Posted by: amgine | 5 July 2011

Record attempt rowing around Vancouver Island

Colin Angus is hoping to have broken the human-powered craft Vancouver Island circumnavigation record by tonight. The record he is trying to break was set by Joe O’Blenis in a kayak in 2010 (his second time breaking the record,) but Angus is using a custom designed rowing craft similar to the ones he has used in past adventures. He’s expected in Comox this evening.


This is so common a dream that there should be an article somewhere outlining some of the strictures.

A basic rule of boat ownership is you will work about 10 weeks a year to keep it tied up to the dock and maintained, and another week for every week you are away from the dock. Or more. Some variance depending how new your boat is (cheaper) and how fancy your marina may be. So it is much cheaper to charter a couple weeks a year, although the more exotic the locale the more the cost (to get there.)

Yes, you can be a sailor extremely cheaply, keep your boat on a mooring, do all your own maintenance, eat rice and beans underway, and row your dinghy ashore. But we’re talking about the average sailor here, who has a family to be wooed into enjoying sailing and would really rather have dinner at a nice restaurant ashore after a day-long passage and cold beer if it’s an option.

But if you must own your own boat on the limited budget in the title, buy a small boat, the smallest boat you can possibly get away with. Do not measure the size of the boat by how much money you have now, but by how much you earn now. If you can’t afford to take 20% out of your annual income to spend mooring and maintaining a 40 footer, can you afford 10% to spend on a 20 footer?

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but “One-third for the boat, one-third to prepare the boat, and one-third for the cruising kitty” is a good guideline. If you have $75k, then don’t spend more than $25k on the boat. This should leave you enough to upgrade some of the systems as necessary, spruce up the boat generally, and some luxuries for cruising (good cushions for sleeping berths!) And you’ll have a good cruising budget at the start, plus everything you can add to it before departure. Financial planning is more vital to a cruise – where almost all the money is going out rather than incoming – than it is ashore, employed.

So, now that you’re down to $25k for the boat, and your guideline for selecting a boat is how much you’re earning now to pay for the ongoing costs of boat ownership, you have a much better idea of how much boat you can purchase. Probably not your dream boat. DON’T GIVE UP THE DREAM. You’re just changing the parameters.

There is another way to do this – to buy a boat and go cruising, but on a bigger boat. And that is to assume the cruise is a life experience that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Here’s the basic idea – you purchase a boat which requires little or no preparation and, almost immediately, you leave on your cruise. As soon as your cruise is done, and even before the end if possible, you sell the boat.

With that your finances for the boat double – $50k for the boat. But you have to be aware you’re stuck with whatever the boat has, so the survey has to be better than if you were buying a boat to spend a few bucks on for new sails or upgraded batteries. And, with the bigger boat, even though you can sail faster you probably won’t have as long a cruise due to higher costs en route.

But, I can hear you saying, I have $75k just for the boat; I’ll earn more before departure/have a pension I plan to cruise on/will be selling the house for the cruising kitty. The only wise course is to make your decisions on what you really do have in the bank, not what you hope to have. Guaranteed income – such as most pensions – may be just fine, if you can also guarantee you can access that income where you plan to be cruising.

As a sailor you plan everything out, including possible disasters. You must be at least as diligent about your finances.

And, generally, that means having cash in hand after you’ve paid off the boat and are ready to cast off the dock lines for the last time. Planning to use your bank card to get access? what if it’s stolen, or your bank goes belly up in the present recession, or the ATMs at your destination don’t accept it, or your bank assumes all uses of their card in country X are fraud? I just spent a very frustrating day paying the Government of Canada money to import my boat – my bank’s network assumed Canada was trying to fraudulently withdraw money from my account, even though I was talking with my bank before, during, and after 6 attempts to pay the bill. The seventh attempt finally worked, but that’s in a first world nation – imagine the issues elsewhere!

Using checks or letters of credit can be even more frustrating, involving weeks of delays. Traveller’s checks are not particularly convenient, but if you have researched your destinations to make sure they have an office for the kind of traveller’s check you’ll be carrying, they are a very good choice.

