28 February 2011

Wet gear and condensation

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P1010537One of the tougher parts about winter sailing for me is that our cozy home transforms into a collection of places to dry wet clothing. We have two outlets on our forced air diesel heater – one beneath the nav station where we throw wet gloves, hats and socks and another near the v-berth that we have added some flexible hose to for the winter so we can use it to dry underneath the v-berth or warm the v-berth or, in the case of this picture, dry shoes that are soggy from hiking in the snow.

P1010538When we first started living aboard our bed kept getting wet underneath the mattress which is hugely gross. We read and all people suggested was ventilation or to buy one of the products that go underneath the mattress like Hypervent which we bought.

What *actually* worked was the following. At the dock we put a small West Marine UFO looking “dryer” under the v-berth (in the storage area) with the cord poking out a vent hole, plus an electric blanket under the mattress but over the hypervent. At anchor, we use a piece of flexible hose stuck into the vent hole to warm underneath the vberth and we turn on a fan at night which is at the foot of the vberth to keep our breath from making the area damp. There are other things that we could do, but they involve more effort or more amps – and hey, we’re headed SOUTH.

26 February 2011

Carol does Blue Steel

Showcasing the latest in male cruising fashions, Carol can be seen modeling two-tone West Marine boots, Robbins pants, an Arcteryx jacket, a Mustang hydrostatic release PFD and a Montbell microfleece toque. He enjoys sailing and making salmon pie for his wife.

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For his slightly more casual “morning coffee in the winter” look, Carol again dons his Montbell microfleece toque but adds a North Face down jacket and trendy narrow legged fleece pants. To add a bit of “je ne sais quoi” to the ensemble, he completes the outfit with a pair of Reef flippy floppies. Watch out seals and seagulls, this man is ready to party.

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25 February 2011

Hiking to the Trapper’s Cabin

P1010542 (960x1280) We had heard reports about a strenuous hike to a cabin with views back down across the entire inlet. The elevation gain was somewhere around 500m so we knew it would be at least a bit aerobic and that the trail was “strenuous” and “not maintained”. Depending on the guidebook we always wonder what exactly “strenuous” and “not maintained” mean.

In Waggoners for example, the couple describing the hike claims to be out of shape and so we weren’t exactly certain how hard it was. Similarly, not maintained can mean anything from no trail and scrambling, to not a logging road, depending on the burly factor of the person describing it. Still, we could see the snow line and we knew that the trail would be at least partially under snow at this time of year.

It started out easy. Clear wide trail, easy to follow, slippery because of wet, near freezing conditions but not a big deal.

P1010548 (1280x960) Within 15 minutes the trail was obscured by several large tree falls, and I mean not that a tree or two fell, but that in several sections, large trees had come down, crushing other smaller trees and there would be a 10-20 meter section of the trail that we had to crawl over a pile of trees, branches and debris to pass or hike around. Again, not a huge deal, but we needed to be careful to keep our bearings to recover the trail because at this point the trail was the size of an animal path and marked with ribbons.

P1010544 (960x1280) There was one roped portion of the trail on what was, for us, slush coated rock and at about the half way point of the trail we started to encounter snow. After a few hours of hiking we were post-holing through snow up to our knees and we decided to set a cut-off time of 15 min more of hiking before we turned around.

Luckily for us, about 10 minutes after we said that we reached the trappers cabin (not that exciting) and the falls (pretty but because it was winter they were very small – apparently huge in the summer) and the view back down the inlet (absolutely stunning – the stuff of fairytales).

My videographer skills include catching Carol with a mouth full of trail mix.



P1010558 (960x1280) Overall, the hike was one we would do again (once we recover).The trail was through beautiful forest, around small streams, and the summit was a fantastic top-off. It was exhausting for us, somewhat because of the elevation but mostly because the trail conditions were so wet and snowy that we were slower and more careful than normal. We were hiking in a remote location in cold temperatures so caution was important. We both slipped and fell at least once and I ended up with quite a shiner on my hip from falling on a tree root.
There were many hands-on sections of the hike and a few that were actual scrambling. Except for the roped section there were no portions of the hike with sheer drop offs…at least that we could see with the snow. There were tons of ribbons marking the path and if we hadn’t seen a ribbon in a minute or two we would know we weren’t on the path. 

I would expect the hike to be much more straight forward if dry and if there weren’t any snow. Any readers done the hike in the summer?

24 February 2011

Rowing about the inlet

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A picture perfect day to spend rowing about and drifting beneath Chatterbox falls.

