Thursday, April 30, 2009

#4 - Secret Cove to Squirrel Cove

The sun continues to shine. Hard to believe this isn't mid-summer with 70+ degree days. We haven't seen rain up here once since we arrived on April 19th! My guess is that's probably about to change.

We left Secret Cove early and cruised north along the BC Coast passing Pender Harbour, Powell River and Lund, until we reached that favorite cruising ground known as Desolation Sound. Little wind, flat seas and lots of sun. On the way we did a little "war boating" to check the news and retrieve our email.
Secret Cove to Refuge Cove, then Squirrel Cove.

Alex used the ham radio to "check-in" to the Vancouver Island 2-Meter Net. It's nice to know, that even without cell service, you can get instant communication from anywhere on the Inside Passage east and north of Vancouver Island to a 2-Meter repeater, and the many ham radio operators that monitor the network.

While underway we monitor Marine VHF channel 16, the general calling and distress frequency, and also channel 13, the ship to ship calling frequency. If there is an message or notice to shipping, the Coast Guard usually announces the broadcast and gives another channel number to switch to hear the Notice. It is unusual to broadcast a notice on channel 16, unless a ship is sinking, etc. So about mid-morning the Coasties come on Channel 16 with an urgent Notice to Mariners. It seems that the Canadian Navy has lost a torpedo in the vicinity of the Whiskey Gulf test range. Apparently the torpedo could have gone a long way, until its fuel ran out. It is described as 15" in diameter and 6 feet long, floating but mostly submerged. Believe me, we are keeping our eyes focused in front of the boat!

Our goal was to spend the night attached to the dock in Refuge Cove, however when we arrived the dock was a construction zone. The girl at Refuge Cove said they would be open for business on June 1st, and that was just a bit too long to wait. After checking the charts, we decided to motor across the channel to Squirrel Cove, a nicely sheltered anchorage.
That narrow opening just to the left of the bow is the entrance to Squirrel Cove.

Wow! What a skinny entrance.

Once anchored inside the glassy waters and scenic views are quit calming.

We're hoping that missing torpedo can't find its way into the slim opening of Squirrel Cove.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

#3 - Gibsons to Secret Cove

Morning dawns on us in Gibsons.

Another beautiful sunny day on BC's Sunshine Coast, of course! Flat seas, no wind, a tug or two and pretty scenery. When motoring in flat seas under autopilot, there's not much to do except monitor the engine gauges, check the course, and watch for logs and junk in the water.

With all that's going on in the news (the Pig Flu, the Republican defector, Lakers B-Ball, American Idol, and not wanting to miss the next Viagra spam email) it would nice to "be connected" while the boat is motoring along. We usually have internet connection when in port via our BBX marina service here in the Pacific Northwest. And getting internet access offshore via satellite is no technical challenge, except for one thing: it costs BIG bucks. So to keep busy, Alex adapted a technique learned from Max to get mobile internet access: war driving!

Normally you would get a laptop with external antenna mounted on the car roof, and drive about town gaining internet access through someone else's home wifi router. On the Wild Blue it's called "war boating"! We already have a wifi bridge with power amplifier on top of the radar arch, and can receive and transmit wifi extra long distances. Since we're cruising up the coast near many homes and businesses we see many wifi signals.

A sample of the many wifi access points open to "war boating".

Once we find a strong wifi signal that hasn't been secured, we tell the Linksys Bridge to connect. At 9 knots speed about a mile offshore, we can hold a good signal for about 5 minutes worth of internet access. Just enough to download the email, read Google news, etc. For today's cruise, we wish to thank Allock Family Net, Bernsteins Network, linksys and default for leaving their wifi networks open to us boaters!

After 2 hours of "war boating" we arrived at Secret Cove and gave some thought to continuing onto Refuge Cove. We'll do that tomorrow. We've been to Secret Cove many times. Pat remembers it for the CYC cruise where she hand-crafted 150 meatballs for the crews. Good times.
Secret Cove Marina is still pretty low on activity so far this year.

The BC commercial prawn season usually starts around May 1st. So the prawners are amassing here at the Secret Cove public dock where the excitement begins in just a few days.

See you manana.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

#2 - Vancouver to Gibsons

The Wild Blue departed Vancouver at 6AM and headed to Gibsons Landing on BC's Sunshine Coast. Gibsons is only about 20 miles by boat, but some 40 miles by automobile. Not many boats out, just one empty freighter moving into Vancouver to load containers, and a tug towing two wood chip barges. The seabirds were out in force and Pat recognized them as the same we see in Alaska. Perhaps they're moving up the Inside Passage as well.

The seabirds were out in force today.

The 20-mile run form Vancouver to Gibsons Landing.

Of course the big challenge this time of the month is the large tidal change (the difference between the high and low tide), which in turn generates large tidal currents. There is a shallow, 7-foot depth bar, on the final approach to Gibsons Landing. We want to cross it close to high, slack tide to avoid the speedy current, and have a bit more space between the sea floor and Wild Blue’s keel. So a 6AM departure and 8.5-knot average speed put us in front of the Bar at around 8AM and we crossed without incident.

Gibsons 7-foot deep bar.

Gibsons Landing is a scenic seaside village, located on the shores of Howe Sound beneath stunning vistas of the coastal mountains. Gibson's Landing was established in 1886 when George Gibson's boat blew off course and he and his two sons landed here by accident. Incorporated in 1929, local residents persuaded the Post Office in 1947 to drop the "Landing", so today this lively waterfront community is known simply as Gibsons. In this unique setting on Howe Sound, surrounded by Mount Elphinstone to the north, Howe Sound to the east, and the Strait of Georgia on the southwest, you experience a mild west coast climate. Breathtaking mountain-to-ocean scenery, and year-round outdoor recreational activities make Gibsons a rather special for the 4,000 permanent residents.

