Photo: Replacing the propeller at Shearwater Marine, British Columbia
"Bring lots of spares and lots of tools. You don't have enough tools until your tools have tools." That's what Steve tells boaters heading for SE Alaska for the first time.
Fortunately, Steve followed his own advice preparing for this trip. Our journey so far has been an illustration of that comic definition of cruising, "Doing boat repairs in exotic locations."
We'll remember these "exotic locations" as much for the repairs we did there as for their tourist attractions.
Friday Harbor. San Juan Islands. May 13-14.
We arrived in late afternoon, just in time to make a quick grocery stop for things we'd forgotten and go out for dinner. But first, we needed to add some more air to our inflatable dinghy.
Just a few days before, we'd spent a frustrating hour going through all of our air pumps, hoses and adaptors to make sure we had the right mix for our two different kayaks and a dinghy, each with its unique pump, hose and adaptors. But when I inserted the right adaptor into the dinghy's valve and Steve started pumping, more air escaped through the adaptor then went into the dinghy. A prong on the adaptor had broken.
We didn't have a spare adaptor but we managed to get the dinghy pumped (barely) by holding the adaptor firmly into the valve as we pumped. So we went ashore, had a good dinner at the Schooner and Cask Restaurant and left the problem for the next day. Perhaps a store in Friday Harbor would have an adaptor we could buy the next morning. After dinner, Steve got out the epoxy and glued the adaptor together. Not great, but would do until we found a new one.
The next day we tromped all over town looking for the right adaptor. No one had one, although one store was expecting some in the next day. We didn't want to wait. We have a neighbor in Seattle who works at Ballard Inflatable Boats. A telephone call and an email with photos and we had an adaptor delivered to our house that night. We won't get it until we arrive in Ketchikan, but meanwhile we had the epoxied adaptor.
We'd followed another bit of advice we often give first-timers to SE Alaska: take telephone numbers for ordering things from Seattle.
Bedwell Harbor, Canadian Gulf Islands. May 14-15.
Photo: the resort at Bedwell Harbor.
We left Friday Harbor and motored through the San Juans and across Boundary Pass to Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island where we went through customs. It was the Friday before British Columbia's May long weekend for Victoria Day (in celebration of Queen Victoria's Birthday). Boats were arriving for the weekend and a smattering of guests strolled on the sunlit beach of the resort. It was pleasant sitting in our cockpit enjoying the sunshine. We were in a foreign country; our voyage had really begun.
But the next morning as we motored out of the bay, the needle on the tachometer was stuck on zero, not even jiggling. And the battery wasn't charging. "At least I have a spare alternator," Steve grumped, after a string of swear words. Back to anchor.
We spent the rest of the morning, into the afternoon, taking out the old alternator, putting in the new and (the worst of it) fishing in the bilge for a dropped spacer. (My role was mostly to hand tools, parts and fasteners to Steve, a diesel nurse to a diesel doctor.
We never found the dropped spacer but replaced it with about fifteen ¼" washers held together with scotch tape.
When we finally left Bedwell Harbour, it was too late to make slack water at Dodd Narrows. Instead, we anchored at Clam Bay, one of our favorite anchorages in the Gulf Islands. It has a beautiful sand spit and room enough for lots of boats to swing without stern anchors. But our enjoyment of it was hampered by the discovery enroute that our gray water pump wasn't working. "I just replaced the diaphragm last week," griped Steve. Osprey's sink drains are at water level so we can't discharge directly overboard without risk of black flooding.
One major repair job a day was enough. I washed dishes in a bucket that night.
Nanaimo. May 16.
Photo: fireworks over Nanaimo Harbour.
I thought regretfully of Nanaimo's bookstores and restaurants and of the park on nearby Newcastle Island with its hiking trails. We'd enjoyed them on previous visits, but not this day. Instead, I handed tools to Steve as he disassembled and re-assembled the gray water pump. The discharge joker valve had failed. Yes, we had a spare. In fact, we had two spares and an extra diaphragm if we had needed it.
That night we watched the Victoria Day fireworks over Nanaimo Harbour from across the bay. They're some of the best fireworks we've seen - with creative designs in color. Good thing we didn't need any parts because with the three-day weekend we wouldn't have been able to get them until Tuesday.
Tribune Bay. Hornby Island, Strait of Georgia. May 17.
Photo: Tribune Bay
Tourists basked in the sun, paddled by on their stand-up paddle boards and picnicked on the beach at the park on Tribune Bay. We enjoyed the sunshine and the view from our cockpit as we installed fasteners on the acrylic port window of our new dodger. Steve had feared that the caulking the yard had used when building it wouldn't be strong enough; he was right. All it took was Steve leaning on the window from the inside to loosen the caulking. Of course, he had fasteners on board to take care of it.
Rounding Cape Caution. May 24.
We were off Slingsby Channel south of Cape Caution motoring in a flat calm when we heard a series of thumps on the hull. We both looked astern to see a log pop up behind us on the opposite side of the thumps. We'd been watching for rocks, not logs.
"It hit the prop!" said Steve. Then I heard it, a change in rhythm. Steve throttled back and we made the rest of the trip to Fury Cove under reduced speed, finally getting a boost from a wind in Fitz Hugh Sound. We'd be stopping at Shearwater, the next town, whether we wanted to or not. Yes, we had a spare prop, but we couldn't replace it ourselves.
Shearwater May 25, 2015.
Photo: Eagles in a tree at Shearwater Marine
It's hard to think of Shearwater as an exotic location. But it does have a restaurant and several stately eagles that hang out on an old snag on the waterfront. We arrived Sunday night in time for pizza at the restaurant - cooked Canadian style with the meat underneath the cheese.
The next morning the yard had us out of the water by noon and back in two hours later. Steve had worried they would charge an exorbitant rate since they are the only yard on the central coast and we were captive customers. But the bill came to almost exactly what we paid in Juneau two years before. Given the exchange rate, it was a bargain.
And so it went. Our heat exchanger is leaking slowly but we don't know where. We're having a spare mailed to Ketchikan...In Horsefly Cove we replaced the idler sheaves for the hydraulic anchor windlass.
Photo: Osprey anchored in Horsefly Cove, Princess Royal Channel
Ten miles later we made an emergency anchorage in Khutze Bay when Steve noticed the voltage was 15 volts, not the 13 it should be. He thought he'd have to replace the regulator but instead he just replaced two broken wires.
So now Osprey has a new alternator, new propeller, new valves in the gray water pump and a new hydraulic idler sheave. But we've got a problem. We're arriving in Ketchikan at the beginning of the Alaska leg of our summer's trip and we are almost out of spares....
But our troubles may be over. Shortly after we arrived in Ketchikan, Steve ran into Norman Jackson, a Tlingit carver we have met in previous visits to Ketchikan. When Steve told him our list of woes, he handed him a good luck talisman of devil's club. It sits on our table right now. We can use some good luck.