Wednesday, October 6, 2010

20 Sept 2010 - Bringing Arcadia I Home at last

This belated posting represents the end of the "Extended Sea Trial" we've been on since we first took ownership of Arcadia I in Skagway in late June of last year. After well over 10,000 nautical miles under the keel, we've finally brought her to her new home port at Dana Point. We'll stay home and pay attention to family and business for a while, but the next adventure won't be too far in the future.

To recap the travels described in earlier postings. We spent the summer of 2009 in SE Alaska. From there, after a short period on the hard in Bellingham, we took on her own bottom from SE Alaska to Huatulco, Mexico by the end of 2009. In 2010, we continued South to El Salvador and Panama, then turned back North to La Paz, Mexico where we had booked a ride for Arcadia I on a Dockwise yacht transport ship from there to Nanaimo, BC. (Thus avoiding the long and predictably unpleasant ride, "uphill", to Puget Sound). We then made a relatively leisure trip back up the inside passage along the BC coast, back to SE Alaska, where we enjoyed the remainder of the summer season. As we made the last posting, Phyllis had joined Willy and me in Ketchikan, and we were preparing to start down the inside passage toward home.

On Thursday, August 12th, we got underway from Ketchikan at 4 am in hopes of clearing Canadian Customs and Immigration that afternoon. We entered Canadian waters by 10 am and were tied up to the Customs dock in Prince Rupert by 3:30. Checkin formalities were conducted by telephone interview from a phone mounted on the dock, at the end of which we were given a "report number" and were free to go. It was late enough that we decided to try to find a slip in Prince Rupert for the night, but both marinas were completely full. We went looking for a protected anchorage nearby. We notice Phillps Cove on the charts. It looked ideal, although none of our guide books mentioned it. We went in through a looping channel to find a good holding bottom in 3 fathoms and no one else there.

We slept in a bit and got underway the next morning by about 10 am and made a short day of it. Along the way, Shaka made radio contact with us. She had cleared Customs early that morning and was a couple of hours behind us. I'd read the Douglass cruising guide description and wanted to anchor in Baker Inlet that afternoon, but it has a narrow entrance with very rapid tidal currents. We entered at near slack conditions without incident, but Shaka behind us would have missed the tide window. We agreed to make radio contact with them as soon as we re-entered Grenville Sound the next morning. Baker inlet was, indeed a beautiful place to stop. We could have happily spent a week there.

The next morning we were faced with pea soup fog and had to literally creep the winding course back to the entrance to Grenville Sound, with Phyl standing lookout on the bow. Fortunately, the fog lifted right at that point and, although we'd missed slack tide flow, we were able to shoot through with a 3-4 knot current and be on our way without incident.

We raised Shaka (Nordhavn 57) on VHF, finding her also getting underway a couple of miles behind. We had met Johann and Laurie in Ketchikan after a long email correspondence and several missed connections and looked forward to travelling together down the inside passage.

As we finished talking with Shaka, we were hailed by Craig Hougen on Explorer II several hours ahead of us. We hadn't actually met Craig in person before. However, last year we had made preliminary plans to buddy boat with him from Bellingham to Ensenada that ultimately didn't materialize. It was a pleasant surprise to encounter them going down the inside passage at the same time we were.

Craig has a beautiful Malahide 60, (one of the real pioneers of the  "trawler" passagemakers trend we all enjoy). You can take a look at his website at Explorer I was on course into the Broughtons at that point, and we'd made plans to go to Butedale so we didn't connect then. However, we made plans to rendezvous when our paths again crossed between Port Hardy and Campbell..

That morning, Saturday the 14th of August, on Craig's recommendation, we made a short detour into Howe Inlet. We'd hoped to see the bears that Craig reported seeing earlier, but they had left with the tide. The tide flow at Varney Falls was impressive, nonetheless. As testament to the tides along the inside passage coves, these falls can be traversed in a dinghy at high tide.

We then continued to Butedale where we tied alongside the old cannery ruins, (sorry, no pictures there unless Johann took some and sends them to me. If so, I'll post them later). We enjoyed a lovely meal aboard Shaka with Johann and Laurie.

Sunday morning, we got underway early and made a fairly short day of the trip to Fancy Cove in time to enjoy the colorful sunset that resulted from forest fires inland.

