The Big Test

Last Sunday, we had to rescue Charly from the cold waters of the Georgia Strait before hypothermia set in. The rescue involved a series of maneuvers including tacking and trimming the sails for a beam reach and then a broad reach. With a sharp 90-degree turn, we were able to fish Charly out of the water with our boat hook.

Did I mention that Charly is a life jacket? I imagine the folks at Simply Sailing would have to pay someone a lot of money to get in the water this time of year!

Day three on the water of our sailing course drew on all the skills we’d learned (or not) so far. It was the last day and our instructor Larry put us to the test. Then on Tuesday, we had the immeasurable pleasure of writing the knowledge test for PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card – like a driver’s license) and Basic Cruising.

It’s been an eventful time and a busy month. I had to rearrange my schedule to get the days off, which means I don’t have a whole lot of free time. Jason, on the other hand, has kept working until midnight on Saturdays; in other words, quality sleep isn’t really in the cards for him, since we met our instructor at the docks at nine in the morning.

The first day saw some engine troubles (which seems to be growing into a theme with us…). Joel was super calm and professional and we benefited from the incident, in a way. We had to scull back to the dock. In other words, we paddled a 24-foot sailboat through False Creek into the marina.

All in all, the class was worthwhile. Despite a lack of pedagogy in the on-water sessions, we were able to grasp what we need to get started on our sailing adventure. We are both fully licensed and have been making lots of sailing plans (more like sketchy possibilities, but hey, it’s a start, right?).

Our friend Jamie is back in town and he offered to take Jason, me, and my sister (who arrives from across the country for a visit tomorrow!) out on Paramour, his 43-footer that has put 40,000 miles of water behind it. Sounds awesome!

(As a side note, I’d just like to point out that I got my boating license before my driver’s license. For some reason, that amuses me.)

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Actual Sailing!

It has been a while since I put up a post, but it’s not for lack of activity. Actually, lots of real-life activity keeps me away from the internet, so maybe a lack of posting is a good sign. We’ll just go with that.

Yesterday, I left work early to meet Jason for our very first sailing class. We decided a few months ago to sign up with Simply Sailing for their intro course, which consists of three evenings in a classroom and three full days out on the water, as I explained in this post. Yesterday was the first classroom session. Our instructor Christof covered such lovely topics as hypothermia, basic knots, and reading tide and current charts (all vital knowledge, for sure).

His version of the figure eight knot goes like this: “You make a smiley face, then you strangle him, and poke him in the eye.” It actually works quite well and I like his morbid sense of humour. We have a different instructor for on the boat, so we will see how he measures up to Christof’s glowing first impression of the school. (By the way, several weeks ago he dropped off our books at our house instead of mailing them, since he lives close by. More brownie points for the sailing community!)

The people in our evening class will be out on the boat on Saturday, not with us on Sunday.  However, it seems like there will be a third person on our day, which will be nice from a social perspective, but it would’ve been awesome to have basically private lessons.

No, it isn’t…

Unfortunately, Jason works until midnight on Saturday and we have to be at Granville Island docks at nine in the morning on Sunday. Not fun. This weekend will be particularly trying, since the clocks go forward for Daylight Savings, so we will miss an hour of sleep. Oh, well. I’m sure he will survive, plus we can always go back to shore a bit early if we get enough practice in for the day, according to Christof.

We are both super excited to get out on the water, even though the forecast is predicting crappy weather for the weekend. I went out and bought a Wetskins rain jacket and pants set from Canadian Tire for $69.99. A lot of sailors have mentioned it on forums or blogs, and it seems much more reliable than the cheap vinyl outfit I got for refloating our boat. I don’t think this one will shred at the first touch!

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Warming Up

It finally feels like spring today. I know, I know. People in the rest of Canada and many parts of the US, Asia, and Europe will be thinking, “Finally? It’s only mid-February!” But to us spoiled people here in Vancouver, this month marks the beginning of the end.

The days are getting longer too, which gives me a fuzzy feeling and an itch to get working on the boat.

However, I realized today that we have everything we need to actually sail Tomahawk. The sails are beat up, but seem workable. The hull is solid, albeit due for a cleaning and a fresh coat of bottom paint. The rudder responds well to the tiller. Our biggest concern is the engine. I’m starting to understand why so many boaters are fans of diesel over gasoline. And electric starters, rather than pulling the cord, which I suck at.

