Nanaimo is a city on the eastern, south-central side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company made a killing here in the 1850s when they learned there was coal aplenty in the neighborhood. Gave them a break from the monotony of all that fur trading, don't you know. Enough areas of historic interest remain in Nanaimo to make one or more walking tours worthwhile for the itinerant boater, and there are nice restaurants, including The Wesley Street Cafe, which is stellar (bison steak, lamb prepared 2 different ways...you get the picture). Nowadays, in addition to the fine dining, educational and boat-gear-purchasing opportunities Nanaimo offers, Environment Canada gives the city a very prominent position in their daily weather forecasts. Often are the times that Environment Canada refers to weather systems in the Strait of Georgia as being either "north of Nanaimo" or "south of Nanaimo." It is the hub of wind and water phenomena. In short, Nanaimo is Where It's At, Baby.
When we have visited Nanaimo we have typically taken moorage at the Port Authority docks, given the proximity to most of what we like to see in such a city (the aforementioned restaurants, and museums, the Harbour Chandler, etc.); and because anchoring is virtually impossible now, what with all the permanently moored boats occupying the public anchorage off Newcastle Island. Towit:
PR for the city would call the Port Authority docks and the surrounding area "busy," being as close as they are to ferry terminals both large and small, the float plane facilities run by two companies, and the Port Authority's large vessel pier. Non-PR types might instead call it "freakin' nonstop loud." Plus, of course, if one has CO monitors on board one's boat, they may go off due to the prevalence of diesel and aircraft fumes. Regardless of your point of view, and if you can tolerate the noise and toxic fumes for a couple of days, it can be really entertaining to watch life's rich pageant brought to you by Nanaimo. You don't even have to leave your slip to see everything from fishing boats passing right by to bring in their catch or leave for the fishing grounds in the morning; to the arrivals and departures of the Canadian Coast Guard and Navy vessels for their target practice in Whiskey Golf; to the little commuter ferry that runs between Nanaimo and Protection Island; to the comings and goings of power boats, sailboats, and dinghies of all sizes and conditions. Heck; on May 22 when we were there, we even saw a small aluminum power skiff coming in, carrying an old lawnmower on his dodger. No, really. A Toro lawnmower. On the roof of a boat. The mind, it boggles.
That said, a port like Nanaimo has other attractions found in few other places. Like, for example, hyper-cool boats of all types. Take "Estren" for instance - a 30-foot-plus-or-minus classic sailboat that appears (from the clean looks of the rudder and keel as well as artifacts in the cockpit) to be a fit and active little boat. Check out Estren's adjustable bowsprit. Here, it's made-off; but when it's lowered into that notch you see to the port side of the anchor, it adds a foresail that magically renders the roller furling jib into a sort of inner forestay. Sure would like to see Estren under full sail -- does that kind of system work well?
Here's another boat at rest in the Port Authority's marina in Nanaimo. This one is a classic power boat of 30-something feet that appears to have had a bit of exterior rehab work done. Sweet little thing, and the interior woodwork (not shown here) appears original. Might not get out much, given the growth of lettuce on the keel and the...ermmm...porous-appearing wood framed windows of the bridge. But just think of what it must have been like to zip around the Inside Passage in someting like this, back in the '40s. Wonder what Muriel Wylie Blanchett might have thought of the likes of this....
On the other hand, if one has no need for intense urban stimulation, cool classic boats, or business in Nanaimo, and/or prefers to anchor out in a bay with a bit o' swingin' room, might I suggest bypassing Nanaimo and going a mere 15 miles further northward, to Nanoose Harbour? Sure, it's ringed by houses and a highway (like, Nanaimo isn't?? Or Poulsbo, or Ganges? Or, like, Sidney doesn't have an airport? Or etc.???) -- and of course there is the possibilty that once or twice a day a train car might rumble down the tracks surrounding the bay (as opposed to Shilshole's big, mile-long, honkin' trains every 20 minutes); but Nanoose has easy WiFi access (unlike Lake Union in Seattle with all its radio/TV interference), and the holding is good. Nanoose Harbour: less well-thought-of in the cruising guides*, but a fine place indeed to spend a quick night on one's way up north. We give it a thumb's-up.