On Monday, the 16th, we again left early in the morning, to make the open ocean run across Queen Charlotte Strait. The morning started out beautifully, but degenerated into gale force winds by late afternoon. We were more than ready to tie up when we got to the Quarterdeck Marina in Port Hardy.

On Tuesday, the 17th, we made a long day of it travelling down Discovery Passage, to rendezvous that evening behind Chain Islands, just above Seymour Narrows, in time for a lovely dinner aboard Explorer II. Craig Hougen and his friend Mark Tanner were gracious hosts, indeed.

On Wednesday morning, we got underway at 05:30 to time our run down Seymour Narrows with slack tide flow. The last time we went this way, with Ron Fawcett, we did it at near full flow and passed through them at 18 knots. This time, it was a non-event. As soon as we cleared the narrows, entering Georgia Strait, the wind kicked up to 15-20 knots. Our little flotilla, Shaka, Explorer II, and Arcadia I, breasted lumpy seas for the rest of the day. We got to Nanaimo, and all three boats were able to tie up next to one another at the Cameron Island float in time for a very nice shore dinner at my favorite restaurant there, the nearby Acme Seafood and Chop house, (best clam chowder on the planet). Johann and Laurie were staying a few days in Nanaimo, so we bid them farewell, for now. We hope to see them in Southern California later this fall.

The next morning, Thursday the 19th of September, we followed Explorer II through Dodd Narrows for a protected passage through the Bay/San Juan Islands. This is another very narrow passage with tide flows strong enough to make it impassable by slow boats except at slack tide.

We cruised leisurely down through the islands on a sunny day in almost perfect conditions. It's easy to see why so many people consider the Bay,  (Canadian), and San Juan, (American), Islands the best cruising in North America. We made it to Roche Harbor in time to clear US Customs, (represented by a particularly unpleasant woman), anchor the boats and have an extraordinarily lovely dinner ashore in this delightful place.

The next morning, Friday the 20th, we got underway early and made the short trip over to Bellingham. We'd made arrangments to haul out at SeaView North Boatyard early the following week and they were kind enough to allow us free mooring on their adjacent floats. We were tied up by noon. We cleaned up the boat a bit, rented a car, stopped to say goodbye to Craig and Mark and left the boat for a weekend ashore with friends before Phyl and Willy had to catch their flight home on Sunday afternoon.

We didn't actually haul the boat until Tuesday the 24th. What we found was scary, indeed!

I knew there had been contact with the bottom in the first cove we anchored in after we crossed into Alaska in early July. It felt like a minor scrape on the bottom of the keel. No big bumps or lurches. We checked the bilge for any indication of leaks, of course, but after our much more traumatic experience in Panama the whole incident seemed minor and was soon out of mind. I wouldn't have been surprised to find some small scrapes on the keel but what we actually found was that the Nobeltec transducer and its fairing were completely gone! Here's what it should have looked like. It was the big one with the teardrop fairing.

The previous owner of Arcadia I installed this transducer with the Nobeltec navigation system. For reasons never resolved, it never worked for him, or for us. This transducer protruded 5" below the hull. The fairing was made of insubstantial blue plastic, the trailing edge of which we found broken off last year. All in all, I was happy enough to be rid of it. Thus, this was an incident without any serious consequences. The trandsucer didn't work anyway and no seawater entered the boat as a result of its removal.  The Nobeltec transducer hole was plugged and glassed over. The Furuno transducer, (the round one next to it), was replaced with one that is almost flush with the hull, thus eliminating one more protruding device to catch seaweed or fishing lines or, heaven forbid, be broken off.