P1010527 We spent about two hours in our inflatable dinghy, without the engine, rowing to the falls, walking around at the base, rowing to other smaller falls on the sidewalls of the valley (there are dozens of smaller, falls), collecting oysters and generally soaking in the scenery. It was crisp but sunny and dry and we were armed with a large thermos of cocoa and good warm gear.
The sound of the larger falls was always present in the background and as we neared a smaller falls we would hear that higher pitched tinkling as well. The sun started causing avalanches on the mountains surrounding the falls so occasionally we would hear a cracking and groaning and then a rush of falling snow.

Warning: There is an anatomically correct word in the following video :)



I posted a few more videos including some of a rainbow on the falls and a lacy falls on a side wall on our youtube account if you want to see more.

23 February 2011

Logbook: Princess Louisa Inlet

P1010552 One of the cool things about boating in BC is how many of the marine parks are the result of individuals who loved their piece of paradise, wanted it to be experienced by future generations and so donated the land to the province. Princess Louisa Park lands are a result of such a person and also a large group of current day individuals who have donated time and money in an effort to upgrade the park facilities and to buy the adjacent lands. How cool is that?

Only accessible by boat or by float plane, the park has quite a large dock, some maintained trails, outhouses, a park host (in the summer apparently, also there is untreated surface water on the dock in the summer we understand) and a few designated campsites – all intended to facilitate visitors while lightening their impact on the land.

With the exception of a 30 min stop by some nice folks in a float plane, we had the place to ourselves for 4 nights. On the 5th night we were joined by MV Grey Hawk who invited us over and we had a fun time chatting about cruising and land cruising (converted bus) over a few glasses of wine. The registration book had two other entries for earlier in February. As a contrast, there were around 60 entries for October. I imagine (and have heard) it is a zoo here in July. Of course, in July swimming is probably an option and the falls would have been larger.

We arrived just before dark with enough time to take a quick walk to the falls and check out the main park grounds. It was bitterly cold and wet heavy snow was come down in sheets.



P1010524 We were starting to question our sanity but we woke to clear blue skies, sun, snow topped peaks and the roar of the falls. I spent the first few hours of the day bundled up in our full enclosure watching the fall, the sun lighting up the tops of the mountains as it made its way overhead and drinking hot coffee. We were in a deep valley so it wasn’t until mid-morning that sun reached down to us and the surface warmed up.

This became the pattern of our days there. During the day the temperature would climb, the sun would shine and we would get outdoors to row, to hike, to do boat work or laze about in the sun. Once the sun dipped too low in the horizon we retreated to the boat, except for one night where we used the covered fire pit and had a roaring fire complete with hotdogs and “legally allowed beverages”.

22 February 2011

Silva Bay, Pender Harbour and Social Hour

After Wallace Island we headed through Gabriola pass to Silva Bay for a brief overnight stop before crossing the Strait of Georgia. We had an uneventful crossing. We spent the first few hours sailing in 6 knots of wind which built steadily to around 20 and then died as we turned up Malaspina Strait. We finished with a short motor into Pender Harbour where we stayed in Gerrans Bay. It was a good thing we got across the Strait when we did because we were pinned down in Pender for 4 nights with the winds howling SE and stray gusts coming into our very protected spot to twirl us around and send us careening to the end of our anchor chain.

Pender Harbour became a bit of a social event for us. We spent an afternoon trading stories with Ted (thanks Ted!) whom we met via the radio and who offered to drive us around in the rain. While having coffee, we ran into Mejan & Burt of SV Curtsy whom we met in Sidney years ago. They picked us up the next evening and took us to their boat for a fantastic dinner and conversation. We saw a side of Pender Harbour by car that we wouldn’t have seen if visiting only by boat which was nice. P1010499We much preferred the shop owners we met in the Madeira Park side of Pender to those at the gas/store at Hospital bay and would visit that side for stores if we came again.

We moved a short distance from Pender to Egmont to top up on fuel and water and prepare for the 30 nm trip to Malibu Rapids and the 3.5 nm past the rapids to Chatterbox Falls. We stayed at the public wharf in Egmont and hiked over to Skookumchuck rapids which are famous for a standing wave that surf kayakers travel from far to play with.

20 February 2011

Leaving Princess Louisa

We made it.

Although the blog is usually behind where we actually are at any given time,
this post is real time. We are leaving Princess Louisa Inlet right now after
spending a lovely 5 nights here.

Photos and videos to follow.

19 February 2011

Backcasting

We’re starting to give up on Environment Canada forecasts. It is likely that staffing and budgets are at play so I’m not blaming the organization but depending on the region and the time of year the forecasts are either consistently under or over forecast.