Personally, I tend to carry some cash – enough for a few days – traveller’s checks, a couple of bank cards, and a couple of credit cards. And a cell phone, with numbers to my banks and my credit card company programed in. So far no serious problems. But you have to have enough money in your kitty to carry all four, so don’t go for broke on just the boat. Keep a reserve.

But, as I said at the start of this rant, most likely you should take your cash and charter a boat once a year someplace nice. Only insane or extremely wealthy people should own a boat they are not living aboard. I fall into the former group, of course.

Posted by: amgine | 14 July 2009

The slow cruise to Sidney Pt 2

Well, life has gone on, so I’d better finish this up soon before old age memory fuzzes it out.

Anyway, safely ensconced in Irish Bay the next morning I was really really tired – the physical tired that says I’d pushed myself a bit too far, even though I didn’t have any screaming pains, sore muscles. So I decided to just take a day off to recover. I read some books, puttered about in the galley, did a bit of boat cleaning and sorting, stowed the jib from the foredeck… basically lazed about.

But when I went to do the dishes in the afternoon I realized I’d been in too much a hurry on departure. As I was rinsing the last of the flatware the foot pump gave a startled gurgle, and I knew I was almost out of fresh water. It was a bit late in the day to start off to a marina, so I determined to head to any of the nearby Vancouver Island ports the next day.

So, another beautiful sunset viewed from the cockpit in Irish Bay, and another early night as I turned in pretty much immediately after that, before it was anywhere near dark on deck.

The next morning I woke before sunrise, unable to get back to sleep. Breakfast was cold cereal in milk because I wanted the least dishes possible, but by poking the supply pipe deeper into the tank I was able to make a pot of coffee and clean the dishes after. Fumbling about on the deck to get the 100% jib ready to hoist I managed to stub my toes pretty nicely, though I still have no clue what it was I hit them on.

With the motor ticking over (I’d really sucked down the A bank battery – turned out I’d left the depth and log running ever since I’d pulled into the anchorage even though they’re on my shutdown checklist) I hauled up the anchor, which didn’t come up easily. The wind was from shore and very light, and despite more than a half-dozen other boats no one was nearby or in the direction we started drifting once the anchor was off the bottom. So I hauled up the main and got going completely under sail, and then managed to get the jib set as well before I cleared the bay, so I killed the engine and headed down Plumper Sound toward Boundary Pass.

The wind was NNW as we headed out, and about 5-10 in the Sound. I was actually wishing I’d set the 130% jib instead, but as we got further down the wind picked up with sustained gusts over 15, and the boat was making more than hull speed over the ground. Approaching the Pass a fishing boat was heading up between Blunden Island and Teece Point on South Pender Island while another was working back and forth into Camp Bay. I couldn’t remember the chart between there, so I decided to get well clear of Blunden before gybing and heading west. The wind continued to accelerate near the headland, and the gybe was wilder than it should have been as the full main and 100% jib were overpowered in a beam reach where they’d been just about perfect on the very broad reach previously.

I decided to tuck in close to the lee of South Pender to avoid getting overpowered, but by the time we were across the mouth of Camp Bay the wind was moderating, and within a mile we were nearly becalmed, then we were becalmed, followed faint hints of wind from the SW. Finally a fitful light breeze mostly from the south as we got further into Swanson Sound.

Even that died off to ghosting conditions as we got into Swanson Channel. After 20 minutes of less than 1.5 knots, with lots of traffic going both directions, I decided the engine was the better part of valor and fired it up. I wasn’t pushing the motor though, and left the main up to help deal with wakes.

I’d been to Canoe Cove to clear in once during the winter (it was extremely silly – I’d been in the states for a few days enjoying the San Juans in the rain with almost no other boaters in sight, crossed over to Bedwell Harbor and called in, where CBSA said no, I had to go to a different clearing station, and the nearest was Canoe Cove so I motored over there where I called in and it was just fine to clear in via the phone. So using the same phone to call the same number at one dock is better than doing it at another dock, apparently.) I’d found the route there to include a lot of hazards to keep track of, so I decided to head to Sidney to find moorage, get water, in part because I’d never been there and in part because the route south from Moresby Pass was less navigationally challenging.

