Anchoring Fee: $400 Per Week

On the way home from work, I overheard two men chatting on their way to a hockey game. Whenever the home team plays at the stadium here, the Skytrain fills with blue and white jerseys, along with the odd red, yellow, and black one from the Canucks’ past.

The men’s conversation had little to do with hockey. One man said to the other, “All the boats are cleared out of the harbour now, because they charge four hundred dollars for a week of anchoring. That’s sixty dollars a night!” As we passed the “harbour” in question (actually False Creek), he pointed out the distinct absence of anchored crafts.

Although Tomahawk is still out in the Pirate Bay, this news alarmed me. At the same time, I knew I had seen at least two boats, one sail and one power, anchored this morning. So I was mostly confused. Maybe they’re creating a new fee that hasn’t been implemented yet, or just came into effect today, I thought. After all, they are moving toward disallowing anchoring in Burrard Inlet, which sucks because that’s where we planned to anchor if I get into Simon Fraser University for my master’s degree in social anthropology starting next year.

Since getting a boat, I have learned that a lot of people consider anchored vessels “eyesores,” although those same people don’t seem too concerned about the huge tankers that sit out in English Bay for all to enjoy. See, those are good for the economy, but sailboats are more self-sufficient. Except that sailors, including liveaboards, contribute to the economy by buying food and gas and parts and other stuff, just like anybody else. I don’t know.

Then there are the many ugly buildings, parked cars, and trash bins that litter the city, among other potential “eyesores.” Don’t get me wrong; Vancouver is a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and awesome architecture. My point is that I don’t understand how small boats are seen as problematic and obstructing the view, while the municipal government is considering putting in 70-storey buildings in the West End. Go figure.

As it turns out, the city website still says that anchoring permits in False Creek are free. So either the winds of change are blowing, or the dude on the Skytrain has no clue what he’s talking about. My money is on the latter.

False Creek

False Creek is full of all kinds of boats! And the stadium in the background is full of hockey fans!

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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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Maiden Voyage to the Pirate Bay

Okay, Tomahawk has been around since the seventies, so it’s not exactly a maiden voyage. But it was for us!

On Monday, we got our informal sailing teacher Steve to help us haul up the anchor, get the engine going, and go for a little ride. Our False Creek permit expires tomorrow, so we had to find a new place to keep the boat until we can get a new one.

Jason and I got to the boat at noon and cleaned off some more bird poop. Unfortunately, it hadn’t rained enough to have any cleansing impact on the sail cover. I did the dirty work this time, since he did it last time. We sacrificed one of the SOS pads left on the boat by Danny. We were contemplating taking the sail cover home to stick in the wash, but we’ll have to work out the logistics of that. Don’t really want to leave the sail uncovered, especially if the diarrhea bird decides to come back!

Anyway, Steve checked our oil and spark plugs, which all looked fine. The oil wasn’t completely black, he said, which means it needs to be changed soon. We’ll keep that in mind. I haven’t change oil myself, but I helped someone do it for their car once. So I know it’s a pretty simple task, really.

Steve took us to Granville Island, where we loaded up our jerry cans with gas. It cost less than $40 and we expect that to last us several months, especially if we use the boat as little as we are now. With the weather getting worse, that seems pretty likely.

After gassing up, we headed to our new anchorage, which is much less sheltered than False Creek. Steve refers to it as the Pirate Bay, so we’ll call it that. A few other boats were anchored in the area and we had to squeeze in between them. Our anchor weighs a ton, probably way more than necessary to hold the boat in place, which is good. Instead of the recommended 5:1 ratio of rode to water depth, we ended up with about 2.5:1 to keep our swing radius to a minimum (as explained in this post on anchoring technique). I’m hoping it’s fine, but Steve texted me today that we should expect a small craft warning for Saturday. That means high winds potentially strong enough to push Tomahawk onto the beach or into another boat. We don’t want either scenario.

If we do have to move the boat, we have a problem arising from our ongoing work scheduling conflict. Jason works days and times when I don’t and vice versa. On both Friday and Saturday, for example, I work 10 to 6 and he works 4 to midnight. So yeah. We’ll see. Maybe Steve will move it with one of us as crew.

Meanwhile, we have yet to put up the sails. Our trip from False Creek to the Pirate Bay was done entirely under engine power. That’s because you’re not allowed to put up your sails in the creek, from what I understand.

Hopefully next time, we can finally catch some wind.

Sailboat in Fog

Tomahawk in False Creek

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

Trial and Error

Monday is our day off together, so this week we headed to Army & Navy to get rubber boots and a hat for Jason. So much quality stuff there and at decent prices too. (No, they don’t pay me to say that… but maybe they should.) I couldn’t find any footwear for me, though, because it was all too big. Go figure.

