Posts Tagged With: boating

Rock and Roll

Our first few nights on Tomahawk were peaceful, despite some bouncing around out in English Bay. We were a bit wary rowing into shore when the waves picked up, but we found a place to lock our Walker Bay onto the beach and all was well. However, I found myself suffering from an inability to get into anything, even reading, while sitting on the boat.

Jason rigged up a tarp for a sun shelter, but it flapped around at night making a ruckus. So that idea was scrapped. Most people have a proper Sunbrella cockpit shelter to keep the sun off. Bits of rigging make noise at night too, and not just on our own boat. We dubbed a neighbouring craft “Noisy Halyard” due to the pinging noise of the line slapping against the mast all day and night.

We soon discovered that English Bay was making us irritable and exhausted. So we moved into False Creek. The silence and lack of motion were a welcome respite from the effort of the bay. We anchored next to the dock, so it takes us much less time to get to shore. Plus we can sleep at night.

Back on July 1st, for our first night as liveaboards, we slept in the V-berth, a small cabin in the bow of the boat. If it was just me, I could probably sleep fine in there, but the two of us were way too cramped. Jason is also not as short as me and the weird angles made it extra confining. The boat cushions need replacing too. Musty smells added to our discomfort, so they had to go. Since then, we’ve converted the dinette to a berth (bed) and have been okay there. It’s a bit short for Jason and there isn’t much wiggle room for either of us. Luckily we like each other a lot and we have been settling in to a routine.

Last night, we stayed on our friend Jamie’s boat Paramour. We are boat-sitting while he’s away delivering another boat to Mexico (poor guy, hehe). It was much more comfortable, albeit a bit musty and rocky. After watching an amazing fireworks display all up close and personal, we woke up to the sound of glass breaking. But that’s a whole story in itself, maybe for the next post. Also a bit about our brand new engine not working right…

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Categories: Friend's Boat, Life Aboard | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Refloating Again

A boat on the beach is always a sad image. Early one Monday morning in June, as I was getting up for work, I saw our friend Jamie had left me a voicemail. He’s a man usually more inclined to use Facebook or texting, so I knew something was amiss.

I feared for Tomahawk.

But to avoid keeping you in suspense, I will say right off that Tomahawk was sitting perfectly safe and sound where we left it. We had recently moved after an uncharacteristically petulant call from the VPD Maritime Unit. They said we were in the swimming area off Kits Beach, but the guy on the phone, allegedly a police officer, didn’t seem to know the anchoring rules or what our permit was for… and he asked if we were using a brick to anchor because we have a spare anchor on our bow… weird.

Anyway, so Jamie’s boat Paramour had landed on the beach exactly where Tomahawk was last fall. I called work to see if I could come in late and they gave me the okay. Jason and I took our shovel down to the beach to dig it out. Jamie’s brother Michael arrived shortly afterward with more shovels and we all madly set to work. As usual, the media came by to make a story our of it and many spectators stopped and chatted. A few people offered to help, all fellow boaters, while the majority simply sipped coffee and stared.

It turned out his anchor hooked into a tire on the bottom of English Bay, leaving the boat free to drag. With so much trash around here, it seems like it was bound to happen eventually. Knowing how easily that can happen is a good motivator for setting your anchor properly (pulling back on it with your motor in reverse) every time.

I had to go to work, but Jason and the others managed to kedge off. Jamie and a couple of others put out three anchors to pull Paramour out at high tide.

Another successful refloating!

Categories: Anchoring, Friend's Boat, Misadventures, Troubleshooting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liveaboards

We have been living on Tomahawk for a week now (which is a good excuse for the lack of posting). There are still a lot of things to do to get settled in, so we are busy: buying propane, hooking up a battery/electrical system, scraping and painting the bottom, cleaning inside and out, organizing our stuff into bins and compartments, etc. Lots of ups and downs, sometimes literally, especially on windy days!

Soon I will post further updates about our various adventures before and after moving on board, such as refloating our friend Jamie’s boat Paramour and fitting everything into storage. Also, yesterday we were sort of trapped on the boat because our dinghy is hard to get into on a choppy bay. Today we plan to remedy this by buying a fender step to hang over Tomahawk’s side.

If all goes well, I’ll be updating a bit more frequently again in the near future!

Fender Step

Our new fender will look something like this

Categories: Cleaning, Electricity, Getting Started, Life Aboard, Practical Stuff, Supplies | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Our First Sail

Tomahawk has officially belonged to us since last September, but our first sailing outing on our boat didn’t happen until April 21st. As usual, nothing went smoothly, but everything ended well.

