Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The List - Its Long

 "I am afraid that my new fella is going to be so very disappointed with me. He wants to get his sail freak on, but I'm just not ready for that yet,,," - Corleto

I was able to manage to get a couple of days of rest after returning to Vancouver with my new pride and joy, "Corleto" a 27 foot Catalina. The foul weather of late Feb finally broke on the last day of the weekend and I was able to get the engine running and cast off with little incident, leaving the dock at False Creek YC and finally heading to Horseshoe Bay.

A confident skipper

We headed out into English Bay, tide running against us- what else is new, with a course that would take us round Point Atkinson into Howe Sound and then a turn into Horseshoe Bay. I had a brand new sailing mate with me. She and I have been many places, but on a sailboat together was not one of them. Her sailing experience was that of a "Galley Slave" on a cruise that her and her friends took some years ago in the tranquil waters of Greece. I had been warned by her that she knew not of sheets and halyards, tacking or gybing or any other nautical skill. But what she had was a great attitude and a smile that has always made the troubles of the world just fade to insignificance. I looked forward to her learning, and joining me on this wonderful adventure.

Point Atkinson Light House in the distance.

I had her take the tiller for a brief time. I told her she needed to "feel" the boat under power from those 11 raging horses coming from Corleto's Universal Engine. It was a pleasant experience. Sun in our faces, seas that had a bit of a chop and smiles all around. This would be but a taste of what would await when sailing season finally arrives.

As we approached the entrance to the marina, I slowed the engine. I began to explain what I needed from my new crew member as we would dock. She seemed at the ready, and I remembered my docking instruction from many years ago. "Don't be the SHOW" our instructor would say.

We weren't.

I was very proud of her for just how well we came in and quietly docked Corleto to her slip. You would have thought we had done it a hundred times before. I went home that day very satisfied and pleased that Corleto was finally tied up nicely at her berth. We would see the boat again on the next weekend.

Nicely tied up in Horseshoe Bay

There was still much to do. Cleaning- inside and out, replacing dock lines that were old and chaffed, I wanted to get the sails up so I could see just how all of the rigging came together. But when I arrived I noticed something was missing. One of the fenders was gone. The rope used to hold that fender in place was still there, but the brand new white fender was gone. I had flown over the Marina just 48 hours ago. They were all there then. The piss off was this one was located at the "fattest" part of the boat and Corleto had been rubbing the dock. There was scratches on the gel coat. The area affected was about the size of my hand. I was not happy about this turn of events.
We quickly got to work on cleaning the inside and I began to replace the dock lines. All the while muttering and grousing about the "new project" of repairing the gel coat. That would have to be another day. It would be added to the list, along with troubleshooting a problem with the Otto the Tiller Pilot, replacing an electrical receptacle cover and trying to get the battery charger to work.

I had wanted to take her out and put sails to wind, but alas it was not to be on that weekend. Funny how fast time flies when your having fun. So with the main salon cleaned and the smell of vinegar fresh below ( white vinegar and water is a remarkable cleaner and its green for the environment) we left for home.

During the work week I had made a point of checking in on Corleto. I did not want to return a week later to find more damage. Each time I visited, the fenders were secure and she was sitting pretty. I managed to replace the receptacle cover and sand shinny the leads from the battery charger.

That week it rained like a son of a bitch and when we came to the marina over this past weekend we discovered that we had a drip coming from one of the chainplates. This has a simple fix I am told, but it's time consuming.
I did manage to get the sails up at the dock and see that all of the blocks were in good order. The winds were gusty, so again we passed on a day sail and instead re installed the curtains and enjoyed our lunch conversing with our dock neighbour Aaron. He and his dog had just come in when we had arrived and he told us that his crossing had been cold. He gave me some good advice about where to find info about repairs. Who knew that Catalina Direct would become my new favorite web site.

So that brings me to this freakin' list that keeps growing.

Chain plate resealing,
Charger repair,
ignition replacement,
more cleaning,
haul out,
bottom paint,
marine survey,
deck cleaning,
ships compus replacement,
gel coat repair,
windex installation,
and there's more.

F%&$! The joys of sail boat ownership,
I just want to get out there and get the sails up.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Commin' Home, I'm Commin' Home

"His confidence grew with each nautical mile. I knew I had to do something to keep him just a bit off balance. But I didn't want to break him" -Corleto

With weather forecasts sounding bad we went to sleep in Point Roberts knowing that no matter what the weather, one way or the other we would be headed home tomorrow. Point Roberts being very close to home so a pick up of the crew by car "rescue" was indeed in play.

