Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Right Light
By Michael

Outdoor vapor lights provide a nice
glow. This is the true light, no flash.
Lighting a boat isn’t like lighting a home, the needs are different.

Do you regularly look under your couch or bed for a can of refried beans? Is your dining room table also a game table, workbench, countertop, and desk? Do you spend whole nights awake in your house, reading and going about your business, but with only red lights on? Do you have an electrical meter on your wall that you check regularly to see how many amps you’re consuming? Is your ceiling less than a foot above your head?

On a boat, lighting deficiencies are magnified. Since the day we bought Del Viento, I’ve pursued more light, less light, better quality light, red light, improved light efficiency, and attractive fixtures in our cabin.

General Lighting Fixtures

When we bought our boat, general lighting came from four overhead, circular, plastic fixtures. These were mounted throughout and each had a single on/off switch and delivered plenty of cold, harsh light. Two were inoperable. The 9-inch fluorescent bulbs of the remaining two sucked almost 2 amps from our house bank, models of efficiency in 1978. But that was then.

As of this week, general lighting aboard Del Viento comes from five Alpenglow 9W LED fixtures. Their white light color is warm and pleasant and can be delivered at a low or high setting. The lights feature a second switch that controls a red light, also at a low or high setting. Each light consumes three-quarters of an amp at its highest setting. They cost $139 each—a real value.

The girls discovered this weighted plate tied off
to a dock piling. They pull it up often to see
what's living on it. Here their friend from Riki
Tiki Tavi replaces a crab. We get precious few
days with clear skys and light like this. This
means it is usually pretty dark down below.
Even during the day, we use our lights a lot.
Reading Light Fixtures

Del Viento came with six reading lights; we wish there were more. Four of these lights are traditional metal lights with the bell-shaped shade, two were nice looking lights with a teak base and teak shades. All of these consumed a lot of power—and for hours at a time as we read by them or used them for ambient lighting. Because they were incandescents, their shades got hot, really hot. On the teak lights, the shades were very small and the bulbs protruded a bit, resulting in several cases of burnt fingers.

We started by replacing the incandescent bulbs in the traditional metal fixtures with LED bulbs. For these four lights, this has been an acceptable fix, eliminating the power consumption and heat issues. (But not a complete fix, as it introduced other issues—I’ll explain this in a future post).

But for the two teak lights, this fix wasn’t possible as the shades were not large enough to accommodate an LED bulb. And because these two lights were also falling apart, we replaced them, again going with Alpenglow.* This time we bought two of their dimmable (a unique feature in this kind of light), LED reading lights. The light is a very warm white, they use little power, and the dimming feature isn’t something we sought, but is now something we appreciate. These things are awesome and if money were no object, we’d replace all of our reading lights with these.

Task and Ambient Lighting

I bought inexpensive LED strip lights at IKEA. Their profile is about 1/8 inch and they are extensible. I’m considering attaching several in series and mounting them behind trim in the galley to illuminate the counter spaces. If that works well, I may do the same in the main cabin, but with a rheostat to dim them. We’ll see.

I knew that improving our lighting down below would be a welcome improvement. Celebrating Christmas in our cozy cabin this year, I remembered that for years I worked in offices with cold, unflattering light and that I appreciated evenings at home with my incandescently illuminated wife, kids, and surroundings. It’s good to be home.


* We’ve been very happy with this company and its products, but our praise is unsolicited, we do not receive anything from Alpenglow. And while I’m disclosing, please note that this blog is not supported by advertising. Our only compensation is twofold: the knowledge that folks are interested in what we write, and a monthly pittance from Cruising World that gives them the right to reproduce this on their site—with no editorial influence.

This is one of the five new lights. If it weren't for the mark left
from the old teak pad, it would look like these lights were built
for the boat. Fortunately, in removing the teak pads, we learned
that we may be able to remove this popcorn finish on the cabin
top as easily as wallpaper--we just need to have it tested first to
be sure it isn't asbestos.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Can Your Dinghy Fly?
By Michael

Our former dinghy hogged the foredeck underway,
the Pudgy is more than 3 feet shorter--both a bonus
and a trade off.
We like our Portland Pudgy and accept the fact that she’s slow. Her displacement hull is, well…pudgy.  She isn’t rated for an outboard larger than our 4-hp-equivalent Torqeedo, but that’s okay, she moves well under oars and so we row most of the time. But maybe there’s another way.

A guy named Jonathan Trappe bought the same dinghy we have, same color, same options. That is to say he bought a canary-yellow Pudgy with the sailing kit and inflatable exposure canopy. Then he registered it with the FAA as an experimental aircraft: N878UP (we didn’t do this).

Last month, in Mexico, Jonathan attached some balloons to his Pudgy and soared to 20,000 feet. He raced along for seven-and-a-half hours and covered 118 miles before landing in a lake. That is to say, Jonathan’s Pudgy averaged 13.65 knots during this trip.