* Due, presumably, to either a lack of breathtaking pristineness or a lack of citified amenities. One must read between the lines of all cruising guides to find some "B-level" anchorages they mention in passing, that ultimately turn out to be pretty nice places to park one's boat overnight. Nanoose is one such place. Enjoy.
So, we finally departed Seattle -again - on May 16, 2007. Zipped over to Port Ludlow, then up to Echo Bay at Sucia Island in the San Juans. Why yes; it IS one of our favorite routes, thanks-for-asking. One thing about the San Juans: when the currents are in your favor, they can REALLY be in your favor.
(FYI to non-sailing readers: attaining 11 knots of speed in a boat is roughly equivalent to going 15 mph in a car. Except in a boat, if you're going 11 knots and conditions are benign, it's really exciting. And if conditions are bad, you're terrified.)
This return trip in mid-May saw a couple of pretty cool boats sharing the anchorage with us in Echo Bay and waiting out the effects of a fairly aggressive low pressure system, including the historic schooner Zodiac with about 30
crew paying customers who were really enjoying themselves. How often does one have a chance to sail on a historic ship like Zodiac?*
We even shared the anchorage with a woman who has circumnavigated twice, in this here 38-foot boat, which, cool:
There is one particular reason, though, why Echo Bay is dear to me despite my having been there so many times. One July, years ago, GB and friends of ours anchored among about 100 other boats in Echo Bay. It was crowded and noisy relative to other times I had been there, so I felt at less than maximum thrill. And then, a 40-foot sailboat arrived and anchored near us, with 3 or 4 gray-haired fellows having a weekend away from the wives. They were laughing and talking excitedly amongst themselves, and it seemed as if at least one of them had never been sailing before - or at least, not here. As the sun set, this one happy fellow checked the anchor one last time, looked past all the other boats into the setting sun, and said to no one in particular,
"Oh, this is the trip of a lifetime!"
*especially in the rain, when you can really feel solidarity with 19th century sailors.
The main reason we returned to Seattle when we did, was that a subcontractor had issued a manufacturer's recall for the aluminum frame of our boat's windscreen. We and four other boats had the refitting work done in Lake Union, Seattle beginning May 5, and it went very well. Even the broker joined in the fun. The Fox went first, and our screen was done in less than a day. Pity poor Anders, though, who arrived from Sweden to do the work. Suffering from jet-lag. Having to speak a language not his own. Being surrounded by a bunch of curious boat owners. Fortunately, GB had some tools that helped the project along, and all the owners pitched in where they could.*
Anders has a lot of boat building experience so he made it look easy, refitting the screens on 5 boats in 3 days, but it was by no means a "pop-it-off, pop-it-back-on" approach. A couple boat owners, just by watching Anders work, got the equivalent of a technical class in how one portion of a custom yacht is designed and built. Sweet.
* That is, where Anders allowed. Heh.
Still catching up, here.
The haulout with which we began our latest Urban Adventure in Seattle went quite well, all things considered. It had been 2-1/2 years since our last haul for routine maintenance, and we returned to our favorite Seattle boat yard, Canal Boat Yard to get 'er done again. One need only obtain passage under two low-ish bridges and go through the Hiram Chittenden Locks to get to the yard. We arrived on time on April 23 and the Canal guys promptly hoisted the Fox skyward. And, there was hardly any junk on her bottom - literally, no more than 3 barnacles & a bit of Shilshole scum the Canal guys power-washed right off.
Well - Ultima-SR appears THE bottom paint to use. GB had used it in November, 2004, when last we hauled; and he used it again now. This time it came in a brighter, more tropical-colored blue which GB eased on in just the right way. Three gallons served the Fox quite well. Too bad the wind was always blowing 15 knots from the south, and we had a bit of rain that impelled GB to re-work a few areas. But, GB worked totally alone and in 4 days we splashed the Fox again, going back under the Ballard Bridge, through the Chittenden Locks, and under BNRR bridge #4, to a temporary slip at Shilshole Marina a former dockmate from years past kindly let us use. Thanks again, GW - you were a real lifesaver.
After the haul-and-splash we spent several days as time and the engine issues allowed, to give the Fox the cleaning she so richly deserved. Boat looks gooood.
