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Sailing with Thor
Anchored at Smuggler's Cove
06/03/2011, Smugglers Cove Marine Park

We had our first rainy day yesterday, imagine that! Actually, the weather has been rather nice since we arrived last weekend. Saturday and Sunday were very nice with mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid to upper 60's. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were partly cloudy with some sun here and there with daytime temps in the low 60's. At night, the temps are down to the low 50's. Late Wednesday night we had a shower and then into Thursday (yesterday) it rained on and off all morning and let up sometime about mid afternoon. Today it is cool but an absolutely sunny spring day in the northwest with lots of sun. The forecast is for a warming trend and sun for the next 4 days so we are enjoying our short passage of about 26 miles to Smugglers Bay across the Straight of Georgia.

A little about Nanaimo: Nanaimo is known as the "Harbour City" (note the Canadian spelling) and is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and the third oldest city in British Columbia. It was originally home to five Coast Salish villages and was first settled by Europeans of the Hudson Bay Company that establish a fur trading outpost here. That was about 150 years ago and in the 1850's, Hudson Bay Company discovered a large deposit of coal under the city and the bay and started mining it. This was just in time for bunkering steamships and coal added quite a bit to their bottom line. Most of the miners came over from England they would sign a contract with HBC and then live in the company houses, (paying rent to the company of course) and buy their groceries from the company store. Life was tough back then. There is a sweet treat that is famous here, the Nanaimo Bar, a triple layer pastry that became popular in the 20th Century when British families sent them to their loved ones working in the coals mines.

Another local event worth mentioning: The world famous Great International Bathtub Race has been running the last weekend of July since 1967. Contestants navigate their bathtubs (yes, tubs fashioned into boats with motors!) out of the harbor around an island and back.

Today, we are heading for Smugglers Cove Marine Park on the mainland side. It's a beautiful day with unfortunately no wind so we are motoring across the Straight of Georgia. The sun is out and it's a beautiful day!

Around Nanaimo
06/01/2011, Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Nanaimo has a very busy harbor. We are anchored at the north end of the harbor and have a perfect view of all the traffic coming and going. Fortunately, we are spared any wake from the ferry that travels between here and Vancouver as it docks in Departure Bay to the north of us. But there are three other ferries in operation from the Nanaimo large ferry that takes passengers to Galiano Island and two smaller harbor ferries, water taxis really, that deliver passengers to and from Protection Island and Newcastle Island. In addition to the ferries, there are many seaplanes in operation throughout the day. Starting at 7 am, no less than 6 flights take off within an hour for the mainland, signaling the start of the morning commute, island style. The flights are less frequent during the day but get busy again as the afternoon commute commences. Nanaimo also has a deep seaport, and we have seen several large vessels come and go over the last few days. And of course there is plenty of pleasure boat traffic to and from the Port of Nanaimo Marina and the 4 other smaller private marinas in the area. We are currently sharing the anchorage with about 20 other boats, both American and Canadian.

In our recent shore excursions, we have done some grocery shopping, visited the library to use the internet, and stuck our noses into several shops near the waterfront and the downtown area. It's hard not to notice how expensive it is for goods and services here, not just by Mexican standards that we have been used to over the past 6 months but by American standards as well. To get a slip for transient moorage, you'll pay $1.25 per foot per day plus an additional $10 for shore power. Fuel is $1.34 per liter...that translates to $5.07 per gallon! Groceries are very expensive, comparative to what we pay when we visit Hawaii. It must be the island location!

Yesterday, we pulled up the anchor and motored about a mile away to a dock of one of the small boatyards located here. I had made arrangements for some help in installing an external regulator for the alternator on the diesel engine. In a falling tide, we made our way along side the dock to find only a foot of water under our keel. With the tide falling, we would be aground in no time and obviously could not stay there. The yard manager, whom I spoken to on the phone, was on hand and apologized for not realizing that we were a sailboat and obviously had a deeper draft keel than the power boats that he was used to working on. He sent us on to the yard next to him and called them to let us know we were coming. But as we pulled closer in to the dock at the next yard, it was very apparent that there was not going to be any deeper water here as well and we turned around and pulled up to the small fuel dock to regroup. While at the fuel dock, we took the opportunity to top off our tank and the attendant was fine with us hanging out on the dock while we made some phone calls to some other repair guys. To wrap up this story, we found nobody to help us...all were busy, sick, on vacation or some other reason, and we left the fuel dock and proceeded back to the anchorage and dropped the anchor. We'll try again to find someone when we reach Pender Harbor next week.