Jonathan plans to take his dinghy across the Atlantic the same way: as a gondola suspended beneath a bunch of balloons.
Interestingly, of the 231 posts on this blog, by far the most popular is from November 2010: Life Raft Or Lifeboat? I wrote it as we prepared to head out cruising, thinking about whether we’d adopt the Pardey model (and cruise ship model) of repurposing our tender as a lifeboat. We committed to this approach the day we ordered the Pudgy and haven’t had any regrets. I never wonder whether my lifeboat will inflate if needed. I never think about getting it repacked. Except when we’re in a marina, we use our lifeboat day-in and day-out. 

Aside from the peace-of-mind she brings as a lifeboat, the thing we like most about the Pudgy is simply that she’s a hard dinghy. Unlike an inflatable, we can row her. We like rowing and it gives us exercise. Leaving the outboard at home is convenient (not having to ship the outboard), eliminates the risk of outboard theft, and lightens the load. Our Pudgy has sheer, tumblehome, and she’s tough as nails. Sailing her is fun (especially when the air and water are warm) and an excellent diversion for the girls. Sure there are trade-offs (not being able to cover large distances quickly), but I am now starting to like the idea that she can fly.


The following video of Trappe's trans-Atlantic trial run is pretty cool:


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Reel
By Michael

Most of the reels use either floating polypropylene
(pictured) or flat webbing, few use nylon three-
strand. Seems to me that polypropylene would
comparitively little strength or chaffe resistance.
In 1995, I saw Alvah and Diana Simon give a presentation in Ventura, CA. Their riveting talk and slide show focused on their trip around Cape Horn in their steel-hulled Roger Henry. What stuck with me all the years since is their description of anchoring in the Beagle Channel. Alvah said he observed the trees on the cliffs around the anchorage, wickedly malformed by the fierce prevailing winds, the williwaws that can blow at hurricane strength. Understanding they faced the prospect of gale force (and higher) katabatic winds that would drive them from shore, Alvah and Diana tucked Roger Henry in close and tied off ashore. The long length of three-strand that they used to do this, they kept on a reel astern.
Since then, I’ve noticed time and again, in the pictures that accompany adventurous articles in the sailing magazines—articles sent from crews at the extreme latitudes—the reels. To me, these reels evidence serious sailors, extreme cruisers.

But now I’m floating in a sea of boats with reels. A twenty-two-foot day sailor behind me sports a reel. Every other boat I’ve seen in B.C. has a reel—even small powerboats. I’ve learned why.
British Columbia (and the Inside Passage north) is filled with more nooks and crannies to explore than could possibly be done in a lifetime (our knowledgeable friend, Warren, pointed out to us that some of it is still uncharted!). These anchorages are often narrow, deep, crowded in the summer, and subject to huge tides (up to 15 feet). All of these factors combine to limit the amount of area available for a boat to swing on the hook. Accordingly, many folks up here stern tie to immobilize their boats. Apparently  summer season wind is not such a factor.

So, we’re looking into our own stern tie reel solution for Del Viento. At first glance, I like the space efficiency of the narrow reels of polyester webbing. We’ll see. I want to make sure this is indeed a must-have, even for just our planned single season. Because if we return to Mexico with a reel I know there will be a lot of eye rolling, “Oh look, the Robertsons spent a year up north and now they think they’re Alvah Simon.”

Our friend Warren hosted us for dinner and gave us a
run-down on the Gulf Islands, the easternand western shores of
Vancouver Island, and the mainland inlets of the
Strait of Georgia. He is a captain with
years of experience and an intense affinity for
the area. We covered a lot, but according to
Warren, we barely scratched the surface. Here
Windy is notating our iPad Navionics chart
app for reference. We attached a "Don't Miss!"
label to far more places than one season will
allow us to explore.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