In our experience, the winds in the Gulf Islands are consistently over forecast in the summer. When they predict 25 knot winds, we assume we’ll see 15 or less. We always assumed this was to reduce the number of new/infrequent or charter sailors from getting themselves in trouble by going out in winds that were too strong for themselves.

When we arrived at the North tip of Vancouver Island we found that the winds were not extremely accurately forecast but at least the errors were on either side of the true wind – sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. Normal forecasting errors.

So far, none of this is frustrating at all. Weather is difficult to forecast and the idea of protecting boaters from themselves (and thus protecting the poor underfunded Coast Guard who has to go rescue them) is probably for the best.

What is a weird is that regularly this winter they have been *under* forecasting the strength of the winds, often substantially and then amending their “forecast” to represent actual conditions. For example, recently they were forecasting SE winds in the region we are in at 20-25 knots. Between the morning forecast and the afternoon forecast, the winds were 30-35 knot and then increased to 35-40 knots. As the wind increased, they amended their prediction to 30-35 and then 35-40. For vessels that are comfortable in 25 knots but not 40 this is quite a big change in forecast and it would occur while they were already underway. This happened regularly while we were in Victoria as well.

Again, this would be only mildly frustrating to us as we always assume the forecast is only a guess anyways, however we have been watching the grib files as part of our own weather self-education and time after time we can tell that the winds coming in will be stronger than the forecast. The Environment Canada have access to at least as much information as we do, and they are “experts”, so the underforecasting and then backcasting is just bizarre.

On both the W Coast of Van Isle and our winter sailing trips we have found the grib files to be generally better predictors of actual conditions than the forecasts. - Livia

The gribs are better on the West side than on the inside because of the funneling effects of the land masses which the grib files don’t show. This is where the VHF forecasts really add valuable information. Grib files show systems coming through (lows/highs/troughs/ridges) but Environment Canada does a better job of predicting the direction of the wind between the island and the mainland than gribs because of their local knowledge and it is also important to understand that local physical land masses will funnel the wind in some regions into higher speeds than the grib will show.

Also, it is important to look at the strength of the low or high pressure system. One example of where Environment Canada was underforecasting is when a low pressure system around 980 millibars comes through just South of Alaska. When those come through, the isobars get tight, the grib shows strong winds, and, no surprise, we get strong winds.  Every time this happened you could add 10-15 knots to the Environment Canada forecast. - Carol

18 February 2011

Winter sailing

Anchorages in BC and Canada are more beautiful than ever in the winter. The water is much clearer and we can see more life in the water from the boat. The anchorages are deserted and so we feel like intrepid explorers even walking in what are normally overrun parks. There is more sailing wind in the winter, sometimes too much. Unfortunately it is also cold and wet.

Green clear water (left) and you can see the bottom (right):

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One thing we've learned about ourselves, after doing a bit of winter sailing, is that it is easy to avoid feeling cooped up in bad weather if we plan our anchorages carefully.

Here is the SV Estrellita 5.10b list of important qualities for a winter anchorage:

- Scenic views from cockpit. If the weather really sucks and it is too gross to be in the dinghy, we can still sit bundled up in our cockpit in our full enclosure, sipping cocoa or mulled wine and enjoying the view with a book.

We love you Iverson Dodgers full enclosure – the wine and camembert don’t hurt either:

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- Easy access to shore. Shore must be close to where we are anchored (no long dinghy rides in strong wind and rain) and we must be able to get to shore without having to carry the dinghy across a long muddy slog. Dinghy docks are great as are sandy beaches.

- Walking of some sort. Whether it be a hiking path, a beach, or the streets of a new town, we need somewhere to walk because we aren't going out kayaking in the rain. We don't have the gear (or the kayak) for that.

Hiking on Wallace Island:

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- Finally, we like to mix in stays at docks in towns more often during the winter than in the summer. Warm coffee shops, public libraries with DVDs and internet, and pubs are even more fun after a long and usually isolated stint in the winter weather.

17 February 2011

Random photos from the week








16 February 2011

BC Tide and Current tables - online

FYI - All of the Canadian Tide and Current tables are available online in .pdf formats for free.

I had a difficult time finding the secondary current station table online though until I found it as a .jpg at BC Kayaker. Enjoy!

15 February 2011

Now in HD!