I awoke early, and dialed into the 24 Hour marine forecast. As the clock turned 7am the updated forecast began. Light winds, rain. We're a go. Kinc and I were both up and ready within 30 minutes. This day would go smoothly,,, or would it?

I just got back from brushing my teeth when Kinc said " Murman, where's the key?"
"Its in the drawer on the yellow float"
"You mean this broken key?" he shows me the key float with just the stub of the broken key ( it had been broken by the yacht broker a couple of weeks back)
"But where's the good key they were on the same ring" my heart sank and Corleto I know was having  her classic evil laugh as she had to be the author of this rather nasty practical joke.
I immediately began to search the only areas where the key had been.
Kinc grabbed the waste basket.

"Here it is!" Kinc holding the waste basket. "It must have pulled off the ring when I grabbed it out from the drawer."
We both had a nervous laugh and I went straight to the ignition and fired up the engine. It started. Day two would be a go and the key incident was just Corleto's good morning prank.

Before long we were bidding farewell to Point Roberts. The tide was running against us, but we were making way, this time towards Point Grey and Vancouver.

My goals today were, One: don't get run over by a ferry- The Tswassassin -Ferry terminal was just North of Point Roberts. Two: don't get run over by a freighter- we were transiting through the main sea lane in and out of Vancouver- Canada's busiest port. And Three: not to run aground getting by Sand Heads at the mouth of the Fraser River.

We managed to avoid the ferries although we were crossing their path around 9am, I can only assume that the 9 o'clock boat was delayed in classic BC Ferries fashion on that morning because we crossed without incident.
As we travelled, the rain began and the visibility became reduced. Our GPS kept trying to put us up and onto the Roberts Bank. I could just make out markers and decided to just keep to the seaward of those markers regardless of what the GPS wanted to do.
It turns out that was the right call.

A bit of an indication of just how moist it was on that day.

A freighter came up from behind us out of the grey. We were not on intersecting courses and we made sure we stayed well to the starboard of any overtaking traffic. We watched this massive beast overtake us on our port side about 1 -2 NM away. Objective 2 was successful. It appeared that the crew of the Corleto- Kink, Jacques, Murman and Otto (the autohelm) were proficient in ship avoidance. A good skill to have in these parts.

Kinc trying to stay out of the rain as the freighter over took us during our final leg.

My years flying in CTV Chopper 9 paid off as well on this leg. The mouth of the South Arm of the Fraser is a very confusing cluster of markers and buoys around the Sand Heads. If you decide to follow your GPS and I dare say one's instincts on the wrong tide, you will run yourself aground or hit the Steveston Jetty. I have flown over this area a hundred times or more, my guts were telling me to bear off to seaward even though it would add more distance.
It turned out to again be the right call.

By this time it was raining and we were both getting wet. Kinc went below to tune the AM radio into the Jim Rome Show. No doubt that listening in on the Jungle and getting some of that Jungle Karma would be good for the crew's spirits. It was.
The bilge was dry and we decided to take 40 minute shifts on the tiller. "Otto" the auto pilot developed a problem just as we were passing Sand Heads, so for the rest of the way we had to steer ourselves.

With the tide running against us, it seemed that we were not making good progress. The seas began to get choppy. I could hear approaching aircraft and once they were directly overhead, I knew we were just off zero 8 left at YVR. That was encouraging.

Low cloud on the North Shore Mountians- it was a welcomed sight.

But the trip to Point Grey and the entrance to English Bay seemed to take forever. Finally we made it to the marker at the tip of the Spanish Banks. We could see the Bell Buoy off to our port side. We guided Corleto into English Bay. The seas began to subside and the trip in was as smooth as we experienced during this leg.

The Skyline as we approached False Creek- we were home

Seeing the North Shore Mountains, the ships at anchor and the skyline of downtown Vancouver lifted our soaking wet spirits. As we motored in, we made calls to those who were worried about us. To let them know we were in the home stretch. I also called my Mom who has a place on Beach Ave and a balcony view of English Bay. She came out to give us our welcome home wave from her place.
All that was left to do now was to call Canada Border Services and clear customs. That took a bit longer than I had hoped, and that dashed any notion of making it to Horseshoe Bay before dark.
We tied Corleto up at the False Creek Yacht Club for the night.