Here's the last thing a bay sees, right before the Fox drops anchor. Schnort.
So, we're out of Seattle again after GB worked on the raw water/engine systems failure for 9 days. The primary dilemma was the failure of multiple engine system components - either sequential or coincidental, impossible to tell. Local marine-engine pundits and some experienced mechanics were unanimous in saying, "Gee, we've never seen this before!" Here's what some of the failed parts looked like:
The starter motor. Failed completely at about 679 hours. Looking back through our ship's log, it appears it had begun to fail in July, 2006, at about 560 hours; that was the first entry reporting a "somewhat hesitant start." Of course, because those salty handymen far more experienced than us explained that starter motors "almost never fail and last the life of the boat," GB paid attention to (and improved) some irregularities we found in the wiring leading to & from the starter battery. Because the hesitant starts did not occur each time we ran the engine, we had no reason to assume the starter motor was the culprit. Until recently:
Once Mr. Starter Motor was replaced, the anti-siphon valve aka vacuum break, failed. Even after it was refitted with new seals & gaskets. Too bad I didn't also take a pic of the failed hose leading to/from Mr. Anti-Siphon Valve, as Mr. Hose was more likely the perp who caused this whole situation.
Finally, meet Mr. Raw Water Pump. See that emulsified oil circling the area that leads to the engine? Looks like mayonnaise (which is....ermmm....emulsified oil)? Yeah, according to the very nice marine mechanic who took an extra hour out of his schedule to rebuild Mr. Raw Water Pump, Mr. Raw Water Pump was about to croak. Damaged impeller, with a side order of utterly-shot bearings. 679 hours, and dead as a doornail. RIP, Mr. Raw Water Pump.
It will now take us 75 more engine hours and testing of two successive samples of engine oil to determine whether or not the entire engine has been compromised by the water the above component failures caused the engine crankcase to inhale. Best-case scenario: no problem. Worst-case scenario: the engine is toast and has to be replaced to the tune of about 20 large. So, in reply to the commenter who apparently has never worked on a marine engine and recently advised us to "quit your whining! This is supposed to be fun!" I say, buy me a new engine and gosh darn it, SMILE WHEN YOU DO IT.
We left Nanaimo to move the boat 200 miles south in mid-April to go to Seattle for the Great Malo Windshield Roundup. We had a defective windshield, and Malo was sending out a specialist to rebuild the windshields of five boats. So, our trip was cut short. We motored south through wind and tides, waiting out three major gales in protected anchorages - a very uncomfortable trip with little to no sailing. Before the roundup, though, we were going to haul out.
We made an uneventful passage through the locks to Canal Boatyard where I spent a five days sanding and fairing the hull, and polishing the boat. It was wet and cold, with rain, and about 15 knots of wind all of the time. I did not then realize that this would be the easiest part of the next two weeks!
During the haul out we stayed at our great fiends Larry’s apartment. Larry was moving to Phoenix, so his apartment was a total construction site. We dragged a couple of boat mattresses in and slept on the floor - Larry was in Phoenix. There was still some pots and pans, a TV, internet access, and a bathtub - though savage - it was kind of nice staying there - reminded me of the 1980’s when I used to live in the apartment buildings I was rehabilitating - these were first class accommodations compared to those.
We finished with the haul out and went to a friend’s slip in Shilshole for a week. We cleaned a bit. The hot water tank stopped working - so that was a few days trauma while I installed a new element. . We went to leave Shilshole - Also put in a water purifier for MS. We went to start the boat to leave for the roundup, and….oh yes - I spent two days helping Larry rebuild his apartment - boy - did that take me back to the good old days of apartment building ownership….
The boat would not start!
We had been having troubles for some time - finally, we got it started - carefully watching the water flow out of the stern to make sure we did not get flooded. Come to think of it - that starter had been having some trouble for some time - need to get a mechanic on that right away.