After that, we went down to the boat. Jason swapped his sneakers for boots and bailed out the dinghy. When we got to Tomahawk, who was still sitting happily in the creek, we noticed that a lovely bird had had a poop fest all over the sail cover and deck. Luckily, Danny, the previous owner, had left a bunch of cleaning supplies on board, so Jason nicely offered to do the dirty work. We didn’t do the whole job, in hopes that it will rain and we won’t have to deal with it. Also, it could happen again by the time we get out there.

Our plan was to turn on the engine and put the sails up, just to see if we could. Then, if we got the engine running, we would take a little loop around the creek and practice setting the anchor again. The poop all over the sail cover sort of dampened our zeal for trying out the sails, so we focused on the engine.

Being totally inept at mechanical stuff, we took it step by step with the manual. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to tilt it down into the water, but we got it (well, Jason did, and mostly by accident, but hey, now we know what to do!). It turns out you have to pull it in before the latch will loosen to let it go down all the way.

Alas, pulling the starter cord yielded nothing. We’re not sure if we were doing something wrong, or if it’s just been sitting for too long, or what. I posted in the SailNet forum and a lot of people suggested the carburetor might be dirty, or the gas might be old, or the spark plugs might be failing to produce a spark.

We’re kind of stumped. Luckily, our informal sailing “instructor,” Steve, is going to come take a look next week, so he might be able to figure it out. Until then, If you know anything about engines, please leave a comment here to help us out!

Categories: Getting Started, Troubleshooting | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Don’t Let Your Boat Go Walkabout!

As a writer by nature and training (among other things), I can’t help but notice how things are written. This is true of blogs, assembly instructions, cereal boxes, and posters, as well as books (memoirs tend to be the worst!). I even texted a friend once just to tell him about a spelling mistake on a Heinz ketchup bottle. Yes, I have nerdy friends, but then, if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them (although we have readers all over the globe, which is awesome! Thanks, guys!).

The NauticEd online sailing course I’ve been taking very slowly for over a year has a few writing gems in it. It’s not terribly written. In fact, most of it is quite clear and easy to digest, even the complex stuff about electrical systems and navigation techniques. The writer had a sense of humour too, which makes it enjoyable. This is my favorite sentences so far: “Ensuring that your boat is in the same place you left it is a very important skill.”

That worthy advice comes from the module on mooring and anchoring.

Where's my boat?

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Dropping Anchor

For the past few days, my sailing obsession has shifted from toilets to dropping anchor. This skill will be vital if we ever want to move the boat from its current location – which we have to do by October 30th anyway.

Luckily, the internet knows everything. However, reading about it is never the same as doing it. I could read about building a spacecraft, but that doesn’t mean I can then go out and make one.

Dropping Anchor

Then again, anchoring doesn’t seem overly complicated. From what I understand, the most important things to know are what kind of bottom you are anchoring in (e.g. soft mud, grass, rock) and how much swing radius you need. Swing radius refers to a circle around where your anchor is dropped, where your boat could shift to if the wind or current changes. As you let out more rode, your radius increases.

If you’re the only one in the anchorage, you don’t need to worry too much, but if there are other boats around, you have to keep an eye out for their swing radius and make sure they don’t overlap too much.

Not all boats move the same way, either. Powerboats, monohull sailboats, and multihulls like catamarans and trimarans behave differently in the wind and current. So it’s best to anchor among boats that are like yours. I guess that means we need to stick with smaller monohulls.

So you pick your anchoring spot, start lowering your anchor off the bow (not all at once or the rope will tangle), and slowly back up your boat. You should point into the wind or current, whichever is stronger, and let your craft drift backwards. If necessary, a little engine power can help set the anchor properly.

In softer bottoms, you also need to give it some time to settle properly.

Of course, there are a million variations on this and so much depends on the boat and the anchorage, as well as the anchor’s weight and other properties. In some cases, you might even tie the stern (back) of the boat to a tree on land, to keep it from swinging around too much.

Or, in some areas, you can forget the anchor and simply hook up to a mooring buoy, as shown in this Sailing Magazine video.

We’ll have to check out the nautical charts on the boat to start learning about local bottom features around here.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends.

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Smoothie Success!

Last week, our hand-cranked blender arrived in the mail, but we didn’t get to use it until today. Since our work schedules are basically opposite right now, Jason was gone when I got home today. I decided to give the blender a whirl (literally).

I’m not sure if it counts as a smoothie, since I just threw some frozen berries and vanilla yogurt together with a few drops of pineapple juice. It actually turned out to be quite tasty, if expectedly thick, almost like apple sauce.

Smoothie success

Smoothie success = a bit of a mess!