We finished the day by taking a nice 6 kilometer walk (about 3 miles) throughout Newcastle Island. There's a lot of history on this island...they quarried sandstone blocks here over a hundred years ago, for such buildings as the San Francisco Mint. They also drilled out these very large wheels of rock for pulp stones that were used in grinding wood fiber into pulp for paper. Several of these are still there to see and are about 4 feet in diameter and stand about 3 feet high. While hiking, we met a couple off of a Pacific Seacraft 37 called Talos IV who were out of Seattle and heading north like us. They were planning to leave in the morning for Vancouver and we know that we will likely cross paths with them at a later date. The day ended with some relaxing reading in the cockpit under some rare afternoon sunshine!

Arrival in Nanaimo
05/29/2011, Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Two weeks ago today, we left Mexico after loading Thor on the ship for the voyage north to Nanaimo. Leaving Mexico was bittersweet...on the one hand we would miss the beautiful scenery, gorgeous weather and the sincerity and friendliness of the Mexican people and their culture. On the other hand, we looked forward to going home after being gone for over 8 months. Over the last two weeks we have been visiting family and friends, going through a mountain of mail, doing some maintenance items on the house and yard, and finishing up our taxes. We also picked up charts, cruising guides and tide and current tables for Canada and a few spares parts for the boat.

Yesterday, we once again said our goodbyes and boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Horseshoe Bay in Canada. A 90 minute ride (including Canadian Customs) took us to Vancouver where we transferred busses and an hour later arrived at Horseshoe Bay where we would take a ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo. The BC Ferries are large and comfortable and also crowded as many others were making their way to Vancouver Island for the weekend.

After our overnight stay in a local hotel, we once again took a taxi to the dock where the Super Servant 3 was moored. We boarded the ship, found the shipping agent, signed the paperwork needed to release our boat, and proceeded down to the deck level. The deck was dry at this point...the crew had already removed the strapping going to the deck and all the boats were still in their stands as if they were on the hard at a boat yard. After securing a ladder, we made our way on board Thor and were happy to find her in fine shape with no damage. An hour later, the Loading Master announced that they were beginning to flood the deck. It was a little eerie to see the water coming in the stern of the ship flooding the deck giving us the feeling that the ship was sinking. The deck took about 90 minutes to completely flood, floating all the boats off their stands...the water was now 13 feet deep above the deck of the ship. Then the divers went to work laying all the stands on their sides so that there was no risk of collision when the boats were discharged. The off loading completed with the boats being untied one by one (at the Loading Master's direction) and motoring out the stern of the ship the same way we all came in when we loaded.

We completed the day by motoring across the harbor to an anchorage at Newcastle Island. We plan on being here for several days to explore Nanaimo and the Marine Park on Newcastle Island.

05/29/2011 | Glenn Judson
Welcome to Canada!
Last Day
05/15/2011, La Paz, B.C.S.

It's dawn of the morning of our last day in Mexico...later this morning, we will take a bus to Cabo San Lucas and a flight from there to Seattle via Salt Lake City.