So - into the locks again - rafted to a very nice older couple, - ex-sailors in a big beat up power boat. We are getting away from about the mid section of the locks and somehow, we were wrapped around the front of the power boat - water was churning past as the locks opens with about 8 knots flowing current, and 10 knots wind on the bow had blown us around. Also, we think that MS had not put the helm in the correct position - a little thrust getting away and bam - what a mess. We got off from the power boat, but put a scratch in the hull from out stanchion. We motored up and gave them our card and apologies. MS was pretty upset, but I say shit happens - she drives the boat everywhere, and its easy to make a mistake.
So - we get to the roundup and I find I am building a workbench - I had volunteered and been accepted. Mike Locatel had designed it and we had the wood cut to spec - so - we spent the afternoon screwing it together - then I sanded it down - it looked good.
Saturday morning we started on the windshields - Anders from Sweden had come out - what I great guy - calm, professional, unflappable when all hell is breaking loose. Our windshield went pretty well, and our job was finished. We went to start the boat to move it and….
The boat would not start…..
… must be that pesky starter motor - or is it the battery. Have to get a mechanic on that - wait - that’s right - we had called on Friday and the earliest appointment was in three weeks - yes that is three weeks - I can schedule brain surgery quicker in Seattle than get a mechanic out to a boat in May - did I mention its “Opening Day”.
Opening Day is when they have a big rowing contest - the Windermer Cup (which is actually a reality office). And 1000 powerboat come in and line Lake Washington to watch, have a parade, and do all of the incredibly stupid thing old farts and wives with poodle dogs do on three story powerboats - its a zoo and we avoid it at all costs - well - now we are in the thick of it….
So - I order a new starter from the marine story - $350 and has to be shipped from Chicago - will take 10 days…..
Well - I check the oil the next morning and somehow it has milked - become contaminated in the crankcase with water and been churned to a milky consistency. I spend three hours pumping out the cold oil with a hand pump, pull the injectors and find there is water on the heads - FRESH water - what happened???
Well, in addition to the starter motor failing, the anti siphon valve was clogged - the engine had sucked up fresh water from the exhaust riser connecting to the muffler.
I clean the ant siphon, clean the oil and get the engine started - we move over to our new slip. I check the oil and it had MILKED again…
So we clean the oil again - this involved three separate oil changes - by this time I have pumped about 9 gallons of oil through with a hand pump. Pull the injectors - they are dry - no oil there - then check the ant siphon valve - it is working, but barely.
This anti siphon valve is of a very old style design with the little rubber flapper - what junk - I replace it with a new Vetus constant draining valve - this involves running 15 feet of hose aft, and plumbing a drain into the cockpit drain - seawater runs through this pipe constantly when the engine is going so you can look and see that it is functioning.
So - we install this valve, clean the oil, and replace the water pump - the last point on the raw water circuit that could leak water (except the oil cooler - but lets no go there)..I have to pull one engine mount to change the pump….
By this time I have found a place to get a starter motor for $220 - I buy two.
So we fire up the engine and it seems to be working - did I mention that to install the ant siphon vent I had to install a new door into the aft lockers - I had been carrying one around for about two years - that only took ½ day……
So here we are - three weeks into the haulout - I have worked on or done the following, in somewhat chronological order…
Painted the hull
Waxed the hull
Cleaned all of the canvas, cleaned the upholstery, cleaned the rugs
Replaced the water heater element
Rebuilt three outlets, plumbed a kitchen sink, repaired a thermostat, cleaned a refrigerator, and painted (at Larry’s)
Installed a water purification system
Rebuilt a Malo windshield (helped, watched, lifted carried and provided a vast array of tools, power equipment, drills, saws, punches, and pencils - the other Malo owners, with a couple of exceptions, seemed a bit unprepared - but then again, they all own houses, which is where they keep all of their tools…
Changed my oil seven times
Replaced a starter motor
Replaced an ant siphon valve
Installed a new locker door
Installed a new water pump.
Removed and reinstalled a motor mount.
I must say I was very flatted when Anders said to me that he could not have done the job on the windshields without my help - also - I am the only one to come away with the inside of my windshield caulked - I did the job, but Anders came over to give me the finer points of windshield caulking - I learned a lot from him - and his was one of the nicest complement I have yet received, coming from a foreign professional …
So the moral of all of this is that shit happens, be prepared, expect the unexpected..
And never buy a monkey…..
May 7, 2007. Goodbye, Rita.