I’ll take tonight off so I can be fresh to work on my days off.

But I and a couple other friends got a lot accomplished that I forgot to put on my to-do list, including:

Determining placement of folding padeyes for jacklines.

Making lazy jacks:

Installing mast base plates for blocks (thanks Sam Fiore!)

Adding a real boom topping lift so I don’t have to use the main halyard.

Rigging a 4:1 outhaul and two reef lines on the boom:

And the grand finale…. thank you Meredith Anderson, the diesel mechanic who is also an artist, for painting my boat name!

Harriet will be painting turtles under or to the side of the words, which mean “Turtle” in Spanish. Also under the name on my transom it will say “Seattle, WA.”