O Canada!
By Michael

Reading this blog here, you likely missed the vitriol that erupted on the Cruising World site when I last wrote about Canada. Of course, the post was tongue-in-cheek, but that escaped some. Check out the comments
The girls hanging with our resident swan.
There is also a resident harbor seal.
A single, simple holiday card: standard size, less than an ounce. Do you know what it costs to send that thing from Canada to the U.S.? C$1.05! Do you know what it costs for someone in the U.S. to send the same holiday card to a friend in the Great White North? $.85. That’s quite a discrepancy; now you know why you’ve never received a holiday card from a Canadian.
But forget international rates. In Canada, sending a letter domestically costs C$.61—and next year it’ll be C$.63. Yikes! You gotta love our U.S. first class domestic postage rate of $.44. These poor Canadians have it rough.   
But consider that the U.S. the postal service lost over five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) last year (and they'd have lost more than $10 billion had Congress not allowed them to postpone an annual payment to a health benefits fund) and that they’re begging Congress to increase the postal rate and cancel Saturday delivery. (And as Rueters reported in August: “Lawmakers, who have said they are committed to helping the Postal Service become profitable, left last week for a month-long recess without reaching an agreement on postal legislation.”) In Canada, taxpayers are not going to have to bail out Canada Post because it earned a net income of over C$281 million in 2009 and it’s closed Saturdays. (And it’s not as though Canada Post has it easy. It delivers to a larger area than the postal service of any other nation, including Russia, where service in Siberia is limited largely to communities along the railway).
Sure, U.S. fiscal responsibility is waning nowhere to be found, but what’s a cruiser to do? Well, I stood out in the cold rain yesterday, soliciting passengers boarding the Coho for their ninety-minute trip to Port Angeles, WA. I clutched a Ziplock freezer bag stuffed with over a hundred Robertson holiday cards, each displaying the 44-cent forever stamp. After a few passengers made me feel like a terrorist or drug smuggler asking them to do something illegal, I finally found a sympathetic crewmember in the terminal to agree to drop them in a mailbox Stateside for me. That’s practically money in the bank—that someone’s going to have to pay back someday.
The girls went to watch the salmon run at a nearby creek.
Of course, the salmon die after spawning and there are
carcasses everywhere. Here a naturalist shows Eleanor
and Frances (between them are the Riki Tiki Tavi kids)
a salmon heart. She dissected the thing for them. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

My LED Trick
By Michael

Three identical lights sharing
a power source. From left to
right: no tape, three layers of
tape, one layer of tape.
When I first wrote about our lighting debacle, I got a lot of good advice. I’ve since looked at a million lights online, emailed a million folks for more info, bought and returned a couple lights, and replaced a bunch of wiring aboard Del Viento. But except for two new reading lights, we are still at the same place we started with respect to lighting, albeit more informed.
We want LED lights to replace our amp-hogging 22-watt circular fluorescents throughout the cabin. LED lights are recently available that offer a warm white light, nearly the same color as incandescents. This color is measured in degrees Kelvin and this measurement should be available from the LED light manufacturer. I want something in the 2700 range. This is hard to find and with LED lights, you tend to get what you pay for. Five years from now, this won’t be a problem, but we want pleasing, efficient light now.

So I’ve been playing around with LED lights and I discovered something. I don’t know how useful it is, or whether it will diminish the life of the bulb, or cause a fire, but that is all beside the point.
If you wrap an LED light with Teflon tape—just regular white Teflon tape—it seems to warm the color of the light and doesn’t seem to dramatically diminish output. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Bare bulb
Three wraps of tape

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sort Of The Same, But Slower
By Michael

This is what schlepping groceries often
looks like when cruising, Mexico,
Canada, or the U.S.
In Mexico, it was easy to enrich our kids’ lives. The place was so different than what they were used to, that just being there caused new synapses to erupt all over their brains. Riding the bus, ordering tacos, or watching people on the plaza was sufficient stimulus. Even after half-a-year, the rewards of spending our time this way didn’t diminish.
Now, back on more familiar ground, enrichment happens in different ways. British Columbia doesn’t offer taco stands and a disparate culture, but it’s bursting with organized activities for kids.

It is still an evolving schedule, but our weeks are filling up. On Monday nights, Eleanor and I go to kids’ chess club. Tuesday afternoon, both girls jump and cartwheel through gymnastics lessons. Thursday mornings, Eleanor meets with her French tutor for 90 minutes or more. Saturdays, the girls go to swim lessons. In between they meet and hang out with other homeschooled kids and do ad hoc things like go on a mushroom walk or attend the fall festival or see the salmon run.
In other words, our family life as cruisers holed up in Victoria is not much different than our family life as working professionals in D.C.—except that it is totally different. Because even as we fill our weeks with a schedule familiar to any harried two-income family back home, it isn’t leaving us harried. Though we still must grocery shop, deal with the pile of dirty clothes, and chip away at a never-ending string of boat projects—and despite my spending the bulk of most days writing—having given up the career, the commute, and the house and the car that went with it, our lives are much simpler than they were.

Mornings are never a mad scramble, the days are never a pressure cooker, and the evenings we spend cooking labor-intensive meals, playing games, watching movies, and baking bread in our small living space. In June 2011, we set out on this radical journey to gain more togetherness, and we got it. We’ve a lot to be thankful for.