So I ended up within sight of the breakwater at Port Sidney about 0930, and gave them a call on the phone to see if they had any slips available. It was the 3rd, and I expected they might be busy with boats that had come out for Canada Day and hadn’t gone home yet, which ended up the case. They had a slip, though, but I wasn’t supposed to clear in until 1pm. Clear out time was 11 am, though, so they thought it’d be okay to come in any time after that.

Well, I had nothing to do for a couple hours, so I throttled back and decided to go check out those navigational dangers and channels up into Tsehum Harbor until it was time, which had a couple of moments of nervousness as the bottom is pretty shallow in a few spots. But I was back at the breakwater at 1115, and it was a circus. There were three boats trying to get out. A 40 foot sailboat was trying to back into an end slip, and had everyone else trying to dance around her. An impatient motor boater was charging into a pack of 4 boats trying to get into the marina who were timidly giving the sailboat plenty of room. Boats were jigging off the customs dock, waiting for their chance to tie up temporarily, and dock hands were shouting instructions and inquiries to incoming craft.

At the last second my phone rang, the marina calling to change my slip assignment – just after I’d headed into the channel between the docks of course, so I had to turn around and head back into the madness, in past the entirely full alley of super yachts, to the tiny slips near the marina building. The dock hands did a great job of helping me into a difficult slip, squeezed by an over-sized motorboat.

And there I was, in a pretty harbor where every hanging plant basket was slowly dripping water from their irrigation system, and the average boat value was greater than the average detached home price in Vancouver. I’ve never seen that many megayachts in a single location. The surprising thing is the total cost including electricity came out to less than $1.50 per foot for the night.

The first thing I did was shut down the boat, stow sails, and fill the water tank. Then I showered, and went looking around. Whether or not the marina was pricey, the boutiques ashore certainly were! I have to admit I walked back to the boat with a couple of big boutique-style bags, but they also busted the budget so I skipped going out for a nice dinner and instead made up a sandwich aboard. Then I did laundry at the very nice facilities in the marina float building; pricey, but decent. (The dryer, unfortunately, was just not up to the job. After 45 minutes everything in the load was still damp.)

I hung around in the morning just long enough to get a few supplies – avoiding all meat and produce (I still had a bunch of cherries from a produce stand in Richmond, though.) The plan was to clear in at Roche Harbor, which I figured would be a bit full of dedicated boaters, mostly sail, who didn’t mind missing out on fireworks on the fourth.

In other words, I was extremely ill-informed and optimistic. But more about that in another post.

Posted by: amgine | 3 July 2009

The slow cruise to Sidney pt 1.

Okay, actually I never planned to go to Sidney. It just sort of happened.

I headed out on the first of July, Canada Day. Sliding down the Fraser, opposing the wind and with little benefit from the current because I left so late the tide was rising on the river. And the further down I got, the bigger the wind, the worse the waves. Bashing into it in the second to last stretch the spray was constant and I was seriously depressed about not having a dodger to hide behind.

But finally I made the curve into the last stretch, the wind would now be merely close-hauled, instead of on the nose. As soon as I was able, I set sail. The boat was being hammered by the worst waves I can ever recall sailing in, 1-2 metres and steep, close together, the boat hammering down about every third or fourth wave with a crash, all the gear in the cabin flying about.

(The soccer ball, computer, and stove chimney had been stowed in the quarterberth, but were found in the mess between the settees. Gear from the shelves on both sides had been shaken out, the bottle scotch apparently getting launched at some point but was unbroken – unlike the plastic bottle of boat soap which mysteriously cracked and poured out all over everything near the companionway.)

Despite two reefs in the main and the 100% jib the boat was clearly overpowered, heeling 30-40° and occasionally more. Despite pointing higher, we slid to the leeside of the shipping channel, and then to leeward of it, but by that time we were clearing the entrance and were only dealing with the heavy waves of Robert’s Bank and, finally, able to fall of the wind a bit.

Sometime during this I’d put the tiller pilot on so I could go forward and tension the jib halyard more. Suddenly the boat was all out of trim, heading down and the waves were hitting wrong, and then we jibed. I don’t really remember how I got there, but I got to the cockpit somehow and tried to pull the tiller pilot off the tiller, but it was jammed so tightly I had to kick it loose. From then on it was hand steering, because the tiller pilot was stuck at its shortest position and wouldn’t release.