Gibsons Marina. Note Wild Blue docked on the far left.

Molly's was a great place for "poutine". We ordered it on each visit to Gibsons. Poutine is a dish consisting of French Fries topped with fresh cheese curds covered with brown gravy and sometimes additional ingredients. It is a quintessential Canadian comfort food especially in Quebec. Unfortunately (especially for Jerry Watkins and Alex) they stopped serving this dish just recently.

Pat always enjoys this floating garden in Gibsons public marina. It's too early for the color.

Tulips are in bloom in these cold winter climates.

Once again Pat is the constant gardener. This garden is growing on Wild Blue's "hot house" flybridge. Not only is there color, but lettuce and herbs for "trim as we cruise" freshness.

Even more herbs. I hope we catch enough fish to use them all.

Pat asks: "How can we cruise to Alaska without a hanging flower pot"?

Tomorrow we cruise further up BC's Sunshine coast. We'll probably stop in Secret Cove or move on up to Refuge Cove in Desolation Sound. We may not have internet access so the Blog might be delayed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

#1 - Roche Harbor to Vancouver

This morning, Wild Blue untied from the docks at Roche Harbor, Washington and pointed her bow north, towards Vancouver, British Columbia, beginning another 3-month cruise up the Inside Passage to Alaska. Pat and Alex enjoyed strong currents, flat seas and a sunny day on the 6-hour, 50-mile crossing of the Strait of Georgia, arriving in Yaletown, Vancouver just after noon.

40 plus Selene Trawlers showed up for this years Selene Rendezvous

This morning’s wake up call came at 5:30AM and felt even earlier, since last night the Bensons celebrated their 28th (oh it can’t be that long) wedding anniversary with Selene owners Rhodes and Gordon. We’ve spent the last couple days at the 2009 Selene Rendezvous, a yearly gathering of Selene boats and their owners. This is where everyone congratulates every else on their wise boat purchase! We’ve been attending each of the last five Rendezvous, and it’s always fun to meet the new owners and get reacquainted with those we see just occasionally.

Our 2009 Alaska cruise includes many of the same ports of call as last year: Central and Northern British Columbia, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Craig, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Tracy Arm, Petersburg and Wrangell. In addition new stops include Kake, Sitka, and we’ll cruise as far north as Lituya Bay, located on the Gulf of Alaska.

We’ll be cruising alone, that is without a buddy boat this year, but some of the same crazy crew characters that entertained us last year will be crewing on the Wild Blue. You won’t want to miss the future Blogs about those Petaluma turkey ranchers, the Los Osos surfer-fishermen, the San Luis Obispo cowboys, and even the Captain Squire and First Mate Harriet of last year’s Alaska Cruiser Seagate (see for the whole story). Once again we'll try to keep Capatin Squire's Mexico arrest record at bay from the Canadian authorities. And, this year we have some new crew faces too, such as Alex’s Cal Poly college roommates, who are guaranteed to keep our Blog readers highly entertained.

As we motored through the skinny passes and small bays of BC's Gulf Islands on our way to Vancouver today, we were quite surprised to come upon the New Century 1. This 700 foot long ship was anchored away from the shipping lanes in quiet Plumper Sound, just outside one of our favorite anchorages Winter Cove. New Century 1 is the world's largest car carrier with capacity for 6000 automobiles. Based on how low it's sitting in the water, and the current economic crisis, it probably hasn't been able to offload all of it's cargo.

World's largest car carrier anchored in the Gulf Islands

New Century 1 in better days offloading new vehicles.

We moored in Vancouver's False Creek at Quayside Marina which looks straight up into Yaletown. We'll stay here just long enough for last minute supplies then move up the BC coast on Tuesday.

Entering False Creek just south of Downtown Vancouver

Quayside Marina is located in Downtown Vancouver

A great view into the City from Wild Blue's boat deck.

For this years cruise, we've completed our normal engine servicing and routine maintenance. We've added a few new gadgets including an AIS Transponder that allows the ships and other boats to see us better on their chart plotters and radar. A new Wild Blue wifi access point allows the crew to have internet access on their laptop, iPhone, or PDA from anywhere on the boat, once the boat is connected. We've upgraded to a digital depth sounder which not only shows the big fish, but the bait fish underneath us. We completed the installation of our Single-Sideband radio which covers the marine and ham radio bands. Alex talked to ham radio stations in Alaska, Hawaii, and Japan from the boat, so it seems to work! In an emergency it even allows us to communicate with aircraft. We bought a new backup navigation PC that can be swapped out with the primary computer within minutes. After dragging bull kelp all over Alaska and BC last year, we had kelp deflectors installed in front of the active stabilizer fins. And finally, after scraping off a good portion of the bottom paint from our Princess Louisa Winter Cruise (see below), the boat received a new coat of bottom paint.

Wild Blue's new bottom and stabilizer fin kelp deflectors.

Many other boats are going up the Passage this year. We've communicated with quite a few by email. The weather looks to be warmer than last year and instead of $4.10 per gallon, boat fuel in Anacortes was $1.66 last week and we liked that a bunch. One group of boats we've been following online is the "Great Siberian Sushi Run", which is three trawler style yachts running from Seattle, up to Alaska, down the Aleutian Islands, west to Siberia, ending in Japan. The boat named Sans Souci has a nice blog on and we met the owner at the Selene Rendezvous last week. The bearing sea ought to be a big challenge for these crews!

This Nordhavn 68 is going to Alaska then Siberia on the way to Japan.

Another three boat flotilla is cruising to Alaska from Oxnard, California. You can follow them at .

It should be a fun summer for us and our crews, and we're hoping to keep you informed via the Blog.