Here Eleanor at chess club plays her friend Liam,
our neighbor aboard Riki Tiki Tavi.
This is Del Viento's new covered wagon look, at least while
at anchor or at the dock. It keeps the cockpit dry in the rain
and will keep the boat cool in the Mexican sun. It is a
Shade Tree awning passed down to us from our friends
aboard Dreamweaver, who got it from our friends
aboard Principia. It gusted 40 knots in the
marina a couple days after we set it up
and it did remarkably well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ambassador Me
By Michael

I will say that like the U.S., Canada has
learned to maximize the Christmas shopping
season. This mid-November lighted
holiday parade passed right in front of our
docks. The girls loved it.
I didn’t just fall off the proverbial turnip truck. I’ve traveled, I’m fairly well read, and I just turned 44-years-old this month. Yet, I have to come clean on a misguided prejudice I’ve held: I thought Canada was the 51st state. No, not literally. But I did think living here would be nearly indistinguishable from life in the United States.
It ain’t so.

For example, I knew Canada had a French thing going on, that folks in one of their states provinces back east were pretty much French. But I had no idea French and English share ‘official language’ status throughout the country. Every food label in the grocery stores here in British Columbia is printed in both English and French. Credit card terminals and ATMs automatically simultaneously display in both languages. Folks at the post office are ready to address me either way. (When I especially want to feel cosmopolitan, I prep something to be mailed, take it to the post office, and greet the clerk with my best, “Bonjour!” before switching back to English. Wink, wink.)
And the flip side of the French thing is the English thing. Canadian English is more English than American. Accordingly, nothing is spelled correctly and British influence is everywhere. Royal this and royal that. Queen Elizabeth is Canada’s head of state, really (and of Pakistan too, who knew?).

And that’s not all. Can you believe Canada is still stuck in the metric system? Thanks to our time in Mexico, I’ve finally got a good feel for the gallon-liter relationship—and miles-kilometers, kilograms -pounds are sort of 1:2—but the gram is tough. There are 28.35 of them in an ounce. Why on earth wouldn’t they choose a round number of them for an ounce? Not too big a deal until you’re in the grocery store, trying to get a feel for the price of stuff in the bulk section.

Fortunately, Canadian money trades roughly 1:1 with the dollar. Unfortunately, they don’t use dollar bills here. And despite all of the failed attempts at broad acceptance of a dollar coin in the U.S., the folks in Canada love them. Their $1 coin has an imprint of a loon on it so they call it a loonie. (Their $2 coin…anyone? Yep, a toonie.) Cute, but Canadians use loonies like we use quarters. In a U.S. laundromat, we deposit three quarters and get our fleece cleaned. In Canada, we deposit three loonies and feel fleeced.
But it could be an island thing; everything here in Victoria is expensive. The regular people’s grocery store (Thrifty Foods, a misnomer) has prices that would make any shopper at a U.S. Whole Foods store feel like they got a screaming bargain. Eating out is out of the question. On top of the high cost of the meal, folks in Canada pay a sales tax that would eliminate the U.S. national debt in six months: 12%.

And some differences defy explanation. Like where you go if you have to go. They don’t have restrooms in Canada—not a one. All they have here are washrooms. Universally, it seems that is the only term that’s used. Surely U.S. media bleeds through, wouldn’t our term catch on? Who knows. But if I continue asking waiters and clerks where the restrooms are, maybe it will rub off. After all, that’s why we travel, to do our part to help the world become just a bit more American, right?  

Windy and I aboard Del Viento, under sail in the Strait
of Juan de Fuca, stradling the border between the U.S.
and Canada.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

By Michael

Here condensation drips from the
intersection of the deck underside and
ceilings inside a locker inside the head.
All of that black stuff? Mold that
wasn't there two months ago.
That is, the insulation that isn't built into Del Viento. Our decks and cabin top are foam cored, but otherwise we are solid glass through-and-through. Until now, I never fully appreciated the ramifications of this: condensation and all it means to life aboard a boat.
The entire Del Viento crew now fully appreciates the ramifications of incomplete insulation.  

Do you ever wake up to water dripping on your face, your own breath condensing on the inside of the cold cabin top above you? I do. When you change your sheets, do they come off the bed cold and wet where they were tucked under the mattress, evidence of the moisture trapped beneath? Mine do. When you’re cooking dinner on the stove, does condensation drip into your pots from above? It happens here. 
Our saving grace are the ceilings along the insides of the hull. (Aboard a boat, ceilings are not above your head, they are slats affixed longitudinally on the 'walls,' to cover hull framing.) I always thought they were a decorative nod to the interior of a wood boat—now I know better, they shield us from condensation. But the ceilings are in the cabin and lockers, not in the lower stowage spaces, such as under the settees and v-berth. And ceilings aren't on the vertical sides of the coach roof (where the portlights are). Condensation is happening aboard Del Viento.

So, we are experimenting with lower heater settings at night and increased ventilation. We're clearing out crammed lockers and going through a lot of vinegar. We try and keep as much moisture out of the boat as possible, but it drizzles a lot in Victoria and with four wet bodies going in and out... We may buy some Golden Rods or a dehumidifier (or both, please leave a comment if you have experience with these). There are more extensive insulation-related steps we could take to mitigate the problem, but our time in these northern lats is relatively short. But we’ll see, we've only dipped our toes into the winter ahead.
In Mexico, it always seemed to Windy and I that we met a disproportionate number of cruisers from the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and Canada, given the number of boats and marinas up and down the California coast. I think I now know why.

