July 6, 2005
M/V DESERT VENTURE
TWO MONTHS OF CRUISING
We have been cruising in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) for two months. The time has flown and it is hard to believe time can fly by so rapidly. The last log I sent left off at Port Angeles, Washington. Since that time we have visited a dozen different places, some of them multiple times. We have gotten underway 24 different times in the last two months. Our furthest point west was Stuart Island – Prevost Harbor, north was Sucia Island – Echo Harbor, east was Anacortes, and south was Port Orchard . We spent slightly more time tied up to a dock in a marina than at anchor. After sitting at a dock for months on end, now we are generally underway again in two or three days. The time at the dock will probably become even less in the next couple months. We use the time at dock to do laundry, grocery shop, keep appointments, and do any other errands such as collect our mail, buy items for the boat and other projects, do dinner out, and etc. We had several events with friends and family. We had JJoan, Carol, and Caitlin as visitors in Port Orchard. My parents came for a week of cruising mid-June. We picked them up in Anacortes and cruised the islands for a week. They got a bird’s eye view of living and cruising aboard. I believe they were quite impressed with my boating skills. They had not seen me in action as a First Mate on a yacht. But they got plenty of insight as we anchored several times and tied up to a dock, too. Every docking is a new experience as we are never at the same dock and that changes everything. Type of cleats, if there are cleats, prevailing winds, and size and types of docks make a difference.
Getting underway and tying up to the dock are now a fairly common exercises for us. Anchoring, since we do this almost half the time, is becoming just as common. I can’t tell you which I prefer, as it depends on the dock and the anchorage as to which seems preferable. In all the places we have tied up to the dock we have had 20 Amps, 30 Amps, 50 Amps, or 100 Amps of 110 electrical power. For those of you who aren’t familiar with how that affects us, we are limited to amperage listed above coming into the boat. Let me put it this way, every major electrical device that gets hot uses approximately 12 to 15 amps. That means that the stove, water heater, heaters, toaster, microwave, coffee pot, tea pot, and vacuum cleaner all use approximately 12 amps. Now, divide 12 into 20 and 30 and 50 and 100 and you can see that at 20 and 30 things get a bit complicated. Also, we found that the 20 amp and 30 amp docks seem to be older, their 30 amps is unstable (low voltage), and we really don’t get our full 30 amps of service. IF we were tied up to the dock and wanted to fix a full breakfast, for instance, I would want a coffee pot, toaster, and cook top burner – approximately 36 amps. Of course we turned the hot water heater off. Oh, we are still above the 30 amps…so turn the coffee pot off while I toast and don’t forget to turn it back on after the toast is made. See, how complicated it can get? Well, don’t worry, we mostly have cereal and bananas for breakfast! J Now, lets discuss what happens at anchor. “Oh honey, would you start up the generator and I will make breakfast.” No problem!! Now we have unlimited electricity, much like yourselves. While I am cooking breakfast we can have the heaters warming up the boat and the hot water heater going and charging our batteries, too. I have gotten smart and on cold days would rather be at anchor!! We don’t run the generator in the night, so we have some nice fleece blankets to snuggle into. Come morning we can have it all warmed back up fairly quickly. Of course it helps that it is summer. In the PNW you need some form of heat on many mornings.
Just as on the open ocean the sea state/water conditions dictate how we cruise in the protected waters of the islands and Puget Sound. We use several tools to help us make the most of our actual underway cruising time. Tides and currents play a large role in our voyage planning. We experienced some very serious high and low tides in June. There were often 6 to 12 foot differences lending to extreme high and negative low tides. One must be very careful where you are going during a negative tide. As a matter of fact we had to be quite insistent at one marina, when they told us where to tie up. Though you would think they would be extremely aware of consequences and proactive regarding directing boats in their marina, I had to remind them of the extreme low tide and request confirmation on their directions. “Oh my! No, no, please change course and enter the marina from the opposite side and tie up at a different place. “ No problem!! The direction of the currents coincides with the tides and the water rushes in and out of the islands at a very predictable direction and speed. It is so predictable that we have maps and charts and tables that tell the exact direction and speed of the current. So we can plan which way, what time of day, and etc. to make the most of the currents. It makes sense that it is in our best interest to go WITH the direction of the current. We can run at a lower RPM, make a much higher speed, and use less fuel. It is pretty amazing to see the affect it can have. Our first day into Anacortes was interesting. We had the current coming from south to north and we were in Rosario Straight, headed due east. That meant the current was on our beam (broadside to us). The auto pilot did a good job but was constantly correcting. Our track looked as if we had been drunk as it continued to move back and forth with the corrections of the auto pilot or us driving. Currents are powerful and must be respected. It was also interesting seeing all the eddies and tide rips where the currents come together meeting at the confluence. Lots of swirling and eddies and confused water. Nothing that really affects us, but interesting no less. Also, being at a point where the tides start changing directions causes a lot of confusion on the water, too. All these changes will affect, for good or bad, our voyaging efficiency.
One of the big changes to our protected cruising, compared to our voyage north, is that our cruises tend to be brief. Gone are the days of eight, ten, twenty-four, or even more hours of cruising. Now we generally cruise from one to three hours. Occasionally we did a longer cruise, but the short cruises are nice. We barely get going and it is time to stop and play again! Who can argue with that kind of life? We drop anchor and have lunch and life just continues on in an easy going, pleasant, and often serene place. We are truly blessed to be able to enjoy the life style and the surroundings it offers.