However, what made the whole thing chilling to contemplate was the discovery later that we could simply pull the transducer stem inside with with only a slight twist and a gentle tug by hand, leaving a 2" hole through the hull under the bed in the master stateroom! All that had held the transucer stem in place for almost three months, (without leaking a drop), was the thin coat of caulking that had ben applied to it when it was installed. While we have wooden plugs located at every hull fitting, a 2" hole three feet below the waterline would have certainly caused serious water damage and might well have sunk the boat in the time it would have taken us to identify the location of the flooding source. I learned several important lessons from this that I want to pass on to my boating friends.
  • Even in Alaska, the GPS charts aren't perfect. While the GPS showed me clearing known rocks as  I entered that cove, I cut the corner when I had plenty of room to give them a wider berth.
  • All hull fittings should be as near flush with the hull as possible. Think very carefully before you decide you need that "gee whiz" device that protrudes from the hull. A 60,000 lb boat has enormous inertia. If you contact the bottom or a substantial submerged object with them, such protrusions will be removed and you may not even feel it.
  • ANY contact with the bottom calls for immediate inspection of ALL hull fittings from inside the hull and an underwater inspection as soon as possible. Like most prudent boaters, we already had a map of all the hull fittings. If we had pulled the mattress up to look at the 5 hull penetrations under it we'd have seen that the transducer shaft was leaning unnaturally forward. If I had dived the boat, I would have noticed that there were only a few shards of the tranducer fairing remaining.
  • God continues to bless us and to forgive my transgresssions.
My brother, Paul, joined me in Bellingham on Friday the 27th of August to help get the boat ready to go on South. While the yard folks worked on the outside of the hull, we did all the normal oil changing and minor repairs inside through the weekend. On Monday, we reprovisioned the boat while the yard crew was doing some minor cosmetic work topside. Weather Bob warned that Tuesday was going to bring some foul weather, but that we had a pretty good window that should last long enough to get to Crescent Bay if we started out as soon as it moved inland.

On Tuesday, August 31st, we were back in the water by noon on a very windy and rainy day. We stayed on the yard's wet dock until about 4 pm, when we moved over to the fuel dock to top off our tanks. By about 5:30 the weather seemed to abate a bit, so we got underway. We deployed the paravanes immediately and moved tentatively out of Bellingham Bay toward Puget Sound. Wind was at near gale force, but without a long fetch the seas were not too bad. By midnight as we cleared Rosario Strait and entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the wind had abated, but were plowing through good sized head seas.

By 10 am on Wednesday, we were passing Cape Flattery with a pretty good ride, considering the weather that had just passed. We went far enough to set a rhumb line course directly South to Crescent City, hoping to avoid crab pots and fishing activity. By midnight, we put Grey's Harbor abeam.

By 06:00 am on Thursday, we put the Columbia River abeam. This was an alternate port, if Weather Bob had indicated we shouldn't try to make it to Crescent City we would have gone in here. Instead, he told us that we needed to be in port by Saturday morning. We opted to make all deliberate haste toward Crescent city. That afternoon, conditions were good enough to stow the paravanes and gain a bit of speed for a few hours.

On Friday, September 3rd, we passed Coos Bay, Oregon by 6:00 am, experiencing a pretty nice ride. By about 5 pm, the wind and seas were picking up a bit, just as Weather Bob had forecast. However, we were able to leave the paravanes stowed as we turned into Crescent City. We were tied to the Crescent City floats by 9:30 that evening.

Paul and I spent Saturday morning doing minor cleanup and maintenance and the afternoon exploring the marina. Weather Bob told us to expect to stay here at least until Tuesday, so we rented a car on Sunday and set out to explore the redwood country for a couple of days. Mike O'leary flew up that afternoon to join us for the trip on South. We had a great time exploring the redwoods and the coast south to Trinidad, CA on Monday the 6th. Just as predicted, there were gale force winds from the North all day.

Just as Bob forecast, the weather broke on Tuesday, the 7th. We turned in the car and got underway before noon, with the paravanes stowed. Paul caught a nice albacore that afternoon as we made our way south. That evening he made a nice dinner of some of it.

We continued South in good weather conditions, Wednesday and Thurdsay deploying the paravanes only at night when moderate seas seem bigger without a visible horizon. On Friday the 10th, we put Pt. Conception abeam by noon, with a noticeable improvement in wind and sea condition right after that.

The early morning hours of Saturday the 11th of September were spent nervously threading our way through heavy ship traffic at the entrances to Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors.

For several days while we were travelling down, my son Zach had been on a quest to find some place near home to tie the boat when we got there. The Nordhavn folks had a slip waiting for us at Dana Point on Monday, so he rented a temporary slip for us in Newport Beach until then. At 6:00 am I called Phyllis on my cell phone to tell her we expected to be there in about an hour. Phyllis, Willy, Zach and Stephanie met us as we tied up. It's good to be home!