Drip, drip, drip…

Frances prefers the newspaper not be only black and white.
Life goes on in the main cabin despite condensation issues.
Affected mostly are the lockers and sleeping areas.

One day, this brand new aluminum cat showed up on the
transient dock next to us. It is a pilot boat built across the
way in Port Angeles by Armstrong Marine for the country
of Guatemala. It is headed for Puerto Quetzal, where Windy
and I anchored the first Del Viento back in 1997.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Around
By Michael

On foot along Victoria's downtown streets.
I grew up in the Southern California car culture. As a kid I worshiped cars. I couldn’t wait to own my own one day. All I wanted for my 16th birthday was an appointment at the DMV.

I noticed buses on the road only because they blocked my view of cars. I rode a yellow one to school in the mornings. In my high school years, I learned the school bus carried a stigma; it was to be ridden only by the desperate kids who had neither cars nor friends with cars. I’m embarrassed to write that as I grew older, I accepted the idea that public transportation was for the desperate, and certainly not preferable to moving about in your own shiny ride. And it was an idea easy to accept, given that Southern California suburban infrastructure puts public transportation someplace between impractical and impossible.

One of the unexpected benefits of our move to D.C. was learning how awesome public transportation can be. It was magic to realize that a 45-minute commute by bus or light rail could make more sense than the same 20-minute commute via car. That the 45-minute span included a pleasant 10 minute walk and 35 minutes of productive time spent reading, emailing, calling, writing, working, or meditating. The car commute was 20 non-productive minutes spent cajoling a 35-hundred-pound vehicle through a city. Even ignoring the issues of cost and pollution, I was hooked.
Though we did own, drive, and maintain a car during our 12-year span in D.C., it was a single econobox that served our family of four, often sitting idle in the garage. When we transitioned to our cruising lifestyle, we got rid of it. Since then we’ve borrowed the cars of friends and family, rented on occasion, but mostly we simply find a way to get around using the public transportation of the place we are.

Now immersed Victoria city life, but with no car and no car to borrow, we are reaffirming our pleasure of being unencumbered by an automobile. Sure we miss an occasional remote and appealing event, but there is a freedom in arriving someplace without a car. We step out of the bus in front of the grocer, Walmart, or Home Depot and as it drives away, there we are, untethered, free to walk about without finding a place for and securing our four-wheeled companion.
We consolidate trips to save on bus fare (unlike in Mexico where bus fares are so cheap, we’ll ride for the sake of exploring) and never give a whit about filling a gas tank or changing the oil or paying for insurance.

It took going cruising to make us car-less, but it didn't have to. We could have gotten along without a car in D.C. or any other big public transportation-friendly city. But being rooted as we were, I imagine our busy lives would have made the convenience of a car irresistible (getting to work is one thing, getting ten bags of mulch is another). Today it seems we traded the convenience of a car for the freedom of a home that can be where ever we want it to be. And as cruising kids, Frances and Eleanor are growing up familiar with life without an automobile, every bit as comfortable aboard a bus or light rail as I was once uncomfortable.

For my 44th birthday, Windy and the girls surprised me with
this remote controlled helicopter. I pressed my luck flying
it down below, but the weather wasn't cooperating for an
outdoor flight. Fortunately, nothing (and nobody) was damaged.

For the past several weeks, the girls have been enjoying their
gymnastics class. It is a good physical outlet for them and
both seem to enjoy it, boasting to me in the evening about
whatever contortion or stunt they'd learned.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peril Before Panic
By Michael

Windy applies final make-up to the
Raven Fairy while the Ballerina
looks on.
“Get up. Wake up. We’ve got to get off the boat now.”
I was smack in the middle of that final, pleasant half-hour of dreamy, near-consciousness sleep that life without an alarm clock affords me. Now I was abruptly fully conscious, trying to understand what I’d woken to. I called after Windy, “What did you just say? What’s going on?”

She was gone, out of bed like a flash, already in the aft cabin urging the girls awake with the same serious, insistent tone. “Girls! Get up, leave your PJs on, get your shoes on, we have to go now.” Then to me: “I don’t know. They’re announcing an evacuation of the marina, it is not a drill.”
“Who’s announcing…”

I have a strong aversion to over-reacting. When people around me freak out, I tend to polarize and go the opposite direction. You know that orchestra that played on as the Titanic met her fate? I could have been their leader—in denial as I slid into the icy ocean. It’s not because I’m Mr. Cool, but because I’m protecting my bizarre, deep-seated fear of panicking. It could be a good thing, but in my case, it means I often fail to react. Windy isn’t prone to panic, but she is usually prepared and always ready to act, “just in case.” Bless her heart.
In response to her sense of urgency, I wanted to push back, maybe talk this through before we jumped out of our warm beds and ran for our lives. But I roused myself and pulled on some pants, knowing I’d have to take her seriously before she would entertain my questions.