One of the big items of interest in the PNW is the wildlife. I am disappointed to report that we haven’t see that much of the larger varieties, such as whales. As a matter of fact, the best experience of “wildlife” was while tied up at the dock in Port Townsend. We had a resident bald eagle hanging out on the cell tower. He definitely considered that one of HIS roosts and watched avidly as the commercial fishermen unloaded their haul. We had a blue heron that walked the dock directly across from us and I enjoyed watching him fish successfully often during the week we were there. There was a sea otter that swam in an around our dock. There was an octopus, Dungeness crab, very large pink or orange star fish, clams, and etc. It was amazing getting to see it all during low tide. Although we have seen a harbor seal occasionally, we are really waiting to get sight of the pods of whales. We had thought we might see them today, but it wasn’t to be. I do not doubt that before long we will get this special pleasure.
Our favorite places?? Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor are slated as THE destinations in the San Juan Islands. Tourists flock like crazy to these places. We have visited both three times. Only the first was due to their fame. There really isn’t much to see when you get there and the towns are rife with expensive shops and restaurants. Groceries are extremely expensive, as everything has to be shipped or flown in. However, they are fun to see, and especially to see all the people and traffic. Sitting at the dock in Friday Harbor gave us an up front and close view to all the traffic. There was constant traffic, including the Washington State Ferries, Victoria Clipper Ferry, many various private ferries, cruise ships, small boats, and yachts.. Add to all that confusion of coming and going the sea planes landing and taking off constantly make for great entertainment. Oh boy, is there plenty of action to watch!! Better than any TV! The other favorite about Friday Harbor is the fresh seafood store at the bottom of the dock. We have enjoyed a couple excellent meals (fresh Dungeness crab and sea scallops on the BBQ), aboard D/V that couldn’t be had for near the price in any restaurant. YUM!!
I believe I finally am growing out of the need to be where the people are. I do like to see all the action but it just seems to distract from the peace of the location. I thought it would be neat to be in the middle of all the 4th of July action in Roche Harbor. Well, there was plenty of action!! Untold numbers of dinghies racing back and forth, stirring up the anchorage and setting the boats to and fro gets to be a bit irritating. Also interesting, is the younger children allowed to run, at full speed, powerful engined dinghies, with all their friends aboard. It gives real pause to us, as to the sensibility of parents allowing their children to run about in such circumstances. Though there are rules as to age and size of engine/dinghies operation there was no enforcement present.
We anchored fairly far out from the main event, but Roche Harbor was packed for the 4th of July holiday. There must have been over 400 boats carrying many people, of all size and shape – tug, sail, fishing, and other, mixing it up having a great time. There were instances where people dropped their anchor on other’s anchors. One fellow said he had three different anchors on top of his anchor. We had been concerned our anchor had been dropped on, but fortunately not, and they moved on early. We were happy about that. We had the perfect spot for the fireworks display. We sat up on our fly bridge and just had to look out and slightly up. Probably the best seat I have ever had for a display. Also, we were not affected by the works falling out of the sky, as many boast must have been as they were directly under the display.
Roche Harbor before the hordes arrived.
I don’t think this picture begins to reflect just how many people came to celebrate the holiday.
One of the highlights of the last couple months, was going through Deception Pass. It is a very famous, narrow passage. There is a bridge overhead that connects Fidalgo Island with Whidbey Island. It is necessary to time the transit to go with the current. Captain Bruce had been looking forward to this event for several years. We finally got the opportunity to transit the pass. The current was perfect, the timing was right, it was a beautiful day, and whoa!!! We made the turn from around the corner, expecting to shoot right through the pass and there before our eyes were two tugs pulling and pushing a log boom, using the entire width of the pass. Okay, no problem. We had plenty of time, throttled back, and let them get through, then we made our own passage. It was a perfect time.
The islands pretty much look the same, and that same is quite beautiful. The coasts are rimmed with evergreens, with a smattering of other trees. There are tons of driftwood on the beaches. The air smells deliciously of evergreen and wood fires with some fresh salty sea air mixed. Quite refreshing. The skies vary between blue and shades of blue, white, and gray as we are still having the affects of spring in the PNW. Though there has been rain, it has never been a show stopper for us. It washes everything anew including the boat, and leaves a fresh breeze behind. We have had several glorious sunny days and will see more of those as the season progresses. The sun stays up much later and gets up much earlier than we are used to, and that will become even more so.
Why, you ask, since we are past the longest day of the year? Because we are moving into Canada tomorrow (July 7,2005). We plan to visit Sidney, BC for a couple days, including a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens. The marina we will be at offers shuttle service to Victoria, B.C., and to the Butchart Gardens. This will be the kick off of our first foray into Canada. We plan to spend almost two months, departing toward the end of August. We are very excited as it has been our goal, now, for some time. We haven’t decided how far north we will go, but we will not be going to SE Alaska this year. We plan to go at least as far north as Desolation Sound, and maybe The Broughtons, but that is unclear at this point. There are several “must see” stops along the way and we may become distracted. We really don’t try to move daily or even every other day unless doing a major transit. We are very dedicated to clean ground tackle and that means washing the chain and anchor with fresh water every time we weigh anchor. That uses precious water and we just aren’t in that big of a rush.
So, that all being said, I must sign off. I think of you all often and I am certain I have left out “good parts”. It is just that there is so much to see and it is all beautiful. I can only tell you in my most humble words – You have to see it for yourself!!