Gulf Islands – Observations and Errata

We just finished two weeks in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. We’ve been going there for a number of years. We try to visit old favorites and make some new discoveries each time we visit. This year, the weather was fantastic. Some years are sunny, some are wet, some a combination (this is most common). We had sun, warm, and flat seas almost the entire time. It clouded up one afternoon, rained in the evening and through the night, and was clear and sunny the next morning. Perfect!

This is what boating is about.

Post about the voyage start here if you are interested. A bunch of photos are in the gallery.

I will say up front that this post is more for my own information than anything else. So feel free to ignore it, or read it at your own peril.

The windlass was reluctant to pull the chain in without extra effort and a fair amount of complaining. As a result, we spent more time in marinas than we would have liked. I just couldn’t get jazzed about the prospect of pulling in all that chain and anchor by hand. As a result of this …

We were a bit shocked at the cost of moorage in some places. $70+ a night is pretty steep for a piece of dock and a bit of power. I’ll admit we rarely take advantage of the amenities that are included in the price. Showers, laundry, pool, etc. just don’t have much value to us. And I know they are important to many, if not most, of the other visitors. So …

We need to get the windlass fixed. It has to be reliable. Fortunately for us, the windlass was manufactured by Ideal. Ideal has parts available for most everything they have ever made. I exchanged a couple of emails with them and they can send me an exact replacement motor. Now that windlass is 34 years old. I’ll bet most manufacturers don’t have parts for their 34 year old products.

We need to get a new stern line spool. Using what we have is a bit clunky. And we need to figure where to mount it. We are currently using a garden hose reel that sits on the flybridge when not is use. Not that this is a bad solution, it’s just not ideal. I’ll add this to the winter “to do” list.

We also need to sort out a process that allows us to take care of the whole stern tie thing more quickly. It takes a bit of time to lower the dingy once we are anchored. The boat moves around some and in a busy anchorage, this poses a challenge to us (and the boats around us). We need to get ready in advance and tow the dingy when we are entering an anchorage where we intent to stern tie.

Victoria is a nice place to go. I don’t know exactly why we haven’t gone there before. Maybe it’s just a bit out of the way when you are headed for the Gulf Islands. Make reservations ahead of time. Stay at the Causeway docks. That’s the only place to be.

If you want to go to Victoria, go there first. On the way up. You can clear Canadian Customs in Oak Bay or Victoria. Clearing through US Customs is awkward coming from Victoria. The choice is either Roche Harbor or Port Angeles. Both are out of the way when you are heading south. While it is possible to get an appointment with Customs in Port Townsend, there is only one agent there. We tried calling for two days without success.

It turns out Internet connectivity is pretty important – at least to me. I used it to exchange email about the windlass and look up information when required. We also used it to keep up with email and update the blog. The boat has its own wireless network. All we need to do is connect the boat to a wireless network on shore. All the marinas we went to had wireless internet. I think this has become a basic service. Like showers. The challenge for us is to get internet access when we are not in a marina. I brought a Verizon mifi with me that gave us access most everywhere. The problem of course, is the cost. Since it is an US account, the cost of using it in Canada is rather high. I wonder if it is possible to get a prepaid device? That might be worthwhile.

Don’t fall into salt water with your iPhone in your pocket. It does still work … mostly. It does everything it is supposed to (which is more than I expected), but it keeps wanting to shut down. And the top button no longer works. I assume that if I were to shut it off, it would never restart. Good thing the iPhone 5 is on its way shortly. I can put up with a few quirks for a couple of weeks.

We had a strange problem with the electronics. Actually, it is several minor problems. The first, and biggest issue is that the Garmin chartplotter does not track correctly. With heading or course up, the direction of travel should be straight up on the chartplotter. But it is not. Instead, we either move at a 20-25 degree angle to the left or to the right. It makes it hard to insure we are on the right track. As you can see, while our course is straight, it chartplotter shows it angling to the right.

The second issue is a difference between the course shown by the chartplotter and the autopilot. They are always 10-15 degrees apart. The chart plotter shows 170, the autopilot shows 183, and so on. They are connected via NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 and both set to “true”. It makes no sense. I am sure the solution is simple. I just need to spend some time on it.

And last, the Raymarine autopilot had a hard time tracking a course. If it is set to just follow a heading, no problem. If it is set to “go to”, it has a bit of trouble. The autopilot will get 80-100 feet to the left or right of the track and then do a sudden radical turn to get back on track. This happens every three to five minutes. Most unpleasant. I am sure the solution to this is also easy. I just need to figure it out. Perhaps recalibrating the autopilot at cruise speed. I think I have done this in the past, but maybe one more time.

Perhaps all these issues are related …

These are minor issues. We had a great time. I wish we had more. I could have easily stayed on the boat for another two weeks. Or more.

Taking photos of wildlife with a long lens from an inflatable is really hard. Even in calm water the boat moves around a lot. That motion is exaggerated with the telephoto lens. It’s really hard to frame a shot.

Gin and Tonics and a snack on the flybridge. In the late afternoon sun. While the boat gently swings on the anchor in a nice little bay. That’s pretty great.

I wanted to get a few nice sunset photos. The weather … and I hate to say this … was too good. Is it too much to ask for a few clouds arranged on the horizon so they reflect some really nice colors at sunset? They don’t have to be there during the day.

That’s about it for now. Back to work and the “real” world.