For the first hour it was pretty wild, a little bit like riding a galloping horse with no reins. We averaged 7.4 kts for that hour, over the ground, on a broad reach in a small boat with an 18.5′ waterline. At the end of it we were coming under the lee of the Gulf Islands, approaching Active Pass, and the wind was moderating while the waves had long since settled down first to well-spaced low swells and then to just a light chop.

Beyond Mayne Island to Georgeson Pass, through Horton Bay where the wind dropped to a whisper and it was so quiet I could hear people talking ashore and bird calls on the far side of the islands, absolutely beautiful. But on into Plumper Sound, and then…

Irish Bay, Samuel Island, Gulf Islands BC, Canada. Credit: Amgine

Irish Bay, Samuel Island, Gulf Islands BC, Canada. (Terrible cellphone camera pic.) Credit: Amgine

And then I’d planned on pulling into Winter Cove, near Boat Passage. But that bay was chock a block with boats; it looked like one could jump from one to the next all the way across. It turns out there’s a huge Canada Day Lamb Barbecue on Saturna Island there, and it was extremely well attended so far as I could see.

So I pulled into the much less populous Irish Bay on Samuel Island, dropped the hook, and began digging out the cabin. I was thoroughly exhausted, too, so I just did the least I could get away with, and curled into my berth by 9pm.

Posted by: amgine | 22 June 2009

Heading down the left coast

Okay, I’m sitting around trying to recover, and my jaw is slowly deflating after puffing up to ginormous proportions. I’ve been reading an entirely inordinate number of fluffy novels.

But I’ve also been continuing to track a number of cruisers who are making their way down the west coast, studying up on routes and anchorages for my own summer plans, and continuing to work – where and how possible – toward the possibility of sailing using the circumnavigation of Vancouver Island as a shakedown cruise just in case I can get everything together in time for a leap offshore to Hawaiʻi from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

So, here’s a bit of what I’ve learned about this course: the left coast is mostly downwind, but it is certainly not the garden path tradewind route. Skip Allen, a long time west coast sailor and blue water racer, describes the waters from about 42°50’N to 37°50N, from the coast out about 300 nm, as ‘Gale Alley’. This stretch, from the lower third of Oregon to the waters off San Francisco, is where the prevailing weather patterns are squeezed by the Pacific High up against the coast line, accelerating both the wind and thus the currents.

The ‘best’ time to get through this stretch is probably early May. Unfortunately, that’s much too early to be leaving Cape Flattery in the north as the seasonal patterns are still in flux – the patterns are cold, the mainland hasn’t warmed enough to draw the weather ashore, and the Pacific High is too far south to provide any protection from winter storms screaming across the north Pacific or dropping south from the Gulf of Alaska. The ‘worst’ time is June to July, when the winds are at their strongest, yet that’s the safest time to be getting to Hawaiʻi as it avoids the risk of tropical cyclones which start up in late summer off the coast of Mexico.

With such choices to be made, many cruisers from the PNW and Canadian west coast avoid risks by heading south in August or September, but instead of departing the mainland at the latitude of San Franciso, they continue down the coast to San Diego to wait out the cyclone season, then continue on to Mexico and Central American countries, leaping off for a tradewind passage to Hawaiʻi once it’s convenient.

In all likelihood, that’s what I should do too. Only I have pretty much zero interest in Mexico, Central America, or even southern California. I’m mildly interested in sailing into San Francisco to visit a few friends I have in the region, but nothing more than that. I don’t know how I will handle long solo passages, so I figure I’ll just see how it goes coming down the coast.

My planned course for such a voyage would be to clear Cape Flattery and work my way off shore to about 40 nm. This is close enough to get in within 12 hours if there is need, but far enough out to make such a landfall a major investment of time and effort – so I won’t do it simply because I want a cheeseburger, rather it will be for something reasonably serious. If I find I can’t live without interacting with a fellow human, it’s won’t be either impossible or too dangerous to pull in for a short break, and I can shape my course to stop in San Francisco to reprovision if my supplies (especially water and fuel) get used up faster than planned, or even haul the boat and store it for a while.