We also need to take our engine out of the too-small engine compartment and mount it on the transom. This will be one of our first priorities. Of course, if the engine won’t start properly, we may need to shell out the cash for a new one, which will hurt a lot.

After basic preparations, we will soon need to turn our attention to the battery bank. We’ll need a new battery, in all likelihood, as well as some sort of generator. We have a solar panel on board, but we are thinking hydro would be awesome. And possibly wind. The more sources, the merrier.

Of course, before we can live aboard, we will need a solution to our toilet problem. No, we haven’t solved that yet. We will likely ask a few sailor friends for advice and see what our bank account thinks of the various options.

And a shower. We have our solar shower, which should be fine for summer, but we need some sort of hiding place to shower in. I’m thinking maybe one of those collapsible camping showers, if we can set it up in the cockpit. Hmm…

Lots to think about. Can’t wait to finally start sailing next month!

Categories: Getting Started, New Boat, Practical Stuff, Supplies | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Free Fenders

My boss at work happens to be an avid boater, although of an entirely different class from Jason and me. Whereas we keep our boat anchored and intend to provision it for living aboard while keeping our costs as low as possible, my boss uses his vessel entirely for pleasure trips, keeping it docked at a somewhat pricey marina at Coal Harbour and furnishing it with all the latest devices (or rather, paying for someone else to furnish it). He also has a rather large powerboat. Tomahawk’s diminutive 27 feet of sailboat will receive much more direct attention from its owners.

As with most things in life, the differences are neither positive nor negative. Instead, they merely serve to illuminate the diversity within the boating community. Some powerboaters hate sailors and vice versa, but really, variations on a theme can make that theme much more dynamic and interesting. So much wasted energy trying to figure out who’s better or more right when we should be celebrating each other’s experiences.

Anyway, the other day, he told me that they are tearing down and rebuilding his rented boathouse. He has to clear out a lot of stuff that has been stored there, which could lead to some decluttering – always a good thing.

The best part for us is that he has offered me and Jason some spare fenders that he no longer needs. Since we lost most of ours in the Great Beaching of 2013, additional fenders will be very valuable.

(In case you aren’t sure, fenders hang off the sides of a boat to keep it from scraping on docks, other boats, or anything else. They come in many shapes and sizes.)

Fenders on sailboat

The fenders are the white things hanging off the side

So yay for free fenders! Knowing my boss, they are probably good quality, too. He’s gutting out the boathouse tomorrow, so we may be due for a paddle out to our boat in the near future for some fixing up. I’m starting to get itchy for the next phase. Let’s hope for warm, dry weather and an early spring!

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Bits and Pieces

Here’s hoping you all had a great holiday, whether or not you actually celebrate Christmas or any other occasion. To the Christmas babies out there: Happy Birthday!

Now that Tomahawk is sitting securely with a friend’s watchful eye nearby, we haven’t spent as much time out on the water. Of course, the cold and wet don’t help with motivation. We continue to collect items that we will need once we seriously start overhauling the boat, but for now, they are sitting in a box in our living room.

I’m sad to report that our hand-cranked blender from Vortex has sprung a leak. We didn’t use it very much before this happened, so we may not be replacing it. If you know of any other similar items that are more solid, please let us know in the comments!

 

Categories: Getting Started | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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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And another thing…

We’ve been thinking (not seriously) of changing our blog’s name to “And another thing…” because every time we fix something on the boat, we find another thing we need to work on. It’s fun on one level, but it’s also very time-consuming and we have yet to actually take Tomahawk out sailing.