The girls react to sidewalk chalk art
in downtown Victoria.
“Who’s announcing an evacuation?”
“I don’t know. I heard a loudspeaker, a bullhorn.”

“Are there emergency vehicles?”

Hmmm. There was an earthquake and tsunami warning the day before; I wondered if maybe this was another? Maybe a propane leak? Windy called down as she and the girls climbed out the companionway. “Are you coming?”
“Yeah.” I was putting my shoes on. I looked around and grabbed the camera, my wallet…my computer and left. Outside I could see Windy and the girls already off the docks and one-hundred yards down the boardwalk, talking with a group of people. I met them halfway back.

“I chewed out somebody,” Windy said. Apparently, our tiny marina in front of the Empress Hotel had morphed into a movie set over night. People, trucks, and equipment were everywhere. “I think it was the director, I told him they should first notify those affected by their filming; they have no idea people live on these boats.”
Then the loudspeaker hailed again, this marina was being evacuated and this was not a drill. Giant fans blew dead leaves into a crowd of extras in front of the docks. On cue they pointed and ran together in fearful unison. It looked like panic to me.

“Let’s get back to the boat and make a nice breakfast for Eleanor,” turning to my newly nine-year-old girl in PJs: “Happy birthday Boo.”

Here is the movie set; Del Viento is just visible in the
upper right, with her beige mainsail cover. The film
is called, "Stonados" and is "an epic disaster flick about
the devastation caused by rock-spewing tornados."
Apparently, the story takes place in Massachusetts and
our little place is doubling as Boston's Harbour Walk. 

Oak Bay, a Victoria suburb, puts on this "pumpkin art"
display for charity every year. It was super cool, until
we learned that the pumpkins are made of polyurethane.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Salish Sea Ports
By Michael

Windy watches as the schooner Alcyone
motors past our stern. It seemed that
immaculately maintained wooden boats
like this one were a dime-a-dozen in Port
Townsend, home to the annual
Wooden Boat Festival.
To get to Victoria, we had to come up the relatively desolate Washington coast until we could make a right turn into the strait that separates the United States and Canada: the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where it dead ends, we could make a right (in a southerly direction) or a left (in a northerly direction). The former takes us south into the Puget Sound—a waterway that would take us down past Seattle to Olympia and other Washington towns. The latter, northerly route takes us into the Strait of Georgia—through the San Juan Islands and all the way up to Desolation Sound. These three interconnected coastal waterways of straits, sounds, and inlets are collectively referred to as the Salish Sea.

This is all new and exciting geography for the crew of Del Viento.
So we made a detour on our way to Victoria. We visited old friends and new friends in the three primary Washington “Port” towns: Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Port Ludlow. All three are distinct and all three offer free, convenient anchorages.

Port Angeles (PA) is closest to the Pacific Ocean and may have the lowest crime rate of any town in America. When we jumped in the dinghy to meet our friend Jim for a trip up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, we grabbed our best binoculars and digital SLR with all the lenses—this place promised stunning views. We weren’t disappointed, but we didn’t take a single picture or scan the vistas with our binocs. Instead, we got up there and realized we left our expensive gear sitting on the public dock near the dinghy. Incredibly, when we returned hours later, both our camera and binoculars were sitting right where we left them.
Port Townsend (PT) is at the mouth of Puget Sound. She boasts Victorian homes and buildings along a picturesque main street, chandleries that cater to wooden boat aficionados, and she is home to world-class boat tradespeople like Carol Hasse and Brion Toss. Our friends John, Cindy, and their daughter Journey have their boat here on the hard, undergoing an extensive refit. Namaste is a sistership to Del Viento and will be soon joining us on the cruising trail.

Port Ludlow (PL) is a bit deeper into the Sound and there is little development visible from the water. In fact, there is no town with a main street, Port Ludlow is a bedroom community of homes nestled in the hillsides and a private marina. As we approached, we explored a narrow inlet nearby and the small, hidden bay it opened to. This protected body of water, about a thousand feet across, is surrounded by large and pricey homes.

Port Ludlow

Our friend John Orchanian with Del Viento's sistership, Namaste.
There were roughly a dozen Fuji 40s built.

Me, Jim, Windy, Don, Rich, Carol (Eleanor and Frances front).
Don and Jim and Rich and Carol were slip mates of mine
back in my Ventura, CA liveaboard days, on the first
Del Viento. Both couples were at our wedding. Rich
and Carol own a nice Swift 33 named Amadeus in PL.