And if things are working out, I can start shaping my course for Hilo at about 40°, off Cape Mendocino, making a single long passage of 2500 nm, but more likely rather more.

Posted by: amgine | 22 June 2009

Laying up the skipper for a refit

Well, I’m hoping I’ve gotten the boat to a good spot, Shelter Island Marina. With anything like luck the boat will be safe and secure while I’m recovering from oral surgery.

Dental care is one of those things sailors really should stay on top of. It’s far more expensive to restore a mouth, compare to restoring a boatyard wreck to creme puff condition. In my case, having allowed the after lower molars to rot, the double root canal didn’t save them and they had to be removed a couple months ago. Now, in preparation for replacements, the tooth doc wants to implant some more bone to restore some of the deep-in damage from a decade or more of infection festering.

(The x-rays look remarkably like a case of dry-rot taking hold in the mandible. Very seriously, TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH! This whole procedure, in addition to taking 11 months to complete if it all works out, is costing as much as a 2 year cruise, or a brand new VW Golf TDI with all the bells and whistles.)

Anyway, while I’m going to be laid up I wanted a marina which was reasonably secure, particularly from weather, and reasonably inexpensive. Shelter Island turned out to be a nice surprise, with a great selection of marine contractors and supplies, a good pub (Tugboat Annie’s), and rather cheap compared to most of the marinas on BC’s lower mainland.

Mind you, it wasn’t my first choice. First I was hoping for someplace closer to home. And maybe free. Like a nice spot to anchor near the mouth of the Lower Arm of the Fraser, protected from the weather and with gorgeous sunsets preferably somewhere in the bird sanctuary…. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t exists unless your draft is a bit less than 2.5 feet. Which was a heartbreaking discovery.

I did actually find a couple of viable anchorages, but they’re terribly exposed either to wakes or weather. I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable unless I were sitting aboard, on anchor watch. Which I don’t plan on doing for at least a few days after having my gums split open.

The net result was, after some phone calls and research I ended up motoring 4 hours to go 12 miles against the spring runoff current in the river, barely managed to avoid going aground again on some shoaling in the mid channel, and tied up at a reasonably decent dock that has the strangest electrical outlets (a 2-prong twist 20 amp, or 50 amp. I’ve never even seen the former, and I don’t have the latter adapter yet.)

[This was drafted on the 14th, but not published until the 22nd because I feel like crap after the surgery.]

Posted by: amgine | 11 June 2009


One of the lessons I learned best from the Pardey’s is that off-the-shelf solutions are not the only solutions, and on an offshore boat may not be the best solution.

This doesn’t mean every offshore boat should be a one-off design drawn and constructed exclusively for the sailors who will take it to a specific location… that way lies madness! But it does mean that sometimes, even regularly when you’re talking about sailboats, you need to think outside the boatique chain stores.

For example, once upon a time I owned a lovely catboat of unusual character, whose heavy rudder was managed with a startlingly robust tiller which had developed a bad case of wood rot between the rudder cheeks. A visit to a couple of boat gear stores quickly showed that none of the available standard tillers would fit or suit, being a nominal inch or more too light dimensionally. I could, perhaps, have customized a mounting to get one of these store bought shining beauties to be useful, but I decided to ask around a local boatyard to see if any of the freelance craftsmen might have better ideas how to solve the problem.

The first one I talked to said it’d be no problem if I purchased the wood, he’d turn out a blank to the sanding stage and I could finish it however I wanted. So I bought a solid balk of 6×10 perfect Ash, he cut and shaped it for less than the cost of the wood and had it back to me in two days. And after 10 coats of very thin varnish I had one of the most gorgeous and hefty tillers on the coast, for exactly $17.53 more than the chain-store’s standard dipped in gods-only-know-what-ethane. I didn’t save any money, but with a little bit of research and sweat equity I got something which fit the boat better, was more handsome, and was a unique piece of craftsmanship.