Here are a few of the items on our current to-do list:

  • Get the water out of our port compartments. We believe this leaked in through the companionway hatch when the boat was on its side. In other words, it’s not a hull breach and just needs to be sponged out.
  • Clean the interior. It was a bit of a mess before, but since the grounding, everything is all over the place. We bought some biodegradable, sealife-friendly Sea Safe cleaner. If you ever own a boat, please don’t use bleach or other chemicals that harm the environment. We haven’t tried it out yet, but this product is pretty cheap and very concentrated, so it should last a long time. They claim that three capfuls mixed in water will clean our whole boat.
  • Fix or replace the mainsail. Jamie took a look at our mainsail and discovered a tear in the cloth. The whole thing is pretty worn out. Sails are not cheap, so we may just duct tape the tear until we get a bit of practice in and we have some extra
  • Rig up an anchoring light. Right now, we have two solar-powered garden lights from Canadian Tire that are supposed to come on automatically at dusk. They don’t meet the regulations, but they will do until we can figure out how to hook up our electrical system – which brings us to the next point.
  • Hook up the electrical system. It turns out we don’t need to concern ourselves overly with an inverter. DC power will run all the boat’s built-in lights. We just need a solar panel, wind generator, and/or water generator to keep the battery charged. We might also have to do some rewiring, which we have no clue about. I’ve been reading Sailboat Electrics Simplified by Don Casey and am learning a lot. I highly recommend this book for people who have no idea about electricity, like me.
  • Patch the Zodiac. Yesterday, we went down to clean up the boat. Our dinghy was still floating, but had taken on a surprising amount of water. It had also deflated a bit. Jason was able to paddle out to the boat without sinking, so hopefully it will be okay until we can fix it. The goal was to get our pump, but the lock on the companionway has seized up. So he wasn’t able to get in and we returned home dejected.
  • Get WD40. See above. If we can’t unseize the lock, we will have to cut it and buy a new one.
  • Put a bridle on our anchor. Having your anchor bridled reduces the amount of strain on the line, since the force is diffused in two directions. It would also allow us to drop the hook directly off the front of the bow, instead of off to one side the way it is now. That would reduce chafe, which was what caused the line to break before.
Anchor bridle

An anchor bridle on the folks at Zero to Cruising’s boat. Check out their awesome blog by clicking on the image!

I’m sure there are a few more things and as soon as we finish one project, something else will crop up. If the dinghy does sink or become irreparable, we now have kayaks that we bought super cheap (display models in the off-season, dontcha know?). We will still be able to get out to the boat to move things forward.

 

Categories: Getting Started, Maintenance, New Boat, Practical Stuff | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Crash

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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A Hole in the Water, or How to Refloat a Boat

The trip to the Vancouver Police property office happened in the freezing rain. The dinghy was in pieces, with the floorboards removed “for easier transport” and it was covered in grime. (See this post to find out why our Zodiac was there.)

It was so dirty that we realized we couldn’t take it in a taxi. Jason had to run off to Home Depot to get a tarp and some rope while I waited with our stuff. It wasn’t really a waste of time and money, because you can never have too many tarps or too much spare rope, right? Once we had it wrapped up, we managed to get a cab and stick the thing into our storage room in the building’s basement. It smelled of dead sea creatures, but neither of us had enough ambition to wash it off.

We thought retrieving the dinghy was the hard part.

On Tuesday while at work, I got a voicemail from the VPD Marine Unit. In the high winds, Tomahawk’s anchor line broke and the boat washed up on the beach – on the opposite side of the bay from where it was anchored (see map below). They said it was undamaged, as far as they could tell, other than the missing anchor and chain.

When my heart stopped pounding, I asked to leave work early. My boss is a boat owner, so he was very understanding and my coworkers were great too. It was dark when I got down to Sunset Beach, but it was still easy to spot the mast pointing through the air toward the shore at a dysfunctional angle.

Grounded Sailboat

Tomahawk Grounded at Sunset Beach (Photo: Nigs Donald)

The cops had placed yellow tape around the area, but they warned me that people might try to loot the boat. I had no idea how to proceed. Jason was working until midnight, so he had to get a play-by-play through my frantic text messages.

The constable recommended coming back at high tide early the next morning, but I didn’t have a plan yet. I had called a marine assistance company, but the guy quoted me at $2000 for a tow. He later reneged and said it would be more like $5-600, but I had already moved on to another course of action, which was to frantically scream for help via Facebook, the Vancouver boating and sailing meetup group, and text messages.

Amazingly, a whole slough of people responded, including some total strangers. Jason and I went to a boating knot tying class earlier this year as part of a local meetup group’s activities. A few people from the group came out to help, which was excellent, because they actually had some idea what they were doing. It was inspiring how many other friends also offered their assistance.

