On the Hard

It’s been way too long. We moved off the boat at the end of September last year, because we both went back to school. Living at anchor on a 27-foot boat and doing intensive academic degrees (and working!) is no easy trick. Especially since it started to rain and might not have let up until the spring.

We still have Tomahawk (in fact, I took a friend out yesterday for a lovely day of sailing). Most of our adventures have been of the maintenance kind. We hauled it out in June for a bottom job – DIY and we scraped it down pretty much to the gelcoat, since we didn’t know what kind of paint was on it. Now it looks shiny and moves a lot faster, although things are already starting to grow on it.

We may have to floss it soon… That’s using a piece of line to scrub the bottom from the deck, one person on either side, with a back-and-forth motion.

I’m getting ready to start my research, which is about cruisers (surprise, surprise). Jason has been working on the little water buses and we are both gearing up for a new semester at school.

The sailing season is coming to an end here, but we have lots of ideas for Tomahawk for next year. And hopefully we’ll still get a few nice days to enjoy the water this fall.

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One Month

At the end of the month, we plan to move aboard Tomahawk. We have so much left to do to get the boat ready and we continue to have obstacles thrown at us.

Recently, our Zodiac got stolen. The person cut the ring off of where it was patched to the boat, leaving our lock on the dock. Luckily, we had just purchased a new Walker Bay hard shell tender. The new tender has a wheel in the back (stern), but it isn’t enough to carry it all the way from where we have it in storage down to the water. It’s several city blocks of sidewalks and pedestrians and traffic.

But we don’t want to leave it at the public dock overnight after all our other negative experiences.

Once we move onto the boat, we will be keeping it with us except for a few hours during the day. With a lock, it should be fine (knock on wood).

We’ve also ordered a new outboard engine. It’s a 5hp Tohatsu with a five-year warranty. If we maintain it properly and run it regularly, it should give us lots of use and peace of mind. And it puts up the value of our boat for resale, especially if it’s still under warranty at the time. The Walker Bay would too, but we plan to keep that when we upgrade.

Speaking of upgrading, we have started looking at bigger sailboats in the 35-40′ range. Last week, we took a trip to Nanaimo to check out a C&C Landfall 38 and a Hunter 35. In the morning before we got on the ferry, we visited a Catalina 36, the big sister of Tomahawk. All were appealing, but requests for advice led us to understand that we need an offshore boat, even though we don’t plan to go offshore for a few years.

That eliminates the Catalina and the Hunter, which were both built for cruising in sheltered waters. People have crossed oceans in them, but people have done that in rowboats too. We would prefer something designed for that purpose.

So within the next few weeks, we have to get or build some sort of cart for the dinghy, haul out Tomahawk to clean and repaint, take the old motor off and install the new one, and clean the boat inside. We also have to sort through our stuff to see what we will get rid of, put on the boat, and put in storage.

So much to do, so little time! If we can’t do the haul out this month, we might have to beg a friend to let us sleep on their couch for a few days in July, so that we can get that all done.

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It’s Finally Official!

A life spent mostly aboard a smallish sailing craft is finally beginning to solidify. As the last hurrah of the so-called Vancouver winter began, Jason and I signed up for sailing lessons, which start and end in March. The focus is on cruising (the common term for being a liveaboard) as well as daysailing, but the course is broken up into three evenings in the classroom and three full days out on the water. That fits our schedules better than the 5-day liveaboard courses offered by most sailing schools. The boat will be a 24-footer, so somewhat smaller than ours, which is fine, since the basics are the same.

We can’t wait for the weather to warm up, so that we can fully begin preparations for moving onto Tomahawk in the summer. It’s going to be an adventure and a challenge, but we intend to stay for the summer, at least. How things unfold in the fall remains to be seen.

We have a few concerns, mostly about the engine starting, since it has been sitting for so long and we’ve had trouble with it in the past. It’s also going to be expensive to get everything ready, but we will save a lot of money on rent in the long run. Hopefully, it will all balance out in the end.

Within a few months, we may be making our first overnight trip all by ourselves! Even a short excursion around the bay would be an accomplishment at this point.

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Two Hundred Feet of Chain

Tomahawk will not end up on the beach again!

Jamie very generously lent us a length of super heavy chain from his 46-footer. He won’t be using it while he’s away, so we went out in the freezing cold and dark to hook it up to our own chain. Now the boat is weighed down by all that chain, plus it won’t chafe through the way the rope did. That means we can leave it out in English Bay without having to worry.

Meanwhile, the weather isn’t as wet as it was this time last year. That’s a good thing.

On the downside, we couldn’t get the engine going when Jamie and I were out, so he had to give us a tow with his dinghy. Due to the extreme cold and the fact that Jamie had time constraints, we decided to leave Tomahawk rafted up to his boat overnight. Jason went out in the morning and dropped the anchor in an appropriate location, once again with the help of our guardian angel Jamie. The engine wouldn’t start then either. Internet research has revealed that gas doesn’t vaporize well in the cold, so that could be the issue (also the fact that we haven’t started it up in a little while). Hopefully it will work fine once the weather warms up a bit more.

Our own dinghy appears to have a small leak, so it is currently sitting on the boat. Good thing we got those kayaks! Even without a vehicle, we can carry them down to the water from here and paddle across. We don’t have spray skirts, though, so we tend to get a bit damp. We haven’t actually gone all the way across the bay with them, but we did take them out for a spin on Jason’s birthday last month.