We were testing out the HD video features of our new camera at the North tip of Wallace Island to see if recording in HD was worth the file size for people who are planning to upload short clips online. I started a panorama and then motioned to Carol to say something. My motions were not clear and he thought I meant walk toward me. So I made a different motion and he thought I was asking him to wave to the camera. I stopped the video, laughing uncontrollably and tried to explain what happened between gasps.

Well, that is what I thought happened. What actually happened is that half-way through the pan, I accidentally stopped the video. When I thought I stopped it to explain to Carol what I wanted I restarted the video. So we are left with these two funny bits which I'm including for my friends.



14 February 2011

Sunset at Conover Cove

For Valentine's Day, share a sunset with us - this video best viewed bundled up in the cockpit of a boat with a glass of wine. Also good when at a computer at work ;)

12 February 2011

At anchor

A few photos of Livia & Estrellita 5.10b at anchor for our collection.

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11 February 2011

Conover Cove on Wallace Island

IMG_5517 (1280x853) From Montague, we had light winds forecast and so we delayed making our way across the Strait of Georgia and instead motored a short distance North to Conover Cove on Wallace Island.

Conover Cove is quite shallow and we can only stay there when the low tides are relatively high. At a zero tide we would touch bottom almost anywhere in the bay. We took advantage of the high tides to spend two nights hiking the island.

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IMG_5496 (1280x853)Wallace Island is a fun place for a cruising boat because it is one of those spots with a tradition of yachts marking their names, much like Hot Springs Cove. Most cruising dreamers have read of exotic ports of call where adventurous cruising yachts paint their names and Wallace Island echoes those stories for me. A few years ago we painted our name on a rock and hung the rock on the outside of the shed. Our good friends Ryan & Christine could not find our name when they visited, for the good reason that our paint had faded to nothing. The rock is still hung, perhaps someone else can put it to good use (please do & send us a picture).

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This time we left an old yellowed chart which I had been marking our path on as we went around Vancouver Island. I thought it would be a good way to leave our name and fun for visitors to look for places they have visited or might visited on the West Coast. It will decay over time and that pleases me for some reason as well.

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10 February 2011

Princess Louisa or Bust

Where are we going? The only goal is to hang out for a bit at the mythical Chatterbox Falls in Princess Louisa Inlet. We say “mythical” because we attempted to visit in the snowy January 2007 but were iced in for 5 days just past the rapids but prior to Macdonald Island and never saw the falls themselves. That’s a good story for a later post.

image0031 (794x1200)In the here and now (or close), we left Victoria and our winter slip on the last day of the month and I began moving the boat slowly North during the day while Carol finished his last week of winter part-time work. We spent two nights at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and another two nights at the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club, which incidentally is shortened to SNSYC and so I always misread it as NSYNC. For the most part, no matter how fancy, the yacht clubs have been very welcoming when we visit. No surprise I guess because they are, after all, boaters.

In particular, the RVYC has been fun to visit because they have a energetic racing fleet of all ages and it seems that many of their boats go out on a regular basis, in all kinds of weather. The RVYC does not seem to be a club full of dock queens. One day when we were coming in to escape a westerly gale, their long distance racing fleet was headed out to do laps in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

From SNSYC we sailed up to Montague where we were spotted by a fellow boater on the ferry, the Coastal Celebration. We spent 3 nights at Montague Harbor. Montague is nice, particularly when there are light winds overnight and you can anchor on the North side of the park. Alas, the winds were blustery and we were in the nearly deserted main harbor to escape them. We spent the days doing boat work, relaxing, dreaming of future anchorages and by the end were itching to move on.

06 February 2011

Mobile

And we're off...

Back to being at anchor. Back to exploring. Back to posting pictures of beautiful places. No schedule except a date for a haul-out in mid-March.

And you can enjoy the frosty pictures of our winter exploration from the warmth of your computer.

05 February 2011

The sweet spot

I have had two days of sailing in a row where the winds were in the sweet spot for our boat. If the wind is variable in strength (and when isn't it in this area?), there is this sweet spot where the low end of the wind range is enough to keep the vessel moving smartly, but the high end of the wind strength range is not so high that you have to reduce sail.

I've had two great days of wind in this range (for us 6 to 14 knots apparent when in protected waters). One day of beating against a current in the bracing cold which was made enjoyable by the fact that I didn't have far to go, had plenty of daylight to make the miles, and the sun decided to come out for the entire day. And then a second day of cloudy but warm weather where I had the wind at my back for the entire day. Other than a jibe and a preventer switch there was not much to do that second day except sip tea and enjoy the scenery.

I have no experience sailing on different types of boats, and I'm heavily biased, but I love how our girl sails.