Jason and I spent Wednesday morning buying a new anchor at Wright Mariner, where Steve, a former fifteen-year liveaboard, felt so bad for us that he gave us ten percent off and some useful advice. Jason had to work from four to midnight, so I headed to West Marine to pick up some chain and rope (not cheap!).

The evening high tide turned out to be grossly insufficient to do anything with the boat, although people had dug a hole in front of the keel to prevent it from digging back in. Someone showed me a tide app that indicated the following morning’s high tide would be a meter higher, so we decided to reconvene at 5:45 am.

I had bought cheap rain pants at Canadian Tire, but they ripped when I got in the car first thing in the morning. My advice? Don’t go for the cheapest option. Once they had a hole, it kept growing larger and larger, until they were hanging off of me in shreds. I did keep them on though, because they were more or less intact for about three inches above my boots, which is where it mattered the most. It looked pretty funny though.

Our refloating adventure wasn’t without its mishaps (e.g. soaked feet) and personality clashes, of course, but by rowing out in our dinghy to drop the new anchor at a right angle to Tomahawk, we were able to create some leverage on the boat. We also tried first to keep the halyard (line for raising the sail) tied to a log on the beach, so that Tomahawk would stay well on its side. This was to prevent the keel from digging back in to the ground when it started to move away. A military spotter who lent a hand told us that the incoming tide would fill in the hole dug the previous day for that purpose, so we needed to take another tack.

Unfortunately, having the boat tied to shore with people hauling on the line to keep it heeled over created a pull in the wrong direction. Another total stranger, Jamie, happened to be passing by in his dinghy with an outboard. He offered to lend a hand and three guys, including Jason, sat in his dinghy to pull the mast in the same direction as the anchor line – in other words, towards the water, where we wanted the boat to go.

Meanwhile, on deck, I was busy with one other person hauling on the anchor with the aid of a winch handle. The rode was wrapped around the winch drum (essentially a device for cranking) and we were able to haul Tomahawk back into the water by pulling it over onto the other side, keel to shore. Now the keel wouldn’t dig in and the hull sat farther out from the sand, in deeper water.

“We’re losing tide!” I kept hearing. I wasn’t sure if the boat was going to make it out before the water level sank too low again. Our high tide was the highest we would have for the next week or so, at least, so I was thinking we might need to pay for a tow after all.

Then suddenly Tomahawk leveled out, sending everything crashing below deck. We were floating happily in the water again! We kept cranking on the rode to get as far out as possible, so that it wouldn’t get stuck again.

After a scramble back to shore to collect our stuff, most people went on their way. Sadly, I didn’t get to say goodbye to most of them or thank them for their amazing help, so I will do it here: Thank you, Michael, Richard, Star, the other Michael, Jamie, Sarah, and Jay. And to those I had on standby: Claudy and co, Emily, Mike, and Jaynie.

With sore muscles but a happy crew, Jason motored us into False Creek through a sunlit, sparkly morning. Jamie stuck around to help us pick a spot to drop anchor close to the Aquabus ferry dock where we were before. He lives on a 46-footer called Paramour and has logged over 40,000 miles of water throughout his cruising days. A teacher by training and a generous person by nature, he has offered to show us the ropes in exchange for food and drink.

Now I know why they call a boat a hole in the water that you throw money into. The new anchor, rode, rubber boots, swivel, shackle, and other necessary odds and ends gouged a huge chunk into our bank account. But it could have been worse: the rocks could have gouged a huge chunk into Tomahawk’s hull.

Richard, a long-term sailor and a natural teacher as well, checked over the hull and keel at low tide. He pronounced them free of cracks, which is excellent. However, last time I was on the boat with Jamie, we found some water in two port compartments. He suspects a water tank line leak or water that crept in through the cockpit when the boat was on its side, not a hull breach. Let’s hope he’s right.

In the end, we discovered the kindness of the boating community, as well as the VPD Marine Unit, who were professional and helpful throughout the whole ordeal. We learned a few technical things. We experienced the drastic difference the tide makes, and we were able to enjoy the immense gratitude that comes from being so lucky. Out of the four boats that ran aground, ours was the only survivor, thanks in large part to all those who came to our aid.

*The boat drifted from Point A to Point B on the map below, through the water, of course.

Categories: Anchoring, Troubleshooting | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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