On the other hand, my current boat has some old deck hardware, including a narrow inside track of a dimension no longer made. The track is recessed into the fibreglass deck and clearly cannot be replaced with anything wider, yet the original track cars were missing. After some fruitless phone calls and frustrations with the original manufacturer of the track, I called up a custom millworks. Sure, they could do the job, and each car would cost, oh, almost as much as cheap dinghy. <cough>

Well, I found a pair of used track cars salvaged from some other boat that went to the breakers being sold at a nautical flea market for a couple bucks each. Sure, they’re old and a bit tired looking, but so is the track, and my new jib was cut to work on this inside track.

My current boat has dozens of small custom pieces and features, from the stemhead/anchor roller to the rudder post shoe. The builder and designer realized that off-the-shelf solutions didn’t perfectly solve the problems they were facing, so they made their own. It’s part of the attraction of this particular design, that such consideration was applied to each design that even though it’s a production boat it still feels in many ways as though it were a custom build.

I want to maintain that level of quality and attraction, by not assuming that what’s available at the marine store is the only or even the best solution. So I try not to jump for the cheapest or quickest solution, but think about what would be the best solution for this boat, where we sail, and what plan to do in the future.

Posted by: amgine | 18 May 2009

Lowering the stick

Yesterday I dropped the mast on Njørđson.

I’ve been thinking about doing this literally for years. What I thought I needed was a mast lever arm, and a method to rig lateral support. I could use the main sheet to control the mast’s descent by attaching it to the lever arm, and the lateral support would prevent it from going down sideways. Unfortunately, the mast absolutely had to be down yesterday, and I had not finished building the mast lever arm. So I volunteered the kid (16 years old, and thinks he’s pretty buff) to help out on the task, and decided we’d have to muscle it down.

I’ve been involved in a couple of mast lowerings/raisings, of similarly sized boats, so I wasn’t too worried about this. Other than being completely terrified, that is. But this boat was designed to be a trailerable, and though better built than anything I’d previously worked on I didn’t expect the process to be that much different.

So I created a pair of lines which were two pieces of line attached to a ring. These were attached at the anchor cleats forward, and aft via the genoa track, foot block, to the winch, and then adjusted so as to align with the aft clevis pin in the mast step (the mast step is hinged, using two clevis pins.) Then I went up to the spreaders with two more lines, which were looped over the spreader fitting and around the mast, similar to a gaffer’s hounds, for port and starboard. The ends of these lines were run through the rings and tensioned as much as possible. The mast now had lateral stability which would not relax as the mast came down.

Having removed the sail, boom, and everything else removable from the deck, I made sure both ends of the halyards, topping lift were attached to the mast. I brought the jib halyard to the stemhead fitting, and tensioned it lightly. I marked the threads of all turnbuckles top and bottom, and set about loosening them all – there was a distressingly small amount of thread bury on most of the standing rigging. After everything was loose, and my nerves were getting tighter by the moment as a breeze suddenly sprang up, I removed the forward lower shrouds. The cap and after shrouds are inline or aft of the after clevis pin – very clever rig designing in my opinion.

Now were the moments of truth. I removed the forestay, and there wasn’t any sudden tension on the jib halyard. I headed back behind the mast and the kid was going to be tailing on the halyard – he may be buff, but I still outweigh him and have an oh-so-temporary edge in strength. It took a bit of a nudge to get things started, but as soon as it began to move I knew I’d underestimated the weight of this mast, and that I needed help getting it down without dropping it. It was still easy to get it back upright and stable, and begin thinking about options.

Luckily we’d helped a motorboat and its crew earlier in the day, being towed into the dock. And they were within calling distance. With their help we lowered away. I hadn’t removed the cotter rings on the after pin out of probably pointless paranoia, and they caused problems now as the kid was rushing to get the pin out and the motorboaters let the mast down too far – I could hear a bit of fibreglass crunching but didn’t see if there was any visible damage to the sea hood for the companionway hatch.

Once the pin was out and the step was free we moved it forward to the pulpit, trailing a spaghetti of wires and lines. Now I have to run back to the boat and get the standing rigging off and over to the rigger’s, but at least the job is done!