We were home.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Boat Cougar Speaks

"Well now, I'm finally at sea, heading north with my new owner. I am the Corleto and I'm 30 year old boat cougar just lookin' for adventure with a new skipper. 
I had been on many adventures with my former sugar daddy. He had been a handy fellow and he treated me right. He took me places and we saw many things, but like all things good, there has to be a beginning, middle and an end. And the end came late last year when he decided to set me free. I was sad, sitting there on the dock feeling rejected. I longed for the day back at sea, just me and my skipper. 
But now 30, perhaps I wanted a younger man, to shape into my very own buoy toy.
Then one day, an eager young fellow walked down to the slip to look me over.  I must have shown enough sail and said the right things to him because he wanted me. It felt good to be wanted. "

Yes my boat "Corleto" has a spirit and she sometimes speaks. Every once in a while, I will share her thoughts on the blog. She wants to reveal her personality, her humour, and her vulnerability. She's a metaphor for life and the more she speaks, the more she tests my ability to listen. I can only smile, because this lady has one twisted of a sense of humour.

We'll pick up the story just after Kinc, Jacques and I departed Bellingham. It felt good to be finally on our way. The seas and winds were favorable. As we chugged along toward our first waypoint, dodging the countless Crab Trap Buoys, a feeling of calm finally came over me. Perhaps this little adventure would work out just fine after all.

We were just about to make the turn north toward Hale Passage and I asked Kinc to check on Jacques.

"Jacques reports water in the bilge, sir"

A quick check of the float switch and again it confirms that there is no power to the pump.
We quickly begin hand pumping the water out. As we debriefed the situation we realize that in our haste to get out of Bellingham, we did not hook up both batteries and it seemed that the number 2 battery was the power source for the pump. Hand pumping was to be the order for this voyage at least every 90 minutes or so. It seemed like a small price to pay.

On a northern heading through Hale Passage. That's Lummi Island in the background
We had been at sea for about an hour and ten minutes when we changed course to 300 degrees True. Corleto turned like a dream and her bow finally pointed on a Northern heading. A half hour later we altered course once more to 332 in the middle of Hale Passage to account for the little dog leg the passage has in the middle.
The sun was beginning to shine and the tide was beginning to turn to our advantage. The boat was making good speed and the passage planning of a week ago was so far proving to be on the money.

We continued, winds diminished and seas began to flatten as we emerged at the northern end of Hale Passage. We had a sand bar to contend with, but with the tide running the way it was, and Corleto only drawing 4 feet, we would be fine.

Kinc and I kept an eye on the depth sounder and maintained a steady course toward Point Roberts. It was a good feeling. The engine purred as we made way. This would be the longest part of the trip, a stretch of 19 NM from the mouth of Hale Passage to Point Roberts. Time almost stood still.
We passed the time telling TV War Stories from "back in the day". There was laughter.

Murman and Kinc- the motley crew 

All at once we had a pod of Dolphin playing in our wake. Well perhaps "playing" might be too big a word, they were hunting, but their appearance brought smiles and a good feeling to the crew. We watched them for a while. Another pod showed up off the port bow about a hundred yards ahead. It was what I had hoped to see. And watching them helped pass the time. It just felt right.

It would soon be time to put into Point Roberts. As we checked the time, it was coming up on 4:30 PM  I called the marina at Point Roberts to inquire about overnight moorage. A wonderful lady on the other end of the line gave me instructions and a phone number to call when we landed. She didn't think that the office would be open when we arrived. But as luck would have it, Kinc and I were in the harbour at about 4:45.

On course to Point Roberts 

Kinc was at the helm, I made ready for a starboard docking. We snugged the boat into the dock with the precision of an America's Cup team. Kinc was a bit disappointed that there had been nobody on the dock to see this fine display of docking prowess.

We had made it.

I made my way up to the office to sign in. You could not wipe the smile off my face.

"I gave my new man a few curve balls to break 'em in. He is a cocky little bugger, I had to humble him down a bit. I got a few more surprises in store for him. He got me to Pt. Roberts. He says we're goin' to Vancouver, who knows, maybe I'll make a skipper out of him yet" Corleto

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Returning from the Marine Store, I had picked up a little trinket to make light of the bilge issues that had plagued us since the beginning. It would become the mascot of the boat and it lives in the bilge, always on guard for problems, bringing smiles and good boat karma. His name, Jacques.