Once spring hits, which is late February here, I’m sure the kayaks will get a lot more use, as will the boat. We are thinking of taking proper sailing or even cruising lessons, if we can save up the cash.


Giant Anchor

We thought the chain was a better idea than getting an anchor this size!


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Just a quick update to let you all know that we don’t have regular internet access right now. We will be back online soon!

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Who pays the ferryman?

While waiting to become more skilled at sailing, I would love to do a job like this. I know the weather would be bad sometimes and so on, but still! Maybe I can drive the Aquabus at some point.

Views From A Small Island

river ferry

This is a little ferry across the river mouth. You might think it would be boring going backwards and forwards all day but I can think of worse ways to spend the day.

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The Case of the Missing Zodiac

A strange astronomical event has shifted the stars so that one of the Zodiac constellations is missing!


Actually, our RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) made by Zodiac, which we simply call “the Zodiac,” or even more inaccurately, “the dinghy,” disappeared from the dock where we’d left it.

As explained in our last post, we had to move Tomahawk out of False Creek. We anchored in the Pirate Bay and all seemed well. Steve was a bit worried about high winds coming in over the weekend and very kindly checked on our boat once for us. We weren’t able to get out to check on it ourselves, plus we weren’t really sure what we would do if it was indeed dragging or gone, so we decided just to hope for the best.

The best turned out to be great for the boat. On Monday, we walked across the bridge and down to Kitsilano Beach, where we could see that it was still happily sitting in the same spot where we left it. I guess  you could say that everything had gone swimmingly. (Har har…)

Or so we thought.

Unsure of where to leave our Zodiac, we had tied it up to the Vancouver Maritime Museum dock. We didn’t see any signs saying “No Public Moorage,” and I swear that we looked. In fact, even Steve had a quick look and suggested it should be fine.

As it turned out, it was not fine. Quite the opposite. When we went back after contenting ourselves with Tomahawk’s apparent security, the dinghy was gone. Now, we had a very strong locking cable, so the idea that it was stolen seemed odd. The museum was closed, so I called the next day to find out if they knew anything or might have cameras.

After speaking to a super helpful administrator who emailed the info around, it came out that a guy who lives on his boat at the dock called the police to remove our Zodiac. Essentially, we were parked illegally and got towed.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Marine Unit officer who I spoke to was also extremely helpful. She added my information to the file, so that there should be no hassle when I go to pick it up. That will be tomorrow, if all goes well. They cut the lock, so we’ll need to get a new one. In the meantime, there is no fine (she believed) and we will have our dinghy back. Much cheaper than getting a new one, for sure, and it means we can actually get out to our boat again.

An alternative we discussed is to get a two-person kayak. We could carry it up the beach right to our house, so we won’t have to worry about where to leave our dinghy in future. But price is always a factor. It’s something to think about at this point. If anybody has advice about where to dock or what sort of options might work, please let us know!

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Beware of Whales, and Other Sailing Dangers

I’ve heard a lot of unfounded fears about sailing and living on board, but this one takes the cake. “What if a whale comes up and knocks the boat over? We have a lot of big whales around here.”

To be fair, the person who said this knows nothing about sailing or boating of any kind, from what I’ve gathered. But still. If this were really that big a risk, I’m sure we would hear about it in the news every so often. Instead, car accidents and shootings seem higher on the list of dangers in this city.

I’ve also been told to watch out for pirates, but if they really want to target a 40-year-old cruiser rather than a shiny new yacht, then they probably aren’t very good at what they do. Not that it couldn’t happen, but I’m going to worry about that one about as much as I worry about getting leprosy.

Whale crashes onto boat

Okay, so it could happen, but seriously. Not my foremost concern.

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We Have a Boat!

Two days ago, we traded a money order for a bill of a sale – and a 27-foot sailboat called Tomahawk!

It all started on New Year’s Eve of 2011. As the year turned, we were staying at the Rum Runner’s Roost, a bed and breakfast in Twillingate, Newfoundland. We had the place entirely to ourselves. The dead of winter is not a great time to travel and we battled sideways snow and biting temperatures on the drive there and back. In fact, the owners even offered to let us stay a second night for free, because they were afraid we would go off the road in the blizzard.

These same owners were the people who inspired our dream of living on a sailboat. They had done it for ten years, exploring the Great Lakes and beyond. While they made us breakfast, the wind blustering around the house-cum-B&B, they regaled us with tales of near-death experiences and calm passages on pristine waters.

We decided to follow in their footsteps… or wake.

Catalina 27

A mid-70s Catalina 27 like ours!

It’s taken us this long to take the first major step (although moving to Vancouver was a piece in the puzzle). In the past few months, we took a few informal sailing lessons from a guy with a 16-footer, but the wind was uncooperative. We didn’t end up doing much actual sailing, although we did learn about rigging the boat, right of way on the water, and docking.

Other than Jason’s brief teenage experience with sailing at camp, we are utter newbies at this point. It might be good to actually learn how to control the boat, starting with how to put up the sails, right?

Luckily, the guy who sold us the boat is super nice. He’s been living on it for a year and a half and has it all set up for liveaboard, except for the missing head holding tank (that’s septic tank, for you landlubbers). He’s also way more practically skilled than us and he’s agreed to teach us everything from reading navigational charts and fixing the motor to hooking up a solar panel and anchoring properly.

The rainy season is going to be hitting us soon, so we’ll have to do our best to take advantage of the short time we have to start figuring out which way is up… or aft.

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