Posted by: amgine | 13 May 2009

User Fee Decals and Transponders –

User Fee Decals and Transponders –

I ended up on this page whilst searching through the Customs & Border Patrol website. What I’m trying to figure out is if it would cost more to sail into the US on a Canadian registered boat, or to keep a US boat in Canada.

Now, my current boat is 25′, and while I’d love to move up in size at some point I also love this boat. If I import the boat to Canada (expensive GST taxes), my annual registration costs go down, but my insurance will probably go up. But I no longer have to keep sailing to the USA during the winter. If I keep the US boat I have the higher registration, cheaper insurance. But is there a difference in cost if I sail to Hawaiʻi?

Well, maybe. The US requires a ‘User Fee’ for boats in a wide range of situations, many of them overlapping. So I asked for a clarification and in a couple of business days I got one. No, if my boat is less than 30′, no matter if foreign flagged or not, so long as I do not carry paying passengers I do not need a user fee decal.

Which may simplify matters. Now I have to discover what if any fees there are for Hawaiʻi.

Posted by: amgine | 6 May 2009

The Hood Canal Floating Bridge is no more

Starting May 1, the Hood Canal floating bridge is closed, to boat traffic as well as cars. And will remain so at least 6 weeks as the US state of Washington quickly swaps out the old and replaces with a new bridge.

I personally have no clue what they’re replacing it with, and didn’t know it was underway as a project until a few minutes ago, but I have some fond memories of the bridge. Many nights and weekends I trundled across the bridge to drive up to my boat moored in Port Townsend to run the engine, check the bilge, and dream about summer days on the water, this during the rains and chills of northwestern winters.

The Ohio Class Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine, USS OHIO (Blue) (SSBN 726), manuevers through Hood Canal Bridge returning to her homeport in Bangor, Washington. Credit: USN PH3 Shawn Handley

The Ohio Class Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine, USS OHIO (Blue) (SSBN 726), manuevers through Hood Canal Bridge returning to her homeport in Bangor, Washington. Credit: USN PH3 Shawn Handley

More than once I rolled down onto the bridge to wait as it opened to allow passage of a submarine. I never saw the swing section of the bridge used for anything else, and those were rare enough to be specifically memorable. It amuses me that a week before the bridge closed a training torpedo went AWOL in a Canadian training region just over the border, one which is well known to the bubble heads of the USN (and rather a few other national navies as well.) Not specifically related to the Hood Canal bridge, but I always associate the floating bridge with submarines.

One summer I’d kind of been thinking about sailing down to Seabeck for pizza. I brought the boat down into the Hood Canal and nosed under the bridge, and ran into something I’d often observed on the bridge: one side had a nice light breeze, the other smooths and calms as far as the eye could see. The current was slight and opposed at the Kitsap side, but it stopped me cold as I tried to get out into the canal. I could just keep pointing into it, and not get pushed back into the bridge structure, but I’d move a few feet out from the bridge before drifting backwards into it. I’m sure the cars passing overhead were wondering what I was doing anchored half-under the bridge with the sail up. I gave up and made a white-knuckled u-turn, and sailed along the bridge then up into Lund for the night.

Not far up the Hood Canal from the bridge is a Dabob Bay, which had the most frightening chart notes I ever read. It also is a military practice area used for test firing of torpedoes. I’m sure the USN – like the Canadian Armed Forces – carefully screen the practice zone to avoid putting boaters and military personnel at risk, but it was always with a frisson of fear that I looked off toward the bay from the bridge.

Probably my best memory of the bridge, though, was a spooky morning drive, my first time crossing it. A brilliantly hot summer day before had become a downright frosty night, and very early in the day my partner and I, married the week before and house-hunting on our honeymoon, were crossing to go look at a rental property up by PT. A glacier of fog was slowly creeping out of the Hood Canal as we left Kitsap Peninsula, blanketing the bridge. We crept down, and suddenly were in the clear on the floating deck of the bridge with the fog a solid-looking roof a yard or two above our car’s roof. The bridge was all ours, disconnected from the rest of the world, a passageway suspended between cloud and water and leading nowhere.

We rolled slowly back up into the fog on the Quimper Peninsula side and out above it, the early morning stillness promising another blazing day. But we’d traveled, however briefly, in Alice’s world.

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