Meet Jacques-keeper of the bilge

We had discovered that the fuses being used for the pump were under the required rating of 7.5 to 9 amps. It seemed that the ones supplied to the boat were just 5 amps. When Kinc and I timed just how long 5 amp fuses last under pumping conditions, the answer was 15 seconds. Eureka! We appear to have solved the great mystery. Another trip to the Marine Store, pick up fuses, return new pump and back to the boat. Things were beginning to fall into place. All we needed was the weather. It must be Jacques' addition to the boat that has brought this change of fortune.

Jacques in the bilge

I woke early Wednesday morning, cold tired and a bit sore from the beating we gave ourselves at the hands of the winds and the waves the day before. I called the the Vancouver 24 hour Marine Weather broadcast to see if we would get a break in the weather. Unfortunately it hadn't been updated as it was before 7am. It still predicted high winds and Gale warnings and I felt discouraged.

I checked on Jacques. He was not swimming, so the bilge was dry. Thank God for small victories.

When 7am rolled around, I turned on the VHF and listened in. The crackle of the radio woke Kinc. We listened intently. The voice relayed light winds and favorable conditions for the Strait of Georgia South- that's us!

We sprung to life to prepare for our departure. My spirits were high as we prepared to cast off. Finally we were going to catch a break. This was the day I had been waiting for.

"Corleto" though had other ideas. Not so fast lads.

Kinc turned the key.


How does an engine that started on the first crank yesterday, not even turn over today.


Just as fast as my spirits had lifted listening to the weather just a few moments ago, now deflated. A sense of doom came over me. I was paralyzed. I could not even think at that moment.
Kinc sprung to the rescue. He is no stranger to engine wows. His adventures 4 wheel driving with his buds on the May long weekend are the stuff of legend. Any man who can design a working shower to run off the fan belt of his Jeep can surely laugh and trouble shoot any engine issue.
His cool demeanour, he began to assess the situation.

"There has to be a wire or something that has been knocked out of place." He mused.
He stuck his head into the small space behind the ignition panel. Sure enough there was a wire that had come loose in the beating we took just 24 hours earlier. It was a hard reach. I ended up in the hold to re attach the wayward wire.  No doubt this would be our salvation.
After a few minutes I had the wire attached. We would be on our way.

In the port locker-fixing wires.

No. This time the engine turned over, but just once. Not starting. It seemed a battery was now at the center of this situation. All I could think of was we were going to miss this weather window and that this freakin' boat was perhaps not such a good idea.

After some discussion, we determined that the battery charger did not charge the batteries and that our power consumption at the dock drained them down to the point that they could not provide enough juice to crank the engine.
We discussed solutions. A boost? A new battery, a crash cart or jumper cables.
This would require another walk to the Marine Store.

I was greeted with "You guys haven't left yet?"
"Nope, starter and battery problems today."
One of the guys at the store offered to loan us his truck to go to an auto store to get some jumper cables. It was a gesture that personified the nature of all of the staff at LFS Marine and Outdoor in Bellingham.
With cables in hand, and new battery in tow, we headed back to the stricken "Corleto".

With the brand new battery in place, Kinc at the ready with the key. I closed my eyes and hoped I would hear the engine come to life. And just like that it did. Victory was mine.
We were delayed near two hours from the original turn of the key. We could make it to Point Roberts before dark. Lets haul ass and get outta Dodge.

Kinc on watch for Crab Buoys as we leave Bellingham Bay

With me on the helm, Kinc programming the GPS and Jacques in the bilge, the crew of the Corleto was finally underway and heading North.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Corleto Kiss

Finally, the day had come. I was about to embark on the adventure of boat ownership. I had been fortunate enough to have the boat delivered to Bellingham a few days before. Bad weather had been conspiring against me since. But it was now Monday, surely the weather would improve. At least that what the forecasts seemed to indicate.

With Kinc's wife Nanci at the wheel, we headed down the highway towards the junction of BC 91 and BC 99, Boundary Bay was nothing but whitecaps, a very unusual scene.
"I don't think we'll be going anywhere today" Kinc remarked.
"That doesn't look pleasant." added Nanci.
All I could do is stare in disbelief.