Yesterday morning at first light we left the La Paz harbor and made our way about 10 miles to the north to a large bay call Pichilingue. This is where all the Baja Ferries and other large ships take care of business in the area. There were 17 boats in all...a small flotilla made up of 12 sailboats and 5 power boats,making there way to meet and load onto the Super Servant 3. When we arrived, the ship was very low in the water having already pumped water into the loading bay and lowered the ship approximately 15 feet in order to accomadate the drafts of all the vessels being loaded. The ship's loading master began by hailing the first 3 vessels that would be loading. He gave instructions as to which side of the ship they would tie to, whether or not they would be bow first or stern first, and to which side they would tie. One boat after another began entering the stern of the ship to tie up in their assigned positions. We were the 13th boat to load, putting Thor toward the stern of the loading bay. It was rather an easy process as the ships crewman were there to help with lines and show us were to tie. After all the vessels were loaded, we made our way off the boat along a very narrow catwalk to the ship's lounge where we met with the shipping agent to turn over our documetation and a key to the cabin of the boat. A small boat began taking people off and returning them to shore. As we waited for our turn on the shore boat, we were able to watch as divers entered the water and began placing stands under each boat getting them in position. The ship then began pumping water out of the "cargo bay" and the boats began touching the deck and settling into the stands as the water was lowered. It reminded me a little of going through the Ballard locks in Seattle. By noon, we had said goodbye to many of the crews from the other boats and taken the shore boat to Costa Baja Marina, where we grabbed a ride in the back of a pick up truck to Palmira Marina. There we were able to get a taxi to the hotel where we spent last night.

Getting Ready to leave Mexico
05/12/2011, La Paz, B.C.S.

Our last week in Mexico has been busy...we've spent the time cleaning the boat inside and out, including the bottom. We've tended to minor repairs and maintenance. And we have also made preparations for shipping the boat to the Northwest. Most importantly, we have been visiting with old friends and new and enjoying the experience of La Paz. We were fortunate to meet up with Mark and Anne on Blue Rodeo and Dave and Marissa on Pacifico before they left to head north into the Sea of Cortez. We first met Mark and Anne way back at Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island and have been crossing paths with them on and off ever since. We met Dave and Marissa in Barra and have shared a few anchorages since then with them as well. We all got together one evening for a great meal at Los Magueyes and to swap stories. Anne and Mark had spent some time in Desolation Sound in British Columbia and gave us some good information. We also spent some time with John on Morning Light. John is a great story teller and his sense of humor is never ending. John is planning to haul out Morning Light and store her on the hard for the summer and he is planning to spend the summer in Bellingham. We may see him there at the end of the summer before he heads back to Mexico.

We got word that the Dockwise Transport ship, Super Servant 3, will be arriving in La Paz this Friday. We are scheduled to load, along with 16 other boats, on Saturday morning beginning at 0800 hours. After loading, we will have a hotel room on Saturday night and take the bus to Cabo San Lucas airport for a flight to Seattle on Sunday afternoon. We will be in Seattle for up to two weeks awaiting word of the arrival of the ship in Nanaimo. When we have the arrival date, we will make our way to Nanaimo to meet the ship and offload the boat for cruising in British Columbia.

05/12/2011 | Teri Quam
Safe travels!!!
05/13/2011 | Bobbie
A hotel room?!? with hot water?!? & room service?!?
05/13/2011 | Glenn Judson
My wife and I are wondering what it is worth to ship the boat like that. We're in Victoria. I'd like to meet you in Nanaimo if it works out. Thanks Glenn
Arrival in La Paz
05/04/2011, La Paz, B.C.S.

A few days ago, we arrived back in La Paz. this is our third time in La Paz since we arrived in Mexico last November and will be our final port of call and our departure point for Mexico. We will be here until the ship arrives in about 10 days on which we will load Thor for the passage north to Cananda.

We have busied ourselves with small boat projects and doing a thorough cleaning of the boat inside and out. We have also met up with some other cruising friends and had a pleasant dinner out with the crews from Blue Rodeo and Pacifico.

We also have enjoyed meeting Bill on Ocean Quest who has a 65 foot power vessel that he purchased about 14 years ago in horible condition and has been restoring it ever since. He was kind enough to give us a tour of the boat. The boat was built in Norway in 1960 and is a Ronsdal trawler, similar to the Norwegian fishing trawlers although this boat was originally built as a pleasure vessel. Bill has done a fantastic job restoring the vessel; it is definitely a labor of love.

Our loading date for shipping the boat has not yet been confirmed, but we are scheduled for sometime between May 14 and 16. We are having bitter-sweet thoughts as our time in Mexico is winding down...we will miss Mexico but are also looking forward to getting back to the northwest to see family and to cruise this summer in British Columbia.

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Who: Marc and Lorrie Cascio
Port: Bellingham, WA
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