Entering the "secret" inlet near Port Ludlow.
One thing I didn't know about Windy when I married her is that she is
horseshoe challenged. Note Jim filming. Having seen Windy throw
dozens of times, he thinks it is likely he'll get a video that will go
viral online and make him some money. What he and Don should
be doing is wearing helmets when Windy throws.

One of the cool things about Port Angeles is the Feiro Marine Life Center.
Here the girls are feeding kelp to sea urchins. This place has amazing
hands-on exhibits and learning stations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

She's Underway!
By Michael

Jeanne at the helm as she sails away, alone.
70-year-old British solo circumnavigator Jeanne Socrates left Victoria, BC this morning to begin her third attempt at an unassisted, non-stop solo circumnavigation of the planet via the great southern capes (Cape Horn [Chile], Cape of Good Hope [S. Africa], Cape Leeuwin [Australia], S.E. Cape of Tasmania [Australia], S.W. Cape of Stewart Island [New Zealand]).
It was a cold start for her bid to be the oldest woman (and one of only few people) to complete this monumental sailing achievement. I was aboard Nereida, a Najad 380, with Jeanne and two other friends when she was towed out of Victoria Harbour by a local whale watching outfit. (Her transmission is disabled for the attempt.) A favorable east wind was blowing 10-15 knots. After final goodbyes, the three of us disembarked to the tow boat and Jeanne sailed on alone, across the starting line.

I first contacted Jeanne last month, for an interview. After that interview, I offered to help her get ready. Hers is truly a grass-roots effort and she welcomed all of the time I could spare. Over the past week, I attached fittings down below, attached jack lines topsides, vacuum packed clothing and other things, and individually wrapped tons of fruits and vegetables for stowage. She was a pleasure to hang out with and learn from. I plan to share all of my impressions in an upcoming article (along with better pictures). In the meantime, over the next 7 to 8 months, as she sails non-stop, day and night, around the world, Jeanne will post updates on her website via SSB (
Fair winds mighty lady!

Jeanne Socrates and me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Special Delivery
By Michael

If Jeanne makes it around the world without
stopping, she won't have to use this phone
when she returns. If you don't check into
another country, it is as though you never
left the country you departed, regardless
how far afield you travel. This is one of
the interesting things I learned reading
about Matt Rutherford's recent trip.
The other day, Tom Petty asked me to pick up his guitar at the shop and deliver it to him before a performance he was scheduled to give at the White House.
Yeah okay, that didn’t really happen. But when we were in Port Townsend, Jeanne Socrates asked me to pick up her wind generator blades and deliver them to her in Victoria before she departs on her next solo circumnavigation attempt in a couple weeks.

Ms. Socrates circumnavigated the planet solo already, once via the southern capes. Last year, the Queen invited her to Buckingham Palace. She’s lost a boat on the rocks in Mexico. Her next boat was damaged in a couple knockdowns just this side of Cape Horn. This past week, Sir Robin Knox Johnson interviewed her for British television. Only weeks after arriving in Victoria from her last circumnavigation, Socrates is departing Victoria to try again for another solo circumnavigation via the southern capes, but this time non-stop. She is seventy years old.
Knowing I’d be in Victoria, I got in touch with her and told her that I want to interview her. She is game, but her schedule is extremely tight. I’m eager; we’ll see how it goes. I want to write and sell a story about her that is different than has been written to-date. But first I have to get these wind generator blades to her; her next performance is a pretty big deal.

At Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails, Frances got a lesson from a sailmaker.
Interestingly, this well-known loft sits above Brion Toss's rigging shop.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Home Found
By Windy

About five miles offshore, between Astoria and
Cape Flattery, this little guy joined us. Much to
the girls' delight, he was about as fearless as a
Galapagos creature. For the five hours he stayed
with us, he slept alot and ate butter and eggs and
drank water. He seemed to perk up dramatically
before finally flying off. 
So we are going to winter over in Victoria’s Inner Harbor as hoped; the marina office told us yesterday they have a spot for us.

As a cruising family we’ve lived temporarily in solitary anchorages, Mexican cities, and historic seaside towns. In Victoria, we look forward to something we haven’t had since leaving D.C.: Big City Life.

But not just any big city will do. Our temporary home needs to be walkable—with robust public transit—and it needs to be outside the U.S. Walkable because we have no car (we like not having a car), outside the U.S. because our catastrophic health insurance policy covers us worldwide, but restricts us from spending longer than six months per policy period in the United States. To explore Alaska next summer, we need to stay outside the U.S. for a while.
Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbor is crammed with tchotchke shops and orca tour vendors, the Empress hotel, every kind of ethnic food, coffee shops, and cozy used bookstores. It’s a college town. Students on bicycles orbit the University of Victoria. Posters advertise music events. Cold and wet by our standards, Victoria is the warmest, driest large Canadian city and the capital of the province of British Columbia; at night the artfully illuminated parliament building twinkles outside our port lights.