04 February 2011

Into the Light

I find myself a little more starstruck in sailing than in other domains of my life. Perhaps it is because for a few years it was books about voyages that fed my dream and so I feel more connected to the authors than with other books. I spent a lot of time living vicariously through various sailors circumnavigations, S Pacific voyages or Arctic visits. One of the books that I read early on, was Into the Light by Dave & Jaja Martin. It is a tale about a family cruising in high latitudes - a family of 5, in a 33 foot boat, in the Arctic ice if you can believe that.

I mention this because I recently had the honor of interviewing them for the IWAC project. The interview came out this week and if you haven't seen it, do check it out.

02 February 2011

Singlehand Your Boat

That's my advice. If you haven't done so already, take your boat out, on your own. I mean, if you own a boat, get out there and own your boat.

Yesterday* I (Livia) took SV Estrellita 5.10b from Victoria to Cadboro Bay. This is a short distance so despite the fact that I was going to weather** it took a half day. It was probably my 5th or 6th time singlehanding.

The trip reminded me how much fun I have sailing on my own***. Lest you worry about my marriage, I couldn't imagine single handed cruising - not for me, I have the perfect co-captain in my life - but a day sail or short overnight trip by myself is both fun and empowering. I un-docked the boat solo which I had only done once before, anchored and raised anchor for the third time solo and sailed from harbor exit to harbor entrance.

In a sense, all couples who have watch systems are single handing but taking a watch is different, both because you have another person as a safety net and also because it is a different emotional experience when you are the sole human on board. I prepare much differently when I am going out solo than when I am going out with Carol and however much fun I have being with my beloved, I get something from being the sole captain that I can't get with him on board.

If you are a cruising couple or liveaboards, that isn't an excuse. You can still send your SO out for coffee or beers on another boat or on land while you take the boat out. They'll cope.

You can do it.

*This is one of those rare posts that I'm actually writing and posting on the same day. Thank you Royal Victoria Yacht Club internet.
**Non-boaters this is another yachtie euphemism for wind in the wrong direction.
***Except when I'm stupid.

01 February 2011

Monetizing your cruising blog

I am not an expert on this subject matter but I thought I would share what I've learned from monetizing this site, the IWAC site and the Newly Salted site. If you have other ideas, please share here or if you have questions, feel free to ask. For the most part all of the programs below have very easy set up procedures with clear directions at least as far as integrating them with a blogger blog and I assume the same holds true for wordpress blogs.

I'm going to list three earnings options from most costly to least costly to your readers.

1) Donations. The most costly to your readers are direct donations. This is cash that goes directly out of their pocket to yours, usually through a paypal button. I have a paypal link stuffed somewhere on all three sites but they are not something that I have pushed. So far I have received a few reader donations for the IWAC project and we have received one on this site from my Mom. Thanks Mom!

2) Amazon. The middle ground option is the Amazon Affiliate program. When you are talking about a product, you can put a link to it and if someone buys the product you get a very small portion of the revenue. The best part is that you also get a portion of the revenue if they click on the item, do not buy the item, but instead buy something else they were already planning to buy. For example, if I pimp a book I enjoyed and a reader clicks on it, goes to Amazon and instead buys a toilet brush, we earn revenue for the toilet brush. Mostly I think this is a great win-win situation because, although there is cash outgoing and incoming, readers are doing shopping that they were already planning to doing and the blogger simple gets free beer as a result. However, I've noticed some bloggers suddenly starting to pimp random products (like toilet brushes, eh?) on their blog just to get more Amazon clicks and more revenue. I find this annoying as a reader and as a blogger I try to write whatever I was planning on writing and simply remember to amazon-ify the post if there are any products in the post that Amazon carries.

3.) Ads. The least costly to readers are Google ads. They are easy to add to your blog and they cost your reader nothing. Businesses pay per passive view (impressions) and per click and a portion of that revenue is passed along to the blog owner according to a formula Google does not share. It's clear that you make more for clicks than views and that they have ways to determine if you are clicking on your own site or asking others to do so. Some people get grumpy* about being advertised to on blogs but I think it is a great way for businesses to reach the right groups of consumers and for bloggers to get free beers.

There are definitely others who have found ad revenue a more lucrative proposition than I have. Check out SV Third Day's expense report (.pdf) as an example. I find the total incoming to be a steady trickle into the beer/coffee fund but nothing more. We blog for us, as our own way of remembering and processing the experiences. I monetized the sites anyways because it is easy and free beer is still free beer.

* this blog is free to read so...you can only complain if the value of the blog is less than what you paid ;)