We continued our drive to Bellingham.

Arriving at the dock, the rain was driving near sideways. We loaded up our gear onto the Marina wheel barrows, and the three of us made our way down the dock toward what I had hoped, was a boat still afloat. The sound of the near Gale winds was deafening as they howled though the rigging of the boats already tied up.

And then all at once, at the very end of the dock, was Corleto, patiently waiting for me. I retrieved the key to open her up and get our stuff in out of the rain. She greeted me with a whack on the head, as I descended into the companionway. A welcome kiss I suppose, a gesture that was to remind me who really was in charge of this operation.

Kinc and I took stock of what was aboard. He suggested we should perhaps get some supplies at the nearby Marine Store, since we would not be casting off in this horrendous weather. There was a bilge issue that the delivery Skipper had informed me about, so that was to be a priority.
So off we went to grab some supplies.
The staff at the Marine Store were very helpful. We picked up a few tools, a space heater and some other assorted odds and ends that we thought we would need to make the repair.

Spirits were high although the weather was foul. As I re boarded Corleto, she kissed me again on the noggin.
We began to work on the bilge pump and attempt to find the problem. We replaced a fuse, reconnected a hose and just like that we had a working bilge pump.
Kinc, methodically checked out other systems. Electrical, plumbing, and heating. I watched as he explained what went where, and how important organisation was for the smooth operation of a boat. In the course of these little lessons it was determined that we needed a working BBQ lighter. So off to the Marine Store we go.

"Hey' its you guys again." a friendly voice greeted us as we entered the store. That phrase would be echoed many times before we left the dock. But we found what we needed and proceeded to get back to preparations for an early departure on Tuesday morning.
Again, a kiss to the melon greeted me as I climbed onto Corleto. Maybe she didn't like me. Who could blame her. Her new owner was pretty confident and sure of himself. Perhaps too sure. She thought it might be fun to teach a few more lessons and humble him down to size.

Confident that we had solved the bilge pump issue, we treated ourselves to a nice hot meal at the Pub and then retired to the boat for a celebratory drink and snack before getting some shut eye.

Kinc gives a congratulatory toast for my purchase of my first boat.

In the morning the Marine Forecasts did not include a Gale Warning, so it looked like we had a window to depart. The winds were predicted to be 15-25 and we decided to give 'er a go. As I emerged, Corleto kissed me again, this time to say good morning. Man I was beginning to tire of her strange affection. We started the engine and motored to the fuel dock and filled up and then headed out with confidence that we would soon be headed north to Point Roberts.

Corleto at the fuel dock in Bellingham- no idea what was waiting for us on the other side of the breakwater

As soon as we cleared the breakwater, the seas were choppy, but nothing that the two of us couldn't handle. The tide was not in our favour, but we continued to head to our first waypoint before turning north through Hale Passage. The seas began to build, the farther we ventured into Bellingham Bay. It was going to be a bumpy one. Winds began to build and waves began to show their white caps. Kinc noticed that we had water coming out of the bilge. He went to investigate. I stayed on the helm dodging an endless number of Crab Trap Buoys.

"The pump's not working!" reports Kinc.
He begins to use the hand pump to clear the water, almost making himself sick. The boat pounding through the waves at this time. This was not going to come easy.
Waves broke over the port bow. Salty spray hit my face. Kinc was below bailing. This was not the scene I had envisioned when I bought this girl.
It was about 15 minutes later when we were almost to our first waypoint and I got a look up the passage. There were whitecaps on whitecaps. As skipper my responsibility was the safety of my crew. It was then I informed Kinc we were turning around and heading back to Bellingham Harbour.

The trip back was less bumpy with the sea at our stern. Kinc took the helm and the fresh air helped avert his nausea.

We would have to regroup and wait for better weather. I felt a bit defeated by mother nature. I took comfort that I had made the right decision to turn, and that the boat handled very well. I was just feeling the pressure to move it north.

We arrived back at the dock tired and perplexed that the bilge pump had failed us once more. After we got out of our weather gear, we set to figure out the problem once more. No doubt another trip to the Marine Store was in our future. This time a replacement pump would be on the list.

As I emerged from below to go see our friends at the store, Corleto kissed me for the final time, her lipstick mark (actually my blood) squarely on the top of my head. I was beginning to think she hated me.