Settling down for a while will allow us to homeschool a lot like we did in D.C. From the marina we can walk to an outstanding public library, to Frances’s gymnastics class, and to the YMCA (kids are free, part of a national health program). We’re looking for a French tutor for Eleanor, who has been interested ever since she befriended Loéva, the daughter of French acrobats we met in La Paz. A month before we arrived, I joined the active community of homeschoolers; we look forward to sampling activities and making friends.
We’ve missed being part of a community. We’re eager for our lives to intersect often enough with others so that we become familiar, even friends. We don’t aim to dig roots so deep that we move off the boat or put potted plants on the deck, but since we’ll be relatively immobilized by the coming Canadian winter, we want to make the most of it. Victoria seems like a good place for that.

This little guy hung out with the girls under the dodger about the same
time as the yellow one. He would hop on a finger, but wasn't otherwise
as tame nor as peaked.

Our Pudgy is a bright spot of color on a gray day among the fishing
fleet of Neah Bay .

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Home
By Michael

The girls raising our Canadian courtesy flag
after clearing customs.
The time for safe and comfortable passagemaking in the northern latitudes is past. Del Viento and her crew are going to settle in for a period. We made it to 48-degrees north, a 3000-mile leap from our 20-degree starting point in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We’re two degrees north of Fargo, North Dakota, though we expect a temperate winter here in coastal Victoria, British Columbia.
Since embarking on our voyage we’ve been either working, working, working on our boat or moving, moving, moving in our boat. Our time in Victoria will be a welcome respite—assuming Victoria is where we settle…

We cleared Canadian customs here in the inner harbor late yesterday and began seeking a home, a spot on the water we can park Del Viento and live aboard through the long, dark winter season. From afar, and months in advance, we attempted to secure a Victoria slip without success. We decided to arrive and see what doors would open for us.
With the recommendation of our friends aboard Nyon, I pinned my hopes on the Canoe Pub Marina. It is a collection of about 15 slips behind the Canoe Pub, a warm, wood place where I could spend hours off the boat, sitting in front of a fire with a stout—or maybe it’s a brandy and a book. People who worked there would know my name. I’d have a tab. When people asked where I lived, I could say, “Over there, on a boat behind the pub.” But alas, it is not to be. We met with the marina manager yesterday, a white-haired salt named Paddy who lives on a 65-foot topsail schooner. “The news isn’t good. They’re kicking us all out, removing the pilings tomorrow.” Despite his poor fortune, he regaled us with one tale after another and sang for us on the dock—no doubt a bit influenced by gin. He told us about his first guitar lesson from Pete Seeger and his close friendship and admiration of Utah Phillips. We wished him luck and continued our search.

Because of the extensive commercial
seaplane traffic in Victoria harbor,
it is important to heed these signs.
Planes taxied and took off
alongside us as we came in. There
is a control tower adjacent to
these signs.
Windy and the girls had their hopes pinned on the Coast Hotel Marina. It lacks a pub—or at least a pub with any character, but offers both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Approaching the marina, I was encouraged by the tell-tale sign of a live aboard community: potted plants on decks. As we pulled in, a resident on his power boat put down his guitar and stepped around his inflatable palm trees and parrots to come help us secure our lines. He directed us to the friendly staff in the hotel lobby. “Nothing now, but if you’d like we can add your name to our wait list, it’s running about two years for a boat your size.”
We were already rejected by two of the three small marinas on the far western end of the harbor, in the Esquimalt township, and that left the three city marinas. They boast front-and-center locations, but we’d been warned away from each of the city marinas for various reasons: because the walk to the showers is long, because of the noise of the float planes, because the docks are open to curious tourists. But here we were and we needed a place to secure Del Viento for the night.

We side-tied to an expensive transient dock ($1.50 per foot, per night) and found it to be pretty nice. We walked up to the office to inquire about long-term moorage. “I don’t know. I know we have a wait list and everyone is coming back for the winter this week. Come back in the morning and talk to Michelle.” In the morning things were more encouraging. “I don’t know. Uhm, there may be a spot for you in front of the Empress—it’s a long walk to the showers and the docks are open to the public during the day—but you’ll need to talk to Thora to be sure.” I later talked to Thora and learned that we’d have to wait until Michelle returns Wednesday to get a definitive answer—but it sounds hopeful. We may have found home, a place to be until late spring, when we’ll be on the move again, charging up to Alaska to experience her wilds.

The famed and historic Empress Hotel in Victoria's inner harbor.
Seaplanes are everywhere, serving the 345,000 island residents who live in the
Victoria metropolitan area. There are at least three airlines flying seaplanes
out of the inner harbor. Because nearly all of them are turboprops, there is the
sound of jet engines and the smell of kerosene. I kind of like it. Apparently,
they don't fly after dark; they say that in the winter up here,
darkness descends at 3:00 p.m.
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