Our engine recently decided to stop spitting water out of the cooling system exhaust. I’m taking a basic boat and engine maintenance course through the North Vancouver branch of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron. After I described the problem to him, a marine mechanic who taught part of the course deemed our engine not worth fixing; for the price of repairs, he said, we could replace the whole thing.

Being optimistic sailor types, we ventured out of False Creek by sail and paddle. At first, the sailing was working fine, but then our bow started pulling us around in circles. Our thought is that the headsail was trimmed for a close haul when it should have been on a run based on the wind direction. After some frantic maneuvering where we seemed to be losing steerage, we pulled out the paddles we’d bought recently. The current was in our favour (we planned it that way), so we rode it out to English Bay.

Yes, we got some strange looks and some people asking if we needed help, but we were quite happy to do it that way. Eventually, we got under the bridges and out into the bay, where we popped our sails back up and went for a glorious ride.

The winds were picking up, which was both exhilarating and scary. Tomahawk was heeling over pretty far, but I wasn’t sure if that was normal. Jason thought it was and I think he was right.

After our joyride, we were planning to anchor in the bay. We had bought an extra length of heavy chain, so as to avoid a repeat of last fall. No more groundings for us, please! However, we hadn’t rigged up the new chain to the old rode, or even figured out exactly how we were going to set it up.

We hove to, which is a maneuver that basically consists of putting your sails at odds so that they work against each other. Essentially, you park the boat. (Obviously, the current continues to play, but if you have enough sea room, you don’t have to worry about hitting things.)

On that day, the current was strong and pushing us out to sea, which was very distracting. Freighters were anchored all around us and we didn’t want to hit one. Also, the wind was getting stronger and stronger and there didn’t appear to be any other boats out – just one crazy windsurfer who seemed to be loving the high winds!

To make a long story short, we had no steerage and ended up dropping our sails to keep ourselves from moving too fast into a freighter. Without a working engine, it had become impossible to get into the anchorage and we ended up getting a tow from the Coast Guard. They were friendly and helpful and left us at the Granville Docks. Our friend Jamie towed us the rest of the way into False Creek, where we reanchored pretty much where we were before.

We talked to a few people and took stock of our mistakes and what happened. As it turns out, the growth on the bottom of our boat seems to have played a role in loss of steerage. At the same time, apparently it’s just really hard to sail into that anchorage. Plus we had the wind coming at us and not enough momentum to tack properly to get to where we wanted to be.

It was a great learning experience. Though nerve-racking at the time, it’s a great feeling to be out on your own boat, sailing around. Even when you get stuck out there.

Categories: Anchoring, Misadventures | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Seas

(Disclaimer: it was a bay, not a sea.)

The day after our adventure with the kayaks, our friend Jamie took the three of us out on his 43-foot cutter-rigged ketch Paramour. Until that day, I had no idea what those words meant, although I had seen them in some sailing publications and blogs.

So just to be clear, a ketch is a sailboat with two masts. A cutter has an inner and outer forestay (thick wires that support the mast and where the foresail clips on).

Anyway, it was a beautiful day and he had us do most of the actual sailing. Muna steered while Jason and I were in charge of tacking. Jamie also showed us his autopilot, which I had been curious about since watching Wild Eyes: The Abby Sunderland Story. (It’s on Netflix, if you want to check it out.) I didn’t really understand how a boat could have autopilot.

Now I know that it basically takes control of your rudder to keep the boat on a chosen course. The downside is that if the wind shifts, which it does a lot around here due to all the mountains and buildings, the course may no longer be the best one for the current sail trim. So basically, you still have to pay attention, but it is useful for taking a lunch or bathroom break. It also means you don’t have to stand at the wheel all day.

We went out farther than we had been so far, past the freighters but still not in fully open waters. Of course, you have to go pretty far to get to open waters around here, what with the Gulf Islands in the way. That’s a good thing for newbies like us though!

In addition to a crash course in sailing, Muna took some photos, which you can see below. See? Sailing has good times too! 😛

Paramour at sunset. The wake in the foreground is from the dinghy we are sitting in.

Paramour at sunset. The wake in the foreground is from the dinghy we are sitting in.

Aw, family shot!

Aw, family shot!

Jason enjoying the view

Jason enjoying the view

Me chilling in the cockpit

Me chilling in the cockpit

Jamie and Jason on Paramour

Jamie and Jason on Paramour

Categories: Friend's Boat, Good Times | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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!

Categories: Anchoring | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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