The blender worked awesomely. I could see the cranking getting a bit tiring, but it’s a great workout. The model we bought is a two-speed Vortex blender that clamps onto the counter or table for stability. So far, I’m very happy with it. I have read that some of the parts break down after a while, but it seems fairly cheap and easy to buy replacements. And this sort of device will save on energy use, for sure, which will be a major concern for us on the boat. But more about that in another post.

Please share your smoothie recipes with us in the comments below!

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Our Local Chandler

Jason had to work today, so I decided to pop into our local chandler. Then I realized that today we were supposed to get an anchoring permit (or move our boat – haha).

First, I took a leisurely bike ride to the dollar store, where I picked up some measuring tape and an airtight, waterproof storage bag. Then I went up to Wright Mariner Supply & Yacht Services near our apartment. I just wanted to inquire about a composting toilet, but Steve, the store manager, gave me a wealth of useful advice about a lot of other things as well. He lived on a 30-footer for fourteen years, so I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about!

I learned about a couple more marine head options, including one that uses UV rays to destroy all the bacteria before discharging the waste into the water. Amazing! We’ll probably stick with something a little less high-tech, but it’s good to know what’s out there. The UV one needs electricity, which we’re hoping to avoid, since power will be such a scarce resource on board.

Steve also mentioned that diesel is better than propane, as far as heaters are concerned. (I’m sure the same applies to stoves, which makes me question our propane stove.) The reason he gave is that propane puts a lot of moisture into the air. Added to the moisture coming from our breath (we exhale a liter of water a day, he said!), it can contribute to mold and other issues. Maybe we should just go for the wood-burning heater he showed me, if we want to go really DIY.

Of course, diesel has the added benefit of being easily converted to biodiesel.

Choosing the type of fuel for our heater is just a drop in the bucket list, so to speak.

At some point during our conversation, it struck me that Danny’s anchoring permit for Tomahawk expired today. We were supposed to get one in our name, so I said a speedy farewell to Steve and raced across the Burrard Bridge to Granville Island. For some reason, I was thinking the False Creek Yacht Club was there, but it turned out not to be. That’s where Danny said to get the permit. By this time it was almost five o’clock, so I was a little concerned the offices might be closed for the day. I called 411 to get their number and the woman I spoke to said I could get the permit online. Which is great, except I could’ve stayed longer at the ship chandler! Oh well. Lessons learned.

When I got home, I filled out the extremely simple online application and received the permit in my email within a few minutes. Nothing like technology to make things easy.

We will have to move Tomahawk by October 30th. That means we’ll need to figure out how to anchor as well as where to put it for a week. There might be a spot available in the “Pirate’s Bay” off Kitsilano Beach, which is just a bit farther west of where the boat is now.


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So Much Rain

We haven’t had much chance to do anything with the boat, because our schedules haven’t been lining up very well with each other. Last week was particularly busy, as we went to see Bon Jovi one night, and then Michael Franti & Spearhead another.

The other factor was the weather. It suddenly turned into fall here, which means rain, rain, and more rain. We had torrential downpours over one weekend, with more than 50 centimeters in two days!

Being the newbies that we are, we were afraid the Zodiac dinghy might have drowned. So we did go out to check on it at one point. There was a fair amount of water in it, which we bailed out using the cut-off top half of a plastic milk jug left by Danny, the previous owner, for that purpose (presumably). The other dinghy and kayak tied at the dock had water in them too, so we figured that was just what happens when it rains. We also discovered that the Zodiac has a drain in the back, so that’s good to know.

Checking out the Zodiac

This is sort of how we looked trying to figure out our Zodiac in the rain.

Finally, yesterday was a gorgeous day, so we paddled out to the boat. Our paddling was not very efficient, since the oarlocks are broken. Jason has way more experience with rowing, so I’ll have to take some lessons from him! Still, it was nice to be out on the water, although Jason’s sneakers got soaked. My feet stayed dry, but the shoes I had on could get ruined pretty quick by getting wet all the time. Another semi-urgent thing on our list of boating needs is proper waterproof footwear. (In this city, it’s more than just a boating thing, since it rains so much!)

Tomahawk was still there and doing fine, as we expected. We figured out how to open the hatch and did a small bit of exploring. Mostly we just sat in the cockpit, soaking up the sunset and talking about what we need to learn. It’s a long list. First up is anchoring and using the motor properly, so that we can actually take a trip out of False Creek.

Funny that learning to sail is not very high on the list of challenges right now!

A liveaboard couple who we’ve seen before rowed by in their dinghy with their baby and some supplies. They said hello and asked if we’d just bought the boat. During our brief, shouted exchange, they wanted to know if we were planning to live aboard. We told them, “Eventually!” and they implicitly welcomed us to the club by saying, “We’ll see you out there!” We’ve heard the liveaboard community is friendly, and if these people are a typical example, it certainly seems that way.

Categories: Dinghy, Getting Started, Practical Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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